By: Natalia Beiser
When I was eighteen, I was finishing the last semester of high school and attempting to concentrate on the scenes of a teenager: attending dances, performing in musicals and band, and picking out a prom dress.
I knew that something was terribly wrong, but I did not know how to fix the underlying problem. I survived without eating much, I experienced intermittent sleep, and I had to maintain a very busy schedule. The later was not a problem because I was overextended, which assisted me in getting more accomplished.
But then the rage and anger set in. A classmate said something inappropriate to me and I verbally attacked her and may have slugged her had an educator not have intervened.
Fast forward a little, to the part where I became floridly psychotic and was escorted to the local emergency room.
I have always wore strong eyeglasses and the psychiatrist assigned to my case had the nursing staff withhold my glasses. I repeatedly asked for them and was told that the staff was afraid that I would injure myself with them. I was fearful and kept explaining what I thought that I was seeing, and the staff continually told me that I was reporting images that were not present. During that extended hospital stay, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
For a few years, I received Haldol injections once a month. They were painful, and left me feeling robotic, sluggish, and suicidal. Another psychiatrist took over my care and he immediately cut my injection dose in half as he reviewed my progress and acknowledged that he did not believe that my diagnosis matched the illness that I was truly experiencing. I will never forget when he said that “You don’t have schizophrenia, but I don’t know what you have. You don’t have manic depression because you don’t have highs and lows.”
A year transpired. I was in a new city and had been without medications for over one year with some difficulty with depression, but no psychosis. I was again escorted to the local emergency room, experiencing what the staff told my family was “textbook bipolar disorder symptoms.”
The new medication “slowed” me down and helped me not to cry as often, as I have always been overly sensitive. At first, I felt that my emotions had been gravely robbed and I missed them. Now I am grateful to react more slowly to emotional triggers.
During the time that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, my appearance from the medication reportedly scared many people and I lost most of my social network, some of whom continue to choose not to participate in my life. I gained a substantial amount of weight, which has affected my life in numerous ways.
Being diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder was a relief. I knew that there was something wrong, but I did not know what it was and I thought that it was a character flaw that I should be able to fix on my own. Having explanations for the random excessive moods, spending sprees, crying jags, and dark depressions was a blessing. It was freeing to finally have a diagnosis that made sense.