Galen’s Story

By: Galen

Source: Remembrance and Recovery Project by Mental Health America (Mental Health Minnesota)

Recovery Story

I have been thinking long and hard about my story. I really don’t know what to say. Disease is boring and I’ve always thought of my particular disease as boring. But it is necessary for me to find the words to express my story to get it out in the open and let those who love me have a sense of what I have experienced and what I experience every day of my life.

To some greater or lesser degree I believe I have always been mentally ill. For example, I have only have one memory of early childhood; most people have many or at least a sense of what it was like. When I was in college I had no social life. I had experiences where the lights in the room where I was reading would get bright and then after a few minutes return to normal. I thought it was neat the time – being ignorant of what this foreshadowed. When I wrote a letter to someone I used stationary that said: “Psychiatric Help 5 Cents, The Doctor is In.” I was painfully shy and introverted. As I said before, I was ignorant that there were classic signs of a cataclysm that would rock my entire being and change my entire life. As I think of it now it is disease – that is, boring!

I first got sick a few months after finishing four years of college. (It was a five-year course, four years of study and one year to find a place to park.) Disease – boring! When I first got sick I was working full-time and living in a small town in northern Illinois. I became physically and mentally sick; unable to leave my apartment and paranoid about everyone. To go to work seemed to take more energy than I had. When I could no longer stand the chest pains I was having, I drove to the nearest hospital – on the way stopping at a diner to get something to eat – sitting in a booth convinced that those behind me were my coworkers – turned around a seeing that it wasn’t them – it was total strangers – and then, shaken, finishing the drive to the hospital – convinced I was having a heart attack!

The next morning I awoke in the “mental ward,” not a private room getting treatment for my “heart attack.” I didn’t like being locked up. I tried to escape many times but never got past the two big men in white clothes standing by the elevator. They didn’t understand – I just wanted to make sure the doors of my car were locked. Disease – boring!

I was having back spasms from too much Thorazine – so they guided me into a padded cell, gave me some capsules, and locked the door. I figured that if I thought of the right thing to say it would all end, the mistake would be corrected, and I would be released. I “spilled my guts” to everyone in sight and they just nodded their heads and smiled.

In one week my family came and packed up everything and brought me back to Minnesota – I’ve been here ever since. From that time until now it has been a struggle – good days and bad days. I’ve been paranoid, had bone-crushing panic attacks – and those of you who have had panic attacks who how horrendous they are – and have had very little energy.

I worked full-time for 17 years – got into a depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder where it took me eight hours to get dressed and was fired from my job. Just prior to this I had to stop taking an antipsychotic call Mellaril because they thought I was starting to get into Tardive Dyskinesia – for me the muscles that control my vocal cords were malfunctioning so I had trouble talking. Being off Mellaril, after so many years, sent me into a nose-dive. Obsessive-compulsive disorder took over my life. Disease – boring!

I applied for disability retirement and was granted it after waiting for over one year. (I had to contact my representative in the US Congress to get the government to finally move on my disability retirement application).

It is easy to be deceived into the idea that change in any aspect of my life will end my mental illness but this has never been the case. My obsessive-compulsive disorder is a daily struggle – helped a little bit by taking Risperdal (an atypical antipsychotic medication). I am usually very depressed – still painfully shy. Just two years ago I relapsed into Paranoid Schizophrenia – an episode I am still trying to rebuild and recover from.

My natural inclination is to do nothing – which makes my mental illness worse. I have been telling my story recently as a member of United Minds. Although my illness is boring I hope to encourage everyone to tell their stories and, in a small way, to better the lives of all mentally ill people living in this country. United Minds allows us to tell our stories – in our own voice – what it is like to live with mental illness.

Ultimately what it all comes down to is faith in God (and His only Son, Jesus) that keeps me going. I have trouble thinking straight, I can’t learn anything. I have a struggle getting dressed in the mornings, worry too much needlessly, can’t remember what I read, am the ultimate doubting Thomas, sleep too much, and am in a fog. As I write this I do not know what the next chapter will be but I do know that God, through Christ Jesus, has saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind now I see. I hope that in some small way this has helped someone, and know that United Minds is up and running to help you in any way it can. Thank you.