My experience with “treatment” for mental illness. Part one of ???

As a young man, under 20 years old, I was so active all of the time I had very little trouble with depression. My first encounter the mental health providers was when I was in the Air Force. I had completed basic training and technical school. When I got to my first assignment, I got a job that was a very stressful, fast paced job that I had not been trained for. To go with that, the mess hall that I was assigned was absolutely the worst! My first bout with clinical depression was beginning and I didn’t know it. Apparently, it was invisible to my co-workers and supervisors as well.

I had been trained in telecommunications. Teletype, card punch, message formatting, and sending receiving messages were the major components of my new career. Telecommunications as it turns out, included telephone switchboard. Statistics showed that the four position board processed up to 1000 calls in an hour on day shift. (The record) The night shift by contrast was a grave yard. Cleaning chores and training happened on the overnight.

I had taken to reading training materials and practicing typing when things were slow. One morning at the end of my shift, just before day shift took over, I remember glancing at the door between the office and the switchboard room. My supervisor was standing there, starting at me with a very worried look on his face. It didn’t really concern me at the time, I had no idea that there was something wrong that involved me.

Morning shift took over the board and my supervisor asked me to go with him. He had a plain manila folder with him and I was getting nervous as he offered no explanation to where we were going. We pulled into the base hospital parking lot and before I knew it, I was stripped out of my uniform and into a hospital gown. Didn’t have a psych ward so I was put in a 4 person ward with two other people, an orderly took sat at a desk near the door. The staff psychologist came to see me about an hour later. He casually asked me how i was doing.I still had no clue what the hell was on.

Finally he produced the folder that my supervisor brought. It contained a single sheet of paper with typed words on it. Basically it said that I had talked to God and that it was okay for me to die. Then the real news, I had typed it the night before! The supervisor had found it on the typewriter where i had left it. Then came the questions. How long was I suicidal? How long had I been depressed? On and on. I didn’t even remember what I had written and I wasn’t particularly depressed as far as i was concerned.

I underwent a physical exam and questioned about alcohol (I’ve never drank) illicit drugs (not those either) and other impertinent things. Then the MMPI. Hours of sitting,  answering questions, marking answers on the answer sheet. By now I am getting annoyed and tired. My stay was incredibly boring. TV amounted to soap operas during the day and 1970’s programming in the evening. I had insomnia which I complained about but got no treatment. I saw the psychologist a couple times a week. During one session he asked me if I would object to going to the ward at the Air base in San Antonio. It was a rhetorical question, it turned out. He had just wanted my reaction to the question. After nearly a month in the hospital at my home base I was flown to the hospital in Texas.

The ward in Texas was a surprise. It had a large day room with comfortable furniture and had four, four bed wards, two for men and two women. The group therapy room had one wall with the Dudley Dooright characters in a castle made up to look like a ward. Humor! Go figure. I met with a psychiatrist the first day and was set up with a schedule of activities. As it turned out, i was there exactly two weeks. No one on one therapy, no antidepressants, and growing depression. The psychiatrist did offer me a medical discharge of I wanted it. I had no idea what would have meant for me. That is for a different gripe post at a later date.

From that morning that I was taken from my job, everything was arranged. The hospitalization of course, travel to Texas, and my stay there. At the end of that two weeks, I was given new orders to go back Kansas. By chance and a clear moment, I was able to find the travel section and arrange a flight back to Wichita. I didn’t really care if I made it back. I called my duty post but couldn’t find anyone to give me a ride from the airport to the base.

While I was in the hospital at my home base, there was a Marine recruiter who I  became with friends. He had given me his card before I was sent to Texas so when I landed in Wichita, I Called him and his wife came and got me. Just like that. I was SO despondent that I wasn’t ready to report back. He understood and suggested that I stay with him and his family for the coming weekend which I did. He drove me back to my car on Monday and I called when i got to my barracks. My boss was nonchalant and said to report back the next Monday.

This is where my career falls apart. Because of the depression, my security clearance had been revoked. I can’t even go back to work on the switchboard. Secondhand, I find out that my choices are; a mundane taxi job or basically a janitor job or an administrative honorable discharge. I was in the darkest, place ever in my life not caring what would happen to, me next.

First i think i too stay in. They tell me i can to a military lawyer about it. Guess what. He and the commander come into the room together having a great conversation. I don’t know what to ask so i just ask if taking the discharge is in my best interest. He assures me that it isand the days later I’m driving home.

Recap. Taken from my job, stripped of everything that meant anything to me. Incarcerated without treatment, turned loose to find my own damn way home, can’t get enough support to even get a ride back to base, given rotten advise about the discharge (if I would have taken the medical discharge of I would have known the options, not to mention extended education benefits that would have helped shape a new career.)

Within one year, three months and twenty nine days, my life went from a career that I wanted and looked forward to, to a depression that has dragged me through the sewer throughout my life. The events from that time effected nearly every decision about jobs and relationships in this life. I have tried to see about a disability rating that I was offered while in the service, through the VA. I have been turned down. It is my fault because i don’t know how to present my evidence to how it pertained to my service connected disability.

That’s my first encounter with the mental health community. I encourage any comments or ideas!

Many more posts to come!

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8 thoughts on “My experience with “treatment” for mental illness. Part one of ???

  1. I have dealt with clinical depression for a lot of my life. I was in the Navy. It sounds like the story is pretty familiar. Back then, there was not a lot of tolerance to mental health issues. I am not sure about disability with the VA. I have some friends that have worked through that. But, it can be a long process. If you are persistent, you might have a shot.

    I just think advise is real difficult. I think that you may be where you need to be. I know that writing helps with clearing the crap out of my head. Blogging is a way to get things straight.. In what you say, there are things that you have said that I can relate to. You help others by writing too.

    I guess it is important to find priority. I write daily priorities down each day. I am not very good at making long term goals anymore. I guess by not making them, I am not building expectations that can not be met.

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  2. My first encounter with the mental health establishment was when I was 18. I was put into an eating disorder unit because i was, what they called at the time, bullemarexic. I was also an alcoholic. I dried out and got my head examined. Diagnosed clinically depressed. Shock! Awe! As if I didn’t already know. It was a nice stay and much was accomplished.

    My next visit was two decades later. I had a meltdown due to pressures at work combined with my husband’s cheating. I was taken to a mental health facility, not admitted. After a short visit with the doctor, I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling bipolar. I was put on a ton of meds which almost ruined me. To this day, I’m not the same. As far as I’m concerned, I was misdiagnosed. What I needed was a break, because all I was having was a circumstantially induced breakdown.

    The depression that I have experienced since around age four has never left me for more than a few days at a time. I can’t remember the last time I felt happy. It’s odd when people discuss happiness. I often ask them what they mean, exactly. It’s unfamiliar and foreign to me, on a deep level. I smile and nod and do all the appropriate things most of the time, so nobody really knows what’s going on. Not even my md. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist or therapist in years because they just don’t help.

    I think writing is the best therapy. And I’m very interested to read of your journey. The cost we pay when we suffer from depression is often unseen. Until it is seen. As in your case. I wish you all the best. You’re a good egg 🙂

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    1. As far as i am concerned, you are dead on! I was dx multiple personality disorder. Depression drove me to a hospital where the psychiatrist didn’t believe dissociative disorder. Put me on Stelazine because i talked about alters that would emerge. I very soon ended up with dyskinesia. No cogentin to moderate the effects so my muscles were locked up a lot of the time. I finally quit taking the Stelazine and, thankfully, the dyskinesia subsided after a few months. I am very careful what i tell therapists or psychiatrists.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here. Say the wrong thing and you’re on the A Train to the psych ward. I was actually fired by my last shrink because I made him feel bad. Seriously. I made HIM feel bad. Why? Because none of the meds worked, and he felt I hadn’t been listening to his advice or opening up enough. lol!
        I still take Zoloft daily. It doesn’t help, but I cannot deal with the withdrawals! OMG! And I honestly believe that a lot of the meds they give are simply due to their relationship with their drug reps. I find it hard to believe that for a decade, everyone had ADD. Now, everyone’s bipolar. Years ago, it was housewives getting a case of the ‘nerves’ and they were all given Valium. I think that’s the drug that started the whole thing.
        Sorry for rambling on. But it’s what I do. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No need to apologize. You may very well be right about drugs and Dr’s. I take Cymbalta. It is the only one of all the SSRI’s that works. Prozac worked some but talk about Postal…i have no sex drive with Cymbalta but i don’t want to die every minute of the day. 9 I’m not sure what is worse, depression WITH sex drive, or no depression with no sex drive…I’d laugh if it weren’t incredibly tragic. ….

        Liked by 1 person

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