LJWorld.com weblogs Flying Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Flying Over The Cuckoo’s Nest -- Living With Mental Illness…One Person’s Story
Once upon a time, I was a lost soul. That doesn't seem to make me any different from any other person in the world. Everyone gets lost at one time or another. What makes my story different? Perhaps it is how I was found.
My story begins in a California city seventeen years ago. My mother believed something was wrong with me because I had so much difficulty in verbalizing my emotions. Some of the short stories I wrote were troubling as well. That's when I was immersed into what should have been intensive family therapy. Yet, I still held back my emotions in fear of being criticized and looked down upon.
Three years later, I entered into individual therapy and still had difficulty with expressing my feelings.. And so it’s been off and on over the last seventeen years. In and out of therapy and not believing that I would ever get better. Of course, nobody ever told me it was possible to get better.
I was finally diagnosed with Bi-Polar I disorder, anxiety disorder, and psychotic features. At first, I became my diagnosis. Everybody expected me to fail at whatever I tried because of my disorder, so I lived up to their expectations. My life faded into simply existing, afraid to take risks or try anything new.
I had to hit rock bottom in order to have an “a-ha moment”; to realize that life wasn't about just existing. And it took moving 1500 miles away from home to see myself as a worthy human being, just like anyone else.
It wasn't until I began therapy here in Lawrence, Kansas that I learned that I can get better and that I did not have to be my diagnosis anymore. I learned that I can move beyond the stigma of my diagnosis if I truly tried. When I expressed that I had no social life to speak of, my therapist suggested that I go to the Recovery and Hope Network (RAHN). The name perked me up a little and my mind became fascinated by the concept of possessing hope again... and recovery? Was it truly possible? One hot day in July, I decided to bypass whatever anxieties that plagued me to move into unfamiliar territory.
For those who do not have a clue what RAHN is about, it's a Consumer Run Organization (CRO) that is ran by and for adults with mental illness in Douglas County. There are countless activities that benefit many people, including special events (e.g. Movie Nights, trips to sporting events and museums, participating in the St. Patricks Day Parade and the Renaissance Festival) and peer support groups such as Dual Diagnosis, Wellness and Recovery, and WRAP. The most awesome thing about RAHN is the ability to be yourself, no matter what your diagnosis is.
While it's part of our community that often goes unnoticed, to me, it's an integral part of our society.
Since that hot day in July, I’ve been a RAHN member and never once regretted moving out of my comfort zone. The moment I walked through the door, I was greeted with smiles and even hugs. I nearly cried at such an unexpected welcome. I think I did cry when I left a few hours later because there were so many caring people that had problems similar to my own. I wasn't alone anymore.
Since then, with all the support I’ve gained from friends I have met through RAHN and the new support from my family, I have enrolled at Johnson County Community College to begin my pursuit of a Masters degree in Psychology.
Moving to Lawrence was not solely responsible for helping me finally find myself. Nor was it therapy. It was the Recovery and Hope Network that gave me the hope and encouragement that I needed to finally move beyond and reach out.
The Recovery and Hope Network (RAHN) is a small yet wildly successful local nonprofit serving people with severe and persistent mental illness in Douglas County. Written by members and staff of RAHN, the purpose of this blog – Flying Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – is to educate people about mental illness and the possibility of recovery, to reduce fear and stigma, and to reach out to those in need and their families and friends, neighbors and coworkers.
1009 New Hampshire, Suites C & D, Lawrence, 66044 Tel: 785-856-1222 Website: http://recoveryandhope org