Why My Psychiatrist, Counselor And Family All Hid My Mental Illness From Me

I didn't learn about my mental illness until a year after I was diagnosed.

sad woman Maria Surtu | Shutterstock

In 1983, when I was twenty-three years old, I went with my mother to see a psychiatrist.

It was a bright summer day in Kansas City, Missouri but my mind and psyche were in dark turmoil. We crossed the state line into Prairie Village, Kansas to his office. I sat in the back seat while my mother chauffeured me, her daughter, to the doctor who would listen to my troubles and give me pills.

I had broken up with a boyfriend and lost my job as a federal temporary employee worker.


I knew something was wrong — my melancholy wouldn’t subside and I started passing blood in my stool. I was having trouble coping with my life and my mother was disappointed in me. She thought I was fast, loose, and couldn’t hold a job. She said the man I had been seeing "really dragged me down." 

I wanted to get back up again.

RELATED: I'm A Schizophrenic — And You Might Be One, Too

As I sat in the shrink’s office, he asked me if I was comfortable with my mother staying, or if she should leave. 

"Do you want your session private?"

"I trust her and want her to stay," I said.

"What are you feeling Julie?" the doctor asked.


"I don’t like my clothes. People at the bus stop don’t like me or my clothes."

I was very thin and weighed 115 pounds.

He told me he wanted me to see a counselor and prescribed me Navane and Cogentin. My emotions were so close to the surface I thought I would explode. I kept running my hand through the top of my hair and he asked me if I socialized.

"My boyfriend broke up with me. The man I saw before him tried to kill himself because he thought I was going to leave him. It was emotional blackmail."

The doctor nodded his head.

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We left and got the prescription filled. I felt some relief after I took the pills but I was still a raw nerve. I cried too easily and was hyper-sensitive and worried about what people thought of me.


I started seeing a counselor. I had seen a child psychiatrist from the age of seven to fourteen because I had ulcerative colitis. At that time, it was thought to be a stress and nerve-related illness and could be controlled with tranquilizers, various medicines, and a mild, bland diet. I passed blood and pus in my bowel movements.

I loved my childhood psychiatrist like my own mother. But she was different than my practical mother. She was from New York, deeply cultured and Jewish. I was Catholic and she told my parents to send me to a wonderful Catholic school, Loretto Academy in south Kansas City, Missouri.

But this new counselor was not like the one from my childhood. She wasn’t gentle or nurturing but confrontational.

I had gotten a job at the county courthouse as a legal secretary and I was learning word processing on a Syntrex computer in 1984. There were many tears of frustration and stress. The staff and boss didn’t think I would last a month. I stayed for three and a half years.


"The girls at work don’t like me. They call me dramatic," I told the counselor.

I wanted my parents to pay for me to go to college but they refused saying that "I just wanted to be taken care of."

I grew weary of the counselor’s counseling style and demanded she tell me what was wrong with me.

"You’re very sick," she said.

"What’s the name of my illness?"

"Paranoid Schizophrenia."

A year had gone by and I was never told I had this severe mental illness by my psychiatrist, counselor, or parents who had known all along but didn’t tell me. I never looked up the definition of my medication. If I had, I would have known I was schizophrenic because it was meant to treat psychosis.


"Why didn’t you tell me I had paranoid schizophrenia?" I asked my mother.

"I didn’t want to coddle you. I wanted you to live a normal life and work," she replied.

RELATED: I'm A Paranoid Schizophrenic With A Great Marriage

It was initially hard to believe I was a paranoid schizophrenic. The pills I took made me feel very normal and I believed I would be normal if I didn’t take my pills — but that wasn't the case. I didn’t realize that my medication balanced my brain chemistry and that as long as I took my medicine, I would feel normal and could live a normal life.


I didn’t see my psychiatrist again after learning of my diagnosis. He refilled my prescription by having my pharmacy call him. 

I married and divorced and when I separated from my husband, I committed myself to a psych ward for a month. I was put on Haldol and Artane and became stabilized.

I stopped taking my medicine in 1986 because they caused weight gain and would go on and off my meds until I went on disability at age thirty-eight, joined a support group, and finally educated myself and understood my illness. I suffered greatly because of this vanity, thinking that I had to be a size six.

I'm now 63 years old and have regrets about how I handled my mental illness — but I am more angry that my parents handled me and my mental illness so dishonestly.


I graduated college in 2006 at age forty-six with a degree in English and stellar grades. I was even in an honors fraternity.

I take my pills every day and life for me now is sweet and good with a clear mind and acceptance of my mental illness.

RELATED: PSA: Your Mental Health Issues Are Not Your Fault

Julia A. Ergovich writes from Kansas City, Missouri. She holds a BLS in English from the Jesuit school Rockhurst University and is leading an artful life.