Theresa San Luis graduated from the Univ. of Notre Dame in English and music (2001); from the University of Illinois Springfield with an M.A. in communications (2004); and is currently studying public administration at SIUE (Southern Illinois Univ. at Edwardsville) where she serves as a graduate assistant/senior reporter for the college of arts and sciences. She studied viola for several years including under a Chicago Symphony violist. San Luis authored articles for The South Bend Tribune, State Journal-Register and Illinois Times. Born and raised in Bourbonnais Illinois, she has served as a NAMI speaker for several years. She has presented at Washington Univ., St. Louis University, St. Charles Community College and for family-to-family classes as IOOV presenter.
At age 19, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective thoughts disorder as a sophomore at the Univ. of Notre Dame. I spent nine days in the hospital, for I had psychosis. I felt completely confused, mentally anguished with millions of thoughts bouncing around my head. I could not look people in the eye and I felt different people’s personalities coming over me. Paranoid, I thought people could read my mind, and frightened of their judgements, I evaded their looks at me. I felt nothing could help, and desperate, beyond hope, and to the suggestion of a counselor, I was led to a university psychiatrist who gave me the option to be hospitalized. It was scary to cope with the idea. I informed my best friend who in turn was very concerned over me. However, another long distance friend that knew me well never re-contacted me again at that time after I informed her of my condition: that a counselor said I was on the verge of a psychotic break.
Things were scary.
So many things were a mess.
I couldn’t function hardly; do my schoolwork, nor hold a decent conversation with people.
I was always extremely anxious, distracted and worried. I had no peace to say the least.
In the hospital, the first set of medications truly slowed my mind down. It was still a scary process because I did not know what I was going through. My mother was informed and she came to visit me and was upset and concerned. After nine days, I was released from the hospital and resumed classes. I had to drop two classes I was flunking but finished out the semester with barely below a B average. But, trusting psychiatrists and psychotherapists was what I needed to string me along a derailed mental journey. Somehow my mind became like scrambled eggs with tabasco sauce and jelly at the same time. Some depression felt, OCD, and my mind recovering from all the psychosis.
After graduating from Notre Dame, I moved to West Virginia which was a horrible transition because my medication, still not stabilized, was not strong enough for my living by myself. Moving to a new place without a strong support system or carefully planned out transition played a role in my condition that worsened.
I returned home, and I stopped taking my medication, already quite suffering symptoms, and was soon admitted to a hospital in Chicago by my mother who took me there. For 2 weeks, I went through roller coaster rides of emotions because I heard voices, was manic and paranoid with acute psychosis.
Since that hospitalization in 2001, for 13 years, I had no other episode. The sleuth of medications prescribed to me slowly was decreased. I became a believer in God, with my faith in the Lord in 2004, during graduate school at UIS. I have continually built a support system, and my faith has simplified from feeling I need to figure everything out in my mind. Trusting God for wisdom has helped some. However, some side effects bothered me still from the medication.
In recent years, someone in my life convinced me to reduce my medications ever more. She didn’t even believe that I needed medication at all, but thought that I just had “problems.” Through a doctor’s approval, I tried that protocol. It worked splendidly, feeling wonderful that I was “normal” all over again. But, things soon fell apart (within 2 months) and my pride soon stood in the way from admitting I needed help and medication all over again. Being off medication and feeling more ‘alive’ convinced me that all these years of experiencing side effects like weight gain and lethargy- which in actuality subsided when my medication was reduced- caused me to distrust the entire psychiatry community-even God or religion that had been my cornerstone. Pretty soon, becoming worse in my mental health condition, I could barely listen to anyone. And, without sleeping for 3 weeks, I allowed a friend to convince me to be admitted to the hospital. 3rd time and hopefully the last time.
The week before that hospitalization, one night at the emergency room, the physician called in a psychiatrist. I realized that I needed to rejuvenate my relationship with God and that I needed to take medication again, and I asked the psychiatrist to pray for me. Then, I remembered all those coping skills that had sustained me over the years, but had dumped. Simply doing what I need to do in the world and following an ordered belief system that was simplified by faith alone: trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide me and teachings from Jesus such as Him stating that it is better to give love than to receive love. This helps me realize I can’t control or be devastated by how much love people choose to give to me. That, and medication, a support system and other good habits/attitudes of taking care of myself would return to the forefront.
My conclusion: as evidenced by my near 3rd breakdown going off my medication, I realize that medication and therapy/counseling/Christian counseling is a serious and often times necessary part of recovery. I have struggled being associated with some people who don’t believe likewise. Medication management can be tricky. Pressure to get off them can be tempting. Rejection because of your condition can be hurtful.
I choose recovery.