My name is Marianne Orlando and I’m a freelance illustrator from Massachusetts, and I also work a full-time job as a proofreader for a large retailer.
In 1979, in graduate school in Michigan, at age 25, I had a nervous breakdown that precipitated severe, suicidal depression. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t focus, could barely talk, and felt like I was underwater. Being the stoic that I am, I tried ignoring the pain, but the physical and emotional pain were so intense, I couldn’t ignore it. I met with a social worker, was diagnosed as Bipolar, and promptly committed to a psychiatric hospital. I swallowed a whole lot of pills, so they put me on suicide watch. There, I was treated by a crackerjack therapist. Things went well and I asked him, When will I get better, but he said It’s a matter of years, not months. Turns out he was right. That was 40 years ago.
Eventually, I returned to the workforce, got my Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture, continued to see therapists (I can’t even remember their names or faces, there were so many of them). I had 2 more meltdowns, each time committing myself to a psychiatric hospital because I knew something was very wrong and that I needed to change but didn’t know how. In 1986, I moved into a halfway house because I realized I couldn’t take care of myself living alone.
The halfway house was a terrific growth opportunity. The woman in charge ran the house with unconditional love. I had a part-time job, and got assistance from Social Security Disability Insurance. I learned a lot about myself, and studied computer sciences at a rehabilitation center in Boston and started enjoying life. Things got better and better: I got a fulfilling full-time job and married a wonderful man, but the meds I was on didn’t really help me at all. I was still on the dismaying merry-go-round of therapists who kept leaving to pursue other work and just listened to me, but didn’t really challenge me.
Around 2005, I hit rock bottom again: I got assigned to an incompetent therapist (Dr. X) who prescribed the wrong meds. Used to being the life of the party with a quick and active mind, under Risperdal and a whole lot of Clonoopin, my personality was masked and the side effects included rigid body language and a slowing down of movement and speech. My body was stiff, I was paranoid and my mind was foggy and I couldn’t talk with people at work. People at work made fun of me because it took so much effort to talk. This was a marked contrast from my real personality which is more like being a warm and witty person. I told Dr. X something was terribly wrong, that the only time I was happy was when I was asleep and that life was not worth living. Her response was That’s good. I’m glad you’re getting enough sleep. I think she missed the point. Throughout these years, I was suicidal but I never again attempted to harm myself.
Flash forward to 2105. My insurance company suddenly announced that Dr. X was out of network and her visits would cost $300 apiece. I scrambled, panicked, and but found a new therapist – a social worker Ms.Y – whose website told me her expertise was just what I needed. Ms.Y happened to work with a brilliant psycho-pharmacist, Dr. Z. He changed the doses and the meds I was on, got rid of the Risperdal and cut back on the Clonopin that were causing the masklike affect and told me the Bipolar diagnosis I had been living with for 40 years was incorrect – he saw no indication of mania. Y was marvelous and challenged every assumption about life I had ever had. She gave me the tools to figure out what needed changing. I went from a cowering person with the emotional intelligence of a 15-year-old to a mature adult – who is now her own best friend. Over the last 3 years I have not had one single episode of depression – which I think is a miracle because in the past I got depressed for about 11 days every 3 weeks or so. Today I can say I haven’t had depression for 3 solid years, and that’s what I call a happy life.
My old personality has returned. I have a sparkle in my eye. I read The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up and reorganized my entire home. I read Big Magic - Living Creatively Without Fear and tapped into my creativity. I’ve gone to spiritual retreats and rekindled my relationship with Source/God/Nature – whatever is out there that is definitely bigger than I am. I’ve rediscovered my passion for drawing and founded a freelance business, Marianne Orlando Illustrations. I am positive and walk with a bounce in my step and now have many friends at work and from church.
I am again a happy person.
It took some luck, a LOT of hard work rediscovering myself and figuring out who I really am, and once again, having the right tools, the right diagnosis, the right doctor and social worker, and being on the right meds.
I am forever grateful and finally just as happy when I’m awake as when I am asleep.
It was a long tough 40-year journey, but I have no regrets.
Come see my Art Show at the Leonard Morse Institute (Natick Library)
Now thru Labor Day
508 875 4552