So, I figured I’d address one of the darker parts of mental illness. I mean, it’s really all pretty dark, but this was the shadowy, really secretive abyss for me, personally.
I found myself addicted to a couple prescription medications as a teenager.
They were prescribed to treat a very real condition, but I found myself abusing them on particularly bad days. Eventually, it wasn’t just the really bad days, it was when minor inconveniences came up. I found myself unable to tolerate stress without a pill or two and eventually four or five.
In college and working in a professional environment, that was difficult to hide. I thought I was being careful around roommates and friends, but apparently many were aware that I either was developing or already had developed a problem. Things slowly, and then very quickly, spiraled out of anyone’s control.
When I overdosed the first time, it was a major wake up call for everyone…except for me, I guess.
I mean, I thought I was pulling it together. I got out of the hospital after a week and went back to work and found a new apartment (with friends) and got my dog back. I was actively involved in sorting out my life. I even called two friends to help me go through my medications in order to take away anything that I didn’t need any longer or that could be potentially dangerous. Except…that vice still had a hold of me. I kept a secret stash, just in case. I hid it in case of a bad day.
I told myself I wouldn’t use it like I had in the past. I would be careful.
I overdosed again one month later.
One more week in the hospital and I had to figure out real quick what my next step was going to be.
I could allow myself to continue down this path, or I could choose to make it to next year. With the help of good friends and doctors and therapists, I am still here. I am clean. I have been for months. It hasn’t been easy. I was on heavy painkillers after surgery, and the thoughts were definitely there. My body wanted that feeling. I knew, though – I knew how dangerous that path was, and so I chose a different way.
That is so much easier said than done. Addiction is a disease within itself. It is the farthest thing from easy to fight – especially when you’re suffering. The thing is, everyone is scared to talk about it. I know I still am most days. My family knows nothing about any of it. They think the overdoses were purely suicide attempts, and not the result of long-time abuse. I’m comfortable letting them believe that for now. That doesn’t change the fact that addiction is still a prevalent issue for those dealing with mental illness.
Working in mental health, I’ve seen it time and time again. Patients struggle and fall and fight and succeed and stumble again. It’s a constant fight – but it’s one you can win. I’ve beat it, am still beating it, and know others who are doing the same. There are so many resources out there available to you if you need help. I know it’s not easy admitting that you may have a problem, but you can’t keep secrets from yourself. Fight for your life and I’ll always be here, doing what I can to help.
Remember, head above water, no matter what.