Disclaimer: This story contains details of suicidal ideation and substance abuse that may be triggering to some.
“In early July of 2016, I suddenly stopped sleeping. I slept 10-15 minutes a night for months. It came completely out of the blue. I remember feeling lots of stress from running my business, unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for two years, as well as constantly overcommitting myself to social engagements. I tried anything and everything to help me sleep. Over the counter remedies, Benadryl, anxiety medication, everything a person would suggest to help. Nothing worked. By August of 2016, a month later, I was unraveling at a rapid rate from exhaustion. It was suggested by a family physician I try Zoloft for depression. I refused out of stubbornness and fear. During the month of August, I made four visits to the doctor, hoping for relief and answers.
I still had no good answers. I lost 30 pounds and my hair started falling out. I could barely get out of bed. Friends and family became concerned and kept commenting, ‘I’m worried about your weight loss.’ I withdrew from everything which previously gave me joy. By August of 2016, after a month of zero sleep, I felt hopeless. I was afraid to talk openly about what I was going through and I started missing appointments and cancelling on people at the last minute. It was scary not being able to sleep, and I started to fear nighttime.
A terrible anxiety would wash over me once it got dark. I would watch my husband sleep and think to myself, ‘Why can’t I just shut my brain off?’ My husband and I had gone out of town for Labor Day weekend, and I remember I had my first suicidal thought. We were hiking and I started to imagine shooting myself and dying and thinking, ‘Everyone will be better off without me.’ I knew something was terribly wrong. It was crazy to have those thoughts, but I couldn’t stop them. They just kept playing over and over on repeat. I was being tortured.
I went back to the doctor the day I got home. I was prescribed 10 mg of Lexapro by my physician and she told me to stop taking the sleeping meds. She said, ‘It’s time to give antidepressants a shot.’ I’ve since learned these medications are very dangerous to take without a mood stabilizer if you have bipolar disorder. But I didn’t know it at the time. I finally caved and was willing to try because I was desperate to sleep and get my life back. I was terrified the first time I swallowed the pill. Little did I know what was to come.
In the early morning of September 7, 2016, I slipped into a psychosis induced by the shock the Lexapro made to my system and held a loaded gun for hours and hours and thought about ending my life. In just two months’ time, my depression was so severe I didn’t want to live. The thought of devastating my loved ones was the ONLY thing which kept me from pulling the trigger. When my husband woke, I told him what I had been doing all night. I had never seen so much fear in his eyes. He immediately said, ‘We are going to the hospital. Now.’ He rushed me to the ER. They then moved me to Fairfax Behavioral Health Hospital in Bothell, Washington.
I was promised by the social worker I would be going somewhere safe where I would get the help I needed. Oddly enough, I was actually excited to go because I didn’t really want to die. I desperately wanted to live and feel healthy. Sadly, while I was at Fairfax I didn’t feel I was in a safe and healing atmosphere. For example, a male nurse walked in on me while I was half naked in my room. I was also locked in a room alone with a male nurse for a ‘check in’ where he proceeded to tell me, ‘You’re so hot and beautiful.’ I remember he bit his lip and stared me up and down (stopping his eyes on my private areas). He told me, ‘You are too sexy to be depressed.’
I was absolutely terrified and feared what would happen to me if I stood up for myself. I knew because I was ‘mentally ill,’ it was likely they would think I was lying. It was his word against mine. I knew because I was in a psych ward, I had no credibility. They also misdiagnosed me with anxiety and depression and kept me on the Lexapro. I was confused as to why they would keep me on a medication which clearly made me suicidal? But you’re forced to take your pills. At the hospital, I would meet with a psychiatrist daily and not once did he consider bipolar as a possibility.
I wish they would have even asked me what my normal personality was like. I would have said, ‘I work ridiculous hours, I run my own business, I work out intensely 5-7 days a week, and attend nonstop social events. I am your basic overachiever and am always, ‘Go go go, and more more more.’ I can’t believe they never investigated beyond the suicidal ideation or considered bipolar as a possibility. This makes me angry to this day, because the hospital where I was sexually harassed and misdiagnosed cost my husband and I ten thousand dollars.
When I was released days later, I stopped taking the Lexapro. I just knew it was responsible for causing the suicidal ideation. I foolishly thought to myself if I was a more ‘grateful’ person or counted my blessings more often, I would be able to snap out of it and sleep on my own. The mental hospital was so incredibly scary, I NEVER wanted to return again. I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. I vowed never to tell a soul what had just happened to me.
By October of 2016, I was ashamed, scared, and still had no relief. I had to wait a month to see a new psychiatrist. Sadly, an appointment for mental health isn’t easy to schedule. I finally saw her and told her about my insomnia. I still wasn’t convinced I was depressed because I had no reason to be. I’ve always been a positive person. She placed me on sleeping medications (Temazepam) and told me I needed to go back on Lexapro and stick with it. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t shake this and stop feeling sorry for myself. I truly hated myself.
I started Lexapro again on a much smaller dose, so it didn’t shock my system, in October. By December, which is my birthday month, I finally started feeling good. TOO good. I was feeling GREAT as if I could take on and conquer the world. Suddenly, around the beginning of the year of 2017, I felt AMAZING! The medication flipped me into a severe, SEVERE manic episode which also almost killed me.
Many people thought I was going to die because of my reckless behavior. I easily could have with the choices I was making and the people I started associating with. I started drinking alcohol daily, doing drugs, left my husband, was incarcerated three times, became homeless, spent my life savings, had my car stolen, got into several alterations, wrote psychotic things on my social media accounts, etc. I lost many friends while all of this played out, and it’s been excruciating to watch people’s opinions on my character drastically change.
The old gym I used to attend regularly said, ‘Please never return to theses premises.’ This is a place to which I’ve made many positive contributions prior to getting sick. Hearing some were worried for their safety around me makes me feel like vomiting. Whether or not it actually is, it FEELS like discrimination to be banned from any public place. In my defense, I was never physically violent with anyone when I was sick. I never damaged any property. When I was arrested, it was for NON-violent crimes.
I know my mental illness isn’t my fault, and at the end of the day ignorance is something we have to deal with. Today, I am a member of a very loving and supportive CrossFit gym. They hosted a mental health awareness event recently where I gave a speech about having bipolar disorder and struggling with substance abuse. It was a dream come true. I wasn’t correctly diagnosed with bipolar until almost a year after I stopped sleeping. On April 27, 2017, I was sent to two mental hospitals for my mania. Once was when I was withdrawing from drugs, and the other was when I was transported directly there upon being released from jail. It’s a shame everyone had to witness my psychotic break via posts on social media I don’t remember making.
I ran a very successful hair salon business for six years and have decided to quit. It was a mutual decision between myself, my health care specialists, my husband, and my parents. I worked so hard to start the business from the ground up and it’s been difficult to let it go. On the bright side, the salon did teach me something valuable. It taught me I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to. I later took a gene test called Genomind to test my DNA and how it reacts with prescription medications. It’s been scientifically proven all of this could have actually been prevented.
It clearly stated on the results of my test Lexapro and Latuda were in the worst category for me on the test. It revealed my brain would have a horrific response to these medications. And it absolutely did. These are medications I was prescribed, pressured, and forced to take at times. Had I taken the gene test a year earlier, I wouldn’t have caused a public embarrassment for myself. It’s been very hard for me to forgive the system.
Little did I know I would have another terrible episode in the spring of 2018. I began to abuse alcohol to numb myself. I didn’t know how to process it. Drinking made the feelings go away. It would lead to hangovers, which would cause me to not take my medication. It’s been hard for me to admit I am reliant on medication, but it’s the truth. On June 7, 2018, I gave up alcohol for good. It’s been a long journey with sobriety, but I don’t regret my decision. I had to face all my demons and past trauma head on in order to get through it and come out the other side. A sober lifestyle takes bravery.
I’m finally on the right medication and I feel better than ever. My health care team has told me my recovery has been remarkable. I still have good and bad days with regard to bipolar disorder, but all in all, life is good! After suffering for so long and nearly losing my life, I FINALLY got the help I deserved. The only thing I struggle with is the stigma and the way people view me. Some are incredibly supportive, and others avoid me.
My illness has made me feel disposable at times. Thankfully, I have many true friends and family who have stood by my side through it all. I know God gave me this life because he knew I would rise to the occasion. I’ll never give up and stop trying to make a difference. If we stick together, I know things will slowly change. Never let discouragement keep you from being the warrior you are. Together, we can end the stigma surrounding mental health.
A special thanks to all those who have stood by me. I greatly appreciate you not giving up on me and knowing I would get better. I have to mention my husband, who is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. I’m so thankful I was able to keep my marriage intact. Never take your loved ones for granted. When you’re at your lowest point in life, they most likely will be the ones to see you through to the other side. Blessings to all and keep the faith. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meghan Amaya. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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