I grew up in Redlands, California. My husband and I, moved to southwestern Michigan in 1977 because we didn't want to raise our children in Southern California. But wouldn't you know, once they were grown, they both moved to California - but Northern, which is alright. We have grand-dogs, but no grandchildren...
O.K., new information. I am a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, an anxiety disorder and have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I guess I'm just lucky. For real. I work at the Community Mental Health Authority in my county at the rehabilitation facility for persons with a severe mental illness. I am a psycho-social rehabilitation peer specialist. The job's perfect. You have to be mentally ill. I've written a Recovery Guide (one for facilitator, one for participant - nearly the same). I teach a recovery class and lead a wellness recovery action plan (WRAP) group. My joy is setting up classes, putting together the curriculum - and writing it if necessary, and teaching, particularly in areas relating to recovery from mental illness. Know and remember that even persons with severe mental illnesses can and DO recover.
I keep very busy and am involved in my field. From being a "lazy bum" I've become a workaholic. And a shopaholic... Bad. I'm chair of the Evaluation Committee, member of the Steering Committee and the Diversity Work Group where I work. I'm wheedling my way into State level business: regularly attend and participate in the Recovery Council and Peer Liaison meeting, am on the editorial board for mirecovery.com, and am a member of the work group that is working on the State requirements for certified peer specialist CEU's and the maintaining of certification. I'm having a ball.
In the evening I come home tired from social interaction to little Finny, my rat terrier and we crawl into bed and hide under the covers until morning. I try hard - I've not included the "hard" previously - on Sundays to help my husband with the new addition.
I've had an autism spectrum disorder since infancy. No one knew. I was largely isolated emotionally from everyone, but no one knew that either, not even me until I was in my teens. Then I knew. At least then I knew it wasn't the average experience. It was a terrible thing to know. I was like a fish in a bowl, alone in the bowl. The world could see me and I could see it, but I was unable to connect. I did connect about thirty years ago to two little beings, but they grew and merged with the world. I found out I had an autism spectrum disorder about two or three years ago. I love being this way. It causes some problems, but, hey, who's to care? May be that's why I'm so gifted artistically. My husband tells me sometimes that I'm from another planet or from a parallel universe. He gets frustrated. I don't know if I'd like to be like everyone else.
I totally lost it in my teens. It's too dark to relate, but I have truly been to hell. At times I've literally writhed in psychic pain and agony. I know hell. I don't want to go there, but I've been there often. I was hospitalized fresh into college. Was it the speech I gave - "Everyone has the right to kill oneself?" - but nothing my doctor did helped. I couldn't talk, in fact I talked very little for almost 40 years, and the doctor wouldn't talk. He just sat in his chair, Tadd Accord, get that, with his little tablet, silent. Very Freudian. He said I just had Adjustment Disorder and attributed it all to my Dad. He was totally off. Totally. All he did was show me that there was no hope for me, that the medical/mental health system couldn't help me.
My son began seeing a psychiatrist when he was ten. Several years later I scrunched up my courage and went to see his psychiatrist. I've seen him for 22 years. The first 17 I barely spoke, but Humberto spoke to me and I liked that, so I kept seeing him. However, everything he prescribed for me seemed to do nothing. Except for some unwanted effects. Of course. Like an expanded physique. Sigh!!
Seventeen years I saw Humberto and had no relief. At first I had Major Depression, Recurrent. (It would last years, not weeks or months.) Later, as my behavior changed, the diagnosis was changed and became Bipolar I Disorder. I go much, much more lower than I go high. And much more often. (I have never been able to consider myself of a normal mood - except when I was twelve.) High can be scarey. It can sometimes be like riding on the edge of a razor. One year I was angry, angry, angry. But only one. Whew! That was bad!
As time progressed I became more and more low functioning, sometimes nonfunctioning. I once stayed in bed for a year. 'More like five years," said my daughter. I didn't believe her. I couldn't remember. "Yeah, that's about right," conferred my husband. I've had many ECT's, and many hospitalizations.
I started talking when I began taking Abilify. I don't know what happened. I may not still talk a lot most of the time, but I talk - like I never did before. I finally began finding medications that helped, or the combination did. Some of them, that is. I've tried a large percentage of "psychiatric" medications and now am on a combination that pretty much works.
I never worked much at real jobs. With an autism spectrum disorder it's pretty hard to keep one, not even considering the other (actually Bipolar I and Generalized Anxiety Disorder) which makes things even harder.
Last year I was at the point where I thought I would be an invalid for the second half of my life. That really, really scared me. Then I heard about a peer support specialist job at the local community mental health facility. Here was a job where one HAD to be mentally ill. So I applied and didn't get it. Probably because I said I didn't think there was recovery from mental illness - and maybe I alluded to the fact that I work better singularly, i.e., I'm not the greatest team player. I kinda like to be the leader. By myself. Gotta get over that.
Then the person who got the job took a better job and I was called. I don't mind being second choice. They never would have known what they had lost. But now they know.
At first I worked with the homeless outreach program, working with the homeless who had a diagnosis of a mental illness. After a year the grant money was gone and it could not be renewed, so I was out of a job. Kind of. I got another the same day, but in the organization's psychosocial rehabilitation facility - in the same building. The pay sucks, but I don't care.Well, I do. Got to admit.
Having found my niche has probably been instrumental in the recovery process. So has getting Finny. She's my little rat terrier. She helps me emotionally and with anxiety. I don't really know just what she does. I just know that she helps and that I'm better. Well, yes. Now that I think of it, I rather connect with her. No comments about my brain here! I bought her for $6 from one of my homeless clients. Now I do not like animals. Yuck!! I don't know why, but I was immediately taken by elegant little Finny. She should be a year old this December.
So now I'm certified by the state of Michigan as a peer support specialist, I'm an employment specialist (customized employment - did you know that the unemployment rate for the severely mentally ill [major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia] is 65%? And for those who are college graduates, 54%?) and a health and wellness specialist. Blah, blah, blah... I've led an autism spectrum group. This is what I want and am trained to do: customized employment, health and wellness classes (the severely mentally ill die 25 to 30 years before the general population), personal finance seminars, Recovery and WRAP groups (which are my very favorite. Recovery is my passion.), and the usual mentoring... And crisis intervention - and just about everything else.
I wrote a 409 page recovery guide because I had come to the place where I no longer knew what to do - so I wrote myself a script. I need scripts or I'm lost. That's the autism spectrum disorder. I'm hoping to eventually get it published. (It's in revision. It'll be shorter.) It's good. You'll all want a copy. For sure.
WHERE'D SHE GO???
I wear make-up now. My daughter, along with a friend's daughter, told me I needed to wear make-up. I obey my daughter... I mean, why not? SHE was once my mother. And she lives in the real world so she knows. Yep. She's awesome. Go to olava.org. You'll see. And of course my son. He's more like me. He's awesome, two. In spite of it all I have two of the loveliest kids.
Now, truthfully, are you glad you stopped by? To visit me??? I'm glad you did. See ya.