Psychotic tendancies didn’t appear in my early twenties as they often do with the many that find themselves waging a mental war fretted with hallucinations and delusions during that age. My constant deliberation with the the probability that I might be hunted at large by an underground sex cult didn’t reveal itself until into my mid 40’s. But my late twenties bore tell tale signs of possible trouble ahead.
After successfully working and putting myself through college and graduating with a degree in sociology at the University of North Texas, I experienced a relatively socially stable and professionally productive life. I married just after graduating to a wonderful man 10 years my senior at the tender age of 23. I was brought up strict Southern Baptist which not only subscribed that you get married as soon as possible, you definitely did not live together before vows had been publically proclaimed.
Unfortunately, because those strict religious statues did not allow for the soon to be newlyweds to live togehter before marriage, I was broadsided with the extreme and crippling OCD tendancies weighing on my new husband and his quality of life. Ultimately, I was unable to wether the requirement that all canned items be faced forward and spaced perfectly 1/2 inch apart. I couldn’t maintain the standard of all clothing spaced one inch apart, segregated by sleave length, pattern, color, and branding. I couldn’t keep the vaccuum marks perfectly spaced and displayed to show perfectly spaced lines created by the vaccuum wheels and devoid of marks created by those that would bear the signs of everyday foot traffic. And finally, I relinquished to failure. Exhausted and miserable, I found myself newly divorced from a 4-year marriage at 27 years old. The marriage was the unfortunate product of getting married too young, too soon, for the wrong reasons, and blindly following the restrictions placed on newlyweds by antiquated and unreasonable religious traditions. I was mentally rife for a good bout of depression.
At the time of my divorce, I worked in Dallas for a small regional hotel management company that was aquired by a much larger international enterprise. The new organization offered career opportunities in large metropolitian cities scattered throughout the United States. I noticed they posted an opening for a Director of Marketing position for a hotel in Philadelphia. I had never lived anywhere else but the DFW area of Texas so I clutched my new found freedom of being single and asked around about the possibilities of an opportunity for a new life of adventure and exploration in an unknown, major, Northeastern city. The decision was easy, I threw my hat in the ring, landed the job. and soon enough, I was Philly bound.
While terribly exciting, the move did exert a fair amount of stress. I was recently divorced, moving from the only state I had ever known, and leaving behind everyone and everything I knew. I knew nothing about Philadelphia or anyone who lived there. To say moving from Fort Worth, Texas into Center City, Philadelphia was a culture shock would be a major understatement. I went from a community that greeted you with a “How yall doing?” to a “Yo, how you doin?” And while it could be jolting and discombobulating, I loved every minute of it.
I didn’t know at the time, that the three most stressful life events one can endure is divorce, a geographical move, or a change of job. But that’s exactly the charge I had undertaken . . not just one or two, but all three, all at once. I had no comprehension on how rough the toll would be on my mental fortitued within only weeks of my arrival.
While I loved all the experiences of moving to a new city, it was definitely stressful. The absensce of the familiar could be unnerving. There were no buildings, no streets, no restraunts, no family, no friends, or any other creatures of comfort that I could gravitate towards for feelings if security and familiarity. I learned that one activity that could soften the edge of blind unfamiliarity was a drink or two at the many restaurants I would explore for my meals. And it became a ritual. It became a reward. And I began to drink whereever I’d go. And I began to drink a lot. Utlimately, it developed from a fun thing to enhance my dinner experience into a staple behavior for any outdoor excursion, no matter how involved, no matter how breif. And finally, after time, it contorted and transformed into a catalyst for unhinging confusion and crushing depression.
The behavioral development was disturbing enough that I sought help from a general physician. I explained my confusion, my lack of drive, my loss of wonderment and pleasure in life. After a quick 10 minute conversation, he prescribed the miracle drug of the 90’s, Prozac.
Prozac did elevate a more heightened sense of peace. But that benefit was sadly canceled out as it also caused horrific insonmia. Add on to the side effect of making sex unpleasurable and Prozac was no longer in my life. One night in a drunken rage born of frustration, I opened the bottle and flung the pills over my apartment balcony. I was relentlessly frustrated with my feelings of neverending sadness and melancholy. I felt I was falling apart in Philadelphia. The mental anzgst and pressure was mounting daily and steadily.
One spring day in the Society Hill area of Philadelphia, the depression and anxiety flared up again leading me into a bout of binge day drinking. Clumbsy and clueless, I lost my fotting and knocked into a work of art hanging on my wall. The art fell to the floor and its protective glass smashed into pieces all over the floor.
I can only say that I was swept up in the chaos and destruction of the environment coupled and fueled with the unrelenting angst and impulse of my mental state because I don’t know why I did what I did. I embraced the atmosphere of chaos, picked up a shard of glass, and slit both of my wrists. I don’t think I wanted to kill myself. I think I was just crying out for help. The wounds were superficial and I instinctually knew I was going to be ok. So I calmed myself and lay down on the sofa for my boyfriend to find me as he returned home from work.
Upon my discovery, my boyfriend immediately gathered me up and rushed me to the emergency room. It was here with the emergency doctor that life changing revelations would surface as it pertained to the condition of my mental health.
While I was being interviewed by the serious and contemplative doctor, I was unceasingly cracking jokes and excessively laughing, all the while working to rope anyone within the most obscure vicinity to join in on my unappreciated party for one. I was basically behaving like it was one of the most pleasurable days of my life. In the middle of this commotion, the doctor looked at me, halted my obnoxious joking and queried, “don’t you think you are not behaving appropriately right now?” I paused. Contemplated what he said. But I really didn’t know what he meant. He started again and said, “look and listen to yourself . . you are laughing, joking, making friends and seemingly enjoying your time here . . . but look at your state. You are sitting in an emergency room with bandages wrapped around both of your arms . . . because you slit your wrists with shards if glass. Don’t you see that your behavior may not be appropriate for the grim situation?” He caused me to give pause and pay attention. He began talking to me about mental illness. And I was solemn and humble as he diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began handing me various pamplets of information on management strategies and support groups. But not before he handed me shiny new prescriptions of anti-eplileptic medications currenty not approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder.