# My Mental Health
Today is my birthday. I try not to notice them, but this one is significant to me because it marks 1 year since my 27th birthday, which I spent descending into madness inside a behavioral hospital. 10 years since I became an adult. My life turned out pretty much how I had hoped it would, except for the periods of my life marked by acute paranoid psychosis (opens new window).
That wasn't part of my plan.
My mental health has been a topic I've been hesitant to bring up for a long time now, mostly out of fear of the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
My family is no stranger to mental illnesses. Their effects have had deep repurcussions on my life growing up. But that's something I won't really go into. For this article, I'll be focusing on my mental health and the impact it has had on my life as an adult.
To preface, I think the first recognizance of my mentla health came as a child when I was diagnosed with mild ADHD. I never really noticed the effects Adderall had on behavior or thoughts so I never took this diagnosis very seriously and was ultimately taken off the medication. I think the diagnosis was mostly related to the fact that I admitted to often having difficulty sleeping, a problem which would persist into my adult life with little impact on my responsibilities.
By the time I graduated high school, I was independant, self-sufficient and most importantly, happy. My mental health was not on my radar at all. I knew I was relatively smart and capable and I prided myself on my ability to think critically and plan for the future. My confidence came from my recent ACT and SAT scores as well as the fact that I had achieved my goal of earning the rank of Eagle Scout before my 18th birthday.
Life was good.
# Episode 1
My first psychotic episode came unexpectedly. I was a sophomore at my university and it seemed like my life couldn't get any better. I was living off campus at an apartment that I was paying for through my internship I had at DiSTI.
It was during my time at this apartment that it seemed to me that my life couldn't get any better. I had a very cool roommate that I got along well with. He introduced me to weed, something that I had researched myself in high school and was determined to try now that I was an adult. While I had a good smoking, I would usually limit myself to doing so only on weekends.
Eventually, I'd slowly stop smoking for the most part, since I felt I had "expanded my mind" already in doing so, and it wasn't something I wanted to become a habit. By now, I had unprecidented levels of self-confidence. I would peacock with brightly colored clothing and hit on girls often.
There was one girl in particular who I fancied and I began to grow more bold with her. I was cocky. Funny. I felt invincible. On top of the world.
I felt like a different person entirely. Like something had awakened in me. A concsiousness that was mine but had remained dormant for so long that I didn't recognize it as my own. As if a new spirit had inhabited my body.
"I am Jesus Christ." I said while high with my brother one day. It was like an epiphany I had. My brother didn't like that. He was concerned but I convinced him I didn't really think that. And I didn't, excpet maybe figuratively. My parents being religious named my sister and I Christina and Christofer after Christ, as thanks for answering their prayers for twins. Growing up with a very religious upbringing, I thought perhaps I was the reincarnation of Christ. After all, we had been preached to for so long that we were in the "latter days" and that the second-coming was nigh upon us.
This marked the beginning of my spiral into madness. Things in my life were going too well it seemed. Like a wheel spinning too fast before flying off it's axis, I lost control of myself.
One day, I decided to chill on the grass in front of the Reflection pond. It was a gorgeous day. As I lay there throughout the day, others around me had the same idea and would stop to sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine.
It was here that I had my first vision. I peered into the sun and I saw the future.
We were woefully unprepared. There was an invasion approaching and I was the only one who knew about it. We had little time left and a lot of work to do. I needed to hustle. This, was Day 1.
I knew I needed to reach a higher authority to warn someone about this. It was possible I was the new prophet. Throughout my life, I had always been blessed with the gift of vision.
I tried to called my bishop (opens new window) and requested to speak to his superior. I had hoped to do so all the way up the chain of command until I could speak to the prophet (opens new window) himself.
Of course, none of them believed me and I didn't make it very far. I was chided for not respecting the chain of command. Regardless, I met with my bishop still and confessed all my sins.
I was now guilt free, able to act with a clear conscious.
A few days later, I decided to walk to campus from my apartment. As I walked, I started to discard the contents of my wallet; wedging my ID cards between the edge of the sidewalk and the grass, hiding a card on top of a utility box jutting out from the side of a building. I think it symbolized to me the fact that I didn't need any kind of government ID to know who I was.
Somehow, this was how I started to see the world, as symbols with deeper meanings. Every action I took, a parable; Every word spoken layered with double meanings. I was delusional and didn't realize it.
I didn't go to class that day. Instead, I continued to walk around campus, chasing "clues" and following an unseen path I had discovered towards some unknown secret the symbols were revealing to me. Arbitrary numbers for times and locations were now codes hidden in plain sight, speaking to me.
I was being watched, they said. Followed.
And why shouldn't I be? I was exceptional. An Eagle Scout without a mission. I was under the delusion that the government was recruiting me to be a top secret agent through a program that was hidden in plain sight, available to anyone with the aptitude to see the pattern. I believed that if I followed this path long enough, I would be "flagged by the system" and contacted for recruitment. In fact, I thought I was already being contacted.
Subtitles on live TV were instructions programed for me at the precise moment that I glanced at them. Electronic cross walk signs were somehow a test of my patience. Even simple advertisements were products placed along my path to tempt or guide me.
I had to shake my tail. I didn't want to be followed.
I ditched my backpack. I dipped into a Barnes and Noble on campus. Grabbing a blue tanktop off the rack, I swapped it with my shirt and walked out of the store with my new disguise.
Surrounding me everywhere were people with eadbuds. Every one of them, a potential agent receiving instructions from the unkown entity watching me.
I started to become enraged. Was everyone in on this charade? How could they all give into the system? How could I be the only one breaking from the script?
I entered the library; I knew where to find answers.
Stepping into the elevator, I punched in the button for the top floor. The highest floor in one of the oldest buildings on campus. Surely this was where the headquarters would be hiding.
The doors opened. To my dismay, before me lay the familiar layout of the top floor of the library. Unchanged.
I shouldn't have been dissappointed, and yet I was.
I left the building and took off my shirt, no longer caring about my disguise. I lay on the grass in front of the Reflection pond just outside the library.
Two cops approached me. I don't remember what they said, but I went with them anyway. I was ready to be taken in. If this whole system was a lie, I had nothing left for me here. I was ready to embrace my destiny and be accepted into the program as a secret agent.