Despair to Deliverance: A True Story of Triumph Over Severe Mental Illness

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. and Robin Personette

 

CHAPTER ONE – THE MELTDOWN

 

The story begins with a phone call from Robin. She and I had been working together in therapy for almost ten years. She usually didn’t call between sessions, partly because she was very aware of and careful about boundaries, but also because severe anxiety about making phone calls was one of her symptoms. If she ever called it was only to reschedule an appointment, which was a rare occurrence.

“I’m not doing well. Can I see you sometime today or tomorrow?” Robin asked. I was stunned. This was huge. She had never been this blunt about feeling bad, or this direct about asking to see me.

“What’s going on?” I asked, trying to hide my surprise.

“I don’t want to talk about it right now. I’ll explain when I see you,” she said. Her voice sounded flat, like she was depressed, which was typical for her at that time. She did not sound overly distressed.

“I’m booked today, but have an opening tomorrow at noon,” I said. “Is that soon enough? Are you okay?”

“That’ll be fine. I’ll be okay,” she replied with her voice continuing to sound flat. In retrospect I should have canceled my other clients and squeezed her in that day, knowing how significant it was for her to make this request. But, she said she would be okay. I knew her well and trusted her to be honest with me.

At that time Robin was a 36-year-old, single woman who lived alone and worked as a case manager at a mental health agency in a neighboring county. I was a busy psychologist in the prime of my career, working at a large community mental health center with a full caseload of adult therapy clients. When I walked toward the waiting room at noon the day after her unusual phone call, I knew Robin would be there. She was always on time for her appointments. Always.

When I saw her I immediately knew something was very wrong. Robin was sitting with her head in her hands, looking exhausted. After she got into my office and started talking, I immediately noticed her speech was slurred. She looked very anxious with her leg vigorously bouncing, a sign of her significant anxiety I had seen many times before. I asked what had happened that led to her call the previous day.

“I went to work Monday morning and got a voice mail from my boss,” she said. “She had left it on Friday afternoon. She was saying what a good job I do and how valuable a team member I am, and how important my contributions are. It made me start crying and I couldn’t stop.” Robin said she told a co-worker she wasn’t feeling well and then just went home.

Robin had been depressed for the previous year. I knew she had not been sleeping well, and I knew she had been having suicidal thoughts. Her psychiatrist and I had been trying different medication options to get her significant depression under control, without much success. It had been frustrating for all of us, since medication is usually an effective form of treatment for depression, and Robin had always responded well to antidepressant medications in the past.

Despair to Deliverance: A True Story of Triumph Over Severe Mental Illness Description:

This is the true story of the year long life and death struggle of a woman with severe mental illness and her journey from unrelenting despair to a life of stability and meaning. This uplifting story of illness, treatment and recovery is told from both the perspective of the client, Robin, and of the psychologist who treated her for many years (Sharon). The recounting of the intense and dramatic experiences of Robin’s life covers the years leading up to her year-long “meltdown,” and the subsequent years of her working to re-build her life. Over ten years later she is

The recounting of the intense and dramatic experiences of Robin’s life covers the years leading up to her year-long “meltdown,” and the subsequent years of her working to re-build her life. Over ten years later she is at a place of accepting the loss of her previous career in the mental health field, and of her independence. She has been able to build a fulfilling life of mental stability despite her illness.Reading Robin’s story can help anyone struggling with significant mental illness move from a place of confusion and despair, to accepting themselves and finding a meaningful life and identity separate from the illness they experience.

Reading Robin’s story can help anyone struggling with significant mental illness move from a place of confusion and despair, to accepting themselves and finding a meaningful life and identity separate from the illness they experience.

The recounting of the intense and dramatic experiences of Robin’s life covers the years leading up to her year-long “meltdown,” and the subsequent years of her working to re-build her life. Over ten years later she is at a place of accepting the loss of her previous career in the mental health field, and of her independence. She has been able to build a fulfilling life of mental stability despite her illness. Reading Robin’s story can help anyone struggling with significant mental illness move from a place of confusion and despair, to accepting themselves and finding a meaningful life and identity separate from the illness they experience.

She has been able to build a fulfilling life of mental stability despite her illness. Reading Robin’s story can help anyone struggling with significant mental illness move from a place of confusion and despair, to accepting themselves and finding a meaningful life and identity separate from the illness they experience.

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