From Suicidal to Helping Others Now as a Counselor

As a child, I realized that at times my thoughts were abnormal; occasionally they were of a violent nature. As a teenager, I found myself overwhelmed by an uncontrollable rage that would just come and go. The family believed I just had anger problems and a bad temper, but it was more than that. At age 17, I fell into a deep depression and was determined to end my life. I no longer wanted to be here because it was too painful. I was taken to the emergency room and sent to EPS. I was released to the care of my psychiatrist within 72 hours.

At first my psych believed I was suffering from a simple case of depression. The depression was treated but the sudden unpredictable shifts in my mood were still there. I managed to finish high school and study a few trades, quickly earned my certification as a sheet metal worker, and earned a universal license as an HVAC technician. Always at the head of my class, yet I struggled in obtaining and maintaining employment.  At age 20, I was treated for an anxiety disorder and depression. One of my symptoms was cutting. I’d cut myself to relieve pain; what an oxymoron, causing pain to release pain, but that was my reality. I’m glad that the cutting finally stopped at age 21.The doctor said my condition was a mixture of many conditions and was complicated. At age 23, they said I suffered from a mooddisorder.

When I was 29 I found out my uncle suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and my mother had manic depression, now known as bipolar disorder. I immediately reported this to my psychiatrist and expressed the uncontrollable rage that I often felt. On the flip side, when depressed I felt like a vulnerable child. He was then able to properly diagnosis me in August of 2009 with Bipolar I. I was sent to a residential recovery center called Evans Lane which is a program of Santa Clara County Mental Health Department (SCCMHD). It was there in the next 16 months, that I was finally stabilized through lots of medication trial and error. It was difficult dealing with the side effects; a lot of the medications caused nausea, fatigue, rapid cycling mood swings. You name it I went through it, but in the end it was all worth it. Evans Lane saved and changed my life. It is only because of the treatment I received there that I am where I am today. I hadn’t worked for over three years and before that job, it had been seven years. I went into the program believing I was not employable, thinking I’d have to live off SSI for the rest of my life.

My case worker suggested I apply for a consumer internship, through the Workforce Education & Training (WET) program offered through the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department (SCCMHD). I was scared, but I applied anyway. Why? Because someone saw in me what I could not see in myself and that gave me hope. I’m glad to say that thanks to Proposition 63 (MHSA) which not only passed in 2004, but provided the funding for Evans Lane and the WET Program, the SCCMHD was able to provide me with all the services that I received. I now live independently, am in college and employed through SCCMHD. If you told me a year ago that I’d be where I am today, I would have called you crazy. But what I’ve learned since then is that with ongoing treatment and persistence, anything is achievable.

 

Donna Cohen Cretcher, LCSW

Intern Program and Career Pathways Coordinator

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2 Responses to “From Suicidal to Helping Others Now as a Counselor”

  1. Anonymous
    May 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Great write-ups, I’m a regular visitor of your website, keep up the great work.

    • Erika
      August 3, 2012 at 1:37 am #

      I am by no means a professional, but I have been doesnigad with Bipolar 2. So anything I say on here is just my opinion and suggestion. If you haven’t talked to your counselor about actually having Bipolar 2 instead of depression, then bring it up. The most important thing I have learned is that it’s important to talk and open up about how you’re feeling. If you have already talked about it, talk about it some more. Ask your counselor why she doesnigad you with depression, why she thinks that you don’t have Bipolar 1 or 2. Unfortunately though there is a manual to help professionals with a diagnosis, different counselors/psychiatrists/psychologists will sometimes diagnose the same person with different things; it’s not an exact science. Depending on your age that might be the reason why she’s hesitant to diagnose you with Bipolar 2. Years ago lots of children were being doesnigad with Bipolar only to realize as they got older that the diagnosis was incorrect, nowadays people tend to be more hesitant with diagnosing people under 18 with Bipolar. I was doesnigad with depression when I was 10 and started taking medicine that treats Bipolar when I was 14, however I wasn’t doesnigad with Bipolar 2 until a couple of months before my 18th birthday.

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