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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.

Clinical Depression More info

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



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

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 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 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

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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



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

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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• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Schizophrenia



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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• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
• Substance Abuse



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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• Clinical Depression



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 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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Borderline Personality Disorder
• Schizophrenia



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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Borderline Personality Disorder



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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)



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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• 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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Clinical Depression
• Manic Depression (Bipolar 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

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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