So, this is a personal story.  But I think that if one is trying to overcome an anxiety or depression disorder it’s important to share.

In high school my family moved to Texas.  I lived the previous 9 years in a small town in Nebraska.  If you never lived in a small town, it may be hard to imagine, but you become very set in your little social circle and ways of life.  I was comfortable and the move was disruptive, which is an understatement.  

Moving at that time tore my known reality away and I – quite literally – did not know what to think or do with myself.  

I acted out in the ways that many teenagers do:  I refused to go to my new school; I ran away; I smoked pot with strangers… I tried to overdose on some type of pill (tylenol?)… Luckily, I only had the guts to take about 8 pills, so it wasn’t too bad.   

When I woke up I was in the back of my parents’ car on my way to an “in-patient facility” called “Charter” for mental and behavioral health.  

If you have never had an experience in a place like this, let me share some of the highlights:

  • Being woke up in the middle of the night by a nurse drawing a blood sample while I was asleep.
  • Mandatory meds:  they prescribed everyone there a special “cocktail”; we were never told what we were taking, but we had to take it or we would lose our “privileges.”  So no sneaking it under your tongue to spit it out later.  
  • “Privileges” were things like being able to shut the door to our little dorm-like rooms, wearing shoelaces, and eating with the group as opposed to with a psychiatrist.
  • The “privileges” that you gained by doing exactly as you were told were your only ticket out.  Say the right things; don’t “act out”; take your meds; smile and be polite…  Each week you would be evaluated on those areas.  If you passed, you would go up a “level”.  Only until you had reached level 4 would you be eligible for release into out-patient status and get to go home.  

Me with my friend Donny, 22 years after being in Charter together. Still friends!

Did I learn, what my psychiatrist referred to, “coping skills?”  In my honest opinion, no.  

What did I learn?  How to manipulate a system to get what I want.  

Was I happier and calmer when I left?  Only because I got to leave!  At that point, just living at home, even if it was in Texas, sounded great.  

My psychiatrist from the facility recommended that my parents keep me on at least one of the prescriptions, Xanax.  I took it one day.  I took it in the morning and went to school.  I felt like my head was in a balloon the whole day.  I felt detached from my emotions and even a little bit dizzy.  I never took it again.  If I wanted to feel stoned, I was just going to smoke pot!  

Eventually, I did fully recover and I am totally happy now.  Looking back, it was an amazing learning experience.  To practice in the field of healing, I think it is helpful to have real experience dealing with certain health problems, because I can understand better the feelings and reasons behind them.  

Some things I have learned to cope with emotional upsets:

  • The purpose of life is to be happy; if you’re not happy, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Go with the flow:  some things are just not meant to be.  If it seems like a constant struggle, just let it go.  
  • Crap happens, and at the time, it may not make sense, but usually, later on you can see the forest for the trees.
  • Most people have good intentions.
  • You have a greater purpose in this life and the purpose is to help other people in some way.

Your turn:  have you ever been prescribed a medication and then decided not to take it against your MD’s recommendation?  Why?  What happened?