Dawn approached HIKE for Mental Health in May, 2012, looking for a forum to share her story of her lifelong struggle with mental illness. She shares her experience of “the worst nightmare that you can imagine” even as she promises to remain upbeat. We’re sure you will be as moved as we were by the humanity of her story and of how she made it Beyond the Fence.
My mental health struggles started when I was very young but, the real problem for me began in 2004 when I was teaching Pre-K. When the owner of the pre-school sold the place, I did not want to list the 13 different medications I was on with the new owners for fear that I would be terminated.
I resigned two days before the end of the school year. I let the kids down, and the former owners had to find a replacement for the last 2 days of school. That day I did not even get out of bed; I simply did not show up for work.
I was so depressed. I had never missed work so the owner had someone come to my house to check on me. I was so embarrassed at the medications that I was on…I could not face the teachers that I had worked with for the previous 4 years teaching Pre-K…it was my little secret…
All of the medications were prescribed to me bya doctor in Macon who also was my father’s doctor so he knew my background and prescribed a heavy mixture of drugs so that I could function every day.
Now, I cannot even remember the names of all of the drugs that I was prescribed at that time in my life. I tried every drug known on the market to deal with my depression, so many combinations it would make your head spin to review the list.
I cannot believe that I was able to function as a Pre-K teacher every day for four years on all of the medication that I was on, but I did and I did a good job. The kids and the parents loved me, and I was a good teacher.
Then, one day my world came crashing down. I decided that I could no longer go on the way that I was going so that night, without any previous planning, I just decided to take my own life. I took about 70 or more pills one night as I lay in the closet with the lights out.
I do not know why I wanted to die so badly. It was not preconceived, and I had not planned to commmit suicide. I just finally had enough of dealing with my mental illness. I did not want to go on any longer.
I swallowed all of the pills only to wake up 3 days later in Intensive Care at the local hospital. My familly was all gathered aroung me and I woke up to my son who was very angry with me for what I had done. I raised him alone and the fact that I was going to leave him on this earth without a mom or a dad pissed him off badly.
He said to me, “Mom, I don’t feel sorry for you one bit, I am ashamed of you and mad as hell that you would leave me all alone on this earth.” He walked out and slammed the door of the ICU unit and did not return.
I was so ashamed at what I had done! My daughter was crying, my sister, my mom, my 3 brothers, and my dad were all there when I finally regained conciousness. That was the beginning of my worst nightmare.
Because I had attempted suicide and did not have insurance to pay for a private hospital my family decided to send me to the Central State Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. I left ICU and went straight to the largest mental institution in the state of Georgia…that is when my story took a worse turn.
I have been hospitalized approximately 12 times since 2004. I have been in the state hospital 3 times, other hospital psychiatric units 6 times, in 2 nursing homes and ICU once for an attempted suicide in 2004. My mental illness got so bad that at the age of 46, I was put into a nursing home for the next 7 years of my life. I was the youngest person in the nursing home and my roommate was an 86 year old lady.
Before going to the nursing home, my brother took me by Walmart and bought me a TV and then I went to the furniture store and spent my last $400 on a lazy boy recliner because I knew at that point in my life that there would be nothing more for me to do each day of my life except sit in a chair and watch TV.
The nursing home was in a very small town and did not even own a van to take the residents into town to the store so, the next 7 years of my life were pretty much spent in the nursing home with only 4 allowed Medicaid days and Medicare days allowed to stay overnight out of the nursing home each year! God, I have never been so lonely in my life!
I spent from 2004 until 2010 confined to the nursing home, and I will share more about this experience with my readers later. I have beeen out of the nursing home for a year and a half now and I have a car now (a used one), an apartment of my own and I am happy to be out in the real world again.
I got a computer after many years of not having any contact with the outside world. They did not have the Internet in the nursing home. So I have been on my computer ever since I got out! Love it and look forward to sharing my story of mental illness with you in the future. Stay tuned as I write a weekly blog for HIKE for Mental Health and join me here on my blog for stories of the years that I spent in the mental health system.
I have been struggling all of my life with mental illness. I feel for the people out there who think that they cannot share their story with anyone. I decided to open my life up and write about my mental illness for people who find that it carries a big stigma and that somehow sharing it would ruin your life. It can save your life…share it with someone or go to a licensed counselor to get some help.
You and I can’t help that we have this illness, and it should not ruin our lives to say that we suffer from this debilitating illness. I wasted many years of my life in silence before I sought help! Tell someone today! Get some help…save yourself…there is nothing wrong with saying that you need some help. I will write some more about my struggles but for today I just want to talk one person into seeking help, and I feel that I will have done my job!
I have had problems all of my life with my mental illness and got tired of the OB-GYNs blaming my problem on PMS. I wasted alot of time trying to get help for PMS when I should have been in a psychiatrists office talking about my mental illness.
I sought help shortly after my unnecessary hysterectomy and found out then that I had Bi-polar disorder and Chronic Depression. I would lay on the sofa and not get up to take a shower, eat, or anything else for many days of my life before I got my diagnosis. It makes you want to give up…nothing seems worth the effort…cleaning the house, taking a bath, getting dressed were huge hurdles for me each day and I would pride myself when I had accomplished even the smallest things.
I was glad to have a job because it forced me to get out of bed everyday and take a shower and get dressed. On Saturdays it was hell to find a reason to get up. Likewise on Sundays.
My job kept me straight for years before becoming mentally disabled and losing my right to work each day. That is when my depression became severe and I would lay in the bed for days on end without getting dressed or taking a shower; cleaning my apartment was too big of a task.
About the only thing that I did was feed my dog because I felt sorry for him being with such a depressed person and never getting to go outside like other dogs. I let him go to the bathroom on my carpet instead of risking going outside and taking him for a walk. It was a risk for me to go outside and I do not even know why. I did not have the illness that prevents you from going outside but, I just could not make myself get up and go outside or even go to the bathroom sometimes until I almost wet my pants. I just lay in bed flipping from one side to the other.
Then I got Restless Leg Syndrome, probably from laying in bed too much. If you do not know anything about Restless Leg Sydrome, it will drive you crazy as hell! I could not lay still…I could not leave my bed but I could not keep my feet and my legs from jerking. It was awful. I still have problems today with RLS and have recently discovered that it is a real diagnosis and that it is not in my head. Restless Leg Sydrome is a real diagnosis, I swear – look it up on the internet. The doctors that I have talked to about this problem looked at me like I was crazier than I actually was!
Take care for now and I will write again next week. And remember, ask for help! If you are reading this and you are embarrassed to ask for help, please get up now and pick up the phone and call someone, anyone and tell them that you need help.
My name is Dawn. I am a 55 year old woman suffering from mental health issues my entire life. I first noticed that I had a problem when I was about 18 years old, but doctors blamed it on PMS.
Over the next several years, I had many problems with depression and could not seem to shake it. When people would tell me to “get a grip,” it would just make me feel bad. I initially blamed my problems on PMS although I had every reason to believe at that point in my life that my problems could be more severe.
My dad was diagnosed with a mental illness when he was in John Hopkins Medical School many years ago. He struggled with his illness quietly, suffering in silence for years before getting any help because he was a brilliant surgeon and did not want the stigma of this illness to affect his job or his family. He would suffer bouts of mania, and once got on a bus in Washington, DC, and rode it for 3 days straight before returning to my mother and telling her that he wanted to commit suicide.
It was an awful time for him and my mom as they would eventually have 5 children and remain married for 25 years while he suffered from his condition. He felt like he could not ask for the necessary help because of his job and his status in the community. He was also was afraid that the lithium used to treat his bi-polar disorder would cause his hands to shake, and he would not perform surgery with shaking hands.
We eventually moved to Georgia where he was hospitalized at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA, the largest mental health hospital in Georgia. We moved to Milledgeville during his treatment, and he successfully had a medical practice for the rest of his life before retiring many years ago. My dad passed away a couple of months ago so I feel that it is okay for me to share this information at this time in hopes that I can help many other victims of mental illness who suffer silently each day of their lives.
I will use this blog to outline my situation and the hurdles that I have overcome to get to where I am today. I hope that you will join me as I share the high’s and low’s…a suicide attempt, four hospital stays, and numerous inpatient stays. I was eventually put into a nursing home where I spent 8 years of my life with an 86 year old room-mate, living among the nursing home patients inhouse and prohibited from leaving the building except for the 4 days allowed by Medicaid each year to visit home or spend the night away from the facility.
Please join me as I share my experience of the mental health system in our country and live each moment with me through the worst nightmare that you can imagine. I promise to be upbeat and positive as that is how I made it Beyond the Fence at the nursing home and back into society.
I have been out of the nursing home for a year and a half and still struggle daily with my illness, but I am free again to share my hopes and dreams with you in order to give you courage and hope that you too may overcome or learn to live with your illness and maintain a life outside of the institutions that I was once locked away in.
My next blog will chronicle the early warning signs of my illness, first attributed to PMS and prompting a hysterectomy before I was finally properly diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder and Chronic Depression.
Thank you for reading my story. I will see you all next week hopefully. I would like to thank Tom Kennedy and HIKE for Mental Health for hearing my story and sharing it with you all. He has probably done me the greatest favor of anyone so far in sharing my illness with others who suffer with the stigma of mental illness each and every day of their lives.