by Crystal Paliss
(Boston, MA, USA)
I'm not sure I'll ever understand exactly what happened to me in July of '88, but I'm told it was a manic episode and I suspect it was a spiritual awakening. Could it have been brought on by drugs? Possibly. Could it have been the fear of what was to come, now that I was about to graduate college? My whole life had been mapped out for me (by my parents and the examples of my two older sisters) up to and including that point. I always somehow "knew" I'd go to school, do well in high school, get into a good college and then enter the "real world" and get a good-paying full-time job. Well as I was about to graduate, suddenly the onus was on ME to figure out what was to come next. Suddenly no one was telling me anymore. Did that have something to do with what happened? Yes I think it did.
For some reason my middle sister is really interested in talking about what happened, despite the fact that it was more than half my life ago now. But yesterday she really seemed to want to talk about it so I told her what I could remember. I was hospitalized for a month while they tried to figure out what medications I should be on. I was talking non-stop very quickly, about God and the devil and psychically communicating with my customers at the bank and how everything seemed to have an underlying, hidden meaning. I was really really paranoid, and reading tarot cards and believing in them.
I really enjoyed the food at the hospital, I forgot to tell my sister that.
After one month in the hospital, I spent a year on Lithium and made regular visits to a psychiatrist. The first one wanted to keep me on the medication and also to supplement my one-on-one sessions with a weekly "group" meeting for recovering drug addicts and people with problems. It never occurred to me at the time that he was just trying to make more money off me. My parents were paying for everything.
The second doctor's goal was to wean me off the Lithium and that was just fine by me. We had several regular visits and the final one was with my mother to make sure she was ok with me going off therapy and stopping taking Lithium. What a relief that I wouldn't have to deal with that anymore! He said to be careful with future big life events, like getting married, having a child, losing a loved one or buying a house. He somehow seemed to agree that graduating college had been the trigger and that if I got through major life changes ok, then everything else should be fine.
Well it's been twenty-three years and I've gotten married, bought a house, and lost each of my beloved parents. I've also changed jobs a few times and unexpectedly gotten laid off twice. I've gotten through all of this fine with no problem, so no matter what may have happened to me in 1988, it seems to be a thing of the past.
I'll never know for sure if it was a spiritual awakening. If my parents had been more knowledgable, understanding and encouraging, or if either of them was the slightest bit spiritual themselves, maybe things would have gone differently. I may have had great potential as a psychic or tarot card reader, had that episode been encouraged rather than quashed from ignorance about knowing how to deal with a spiritual awakening. I loved my parents an awful lot but man, they didn't know everything!
Thanks for sharing your story. How different things might have turned out if you had followed the first doctor's advice and become a life-long psychiatric consumer. And how rare it is for a doctor to recognize that major life changes were the trigger for your altered state/"mania"/psychosis - and to actually wean you off of the medication. He gave you sensible warnings about taking care of yourself in the future with major life events. And I'm so glad to hear that life turned out well.
Anytime we experience a major shift in consciousness it is a potential for spiritual awakening. Life is a series of awakenings. When those around us react with fear and call us sick, we lose an opportunity for opening and growth. When we can fall apart and find ourselves again - we often find that we are stronger and wiser for it.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist