Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Student faces ‘long road’ to overcoming mental illness

Kansas University student Caitie Hilton talks about struggling with depression and generalized anxiety disorder since she was a teen.

September 4, 2011


Local resources

  • Bert Nash Center, 200 Maine: Provides case management services for those with mental illness, 843-9192.
  • Recovery and Hope Network, or RAHN, 1009 N.H., Suites C and D: Provides social and supportive services for those with a mental illness, 856-1222.
  • Kansas University Disability Resources: Helps KU students with accommodations for a wide variety of disabilities, including mental illness, 864-2620.
  • KU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): Provides counseling services to KU students, 864-2277.
  • Headquarters Counseling Center: Operates a 24-hour crisis call center and provides referrals, 841-2345.

Caitie Hilton’s academic transcript at Kansas University, at first glance, doesn’t look very impressive.

Multiple withdrawals from classes, entire semesters missed and only two year’s worth of credits despite being at KU for five years since graduating from Lawrence High School.

But looked at from another perspective, Hilton’s academic progress is an inspirational story of a local woman who refuses let her mental illness keep her from success.

Beginning after the death of a close friend when Hilton was 15, she’s battled severe depression, facing multiple in-patient hospitalizations and periods when she couldn’t do much.

“It’s been a long road,” said Hilton, outside of Twente Hall on campus recently. Now 23, Hilton has been accepted into the KU School of Social Welfare. She said there have been times when “it took all my effort to get out of bed and go to school.”

Hilton is just one example of the many Lawrence residents who battle mental illness every day. And for each person struggling with a mental illness, measures of success vary. For Hilton, getting that KU degree and becoming a social worker would mean success.

For others, such as LaTonya Johnson, 55, it’s simply staying out of homeless shelters and remaining in a stable living situation. Three years ago, Johnson hit rock bottom after depression led her to homelessness.

“I didn’t want to do anything or be around people,” said Johnson, who describes her depression as a strong “heavy” feeling. “I was closed off for a long time.”

After being laid off from her job as a data entry operator, the Kansas City, Mo., native became homeless for the first time, bouncing around shelters in Kansas City before ending up in Lawrence. She spent eight months at the Lawrence Community Shelter, where social workers helped her access disability services and find local subsidized housing.

While Hilton has been receiving help for her illness for years, it took Johnson decades before she accepted help. Even then, it was a struggle.

“They had to pull it out of me,” said Johnson of her Bert Nash caseworkers when they asked about her psychological troubles.

Johnson is a member at the Recovery and Hope Network in Lawrence, where she participates in social activities with others who have a mental illness. In addition to medication and therapists, Johnson said that staying social is one of the tools she uses to stay stable.

“I’ve just found a better way to handle it,” said Johnson, who encourages others to seek help. “There is help available and it really does work.”

Staying busy and keeping her mind on her goal — graduation and possibly graduate school — is what keeps Hilton going. In recent years, she’s worked with other mental health advocates on several initiatives, including a push to increase crisis intervention training for police officers.

She’s received positive assistance from the KU community, she said. Despite her spotty academic record, Hilton said, “all of my professors or GTAs have been more than willing to work with me.”

Hilton receives services from KU’s Supportive Education Services, available to students from certain backgrounds, or those with a qualifying disability, including mental illness.

“KU has been awesome,” she said.

But before she got to KU, Hilton said, she faced low expectations and negative opinions from people who doubted whether someone with a severe mental illness could make it through college life.

“‘You shouldn’t be trying to go to college because you won’t make it through because of your mental illness,’” said Hilton, characterizing some of the comments she’d hear.

She has had to adjust her own expectations, but said she’s determined to graduate.

“I’ve come to accept that maybe I’m not going to graduate in four years,” she said. “The road that I take to graduate isn’t what most people do.”


Erin Graham 6 years, 8 months ago

I absolutely LOVE this girl!!! I can't even begin to tell you how much of a positive impact she's had on my life and so many others. Caitie- I'm SO incredibly proud of you and everything you've achieved so far. Still plenty of work left to be done! Keep at it!! Awesome article- doesn't even scratch the surface :o)

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

That is so true about not even scratching the surface.

Many books could be written, but quite a few already have been. There's plenty of room left on the library shelves for more.

Elizabeth Day 6 years, 8 months ago

I was lucky enough to know and work with Caitie when she was a student at LHS. I admired and respected her, then. She is a compassionate, introspective, persevering young woman who worked incredibly hard to understand her own behaviors and change them. I know that her post-high school years have not been easy, but it seems that she continues to grow and change as she builds a life that brings her satisfaction and reward.

Some of us walk around with destructive and often mean-spirited stereotypes about what it means to live with a mental illness. Caitie's life clearly demonstrates the pernicious nature of those attitudes. She is a giving, thoughtful warm woman. And, apparently, a very brave one, as well.

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

Jane, at first I was also shocked by Multi's comment; as that's not like her, I ran a search for Caitie on LJW's site. Now I get it.

Calliope877 6 years, 8 months ago

Didn't read it, but not surprised Multi said something stupid or nasty. She always struck me as mean.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 8 months ago

You "get it"??? Get what, kernal???

If you searched for "Caitie Hilton", you would find 14 mentions spread out over a frickin' decade. Too bad you, like Multidisciplinary, couldn't be bothered actually LOOKING at the mentions of her name, though, before deciding to belittle her.

These mentions include her name listed as one of a number of 5th graders doing a project; as one of the attendants in someone else's wedding when she was 13; one of 22 Lawrence high school students attending a marketing competition in Dallas 5 years ago; a photo of a family crossing the street that just happens to include Caitie; two On The Street questions when she was 13 when she just happened to be stopped by the reporter; a photo of a high school student graduating who just happens to be Caitie; and one of the West Junior High students' poetry competition entries. Oh gee, wow. Such massive evidence of Caitie being a media wh*re. Not.

Oh...wait. She did write a single letter to the editor. Shame on her.

As far as the mental health stuff goes? Well, let's see. There are two photos with Caitie in them at RAHN (the Recovery and Hope Network). I took the photos, I wrote the captions and I submitted them to the Journal-World. You want to call Caitie a "spotlight seeker" for my actions...why???

And the article and related video and photo spread out over last last couple of weeks? can blame that on me, too. As Director of RAHN, I asked Caitie to participate in being interviewed by Sean Hittle. Oh. The horror.

In my not even close to being humble opinion, you both owe Caitie an apology for your superficial and mean-spirited behavior.

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

Kendall, my comment was not a slam against Caitie, it was an observation about multi's posting. Your statement became what you accuse me of -being judgmental.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 8 months ago

Sorry kernal...but when you wrote "Jane, at first I was also shocked by Multi's comment; as that's not like her, I ran a search for Caitie on LJW's site. Now I get it" certainly and legitimately sounded like you were saying that Multi's comment didn't sound like something that MULTI would say about someone else but then, having searched for items about Caitie, you understood where MULTI was coming from when calling Caitie a "spotlight junkie".

I definitely believe you when you tell us that you didn't mean it that way, and I am very glad you didn't.

But I do think that, if you re-read what you wrote, you'll see how your own words encouraged being taken the wrong way.

Had you written something like "since that's not like the Caitie I know" or something else that identified the "her" you were referring to as Caitie, rather than the subject of your sentence (which was Multi), then your message would have been quite clear.

Unfortunately, that clarity didn't occur...and all I had to go on were your own words. There's nothing judgmental about responding to someone else's own words with evidence to the contrary. After all, we can't read people's minds, so can't know what they really meant when they actually write something opposite to what they intended.

Fortunately, it sounds like we're both on Caitie's side, so I apologize for any distress I may have caused you.

TheEleventhStephanie 6 years, 8 months ago

I'd be more ashamed of that mean spirit, if I were you....Jeez Louise.

Liberty275 6 years, 8 months ago

"“it took all my effort to get out of bed and go to school.”"

Wait until agoraphobia hits and you won't have enough effort to leave your front door. I recommend benzos. Xanax is a miracle drug, and Klonopin will keep you from needing it very often.

SSRIs/SNRIs don't work nearly as well. They aren't pushed as hard now either, now their patents have expired. Funny that.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 8 months ago

One thing to remember when trying to provide support to someone with mental illness is to NOT recommend specific drugs to others and NOT make specific claims about the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of specific drugs.

Rather, you report only on how well (or not) these particular drugs worked for YOU...because each person responds differently to different medications. And one never knows what else another person may be taking and what bad side effects might occur as a result.

I have seen far too many people end up in Osawatomie because of the well-intended "advice" of others.

Liberty275 6 years, 8 months ago

You are right. People should follow the advice of their doctor and not the lunatic on the internet.

OTOH, you cannot deny the effectiveness of benzos on anything related to panic disorder. Nothing else comes close and they don't make me bark at cows like lexapro did.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

The difference between Xanax and Klonopin is just about only in the duration of their effects. They are both benzodiazepines, and have problems associated with their use that can be serious. If at all possible, they are certainly not intended for long term use. But for many people, there really is no other choice.

There are a very large number of benzodiazepines, and they are known by trade names and generic names. Other than the two you mentioned, Valium is probably the best known one.

Klonopin's effects last about 12 hours, and Xanax's lasts about 2 hours. So yes, you are correct in your statement that you won't need a Xanax dose as often as Klonopin dose. But other than that, the effects will be about the same.

By the way, if you are having a panic attack, it would be better to let the tablet dissolve against your cheek instead of swallowing it. That way, it will get into your bloodstream more quickly.

I have been told that the two major problems with all the benzodiazepine drugs is that they are all, without exception, very addictive, and also, without exception, cause permanent brain damage, although it is rather slight.

There is also a whole long list of other side effects, some of which sound pretty serious. These drugs are not to be taken lightly.

As with any drug, there are benefits and liabilities. Never get them on the street, instead get a psychiatrist to make the decision which one is best for you. There are many factors to consider.

And, SSRIs/SNRIs are a totally different type of drug, with little if any relationship to the family of benzodiazepines.

Liberty275 6 years, 8 months ago

You are quite the expert Mr Holzwarth.

As noted, do what your doctor say's and not what you read in a forum.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

It's a long story why I'm rather well informed on these topics.

Because in order to be complete, I would have to begin with events that occurred in 1962.

Today there is much better understanding of these subjects than there was then. If these subjects had been better understood and accepted in 1962, there is no doubt that my life would be very different than it is today.

In the early 1960s, when I was less than 10 years old, I was informed that a problem I described would require the services of a psychiatrist. And, I was told that since my parents could not afford that, I would have to just get over it. That seemed so unfair to me.

No one could understand why I always consistently scored genius level intelligence on any ability test, and yet I also consistently was graded C in every subject in school, except for some Ds. There was also an F one time. Well, I am exaggerating. I got a B a few times. That caused no end of grief for me.

But I read so many books! And I could remember what all of them had said. I still can, for many of them. I once shocked a rather young person that read one sentence out of a mystery book that was one of a set of many. I immediately replied, "Oh, yeah, that's the one where,,,"

And then, that rather young but intelligent person immediately replied, "You're scaring me!"

And I do have another problem, but I've pretty much learned to squelch it now. It's that after not seeing someone for 10 or 20 years, I try to resume our conversation from the last time we talked. People think that's really weird.

But the teacher in the front of the class was just about always talking gibberish. Never could understand the teacher. But if it was in a book, not a problem at all.

I remember wishing that I could perform a lobotomy on myself so people would quit talking about how smart I was, and accept the fact that a C is a passing grade. Getting Cs seemed to be acceptable for just about everyone else, why not me too?

There is something sad about my memories of a self inflicted lobotomy, and that is that I had never heard of such a procedure at the time. I dreamed up the concept myself.

I also wondered for hours and days on end if I was going to be the first 12 year old that did something, but I don't want to directly point out exactly what it was.

After I got into college, I did much better because then I was tested on things that were in the books. But then, other problems arose, and I had no idea what to do. Finally ended up dropping out with about 165 semester hours, but no degree.

Today, I'm doing much, much better. Things are not perfect, but good. But now the years that could have been the most productive ones of my life are gone.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

But, there is something salvageable about my whole life situation as it exists today. I have this crazy idea that I should be a writer, and many people have told me that I should write my autobiography because it would be such an interesting book.

But so much of it would be unbelievable, and a lot of it would be incredibly funny!

It doesn't matter that I only took one class in English in college and only got a C. Many well known writers never formally studied writing at all.

I'm starting to practice in here. And, when an article or a poster's comment brings to mind a recollection I think about it for only a moment and then start writing a posting. It doesn't take long to finish one, after I've started.

That's why I post so many brief autobiographical essays in here. I hope I can retrieve them at some future date, and after some editing, they will be part of it. They are all very accurate descriptions of the situations, as far as I can recall.

It doesn't matter that the chances are that my three magazine articles are probably going to be the last ones that will ever be published, and I'll never make another dime out of writing.

But it's something I really enjoy doing, and that is such a rarity in my life.

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

Pardon me, but the SSRI and SSNI family of dope is every bit so and even moreso addicting than the benzo family. Too, the withdrawal from an addiction to the SSRI/SSNI/SNRI dope is far more intense and potentially stroke inducing.

Eight sessions and happy pills (AKA: SSRI/SSNI: We're talking Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, Cymbalta, Effexor, etc., etc., etc.).

They bad sayeth the W.H.O. anyway....

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

I only said they were different, I did not say they were not addictive.

They are used for different purposes, their mode of action is different, and their long term effects are different.

And, I don't think they're any good either. I've been on a few myself, and my opinion was they only made things a lot worse. But that only applies to me, it's best to trust a competent psychiatrist.

Note: I said "competent". There are many who are not.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

And plus, they sure as hell do not relax you. They made me shake all day long, and made it impossible to sleep.

Unless I took a lot of benzos.

And Tardive Dyskinesia, (TD), holy Toledo. You've never been through misery until you go through that. And it can be permanent. I got off that whole other family of drugs just in time, and 7 months later, was finally over it. I hope so, anyway.

There's a lot of pills out there, and I think that the drug companies are the biggest drug dealers of all.

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

99.9% of available shrinks do nothing but "medication management" thanks to outfits like Bert Nash.

U want real psychotherapy? You have to pay for it.

God Bless "full coverage medical insurance: 8 sessions and then happy pills....". NOT

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

As far as I know, Liberty275 is not a doctor, but was only reaching out and making recommendations based on his personal experience in life, whether of himself or someone he knows well. Commenters to LJW often do that and we all know it's not meant to be medical advice, it's just another way people reach out.

The best advice I can give you is do some deep breathing exercises and enjoy the rest of your weekend with your family and friends. And, no, I'm not a M.D. I'm just a hooman bean like everyone else here.

Liberty275 6 years, 8 months ago

I do the breathing thing too. Counting things helps as well. It's not an OCD thing, it just forces the brain to do something other than respond to fight or flight. It's quite effective for me.

Note: DO NOT count unless advised to by your doctor.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 8 months ago

I truly believe that most people genuinely mean well but, based on practical experience, I do NOT believe that "we all know it's not meant to be medical advice, it's just another way people reach out."

Unfortunately, there are many people struggling with mental illness who are looking for "magic bullets" or whose symptoms are 'troublesome' enough that they are not able to differentiate between "medical advice" and "reaching out".

This is why, after Liberty made a comment regarding how "counting" works for him, he then emphasized, "Note: "DO NOT count unless advised to by your doctor".

That may sound like an incredibly minor thing to most folks reading this, but it sure as heck isn't minor to everyone and, indeed, as Liberty understands, advising someone to "count" could be extremely destructive.

So, nope...don't assume that everyone on a forum "knows" what you mean.

Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago

8 sessions and happy pills......The Bert Nash "magic bullet".

Nathan Anderson 6 years, 8 months ago

Keep it up Caitie. As someone who has dealt with major depression since puberty (now 37), it took almost 10 years to get my undergrad from KU. Never give up.

Starbrite 6 years, 8 months ago

Keep up the good work, Caitie! I know you will succeed in obtaining your degree despite any obstacles. I think you are very brave young woman. Thank you for sharing your story with others. Hopefully it will inspire others who suffer with mental illness to realize that they can reach for their dreams too.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 8 months ago

I do not Know what multi said But if it was deletable then I'm sure he doess not know caitie. I refer to her affectionately as " my little crazy girl", because I adore her. Having said that "crazy people can achieve great things. For example, Michelangelo,lord Byron,Virginia Wolfe,Sylvia plathe and many more. Just because the road is tougher to navigate and takes longer to arrive at the chosen destination, it does not minimize the achievement. Robert frost said it best " I took the road less traveled by and that made all the difference"

camper 6 years, 8 months ago

Good for you Caittie. Good luck in your new studies.

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

It's great Caitie is getting all this support from the commenters, but what about all the other KU students who deal with severe depression on a regular basis and are struggling to get their degree. Who do they get their support from and where?

Erin Graham 6 years, 8 months ago

Look at the left side of the page for resources. Lawrence/Douglas County/KU are lucky to have such a strong network of support sources to help people with a very wide array of mental illness (from mild depression to barely-functioning) lead a full life and achieve success.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

If you're a veteran get to the the VA hospital in Topeka, bring your DD214, and you will be scheduled right in. It's the best psychiatriatric hospital within many hundreds of miles, but it is only avaible for veterans.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 8 months ago

KU has resources if you're a student (as noted in the article), and if you're lucky enough to have health insurance, your family dr. is a good place to start. He/she can refer you to the appropriate professionals.

Liberty275 6 years, 8 months ago

I feel her pain. I couldn't walk across campus at KU and would often hide in the corner of empty classrooms with the lights off between classes. How do you fight the part of your mind below your consciousness? What's really odd is that I could stand up in front of 30 students and teach with ease.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

That does not sound very odd to me at all.

The students were looking at you as an authority figure, and with the reinforcement of their belief in that fact, you didn't have a problem at all.

My assessment is that without some outside reinforcement that you really are just fine, you have problems accepting that because if it is only your own conclusion, and you are really not sure of it.

Dan Eyler 6 years, 8 months ago

I am proud of the efforts this woman is putting in. Mental illness can be a life time illness for some. But I am concerned about the ongoing trend of promoting mentally ill students into social services and such. Since serious mental illness typically is a long battle with ongoing mental problems why would we promote these students into a line of work that consists of dealing with the very illness they suffer. This isn't just depression and I don't mean to lump all mental illness into one group by any means but professionals in this field can certainly identify and persuade a good number of students that social services may not be a good fit for either party. Because of the expense of these services and for many a life time, and with the big reductions in government spending, we really need to promote the best and the brightest into social services who can give the most positive impact for those needing services.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Give me a break.

The people who have had problems themselves with such problems are the ones that know the most about them.

Anyone else will only be able to parrot out what they were told or read in books.

Have you ever heard the expression: "Experience is the best teacher?"

And, if you think mentally ill people are not among the brightest among us, you need to do some research.

4reasonablediscourse 6 years, 8 months ago

Marsha Linehan, PhD, the woman who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy, just came out as having had serious mental illness in the New York Times this summer. This is the first treatment that was ever successful in treating multiply disordered suicidal individuals, and it is still the most effective treatement for this and many other disorders. If we want the "best and brightest" to go into MH services, we might want to pay them more than $37,000 for a Master's degree and 12 yrs post master's experience in the field - but truly it's compassion that sends people into the MH field, clearly it's not the money. With the right treatment and support, a person with a mental illness can transform their own suffering into compassion for others - and fortunately many of these folks are also the "best and brightest" as well. It is unfortunate that they are paid so badly, that their retirement isn't funded, and that the Governor is working as hard as possible to make sure that as few people as possible get the services that allowed this young lady, and others like her, to succeed.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 8 months ago

"Every time Caitie does this" - huh??

What is this horrible "this" that Caitie supposedly did here? Be one of several people interviewed for an article at my request? One of two people that the reporter decided to actually write about?

Where's the crisis here? Where's the "OMG, did you see what she did" here?

If family and classmates keep calling and and emailing you and make your day "pure hell"...then tell THEM to stop. Like it or not, they are the problem in that situation.

(As an aside, I've often wondered why people get mad when others judge them based on their own words. Are we truly expected to read their minds, not just their words?)

Amy Heeter 6 years, 8 months ago

So what's your agenda?

The caitie I know( I have known brother for years) has had some struggles, but also many successes. She is kind and supportive of her friends despite her limitations. She has been advocating with the lpd in behalf if those with mental illness.

It's a darn shame some people prefer to look only at the past and zero in on the negatives. Instead if we look at progrrss and the present while seeing the magic of hope and perseverance.

workinghard 6 years, 8 months ago

Arti, I've read a few pages of your comment history and it seems you have done a bit of "zeroing in on the negatives" yourself.

whats_going_on 6 years, 8 months ago

Caitie...try not to let the trolls on this website get you down. (And LJWorld, THANK YOU for moderating this). I don't know Caitie that well but I was able to spend some time with her on a weekend and she absolutely great, such a sweetheart.

jeanettiespaghetti 6 years, 8 months ago

Multi- I am not sure what is more pathetic... The fact that you get pleasure from hiding behind a computer screen and bringing people down or the fact that you are so obsessed and jealous of Caitie that you have to turn something meant for good into a joke. If you are going to talk smack at least have the balls to do it to her face and not on the internet. Caitie is probably better off without you in her life, because she has surrounded herself with people who love and adore her. She opened up her house to me and let me live with her for 8 months and never even asked for a penny. Would you do that? Do you even know Caitie or do you obsess over her and you think you do? Maybe you should look at your own life before judging other people. Get a life, get out of your house and stop trying to bring other people down. Her 'agenda' is to better her life and prove to people like you that she can do great things no matter the distance or work it takes. So go find someone else to pick on and stop pretending like you are some kind of God. The only fan you have sweetheart is on the ceiling.

With that being said, Caitie don't listen to what this person has to say. She is obviously just jealous of your life and what you are becoming. You have been through a lot and you know I have your back no matter what the circumstances are. Let her hide behind her computer and act like she is tough, because when it comes down to it you are better than her. I will call you shortly and hopefully you are still up for lunch or something.


Alceste 6 years, 8 months ago is an interesting article redefining how we as a society need to view mental health matters. Brain balancing has great potential.

goodcountrypeople 6 years, 8 months ago

The sad things is this part of the country is so married to labels that someone like Caitie has to go around with a giant "mental illness" banner across her chest in order to have any social identity at all. I wish her a healthy future, and hope someday she is able to throw off her past and declare herself cured!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

Unfortunately a cure is not going to be a reality happening in any of our lifetimes. And, throwing off the past could be just about a literal impossibility for many.

The most that can possibly be expected with the medications available at present, or in development today, is that the success of alleviating the symptoms will last only as long as the medications are taken as prescribed. And that can very difficult to maintain for a periods of years or decades.

And none of them are perfect, that is a for sure. It seems that I have side effects of every single of one of my meds, and I'm on many. I have to keep them in day time and night times rows to keep track of them. When I travel it is more difficult, but travel today is not much of a problem, because I'm getting a bit agoraphobic as I get older.

But as long as the side effects are not as bad as the symptoms that will recur if I go off my meds, I can live with it.

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