posted on May, 30 2015 @ 04:52 AM
Hello Again ATS!
I want to begin this thread with a sincere apology. For several years I took it upon myself ( along with another staffer or two ) to try and ensure
that there was usually an active mental health based thread. A safe place for those having a rough time to come and vent, share stories, compare notes
and generally support one another. Over the past several months I have failed to live up to my own, self imposed sense of duty in this regard. For
this I am truly sorry. The real world sometimes gets in the way. And for those of us with mental health issues, that real world can be much more
complicated than it is for most.
That has been the case with me for several months now. Sadly, instead of following my instincts and convictions and immediately bringing up a
discussion about my issues, this time around I internalized dramatically and tried to suck it all up. Part of my decision to break normal habits here
is due to environmental issues. Specifically having people in my real - and cyber lives who I did not feel safe with or who I felt terrible about
venting to ( That is not to say I did not vent. I actually did so, elsewhere, to the point where I had to stop myself as it became a dumping ground
for me rather than feeling like a healthy release ).
So... here I am. Mea culpa in hand, ready to begin a new ATS meeting of those of us who are more unique than others. For those who are new, a short
greeting / synopsis.
Hi. My name is John, or Heff, or Hefficide ( any and all work - pick what you prefer and I'm happy to answer to it ) and I am a mental health patient
with a clinical history that has now passed the 30 year mark. I have been fortunate in the sense that, through all of those years, I have only had to
endure inpatient care once, for eight days ( three of those days were actually unnecessary - a very involved story about trying to move on a Friday,
not making the facilities arbitrary "It must be done by X o'clock rules - and getting stuck until the following Monday because of the delay
). My diagnoses include PTSD, Bipolar I, OCPD, General Anxiety Disorder, Severe Depressive Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, and
I am told I am a high functioning Aspergers patient.
The root of my issues began when a congenital heart defect began to manifest at the age of 13 - a condition called Wolfe-Parkinson-White Syndrome (
look it up before saying that no congenital heart defects wait that long to manifest please ). This led to three realities for me:
1) At 14 I was told that I was a time bomb and might die literally at any second. My outside life expectancy was stated as "maybe late twenties, at
best mid thirties".
2) At 18 years of age I had a full cardiac arrest. A severe event. I was without vital signs for at least 12 minutes and probably closer to 15. The
attending doctor at the ER actually kept attempting to resuscitate me, thankfully, far beyond the normal rules because of my age. Once he did restart
my heart he was guilt ridden as he felt I would never wake up again. That I would live, for some period of time, as a vegetable and then expire. In
fact I was not expected to survive the night. I was given my Last Rites and my family was told to say their farewells and get closure as I lay there
unconscious. Obviously, against all odds, I won that particular lottery.
3) At the age of 28, after 14-ish years of near death experiences and showing up at the ER with abnormal heart rates and rhythms on just about a
weekly basis - and having to take large quantities of extremely toxic medications in a desperate attempt to keep me stable, I received a phone call. A
new procedure had been created that would cure me.
One outpatient surgery later ( via catheter ) and I was just about cured ( my case is one of the, if not the most profound studied so far and I
still have extra nerve fibers in my heart that are too small to eliminate ) ). But cured enough to throw away all of the medication that had literally
been my life for most of my life... medication that I could not even leave the house without for all of my adult life. From death sentence and being
chained to drugs to basically cured and free in less than 24 hours.
While that sounds like and IS a miracle - there is a lot of psychology involved and much of it is detrimental. First, facing death, non-stop turned me
into something of an adrenaline junkie as a young person. Even with death by cardiac arrest hanging over me, I spent much of my time participating in
things they now call "extreme sports". Free climbing, cliff diving, motorcycle racing, absolutely stupid and ignorant things on skateboards - like
trying to skateboard down long and well trafficked mountain roads, and so on. I was going to die anyway - so what was there to be afraid of? I was a
real life version of Daredevil. Only with other self-destructive issues, like drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning more times than I can count
and never truly bonding with or respecting others because it was all temporary and pointless anyway - or so it seemed at the time.
The funny part is that, while I was diagnosed with PTSD at 18 ( after the cardiac arrest ), the panic attacks were fairly infrequent and I was the
most outgoing person you would ever want to meet. I was promiscuous in every sense of the word and had the ability to captivate the room. I was the
life of the party - always.
But the day I was cured? The damn broke. Everything that imminent death had forced me to swallow and ignore no longer fit my paradigm. All of that
undigested fear, frustration, feelings of "why", rage towards God, and general blankness caved instantly in upon itself.
Within months I woke up in an ER being told that I had attempted suicide. I have no recollection of this event nor why I even tried. The last thing I
remember, I was watching football, in a good mood, and drinking a beer. The doctor wrote it off as "alcohol induced psychosis" but in hindsight I
now understand the truth. Being cured opened Pandora's box, inside of my head, and let out everything I'd always refused to acknowledge.
That led to the domino effect of anxiety leading to depression, leading to highs and lows, giving way to Bipolar, opening the door for social
insecurities... and all the rest that came after.
Today I am 20 years past that bizarre suicide attempt and am finally old enough, learned enough, and experienced enough to have a grasp on the
mechanisms of my illness. That is not to say understanding it changes much - as brain chemistry doesn't much care if you understand it - it's
chemistry. Knowing how a nuke works doesn't make one nuke-proof. So I take medication, fight the good fight, suffer some, win here and there, and
live through it.
There. That's my story - and I know that many of you are familiar with it. You also know why I tell it every so often - so that others will see that
the one thing I am NOT is ashamed. I do not allow the world to measure or marginalize me based upon this single facet of my entirety. I embrace
my illness and openly discuss it so that others might feel like they, too, can open up and feel safe in doing so.
That is how I seek to turn a HUGE series of negatives into a positive.