I’ve decided I want to start having guest bloggers on Non Solum so we can hear more stories from amazing, strong people. Today we have our first one! Megan and I got in contact with each other on Instagram and she told me her story. It’s truly amazing, and I find her incredibly strong and inspiring! She is beautiful on the inside and out, and she has come such a long way. I really think you guys would feel motivated to keep going from reading her story, so here it is. Enjoy!
My name is Megan Amaya. I’m 31 years old and I have ZERO SHAME in saying I suffer from mental illness. It took me a while to get this point and not feel embarrassed and ashamed. I’m passionate about sharing and turning my “mess into my message.” In my opinion, it’s crucial to talk openly about mental illness and help one another. There is hope. If we stay united, I believe positive changes are possible. Here is my story!
I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder as well as PTSD in the Spring of 2017. It was a long and traumatizing road getting to the correct diagnosis, proper medication and help I so desperately needed. During the last 18 months, I’ve tried over 20 different prescription medications that have been unsuccessful and most of which aren’t used to treat Bipolar Disorder. I endured the pure agony and so did my family and friends witnessing my misery.
My ultimate dream is to impact any improvement possible to mental health facilities. I have a lot of ideas on how to do this. For example by putting video and audio tapes in every room that are running 24-7 and serving more nutritious meals. I also won’t stop fighting until there is a MANDATORY gene test requirement before ANY doctor can prescribe psychiatric medications. This test significantly narrows down medication interaction with each individuals DNA. It will list the medications that the patient is most likely to have a good response to. In my experience, it is just as dangerous to be on the wrong medications as it is to be off your medications entirely. For more information, check out https://genomind.com/
Unfortunately, in my case, I had a misdiagnosis and was placed on medication that wasn’t appropriate for my illness and flipped me into a horrific manic episode. If I can save one life, then I’m 100% willing to show my vulnerability.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been extremely sensitive. I feel all my emotions intensely. Good and bad. I also tend to take on other people’s emotions and problems as if they are my own. This has made it challenging for me to navigate through life in a healthy way. I don’t have thick skin and I’m deeply affected by whatever and whoever is in my presence.
In early July of 2016, I suddenly stopped sleeping. I’m not over exaggerating when I say I slept 10-15 minutes a night for months. It was out of the blue that this happened. I remember at the time having lots of stress from running my business, stress from unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for 2 years as well as constantly over-committing myself to social engagements. At this time, I tried anything and everything to help me sleep. Over the counter remedies, Benadryl, instant relief anxiety medication…really everything a person could imagine or suggest to help. Nothing worked.
By August of 2016, a month later- I was unraveling at a rapid rate from severe exhaustion. It was suggested by a family physician that I try Zoloft for depression. I refused out of stubbornness and fear. I had heard horror stories about antidepressants…which later I found out were true for some people (me). During the month of August, I made 4 visits to the doctor hoping for relief and answers.
Still no answers. I had lost 30 Pounds and my hair started to fall out. I could barely get out of bed but I kept forcing and fighting my way to make it through the day. Friends and family became extremely concerned and kept commenting on my weight loss. My mom came over daily and helped me out of my bed. She often had to remind me to shower. I withdrew from everything that previously gave me joy.
By August of 2016- after a month of zero sleep, I felt hopeless. I couldn’t function and I barely made it to work every day. I was afraid to talk to openly about what I was going through. I started missing appointments and canceling on people at the last minute. It was so scary for me not being able to sleep and I started to fear nighttime. A terrible anxiety would come over me once it got dark outside. I would watch my husband sleep and think “why can’t I just shut my brain off?” I’ve since learned that racing thoughts and lack of sleep are major symptoms of bipolar.
I heard from an acquaintance that a medication called Trazodone helps with sleep. I quickly booked an appointment with my physician and she willingly prescribed it to me. That didn’t even work. Even a very high dosage. I started taking Trazodone on Sept 2, 2016, and by Sept 6, 2016, I wasn’t getting any relief so I went back to the doctor. The terror I felt within that nothing was working continued to sink in. I could feel my life slipping away from me.
My husband and I had gone out of town for Labor Day weekend and I remember I had my first suicidal thought ever in my entire life. We were hiking and I started to imagine shooting myself and dying and thinking that everyone would be better off without me. I knew something was terribly wrong with me. I knew it was crazy to think those thoughts but I couldn’t stop them. They just kept playing over and over. I felt like I was being tortured.
I went back to the doctor the day I got home. I was prescribed 10MG of Lexapro by my physician and she told me to stop taking the Trazodone. She said “it’s time” to give antidepressants a shot. Lexapro is an SSRI antidepressant in the same class as Zoloft and many others. I’ve learned through my experience that these medications are very dangerous to take without a mood stabilizer if you have Bipolar Disorder.
I finally caved and was willing to try an antidepressant because I was desperate to sleep and get my life back. I was terrified the first time I swallowed that pill. Little did I know what was to come…
Early morning of Sept 7, 2016, I slipped into a psychosis induced by the shock of the Lexapro to my system and held a loaded gun for hours and hours and almost ended my life. In just 2 months time my depression was so severe, I didn’t want to live. The thought of devastating my loved ones was the only thing that kept me from pulling the trigger.
When my husband woke up for work I told him what I had been doing all night. I had never seen that much fear in his eyes. He rushed me to the ER at Providence Hospital in Everett, Wa. They then sent me to Fairfax Behavioral Health Hospital in Bothell, Wa. I was promised by the social worker at Providence that I would be going somewhere safe where I would get the help I needed and finally get some sleep. I was actually excited to go because I didn’t really want to die. I desperately wanted to live and feel healthy.
While I was at Fairfax I was on pins and needles during my entire stay and didn’t feel I was in a safe and healing atmosphere. I also didn’t get a wink of sleep the entire time. For example, I was walked in on while I was half naked and changing in my room by a male nurse. I was also locked in a room alone with a male nurse for a “check-in” where he proceeded to tell me how “hot and beautiful I am.” I remember he bit his lip and stared me up and down (stopping his eyes on my private areas). He told me I was too “sexy” to be depressed. I was absolutely terrified and feared what would happen to me if I stood up for myself. I knew that because I’m “mentally ill” It was highly likely they would think I was lying. It would be his word against mine. I knew because I was in a psych ward that I had no credibility.
At Fairfax, they misdiagnosed me with anxiety and depression and kept me on the Lexapro which surprised me. I was confused as to why they would they keep me on a medication that made me suicidal? But every day, you’re forced to take your pills. At the hospital I would meet with a psychiatrist daily and not once did he consider Bipolar as a possibility. That wasn’t even on the table. It wasn’t mentioned. I wish they would have asked me what the “norm” of my personality is. I would have said…high functioning, works ridiculous hours, runs my own business, works out intensely 5 -7 days a week and attends non stop social events. Your basic overachiever and always “go go go, and more more more.” I can’t believe they never investigated beyond the suicidal ideation or considered Bipolar as a possibility. This makes me angry to this day because that hospital stays where I was sexually harassed and misdiagnosed cost my husband and I 10K. That’s a lot of wasted money to not get any positive outcome.
When I was released days later, I stopped taking the Lexapro. I believed it was responsible for causing the suicidal ideation. I foolishly thought to myself that if I was a more “grateful” person or counted my blessings more often that I would be able to snap out of it and sleep on my own. The mental hospital was so incredibly scary that I NEVER wanted to return there again. I was still very suicidal but didn’t know where to go or where to turn to. I vowed never to tell a soul what I had just happened to me.
By October of 2016, I was ashamed, scared and still had no relief. An already desperate situation kept getting worse. I tried so hard to keep what was going on a secret.
I had to wait a month to see a psychiatrist. An appointment for mental health isn’t easy to schedule. I finally saw her told her about my insomnia. I still wasn’t convinced I was depressed because I had no reason to be. I didn’t want to be depressed. I didn’t want to admit it. Nothing happened in my life to cause depression- so why would I be? I’ve always been a positive person and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t shake this and stop feeling sorry for myself? (Again thinking depression isn’t a serious illness. That it’s all in my head and I need to snap out of it). I was so hard on myself and hated myself.
She placed me on sleeping medications (temazepam) as well as told me I needed to get back on Lexapro and stick with it. During this time, two of my good friends got married. I still to this day don’t know how I attended their weddings. I felt I could have collapsed at any minute. I was extremely frail. I had to force myself to smile and show everyone I was “okay.” I didn’t want to seem weak. I didn’t want to let anyone down and I just wanted to feel normal again. I thought maybe things would resolve themselves if I kept gritting it out.
I started Lexapro again on a much smaller dose so it didn’t shock my system on 10/31/16. By 12/31/16 which is my birthday, 8 weeks later I started feeling good. Too good. I was feeling GREAT and like I could take on and conquer the world. I had taken a 6-week leave of absence from work and suddenly around the beginning of the year of 2017, I felt AMAZING!!
This medication (Lexapro) flipped me into a severe SEVERE manic episode that also almost killed me…literally. I’ve come to find out that many people thought I was going to die because of my reckless behavior. I easily could have with the choices I was making and the people I started associating with. I started drinking alcohol daily, doing drugs, left my husband, was incarcerated 3 times, had multiple restraining orders placed on me, became homeless, spent my life savings, had my car stolen, got into several alterations, wrote psychotic things on my social media accounts etc. It was really BAD.
I’ve lost many friends while all of this played out and it’s been excruciating to watch people’s opinions on my character drastically change.
I recently found out that a community place I used to attend regularly for many years has asked that I never return to the premises. They “shunned” me because of my temporary behavior as a result of my mental illness. This is a place I’ve made many positive contributions to in years prior to getting sick. I’ve even been acknowledged at this community place for being one of the top leaders in the past.
Hearing some worry for their safety around me even now makes me feel like vomiting. Whether or not it actually is…it FEELS like discrimination to be banned from public places. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around how it isn’t the SAME as telling someone who is black or gay they can’t be a part of a community atmosphere. I know my mental illness isn’t my fault ….and at the end of the day…ignorance is something we have to deal with in society. I’m healthy now and I wish this particular place would have welcomed me back and embraced me with open arms. This would have made my recovery much easier. I really relied on this place in the past to uplift me so getting better on my own without that was really hard.
I wasn’t correctly diagnosed with Bipolar til almost a year after I stopped sleeping. I was correctly diagnosed on April 27, 2017. I was sent to 2 mental hospitals for my mania in April 0f 2017. Once when I was withdrawing from drugs and the other time I was transported directly thereupon being released from jail. It’s a shame all my acquaintances, as well as strangers, had witnessed my psychotic break via posts on social media that I don’t remember making.
I ran a very successful hair salon business for 6 years and have decided not to anymore. It was a mutual decision between myself, my health care specialists, my husband, and my parents. It’s been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I worked so hard to start that business from the ground up and it’s been difficult to let it go. In the beginning of starting Salon Radiance, I got a second job to get it going and I never had to take out any loans. On the bright side, the salon did teach me something valuable. It taught me I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to.
Prior to my episode, I didn’t abuse drugs, I had never been arrested or in trouble with the law. I never really had any health issues besides a cold or the flu. Dealing with all my legal issues have tested my strength because I know the person who was arrested isn’t my true character. Having to take responsibility for “Manic Megan” really sucked.
I recently took a “gene test,” called Genomind, to test my DNA with all prescription medications. I did it as an informational experiment. The medications I take now are working great but it will be good to have the results for the future.
Its been scientifically proven that all of this could have been prevented. It clearly stated on the results of my test that Lexapro and Latuda (Latuda is the med I was placed on after my correct diagnosis in May of 2017) were in the worst category on the test. The test revealed that my brain would have a horrific response to these medications. And it absolutely did. These are medications I was prescribed, pressured and forced to take at times. I trusted the people that prescribed me these drugs. They were under the category that said: “will cause adverse events and poor response.” Had I taken the gene test a year earlier I wouldn’t have caused a public embarrassment for myself. It’s been very hard for me to forgive the system. I’m currently working very hard on that in therapy.
I’m finally on the right medication and I feel better than ever. My healthcare team has told me that my recovery has been remarkable and is the fastest they have seen in their careers.
After suffering for so long and nearly losing my life- I FINALLY got the help I deserved. I sleep great now and am thriving in my life. It’s such a relief to have answers. The only thing I really struggle with is the stigma and the way people view me now that they know I have a mental illness.
It seems that close minded people that don’t understand mental illness tend to look the other way. Many groups of people my husband and I used to hang out with don’t care to see or be around me again. They don’t try to understand and give me a chance. I admit it hurts. It feels like a year of my life I had no control over has erased all my positive attributes. I’ll admit that my illness has made me feel like a disposable at times.
It seems one of the only ways to get attention, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion from ignorant people is when someone actually ends their life. That’s when people tend to “show up.” Once someone commits suicide, there are shock waves. Mentally ill people really need the support while they are alive, recovering and doing their best to cope. Not after it’s too late…
It deeply pains me to see that other diseases get a different sort of compassion and understanding then mental illness. If you have diabetes or cancer for example – you get flowers, cards, go fund me accounts and meal trains. You get visitors in the hospital. I was lucky to get visitors during my hospital stays, however, I witnessed many people who didn’t. Often when you have a mental illness on top of cleaning up an episode we have to deal with being treated like freaks and rejects. I admit I used to feel like one of the “popular girls” who most people liked and wanted to be around constantly. Now sometimes I feel like the kid who nobody wants to play with at recess.
I will do ANYTHING and stop at nothing to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people. I know for certain my story has reached a lot of people however I want more. I know God gave me this challenge because he knew I would rise to the occasion. He knew I was strong enough to overcome this. I’ll never give up and stop trying to make a difference as long as I live.
I’m in a very good space and I’m managing my illness the best I can and want to help others do the same. If we stick together and keep talking, I know things will slowly change. Let’s keep talking and never let discouragement keep us from being the warriors that we are deep down. We aren’t alone and the more we voice these things that are hard to discuss, the better place the world will be. Together we can end the stigma surrounding mental health.
Special thanks to all those who have stood by me. I greatly appreciate you not giving up on me and knowing I would get better. I have to say my husband is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known and I’m so thankful I was able to keep my marriage intact. Never take your loved ones for granted. When you’re at your lowest point in life…they most likely will be the only ones to see you through to the other side. Blessings to all and keep the faith. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.