If I had to describe myself I’d say that I love nature, hiking, and music. And I love to travel, especially when it involves food. I’ve eaten beignets in New Orleans, pizza in New York, and curry in India.
In 2014, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UC Berkeley, I took an accounting job in San Francisco.
The start of symptoms
Working as an accountant in San Francisco came with its challenges.
Between the job, commute, high cost of living, and long hours, I was under a tremendous amount of stress. To make matters worse, I ignored my body and well-being. It felt like it was all I could do just to push through.
One night, as I was trying to go to sleep, I thought I heard my roommates talking about me through the walls. They were saying awful, mean things about me. I tried to ignore it and go to sleep, but I couldn’t. I stayed up all night listening to the terrible things they were saying.
This went on for a couple of nights. I couldn’t sleep. It started to get really scary, to the point that I thought my life was in danger. I left and drove to my family’s house.
I didn’t tell my mom about the voices I’d been hearing, because I, too, was still so confused about what was going on. But she could tell something was off.
The voices continued for about two weeks. I got hardly any sleep and lost touch with reality. I came to the only conclusion that made any sense to me; that I was a psychic who could hear people’s thoughts and communicate telepathically.
I had a discussion with Tina Fey about the deliciousness of cinnamon rolls. I believed President Obama was writing a speech in my honor. I met the love of my life, and shortly after got engaged…to James Franco.
Then I stopped functioning. I couldn’t eat, drink, or speak. I’d just sit in one place, lost in thoughts. Needless to say, my family was worried.
My family took me to a psychiatrist, who saw that I was paranoid.
I refused to sign any paperwork and when she asked me if I was hearing voices I wouldn’t tell her. I still believed that I was a powerful psychic and that hearing others’ minds was my gift.
The doctor prescribed an antipsychotic, but I thought my parents were trying to poison me with the pill.
When loved ones began to catch wind of what was happening, many came to visit from around the world. My brother flew in from Boston, my cousin came from Paraguay, and my aunt even came to live with us, to help my mom.
Because of the paranoia, I tried to run away. My parents pinned me down in the street and pled with me to come back inside. The police came and took me away to a mental health facility. I spent the night, and checked myself out the next day.
A few weeks later, my parents took me to a hospital that I couldn’t check myself out of. I put two people on my visitation list; my brother and my fiancé.
I refused to take medication for five days, until a court order and a mental health professional were able to persuade me to take it.
Acceptance is the first step
It wasn’t until I began taking the proper medication that I was finally able to accept that I had a mental illness.
I can remember being in my hospital bed once the medication had worked its way into my system and feeling as if the fog was being lifted. I finally began to realize what had happened.
I was diagnosed with schizophreniform, which is when you experience the symptoms of schizophrenia for a one-month to six-month period.
Recovery is not an easy road
When the psychotic symptoms started to subside, I felt numb.
I felt broken, isolate from others, and nothing like myself. I did the best I could to work through my emotions but it was all really hard to process. I was upset and exhausted. I cried. I felt like I would never be happy or funny again, or have the ability to connect with people.
It was really hard to talk about what had happened at first. I remember being really afraid that people would treat me differently once they knew.
I remember thinking, how could my family or friends possibly understand? What would people think about me, and how would they judge me after this?
The keys to my recovery
I’ve been really lucky. I had good friends who were so supportive. Not only did they listen, they’d even sometimes share their own personal struggles.
And it wasn’t just talking that helped me feel better, but doing activities with loved ones. As I mentioned, I love nature and being outdoors, so we went to the beach, hiked, swam, and played tennis.
I went to Yosemite for the first time before Christmas, with my brother. We saw waterfalls covered in snow. My dad and I traveled to Utah and hiked Zion National Park. We kayaked through Slot Canyons, and hiked Angel’s Landing. My friends and I took a road trip to Big Sur, where we hiked along the California coast. The hills were covered in wildflowers.
Having a psychiatrist who educated me on my medication treatment plan was also really important. A couple of months after the episode, the doctor also recognized and diagnosed me with depression. It was important to have an understanding of what was happening in my brain and contributing to my struggle.
Even though I still wasn’t feeling completely like myself, I knew that I had to exercise, eat right and be active with friends and loved ones. I researched foods that combat depression, and spent time thinking about what mattered most to me.
I spent time contemplating important questions, like how did I want to live my life? And what did I want to contribute to this world?
Words of wisdom
It’s taken me a while to realize this, but there’s no time limit on recovery. It’s been a year, and I’m still readjusting. I still need to talk with my psychiatrist, family and friends.
If you’re living with mental illness, don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help. The earlier, the better.
If you know someone who’s living with mental illness, be a supportive friend or family member. It was because my family and friends recognized that I needed help early on that I was able to seek treatment and start my recovery.
Without friends and family, I wouldn’t be where I am today; living independently, working part-time, and applying to graduate school.
Realize that you don’t have to go through it alone.
A U.C Berkeley, Haas School of Business graduate, Kelly Wilson began her career in the accounting industry at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. After being diagnosed with Schizophreniform, she changed career direction to focus on making a difference in the mental health field. Kelly is working with NAMI San Francisco in the Ending the Silence Campaign. She visits Bay Area high schools, sharing her story and giving Mental Health presentations. She hopes to attend graduate school in Fall 2018, studying Counseling/Marriage Family Therapy.
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