- Posted February 22, 2013 by
Birch Run, Michigan
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Living With Mental Illness, A Success Story!
Mental Health My Personal Journey By: Denise Epke
I decided to share my personal journey through the complex and often times life changing moments of living with a mental health issue.
I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, in 1999. In fact I was serving time in the Michigan State Prison system for a drug and gun charge. Where do I begin?
I guess I can go back in time to the memories my Mother shared with me years after most of my life troubles. She said I was "different" that I would often times wonder the halls in the middle of the night scared to sleep in my own bed. Scared of what? Well, I now know that I was actually suffering from PTSD, Described by Wiki here:
Posttraumatic stress disorder
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Posttraumatic stress disorder[note 1] (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual's ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen post traumatic stress (also known as acute stress response). Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance. Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The event in my life that scarred me so happened in Flint, Michigan in 1966. My Mother and I were at a shopping center called North Flint Plaza, which was on the corner of Clio and Pierson Rd in Flint, Michigan. As we were exiting a shop, we heard this huge boom followed by a large gust off very hot air. I remember turning to look and seeing a huge fireball mushroom cloud, then having my Mother almost rip my arm from it's socket. I remember my Mother getting us to the car and pushing my head down so I would not see the tanker truck that had just tipped over at the intersection onto a car and causing the tire company to catch fire as well.
She tried to keep my young eyes and ears free of the horror that was unfolding, however, I did see,hear and smell the event. I saw people running on fire, heard the screams of agony and smelled the smell of thick smoke and burning flesh and rubber. To this day at age 48, I can smell that smell sometimes and I am taken back to that awful day!!!
Back then I guess there was no way of knowing what a mental illness really was. More so in a young child? There was to be no help for me until years later.
At age 9, my Parents divorced and I was at the age where I needed my Parents most. They were going through their own troubles and I fell through the cracks. I began to have serious issues at this time such as: separation anxiety,anger,lack of consequential thinking,depression,insomnia and mood swings.
School was the hardest for me and I floundered through not being able to concentrate, or sit still. Constantly in trouble with teacher's to the point I received a "swat" from the wooden paddle of Math Teacher, Mr. Macke!! I don't believe it is legal in this day to swat a child in school, however, it was then!
I held a lot of anger towards my Father for the demise of my Parents marriage, and absolutely hated when he remarried a woman with four children. It was if the Russians had invaded the home my Father built for my Mother. Dad's wife was mean and abused me when my Father was in Detroit working for G.M. (General Motors) training to become an Engineer. I felt so hopeless and alone during these years.
This is when I met my Husband at the age of 15, He 18. I managed to get pregnant with my baby girl and was able to escape "Russia" as I called it, and Her (Step-Mom).
The years that followed are in my faded memory somewhere lurking maybe to come and take me back to the pain that was my life.
I was at the center of my own destruction, the maker of my defeats, the keeper of hidden secrets held deep in my own inner space. I was my worst enemy..quick to blame others for my defects of character. I was the grandest lier, and full of myself.
This is when I started having trouble with the law and spending time in jail, or using my sweet and innocent look to deceive Judges and Law enforcement! Yes indeed, I was good at my own deceptions.
There comes a time in life, I found when you have to "pay the piper" And that came in January 1998 when I was sentenced to 5-20 years in Michigan Department of Corrections for Delivery and gun charges. You see those of us who have a mental illness that has not been properly diagnosed tend to do a whole lot of "Self Medicating" using drugs and alcohol to deal with life on lifes terms. Living life on it's terms made no sense to me at all and I rebelled until my incarceration.
Believe it or not, Judge Archie Hayman, a Flint, Michigan Circuit Court Judge, saved my life with His sentence. Wow, you may say? How?
Well, those of us with Bipolar disorder function very well with structure, discipline and order. Yes, I said order because our brains are so filled with chaos that structure and order brings a certain peace. I was diagnosed in prison with my Bipolar Type II and began the trials and tribulations of the many medications made to help those of us with this disorder. I have been on every medication known to man and had to endure horrible side effects that came with these drugs. I found sanctuary in a dual diagnosis group that helped me work with my self medicating and my mental health issues. I finally found my boogey man!! I actually did a total of ten years in prison, I have had many setbacks due to self medicating and parole. So I was violated more than once!!
As I faced my demons, I began to realize that if I handled my BiPolar with proper medications that in fact I could be quite creative, and a functioning member of Society. No longer angry or accusing others for my fails, I began to realize that I , myself was the enemy of Me!!! What an ah ha moment that was for my life!!!
Now, today as I tap out the short version of a very long journey, I can honestly say that there is not a better place for me to share my story of victory than with iReport and CNN.
I am a Business owner, and a proud iReporter that has had many of my stories vetted for CNN.
iReport has been a great crowning moment for me to share my talents, stories from where I live, and now my deepest journey from my life, Mental illness.
Stay tuned as this story is far from over. I look forward to sharing more reports and seeing some of others great reporting. Thank you CNN and iReport for this chance to allow our voice to be heard!!!
I also have remained clean and sobor! Had my story about that on Jane Valez Mitchell and have her personal autograped edition of "I Want"
**Photo of my Daughter Kendra and me
**Photo of Me and Paula Van Der Oest Directer of my first movie casting job!!
**Photo of My ireport with family