From Mental Illness to Wellness My Story

Mental illnesses are unique diseases because they convince us that we do not have a disease to begin with. They are doubly insidious because they are often invisible to others. Unlike a broken leg the disease is cannot be easily seen, acknowledged or treated.
On top of the elusive nature of diagnosing these diseases is the fact that we simply do not understand how most treatments work. It’s much more of an art than a science to diagnose and treat the collections of symptoms that constitutes a “mental illness.”
With this said it is entirely possible for people to recover. I’ve seen and kicked a few in my life, from depression to mania, a brief stint with psychosis, PTSD that woke me in terrors four times a night to a neurological problem that gave me 12 panic attacks a day, crippling body pain and made me fall on the ground several times a day twitching uncontrollably.
I have been through these and have my symptoms almost entirely under control. These problems have been with me since I was a child, growing up a traumatized bipolar with disabling migraines made it so that I had no grounding in what normal felt like. I only knew that something was wrong and I was determined to figure out what it was and to heal from it.
I share this insight into my life not to elicit pity but as proof that healing is more than possible. Yes it requires willpower and motivation but it also requires just the right professionals, friends, family and access to resources to recover. We often think of healing as an individual journey or just meeting with a person who will dispense a pill. While science is certainly part of healing the process is an art. I’ll tell you how I recovered.
I have crippling migraines. since I was a child I would see bright lights shooting out of everything, my body would go numb and I would wind up anxious angry and confused. These were triggered by chronic allergies that gave me asthma attacks and later caffeine, nicotine and lack of sleep.
Because they started so early, the migraines went unnoticed and people considered me moody and irrational at times. I was struggling with my insides working against me. It took me 30 years to correct this but was worth every moment. Since I was 18 my mother insisted that I had Migraines, but at the same time I became bipolar. I was also diagnosed with ADD, the medication of which triggered my bipolar and shot me into a psychotic state. I was disconnected from reality and thought that doctors and my family were plotting against me.
I oscillated between deep depression and highs where I felt I could understand everything in the Universe. To medicate this I consumed large amounts of alcohol and became an alcoholic. This furthered my descent into depression and madness. The alcohol undoubtedly triggered more migraines which paralyzed me and I was convinced that I was possessed.
To my good fortune I had begun meditation and yoga practice when I was fifteen. At 17, before the symptoms grew strong I had an intense spiritual experience that would carry me through the next fifteen years.
This experience could have been a delusion, it could have been something more than normal perception. I had been meditating up to an hour every day for months and began seeing a white light surrounding me in meditation. This brought me such peace and joy, I felt connected, for the first time to all life around me, other people, my mentality was positive, and I felt profound peace. One day this all began to stop. In meditation I heard a voice in my mind that said “you will fall from this state but you will return back to it, from the bottom up and will never have to leave again.”
I knew that my trip on cloud nine was about to end and I would descend into the aforementioned darkness of mental, physical and emotional illness. I knew, however that I would get out of it and my job would be to help others realize their own paths to wellness. I can say now that I am here that this is all coming true, it just took me about a decade longer than I had thought.
To be fair, I have been told by many professionals time and time again that my recovery was abnormal. Most people with half of the problems I had were more than likely sentenced to a life of living on public assistance, insanity or death by their own hand. I don’t take full credit for this. I had the combination of wise instruction from family friends, and resources that many did not.
My mother was not only a survivor of her own adversities but she used to be a legal advocate for people in just my position. Ill beyond being able to function. She quickly got me insurance and public assistance so that I had the right insurance and basic needs met. She guided me on how to think, how to act and most of all believe in me when I could not believe in myself.
My family offered me compassion, material emotional and spiritual strength. I knew I was loved. Somehow even the worst of people would show their brightest sides to me to help me through. What I had was faith in myself and determination. I had developed the inner resources of mindfulness and meditation. Even in insanity part of me was always in the present moment, observing the uncontrollable descent and somewhere remembered that guiding light.
I ran with many kids on the street. By this I mean we regularly drank literally on the side walk, playing music getting in trouble, crashing parties and black tie events alike. It’s a wonder I survived but we all looked out for each other. In retrospect we formed a band of people who simply didn’t fit into the world around us. Many of us privileged enough to turn our back to nice private schools and cozy homes. Some without anything, but we all shared what we had and made sure that we stayed alive, out of jail and harm’s way. Many of us didn’t make it and my heart mourns the deaths to drugs suicide and freak accidents. I even knew one guy who faked his own death only to find him in a city 2000 miles away but that is a story for another time.
When I turned 21 my mother gave me the ultimatum to get sober or move out of the house. I chose to leave. The next day my friends and I were almost killed in a car crash. The driver decided to hit eighty mph and steer straight into a jersey barrier. I prayed, relaxed my muscles and at the right time from the passengers seat took control of the steering wheel. The barrier scraped against my door and then I turned the car into a seemingly miraculously placed rest stop.
The driver ran into the woods, throwing me the keys, rambling and my friends and I proceeded to walk 15 miles home, broke smelling of booze and grateful to be alive. That was the day things changed. I saw what my future held for me. I cam home and got sober at the age of 21. I have had a very small ratio of legal to illegal drinks in this life.
After I stopped drinking and doing drugs the psychosis subsided but I still had untreated bipolar, with complex PSTSD. I had a rare condition: ultra rapid cycling bipolar.This means that I would go from ecstatic to suicidal to enraged multiple times a day. The majority of people with this condition kill themselves. I was lucky. I also had complex PTSD which meant that I felt all human connection threatening, the world seemed like it was trying to attack me and I could not sleep; I would wake up at least every four hours in a sweat with horrific night terrors, images that I don’t want to repeat.
I was unaware that any of this was going on. After about 5 years of sobriety I was miserable and convinced that it was not the way for me. I began drinking and looking for solutions elsewhere. Luckily I ran into just the right psychiatrist and just the right therapist who were able to get through to me that I had bipolar and PTSD. If I stuck with them and stayed sober I could heal. I trusted them, developed a close relationship with my therapist, eventually trusting her and forming a bond that I could then replicate with other people in my life. A bond of trust and reciprocity.
The board that overlooked my psychologist said that I accomplished in four years what took most people twenty. What was helpful is that I was simply unable to anything other than heal and my mother provided me with the resources and space to do so. I spent every night reading texts on psychology psychiatry and positive spiritual perspectives. I rarely slept, wrote her up to a dozen emails a day and powered through the most excruciating process of looking my past square in the eye and coming to understand myself to a level that most people don’t have the luxury of having.
I knew myself, I learned my strengths and weaknesses I grew a positive perspective in life. I mastered both my thoughts, and expanded awareness. I learned everything I could about my body, my diet my relationships and thrived in every area. In the process I developed a work ethic only possible when ones life literally depends on it. Because I survived the healing process I became the best version of myself imaginable. I knew that I could turn these wounds into gifts. That not only healing was possible but that I was going to turn every weakness into a strength and with time work and support I did. I maintain that this is possible to varying degrees with everything. The mentality of not only mourning loss and healing from the past but only accepting the best possible outcome saved my life and it is necessary to believe in this future to motivate the intensity that healing required.
I had developed my mind to the point where I could do what I call the self-induced placebo effect. I would imagine something in my life happening and my unconscious would lead me into situations where these things would come true. I know it sounds odd but it works the same way that trigger pills will convince 10 percent of people that they are healthy and they actually become healthy.
Rather than see this as a fault of sugar pills I chose to see this as the fact that about 10 percent of the time people’s minds can change outcomes. I’m not a gambling man. I’d rather have that 10 percent be on my side than working against me. I chose to take full responsibility of anything that was in my control. I could never be perfect but I could be the best possible version of myself.
After this work I could finally sleep at night, I was no longer suicidal I was pretty happy, my friendships with healthy people were thriving, I was sober but I still had crippling pain that disabled me as well as panic attacks. I was addressing my allergies but still could not breathe through my nose. Another problem was that my body was numb from all of this. I remember sitting at the table where I’m typing now and realizing, at eighteen that the world seemed to be moving further and further away into numbness.
As I posted before, one night I decided that I was going to be completely healthy. My remaining symptoms were no longer there. I call it programming my unconscious to expect the best outcome. The very next day I tried a migraine pill on a hunch. Immediately the pain faded, I could breathe through my nose and as I sat at this table I noticed that my hands were going to be able to feel again. Laughing and crying I held my mom who had been with me through all of this. I was almost 32. Almost exactly 11 years after the car accident I was returning to that light.
I had learned what I needed to create a firm foundation for a successful life and as I promised myself I would share my story and what is possible with anyone who needed to hear it. From the worst problems, when addressed correctly, the best things will be born.

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