Lowell's Story

Posted on April 7, 2011
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:120:]]LowellLowellFrom a very young age I had a problem interacting with people, but it wasn’t until elementary school that I was diagnosed with both a learning problem and a “psychiatric problem.” The term “psychiatric problem” was never further defined. I was simply labeled and left on my own to cope. This foreshadowed the way my mental illness would affect me for a majority of my life; ever-present, but unaware of what it was or how to get help.
Throughout school I was consistently ostracized and never managed to make friends. I struggled academically and received the lowest SAT scores in my school. My parents decided to send me to Jr. College for two years to better prepare me for college. It was here that I blossomed, for the first time. I received good grades and thrived on the school’s swim team. I even made it to the Jr. Olympics! For the first time, I found things I was really good at and enjoyed doing them.
I was accepted into Monmouth University where I continued to swim and do well in school. I made friends and appeared as every other student. However, my mental illness was still very much present. I was given multiple diagnoses including both Schizoaffective and Bipolar disorder. I was constantly depressed and didn’t feel adequate.
After college my mental illness only grew worse. The pressure was considerably higher and I just didn’t know how to manage the stress. I got a great job in the entertainment business. I never thought my work was sufficient, and continually felt overwhelmed. I plummeted into an even deeper depression when I finally lost my job.
Unaware of assistance for my illness, I continued to self medicate with cocaine. Partying every night of the week became the norm. My happiness revolved around being high, and if I wasn’t I was miserable.  This continued for the next ten years. The combination of my mental illness and addiction was so crushing, that I couldn’t stop. Life became so dark that I intentionally tried to end my life with pills.

My self-medicating habits finally caught up with me. I was hospitalized and diagnosed with double Pneumonia. I realized I had to change my life style dramatically.  I quit cocaine cold turkey and bought a house in Pennsylvania. Still plagued by mental illness, and unable to self medicate, my recovery was very arduous. 

Things only grew worse when my father died. I was unresponsive to medication and all other forms of therapy. My Doctor resorted to ECT/ Shock Therapy. The treatment helped, but the battle was far from over.  Full recovery would be a long process that I could not do alone. In the hospital, I was told about Twin Rivers Clubhouse.

I became a member and immediately saw a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past I was not aware that there was help for my problems. Twin Rivers made me realize that not only was there help, but it was constant and without judgment. People with similar problems could come together and talk out their issues. This was a complete 180 for me; I went from not knowing there was help to finding help and a second family.

While the support system at Twin Rivers was a start, I still wasn’t able to maintain stability. My mother and aunt asked me to move back home and proposed partial hospitalization. At first I resented this, but soon I realized they were right. The hospitalization helped me to gain closure from the past. Finally I felt that I was ready to reclaim my life back in NY.

Once I became a member of Fountain House, I felt that my feet were finally cemented. Things became more natural for me. I appreciated the organization, and felt like I found a guidebook that allowed me to flourish. The workday instilled a sense of purpose for me.

I recently moved into my own apartment with support from Fountain House, and I've worked a few transitional jobs through the employment program. I'm currently looking for a job of my own.  I realize that I have to take one day at a time. I still have relapses, but the important thing to remember is that I am not a mental illness. I am a person that has dreams hopes and aspirations and the confidence that I will continue to succeed.  Now I know that there is help available. My life does not have to revolve around self-medication and constant darkness. 
Meet another Fountain House member: Read Cyrus's Story

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