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Tobin S. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-19-11 11:14 AM
Original message
What is possible.
I originally posted this in the lounge, but thought it would be good to post it here, too.

This is for kimi and her son and anyone else who may be dealing with a mental health issue, whether it be with your own illness or someone you know. The main theme here is hope, but I'm going to relate some pretty rough stuff in the process. But hang with me through that because I want to show you what is possible.

Some bad shit happened to me when I was a kid. Not just one incident, but many over a period of years starting when I was very young. I've learned that mental illnesses are not just due to environmental factors, however, that there is also a genetic component, and there is a history of mental illness in my family. A therapist will tell you that it's usually a combination of those two factors that will cause someone to develop a mental illness. But that's not the whole story. Someone who had a perfect upbringing and no evidence of mental illness in his family can develop a mental illness, quite severe ones in fact. On the other hand, it's possible that someone who has had trauma in her past and a history of mental illness in her family go grow up to be sane and happy. Also, mental illnesses can appear in people later in life due to many other factors like what happened to kimi's son or what has happened to many military veterans in times of war, just to give a few examples. But in my case it was probably a combination of childhood trauma and genetics.

I am not going to tell you the details about my childhood trauma; just that it did happen and it was terrible. I've gotten validation and confirmation of that from a few people who are close to me and that was very important. I had lived with those events buried in my mind for a long time, but I had to bring them to the surface and into conscious awareness. I had always known what had happened to me, but had failed to analyze and investigate those events and how they were affecting me in my adulthood. So, I'll jump ahead in my story to when I was 20 years old.

The onset of severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder usually occurs in people who are 18 to 30 years old. A little earlier for men, on average, than women. I've had three different diagnoses in my dealings with the mental health professionals- major depression first, then schizoaffective disorder, and now bipolar 1. The bipolar 1 diagnosis appears to be the correct one and that's the current one. Or at least if the diagnosis isn't perfect, the treatment I'm receiving is very good.

The onset of my illness occurred very quickly when I was twenty years old. I remember not being able to sleep one night and by morning becoming profoundly depressed. Over the period of the next few weeks my psychosis made its appearance. I knew something was very wrong, but I didn't know that it was a mental illness and I wouldn't know until I was 30 years old. That's my lost decade. If there is a hell I imagine that's what it would be like. The psychosis was always there mixed in with my bipolar swings. A very simple definition of psychosis is that it divorces you from the reality that everyone else is experiencing. Your brain creates an alternate reality that isn't real but seems very much so to someone afflicted with the illness.

When I look back at those ten years and how I struggled during that time I become proud of myself and how I managed to keep it together as well as I did. It took tremendous strength. During that time I became a long haul trucker which I think helped me a great deal. I've often said that I think trucking saved my life. I was very paranoid back then and had a hard time being around people. Being a long haul trucker allowed me to make a living without having to deal with people nearly as much as I would have doing something else. Also during that time I renovated two houses and actually turned a little bit of a profit from that. On the other hand, my bipolar mind sometimes went too far and clashed with the outside world. I was convicted of two non-violent misdemeanors back then and I was hospitalized three times for being suicidal.

The third time I was hospitalized was when I was 30 and I finally started to get the right treatment. It was an incredible experience. I checked in being the closest I've ever been to killing myself and thinking that no one could help me. I was just doing it thinking that I should exhaust all of my options, just to be sure, before putting a bullet in my head. Seven days later I walked out of the hospital a sane man for the first time in ten years. My symptoms were actually almost under control by the third day I was in there and they've probably never seen a happier guy on a psychiatric ward in that hospital. It was like a profound religious experience- a miracle or maybe enlightenment.

That was over eight years ago and I've been sane ever since. I remain in treatment and I probably will for the rest of my life. That's the price I have to pay, but it is very much worth it considering how good things are right now. And if you've been paying attention to the lounge lately you know how good that is. By the way, I've told Jen about all of this, even the details that I won't go into here, and I told her not long after I met her and we started getting serious. I thought she had a right to know and she is very happy that I was honest and up front about it.

But there's a little more to the story. Remember me telling you about the rough stuff that happened when I was a kid? I still hadn't completely dealt with that until a few months before I met Jen. That was a little over a year ago. I had bought a semi and went out doing long haul stuff again. I had been trying to find a mate for a couple of years before that and I had dated six women over that period of time, but I kept getting shot down because of this mental health stuff. So I just said to hell with it and started doing what I thought was the best thing I could do as a single guy seeming as how that was appearing to be my permanent marital status. I was really enjoying that long haul, owner-operator stuff, too, but I was also alone most of the time again and you know what happened? Those demons from my past came a-knocking. They would be denied entry into my consciousness no more. So on a cool night in the middle of the Utah desert I invited those fuckers in and told them to bring it on.

I put everything down in writing. I just got all of that shit out of my head where I could see it good and knocked them all down one by one. After doing so I felt very angry and depressed. I felt alone in the world, not just trucker loneliness, but completely alone, like I didn't have any family or friends in the whole world. But I was wrong. I had some very good friends and they were right here where we are right now. I haven't met most of you in person, but that doesn't matter. You were here for me when I needed it most and you helped me a great deal. I owe all of you. Not money or favors, but empathy, support, and kindness. You all are my friends.

I felt really bad there for a while, but as the days passed by and with your support I began to feel better. After being shattered again, things became different this time. I began to feel whole and integrated. I began to truly understand my inner workings and I was having insights into my illness that I'd never had before. I never realized how angry I was at some people and how I'd been carrying that around but also denying it at the same time instead of acknowledging it and working through it.

I'm not angry anymore but I've learned to keep my distance from some of the people in my life. I used to have a problem with self-loathing and that is gone. And now I have true love in my life. I love Jen. I also have a nice place to live and a good job that gets me home every day. I used to have all of the worst in life. Now I have all of the best.

Anyway, that's what's possible.
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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-19-11 12:13 PM
Response to Original message
1. Tobin, tears in my eyes as I BEGIN to read this.
We ALL, the whole WORLD, give thanks for you.

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Tobin S. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-19-11 02:30 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thank very much, sweetie
This forum in particular has witnessed for me more than any other. I showed you guys all of that bad stuff over the years and got nothing but support here. :hug:
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BrendaBrick Donating Member (859 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 01:56 PM
Response to Original message
3. I'm a bit late and sporadic in posting on this forum...
but this is truly a most significant and hopeful post. Thank you for so much sharing.

What choked me up: "So on a cool night in the middle of the Utah desert I invited those fuckers in and told them to bring it on."

Bring it on. Facing those demons straight-up. Damn!

Encouraging & inspirational, not to mention extremely courageous. Good on you!!!

I've just about had it with my demons as well and about ready for a big high-noon show-down at the I'm OK, (you ain't gonna get the best of me) corral.

All the best to you Tobin S. :thumbsup:
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Tobin S. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 04:27 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Thanks Brenda
I appreciate the kind words. :)
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