August 22, 2016
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My name is Amanda and I am a 34 year-old mentally chill women. I have been given several diagnoses including Bi-polar type 2, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc. On paper one might be inclined to think that I would be necessarily fucked in the head and living a life of misery. Though I will not lie and say that things have always been so easy, I can say to anyone suffering out there that there is always hope and that one can rise above and beyond any barriers they may face and live a normal, peaceful existence.
Seeing the girl’s parents beside her coffin made suicide an impossibility.
From the time I was a child, I had a dream of obtaining my Masters in Psychology. I was determined that if I just worked hard enough I would achieve my goals. Things were not so simple. When I got my first diagnosis at the age of 16, I began to question whether my dreams would come to fruition and I wanted nothing more than to die. Then I attended the wake of a 16-year-old girl who had taken her own life and seeing the girl’s parents beside her coffin made suicide an impossibility. I knew right then and there that since I had no choice but to live, I certainly wasn’t going to live a shitty life.
It took going to a children’s psychiatric hospital for a single day (that’s all I could last) to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Though I struggled with my symptoms and being a medical guinea pig, I was able to get to the point where I was able to attend university. Though everyone around me tried to suggest that I not stress my fragile eggshell mind, I went and succeeded, even publishing my thesis in an academic psychology journal and I had my mind set on graduate school. At that point, I only had to contend with Bi-polar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, but more was to come.
I was unsuccessful at being accepted to graduate school my first 2 times and in between university and graduate school decided to enroll in the mental health and addiction worker program. Ironically during the time I was enrolled in the program, I began to escalate from pot-smoking to crack use with some of my classmates. Having had a sheltered existence, I actually had to google how to make crack. Anyways after only one of the two years for the program, I received word that I had been accepted into numerous graduate programs. Moving meant that not only did I need to clean myself up but that I, Miss Agoraphobic, had to move far from home where I would have no supports.
I began to escalate from pot-smoking to crack use with some of my classmates.
I managed to clean myself up and bravely moved away. In graduate school I met up with a psychiatrist who made me feel normal for the first time in my life. He diagnosed me with ADHD and panic disorder. Unfortunately he was forced to go on sabbatical but never returned, leaving me with no meds. As a result I ended up in the hospital for 3 days after falling asleep with a crisis worker on the phone. As a result of my hospital stay, I had to see a psychiatrist (just once) who left my life in ruins. He pulled me off clonazepam cold turkey which left me with horrific and deadly withdrawal symptoms. I began using cocaine heavily which combined with my withdrawal symptoms left me unable to walk, talk, use a phone or even remember my name.
When the graduate department requested that I take 6 months medical leave, I was devastated but still determined. As a result of benzo-withdrawal, I was left with PTSD and would often scream out loudly night and day. After 6 months I returned to school with my tail between my legs as I had embarrassed myself in front of the entire psychology department in my attempts to get help. Not only did I have to contend with PTSD but there was drug addiction and worst of all, differential treatment by faculty and classmates. There wasn’t a day when I would return home from my office without the police being called to my place. I recall one time when a cop knocked on my door and I replied as Cheech Marin had in the movie â€˜Up in Smoke,’ “you can keep on knocking but you can’t come in.” I couldn’t refrain.
Despite all the shit that went on, I somehow managed to graduate with my Masters in Psychology and as part of my thesis created an action plan for use by the university to help students with mental health issues receive adequate supports. It has been 6 years since I graduated and I am finally at a good place in my life. I am currently in the process of partnering with a local art gallery to develop an art-and health program aimed at public education around mental health and stigma and facilitating the recovery process of community members with mental health and addictions.
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