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Depression June 11, 2018

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About two weeks after I was released from involuntary commitment to a
mental hospital, the side effects from my medication were almost intolerable. I was still hearing voices, and the voices told me that all I had to do to get back to the wonderful world of mermaidhood was to stop taking my medication. I was at a crossroad. Should I secretly stop taking my medication, or should I tell my psychiatrist about the voices? I finally decided to tell my psychiatrist.

After hearing about the voices, he told me I had two choices. I could return to the hospital for more intense treatment, or I could take a medication called Haldol. He asked me if I had heard of Haldol before. I said I hadn’t.

At that point, I would have done anything to avoid going back to the mental hospital, so I agreed to take the Haldol. But getting the prescription filled proved difficult. My local pharmacy only carried the Haldol in 5 mg tablets, and I needed a dose of 50 mg twice a day. We finally located a pharmacy that had the 50 mg tablets, and so I began my new regimen.

Within days, I slowly descended into a cesspool of darkness. The urge to kill myself started out fairly benignly, kind of like hunger. At first it was a twinge. I wanted to die. Then the urge to die became more pronounced. I crossed over from wanting to die to needing to die. Then dying became my sole focus. I expressed my thoughts to my husband, and it frightened him. He insisted that I call my psychiatrist to tell him what was going on, but I didn’t want to bother him. I thought it was no big deal. It was like an itch I needed to scratch.

At my husband’s insistence, I called my psychiatrist’s emergency number and it rolled to voicemail. I left a message that I didn’t want to bother him but I wanted to commit suicide. I hung up the phone, and was restless, trying to figure out how to do it. My husband suggested I take my dog for a walk while I waited for my psychiatrist to return my call.

As I got to the road with my dog, it dawned on me: I could commit suicide simply by walking out in front of a moving car. But then I realized that my dog would get injured by the car too, and I didn’t want my dog to die, so I decided against that method of suicide.

My psychiatrist called while I was out walking my dog and told my husband to stop the Haldol immediately. Once I was off the Haldol, my suicide ideation stopped.

It is crystal clear to me that suicide is the result of brain chemistry malfunction. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were victims of their brains as surely as someone who dies of a heart attack was a victim of their heart malfunctioning. In a perfect world, there would be no stigma associated with suicide because suicide would be viewed as a medical condition associated with brain chemistry. Perhaps one day we will get to that point.


Airplanes and Mental Illness May 31, 2017

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Anxiety, Delusions, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Stress, Uncategorized.
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Ever since my psychotic break back in 2008, my world has shrunk. Due to my reduced mental capacity either from the damage done to my brain from the break itself, or the side effects of the medication I take, I am no longer able to process information as quickly as I used to. Trying to think is sometimes like trying to punch a hole through a wet blanket with my fist. The end result is that situations that used to be routine, such as flying so, are no longer so.

Also, to compound the situation, when I get under stress, I hear voices. They sound like telepathy, coming from inside my head. They are genderless and speak in American English. I am well aware that they are a figment of my imagination, but that doesn’t mean I can control them. Far from it. They come on gradually as the stress builds and leave a few minutes after the stress is over. If I took enough medication to never hear them, I would be comatose. I choose instead to avoid stress as much as possible. Between the foggy thinking and stress avoidance, my world shrank considerably.

The dangers of travelling alone were confirmed a few years ago when I flew to Seattle from Phoenix. The trouble started as I approached the security line. At first the voices were just a whisper, telling me that they would find contraband in my luggage. The voices told me I would be arrested and jailed when they found it. I knew I had no contraband because I had packed my luggage myself. But that didn’t stop the voices. The closer I got to the xray machine, the louder the voices got. As the TSA agents began waving a metal detector around my body, the voices got so loud that I could barely concentrate on my surroundings. Within minutes of completing the security check, the voices disappeared, leaving me with a desire to avoid travelling by myself any more.

Five years later, my husband and I planned a trip to Europe for July 2016. To speed up the process of going through security, we obtained our TSA Pre Check clearance. At the airport in July, I was pleased that a reduction in scrutiny by TSA resulted in substantially reduced stress, which meant a huge reduction in hearing voices.

Recently, my husband had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in New Jersey. The timeframe included Memorial Day 2017. He asked me to join him for that long weekend, but because of the previous event, I declined.

But a subsequent discussion with my sister in law worked out the challenges at the Seattle end. Then my husband worked out all the challenges except one at the New Jersey end. The only challenge remaining was getting from the hotel to the airport for my return trip to Seattle. I decided to brave the unknown, fight through the mental fog and stress and go on the trip, pinning my hopes on Uber to return me to the airport in time to catch my flight.

Uber came through beautifully, and my TSA precheck allowed me once again to avoid hearing most of the voices. The adventure was a success, and I am looking forward to flying solo in the near future. My world is expanding.

Multiple Personality Disorder and Psychosis May 14, 2015

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Talking with my two friends with multiple personality disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID) led me to thinking about the similarities and differences between my psychotic episode and their disorder.
During my psychotic episode, people came into a little room in my head. They sat in a chair and looked through a pane of glass that acted as a window to my world. Looking through the glass, they saw what I saw. They weren’t able to read my mind or know what I was thinking. I conversed with them via esp. Sometimes there was only one person in the room and sometimes there were many. The scary part was that I couldn’t see who was in the room, so I never was sure whether I was alone. The only way I figured out that someone had been in the room when I thought I was alone was when someone said something to me that they only would have known about if they were in the room and I didn’t know they were there. Had they not “slipped up”, I would never have known they were in the room. The fact that they could be in the room without me knowing made me paranoid.
DID means that someone has multiple personalities. Each personality has their own name, own mannerisms, own likes and dislikes, and is an entire person. The person with DID shares their body with these other personalities. With one friend, she goes into a “room” when a particular personality takes over. She is aware of what is going on but powerless to stop anything. With the other person with DID, she disappears entirely and the other person takes over her body. She is not aware of what is going on with the personality that takes over. Each different personality is called an “alter”. One friend has six “alters”, the other nine. Each “alter” is a different age, but they don’t age with the person with DID. Once a six year old, always a six year old. Once a 70 year old, always a 70 year old. Both these women have some men “alters”. These “alters” reside in a room in their heads. One friend’s room is black, with beds for each of their “alters”, complete with nightstands and lamps. Each friend can “feel” the other “alters” even when they’re not taking over their bodies. All the “alters” ask permission to take over before actually taking over. In one friend, the asking for permission is a relatively new thing. Both of my friends are married to two special spouses, who tolerate and are supportive of the “alters.
In my psychotic state, I got comfortable having people inside my “room” all the time. After I got over my paranoia, I started to enjoy the company of the people in my head. They kept me amused and entertained all the time. There was never a dull moment.
As a young woman, my mom made me join a swim team. Every day we had to go to swim team practice. That consisted of jumping in the (usually cold) pool and staring at the bottom of the pool for hours on end, doing laps. Every day was the same.
When I became aware that I was a mermaid during my psychotic break, it became clear that one of my duties as a card-carrying mermaid was swimming. I swam several times a day for several hours at a time. But unlike my time as a swim team member, I wasn’t alone in my mind. There were always interesting people around telling me I was brilliant. I thought deeply about how to solve humanities’ problems, and discussed my lofty ideas with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Together we solved the world’s problems as I swam laps for hours several times a day, every day.
With DID, there is a treatment involving “integrating” the various personalities into the DID person’s personality. The idea is that each “alter” sees their own counselor and resolves their issues. As this happens, there is no need for the “alter” to exist anymore, so that “alter” disappears. As each “alter” gets integrated and disappears, that alter in effect dies.
Both friends declined integration therapy. They are so used to having their “alters” in their lives that the thought of losing them terrifies them.
I can relate to how lonely their lives would be without their “alters”. When I began my medication in the mental hospital, at first I didn’t feel anything was changing. But as I kept on the medication regimen, all of the people in my room disappeared. I became lonely inside my head. The individual people who inhabited the room in my head turned into disembodied voices inside my head. They left a huge void in my life, and I missed them terribly at first. I had to stop swimming because it became exceedingly boring again when they were gone.
I can really appreciate how scary the thought of their “alters” going away must be. I only had my “people” for a few months, and I was very attached to them. I can’t imagine a lifetime of relationships ended like that. I understand perfectly why they decline treatment.

“Rules” At Mental Hospital March 5, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, Uncategorized.
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Fairfax HospitalNAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has a few signature programs for people living with a mental illness. One such program is a series of 10 classes called Peer to Peer. The classes are designed to help people with a mental illness understand their illness better and build a fulfilling and satisfying life. All classes and programs are free, and are led by volunteers. The Peer to Peer class is led by two people who are successfully living with a mental illness. NAMI Snohomish County is holding their first ever Peer to Peer class, and last night was Class 9.
In that class, we discussed a stay in the mental hospital, which most people in the room were familiar with, including me. The focus was on the “rules” of the stay. Some are known, and some are not.
One of the biggest “rules” was how long the stay was going to be. Although there are guidelines, there are no hard and fast “rules”. During my hospital stay, I was told by several patients who had been in the revolving door of the hospital that their average stay was 2 weeks. But no one in authority gave me any indication of how long I would be there. When I point blank asked my psychiatrist daily, he was cagey about this point. He wouldn’t even give me a ballpark number. I was held, against my will, in a mental hospital and no one would tell me when I could leave- or even what I had to do in order to be released.
In the days before I was involuntarily committed, I was supposed to be helping my best friend, Becky, move from her home in Washington to Minnesota. But as the day of her move got closer, my psychotic episode worsened. I was supposed to help her drive back to Minnesota the day I was hospitalized. In retrospect, the added stress of her move was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But the nature of my psychotic break was such that I suppressed the memory of helping her move.
Unfortunately for me, about all my psychiatrist had to go one was this one thread of information. My husband told the people at the hospital emergency room that I was supposed to be helping my friend move, so that’s what went on my chart. My psychiatrist read the chart, and, absent much else, laser focused on that one fact and built a treatment plan around it.
Day after day, my psychiatrist tracked me down and asked me the same question: Who was I supposed to be helping move?
I was bewildered by this question. I had no memory of anyone I knew moving, much less helping anyone move.
After a few weeks of this, I figured out that the answer to the question was my passport out of the place. But I couldn’t figure out the answer, much as I tried. My mind was blank.
Eventually, I came to believe that my husband and sister were having an affair (not true), and that they were keeping me locked up so they could continue. I even told my theory to my psychiatrist, who didn’t seem convinced.
After every one of our “sessions” where he asked me the question, I asked him when I was going to be released. He told me he didn’t know, but that I would be there awhile longer.
I realize now that my psychiatrist was using my ability to remember that event as some kind of “wellness” gauge. In his defense, he had very few tools at his disposal. All he knew was what was written on my chart.
As it turns out, my hospitalization was a good thing, but I didn’t see it that way until months later, when I was in recovery. My civil rights were violated, and no one explained why. There is no written documentation that I was ever told I was being held because I was a danger to myself or others. And although you aren’t supposed to hold someone involuntarily because they don’t remember who they were supposed to be helping to move, that is in fact what happened to me. Oh yeah: and I wore gold clothes.
Apparently my psychiatrist picked up on the fact that I favored gold colored clothes. When I figured this out based on some comments he made, I switched to blue and turquoise colors, and he noticed. But it wasn’t enough to get me released.
Even the day before I was released, my psychiatrist told me I would be there awhile longer after he asked me the question I had no answer for. I didn’t believe my court-appointed attorney when she told me I would be released the next day, because my psychiatrist told me something different that morning. I didn’t know who to believe, so I chose to believe my psychiatrist because I thought he had the most power. As it turns out, he didn’t.
Although I understand the difficulties of treating someone in my condition, I feel my case was mismanaged.

Robin Williams and Suicide August 17, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Suicide, Uncategorized.
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robin_williamsIf you haven’t had a brush with suicide, you probably don’t understand how someone like Robin Williams, with so much to live for, could selfishly end his own life. Having had my own brush with suicide, it is easy for me to see how it happened. It all has to do with brain chemistry.

Shortly after I had been released from involuntary commitment at a mental hospital, I had just gone to bed at my parents’ house. Suddenly graphic images appeared out of nowhere. My mind filled with graphic images of my parents’ blood spilled all over the living room. It was clear that in these images I had killed them. I tried to make the images go away, but they overpowered my brain. I became alarmed, not knowing whether this was some premonition or whether the voices were going to take over and make me kill them. I got out of bed and went to my mother, who was watching tv. I told her I was seeing graphic images, but didn’t tell her what they were because I didn’t want to scare her. She woke my dad, and I made them promise that if I told them to call 911 they would, no questions asked. I thought if the desire overpowered me, being locked up in jail would be the best thing. The night passed without incident, but my parents insisted on taking me to see my psychiatrist the following morning.

After I explained to my psychiatrist what was happening, he told me I had a choice. I could return to the mental hospital, or I could take Haldol. He asked me if I had ever heard of Haldol. I hadn’t. But the memory of being locked up was fresh in my mind, and I was loathe to return to the mental hospital. I would try anything to avoid another stay there. In retrospect, I should have returned to the hospital.
My psychiatrist put me on 50 mg of Haldol twice a day. The regular dose of Haldol is 5 mg once a day. But he wanted to get it built up in my system as fast as possible to make the graphic images go away. He didn’t want to take any chances.
Within hours of taking the Haldol, the graphic images disappeared. As I continued the high dosage of Haldol, I gradually, over a period of days, descended into a deep depression. Then it went beyond depression. It became an obsession with dying. I wanted to die worse than I had ever desired anything in my entire life. It was painful to be alive. I had to die to escape the incredible pain of living. I laid around on the couch, trying out various scenarios of ending my life.

During this time, I had absolutely no thought of the consequences of my actions. I was focused on the act of dying, to the exclusion of all else. It wasn’t about my real life at all. I had absolutely no thought about the pain my suicide would inflict on my friends and family. My kids and husband didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except my desire to end my pain by taking my life. It was a powerful itch that I had to scratch. It was like being ravenously hungry and having no food in sight. I wanted to end my life and end it now!
Surprisingly, although I had this insatiable itch, I was averse to telling my psychiatrist about it. I didn’t want to bother him with this trivial matter. It took a lot of persuasion by my husband and sister to get me to call him and tell him about my suicidal thoughts. I was relieved when the call rolled over to his answering machine, because for some reason I didn’t want to bother him. As his voice mail came on, I started to hang up the phone, but my husband insisted that I leave a message. I did. “This is Kathy, and I don’t want to bother you, but I really want to commit suicide.”

Within an hour, he was on the phone with me, telling me to discontinue the Haldol, which he said was the culprit. As the Haldol left my system, my intense desire to end my life dissipated as well.

I understand perfectly Mr. William’s desire. I was there once myself. It’s not about rational thought. It’s about brain chemistry.



Suicide By Cop Wannabe September 15, 2013

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At 9 am, a handsome, barefoot 60 year old man wearing a hospital gown obviously open in the back wheeled into our group meeting at Fairfax Hospital. His medium frame was covered in scratch marks and black and blue bruises. His dark blue bloodshot eyes were ringed with purple and black. He looked like he had survived a terrible car wreck. He said his name was Chuck.

Chuck explained that he had been bipolar for years, but like many manic-depressives, he never experienced the manic state. He only experienced the depressed state. And alcohol made things much, much worse.  As he sat at a bar in downtown Seattle downing drink after drink, he became increasingly depressed the more he drank. He became so depressed that suicide started to look like his best option. But he was too chicken to do it himself.  He wanted someone to do it for him.  Then it came to him:  he could get a cop to kill him! And so he decided to go the “suicide by cop” route.  His intent was to escalate his bad behavior to such an outrageous, over-the-top point that a cop would be forced to kill him.  He proceeded to put his plan into action,  stirring up quite a scene until at last the cops were called. He fought hard with the cops, trying to force them to kill him.  But instead of killing him, the cops were forced to beat him until they managed to subdue him. Then they hauled his ass to Fairfax.  That outcome wasn’t in his plans at all. He expected to be dead.

Chuck was very angry about being at Fairfax.  Know why?  Because he was supposed to either be dead or ship out on a fishing boat back to Alaska in three days. He clearly wasn’t dead, and it didn’t look like he would be able to make that trip to Alaska. When the boat left, he would remain behind, locked up at the psych ward as an involuntarily committed mental patient. Boy was he pissed!

Clifford Beers and the Mental Health Bell April 24, 2013

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Mental Health BellIn 1900, Clifford Beers, a Yale graduate and young businessman, suffered an acute breakdown brought on by the illness and death of his brother. Shortly after a suicide attempt, Beers was hospitalized in a private Connecticut mental institution. At the mercy of untrained, incompetent attendants, he was subject to degrading treatment and mental and physical abuses.

Beers spent the next few years hospitalized in various institutions, the worst being a state hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. The deplorable treatment he received in these institutions sparked a fearless determination to reform care for individuals with mental illnesses in the United States and abroad.

In 1908, Beers changed mental health care forever with the publication of A Mind That Found Itself, an autobiography chronicling his struggle with mental illness and the shameful state of mental health care in America. The book had an immediate impact, spreading his vision of a massive mental health reform movement across land and oceans.

“I must fight in the open.” Clifford Beers, in 1909, used those words to respond to critics who suggested he start his consumer movement anonymously. During his stays in public and private mental institutions, Beers witnessed and was subjected to horrible abuse. From these experiences, Beers set into motion a reform movement that took shape as Mental Health America.

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1956, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md., Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.

Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.

—Inscription on Mental Health Bell

Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300 pound Bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses.  Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illness.

(Note: A Mind that Found Itself is a free Kindle book on Amazon).

The Case for Insanity April 10, 2013

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The case for insanity is compelling.

I had ESP.  BIll and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, and numerous others all thought I was a genius.  They fawned over my every idea and were at my beck and call.

God gave me my very own store.  Science Art and More in Seattle contained some merchandise for everyone but most of it was for my eyes only. Scientific concepts that I had formerly believed were known to the general public were actually only presented to me.  Bill Gates offered me a million dollars for a coffee cup in that store with scientific formulas written on it that would solve world hunger.

Bill and Melinda Gates offered me a job at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They promised me world travel and millions of dollars, along with a new car and new wardrobe as a signing bonus.

I counted a time-traveler with special abilities as one of my friends.  He went back in time and cleared out parking spaces for me in a crowded mall parking lot. He formulated makeup, designed clothing and made jewelry especially for me and arranged for them to be placed inside a nearby Fred Meyer store for me to find.

I had a shopping buddy- a woman who shopped for outfits with me. She had exquisite taste and I had an unlimited supply of money.

I owned millions of dollars worth of  jewelry, including a 3 carat yellow diamond in a platinum setting, and a priceless abalone bracelet that had once been owned by my (Mermaid) grandmother.

Trees bared their souls to me. I conversed with my (deep-voiced) rat terrier and my friend’s impossibly self-centered cat. I talked with a nasty blood pressure machine in a hospital who craved electricity like people crave food.

Last but not least, I was a genuine mermaid whose real name was Pangaea.  Fish talked to me. I felt the webbing between my toes, which were my fins. I had a beautiful tail whose weight showed up on my scale (accounting for why I weigh more than I look like I weigh).

I was beautiful.  Wealthy. Brilliant.

What’s not to  like about mental illness?

NAMI Connections Support Group March 28, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.

I am facilitating my first NAMI Connections support group this coming Thursday, and I’m excited.

NAMI Connections is a signature program of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in which people with a mental illness meet at regularly scheduled intervals. People come to the group for camaraderie and support from people sharing similar situations. It’s one thing to talk to your friends and relatives about issues concerning your mental illness. It’s quite a different story when you talk with someone in the group who has been through the same situation that is challenging you.

My issue that I talk with at support groups is my inability to hold a regular job, especially doing what I love, which is project management for major construction projects.  I can no longer do that job for several reasons, including the slippage of my I.Q. (due either to the medication I take or simply the damage done by my mental illness) and my inability to successfully manage stress, which that job is full of.

When I talk about how much I miss my old job with my therapist, I call it my “pity party”, which she loathes. She tries to help me through my episodes of self-pity, but she can’t really relate. We’ve talked about this numerous times.  I just couldn’t come to terms with never being able to do the job I love again, despite the fact that my job put me in the mental hospital.

When I tried to talk with my family about this, they couldn’t relate either.  They’re all gainfully employed and don’t seek to gain identity and self-worth through their occupation.  They don’t wake up at 5 a.m. every morning (without an alarm clock) panting to go to work.

Coming to a NAMI Connections support group and meeting a guy who was a Senior Project Manager for Microsoft before he had his nervous breakdown (also called a psychotic break) helped me immensely.  He could relate to my identity crisis because he’d been through a similar situation.  When I talked about self-identifying with a profession, he understood perfectly.  Since he was coping well with this, it inspired me.  When I asked him what he was doing to successfully combat the frustration of not being able to work at his chosen profession, he had some suggestions that he could share from personal experience.

Although he didn’t have a “magic bullet” for me, simply seeing his success gives me hope.

The great thing about a support group for mental illness is that the facilitator doesn’t have to have all the answers.  It’s simply a way for people suffering from their medication side effects or symptoms of their illness to find companionship and understanding from their peers. That’s why it’s called a “peer support group”.

I hope the people who come to my support group get as much out of the experience as I do.

Airport Security and Mental Illness February 28, 2013

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I was recently invited on a “girls weekend” to Arizona, which is about a three hour flight from my house.  My husband bought my airline ticket a few months ago, and I was excited about the trip. Before I left, he printed my boarding pass and handed it to me.  My brother-in-law drove my sister-in-law and me to the airport and dropped us off.  My sister-in-law and I were on the same flight, and together we made it through security, to our gate and to our destination without incident.

On the way back home, my hostess dropped me off at the airport. I was alone and hadn’t printed a boarding pass. I hadn’t traveled alone on an airplane since before I was hospitalized (almost five years ago), and back then you didn’t print the boarding pass from a computer (at least I didn’t).  I managed to figure out how to print the boarding pass at the kiosk and was on my way to the security check point, luggage in tow. Suddenly, the voice returned.

Voice:  They’re going to find something in your luggage. You’re going to be arrested and jailed.

The voice came from outside my head, as if there was a person standing next to me in line.

I fought back.

Me:  I know there’s nothing contraband in my luggage.  I packed my own bag and know exactly what’s in it.

Voice:  They’re going to find something.  Just wait and see.

Me:  No they won’t.

Voice:  Yes they will.

I had been expecting to walk through a scanner, and I was worried about that. Unfortunately, my fate was worse. I realized as I stood in line and watched the people in front of me that Security wasn’t allowing people to walk through the scanner. They were making people put their hands on their head and spread their legs apart as they “wanded” them.  The voice intensified.

Voice (louder and more insistent):  They’re going to find something on you.

Me:  I don’t have anything to hide.

By this time I was shaking and had broken out in a sweat.  I began to worry that security would suspect something was wrong by the way I was behaving.

I knew logically there was nothing in my bags or on my person, and I knew the voice was just figments of my imagination, but that didn’t make it go away.  It intensified as they “wanded” me. The conversation went on like this until I picked up the luggage from the conveyor belt and slipped my shoes back on, which was probably about 15 minutes.

With mental illness, you never know when the symptoms are going to rear their ugly heads.  I know I will never travel alone on an airplane again.