Mental health has scared me for as long as I can remember. The history of it in my family is complicated and a source of painful memories. I never liked thinking about it. I certainly didn’t like talking about it. I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would someday be talking about my experiences with it publically on a blog. Yet, here we are. To be honest, it is rather liberating to be doing so. Ultimately, I have found that it is worth talking about it knowing that it is helping others suffering also.
When I first needed to be hospitalized ten years ago or so for major depression, I was in really bad shape. Coming to terms with my own mental health condition with my apparent need for medications and therapy was not easy. It was something I resisted and put off for a long time in denial which only served to perpetuate the problems even further.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019. I had made major progress in managing my mental health and it had been nearly 5 years since I had an episode. I had just finished my first year in a PhD program and had taken a summer course on quantitative research methods. I was co-teaching a 9 credit summer seminar that is compressed into an intensive 6 weeks.
Toward the end of this professionally busy summer, I began experiencing sleepless nights, delusional thinking, and panic attacks. These things were all new to me. It all grew more concerning quickly.
I had become convinced that I was being followed by governmental authorities in white SUVs on the road and that I was being hunted down to be killed. I felt unsafe even walking by windows in my own home and began ducking down on hands and knees for fear of snipers taking aim at my head. I started having visions of technologically planted listening devices in the form of spiders. On one particularly terrifying evening I was hearing voices speaking directly to me through the speakers in my room.
It was at this point that I knew I needed help again. My wife asked a dear friend and neighbor to come to the house to be with our children and drove me in the middle of the night to the emergency room. I was crouched down and shaking in the passenger seat to not be seen through the car window.
What on earth was happening to me?