Firsthand experiences with mental issues

DeWayne Bartels

Editor’s note: The identity of the man in this story is being protected by using a false name because he fears repercussions in the job market.  

 When Quinn looks at his future he is at the same place a lot of young people find themselves.

He wants to get an education, figure out what career path he wants to follow and make enough money to support a family. Quinn at 31, however, is just beginning to set goals people typically do at half his age. But, typically those young people are not dealing with a list of mental issues that cover Tourette Syndrome, Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia.

Inside his head

Asked what it is like inside his head with all these different forms of mental illness floating in there Quinn smiled. He said, there is hope.

Quinn was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of 12. At 29, the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia came forward.

“On meds I feel normal. Off my meds it is very different,” Quinn said at his parent’s Peoria home. “I have delusional thoughts I can’t really describe and vivid dreams. I don’t remember my dreams though. Really, all I can recall is how they make me feel. They make me anxious, excited and stressed out. I wake up in a panic. I just live with in. What else can I do? Because of that I find it hard to sleep.”    

Quinn said his family has stayed behind him for years often with tough love, something he did not have a taste for.

“My parents have been supportive. I imagine I was pretty hard to handle,” Quinn said. “Without them I’d be on the streets somewhere.”

The cost

The mental illness and Quinn’s reaction to it has come with costs —  crushing costs

“I’ve been self-medicating since I was about 19. I drank and took drugs to feel better,” Quinn said. “The thing is it didn’t really make me feel better. It got me into trouble.”

The course he was on would bring him legal woes, physical woes and familial woes.

He was arrested with an open container in a car in East Peoria about 10 years ago. The East Peoria Police, knowing who his father was, called him. His father, disgusted with his son’s behavior, told the police to take him to jail to dry out, but they released him on a notice to appear.  

Friends were something he could not keep and his relationship with his family, who didn’t want to be enablers, was rocky.

“I’ve never really had friends. In 2007 I went to a party. I don’t really remember much about what happened. I remember being kicked down some stairs from behind,” Quinn said.

“I woke up three days later at home. I had burns on my forehead where people had put cigarettes out on it. I had three teeth knocked out, two broken ribs, a broken nose, a concussion and two black eyes. What I thought I learned at that time was not to hang out with others. I felt I couldn’t trust others.”

Quinn was on a course that was spiraling downward. He was married, not working, depending on his wife to make the living and complaining about caring for the kids. His drinking escalated out of control. He would not listen to his wife, his parents or other loved ones.       

“I was drinking so heavily in 2007. I got arrested in Washburn for public intoxication. I didn’t go to court. I was arrested in Peoria County and transported to Woodford County. I served seven days in jail,” Quinn said.

“I was drinking so heavily at that point I didn’t care about getting help. I was constantly fighting with my wife and my parents who were trying to help me. I was so out of my mind I didn’t care.”

Even with all that, Quinn said he had not hit rock bottom.

Good services

Rock bottom began to show itself in 2009.

Because of the trip into the depths of mental illness without any effort on his part to help in his treatment, Quinn has had the opportunity to assess the area’s mental health universe of services. He has experienced services both in the out-patient and in-patient realm.

“I’ve been in the 8th floor mental ward at Methodist (Medical Center) twice,” he said.

Both commitments followed drug overdoses that were seen as suicide attempts. The first commitment was initiated by his wife. The second was initiated by his parents calling 911 and reporting a suicide attempt.

“The first time I overdosed on Xanax. That was 2009. I was out of beer and I just wanted to be high,” Quinn said.

“The second time I overdosed on Haldol. I don’t remember why. I think my wife and I got into a huge fight. That was 2010. They weren’t suicide attempts. I just wanted to get messed up.”

Asked why he wanted to be “messed up” Quinn said, “I guess it was just easier than dealing with life.”

Quinn said the week he spent at Methodist behind locked doors both times consisted largely of group talk therapy, work sheets and handouts on anger management.

“We’d also talk about whatever else was on our minds. I know what they were trying to do. It didn’t really help me,” Quinn said. “Or at least that’s what I thought for a time. In a way it was productive. The whole experience taught me I didn’t want to go back there.”

Since that second visit to Methodist, Quinn said, he has tried to be more committed to his treatment. After he got out of Methodist the second time Quinn got help receiving a medical card to cover his mental health needs and got into Tazwood in East Peoria. The problem was Quinn lived in Peoria.

“I was referred to the Human Service Center in Peoria. I went there and they sent me to White Oaks.

“They loaded five of us up in a van and took us back to the human Services Center where I saw a doctor and was enrolled in counseling. I also got my meds,” Quinn said.

He said side effects appeared. His counselor got quite concerned and the doctor adjusted his medication.

Quinn said he has made slow but steady progress despite his marriage ending in divorce. He has ups and downs.  

Quinn said in the interview in late July, in his experience, mental health services are abundant and good in the Tri-County Area since he has availed himself of them in all three counties.

Yet, on that day, he was two days away from an appointment that would get him back into treatment and medication after a two-month absence. That absence of treatment and medication, he said, was not due to a failing system of mental health care. It was, he said, his own fault.

“I’ve been without care because I missed a couple of appointments and they closed my case,” Quinn said. “I had to go to White Oaks and get a referral to the Human Services Center.”

Once he got back into the system, Quinn said, care would be immediate.

“They’ll get me into counseling and my meds,” he said. “They give me my meds free since I can’t afford them. They care about me.”

That expression of care from people outside his family, Quinn said, has caused him to re-evaluate his life.

“Recently I enrolled in GED classes and I am filling out job applications. I’m trying to get my life together,” Quinn said.

“I look back at my life and it’s not appealing anymore. I want to be able to support my kids, have my own place. That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m not going to give up. I’m determined. I care now.”