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West 47th Street

Premiere Date: August 19, 2003

   

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Mental illness touches millions of lives, but each story is different. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggles with some form of mental illness in any given year. Research shows that getting to know someone with a mental illness helps fight the stigma and misunderstanding that surround these disorders. Learn more about what it's like to deal with a mental illness from these personal stories submitted by viewers. Or share your own! You can browse stories by clicking on the menu below or you can view a fact sheet and learn more about specific topics by clicking on a topic below.

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September 30, 2003

I have spent over half of my life being "serverely and chronicly ill." What a label to break free from. The chaos that I caused for family, friends, and myself is not tangible. I am blessed to still be here. By what, I'm not sure; but I'm sure that I have been blessed. --------- The first part of my ongoing recovery was continuously fostered by both my mother and my father. They "hung on" for me, when I couldn't. I DO NOT know if I would be here without them.----------------------------------------- Yeah here, married to a wonderful man, the mother of three beutiful dogs (oh yes-3), workng full time at a fun and fulfilling job, sitting in our new house, and finally having more good days than bad.___________________________ 9 years ago, in a moment of clarity, my goal became to "sit still with myself." 5 years later, I almost could. Life at that tiime can only be described as "a balance of extremes." Persistence and practice. Learning what made me well was what made happy. Figuring out what made me well, well was another uphill battle.___________________________________ In the beginning, it was 98% medicaton & 2% breathing. Now, it is 50% medication, 30% learning how to manage my illness more effectively, 11% persistance, and 9% humor._ I love my life. Things are finally good. I know who I am. I know how I feel. AND I know when I am getting sick. I KNOW THAT I AM NOT "THE EXCEPTION."

  —Anonymous
  New York

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



September 30, 2003

Daniel has never had an easy life. He was diagnosed adhd at age 5, always had trouble making , keeping friends. Always had trouble academically. This type of child seeks attention from anyone. This is why I tell myself that my son entered a home in our neighborhood in 1999. He didn't know that someone would try to kill him. Shortly after this event my son suffered a nervous breakdown. He was suicidal. He became violent and and unable to cope with everyday life. In October of 2003 after many diagnoses, ptsd, anxiety disorder,etc. my son was hospitalized and diagnosed with early onset bipolar disorder, brought on by the tragic event early in his life. We praise God for finally having a legitimate answer. It saddens me greatly that my son was in therapy and under psychiatric care for 3 years before this actual diagnosis. Today, we are moving on with our lives, determined to give Dan the best life possible. He is in a special ed program, that is good, but needs improvement. As parents w By the way, Daniel was doubly victimized when the State of Illinois failed to contact us on the trial of his perpetrator, thus we did not get to attend the trial and speak for our son. They received 2 years parole. There is nothing we can do because all states have immunity. We are told that the reason they can do this is because there is no constitutional law protecting victims however several protecting criminals. Needless to say, we are advocating for a victims rights amendment. Does anyone know any good lawyers specializing in constitutional law? Thus far, I haven't been able to find any to take my case.

  —teri
  Illinois

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



September 30, 2003

I am struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. I was also diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma (cancer) in August 2002. I know for myself that living with mental illness is unbearable. I have many friends with mental illness as well. Over the years, I have seen them end their lives because of the agony of mental illness. I've learned that mental illness is a life-threatening disease much like cancer is. The government in this country has to wake up and start addressing mental illness as a disease that requires treatment for all of us. Insurance companies also have to start paying for treatment so I don't have to watch my friends kill themselves anymore. Erika

  —Erika
  Virginia

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



September 30, 2003

I was first hospitalized when I was 16, and diagnosed bipolar. For five years my life was tumultuous. Then, finally I realized that I had to take my medicine and slowly I became well. It took a long time for me to accept my condition, but finally I did. Now I am 30 years old, and most people I meet would never guess that I have a mental illness. I have a job and I go to school, but even so, I don't really like to tell people about my past. The main difference between my life and the people on West 47th Street is that I have a family that never deserted me. Even though I was extremely sick, they never kicked me out of the house. Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a loser, because I'm 30 and I still live at home, but I would rather be where I am now, well and functional than to be homeless and to not have a supportive family. It's all about counting our blessings.

  —Anonymous
  Unspecified

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



September 30, 2003

After working in the "System" as a Forensic Psychiatric Social Worker, I feel that I have touched these people's lives in a way that I never dreamed possible. Only those who work with these very special people can truly understand their needs. There needs to be more education on the elementary thru high school level for all children in the country to give them a greater sense of responsibility for the mentally ill.

  —Judith (CSW)
  New York


• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Substance Abuse



September 30, 2003

I have been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder which is Bi-Polar and Schizophrenia put together. I am thankful that my illness is treatable with medication and psycho therapy. I take it as a sense of achievement to be out of therapy now and I only have to see my therapist once every six months unless I need to see him as needed. I actually now have a Bachelor's Degree with Honor's and a Master's Degree, I am now looking for work. I like to read the bible it is very comforting to me now and I can think about religion without going to extrems. Thinking about religion was not my only problem, I had a problem with intrusive thoughts of like hurting myself or breaking things. I think I get intrusive thoughts when I do a medication change. I am thankful though that I have not had intrusive thoughts for over two months since I have gotten used to my new medication. There is hope for everyone.

  —Anonymous

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Schizophrenia



August 26, 2003

I have always been frustated, angered, and left feeling helpless, with the media reporting a terrible crime. It is often ended with "O, did we mention he/she has a history of mental illness?" The stigma is terrible. In this day and age, with so many other issues being accepted, why can't the mentally ill be accepted? I'll tell you why: lack of knowledge. I would not mind being part of a national campaign to eliminate the fear. I ask you: Did you ever think smoking would be banned from restaurants and nightclubs?! Knowledge removes fear and opens the door to acceptance. It's a fact that smoking affects everyone. Well, so does mental illness. People need to know how it affects them individually. Yes, I am bipolar and I will need to take medication for the rest of my life. Did I get here overnight? Hell, no. It takes years! Stages: unaware - denial - O I'm better now I can stop the meds - and finally, after many years, acceptance. It takes a great deal to get past denial. Why can't society help to make this easier? People don't get help they need, because they are in denial. We can't force people to get help, but perhaps we can address denial in an individual with a new approach. However, I'm not sure how this can be done, because each person's level of denial is different.

  —Anonymous

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 26, 2003

I will begin my story by saying that through no fault of my own I am a victim of circumstance. I developed severe depression after a long marriage with an angry, abusive husband. I was his whipping post. He took out on me all of his frustrations for being a poor provider for his family. That's just one part. Post-traumatic stress disorder is how mental health workers described me. Also, I was abused severely by the doctors, hospitals, and mental health professionals here in California. I was treated terribly, abusively by the staff. I was thrown out on the street without any medication. They kept it and called the police. They wouldn't let me have what I brought in with me. The cops were also cruel to me. I was homeless at the time. No one cared. I was told to keep on moving down the road. I had no money. I was sick and degraded. I ended up in the hospital numerous times, had nowhere to go. You see, I fell through the cracks in the system.

  —Annie
  California

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• Anxiety Disorders
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder



August 25, 2003

I am a 43 year old woman with 8 different diagnoses ranging from panic attacks to phobias to anxiety disorders. The worst is the combination diagnosis of bipolar and anorexia...when I take the meds I gain weight and when I gain weight I freak out and stop the meds and plummet into a deep depression or agitated mania. I really still don't believe I have bipolar sometimes, I mean I think I can control it and it's just me being me. My husband and doctor do not agree. Just stopped taking my zyprexa 4 days ago, thrilled I dropped 2 1/2 pounds already. This really makes me look screwed up, maybe I am but lots of the time I feel in control. I just don't know.

  —Anonymous

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• Eating Disorders
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 25, 2003

My son, 48 years old, has been struggling with diagnosed OCD, anxiety, paranoia and depression. The last five years he has been living with me. He is on SSI, medicare, and medicaid. He was in denial for many years and would not accept the stigma of mental illness. Since living with me he has had 5 episodes. We try to work with the system but there are so many limits. I believe the years have taken their toll on him. He goes on and off meds. Reading about his mental disorders and going to support groups like NAMI, I've learned so much. Mostly about two kinds of treatment for his disorders.Cognitive Behavioral and response therapy. Though thousands of dollars of medicare money have been spent on meds and hospital episodes, the above treatments are NOT COVERED which is probaly the best teatment recommended for his OCD etc. He cannot hold a job. He has been unemployed for 15 years. He now admits to his illness but needs the proper help.

  —Estelle
  California

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• Anxiety Disorders
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder



August 25, 2003

I have struggled with depression all my life. When I was in third grade, I knew I was different from the other kids. When I was in sixth grade, I was aware of being unhappy, but blamed it on my family. I couldn't wait to get away from them. In college, I enjoyed a certain amount of freedom, It was the early '70s and I was a hippie. I rode a motorcycle, had my first lover and tried a few recreational drugs. In 1974, I moved to San Francisco to be an artist, I had a brief career as an artist, but I was never happy. Again, I blamed my circumstances. I moved from state to state, relationship to relationship to no avail. I wasted my youth and vitality searching for an elusive joie de vivre. In 1982, I fell in love with a wonderful man, experiencing emotional intimacy for the first time. When it didn't work out, I became suicidal, I had no reason to live. Fortunately, I sought out professional help. When I as finally diagnosed with Major Depression in 1988, it was a revelation. Since that time, I have been up and down, trying all the different antidepressant drugs as well as some alternative treatments. There is always a problem: either the effects wear off over time, or the side effects are intolerable. I am currently in a medication study for a new drug, but it is not going as well as I had hoped. Fortunately, I will receive free care for six months after the study and hope to get something that will help me feel better. In the meantime, I find that time has gone and life has passed me by. I am now 52 years old, underemployed and living alone with my cat. I grieve the loss of my youth, I was a beautiful, intelligent, talented young woman who should have had a good life. I struggle to come to terms with my loss.

  —Nancy
  Washington

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• Clinical Depression



August 25, 2003

I can identify with mental illness. As the child of a parent with this illness it had not been easy.I had been the caretaker for my mother for a number of years. I had seen her moods go up one minute and down the next. She had been suffering from this illness for most of her life. And when my father told us about her illness, we were not really that surprised. To us, she was "Mom." We loved her regardless. As time went on, she was afraid to go outside. I realized this, and, as time went on, I did not push her. I waited. One day, she came to me on her own and asked me, "Can we go outside?" Her voice was almost childlike. Her behavior was childlike. Suddenly, her mental illness that the doctors in the past had claimed "was over and done with" had returned with a vengeance.I had to deal with it, while my siblings looked the other way. As time progressed, the days for my mother were improving. I had taken it upon myself to study what was wrong with my mother. She was not always happy. At times, she would seem to disappear into her own world. My sister did not want to do anything about this. In fact,she was the one who had virtually "walked away." I did not. I had been determined to help my mother. She had gone to various doctors, each doctor prescribing a numerous amounts of medications to help her to deal with the various symptoms or onsets of the illness. My mother needed compassion, and I had been able to give her that. She is now eighty-four years old. For me, mental illness is a serious disorder. And yet there is no cure. Mental illness can occur in any age group for whatever reason. Growing up, my mother was not "Ordinary Mother" like others. But I loved her just the same. I took care of her for most of my life, and she was grateful.

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression



August 25, 2003

Living the life of mental illness is an ongoing struggle for most people. My first hospital visit was when I was 14 for a suicide attempt. I was misdiagnosed with depression and treated with antidepressents. It was discovered after 6 visits in the psych wards that I was bipolar sometimes going without sleep for 5 days at most with horrible delusions and horrible hallucinations. They said that the antidepressents aggravate bipolar disorder when not taking a mood stabilizer together. I became a cutter which for anyone who shares this horrible obbsession will understand. With the scars people look at you like you're some horrible freak. I drank and used all sorts of drugs including a long-period use of esctasy which can damage your seratonin receptors permanently. I am now 18, still with no success, with a horrible anxiety condition that has made me house-bound for 8 weeks now. The point to me sharing this is because I still haven't given up, no matter how much I've wanted to.



August 25, 2003

I was stricken with mental illness in 1984 at the age of 20. I had heard about programs like Fountain House for many years but just really did not understand . I thought it was just a place to work . The last thing I wanted to do was work, when I found it hard to walk out to the mailbox for fear that someone might see me and say, "Oh there she is she has Bipolar Disorder." Until I understood all the details about the disorder I came to understand that no two cases are alike. It is a very hard way to live without medication and the realization that you have to accept it before you can be better. Acceptance is the biggest step to make when you have mental illness. I fully accept my illness. I had been in a training base program for the Fountain House Model for 4 years. I was fully involved with the program including college training and helping out with planning meetings for seminars in Fountain House NYC. I have given two speeches about the Fountain House model program. I attended the International Seminar in Gothenburg Sweden in 1997. I met my now-husband and have lived in Sweden for 5 years now. I have two children and do not have time to attend the Fountain House Model Clubhouse called Bryggan in my hometown in Sweden. I am so busy with my children and healty life in Sweden. I keep in contact with the clubhouses. I cannot express how wonderful they are...

  —Mylinda

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 25, 2003

My husband suffered a complete breakdown in 1987. One day he was on duty as a police officer and the next day I was leading him around by the hand. Life was never going to be the same. We were thrown into the mental health treatment system which was foreign to us. We had been married for 13 years and every health care professional quizzed us about self-abuse and abuse of each other. Some never did believe that physical, drug and alcohol abuse were not factors in our lives. My husband worked very hard on his recovery. He carried a shallow hope that he could return to police work, but accepted training to become a computer operator. He worked for 11 years with an insurance company before recently having his position eliminated. During this time, I was his chief advocate. We felt like we were writing the book on how to deal the mental health care system. Ten years into his recovery, I learned about the NAMI Family to Family classes through a small ad in our local newspaper. I wondered what I could get from these classes, feeling that I knew it all. I did learn a lot, particularly about being able to separate the man I loved from the illness. More importantly, I was able to help another woman, with a son who had just become ill, to see that she could survive and come through the challenge a stronger person. I continue to be stunned and amazed that, during those ten years, no doctor, social worker or hospital told us about NAMI and the education and support we could find there. At the conclusion of the classes, I vowed that I would do what I could to get the NAMI message out to those who need it before they had floundered for ten years as we did. My mother and I trained to teach the Family to Family classes. We often hear how those people have shared the NAMI message with people in their lives. I attended national training opportunities to train teachers and support group facilitators. In August of 2002, I was hired as the NAMI-Oregon education coordinator. This is my heart work. I continue to be grateful that life changes allowed me the time to take on this important work. I was able to see that my background in emergency dispatching and work for local government, combined with my passion for NAMI, had given me the perfect set of skills to coordinate the training and support of the wonderful NAMI volunteers in Oregon. Volunteering and working for NAMI is the first time I have experienced such a deep passion for a cause. I am also a spokesperson for the Silver Ribbon Campaign for the Brain (www.sikverribbon.org) to increase awareness of the silver ribbon as the awareness ribbon for brain illnesses and injuries.

  —Alice
  Oregon

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• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder



August 25, 2003

I was 9 years old when I was playing with matches in the room. The house burned down. Nobody knew it was me until 30 years later. At 15 I went to county jail and was raped. My trauma was set. I was a heroin addict for 22 years. Drugs became my solution not my problem. I was 40 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on medication. That was the last day I used any illicit drug. Since then I have graduated college, I'm now in grad school, and coordinate a program for mentally ill substance abuse (MISA) for chronically mentally ill. My clients do not know my history.



August 25, 2003

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for three years. I am very open with people at work about my experiences and I am very lucky that they are willing to learn with me. I am a very "logical and studious" person--I never thought that I was mentally ill--I always thought that it would happen to someone else, and I would be the one to academically intervene. I thought that the intense and very real pain that I felt was normal. Imagine living in pain for a quarter of a century and believing that it was the norm! I want to say thank you to all of those who *are* developing new treatments and meds---you are helping... keep faith! And to my fellow companions in this terrible illness, please know that it does get better. Thousands of us are testament that life cannot only be lived but lived joyously and fully with bipolar disorder.

  —T.L.
  New York

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 25, 2003

Having depression has turned my life even more upside down than it was. Being on medication for almost a year now has changed me somewhat, but I now have a drinking problem as well. My story is too long and too painful to mention, but I struggle daily to keep above water, and hope soon that I will come back to life. I would just like to mention that the medications being given out for such ailments are beginning to scare me. Am I alone?

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression



August 25, 2003

I helped my brother during a particularly difficult period of his life, his 3rd divorce. During that time my family and I discovered that Bill had hidden his mental illness from us for over 40 years. I served as his legal agent, co-ordinating various aspects of the divorce. For that effort I was "blackballed" by the nanny agency that I have been affiliated with for over 20 years. My mother has spent over $350,000 on the care of her eldest son and our entire family is now precariously brinked on waiting to see if Bill will stay, as he is now, stabilized and happy. The hidden mental illness has impacted an entire family. I am glad to have been able to help him and am hopeful that he will remain in a stable situation. He is my brother. I want him to be happy.

  —Mary
  California

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• Borderline Personality Disorder



August 22, 2003

I see people everyday with all types of mental illnesses- from chronic schizophrenia to bi-polar, major depression to borderline personality disorder. But like I said, I see people- each with their individual strengths, abilities and personalities. I work at a Fountain House Model clubhouse- Bridge House in Bridgeport Connecticut. I get angry when I see the stigma my members have to deal with daily. The way people assume they're ignorant or dangerous. The way the government cuts the most needy first. I wish more people understood that having a mental illness is like having diabetes. They didn't ask for it or get it by being bad people. It's a disease that with the right treatment and/or medicine, most people can live a "normal" productive life. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

  —LG
  Connecticut



August 21, 2003

I remember when first being diagnosed with major depression, I wished I had a broken leg, a visible sign that I was in legitimate pain. I heard the "get over it" mantra and felt that my emotional pain meant nothing. I'm sure many others have felt and still feel the same way, that our inner turmoil, being unseen in those of us not prone to manic outbursts or paranoia, etc., has no consideration in the "real" world. Too often society views the mentally ill as ranting, disheveled people on streetcorners, but we represent all types of people. Through sharing our stories, we may help others to see we're not all that different- how many people can really claim they're "normal," after all?!

  —Mariah

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• Clinical Depression



August 21, 2003

For me, one of the most frustrating "side effects" of depression has always been the dogged insistence that clinical depression is something one might simply "get over" in the blink of an eye, as if it were possible to change one's so-called attitude that simply. I've been struggling with depression and anxiety since I was about 11 (I'm 27 now). When I went on antidepressants for the first time at 16, my God, you would have thought I was having a lobotomy. You don't need those! You just need a kick in the pants! You need to get religion! Add this to the simmering stew of misfiring neurotransmitters, low seratonin, and adolescence, and you have one miserable gal indeed. To this day, I get, "So, what, you're just going to be on them the rest of your life?" Well, if you had to take heart medication for the rest of your life, you'd do it, wouldn't you? Folks need to realize that mental illness in all its forms is no less serious than any other physical ailment, and is not something one can simply "get over."

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression



August 21, 2003

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 17 years old and I spent the next few years in and out of hospitals that would be illegal if they were in operation today. Finally I walked away from my family. Many years later, I decided to try lithium because I was having so much trouble trying to handle the disease alone. I've used lithium for 14 years and life has improved a great deal. I have a happy married life and I have completed a graduate degree, but I still have trouble with distrust because of the bad experiences I had in the hospital as a young adult. The Fountain House model, where people accept and help each other, looks like an excellent program.

  —Mevan

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 21, 2003

"What I Lost From Schizophrenia and What I Gained!" 1986-1998 I lost 12 years of my life. I lost my self esteem. I lost my independence. I lost some of my faith in G-d. I lost my pride. 1990-present I earned a Bachelors Degree( in 8 years) I have worked at the same (clerical) job for 13 years. I discovered that people who I thought didn't care "really do." I am finding self-esteem and pride in myself. Everyone I know supports and cares about me, even people I didn't expect like the people at my favorite delicatessen. I regained my faith in G-d. I learned that tenacity, perserverance, family, friends, self-education on schizophrenia, and finding the right medication, are paramount in finding success and wellness. I have never had to hide from my illness and I thank my family for creating a haven for me where I could flourish and grow. In Sept. 2001 (with a lot of help) I purchased a townhouse! It is amazing to me what can happen when the people in your community rally around you instead of having stigma kill your dreams and maybe even you! I have experienced the best that medicine has to offer me over these last 17 years and even though there were days I wished I didn't exist, those were the times that G-d carried me and helped me through! To all of you who don't believe in keeping hope alive I say, "Never give up." A new medicine or treatment is just around the corner.

  —Debra

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• Schizophrenia



August 21, 2003

I am a psychiatric survivor who is now a mental health professional. Stigma regarding mental illnesses still exists but there are many of us who are making this our life's work: -to educate the public and those affected by mental illnesses/distress -that there IS hope and quality life -there should be no shame involved. Not every mental health consumer will enter the professional mental field, but we still need your advocacy, education and leadership. My story began when I became ill at age 26, with such severe depression and anxiety, that I received over 40 ECTs over a period of 12 years. Via the education, support and training of mental health advocacy groups, such as DBSA, NAMI, and MHA, I gradually recovered my self esteem and became an enthusiastic mental health advocate and leader. Today, I hold a Master's degree in Licensed Counseling and work with mental health clients in an empowerment type of mental health clinic and drop-in-center. My story is not intended to bring attention to myself, but to ENCOURAGE other mental health consumers, family members & educate the public regarding the truth about mental illness, recovery and how stigma should be abolished. I am always happy to share with others regarding my experiences and yours.

  —Julaine
  Colorado

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• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression



August 21, 2003

I have been living with mental illness all my life and it is not just mine that I have to live with , it has been with my father's and my grandmother's and so on and so on..... back as far as family memory goes there has been some one killed themselves until my father's generation and that is only because he has not succeeded in doing the job. I and my younger sister are trying to break the chain that holds us to the rest of family in this illness. We both take our meds and we see doctors when we need it. But the most important thing that has helped us to work on the over coming of the illness is the believe in the Lord and His saving love for us. We are not an island but part of something bigger and we need to work togather to overcome whatever comes our way. I have spent some time with a group in a small town as one of the clients in the mental health section of the government programs and I was the youngest one there, just at the end of my teens, and the next person closest to my age was at least



August 21, 2003

This story is my son's story and how his mental illness has impacted our family. My son has suffered from bipolar disorder since he was 18. It played a part, I believe, in his being assaulted by several of his shipmates in the Navy and resulted in his being given a medical discharge. Since it was a pre-existing condition, he didn't qualify for any benefits from the Navy. Instead, he came home and has tried to hold down one job after another without success. During his periods of mania, he is very grandiose in his thinking. His boasting and his irrational thinking have made it impossible for him to make friends. He also can get very belligerent during the manic episodes. I watch him in social situations, and it breaks my heart. He is so lonely, but he can't see that his illness is sabotaging his efforts to make friends. He refuses to take mood stabilizers because he is so afraid of the possible side effects. At home he will talk almost incessantly during a manic episode, and it almost drives me up the wall. He talks a lot of nonsense. His ability to reason is definitely impaired. He has had one episode when he hallucinated and had to be hospitalized. In Texas the public mental health system used to have "respite" houses, where a mentally ill person could go for a few days to give their family a short respite from having to care for the mentally ill family member. We moved from Texas to Washington when I remarried. There are no respite houses that I am aware of in this state. And my son hasn't been able to get Social Security disability yet. The first time he applied, he was denied. He is in the process of reapplying. Then we hope he can get into Section 8 housing. That is another long wait and it's very hard to find out when the waiting list is open for new applications. You have to keep calling; they won't notify you when the list opens up. This has all been very hard on me, his mother. I see my son with no life. No girlfriend, no car, no job, no friends, no future. He is full of anger and he is also full of loneliness and despair. It breaks my heart; I can do so little to help him. Please pray for my son; his name is Paul.

  —Laura
  Washington

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 21, 2003

About the time he started middle school, my son started showing a lots of anger, his grades fell, and he began shoplifting. After one terrible fit of violence, I had him committed. They moved him from doctor to doctor (it was a teaching hospital), then put him on an antidepressant. Once he was out, he refused his meds and refused to talk to doctors. His school and shoplifting record eventually got him put into a Wilderness Camp. He came back ready for high school a changed boy. Within a year he started showing symptoms of type II bipolar disorder (no mania). It took us four years to recognize it, and by then he was headed to the Army. He made it one year. He was a mechanic in the Army but that frustrated him. He was a machinist until the pressure got so bad that he committed himself because he was suicidal. He's 23 now and I hadn't been able to get him to take meds. This did it, but because he went to state agencies, the workers weren't well trained. He said it was so long since he felt normal, he didn't know what normal was, so he couldn't tell them when the meds were wrong. It was also difficult to get him to keep his visits: he didn't like going alone, his wife felt there was nothing wrong with him, and she didn't think she should have to "babysit" him. He ended up suicidal again. I brought him to a private doctor, who straightened his meds out quickly. His marriage fell apart, but quitting his job and leaving his wife relieved so many pressures that he felt better. He still gets depressed, but has been off all meds since November and is doing well. He is night manager of a McDonald's and very proud of himself and how far he's come.

  —Anonymous

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• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 21, 2003

2 and 1/2 years ago, I was diagnosed as hypothimac--it's best described as a milder, chronic type of bi-polar disorder. In my thirties, my symptoms of anxiety slowly worsened, not uncommon for perimenopausal women. I count myself lucky, in that I seem to stay pretty aware of consensus reality. Although I've been through several episodes of clinical depression, including suicidal thoughts, I've never fully lost hope and attempted suicide. All the same, this disease has impacted my life deeply. Since childhood, I've often had enormous difficulty in falling asleep, and as I've gotten older, the problem has worsened. At 44, I now also deal with frequent "early awakenings". No natural or allopathic medication works consistently; when they do, it often leaves me groggy and/or depressed. Like so many with this disease, I'm fortunate in being gifted creatively. I have a body of poetic work written largely at times when I've shifted into a heightened, almost right-brain state, due to lack of sleep. I have tried Zoloft... I really want to stay off the drugs if I can; we don't know the long-term effects, and they leave me flat and creatively deadened. I know folks for whom the drugs have literally been a lifesaver, and I'm so glad that this option now exists. However, now mainstream society and the insurance companies put lots of pressure on us to go for the quick fix, and damn the cost. Accupuncture has proven to be greatly helpful for many of my symptoms, including managing insomnia, but of course, the crappy insurance I struggle to pay for doesn't cover it. Even as a person with a realitively mild (if challenging ) mental illness, with some support & living in a liberal community, I've still felt the stigma surrounding this kind of disease. People become afraid, there is a tendency to cut the "weaker" animals from the herd. So those of us who can, struggle to pass...it's a waste of energy. Thanks for the film, and this forum.

  —Lilith

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August 21, 2003

I am disquieted. I am here milling about in square one. Always square one. One squared. One cubed. One to whatever power. It always ends up the same: one. One me, making love to myself and searching for a Higher Power, searching for another number, perhaps in vain, but always somehow clinging to the hope that more exists than this one thing. Even on the axis of imaginary numbers one (i), could there be another dimension to my one-dimensional life, the ultimate egotistical one-demented life? There are so many stories to tell, but my fingers could not work fast enough to keep up with the thoughts in my mind and the stories get jumbled at best and sometimes lost, words and letters flying around at super-sonic speed. So now, sitting here, against the will of agitation in my mind, I am forcing myself to focus on myself, my issues and my illness the unfortunate by-product of that focus being my reeking in self-pity, like an alcoholic pissing in an alley reeks of urine and other wastes of life. Of course, I am not always such a downer. In fact, right now, I would say my temperament is more toward bipolar textbook euphoria, ah me: a bouncy helium-filled balloon tethered in square one, being held steady by any number of prescription bottles full or half-full of pills, but, make no mistake about it, the balloon is still afloat somewhere over the walls of square one. Once I have the language to describe these highs and lows, I have always described them as the double edged sword or the magicians two-faced coin, sine and co-sine waves which indicate polar opposites but look the same under emotive scrutiny (of 16 years of therapy, perhaps?). Even after all these years, it is still strange for me to re-discover in the square one hieroglyphics that the stories of my life are so consistently themed, whether they be stories of low or high, those of suicidal sloth or impetuous adventure. The behaviors in the separate cycles are so opposed yet they are emotional counterparts of each other, culled from... Yes, I am self absorbed, but it really is still fascinating to me, this personality of mine. Each time I pull myself out (or get pulled out) of the muck of depression or the self-destruction of mania I come to recognize that, contrary to whatever I may have been led to believe in years of therapy, I am still serving time in the jail cell of square one. Like all prisoners, I have put myself there because, even though sometimes circumstances are beyond my control, I know I can go for help if I choose to do so. If I were to foretell my future, I see only one times one ad infinitum and, again and again, I am amazed by the power of it and of how I am drawn into it. One. Mi. Mi. Mi. Me. Alone.

  —Leslie
  California

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August 20, 2003

My mood swings began when I was a child. A teacher discovered my first suicide note when I was 8 years old. Over the years they became more and more extreme. I was not diagnosed with manic depression, however, until I was twenty-five. I have been hospitalized three times and tried over twenty different medications. At times I have been unable to hold down even a part-time job, or to live on my own. I have made three serious suicide attempts. Occasionally, I self-injure. I hallucinate more often than I tell. My story is less about that than it is about advances in medical care and the power of family and friends who didn't give up on me. There were literally years of hell, and what seemed like floundering. But today, I am a successful graduate student at a prestigious university and my career prospects are good. I still become very ill quite often, but things are better than I ever could have imagined.

  —Anonymous

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August 20, 2003

For many of us with psychiatric histories, the concept of "mental illness" just doesn't fit our experience. "Illness" implies a pathogen, which is not the case for people who experience extreme mental or emotional states. The literature shows that the overwhelming majority of people who end up in the mental health system are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse; again, that is not an "illness." And those of us with psychiatric histories can be subjected against our will to things like electroshock, powerful mind-altering drugs with devastating side-effects, physical restraint, and a host of other so-called "treatments." This issue is not about "illness," it's about how society deals with people who are different, living on the margins, or experiencing difficulties in living. We don't have "diseases," therefore the diagnoses you list here are not relevant to the real problem, which is a human rights problem.

  —Darby
  New York



August 20, 2003

Around Christmas, my boyfriend of 4 years was diagnosed with schizophrenia after 2 years of being told he suffered from anxiety or depression. Two months later, he committed suicide, probably due to a horrific hallucination. Not enough awareness/education is available on this disease, too much stigmatism and negativity is given to it, and not enough support for those who have it/live with it. There was plenty of hope for my loved one, he had a normal life, was completing a degree, was raising my child with me, we planned to marry, and he had a good job. People with schizophrenia are no different than any one else with any other disease. But yet they are so much at risk for losing support from family, friends, and society, and for losing their own lives to their own hands. As a society, we need to stop being scared of what we don't know, and learn more. Ignorance is not bliss. It's deadly.

  —Amber

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August 20, 2003

I experienced paranoid schizophrenia in 1979 after smoking weed. I thought the FBI,CIA, local police and even the devil were after me. I heard voices telling me that they were god and that I should kill my kids to save the world from destruction and a lot of other negative things. With meds and therapy I was able to continue to hold my job and standard of living and able to retire last year. I think that education about the illness is the key to overcoming the illness and that the ones that understand the illness best are those that experienced it first hand.

  —John

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August 20, 2003

I left home at 17 after HS graduation with honors and scholarships to study nursing in Boston. I did very well and was a class leader. One year later, the lights went out in my life. It was 1965 and I was profoundly depressed and nervous. I was admitted to Boston City Hospital psych unit for 3 months. My dreams crashed. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and took a drug that made me fat and dizzy.. I left the hospital and got a job as a go-go dancer! A bit surprising for a Catholic girl who had never been to a bar. Then I got depressed again. It was a bumpy ride. Agonizing. Lithium was not being used in this country at the time. I was diagnosed as bipolar in 1979, the year I was separated from my husband. I took Lithium but did not stabilize until 1989. I've been a practicing nurse for 34 years and am grateful for depakote, the medication that changed my life, and for all the psychiatrists and therapists who have helped me live with the disease.

  —Anonymous

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August 20, 2003

My story has a positive twist regarding mental illness. I am 37-year-old professional and the daughter of an alcoholic and a schizophrenic. This has been lifetime struggle for me to cope with. The only diagnoses Ive ever had are occasional bouts with generalized anxiety and IBS. My story relates to my boyfriend of a year. He has moderate OCD, gets excellent treatment and is considered quite successful by societys standards. I wouldve never considered engaging in a relationship with a man with an SMI prior to knowing him. Too socially unacceptable. The beauty of dating him is that I do not have to hide my own history. I have spent my life in fear of judgment by people I get close to. With him, I can let the curtain down, be myself and allow the issues that are a result of my own insane childhood to emerge. No more hiding. Not to say that we do not have occasional struggles related to his OCD but for the first time in my life I am allowed to have a struggle or two of my own and they are met with

  —Anonymous

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• Substance Abuse



August 20, 2003

My siblings and I suffered mental and physical abuse at the hands of our parents throughout our lives. We were raised in a religion which excluded us from outside socializing and most traditional holidays. Our father was the "hand of god" and carried the rod without reinforcement of nurturing. As a result, several of us have had to go through counseling for depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and most recently schizophrenia. My youngest brothers are twins, have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One brother, who has suffered physical pain from fibromyalgia and hears voices. He was overmedicated, in pain and frustrated and tried to purchase a gun to end his life. Now the justice system has accused him of lying on the application based on a technicality and without consideration for his history or conditions. I fear that his living situation, probation process, and fines incurred will push him further over the edge. He is very angry with his situation but is a gentle, sweet, and creative person.

  —Tere

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August 20, 2003

I had a nervous breakdown at age 22 in 1954. It manifested as severe anxiety and depression coupled with agorophobia and claustrophobia. I was not hospitalized. I have been dealing with it for 47 years. I was in therapy for 5 years and since then have relied on self help. I still have extreme anxiety at time and depression but do not want to take medication. I overcame a moderate problem with alcohol. I put myself through college. I've been married 26 years.

  —Janet

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August 20, 2003

I was seventeen and living with my brother who was in the navy when my first episode happened. My brother didn't know how to handle the situation so he had his girlfriend lock me up. From jail they sent me to a psychiatric hospital which I left to come back home to New York when i turned eighteen. When I arrived to the Bronx, no one wanted to deal with me so I ended up living on the streets for 3 years. One day I was sleeping on the stairs of a church called Holy Cross on the corner of 179 and Fort Washington when I heard a voice call my name. When I looked, it was my mother who just happened to be at that church that day. Two months later I got hospitalized at Lincoln Hospital. I was there for a couple of weeks then I got transfered to Bronx Psychiatric Hospital , where I had to learn how to live with my illness. Nine months later I was released, I've been receiving treatment for 3 and a half years now. I am now stable and have been attending college for two semesters!

  —Cesar

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August 20, 2003

I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 19. Due to being put on Haldol, I began to gain weight. I am now 52. I have had 6 hospitalizations altogether; however, I was not on Disability til 1998. I worked as a French teacher, and I worked for the State of Indiana as a caseworker and supervisor for AFDC, Medicaid and Food Stamps (8 yrs caseworker, 4 years supervisor). I even went to PR China for 3 months and taught ESL. All this time my schiz. was mostly controlled with medication, but I was still paranoid and had delusions I lived with. From 1991-2001 I weighed over 300 lbs. In 1998 I had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (they thought), diabetes, and hypertension. I took over 20 pills a day. I had an episode and got on SSDI. I had so much support from the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic- housing, case management, community living classes etc., that I had hope. I went to the gym every day, walked every evening, and joined Overeaters Anon. Now I weigh 157 and have no diagnosed illnesses other than the schiz. I lost over 150 lbs.so far. I work as an English and French tutor at the local community college as well as for the ESL department and the ADA dept. People at the gym and in my life in general consider me a miracle person, but really it just takes perserverence, parents who accept and love you no matter what, and 12 steps. I am still losing weight, and I hike in the mountains here as well as ride a bike, have many friends etc. I still live in WYGC housing, but I am able to manage my own money and supprot myself for the most part. I hope that those people who have

  —Judy
  Arizona

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August 20, 2003

I am 21 years old and I am living with a mental illness. My main problem is that I am manic deppressive. I have trouble living with it every day. My parents don't understand, neither my family. I feel alone all the time. I feel like killing myself at least three to six times a week. I never get a break. I have trouble concentrating so I can't really go to school. I am in a great deal of debt because when i was on a manic high I ran up all my credit cards. the sad part is that I don't even remember using them. Every day is a struggle. Every day I feel a different way than the last day. I still am not comfortable with my disease to this day. All I do is fight with people or get depressed and try hurting myself. Hopefully one day I will finally get the right medication in me so my life will get a little bit easier.

  —Elizabeth
  California

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August 20, 2003

I have suffered from clinical depression since I was about 15 with anxiety/panic features as well. I always spent a lot of my energy trying to hide how I was feeling from other people. Only when I was alone could I really be myself. When I finally was able to live alone, I spent a lot of time in bed, but I wouldn't tell anyone about it. It was only when I was in my late 30's that I started seeing a therapist. I think I suffered for such a long time thinking that I was just a slug. My self esteem was terrible and the loneliness really difficult. Now, I feel better because I know what's wrong with me and that it's not my fault. I really thought that I was terribly flawed and needed to keep it a secret. I still don't tell very many people but can tell my friends.

  —Kathy
  Illinois

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August 19, 2003

Each time I encounter the metaphor, "mental illness," I wonder how many people who employ it would also employ "physical illness" in the same manner: "People with physical illness", and I know the answer: None. The public prejudice of the "singular" illness is one of the worst of the sources of prejudices we face. I am also bothered by the prejudice of "the." I believed we had learned from WWII the heinous results of categorizing people by a "the," but we have not. The first of the "the's" to be medically murdered were "the" mentally ill, in a gas chamber invented by doctors, Brandenburg 1939. There is no "the" mentally ill, it IS a Nazi metaphor, and it survives. Why? There is no "the" homeless, it is the same metaphor. Why must we endure it.

  —Harold A. Maio
  Florida



August 19, 2003

Born: 1962 Treated for ADD: 1969 - 1974 Drug abuse while away at school (cannabis, hallucinogens): 1979 - 1980 Hospitalizations, as per schizophrenia and bipolar: served 4 1-month terms, 1980 - 1983, community hospital psych wards. Graduated college, BSEE: 1988 Civil Servant: 1988 - 2003; minor nervous collapse; panic disorder: 1992 Currently: DSM IV 295.70; schizoaffective/bipolar type; under meds management, office visits. Live alone in owned 4-bedroom colonial on 0.21 acre. I think it was my parents that made me follow the rules and stick with the program, so they get most of the credit. I have a job with strict quotas, only I like to take my time and follow a ritual (e.g., OCD). My EEO prospects are dim, from reading the handout. But then, year after year after fiscal, never-take-a-risk-al year, I somehow pull in what I need. I am 41, earn 6 figures, and will die with many toys. I suppose I'm stronger than I think, living alone in that big old house on the cul-de-sac. Like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, I would think that repeated humility, mixed, too, with sad disillusionment, has given me this strange prize.



August 19, 2003

I'm 36, and Bipolar. I was diagnosed after a three day stay in Laurelwood for suicidal ideations. Now after twenty months, six suicidal depressions, a manic spending spree that included a convertible sports car, a new lap top, and new a/v electronics, I am still not stable. I have been compliant with my meds. I have seen my Psychiatrist once a month, and my Therapist twice a week for all these twenty months. The unmitigated chronicity is what is pulling me down now. I just can't get a break from my disorder. I swing from mania to depression and back again without really spending and time in the middle, just being "ok". My mania's are usually disphoric, so I'm angry aggitated and irritable. And I have to deal with all this and work too. I guess I might be considered one of the successful cases by being able to work, at the job I had before my diagnosis, but right now it is overwhelming. I'm tired. I can take a vacation from the job but not from this Disorder. And that stinks! What is one to do then?

  —Anne

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August 19, 2003

My story is that of a father of a 13-year-old son who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His mental health condition has split our family. When he was at his worse, he would become violent to the point that police have had to be called. He managed to be charged with assault against me and a therapist when he was 11 years old. We have removed him from our house and we have had to relinquish custody of him to make sure he continues to receive Medicaid funding for treatment. We also needed to protect ourselves physically (me, my wife and another child). Giving up custody, however, has left him on his own more or less in the custody of the Department of Social Services and enrolled in a residential school. We have not been allowed contact with him since early March around his birthday. Until society truly learns to deal with mental health issues, my story will continue to repeat itself. I can only hope that medical sciences and drug companies can solve this problem in the near future. Good luck to all who care about those needing mental health care.

  —Dan

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August 18, 2003

I am 32-year-old female and now single mother of 2 girls ages 4 and 8. I have bipolar disorder and am on SSI. I have never been hospitalized, but the disease impacts me on a level that I am unable to currently function in the typical buisness world. My youngest will start public school next year and I intend to return to school and further my education in writing. The most difficult aspect I have encounted is the lack of programs to assist those with mental disorders who are in a relatively stable state without major flux. A prime example being housing issues for those that can function adequately on their own, but need financial assistance. The community, especially smaller ones, simply lack those resources.

  —Pat
  North Carolina

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August 18, 2003

I grew up with a mother who suffered from bipolar disorder although it wasn't diagnosed as such until she had been suffering for over 20 years. I watched as my beautiful, intelligent, loving mother transformed into a nervous, chain smoking ferret who would alternate between bouts of paranoia, fear, delusions of grandeur and suicide attempts. When she'd recover from an episode, she would tell me that she had no control but could feel it coming on. Although ECT treatments would keep extreme mania at bay, her fear of being connected to wires and zapped every two weeks was painful to see and not easy to rationalize to her when she'd beg me not to make her go for her next treatment. It's a cruel disease which robbed the essence and vitality from my mother throughout her life. Medical research has been unable to unlock the secret to this disease and millions of victims suffer from unspeakable mental torture made worse because they have nowhere to go for true relief.

  —Roberta
  Massachusetts

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August 18, 2003

I have had multiple diagnoses over the years, the most current being Schizoaffective Disorder. It's been a struggle and I have been hospitalized for suicide attempts. I have overcome childhood abuse and alcoholism. I don't ever remember not being clinically depressed, even as a child. There were times when my anxiety was so high I couldn't leave the house. Then, in my late teens and especially in the late 20's, the paranoid and delusional thoughts began. My life in "reality" began about five years ago with the concept of recovery. Today, I hold a job as an executive secretary, am married, and have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. I will always take medications and have a counselor available when things get too overwhelming. I have a great support system. Recovery is possible if all of these factors are in place, but it also takes being willing to look at myself and be honest with myself at all times. I have to be responsible and do simple daily living tasks, even when I don't feel like it.

  —Anonymous
  Ohio

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August 18, 2003

My daughter was in her teens when I noticed that her problems were more intense than those of her friends. By the time she was 23 she experienced an episode which landed her in the hospital. The diagnosis was unsure and it took another 5-8 years to come up with bipolar with schizoid features and another couple for that to stick. She is 35 now and the traumas of going through many hospitalizations, med changes, alcohol dependence and well meant but ineffective treatment have taken their toll. She has become delusional, can't get or keep a job, was unable to complete grad school, via meds and alcohol gained 50+ pounds, has lost just about all her friends, and denies that she has this problem. Our system does not work...and...that's the short version.

  —Anonymous
  Washington

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August 18, 2003

My daughter had her first manic incident out of the blue during her junior year at college. We were frightened and clueless, and got a diagnosis of BP after we got her home. Looking back we could see her personality and sleep pattern changing over perhaps 18 months, but we just thought she was acting like an energetic college kid. She responded well to mood stabilizers, and returned to school. Then her first depression hit and she started antidepressants. She is fortunate in her early diagnosis, successful response to medication and her ability to finish college despite the side effects and emotional trauma. When she graduated, she decided to stop medication to test the diagnosis of her one-time incident. She was hospitalized again within 6 months but not before racking up credit card bills, starting to smoke and drink, and getting arrested for reckless driving. It took longer for her to get stable this time, and we are paying a high premium for private insurance as she is no longer a dependent [on our plan].

  —Eli
  Louisiana

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August 18, 2003

I am 33 and was diagnosed as bipolar last year. At first the doctor I went to put me on antidepressant that made me worse. For nine months I was completely manic. I attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized once. Finally in November of 2002 I went to a different doc who changed my meds and now I am like a new person. Due to my bipolar [illness] I have lost everything I had: my family, my business, my job, my home, and my self respect. I am now living in my truck and I am working on putting my life back together. I have no hope of my marriage ever being put right, but I hope to be able to be a real father to my three children, and to some day be a productive member of society. You can read more about me at www.geocities.com/homelessbipolar.

  —William
  North Carolina

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August 18, 2003

I was correctly diagnosed with rapidly cycling Bipolar Disorder at age 43 after over 8 incorrect diagnoses, two hospitalizations (one involuntary), an outpatient treatment program for depression and countless dollars spent on counseling. I was on many "wrong meds" before finding the right ones. I was scheduled for a hearing at which a judge would determine whether I would be involuntarily confined to the state mental hospital forever. Like many bipolar patients, I am highly verbal, and I was able to "flip" from the lowest depression, put on some makeup and a red blazer and "pull myself together." Shrinks on the psych ward started telling me my "affect" looked better. It had nothing to do with my affect. A woman just looks better wearing makeup and a red blazer. I've talked to bipolar girlfriends who've done the same tricks. It's taken me over four years to be functioning and I still have my days. I married two years ago and it is tough for my husband to understand this illness. I have had six unsuccessful attempts at working. Prior to my first hospitalization I was a highly functioning well-paid professional. Now I am a housewife. It takes creativity to stretch my husband's income to cover debts. I've lost savings, my house, retirement accounts and sold my assests. Life is not easy, [but] I am thankful that suicide attempts were unsuccessful. I am learning to manage this chronic condition.

  —Anonymous
  Maryland

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August 18, 2003

I am 22 years old. I have a B.A. in Classical Studies and am pursuing my J.D. I weigh 103 lbs. I am bulimic with anorexic tendencies and have suffered from an eating disorder for my entire life. The stigma against mental illness and eating disorders forces silent suffering. Food culture in American society is torturous. People use 'anorexic' and 'bulimic' as insults. EDs are very misunderstood; I do not enjoy this disorder and my daily life is a constant battle with the voice. It compels and controls me; it is not a choice. Yet, I must conceal my suffering and hide my battle.

  —Laura
  Mississippi

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August 18, 2003

I was diagnosed four years ago with clinical depression, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. It has been an uphill battle with meds, in-patient stays in the hospital, (10) suicidal ideations and other self-harming behaviors. What impacted me the most is how people treat me. I am very open as I feel I have nothing to hide. I have been the target of a lot of discrimination...from work to friends to church. I have been grieving these losses. I have met some wonderful people both in the hospital, through NAMI, and my outpatient care. I am doing pretty well although I am plagued by dark thoughts of self harm and suicide. I am taking my skills from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and applying them with all the zeal I can muster. I am on a campaign to stay out of the hospital. One last thought... I am very fortunate to live where mental health care is not only accessible but excellent.

  —Lisa
  Connecticut

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August 18, 2003

My kids are brilliant (near genius actually), caring, compassionate, busy, active, funny kids in spite of their daily struggles. ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression: ask my kids and they understand, they know - and so do their friends. When our son talked of suicide at age 7 I knew we needed help. Medication and support therapy for anxiety, ADD and bipolar disorder has helped him lead a near normal life. But he's going to need it for life. His brother is ADHD (wow!); dad struggles with ADD, anxiety and depression; I have battled depression since childhood. Looking back, the problems we face go back for generations, though no one dared admit it back then let alone get help. Fortunately, I sought help for us all, and with medication ($250 a month WITH insurance!) and support we're doing great. I work daily on educating and trying to erase stigmas so my kids have a chance. We are blessed with good insurance and can get the help we need. We're lucky. Unfortunately, there are millions out there who can't afford the help or don't realize they don't have to suffer. I hear horror stories of moms denying themselves medication so their kids can have SOME (not all they need) of their own. (Imagine having to fight your own mental illness battles without medication and keep it together enough to help your kids!) We need a system to help these people. It'll be cheaper in the long run -- and we'll have a happier, less stressed, healthier, and more productive population. Keep up the good PR ... it's tough for those with mental illnesses, but there's immense help available. We need to make it accessible for ALL. Reducing stigmas, educating the masses and providing medical support are the keys.

  —Anonymous
  Michigan

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August 14, 2003

At first they said I had depression, then they said bipolar, then DID/PTSD. I don't really know what I have b/c I don't have insurance anymore and had to stop treatment (it doesn't help that insurance companies won't take me b/c of "an existing condition"), but even I know I need help. Everyday is a struggle to stay alive and to stay sane. But, it's so hard b/c I don't trust anyone and w/o my meds I don't think rationally. Yet, I know if I don't do something I will die of my suicidal attempts one day. Not many of my friends know about this and I most definitely haven't told my parents (Asian) b/c of what they will think or say. I don't want pity, but I need someone to understand. One of the things I that hurts/makes me mad the most is when someone says: "just deal with it." Do ppl think me/we enjoy wallowing in sadness!? Do they think I would put myself through this on purpose!? Would you tell someone who had cancer: "just deal with it?" So why do you tell ppl with mental illness that?

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder



August 14, 2003

I spent many years of my adult life taking antidepressants to treat and resolve depression, the one the tends to be much easier to unwind and put to rest. Manic depression however, is much more of now you see me, now you dont,' and a more serious, chronic illness. I very possibly could need treatment for the rest of my life. After seven years on an incomplete drug regimen and counseling -- in walks a new diagnosis. Here is my MD asking me if I tend to build up irritability and frustration throughout a normal day. You bet! This illness if left untreated can kill people. The depression I suffer when my neuro-chemicals turn upside down is the most penetrating and uncompromising dose of inertia, sleeping 13 to 14 hours per day, never knowing how I will feel on any given day, so I tend to isolate. I have difficulty balancing my sensitive nervous system, the list goes on. My one suggestion: Befriend someone with this illness rather than shun them. Please dont advise us to 'pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,' and, if you begin to discover you might have it, dont put off the inevitable...get help soon.

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

I am born and raised in Amador County. I realize I have had symptoms of bipolar disorder for most of my life. How embarrassing, living in a small community where everybody knows one another, and here I am behaving the way I did. It seemed normal, and most people thought, "There's Debbie again," thinking this is the way shes supposed to be I wasn't diagnosed with a bipolar disorder until I was around 37 (Im 45 years old now). Life is so much easier and better now that I take my medication EVERYDAY! But it's not a piece of cake. I strive to keep balance and an even pace in my day. I strive to be kind to my husband and children. Our home is our refuge from the world, a place to regroup and heal and love. Life can get very big very easily, and I am overwhelmed. I also have a great church family. I have learned to manage, and have always held a job, my current job going on it's 15th year.

  —Debbie
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

To be bipolar is sometimes to be level-ordinary, flat-subordinary, down or totally in the pit, unable to do anything, stay-in-bed-miserable, wish-you-were-dead-miserable, on the other hand it can be up, happy and talkative to grandiose and delusional, an agent of God...or just God, the feel of incredible energy, invincibility, the total lack of fear, the drive to be dangerous-risk-taking and total loss of control.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

My life is a living Hell, one day I'm up and can do anything, be anything. The next day I'm so low I can't think or do anything but cry and feel bad. The whole world is so much like a roller coaster, I never know what to expect out of life.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

Life was like a see-saw. I never knew why I would shop incessantly for things I didnt want or need and feel so good about it and so comforted. Id spend money I didn't have and reduced myself to filing for bankruptcy two times. I never knew why I felt so depressed, suicidal and worthless about being so out of control. Now I know. I'm bipolar. I'm on medication now and it helps with the highs and lows. I feel more normal.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

The impossibility of acting on even the most simple tasks. Exhaustion, sadness, elation, extreme energy, racing thoughts, joy. Never knowing from day to day, even moment by moment which of these feelings will be dominant. Its the roller coaster ride from Hell.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

I've always felt so different from other people, [so] in a way, I was relieved to find out I was bipolar because I thought I was just plain crazy and so did others. Now, I take meds to relieve my ups and downs.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 14, 2003

This is harder to write about than to talk about. It becomes more personal. The perspective I will give you is after a long time trying to find a diagnosis. The bipolar disorder was my first diagnosis. Progressive MS was my final diagnosis, plus four years of my life getting there. I have a tendency to have a happy mood even if I am sick. So each doctor that saw me would at first think, "If she is really sick why is she so happy?" Then the bomb would drop and I would have to admit I have a bipolar disorder. I didnt know any better back then ... now I do. The medical profession does not treat bipolar disorder well nor will they even listen to what I have to say. It has been so hard and so frustrating.

  —Anonymous
  California

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• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



August 13, 2003

I have been bipolar since age 17 or so and have taken most of my life to get to a stable regimen. I am in my third marriage and have three children. My 15- and 12-year-olds do not know of my illness, but my 20-year-old daughter does. They just think I'm psycho now and then. I am in the middle of changing medicines right know, hoping and praying I don't have an episode while I change. My boss does not know and when I've had problems, I basically am just "sick." It is very difficult to be secretive and see a counselor and psych practitioner to get medications without anyone knowing. The cost of everything is astronomical and (except for meds) is not covered under my insurance. The fact that I have a supportive family and very few friends that know about it is very difficult. To explain to someone the pain and loneliness associated with the whole deal is difficult. When loved ones say they are there to help but can't, it's difficult as well. Even with stability when medicated, you never feel quite "normal."

  —Michael
  Oklahoma

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• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder



August 13, 2003

One of my good friend in high school suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder. At the time, the late-80s, we didn't know what it was. All we knew was that she fidgeted a lot, constantly turning things off and on whenever she left the house, and had all these "rules" she lived by. Rules about turning the car radio to a certain station before she could shut the car off, or not being able to close her eyes to go to sleep unless the time on her bedside clock radio ended in a 3 or a 9, but definitely not a 6, because 6 was *bad*. After explaining this to me and some other friends one night, we told her that we all have superstitions, sure, but not as serious as hers sounded. We didn't know why she felt the way she did. OCD was not something we'd ever heard of. Unfortunately, she struggled with it for the remainder of high school. We thought she was "quirky," but I'm happy to say we were nice about it. We let her control things so that she was always comfortable, even though we didn't understand what was going on. Eventually, during college, she went to see a doctor, who prescribed some medicine and she stopped obsessing. She could concentrate on other things and she was very relieved. Her condition no longer controlled her. She got control over it.

  —Karen
  New York

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• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder



August 7, 2003

I work with abused adolescents and they often want to kill themselves because they think their life can't go on. Who do they have as role models? Oprah Winfrey..."big deal, if I had my own driver, cook, private counselor, show....I could recover too...." How many REAL bankers, doctors, nurses, business owners, etc. have gone on with their lives and restored meaning and hope? A vague number like 1/3 doesn't help my young patients. Most of them know a few stories of friends or family with trashed lives. They've never met a REAL successful 'grown up' who survived and prospered. Their stories are hiding. I wish we could take being a survivor out of the closet. I think it would help others.

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression



August 7, 2003

I'm one of the unfortunates who end up creating, or trying hard to, suicide survivors. I don't ever remember not being mentally ill, and over half my 40 years I've been in some form of treatment for it, be it drugs or therapy, but I still expend an enormous amount of energy brooding on my suicide. Part of breaking the hold of it, for me, is to work to get that internal compass pointing outward, away from myself and toward others. I may have always "known" that, yes, my son, my poor boy, my family, my colleagues will all suffer in some way. I understand now that I do not want to inflict that kind of suffering on anyone.

  —Anonymous

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• Clinical Depression



August 7, 2003

Though many make a habit of blaming the media for various problems, I make a point of not doing so. When I hear people complain about the coverage of a subject, I usually suggest that they try reading beyond the front page of their newspaper. I think that mental illness is an exception, though, because there really doesn't seem to be much coverage that doesn't exemplify the problems discussed on the show. My work sometimes brings me into contact with people who are mentally ill, and I have to admit that it took a lot of experience and some self-examination for me to become aware of the stereotyping that is done.

  —Anonymous

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• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder



August 7, 2003

I was molested by a family member starting when I was very small until I reached puberty. As a result of that and of the social climate where that was allowed to happen, I struggle with depression, suicidal feelings, and a sometimes irresistible desire to hurt myself. Over the years, I have heard a mental health professional say that sexual abuse isn't damaging to the child. I've been told by a psychiatrist that "there was no excuse" for me to still be experiencing difficulties and in therapy. Too many times, staff in psych wards are verbally abusive and blaming. I'm not telling you this because I want pity. I'm saying these things because I hope you can make people feel on an emotional level and in their gut, what it's like to live like this.







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