Wonder- Hillsong United

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Author: "Janis"

I would like to present to you the first of hopefully, several guest writers...people who have either Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder.  Today's writer "Janis" (an alias) is from Australia where the mental health system is quite different from ours in America--although the camaraderie between patients is universal....So here is Janis' story:


I was 20 or 21 years old when it hit me like a brick. I would lie in bed with my head

screaming as it was racing so fast and I could hear a man breathing heavily in my

room. I looked for him in the cupboards and anywhere else he could hide in my

room. I couldn’t find him. I put pillows over my ears but this didn’t help much as

his heavy deep breathing tormented me. My mind felt like it was “crazy” and I

would cry at times as I couldn’t handle it.

As the years went by he would talk to me, sometimes nicely i.e. “Janis, there is

nothing wrong with you” to commands to kill myself. It seems obvious on

reflection that I was hearing voices but I never made the connection.

I went to my first doctor at aged 22 and he told me I was depressed. I knew there

was more to it than that but then I didn’t give him much to go on as I didn’t see

the voices as voices. Maybe if I told him I might have received the right diagnosis.

After battling with voices, seeing shadows, people spying on me, reading my

thoughts and being quite delusional 10 years later I sought a second opinion from

a psychologist. She asked me if I heard voices and I said no as I didn’t consider

that I did have them. I didn’t trust my psychologist as I thought she was “in” with

other people reading my mind through a thought listening device in my car which

meant I couldn’t just think normally as I had to trick them and think other

thoughts that were not personal. This was a very stressful time.

Even though I felt like a failure in my work (project management in social

research) I was offered the top job as State Manager. I accepted it 6 months

before the role was to meant to start. My paranoia was high and I accused them

of all sorts of things as I thought they were laughing behind my back. I went into

my manager’s office on two occasions crying and accusing him of all sorts of

delusional ideas. I couldn’t handle the stress of feeling victimized so I quit my job.

I reached my limits towards the end of seeing my psychologist and called her on a

weekend and left a distressed voicemail that I was going to overdose. On

Monday, I sat at the kitchen table with heaps of medications and I swallowed pill

after pill. My psychologist called while I was doing this and phoned an ambulance.

The hospital didn’t treat me well and while I was high on medication (after a long

sleep) they discharged me the next morning and I went home. I felt ‘crazed’ and

totally off this planet.

The next period of my life is blurry, but I spent time in public psychiatric hospitals.

I remember they put in high dependency as an involuntary patient with two other

people, Luke and Wayne (lovely guys). The public hospital wanted me to take

lithium but I refused to take it. One day the psychiatric nurse held out two tablets

and told me one was lithium and the other something else. I took what I thought

was something else and then realised they had tricked me into taking lithium.

That set me off. I was yelling at the psychiatric nurse but he wouldn’t engage with

me and scurried quickly to the safety of the nurse’s station. I remember that I had

to see a psychiatrist and when I went into the room there were about a dozen

doctors as they asked me question after question. It was a relief to get out of

there. That evening I saw 4 shadows of people running past my window and I

freaked out with fear and hide (hid) in a corner so they could (not) get me. The

staff came trying to coax me out. I am not sure how long that hospital visit was

but I have ended up in the public system 4-5 times until I got private health

insurance. The private system is very different with people unwell but not

obviously so unwell as you see in the public system.

So my mental health journey to hospital was now in the private system which

seemed more civilized.  My symptoms seemed to grow stronger as I aged I have

made at least a dozen trips or more to hospital.

One night I disappeared in the middle of the night leaving my partner and son so I

could overdose Once I left home and went to a nearby park wearing a blanket, my

handbag and a pile of medication. I took heaps and thing went blurry and I walked

the streets until I collapsed. Strangers found me and called an ambulance. I can’t

remember if the private hospital was full and I went back into the public system

or not.

Even though public psychiatric facilities get a bad rap there is a sense of

community among all of the patients. In some ways it is a relief to be around like-

minded people that understand you.

One year later after my last overdose attempt I sat at home on a day I was

working from home and just started taking pill after pill. It was a Monday. Things

are a little blurry but I ended up in bed going to sleep. I started taking the pills at

2:30pm and woke at 9:30pm. My partner got up with me and said what’s going

on. I said I overdosed so an ambulance was called. The saddest moment of my life

was to come when my partner of 18 years left after this last suicide attempt. I was

taken to a public psychiatric hospital as an involuntary patient but I asked them to

just make me voluntary so I could go to my usual private hospital. It took a few

days for the transfer.

I had a second round of ECT with 9 sessions and again my hospital psychiatrist

said I was better but I felt nothing. So I am not going through ECT again.

I use to have an excellent memory. I would remember every little detail and was

always on top of thing. But know I cannot remember if I have taken my morning

medication an hour after I have got up. Ask me what I did yesterday and I couldn’t

tell you. I don’t know if this caused by the ECT or a disintegration (due to) of my

illness. My psychiatrist is going to send me to a neuro-psychologist for some

memory teI am not sure of the duration for most of my visits but they vary from 2

weeks to 3 months.

At the private facility a couple of years ago I had Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).

I had 10 sessions. My hospital psychiatric said I improved from it but I think it was

just time.

I still work, part-time, and it is a struggle. My hospital psychiatrist wants me to go

on a disability pension but I can’t afford to live on the minimal amount offered by

the government.

Currently my workplace wants me to work full-time. But I can only offer part-time

hours as I can’t handle the pressure that comes with more hours. I am on the

process of looking for a less stressful job. There isn’t much out there so it is going

to take a little while.

My diagnosis at the age of 34 is schizoaffective disorder (schizophrenia and

depression). At 38 years I still haven’t quite accepted it even though I have all the

symptoms.

I still hear voices, knocking on the window and someone walking around my

bedroom. I see ghostly figures and people are reading my thoughts. My

psychiatrist doesn’t want to up my medication as I am on a high dose. So I just

have to live with it until a less stressful job in social research.

“Janis”
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