What is the first thought that occurs to you? Perhaps you think for a moment that you're in a dream. Perhaps you will want to see for sure if what you are witnessing is really happening. So, let's say you take a walk. You go to the parking lot of the Wendy's across the street and walk around looking at all the gold cars in the parking lot. Remember that book you were reading? Now you notice that the license plates have codes in them, that they are reminding you of chapters of that book, and also of chapters and verses in the Christian Bible, which you read as a child. You reach out to touch one of the cars. You want to see if the gold is really there. It doesn't change when you touch it, but the car alarm goes off, scaring you and attracting the attention of onlookers. You run away, afraid because all of this strangeness is scaring you.
Next door to the Wendy's is a bank. You notice today that the sign on the bank is blue, fitting with the color scheme that has apparently taken over the world. You are suddenly aware, as you stand in the bank parking lot, that you smell fabric softener sheets coming from a laundry room. The closest laundromat is 5 miles away. But you smell this, in the parking lot, with all the weird colors. What the heck is going on?
You go up to an elderly woman getting into her car. "Why are you wearing red today?" you ask. The woman looks at you suprised, not understanding what on earth you are talking about. "Just tell me who told you to wear red today!" you say, in earnest. You are pleading with this person to explain the world to you, because what you are looking at right now, and smelling, and hearing is not the world you're used to. The woman screams at you to leave her alone. You suddenly realize you are frightening her. You don't know what you did that would frighten someone. If anything, you think, you have the right to be frightened, not this red-clad woman.
You hear her, then, saying three different things to you at once. She says, "What are you talking about?", and you hear this clearly. You also hear her say, "Get out of the parking lot," just as clearly as she said the first sentence, and at exact the same time. "You're going to the camp and you're going to rot!", she says at the same time as the other two sentences. You hear this just as clearly. There is absolutely nothing that would let you know she is not really saying these things. You hear them all. Your ears have always worked perfectly well before.
Suddenly, you are aware of a clue in the last phrase the woman said. It reminds you of those conspiracy theory websites you have been looking at lately. One of them said that the federal government was secretly building concentration camps, like those of World War II, because there will be an upcoming Holocaust in the United States, which is somehow related to Masons, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the N.S.A., the Secret Service, and other groups. You are instantly terrified. That information might have been correct. What else, after all, would explain these bizarre things?
Suddenly you hear someone say in your ear, "They're going to get you and fry you to death," in an ominous tone. You look around. There is no one there. You hear it again, "They're going to get you and fry you to death." It's a male voice. Then a female voice says, "You are a bad person and you're going to be dead." You hear a child calling out in a sing-song voice from the preschool across the street, "Die!" the little four-year-old yells. "Die, Die, Die!". You run to get into your home. Inside, you still hear these people. You turn on the radio. Then every song on the radio is using special codes about the Holocaust, and the gas chamber where you are suddenly aware you are going to die.
What do you do?
I wrote it down.
So that's how this blog started. I had a relatively healthy state of mental health, albeit, I had been diagnosed with depression as a teenager, and first attempted suicide at 15. I then battled Anorexia Nervosa from my teens into my twenties, which lead to one hospitalization, aside from the other two I had for depression. I had an addiction to cutting myself too. But, compared to what would happen later, all of these things were mild issues.
I first had a psychotic occurrence when I was 23 years old. One night I thought a bat was flying around my bedroom. I felt it, and I heard it, and I saw it. But nobody else could find it or see it. I thought a huge bug was crawling on me another night. Then I thought someone was coming in at night and attacking me. These were all hallucinations. I didn't know that at the time.
By age 26, I was more psychotic. I was starting to have some of things occur that you read about above on this page. I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, misdiagnosed, after suicide attempts or periods of suicidality. I was not correctly diagnosed until I was 30 years old. The diagnosis then was Paranoid Schizophrenia. A little later, it was changed to Schizoaffective Disorder, because of my history of depression and the depressive episodes I still sometimes had. Schizoaffective Disorder is basically a combination of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.
When I created this blog, I had seen the movie,A Beautiful Mind, and I thought, somehow, I could relate to the terrible things happening to the man in that movie (John Nash), because much of it, like the C.I.A. involvement, was happening to me too. I didn't understand, then, that the man was suffering from Schizophrenia and I was too. I just knew that his story was similar to mine. So this blog was called "suicidalyetsane.blogspot.com" and my pseudonym was "beautiful mind".
At the time that I did that, I believed I was pregnant with a baby that I had been carrying for four years. I stole my mother's car and tried to drive it over the side of the Sunshine Skyway bridge at top speed, because the voices were everywhere telling me to die. I bought a gun and bullets, and went to a shooting range, and very nearly shot myself in the head. But I got taken to a hospital by several police officers instead. And that saved my life.
For the first time, after years of hospitalizations and all kinds of diagnoses in different states across the country,and countless medications I refused to take after leaving the hospitals because I believed they were poison,now, this time, I was kept in the hospital for five months. I was kept on medication the entire time. And, for once, the medication had a chance to work for me.
Today, I volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliate in my county, in Florida, and speak to law enforcement officers when they have the twice-yearly Crisis Intervention Team Training here. I help advocate for better treatment and awareness for mental illnesses. I have spoken to conferences, such as that of the staff of the community mental health center where I am a consumer, and the Southeast Institute on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, in 2010. In 2010, I also finally earned my AA degree from a local college and then transferred, in 2011 to a university where I am working on a B.A. and possibly becoming a social worker.
I am on the board of directors for the state of Florida's branch of a national women's rights organization. I attend college part-time, when I am able to. I work part time. I try to exercise. I take a lot of medication every day and get an injection of Risperdal twice a month. Most of the time, I'm not very psychotic anymore. I write this blog to give you information about these illnesses, and to let those of you who are mental health consumers know that you are not alone. Psychosis is a lonely experience, but there are many people going through it, and for some of us treatment is effective.
It's been six years since I had that five-month hospital stay. I'm doing much better now. I still hear, see, and smell things that are not there sometimes. But it's nothing like before, and what's best is that I know it is happening when it occurs, therefore, I am not suffering in an isolating land of confusion. When these things occur now, I manage them, and they do not control or destroy me.
I continue to write this blog, and write in it more often now than I ever did when I first created it, because this illness still affects every aspect of my life, and because so much stigma enshrouds mental illness that most of our society does not understand it, while people who live with mental illnesses face daily ignorance and discrimination from the world around them. It is my goal with this blog to offer hope to those who come here looking for someone they can relate to, and to offer a window into my mind, which is the only way I know to effectively teach people what a mental illness is like. So that is the point.
Note: In regards to writing it down, I also developed lengthy, complex theories about what was occuring, and at times was so afraid of the Nazis that had taken over the world that I would not write about these experiences, or I destroyed what I did write. Unfortunately, years of journals were thrown in the garbage because of that fear.
Read my story on NAMI's You Are Not Alone site: Jennifer's Story. This was shared in the NAMI national report
Read my story on NAMI's #IamStigmaFree campaign site.