i’ve been through fire

BY ALEX HITE

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I’ve been through the fire. Bipolar I and Asperger’s are difficult to live with. I have been struggling with these disorders my whole life. They are hard. They make me fall down. However, I have gotten back up , after nine hospitalizations. Hopefully, there won’t be anymore. For now I am struggling with both, but I am exceeding my goals every day.

I remember my first night in my first hospitalization like it  was a nightmare I had last night. I was 14, in the eighth grade. I was doing well with my grades, nearly straight A’s. I was in chorus and was about to go see “Wicked” in Washington DC. I had a couple of acquaintances, some I might even call friends and had been referred there by my school counselor. I had come to her saying that I was going to jump in front of a car. I had already been self harming and going between starving myself and binging and purging. I had been bullied throughout elementary school and middle school. I also was struggling with undiagnosed at the time Asperger’s. It made it hard to make friends. I now believe that the Asperger’s is the reason I was bullied so much. I was experiencing severe mood swings, highs that made me psychotic, and lows that made me want to harm myself

The drive with my parents sticks in my head, how we barely talked, didn’t do anything except listen to music. When we did talk, it was about the music or how far away we were. Then, we were there. Next thing I knew, I was  walking into the center and getting interviewed. Stepping into the unit and seeing the artwork on the wall. It was a lot to take in. It was night time however, so they made me lay down in my bed. However, because I was such a suicide risk, they made me sleep on a cot in the hallway so they could supervise me more carefully. It took me a while to fall asleep, with all my racing thoughts. The racing thoughts ran through my head, keeping me forever awake and scared.

I had been put on Zoloft a few weeks before being hospitalized . It did not like me and I did not like it. I binged and purged, so the pill often did not stay down. When it did, I was angry. The medication made me so angry, and I had never been angry before. At the hospital, I punched a wall. I was filled with so much fury that I couldn’t even act like I was okay, unlike before I was on the pill. That was when they realized that the pill was not good for me. I didn’t have a real diagnosis yet, and I wasn’t receiving much treatment, besides one therapy appointment. The person giving me the medication had no idea what was wrong with me, so he couldn’t give me the right treatment. My treatment team at the hospital decided to take me off of it for those reasons.

I was taken off and put on some other drug. I’ve been on so many I can’t remember which one.

Cylexa, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Luvox, Seroquil, to name a few. They never worked. It felt like nothing was ever going to be the correct answer. They tried and they tried, and they couldn’t do it. It takes a while to find the right medicine, and it did not happen in that hospital.

There were many good things about the hospital. The occupational therapy where we could make art, plant plants, cook, or many other things.occupation The teachers who played Uno with us. The art therapy where we got to play with Model Magic. The recreational therapy where we got to make bracelets out of beads. The mental health worker who sang to me while I slept on the couch after an anxiety attack. We celebrated Easter. There were a lot of good people who worked there, and I am very thankful for them. I am especially thankful to the worker who sang to me.  She sang the most beautiful version of “Marry Me” by Train. She sang, while she covered me with a blanket. Falling asleep was easy with her there to protect me from the monsters in my nightmares.

My therapist was a difficult one to work with. First of all, she seemed to want to make me look bad. One time, I told her I count things when I’m anxious (I count my fingers and in my head), she asked me how many ceiling tiles there were. Second of all, she wanted to make it out to seem like I was never going to get better and be, in her words, a “rebel”. For example:

Therapist: What do you want to look like when you are older

Me: I’d like to pierce my nose and dye my hair. I’m not sure what color yet.

Therapist: Are you trying to upset your parents?

She insisted that I must want to go against my parents. Third, she tried to blame everything other than pure, chemical based mental illness for my problems. She made me find a reason to blame my parents for my problems. I chose pressure to get good grades. This was never a problem, but I made it up just to please her. It’s possible she was just looking out for me. She could have been trying to help me find the reason I was having so much trouble, Maybe being a rebel was the problem, or possibly my parents.

The hospital stay was long. It was supposed to be a 3-5 day program. I stayed for a month. Let me repeat that. I stayed there for a month. It was because I was not feeling any better. I stayed on a high suicide risk the whole time, except for one day. I had serious suicidal thoughts that day, and was brought back up to the high level.  I then ended up going to another hospital for a month as well. It made me feel like a failure. Other kids were leaving? Why couldn’t I? Now I know it is because I was a risk for my safety. At the time, since I was dealing with paranoia, I believed they were to keep me in forever


Now I am 19. I have been hospitalized nine times, and am still struggling. I finally got a diagnosis and the right meds for me. I have Bipolar 1 disorder, which explains why the antidepressants weren’t working. I’m hoping to stay out of the hospital after my last one about two weeks ago. One of the reasons I ended up in the hospital this last time is because my doctor put me on an antidepressant for OCD tendencies. That was a bad idea, but now that meds are fixed and I am out,  I will stay strong. It will be hard, but I can do it. I will continue to go to therapy.

My therapist, who I met after I got out of the hospital and received in-home care, has been with me all 5 years of my struggling with Bipolar and Asperger’s. She is the most kindhearted person with her ears always open. She has seen me through nine hospitalizations. She has seen me out of my mind talking about what I am seeing and hearing. She has seen me cry. She has made me cry. Without her, I don’t know where I would be without her.

Mental illness and Asperger’s are the hardest things I have ever dealt with. Bipolar l, with it’s mood swings, and Asperger’s with it’s poor social skills make it hard for me to handle daily life. However, I am now in the hands of a good psychiatrist who knows how to handle my medicines, and a great therapist with whom I have a great connection. I am finding help. Bipolar and Asperger’s might be lifelong, but my struggling so much won’t be. My mental health care is excellent, I am finding ways to cope, and I am growing stronger every day.

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