Career, Family, and Mental Illness

I always wanted to have a great career in the medical science field.  I loved hearing stories about scientists like Einstein, Curie, Pasteur, Edison, etc. even as a small child.  One of the earliest books I remember reading was about Louis Pasteur and his ideas about germs.  I wanted to make good discoveries that would benefit people.  I wasn’t so concerned about becoming rich as long as I was making a positive difference.

As much thought as I put into my future career as a child I didn’t put much thought into marriage and family.  I figured I’d probably follow the same path my parents and grandparents did, meet someone a couple years after finishing high school and get married a few years later.  But I ran into problems with the beginnings of my mental illness while still in high school.  It was my best friend who suggested that I may have a serious mental illness rather than traditional teenage moodiness.  Turns out she was right even back then.

Since I was struggling to figure out the nuances of my mental illness and trying to keep my grades up in college, I swore off dating entirely the last three years I was in college.  I probably could have dated some but I thought I needed to devout all my time and energy to getting through college and my outside reading.  I also didn’t feel right about burdening a woman with my mental health problems while I was trying to figure them out for myself.

I have had flare ups on family members and close friends.  They were painful for me and no doubt painful to those who were catching the force of my breakdowns.  I would much prefer to have a mental illness that would allow me to break down and uncontrollably sob and weep.  But my illness, being what it is, doesn’t allow that.  I haven’t cried in over ten years about anything, not even at my grandparents’ funerals.  Unfortunately the way my mind is wired I have breakdowns where I’ll yell at and curse even those I care about the most.  And I refuse to put a girlfriend or wife through that.  I especially refuse to have a psychotic breakdown around children.  My brother has four kids, aged twelve, nine, seven, and five.  I haven’t had a breakdown around them and I avoid them when I am feeling shaky.  I have had to not attend Thanksgiving and Easter in years past because I was fearful of having a breakdown around my brother’s or cousins’ kids.  As it is I am the uncle who treats the kids essentially the same way I do adults and joke around with them.  I don’t want to ruin that.

I don’t have a wife or girlfriend or kids because of my mental illness.  It’s bad enough dealing with it on my own.  I refuse to take my problems out on anyone else if it can be avoided.  I know myself well enough that I know I would be a bad and unstable husband and father because of my schizophrenia.  That’s why I won’t marry or even date.

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Medications and Mental Illness

Saw my psych doctor last week.  We haven’t changed any medications or dosages this winter.  Winter has usually been a pretty stable time for me, at least after all the nonsense of Christmas blows over.  We added a third anti psych med in October after I have a vicious but short lived psychotic breakdown.  It seems to be doing alright.  It definitely makes me fall asleep and stay asleep.  I have to take it right before bed.  Any other time I will be asleep for at least five hours straight.  I take all my meds at once right before bed.  It’s easy to remember things that way.

With these current medications I’m taking, I have to real careful about not missing doses.  I have found I don’t sleep well and have vivid dreams when I accidentally skipped doses with these meds.  Some anti depressants I was on years ago, like Prozac, could be forgiving and not affect me too bad if I missed a dose.  I suppose Prozac is one of those drugs that can build up in your body over time.  When I decided I was going off my meds back in early 2007, I was on Prozac.  At first it felt good to be not taking medications every day.  Notice I said at first.  I was able to work 60 hours a week again and was getting interested in dating again.  But the good times didn’t last.  I was off the meds entirely for almost two months before reality came back to hit me.  I probably should have committed myself for that breakdown.  I went off the meds again in early 2013.  Felt alright for two months once more before the reality came back with a vengeance.  I was lucky and smart for realizing I needed to go back on the medications.  Both times I was on medications that probably stayed in the body longer than most.  That’s got to be the only reason I did alright for weeks before I had problems.

My current medications are not as forgiving if I miss a dose.  But they have fewer side effects.  When I was on most of my previous medications I did well mentally but not physically.  I gained weight on almost all my previous psychotic medications.  I gained a lot of weight.  I gained almost two hundred pounds from when I started on psychotic medications in late 2000 until I started my current medications in spring 2013.  I didn’t get it that I had to force myself to be active and that I was using the psych medication promoting weight gain as an excuse to overeat and not be active.  But since I got serious about exercise and eating healthy I have lost forty pounds in two years.  I still have a long way to go but I am on the right path.

If I had to give advice on whether one should go off medications because of fears of weight gain and resulting problems, talk with your psych doctor and general practice doctor both before you do anything.  Do not do anything like that on your own.  You will have a breakdown and probably have to be hospitalized.  I got off easy in that I didn’t have to go to the hospital because I recognized that my mental health was falling apart early on.  Also, it should be noted, that medical advances being what they are, newer treatments with fewer side effects are being developed regularly.  I didn’t think the genetic ‘black box’ for schizophrenia would be found as soon as it was.  It was found only twelve years after the Human Genome project was finished in 2003.  I don’t know if I’ll ever live to see an outright cure for mental illnesses, but I am remaining optimistic.  It is certainly exciting times we are living in.

Recovering From Several Rough Days With Mental Illness

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Had several rougher days than normal lately.  One of those days involved a bad episode where I was close to checking myself into the local psych hospital.  Fortunately one way for me to break out of bad episodes is to just talk my way out of them with friends and family, literally allowing myself to speak out of my distress.  It is a tough process for all involved but it does work, at least in my case.  I do not recommend this for most people because there can be many hurt feelings on the part of support people, friends and family.  I think the reason it works for my case is that I grew up in a stable family who would drop everything for one of their own at a moment’s notice.  My family handles these problems like champions and saints.  I don’t know how they do it without taking these episodes personal.  After I’ve burned myself out I make it a point to tell them that it’s nothing personal and I’m sorry for what happened.

Saw my psych doctor on Monday afternoon.  We added a new psych medication and a temporary medication to aid in sleeping.  Haven’t been sleeping terribly well lately either.  The psych issues and the sleep problems just feed on each other no doubt.  But I’m a couple days into a recovery.  Things look promising again.  I hope things keep going better.  I’ll keep you posted as I document these last rough several days and my attempts at recovery.