Hello, I am Joyce Fruit and I am 45 years old. I have been impacted greatly by mental illness. I have bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder along with depression, severe anxiety and nightmare disorder. My 18 year old son has bipolar disorder and my husband had severe depression. These have impacted my life not just negatively, but positively also.
My mother can remember when I was 15 I told her that there was something different about me but I didn’t know what. She didn’t know either and figured it must be hormones and so I just dealt. From the age 18-26 I managed to get married 4 times and divorced 3. I knew I had these weird ups and downs and disconnected from my emotions, rather severely at the time. Later I would find out that this was the bipolar-coaster I was on.
In my 20’s I would teeter in and out of a drinking problem. Drinking helped my mind slow down enough to be functional. I job jumped during this time also. I had 2 children, one when I was 21 and one when I was 27. My oldest boy was my gem, the reason for my existence. While this is hard to say, I felt hardly any connection with my youngest son.
When I was 30 I finally went to a doctor AFTER I had self-diagnosed myself with bipolar disorder. He put me on a medication that I didn’t like the side effects so I quit taking it and quit seeing him. I wasn’t ready to face my demons yet.
2 years later I decided I was tired of feeling the way I was feeling; scattered, dysfunctional, anxious, scared, too happy at times and suicidal at others. Don’t get me wrong, this was not when I started feeling suicidal. I thought everyone had suicidal thoughts daily like I did. I found a new doctor and she listened to me. She agreed that the diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar along with severe depression and anxiety fit. “Great!” I thought to myself, now I am officially deemed crazy. What I didn’t know was how long it was going to take to get my meds working correctly.
At the same time I accepted my diagnosis I separated from my 4th husband. Weird thing was, we continued to live together in separate rooms so we could co-parent the kids (mostly because I didn’t want to parent my youngest on my own). I continued going to the doctor on a regular basis and felt slightly better, but never “good”. The anxiety was overwhelming. I wanted so bad to be “normal” and not to have this mental illness. I wanted to be able to control the extreme highs and lows.
Having rapid cycling bipolar disorder was (and still is) intense. Feeling one day like I could fly and that all the colors in the world seemed magnified to the next moment of feeling like the world was crashing down. Soon the highs became less and less and the lows became more pronounced. I had suicidal thoughts all day, every day. Nothing was fun anymore. My anxiety was at an all-time high (or so I thought). I begged the doctor every time I saw her to please make me “better”. Around this time I prescribed Xanax for the anxiety. Also around this time my oldest son attempted suicide for the first time. After that he moved out to live with his dad two and a half hours away from me. I was crushed!! My life had become so unmanageable. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole.
Every little thing that happened sent me deeper and deeper into depression. I decided one night I was going to try and go out with friends, which is something I hadn’t done in forever, it was just too much work. To my complete surprise, I met the man who is my current husband. Kind, caring, sweet, loving…all the things I didn’t think I deserved. He also struggled with depression and was a recovering alcoholic. We had so much in common it was scary. It wasn’t long before we moved in together and then got married. This time of my life should have been happy. I had a great job that I loved and a fantastic spouse, but at this time my youngest son came to live with me. The relationship with him had always been a struggle. When I finally had the courage to talk to my doctor regarding this and regarding that I was having trouble showing any emotions except sad, she diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder.
My treatment plan didn’t change much. BPD is treated in the same way Bipolar is. Thinking I’d had enough and life HAD to turn around I kept going. And then my youngest son tried to commit suicide. I don’t know if anyone can understand what it’s like to have a child that attempts suicide unless you’ve been there. While in the hospital the decision was made to send him to a treatment program. He was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder with psychosis. He was hearing voices telling him he should die. I was distraught. I didn’t know what to do for him. I hoped and prayed that treatment would help.
So if you have your scorecard filled out you will see I have Bipolar disorder and BPD along with depression and anxiety, my husband has severe depression, my oldest son has tried to commit suicide once and my youngest son has also tried once and has Bipolar disorder also. Lots of talk therapy was needed and used. Then my youngest son tried to attempt suicide for a 2nd time. And we sent him to treatment again. By this time my relationship with him had grown exponentially.
Over the past couple of years I had started taking my anti-anxiety meds far more than the prescribed dose. It was the only way I could get through a day. My job that I loved started to become more and more of a burden as many people left their positions and I had no choice to fill in for them. Still daily thoughts of suicide loomed in my mind. The day I broke was a Thursday. A new administrator had just been hired at work. Things had been incredibly stressful, not only with her, but with the fact that our business was about to go into bankruptcy. I asked the new administrator on that Wednesday if I could leave 2 hours early to try and keep my mental health together. She said “No”.
When I got home that evening nothing in the world mattered anymore. I had convinced myself that the world would be a better place without me in it. At that time I began to take a mixture of pills hoping I’d go to sleep and not wake up. Then my son came in and I broke down. I was most of the way gone. He called my husband who was at his AA meeting to get home now. He also called his dad to come over. All the time while he was doing this I was still popping pills. I was the lowest I’d ever been, or so I thought. The hospital did everything they could to keep me breathing. I was in the ICU for I don’t know how many days. After that they sent me to an inpatient mental health program. During this inpatient stay I decided that going back to that job was not a good idea for me.
After about a week in the mental health ward they sent me home. I made it about 4 hours until I realized that I was scared of myself at home and I was taken back to the hospital. This time they sent me to a different mental health hospital. While I was there they talked to me about doing an inpatient dual-diagnosis (for mental health and addiction) program for 30 days. So I went. I had been there for a week before I got a phone call that my youngest son had tried to commit suicide again.
I felt like I went out of my body. I was yelling at people, I even burst into a room of therapists and told them I was going home…NOW!!! They told me it would take a couple hours to get all my paperwork completed and meds together so I could leave. I went and laid down and sobbed. Then a clarity came over me. I couldn’t help him in the state I was in. So I stayed inpatient and my son went to another inpatient treatment program. I stayed at this facility for 45 days and then went home. I went right back to overusing my anti-anxiety meds almost immediately.
From then, for about 2 years, until April 2020 I spent time in and out of mental hospitals and in and out of dual-diagnosis inpatient treatment centers working on getting my meds right and my addiction under control. Finally in April of this year, after my SECOND suicide attempt, I found myself in a treatment program in Florida. At this time I FINALLY decided to tell my doctor I was an addict and she could no longer prescribe me the anxiety meds. It was scary. It’s still scary to this day. When I returned home I told my doctor and we decided to try a new med that had come on the market. It was like opening the curtains and allowing sunlight on my brain (and life) again.
I’m not sure I know exactly what recovery looks like. Time is what it looks like for me. Perseverance. Wanting to change. Fighting and clawing your way forward. My husband has been a great asset to this struggle. Every day I want to take the anxiety meds, even though I don’t have them. Every day I have to wake up and force myself to believe that suicide is not the answer.
I can say mental illness still affects my life every day. I will forever be on medications to control things. I was always have to watch my son vigilantly. If someone is in a similar situation, asking for help is #1. You have to be your own advocate. I could go on and on about mental health treatment. Learning DBT and CBT skills to help conquer some of the things that come with mental illness.