Andrew Keller

My recovery: My life at its worst to absolute best.

In 2013, my new psychiatrist decided to try an aggressive medication change. This was the beginning of a year-long disaster. My life felt like it was crumbling. I kept telling my parents that I felt weird and something wasn’t right. It started with some depression and cognitive difficulties. This lasted for about two months. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Every day I would wake up hoping that I would go back to my old self. I would sit in my house and do nothing, which made everything so much worse. When June came I began feeling euphoric. I would exercise for hours on end. I would speak too fast and interrupt people, I had racing thoughts and I felt irritable. To this day, it’s not certain whether that was a full-blown manic episode or just hypomania.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder before the meds change began. Around late July of that year I started experiencing nocturnal panic attacks that would last for about six nights straight. That is where I crashed. I became very, very angry - I would say explosive. Arguments started, I would yell and scream every day and it was scary. I never experienced mood swings like that in my life. The mood swings would progressively get worse from late August into late October. I would occasionally break things or try to get physical. One night I cut my hand as I was crying for help. I realize now that I should have gone to the hospital right then and there. I started blacking out when I got angry. My parents said my eyes would bulge a bit. I never wanted to be this person. Once October came I fell into a depression. I would lay in my dad’s office and sleep all day. I couldn’t even feel my emotions. I remember one night so vividly. November 5, 2013. For no reason I can think of I got mad at my dad and threw a really big chair in my room multiple times. That night my dad sat on my bed and calmed me down as I took Risperdal.

The next day I admitted myself to an inpatient unit at North Shore LIJ . I was there for 20 days. I hated it so much, but I knew it was best for my safety and the safety of my loved ones. The doctors there changed my meds and I also received therapy and went to group sessions. Following that, I attended a partial hospitalization outpatient program for 6 1/2 weeks. It was imperative to have a plan after each step.

I pinch myself every day remembering how hard I worked to get to this point. It makes me so proud.

My life really changed once I attended the IPRT program, an affiliate of North Shore LIJ. There, I was assigned a case manager and set goals for myself to accomplish during my 18 months. I met people at this program who experienced similar life events. I made friends and become more social. From there, my confidence grew and I felt better about myself. I felt like I was starting to come around in my recovery probably during spring 2014.

My case manager encouraged me to volunteer at LIJ Medical Center, which I did for two months. It gave me such confidence - I felt that I could do anything. I am now a peer advocate who runs his own groups and works in the community.

I pinch myself every day remembering how hard I worked to get to this point. It makes me so proud. 

I have used a lot of coping skills to help me get through my mood swings or anxiety. I self-talk, walk away, and take a walk while listening to music. In addition, I watch comedies, wrestling and most importantly, I journal. The benefits of journaling are amazing. If I am upset then I get it out on paper and I feel relieved. I have journaled since the very first day I became sick. Just to turn negatives into positives. For me, therapy and the right meds have helped. It’s a balance. It would be great if medication cured mental illness, but therapy could help just as much.

There is hope out there.

by Andrew Keller

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