Have you ever interviewed yourself? They say there is a first time for everything, and this is officially a first time experience for me. This interview has literally lain dormant in my computer for years.
I hesitated to publish this as it was a small part of a real life blog I used to keep on Writing .com. Now it resides safely tucked away in a zipfile on my laptop. I’d promised one day I would publish the whole thing as a book. However, I was inspired to clean this tiny segment up and post it. It still hurts to read what I’ve written, though it’s been years ago. But, I’ll gladly endure the pain if this will help someone. . . . . . .
For this post I created an interview, an interviewer and I’ve become the interviewee. You are welcome to come in and listen/read. I must issue words of caution, the subject matter is very deep and not for the faint at heart.
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The interview is held in a living room like television studio, while the live audience sits in the background. Both women are sitting opposite one another in comfortable looking chairs. They are: Doctor Rhu Two Wolves is a famous Cherokee psychiatrist. She has taken her practice to the airwaves in order to help the masses who may not have access to conventional mental health care. Across from her sits her somewhat apprehensive and nervous guest, Nanci Maynard. Of course she is nervous. For one, she’s never been on television before. Two, she is going to be discussing what some would call, “distressing subject matter” with the good doctor.
The theme music strikes up, then lowers, as the cameras focus on the two women. Then Doctor Two Wolves for a close up.
Doctor Two Wolves: Good Afternoon and welcome everyone to Our Eye On Mental Health. My Name is Doctor Rhu Two Wolves and my guest today is Nanci Maynard. She is a writer and aspiring author with a personal dark side. A nemesis which has plagued her for many years. She has some very profound, personal, revealing, but important facts to relay to us about mental illness and how it affected her personal life. Welcome to Our Eye On Mental Health, Nanci. The cameras focus on Nanci, then pan out so that the two women can be seen on stage.
Nanci: Thank you for having me, Doctor Two Wolves.
Rhu: Please just call me Doctor Rhu. Let’s get started, Nanci. When did you first notice that you had a mental and emotional problem?
Nanci: It started with bouts of insomnia. I would sleep okay for weeks, then all of a sudden I would have days on end where I couldn’t sleep more than two or three hours.
Rhu: Nanci, When exactly was that?
Nanci: It was in late June 2008. I went away with my church to a week long convention. I noticed that at nights I didn’t sleep that much. During the day, I may have napped about two hours or so. It was a good thing I’d brought along my laptop, or I would’ve been bored to death during the wee hours of the morning. It was a good thing my roommate was a really heavy sleeper!
Rhu: What did you think about this?
Nanci: I thought I was just excited about the trip. I have a tendency to get very excited about traveling. I literally don’t sleep the night before I travel, because I’m usually packing and battening down the hatches until I come back. But, when I get where I’m supposed to be going, I usually crash and go back to my normal sleep schedule. But, I never did this time, and I didn’t think anything of it.
Rhu: When was the next time this happened?
Nanci: It was July 2008 when I went to a Star Trek convention, named Shore Leave, with a friend. I’d sleep for perhaps about two hours, even though I was dead tired. I’d wake up about one in the morning and stayed awake until it was time to get up. Again, it was a good thing that my friend was a heavy sleeper! This time I did not bring my laptop, I thought the hotel didn’t have an internet hook up so I didn’t bother to bring it (actually they did – a fie upon me). So, I just laid in bed and must have made a hundred trips to the bathroom. I thought it was just nerves.
Rhu: When did you notice you were REALLY having a problem?
Nanci: I believe it was in September 2008 when I finally noticed something was drastically wrong. By then I was starting to have “stretches”. Days at a time when I could not sleep. One day wasn’t bad. Two days was annoying. But, three days, four days? Houston, we have a problem. . . .
Rhu: What did you do?
Nanci: I spoke to my psychiatrist about it and he pushed up the dosage of my psych medication. I was formally taking 3mg of Invega (time-released Rispiredal) and he pushed it up to 6mg. That sort of helped for a while, but soon I was back in the same boat, and even worse.
Rhu: What happened?
Nanci: I was not sleeping again, plus I was agitated and nervous. For the first time in my life the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day) were a horror for me. I lived alone, and had to work, so I spent the holidays alone, in severe depression and fear, which probably compounded the insomnia. Several times I seriously contemplated signing myself into a hospital.
Rhu: This is a serious issue and I must add for this audience sake. Medical statistics show that during The Big Three Holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, there are higher rates of hospitalizations due to breakdowns, suicide attempts. There is also a higher suicide rate during the same period. Nanci, what really stopped you from “signing yourself in.”?
Nanci: I didn’t want to lose my freedom. I have two cats, an apartment, bills, a job, I’m an active member of my church, my Mom was in a nursing home. What would happen to these responsibilities while I was languishing in some locked ward, and zoned out on meds? I didn’t have the luxury of people who could step in and take over while I was gone.
Rhu: What did you do?
Nanci: I did a lot of fasting and praying. I believe that was the only thing I did right back then. I truly believe I was not in my right mind. One wrong thing and I would’ve snapped and lost it. If I was married or if I’d live with a roommate, they would’ve put me in the hospital for sure.
Rhu: Why do you say that?
Nanci: I did a some really crazy things.
Rhu: What kind of crazy things?
Nanci: I got the idea that since I could not sleep in my bed, perhaps I would do better if I had a lounge chair. So I went to a furniture place in my neighborhood and paid over $500.00 for a Lazy Boy chair. Since my internet was out and I couldn’t seem to get Verizon to come and fix it, I called up the cable company to come and install Triple Play (phone, internet, cable tv). Two days later, I called the cable company to cancel all of the services except the internet. Of course they thought I was a loony tune. They had no idea how on target they were. After I canceled the cable service, I went out and plunked down nearly $100.00 for an HDTV conversion box and antenna. After installing them, I got disgusted with the reception and refused to watch my TV. To this day I have not watched television, and I have not sat in my lounge chair. My cat Spiral uses it more than I do.
Rhu: Did you tell anyone else about these wild spending episodes?
Nanci: No. I mean, who would believe me without thinking I’ve totally lost it?
Rhu: Not even medical professionals?
Rhu: Why not? They could have helped you, Nanci.
Nanci: Because I didn’t want them to think that I was out of control and needed to be hospitalized.
Rhu: Being hospitalized seemed to be a real issue for you, wasn’t it?
Nanci: Yes it was. Sometimes I wanted to go, but most of the times I didn’t want to. I was afraid of what they are going to do to me once I’m in there. I didn’t want to come back home a zombie from all of the medication they gave me. I saw what my Mom went through when she was sick, and I don’t want to go through the same thing.
Rhu: Let’s talk about your mom. Did she also suffer from mental and emotional illness?
Nanci: Yes, she did. She was officially diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. I went through the hospitalization phase with her numerous times before I finally had to place her in a nursing home.
Rhu: People who are paranoid schizophrenic are sometimes very aggressive and at times violent. Was your mother ever aggressive or violent towards you?
Nanci: Yes, she was very aggressive at times. When she turned aggressive I would immediately call 911. Even though she was my mom and I loved her dearly, I’d learned very early on that she was way out of my league when she was in that condition. Many times she either didn’t know who I was, nor did she care. She was sick and needed professional help.
Rhu: Did she ever give you flack for putting her in the hospital?
Nanci: No, strangely she did not. She was happy because she got the care she needed. She got regular meals because she hadn’t been eating. She was properly medicated, well groomed, and she socialized. I was especially concerned about socialization because she had totally isolated herself in the house, refusing to go out unless it was to the doctor.
However, her social workers always got on my case about hospitalizing her. They always wondered why I had to call 911 on my mother, claiming it was too traumatizing to her! Hey, it was traumatizing to me to have her go off in an enclosed space, which was our apartment! The last thing I needed is for her to seriously injure me or totally wreck the place! I felt I made the right decision, despite what the social workers said.
Rhu: Were you afraid of your mother because of this?
Nanci: When I was much younger, I was. As I grew older and learned more about her condition I wasn’t. There was still an underlying fear that she might hurt myself, herself or others. That’s why I kept a close watch on her.
Rhu: You just made two important statements. One, as you learned more about her condition you became less fearful. How did you learn more about her condition. Two, how did you keep a close watch on her?
Nanci: I made it my point to go with Mom to her doctors and talk to them about her condition. Some were very helpful and informative, while others treated me like an enemy invasion. One of her psychiatrists gave me information about an organization which used to be called FAMI back then. It’s now NAMI (The National Alliance On Mental Illness) at http://www.nami.org/ They were very helpful, informative, and had a chapter close enough to for me to attend family sessions weekly. At those sessions I learned that I wasn’t the only one out there suffering along with a mentally ill family member(s).
I also kept a close watch on my Mom by watching her trends. Often the mentally ill can’t communicate with words, but they do so certain by behaviors or acting out. I watched to see if she was eating, sleeping, her grooming habits and dress. The most important sign to watch was if she taking her meds. If she refused to take or was ditching her medication, I knew a break was on the horizon.
Rhu: As a medical professional I’m well acquainted with the term “break”, but please describe what it means to you, for the audience.
Nanci: In psych terms a “break” means a total meltdown or nervous breakdown. Mom never had quiet breakdowns where she just sat in the corner and cried. She was always the drama queen by shrieking at the top of her lungs, cursing, and throwing things. Now you see why I had to call the cops. The neighbors might have mistakenly thought I was beating her. . . . . .
Rhu: Amazing, you did all of this when you had your own issues to contend with.
Nanci: Funny, I didn’t really know I had issues until after I’d placed Mom in a nursing home.
Rhu: Tell us about that, Nanci. What prompted your final decision to put your Mom in a nursing home?
Nanci: One of her old and long since retired doctors warned me back in the late 1980’s that Mom’s condition would progressively worsen to the point where I would be forced to make a placement for both of our safety. That she would eventually become far too much to handle. It happened back in December 2000.
Rhu: How did your Mom feel about you putting her in a nursing home?
Nanci: She hated me for years, and I don’t think she ever forgave me before she died. But, at the time it was where she needed to be and I had to roll with the punches. This is not saying I didn’t miss her terribly, she was after all my Mom. But, she needed to be in a structured environment where medical personnel and care was available twenty-four hours a day. To quote her old doctor, “She was not a pet.” to be left alone, to her own devises all day long while I worked. I would’ve been seriously remiss in my duties as her daughter to ignore that. After all, she did not abandon me when I was a child.
Rhu: Nanci, we touched briefly on it a little earlier, but what do you suffer from?
Nanci: I was first diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder, then with ADHD ( Adult Hyper Active Disorder ). In essence I’m an adult and human version of Tigger from Winnie The Pooh. The same way he bounces around, I do at times because I’m too hyper. I believe my insomnia may be a byproduct of this illness, because when I’m too hyper I can’t sleep. I’ve also learned that insomnia often is a byproduct of depression. They haven’t really got me pinned down yet, as I think kinda suffer from both.
Rhu: Bipolar Disorder is often characterized by “highs and lows”. Sufferers swing back and forth from being euphoric to utterly down in the dumps like a pendulum. Some swing or “cycle” faster than others and some stay in one phase for months. Which phase did you experience the most?
Nanci: Mostly the lows. I cried a lot.
Rhu: About what?
Nanci: I didn’t like what I saw in myself.
Rhu: What do you mean by that?
Nanci: I didn’t like the fact that I had the “shakes”, which I believed were caused by the medication I was taking. I didn’t like the fact that I’d lost so much weight that nothing fit. Clothing just hung off of me and people kept telling me “My God! You’ve lost so much weight!” I knew in their minds they were wondering if I had AIDS, or cancer, or something.
Rhu: How much weight did you lose?
Nanci: 41 pounds.
Rhu: Why do you think you lost so much weight?
Nanci: I blame it on the prescription medication I was taking. Because of it, I didn’t have an appetite like I used to. Things didn’t taste right, therefore I get disgusted with food, and didn’t eat.
Rhu: What did you think of the newer, trimmer you?
Nanci: I didn’t know what to think. I had to go shopping for new clothing because everything bagged off me. I bought two pair of sized 10 pants and they were too big. I can’t believe that I had to go back and buy size 8. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. I haven’t a clue what to do with my old clothing.
Rhu: You could given it away to charity.
Nanci: Yes, that is a great suggestion.
Rhu: When you visited your mother in the nursing home, did she notice these changes?
Nanci: No. Thank God she did not. She was suffering from dementia, was wheelchair bound and had her own problems. If she did notice there’s nothing she could do about it. So, I was on my own. . . . .
Rhu: Did that disturb you, that you were on your own?
Nanci: At times yes it did. I wish I had someone to share my life with. But, then again I wouldn’t want to drag someone else along in this with me. It’s almost too much for me to stand, let alone another. It will be a sin to inflict this upon another person like that. Especially someone who is ill informed about mental and emotional illness.
Rhu: So, essentially, you were alone in this battle.
Nanci: Not totally. I may not have a physical companion, but I walk with God and He is very aware of me when others are not. I also had a harrowing incident where I thought I was all alone but I was not.
Rhu: Tell us about it.
Nanci: About three years ago I had one of my worst “stretches” where I didn’t sleep for five days straight. Stupid me, I went to bible class and spent the whole class hiding and shaking like a junkie. I thought no one saw me, but after class one of the sisters came over to me and asked me if there was the problem. I broke down and told her. She asked me, “Nanci, you’re going to work in this condition?” I told her I was, and she wouldn’t let me leave. She and her husband drove me to the emergency ward and signed me in. I spent the whole night and early morning there until I saw the emergency room psychiatrist and told her my symptoms. She told me the whole problem stemmed the fact that I was taking way too much Ambien. It’s a regime drug that is supposed to be taken one week on and one week off, to encourage your body to fall into a normal sleep pattern. But, my stupid shrink (the audience laughs at the words “stupid shrink”) had me taking it every day for nine months straight, and you know what happened.
Rhu: Your body built up a tolerance to it, and medication became useless.
Nanci: I was also addicted to it, even though it didn’t help me to sleep anymore.
Rhu: So what did the Emergency Room Psychiatrist do?
Nanci: She prescribed 5mg of Clonopin (Khlonopin) for two days. She warned me that I must take it when I was home and in the bed, and that it would probably knock me out for hours. I slept for 18 hours straight. She also advised me to go to my psychiatrist and tell him off. What he did was incorrectly medicate me which caused the whole problem in the first place.
Rhu: Did you tell your doctor off?
Nanci: Yes I did, but my shrink was a stubborn old coot (more laughter), who refused to listen. So, I quit him and found another clinic. It took me a over a year to find another clinic that I liked.
Rhu: Heavens! What did you do in the meantime?
Nanci: I went totally cold turkey from all of my medications. I was tired of being addicted to meds which didn’t help me. In fact, they were making me worse.
Rhu: Cold turkey! Did you suffer from any symptoms of withdrawal?
Nanci: None other than the fact that I couldn’t sleep. That was par for the course with me.
Rhu: Are you still medication free?
Nanci: Yes I am! I guess ya’ll can call me an unmedicated nut (more laughter from the audience).
Rhu: You obviously had help, Nanci. What do you attribute this victory to?
Nanci: My faith and trust in The One And True Almighty God.
Rhu: Faith is a very important factor to you, isn’t it?
Nanci: Yes it certainly is! Without my faith I would not be sitting here with you today.
Rhu: Our time is nearly up so this is my last question. What advise would you like to give others if they are in the same or similar condition?
Nanci: Please, get help! Don’t suffer alone! Forget about the stigma, go to a doctor, sign up to see a therapist. Consistently go your appointments and take your meds, communicate with your doctor if you have strange symptoms. Join a support group, church or synagog. Don’t let your illness isolate you from society, stay in touch with the outside world. Stay in touch with friends and family. Don’t ever spend the holiday season (Thanksgiving, and Christmas) alone! If you gotta spend them serving meals to the homeless, volunteer! Get out of the house and be around people! Last but not least, stay away from the naysayers and negative people! You need encouragement, not to be kicked and stuffed back in a corner or in a box, and hidden from the world. You were born for a purpose, and it’s not to be cast aside. You have the right to shine just like everyone else.
Rhu: Excellent advise, Nanci! Thank you so much for such a revealing and inspiring interview (audience stands and claps as cameras pull away).
Male announcer with deep voice: That’s all for Our Eye On Mental Health this week. Tune in the same time next week when we will feature Supplements For A Sound Mind and Body.