Who Am I?

Note: This blog post, and the ones following, are Elizabeth’s personal story of living with schizoaffective disorder. She hopes that by sharing her story, she can help others who are also facing a mental health challenge.

Bright and early 9 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving 2016, I sat in front with an MHA staff member at the Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana office for the first time.  She took the time to discuss an overview of the volunteer opportunities with the organization.  As we kept talking, I briefly began to go over my own personal experiences with mental illness even though I had just met her.  I felt comfortable in the setting.  Fleeting thoughts cascaded through my mind of what would she think as I spoke quickly, trying to jam everything in a short amount of time.  I talked about some of the challenging experiences, ending with a slight chuckle to laugh away the memories of such emotional experiences.  I continue.  The staff member reassures me as I think should I really be volunteering? Could I really help someone?  Who am I?

Dates were a little misplaced as I hurriedly ran through an outline of several years of instances dealing with mental illness.

As I looked back upon my past, it’s almost as if I’m trying to escape myself to not feel the emotional burden of those experiences.  It is a heavy load.

The staff member spoke of other’s experiences with having nowhere to go and no family.  I think about how alone I felt through much of my journey.  Perhaps if I relate some of my experiences we can find out who I am.

August 2008.  Day turns to night, day turns to night, day turns to night, day turns to night, and day turns to night as five whole days pass as I am awake in a very manic state.  I am very delusional even writing out detailed posters with slogans and text to advertise my journey as a delusional news reporter for NBC News.  I describe thoughts of helping others and saving the world.  These thoughts continue to zoom through my mind as I remain awake for five long days at the Bowen Center Inpatient Unit in Warsaw, Indiana.  In addition, I experience hallucinations that appear as a large egg hovering over a chair in the main room of the unit, and as the night nurse with a giant egg for a body.  Visitors who come in during the day appear to me to be relatives alive and deceased.  As I think back, I wonder who am I.

Summer 2011.  The feeling of freedom being taken away once again this time at Community Hospital North Behavioral inpatient unit in Indianapolis, and my overall delusional state incite me to start shoving my bed; and attempting to throw chairs, and the mattress as I yell and pull for the door.  Shortly thereafter, I am held down on the bed and a shot is put in my backside to help calm me down.  I tried to get up and fight more, but I am held down briefly until the sedative kicked in.  I was able to rest and improve my mood.  As I look back, I wonder who am I.

May 2008.  Eyes open and I find myself lying on a bed in the emergency room at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  There was a request to increase my dosage, but since I had not been taking my prescribed medicine for mental illness prior to coming to Parkview Behavioral Health for suicidal thoughts, just after my diagnosis in March 2008, I had an instant terrible reaction to the medicine and was taken to the emergency room for treatment.  As I think back, I wonder who am I.

Fall 2009.  First doctor appointment at the mental health office in Merrillville, Indiana, I am brought to tears telling my story to a nurse during my appointment.  I end up never going back, and shortly thereafter I go off my medicine because I am doing well.  As I look back, I wonder who am I.

February 2010.  While attending University of Phoenix – Merrillville for Elementary Education and working full-time, I finished my last tutoring session with an elementary student at Edgar L. Miller Elementary School in Merrillville, drove to Chicago O’Hare and boarded a flight to Washington D.C.  With luggage cart in tow, I then hopped on a train bound for New York City.  Delusional thinking was only part of the psychosis I experienced along with seeing hallucinations of God on the floor of the train.  I then managed to hail a cab to take me to Ground Zero.  I checked in to the hotel across the street, but had a hallucination when I looked over Ground Zero and it along with the presence I felt in the room frightened me, and I quickly left.  Then, I immediately took a cab to the nearest hospital.  My adventures in the New York City emergency room lasted a day or so.  I was then transported to Bellevue mental health hospital in the city, and stayed there for 2 weeks before going back to my apartment in Indiana.  As I recall my past, I wonder who am I.

August – Fall 2004.  Shortly after graduating from Indiana University with my Bachelors degree as I am working full-time, I experienced stress, anxiety, sleeping problems, and delusional thoughts.  I even felt I solved some enormous puzzle from putting together pieces to some new secret code as I looked at different store signs, advertisement billboards, and street signs driving around.  I remember talking to myself in the backroom at my 2nd job at Bath and Body Works as I sorted through marketing.  I was so overjoyed that I could put together all the clues to the secret code.  I was very manic at the time I knew something was up, but probably didn’t use or know the terminology of manic or mania.  I was caught by a coworker, but we went on about our day as I acted like everything was normal.  At the time, I even made arrangements with Indiana University in Indianapolis to participate in a mental health study, but I never went to the first meeting because I didn’t feel like it would be a good idea to take off of work.  As I think back, I wonder who am I.

August – December 8, 2008.  Elizabeth S. 9667 labels were on my clothes to identify them as they were sent to the laundry when I was a patient at Logansport State Hospital.  Rooming next to a young lady that had nearly killed herself was new still at that point.  My family feared I was a danger to myself and them, so it was best I serve out my court ordered time at this hospital unit away from them.  As I look back, I wonder who am I.

December 2016.  On the third day in a row of trying to call my mental health office, The Bowen Center, I reach the nurse.  I try to see what options I have as I found out from her just last week my Med Assist provider Vanda Pharmaceutical Company stated that changes to my Medicare has prompted them to no longer be able to provide me with the medicine.  Through Medicare my medicine will still be over a thousand dollars for the first month and hundreds of dollars from then on for the year.  As I look at my current state, I wonder who am I.

After our meeting, I dried away my tears, went home and slept for two hours.  It was exhausting to think about all that I have been through on my journey with mental illness.  I am happy to say I have come a long way, but I feel my personal experiences and acquired knowledge are valuable and relatable to many.  I hope to help someone as I contribute to this blog.  I’m not going to spend time telling you what I am not.  I am going to tell you what I am.  You may have figured that out already.  I am a peer.

About Elizabeth:

My name is Elizabeth Schmalzried.  I am from Wabash, Indiana.  I graduated from Indiana University in 2004.  I was a member of the Women’s Golf Team at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) during my four years in college.  I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder in March 2008.  I have been through a great deal with my mental illness, and continue to manage my mental illness in recovery.  I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in October 2016, and hope that my contributions to this blog will be relatable and help others who have similar struggles.  I enjoy working out, reading, listening to, and watching the news, golfing, cooking, volunteering, watching sports, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

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