Psychotic Break at Thirty

A Week of Full-Blown Mania

Back in 1990 I got a Master of Arts in Psychology from New College of California. I worked hard over the next two years to rack up 3,000 internship hours, and study for and pass both the written and oral exams to become what was then called a Marriage, Family and Child Counselor. The license has since been renamed Marriage and Family Therapist. I specialized in counseling adolescents, so the former license name better described what I did. I’m not sure exactly what went into the license name change, but I do recall that child psychologists seemed to lay claim to working with children. In fact, while in grad school, a school that offered a masters, not doctorate, my child psychology instructor told me that I could not make it professionally as a child therapist, that to get clients one must do psychological testing, the domain of psychologists. I was enraged. She was wrong. There was a strong demand for psychotherapists in the non-profit sector to work with high-risk adolescents. Upon graduation, that was where I found my jobs, working with teens — pregnant and parenting teens and severely emotionally disturbed adolescents in residential and day treatment.

That’s my “ancient” history, my short-lived profession practiced when I was in my mid-twenties to age thirty. At thirty I had a complete psychiatric breakdown, was literally unable to get up out of bed, and had to stop working. I turned for the first time to my medical doctor for medication, up until then I had managed my depression with psychotherapy. First with Prozac, which overstimulated me and felt as if I had an electric current running through me, then with added Trazodone to take the edge off the Prozac side effects. My parents urged me to get a second opinion from a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist I saw was old school, did not believe in using an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) for it was relatively new, and he put me on a tricyclic antidepressant which led to ramping and cycling. I ended up spending a week awake, thinking simultaneously at rapid speed in binary (in zeroes and ones), about chaos theory (which I had never studied), and about Christian mystics, with whom I strongly identify. At the time, I wished that there had been a way to record my thoughts so that later I (and a computer) could decipher them and see if any made sense. The content involved topics with which I had some basic knowledge and interest, but the experience was that of channeling information beyond my comprehension, way above my pay grade.

After that week of full-blown mania, I decided that I was not fit to be a psychotherapist. I had a psychotic episode. I wasn’t sure whether I was bipolar, for the episode was likely precipitated by the tricyclic. I was not put on a mood stabilizer. My psychiatrist prescribed a three-day regime of antipsychotics which stopped the racing thoughts in their track and allowed me to sleep.

Interesting note, I see myself more as a “former” psychotherapist than a “former” commercial real estate professional in spite of the fact that I subsequently worked in commercial real estate for twice as many years (that’s ten years as opposed to a meager five). In part, I believe it is because I was educated as a psychotherapist. My graduate education, internships, and written and oral exams, as well as continuing education, weekly supervision, case conferences, and a lifetime of dealing with mental health issues.

7 thoughts on “Psychotic Break at Thirty

  1. Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Author July 9, 2016 / 11:36 am

    Hello Kit,

    Thank You for coming by and following my Book Promo Blog. We have met a few times on social media, as like you, I too am all over SM! Both with my book promoting, but also I blog about recovery and my own mental health challenges on my recovery blog.

    We may have been “kindred spirits” as my own mental/emotional breakdown happened in my early 30’s, and I was using gambling addiction to hide from all my past childhood sex abuse and trauma which led to my first suicide attempt, and it wasn’t my LAST.

    God is driving “my bus” now, and I wouldn’t be here today without him and my FAITH. Blackness along with Hopelessness sure is NOT a good place to be!

    So happy you founder “His Light of LOVE” and you too are sharing HOPE to others! XOXO

    Author & In Recovery Magazine Columnist,
    Catherine Lyon “-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley July 9, 2016 / 2:47 pm

      Thank you, Catherine. God bless you. Glad you found healing. So important to know that we are unconditionally loved.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tonyroberts64 May 26, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    I was also 30 when I had my psychotic split. What’s our deal? Jesus begins his career as the Son of God and we go crazy.


    • Kitt O'Malley, LMFT May 26, 2014 / 9:40 pm

      Yes! What an insightful observation. I, too, am triggered during Lent, powerfully so. 40 days in the desert.


  3. Jean April 20, 2014 / 2:47 pm

    Have you ever thought of working in the non-profit sector on housing/tenant matters? You have a wonderful blended skill set and experience. YOu might be able to cut some great deals …with private sector for non-profit organizations or create some partnerships.

    Just a thought since your skill set combination is probably rare.


    • Kitt O'Malley April 20, 2014 / 6:40 pm

      Intriguing idea for the future. Right now I’m finding that holding down the fort (which includes mothering a child, taking care if my own mental and physical health, and now writing this blog) keeps me plenty busy. Thank you for the suggestion. I appreciate it.


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