Two police officers walked into my Drs. Office and said, “Mr. Zinn it is the opinion of your wife and your psychiatrist that we escort you to the psychiatric hospital immediately. I was in shock. What had I done? What were they saying? Why would my wife and my Dr. call them? These were my thoughts as I was escorted to the institution. When I arrived numerous people began the process of asking me all the pertinent questions: Do you hear voices? Do you want to commit suicide? How much money do you think you will make this year? These questions went on and on until they finally forced me onto a gurney, strapped me in, and injected various psychotic drugs. When I woke up, I realized I was in a psychiatric hospital.
While I was in the hospital they began to teach me all about my diagnoses; bipolar 1disorder, anxiety, and acute stress. I sat there listening to the different psychiatrists and other hospital employees about my illnesses: What causes them and what they are. Now I had to ask myself the most important question. “How was I going to cope with my illnesses? They told me “that you have a biological dysfunction.” They also said, “Because your mother, grandmother, and several first cousins suffered from mental illness, you had an extremely high predisposition to mental illness as well.” I was devastated hearing these words coming from so-called experts. How could they possibly know about my condition? I was not crazy! I was a successful clothing manufacture, entrepreneur, film maker, comedian, and was one of the greatest salesman ever. I was going to change the world. I could not cope with what they were saying was wrong with me. I wasn’t anything like the crazy people I had seen on television, read about, and even personally witnessed firsthand with my mother and family members. I thought I was not anything like the loony people in the hospital. They were talking to themselves, sitting in corners all day, sleeping 24/7, and getting agitated over the simplest of events. I knew I was not one of “them”. Heck, even my wife declared, “My husband is not like these people.” I could hardly wait to get out of the hospital and show the world that I was not crazy and that I could once again rule the world. I would set out to prove to them I was ok. I was able to convince them to let me out after five days.
When I got out the drugs they gave me and their side effects progressively started to take effect. I became less energetic, it was harder for me to focus, and all the grandiose ideas I had now seemed unattainable. Before I went into the hospital time flew. I loved every moment and every breath I took. Now, every minute literally seemed like hours. I remember sitting in my chair at work and looking at my watch, to only be in shock as time seemed to stand still. All I could think of was how crazy I must look to others, how I disappointed my family, how I let down everyone at my company, and that perhaps they were right. “I was insane.” I felt like Norman Bates in the movie Psycho, sitting in his hospital cell watching the fly’s every movement. I started to believe I was every bit as crazy as everyone I witnessed at the hospital. I began to believe my diagnosis. In fact I embraced it.
Despite the growing symptoms of anxiety; panic attacks, irrational-excessive fear, worry, and anticipating the worst case scenarios over and over in my head, I had to function and cope with my illnesses to support my family, my business, and me. Every morning I struggled to get out of bed to face the fear of commuting the one and half hours to the city. I could not bear the thought of seeing my peers and customers knowing what they must think of me. Also, I was in constant fear that I would have another episode and be put back in the hospital. However, no matter how hard things got my wife kept pushing me. Telling me “your not crazy, go to work, and everything will work out.” I kept trying even thou I would forget my appointments, not be able to focus on important reports, and even writing became impossible because of my hand shaking from the medication. I had to find a way to cope with this illness before it was too late. First, I knew I had to find a good Psychiatrist to prescribe the correct medication. I investigated Drs on the internet and looked up sites that would rate them. Next, I had to learn about my disease. I read books, watched videos on youtube, and talked to other peers. I began to play golf more regularly to relax. The main thing I felt I had to do was accept my illness. This was the hardest task of all. I hated the illness, was extremely angry, hurt, and deeply humiliated. How could this happen to me. It destroyed my relationship with my children. Ruined my self esteem, and began destroying my body. I gained 35 pounds, developed sleep apnea, eczema, psoriasis, echoes in my ear, and increased panic attacks. I was not able to sleep because of the worries I had about my finances and business. Finally, in conjunction with my Drs Orders I ceased my occupation.
Now, not only did I have to learn to live with my diagnosis, I had to totally reinvent myself. I was no longer the multi-millionaire, garment executive and healthy 47 years old. I was a bankrupt, divorced, and a mentally ill 52 year old. I had thought I had hit bottom before, but now I was going to fall into the dark abyss. I started to cycle because of all the stress the divorce caused. When I was manic I would resurface as a man in charge. I was ready to take over the world again. I became a board member for six start-up companies. When I became depressed I would sleep long hours, have no energy, become isolated, and had thoughts of suicide. I decided the only way to become happy again and be the Jeff Zinn I wanted to be was quit my medication and start smoking marijuana again. This decision became the tipping point in my life. Shorty after making this decision I was once again forcibly escorted into a NYC hospital and forcibly given anti-psychotic drugs. It was because of this event that I soon realized that not only was I living with mental illness but was an addict as well. It was the ability to accept these dual diagnosis that has enabled me to be on my current path of recovery. Currently I am a speaker for NAMI, a full time student, a leading role in a theatre company, and completing a documentary that shows in detail the story of my last 10 years.