Hello, my name is Jeff, I am 39, and I live with schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type. Thanks to this disorder I live in the middle of nowhere in Central Wyoming, about an hour out of Capser. This is my first time opening up to the world that I have a mental health illness. I am hoping that writing for this blog firstly will help just one person find hope in dealing with a mental illness, or as I like to call it just a chemical imbalance, and secondly I am hoping through this writing that I can finally accept that I live with a major chemical imbalance.
From the best that I can recall the voices started when I was a teenager, I can not place one particular event as to say, ah ha this is what caused my problems. At first it was just random thoughts of suicide and basic thoughts including a lack of self worth. Unfortunately these were not thoughts, they were voices sending commands, commands that are not normal or right. I did not understand at the time that having suicidal ideations was not normal until I was about 35. So I spent 20 years floundering my way through life just trying to stay alive. I have been close to committing suicide multiple times, and today I am finally able to say that I am thankful that I did not pull the trigger.
Through out my teens and twenties I was a complete recluse, I spent all my time listening to punk music and riding my bike everywhere. I was able to graduate in 2005 from college in just 6 years with a degree in Geological Engineering, and let me tell you that I wish I could do it all over again, but this time with help from the medical community. It surprises me that I have never been locked up, but I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and my release from life was spending every waking moment in the woods, alone. The mountains and the woods are were I feel at home.
After graduating from college I spent the next 10 years working for one company. Because of my chemical imbalance running unchecked life was difficult trying to work with many different people. My psychosis was at a constant point of breaking for the ten years I worked for the company. I have had bosses tell me that I need anger management classes and the company was willing to pay for them, but I thought the problem was everyone else, not me. Come to find out it wasn’t that I have anger issues, the problem was a chemical imbalance in the chemicals in my brain. I am not an angry person, I am just frustrated with the voices that were constantly bombarding my brain about suicide, paranoia, and just a lack of self worth. The voices were very strong with suicide, but I had a job to do and that job kept me alive regardless of what I was dealing with.
Over the ten years I made multiple attempts at seeing a doctor, but due to my work schedule and continual travel with never a set destination it was impossible to make a doctors appointment let alone get my teeth cleaned. In 2012 the company I was working for pulled me out of the field due to my mental health and placed me in a new position in an office. It was the first time I actually had a schedule at work, but instead of seeking medical help for what I was dealing with I just gave up on the doctors and was able to self medicate with alcohol on my days off. 14 days of drinking, then 14 days of a sobering experience at work. The schedule was nice, but when I was in the field working I was for the most part left alone to do my job. When I moved into the office I now had to work with many people and what I found was the vast majority of the people I worked with would rather ride my coat tails than do the work that was needed to complete the project. I found myself taking on the work of 3 people and I was ecstatic that it took 3 people to replace me when I quit.
In 2014 I left my professional job as a Geological Engineer due to the fact that the illness, I did not know I had at the time, had taken complete control of my life. I was paranoid to walk outside, I couldn’t sit still, I had become a recluse at work, and to top it off the voices in my head were in a constant state of suicidal ideation. It was at that point in 2014 that I abruptly left my job as an engineer and have since started an organic farm in Central Wyoming. In 2014, I finally recognized one day that I had a mental health problem (I just had no clue what I was dealing with yet) and with using Dr. Google I found that I thought I just had some sort of depression, but there was no way I would tell anyone or seek help. I was and still am embarrassed by my condition (and I am hoping that opening up helps my acceptance of my chemical imbalance). But what I was reading was ways to help with depression and one of the ways was to start a farm. Since my wife was already an avid small farmer having already learned the plants that grow in our harsh climate my wife, Amber, and I thought it would be a good fit.
In 2016 after a dealing with a very extreme episode, Amber finally convinced me that I was in need of more help than the two of us could give this “depression”. At this time, after 15 years of being together, I finally told her about my suicidal thoughts. To make a long story short I spent the next 3 years lying to the doctors about what I was actually dealing with. It never made sense to them that I dealt with suicidal ideology everyday. For about a year I fought with the doctors about treatment, not being honest with them so they could help, but they had no hesitation prescribing me drugs (they had no clue what they were doing). But the problem, schizoaffective disorder was I never really realized until late winter early spring of 2020 that I actually had a problem.
In around 2017, I started seeing a psychologist to discuss my violent outbursts or episodes. After two psychologists and really I hate to say it Covid-19 was I finally able to be honest with my therapist about what I was actually going through. I say thanks to Covid-19 because my appointments moved to telehealth and I felt so much more at ease in my own home. So in total it took me 25 years to admit that I had a problem. Since I have come clean with my wife, children, parents and most of all my therapist and doctors for the first time in my life I am starting to find happiness and the world is not as bleak as it was even just a few months ago.
Please realize that it is my daily work that keeps me alive each day. Every morning I have to write to my psychologist and clear my head of the negativity. Once a week I meet with my psychologist to talk about my writings for the week. Everyday I take multiple medications to stay somewhat “normal”. The hardest part of dealing with my chemical imbalance is that I will probably have to be on some anti-psychotic medication for the rest of my life, along with other drugs to help from the side effects of the anti-psychotic medication. Some day maybe I will be able to find the right combination of medication to contain my brain, but until then I will follow my safety plan and continuing listening to punk music.
It is very crucial that if you have a mental health problem or are having any problems with the way you are thinking, seek help immediately before it has the chance to spiral out of control. I can tell you that seeking treatment in my mid thirties would have been a lot easier if I would have been honest with myself and in treatment in my teens and twenties. But as my wife and therapist always remind me it is never too late to seek help. Remember that there are resources out there that can help you with your problems. My psychologist tells me that all I have is a chemical imbalance and that really seems to help instead of saying I live with schizoaffective disorder and a host of other mental health problems.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions or if you need someone to talk to, I may not be good at my therapy, but I am always here to lend an ear to, odds are I have dealt with some of the feelings you may be having and can help you cope.