Robert Forrey’s Story
I had a psychotic break in 1979 and was diagnosed with manic-depressive disease (a brain disorder) when I was 25 years of age. Unwilling to take ownership of a serious mental illness I continued my life without treatment. I lost my family (a wife and 2 small boys, ages 4 and 5), my job and the house we had bought the year before. I was unable to manage my life and self-medicated.
Eventually, during a manic episode in 1988, exacerbated by over-the-counter medication, prescription drugs (Xanax), and alcohol, I became entangled in the criminal justice system and was found guilty, but mentally ill. I was sentenced to 4 years in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. It was in prison, at SCI Cresson, that I began to receive treatment for my disorder. Working with a terrific psychiatrist, Dr. Cho from Altoona, I began to unravel the distorted tapestry of my life.
Upon my release in 1992, State parole recommended I finish my college education which I did at Millersville University with a B.A. in Art in 1994. I was only receiving psychotherapy (there was concern that I was suffering from PTSD due to childhood trauma and not the manic-depressive disease) at this time for treatment. As psychotherapy was inadequate treatment, I continued to cycle through what is now called bipolar disorder.
During a particularly severe manic episode, my wife at the time had me involuntarily committed to Philhaven, a psychiatric hospital. The deal was that I would take the prescribed medication or go to Wernersville State Hospital. I started the medication regime and my life turned around completely.
I went on to complete my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Lancaster Bible College and later married my high-school sweetheart. We moved to Denver, Colorado where I currently participate in events for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Colorado Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council, and Community Connections. I continue to set high goals for myself and encourage other persons living with mental illness to always reach beyond their grasp. After all, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”