“ 'It felt as if my brain was being squished inside my skull, then inflating back out and tearing itself apart,' ’ he said. And when he began to hallucinate and hear people talking in silent rooms, he was consigned to the teen ward of a mental hospital."
" During his first night in the hospital 'I panicked and I started shouting crazy things which scared some of the other patients. The staff had to restrain me,' he said."http://my.hsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/view/frontpage/articleid/345869/newspaperid/3408/Cathy_destimatizes_mental_illness.aspx
Thursday, March 18, 2010 By Miranda Winter Laguna Creek High School
Steven Cathy says his distress started with persistent back pain that doctors couldn’t cure. As the pain increased, depression and sleeplessness followed.
“I couldn’t get my mind to shut down,’’ says Cathy, who found himself doing homework at 4 a.m.
Cathy, a 2002 Laguna Creek graduate, shared his harrowing story with students in teacher Susan Abates psychology class. His personal testimony was facilitated by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and aimed at de-stigmatizing mental illness.
Cathy, 26, was just 15 when his troubles began, and in an effort to help, his parents pulled him out of classes, so that he was taking just half an academic load. The change didn’t help. His insomnia grew worse, and his parents sent him to a psychiatrist, who mis-diagnosed him and prescribed anti-depressants, which sent him into full blown psychosis, accompanied by intense headaches.
“”It felt as if my brain was being squished inside my skull, then inflating back out and tearing itself apart,’’ he said. And when he began to hallucinate and hear people talking in silent rooms, he was consigned to the teen ward of a mental hospital.
During his first night in the hospital “”I panicked and I started shouting crazy things which scared some of the other patients. The staff had to restrain me,’’ he said.
The next day, stabilized after being given a shot of anti-psychotic drugs, he saw a psychiatrist, who told him he’d had a nervous breakdown.
After three weeks of treatment in the hospital, he was released to his home. Returning “was somewhat difficult to adjust to, although I was glad to finally be out of there. The first few days… I didn’t do much more than read, go on a walk and work puzzles,’’ he said.
Cathy’s psychiatric examination disclosed that he was actually suffering from schizophrenia, with overtones of depression. Correctly medicated, his back pain vanished. “”It was then I realized that the pain did not cause the depression. The depression caused the pain,’’ he said.
After a period of home study, Cathy had recovered sufficiently to return to Laguna Creek, where he found morning classes difficult, because his medication caused drowsiness – a fact he kept from his teachers because of fear that he would be stigmatized because of mental illness.
An article he wrote for the school’s Cardinal Voice describing his experience with schizophrenia and depression drew an interested readership. “”Most of those who read it found it pretty interesting, while others were surprised and even a little shocked that something that bizarre had happened to me,’’ he said.
Cathy acknowledged that as a child he wondered “”what it would be like to have a mental illness and be stuck in a hospital. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually come down with one, or that it would be so debilitating.’’
Encountering NAMI helped Cathy overcome his dispiriting situation. “”I had spent roughly two years suffering from something no one else around me seemed to have,’’ he said. “”And for the first time I found myself around people experiencing some of the same things.’’
Modern medicine and from NAMI, a support organization founded by 1 parents and relatives of people with mental illness, have enabled Cathy to overcome his teenage affliction and lead a normal life. He now works as a volunteer for KVIE public television.