A young man’s struggle with mental illness and why today he’s in a better frame of mind

Logan Price talks about his mental illness

Source: Teresa Price

In 2011, at the age of 19, Logan Price was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Five years later, he has decided to speak publicly about his journey. His first speech was for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Since then he has given his mother and other family members permission to share his story as well as their own. Because when someone has a mental illness, it touches everyone close to him or her.

Logan also gave me permission to share the speech he delivered to NAMI on Catching Health.

An introduction

Hello, everyone, my name is Logan Price and I am here to give a short presentation on my experiences with mental illness and their ramifications in my life. I have lived in North Yarmouth, Maine and Austin, Texas and now live in Saco, Maine. I have seen mental illness face-to-face from month to month and in everyday encounters.

I have the motivation to speak from several sources, the best of whom is my psychiatrist, among others including friends and family. Good common sense from my doctor inspires me to maintain healthy well-being with respect to managing my symptoms and also taking my medication as prescribed.

Friends and family have often supported me in my trials and have always been there when I have needed a helping hand. My life has been rigorous at times and my support network has been invaluable in encouraging me in my worst moments.

College and beginning signs of illness

In the early fall of 2010, my collegiate career began on a promising note. I started well enough at the University of Texas at Austin but soon began to decline mentally. My roommate stayed up late at night playing online games and I had a hard time sleeping.

In classroom settings, I had an odd tendency to think that people were tapping their feet because of the intensity of my gaze. I didn’t think it was odd in those moments, but as the months dragged on, my mind was wearing down and causing me to doubt my reality.

Eventually, at the end of the first semester, I expressed my voice to my grandmother who lived nearby, and said, “I think something is wrong with me,” and trembling, I said, “I think I need help.”

My granddad, my grandmother and I were able to find a psychiatrist nearby. She quickly analyzed my situation as an example of a delusion of reference — the idea that in my own mind mere coincidences lined up with strong perceptions of personal meaning.

Basically, I had experienced my first known mental illness outbreak, and I needed medication to quiet the thoughts that were practically exploding in my mind. The foot tapping wasn’t caused by me, but part of me still believed that all of the weirdness of the situation was my fault. Now I know that I was experiencing mental illness.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder type II bipolar type, a name that seemed foreign and strange to me. As far as I understood, it was a variety of schizophrenia that accounted for mood changes.

Anyway, I didn’t know how to take care of myself, so it sort of made sense. I wanted to change for the better, but my symptoms of bizarre thoughts, sleeping too much because of my medication, and headaches because of my classes bothered me to the core.

I managed to make a 3+ GPA in that first year of college, but the mental hospital visit at the end of the second semester definitely highlighted the realness of my mental condition. My medication was causing me to miss classes regularly, so I would end up frequently isolating in my room and my mind weakened as a result.

I ended up expressing my emotions surrounding these events by drawing explosions on a notepad. When the obviousness of the racing thoughts quickly revealed itself, my exact statement was, “The sh– has hit the fan. So this is why I have a safety plan.”

A few weeks later, thinking back on the episode, I thought, “Good riddance. Thank the establishment for the hospital visit.”

Back home in Maine

At the end of the summer following my freshman year of college, I went back to Maine to live at my parents’ house as my permanent residence. I found a new doctor and was all set to keep living a good life.

I was too psychologically unstable to stay in Texas, so I had the option of either going to the hospital for sanity or going back home. I went home. I took the fall 2011 semester off to collect my thoughts and take a break. I went back to school, the University of Southern Maine at Portland, in the spring of 2012.

At the end of 2012, I began to hear things I didn’t understand. This kind of experience has been going on and off since that time and did not become significantly better until the end of 2015.

I remember the day [it first happened.] I was lying on my bed thinking about something, maybe dinner, when all of a sudden, I heard this loud voice say in my mind, “No,” and I didn’t think it came from me.

I was frightened after this event and I didn’t know what to say. I was a little bit unconfident speaking my own voice then, so the idea of saying something about what I thought happened was unnerving to me.

I decided to play it cool and brush it aside like it didn’t happen, but that’s the thing about my experience: It was not good. The problem, the voices, was integrated slowly into my thoughts, and eventually after a few weeks I just accepted them in a deluded kind of way. This went on.

I went to the mental hospital again that spring and again soon after because my thinking was not in alignment with reality. I thought that the voices were real and that they were coming from heaven to save me and the deceit from the words I heard lasted for years.

They said they would save me over and over again, but they never did. It felt real, but their promise was so flimsy. The new problem was that they wouldn’t give my mind ease and rest. They didn’t leave. I hoped they would, but they just kept staying there.

My conclusion that their statements were delusional in nature didn’t really come into play until the early fall of 2015. This was after I dropped out of college; after I went to the mental hospital for the fourth time; after I left my parents’ house as a means of feeling less pressured by my life situation; and after I moved into a transitional living unit [operated by] Shalom House in Saco, Maine.

Logan Price/Acadia/mental illness

Source: Teresa Price

Emergence

The move was healthy. Shalom House was designed for people who experience severe mental illness and I noticed the change immediately. I transferred my possessions and with some help from my parents got settled into my new apartment. Finally, I was feeling some contentment with life.

Then, in the August of 2015, tragedy struck. I got the news that my cousin had died by suicide. After much observation, my family realized that we didn’t know why he went down and that was frightening, but in the end, we accepted it. I went to a wedding shortly thereafter and that liveliness eased my mind about my cousin’s self-inflicted death.

In the midst of all of this, I was still trying to understand the symptoms of my mental illness. I spoke to my doctor at length during one appointment and it did not go particularly well in my opinion but it didn’t merit a trip to the mental hospital.

I said a few things about what the voices were saying, and one of the things they said that I briefly mentioned was that there were many infinite things in heaven. This was hard to comprehend and it finally broke me out of the delusion cycle. After this expression of my voice with respect to my mental illness, I realized that I had no reason to bother listening to the voices anymore. The pretense was exposed, and I was done. This was the start of my emergence from my mental illness.

Now I was just living with a mental disability, a condition that limited me but did not imperil me. The end of the year was near and the family of my formerly mentioned cousin was visiting Maine.

I stayed at my parents’ house for the last week or so of 2015 and throughout that time I reflected on my cousin’s death. I knew that healing would take time, but that the burden weighed on my family by my cousin’s death would ease as time passed by.

In January of 2016, I got an offer to move down the road out of the transitional living unit into an apartment, another Shalom House apartment that I would share with a roommate. I accepted the offer and in February of 2016 I successfully moved into the apartment.

Since that time I have had no medication adjustments that were made as a result of bad symptoms that I have displayed. This goes until this month, December 2016, and I am pleased to say that my life has been improving for the better part of the last year.

I have been walking and exercising consistently, around 45 minutes per day. I have been monitoring the money that I receive from Social Security based on my mental illness condition. I have been managing my diet successfully enough to feel good about my weight and nutrition.

Maintaining my well-being with respect to my mental health has gotten easier over the course of this past year. I still occasionally hear beeps and boops from my mind and occasional words along the lines of: “You’re in a process. You’re going to heaven tonight!”

But, overall, I have been feeling peaceable and at rest and satisfied with my ability to express my voice with respect to my mental illness. One thing I say sometimes is: “I appreciate life and it is absolutely worthwhile to me.”

Gratitude

There are so many ways the people in my life have helped me become the stronger individual I have become and also the man who is more pleased with life. For one thing, my parents have supported me powerfully throughout my life. They have edified me with wise and teaching words, they have raised me to be spiritually steadfast and walk strong in my faith in Jesus Christ, and they have loved me as a child of the Most High God.

For another thing, my doctors have treated me well and I have been fortunate to have good care. My doctor in Austin was always listening when I had urgent issues and my doctor in Maine is the same on that front. Both are regarded highly by me and I know my family appreciates them also.

Raising and lowering medication, in addition to adding and discarding medication, is a critical piece of psychiatry to my understanding, and I have found my psychiatrists’ insight to be great with respect to my psychological and even my spiritual functioning.

Finally, friends have also played a significant role in my life. Teachers who helped me make into the University of Texas, Scout leaders who helped me to become an Eagle Scout, coaches who helped me race in a 4 x 800 meter relay race that set the Maine State record, and counselors who have guided me in my challenges ever since I moved back to Maine have all helped me to succeed and to do my best.

I appreciate all of these people immensely, for they have been there for me in good times and in bad.

Thank you to all of you who could make it out here on this day! I appreciate the turnout and I look forward to hearing your questions and thoughts if you have any.

Logan and Teresa Price talk about mental illness

Logan and his mother Teresa

A note from Logan’s mother

Logan’s sister Katy and I have also been speaking for NAMI Maine. In October, NAMI Texas flew us down to speak at their state conference in Austin (my hometown). Our family has several stories to share.

Katy, 18, has been diagnosed with anxiety, which I think was caused by the chaos inherent with having a mentally ill sibling.

My 21-year-old son also has an amazing story. He was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder when he was 16. He’s very bright but almost didn’t graduate from high school because his hallucinations were so bad he couldn’t sleep at night. He got involved with a relief organization and volunteered in the Middle East. He found his passion in life and was able to get off all meds, with his doctor’s permission. He lost over 100 pounds and is now studying English and education. Over the winter break, he will be living and working in a refugee camp.

On a sadder note, my sister’s 20-year-old son, a boy with a very bright future and who gave NO warning signs, even in hindsight, died by suicide a year and a half ago. It has rocked our family to the core.

So you can see that mental illness has had a big effect on our family. It was a shock because the kids grew up in stable households and showed no signs of difficulty until their late teens. Logan was an Eagle Scout and one of the best HS distance runners in Maine — he and his three teammates still hold the Class B state record in the 4 x 800 relay.

We had no idea he was struggling until he went down to UT-Austin to study biomedical engineering. Thank goodness his grandparents were nearby and helped or his story could have had a tragic ending.

We are so grateful for all the support we continue to get. NAMI has been so important for us — the Family-to-Family class was excellent. They drilled it into us that it wasn’t the parents’ fault, which meant a lot to my husband, David. And being able to tell our story to people has been wonderful!

Shalom House has also been wonderful. The last time Logan was hospitalized, he told the doctor he would not live at home again. He was quite adamant about it.

His psychiatrist told us it was his adolescent rebellion phase, which was delayed due to his illness. The doctor and case manager realized he was serious and started looking for housing. Shalom House had room for him in their transitional group home in Saco.

At first, I was horrified — my son living in a group home?!? But I toured it and was very impressed. There was space for only four people in the main part of the house and the staff was obviously very caring and attentive.

Logan was expected to do weekly chores and he had to learn how to live with other people. Since it was transitional housing, they had to find another place for him. Fortunately, another one of their houses in Saco had an opening.

Logan is now in an apartment with a roommate, a nice guy who probably has the same diagnosis. There is staff on site 24/7.  Logan has gotten to the point that they give him three days worth of meds and he takes them on his own. But he goes upstairs to talk to the staff fairly often.

He also has a case manager through Shalom (that’s another thing — it was a couple of years before I even found out there is such as thing as case management!) Other than that, he’s on his own. My main involvement is to take him to see his psychiatrist every few weeks. It has lifted a HUGE burden off my shoulders. I know the staff will always call me if they have any concerns about him.

Our partnership with Logan’s psychiatrist has made all the difference. The doctor responds to my calls and emails in a timely manner and has come to our house more than once when my children were struggling. When I had issues with Logan’s care in the hospital, this doctor called the director and we saw quick action.

Now I search out people who have newly diagnosed mental illnesses and offer to let them vent and ask me questions. Navigating the system to get help for Logan has been very challenging, and I want to help other parents who have to go through the process.

Resources

If you would like to get in touch with Logan or his mother, send me an email and I will help make the connection.

Here are some additional resources:

NAMI

NAMI Maine

Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health

Shalom House

High Tide, Low Tide: A Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder (The book)

High Tide, Low Tide: A Caring Friends Guide to Bipolar Disorder (An interview with the authors)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.