Dear Dr. Archer,
I grew up in a modest home with parents who loved us as their children but for whatever reason simply could not get along. There was domestic violence in the family, of which my mom was the victim, which is why I abhor all forms of violence.
I have never been in a fist fight with anyone, but rather solve differences with my mind. Dad was diagnosed with Schizo-affective disorder. I know what it is like to grow up with someone with mental illness; I've seen what it's done to my family. I know firsthand about the suspicious mind, and watching someone disintegrate from mental health to mental illness.
My childhood was riddled with social isolation and withdrawal; we had little, if any, support structure from dad or mom's relatives. Socially, my parents had very few friends, so I grew up with the four walls of the house being my world.
My doctor's diagnosing me with bipolar was a journey in itself. I was treated at some point for a heart condition precipitated by extreme anxiety. I had cold clammy hands at the hottest temperatures over the year and lived in perpetual fear of something bad happening to me.
Once my heart was given a clean bill of health, I started experiencing severe headaches that even the most powerful painkillers couldn't address, then I was referred to a psychiatrist.
Immediately, I was prescribed Prozac and anti-anxiety medicine and all the symptoms disappeared, and I was good as new. At the time I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, in 1997.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999 by another doctor when I went for a second opinion, and I have been hospitalized about six times between then and 2006. I have been on some form of antidepressant since then, in combination with psychotherapy seasonally.
My experience in a mental hospital was of a certain routine of waking up, breakfast, group therapy, art therapy, etc. We were all lumped together, whether one was being treated for mental illness or recovering addicts.
Either way, I had retreated so far into the enclaves of the mind and was mechanical more than human. I was numb, I was down and I was out. I had fallen down so far in life that I couldn't get up and no one could get me out of that shell until I was able to come out of it myself.
From personal experience, I have come to perceive a very thin line existing subconsciously between mental health and illness, respectively. The key determinant of either case lies squarely on the ability of the person affected to gradually come to full terms with the situation or loss without losing reasonable control of their lives and responsibilities.
Acceptance of the situation or illness is crucial for quick recovery and progress in one's life and goals. Once I assumed total responsibility for my health and my life in general for everything that has gone wrong or right, be it my fault or not.
I never went back to the hospital. Even though I might have occasional bad days, I tend to bounce back faster. Too often our minds are our greatest asset or greatest liability.
In order to protect ourselves, we sometimes build fortified walls with reinforced gates and virtually impenetrable armaments that, on one hand protect us from the external world, or detain us internally within the same paradoxical defense. Once we tear those walls down we can then start to live.
Thanks for listening Dr Archer.
First, congratulations on overcoming your mental illness. You have traveled a long road, my friend, but the success of your fight is evident in your writing. Accepting personal responsibility for our actions and for our physical and mental health is the key to overcoming any stress or situation.
Congratulations to you, because all too often blame is shifted to others when times are rough. You show strong character and determination, especially in facing our own challenges, something that should be a goal for all of us.
I am very thankful that you have emerged from this as a success story. You have much to be proud of, because I know you've been down a very difficult path. I wish you much continued success. You are in a position to teach many people much about mental health, and the benefits of acceptance as a springboard to recovery.
All the best,