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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.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder More info

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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



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

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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder



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 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 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 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 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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



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 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

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Obsessive-Compulsive 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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