What made you want to openly discuss your life with mental health?
MG: 36 years ago, I'd written over 100 pages detailing my psychotic break — during my psychotic break. My writing mentor encouraged me to do some re-writing and to share my story.
What were the struggles you faced because of behavioral health?
MG: Misdiagnosed, I was told I'd have to take Thorazine for the rest of my life if I didn't want to go crazy again. My body stiff as a board, unable to think clearly, utterly ashamed and humiliated, I isolated in my home for a solid year before I attempted suicide.
What helped you along the way?
MG: My Mom and my brother. The social worker was very kind also. But I think what helped me the most was a biological shift to a heightened state when I thought "If I can't even die, then I might as well live." After that thought, I was off and running.
What would you tell someone experiencing a similar situation as yours?
MG: I used to tell people that I'd cut off my little finger before I'd go through that experience again, but for what I had learned from that hell, the lesson was worth it. Today, I would let people know they can seek professional help though therapy and medication. There is a mental health and suicide prevention hotline people can call: 1-800-273-8255. If you seek help, like I did, you can change the direction of your life.
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What do you wish people knew about behavioral health that they do not or are misinformed on?
MG: I wish emotionally people with mental illness knew that they need to abstain from all drugs and alcohol before they can learn which medications are right for them. I wish they knew not to worry about side effects, as I don't have any at all.
I wish people with a stable emotional life realized that there are all forms and degrees of mental illness. I wish they weren't negatively influenced by blockbuster movies that depict bipolar disorder in the extreme. I wish emotionally stable people weren't afraid of mental illness.
Who were your biggest supporters and help?
MG: My Mom and my brother. My brother, big time. He came to live with me. He helped me to have hope. He said stuff like, "Right now you think about this all the time. In a few months or a year, you'll think about your (psychotic episode) once a week or so. Years down the road, you'll hardly think about what happened at all."
A bit about Margot: In 1979, Margot Genger defied her social class, gender, and upbringing to become a long haul truck driver. Desperate to escape her small town, she transports us through America's breathtaking landscapes and urban blight while trying to stay sober and neutralize her demons in this coming of age memoir, Shift Happens: breakdowns during life's long hauls. A survivor of bipolar disorder, she was initially misdiagnosed and was told she’d have to take Thorazine for the rest of her life. Finally, she got the right professional help, went to trucking school and turned her life around as a sober truck driver. In 1981, she came home with enough money saved to remodel her home, got a better local truck driving job and started life over. Find her on Tuesday nights, sharing her poems at Word Humboldt, or in Eureka, CA where she lives with her husband and big red poodle, Apple.