BY ASHLEY’S FRAYED
I remember when I first told my psychiatric nurse practitioner that I was hearing voices and had paranoid thoughts. She called them delusions. I knew they were real. Most of the time it still is real. People read my mind and are out to ruin my life.
I casually asked my practitioner when I would get a “clean bill of mental health.” She became very compassionate. She told me that some of my symptoms might improve with medication. However, she made it clear that these illnesses do not heal. I will have mental illness for the rest of my life.
I have made some progress but it is never back to the mentally healthy me. She is gone. But I still am here. Here is painful. My therapist told me once that out of the 1,000 schizophrenic patients she has treated, one had returned to full-time work.
Work is one of the most important aspects of an adult’s life. Without work the days blandly blend together. If I guess the day of the week, I have a 50/50 chance of guessing correctly.
Forever. It makes me angry! Why do I have to suffer because other people have demons. Demons. When I say demons, my psychiatric nurse practitioner tells me that I am having delusions. I don’t believe that for a minute.
In June of 2003 I was “Date Raped” by a former state employee with the initials BRM. I told him he was hurting me and told him to stop. I went blackout. He continued. I have no memory of most of the attack. I also was afraid to press charges. Sometime I think my PTSD could heal if the traumas stopped happening. But they don’t.
I know I said goodbye in my last column. My job was high security clearance and would not allow me to have a second job. Anyway, I was let go from that job for whistleblowing. Maybe I could keep a job if I learned to do the “wrong thing” instead of the “right thing.” Losing my job slid me right back into poverty and scarred my psyche. Another trauma.
In addition to being date raped, I was sexually molested and raped as a small child. From the ages of 6 to 11 I have no memories. I fired my therapist. She said she could help me bring the memories back so that I could work through it. I disagreed. Having no memories of the abuse shields me from the horror of it all. I recently have had flashbacks now that I am into my 40s. I am hoping the actual events will never haunt me. One of my abusers may still be alive. None of them were family or my mother’s lovers. They were friends’ parents. People my mother trusted because I was friends with their children. Huge mistake. One I did not make when I became a parent at age 23.
How did I function as a young adult? I was fine. I went to college and law school. I graduated with honors. I became a licensed attorney and practiced human rights and bankruptcy. There was a triggering stressor that caused my total mental collapse at the age of 35. The trigger was a death threat and a false accusation against me that was made public. Since 2010 I have been hospitalized more than 13 times. Seven months is the longest I have made it without a hospitalization. My record for holding a job continues to be two months.
What does forever mean? When I dwell on recovery, I can occasionally get well and convince myself that I beat the odds. I am recovered. It never lasts more than a few days. “Let’s face it,” I tell myself. “Friendships end, lovers leave, but mental illness is forever.” Less costly than a diamond. That is the only bright side to it.
How do I wake up each day and face “Forever”? I don’t. I live in a river called De-nial. I celebrate small wins. I showered twice today. I cleaned my clothes. I took care of an old feline friend, Sophie. When I think about my longevity, I get really down. Statistically my assortment of mental illnesses may shorten my life by 20 years. I know I have a role to play in my attempts at survival to old age. The only problem is that the symptoms are so excruciating, I don’t always want those 20 years back. My goal is to live to the ripe old age of 82. I joined a community center in my suburb and now I can swim in an Olympic size pool. I have access to a gym. I can live.