It was the darkest of night, New Year’s Eve, 2014. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I had just run away from a hallucination the size of a skyscraper. Now I was seeing shadows in every house I passed, watching me. I thought I was in hell.
We have all heard the quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But what keeps that person going?
That night, I had something called amphetamine-induced psychosis. How that happened, I still have no clue. I must have accidentally taken a double dose of my ADD medication. Granted, I had been running on 3-, 4-, or 5-day sleep deprivation for three months, so I think anyone would be hallucinating at that point.
I thought someone evil was chasing me. I was running as fast as I could; all I remember was running. The scariest part was, I saw a hallucination of myself with blacked out eyes I perceived to be evil. But it was no hallucination in the moment, it was subjectively real to me. I still have to remind myself, four years later, that it was just a hallucination.
The police officers eventually found me because, apparently, I had broken some things by accident. I had a wooden stick in my hand, and I threw it to the ground. I put my hands up, but that didn’t matter. An officer shot his taser at me. I don’t blame him. My town doesn’t have a CIT program, and if I were in his shoes, and if I weren’t trained in crisis response, I would have done the same thing.
I didn’t have my contacts in that night, so my hallucinations and delusions filled in the void. So, the police officers were now Nazis, sent to kill me. Unfortunately, but as any person would do in that situation, I fought back. Oh, how persuasive the senses can be, regardless of whether they’re right. After about the fourth tase, I blacked out.
I woke up in the hospital a few days later dying of kidney failure. I had been tased seven times. I was given a ton of Zyprexa for a few months, so nothing really processed. When they took me off Zyprexa and put me on a low dose of Seroquel, I started regaining my cognitive functions, and as I started re-integrating into my old friend circles, I started processing what actually happened. That’s when the PTSD set in.
I don’t need to tell you what PTSD is like. I don’t need to tell you what bipolar disorder is like. I don’t need to tell you what anxiety is like. I don’t need to tell you how hard it can be having upwards of five full-strength panic attacks a day. I don’t need to tell you what it’s like feeling like someone else is controlling your brain the first time you have a flashback. I need to tell you why I keep going.
Things are not as they are supposed to be. There are so many wrongs in society: People are sick and facing injustice, and many officers don’t know how to respond to people facing a mental health crisis. If things are not as they are supposed to be, then that means there is an opportunity to make things right. And if there is an opportunity to make things right, there is hope.
I get up every morning to finish my new degree because I hope I can help people who are in crisis with words, not tasers. I help people with mental illness because I hope I can be that voice of educated experience that I never had after my first manic episode. I have hope that those in power will prioritize training law enforcement how to handle mental health crises. I have hope that one day things can be better.
If you’re going through hell, reach out for hope. You never know, it just might grab hold of you.
Jordan Parks is interning with NAMI NC this Fall as Public Policy & Advocacy Intern. He will graduate with a B.S. in Psychology and contentration in Crisis Counseling from Liberty University. His passion is to see the first responder community and the mental health community come together as one healed community that honors, respects, and compassionately helps each individual member.
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