I hate the expressions “mental illness” or “mental health issue”. I think “mental disorder” is better suited.
As you may know if you have followed this blog a bit, I was diagnosed with Bipolar, rather swiftly, four years ago by a Canadian, poor excuse of, psychiatrist. I don’t think I wrote about that debacle here, in short though, I started to suffer from a manic episode resulting in a psychosis (at the time, I had no clue what was happening to me), within days of my husband leaving me and telling me he wanted to pick up with my best friend, some four years ago now. I was in a foreign country (UK is my home) with very little support around (having moved there just two years prior). Adding to that, a month before the split, one of my very close friends there killed his mate after an argument (I believe I wrote about this here): I was in absolute turmoil. Anyway, I soon ish got taken to a mental health facility (top of the range in Canada may I add) and after an hour of talking to me, when I was quite foggy due to medication and still manic, despite the medication, that doctor decided I was bipolar. I had never had anything close to a manic episode or psychosis in my life prior to that event. But, apparently, that was what I now was.
When I got back to the UK, I duly informed my doctor that I was bipolar. It got noted on my file (I have a file here which covers all of 25 years I have lived in the UK), I was prescribed the appropriate medication and that was that.
Problem is I wasn’t happy with the diagnosis and stopped the meds. Erm..2 years later, I had another episode. Relatively short, I got caught the day I started to lose the plot big time, two weeks in mental health ward, two weeks off work, and back to “normal”.
Except I still didn’t believe the diagnosis so stopped the pills and paf, 5 months later, here we go again.
That time though, they decided it was serious (and it had been to be honest, because I didn’t get caught early enough and started to be dangerous, to myself and others – whilst driving).
What followed very nearly completely ruin my life.
First, the work doctor didn’t let me get back to work for months, I think it was something to do with feeling bad they had let me back so quickly the previous time and it looked bad on them that I had relapsed – cue depression, then they took my licence away for 3 months, which now looking back, I can understand and I am not so angry about (sometimes when I drive, I wonder how many people out there might be going through a psychosis and highly dangerous), at the time though, I was back to “normal” (bar the depression) and it felt like a death sentence, being stuck at home all day every day without motorised transport (walking everywhere was only fun for a bit) – cue deeper depression. Adding to that, I wasn’t being paid by work and I have a mortgage to pay…
Still, eventually, things started to happen, I got back into work (even if the beginning was weird because they put me in another job to start with so I could “re-acclimatise”), I got my licence (and freedom!) back, I had lodgers to help pay the bills, I even got some kind of lover again too for a while (the American guy again)! I also took myself to some electronic music gigs (including the MoS in London :-)), and to a couple of my type of holidays (on my own somewhere sunny),
In short: Life got back to even better 🙂
But. There’s always that thing in the back of my mind that I suffered something quite out of the ordinary a few times now and that’s pretty shit.
Now I understand exactly what “Crazy” means, and feels like. And it’s pretty scary.
I see these stories on the Time to Change or Hearing Voices Facebook groups and sometimes, what I see and read make me feel very uneasy. It’s like they are trying to “normalise” mental health disorders.
Mental health disorders are not “normal”. Seriously. I have been there, I know. Those states one can get into are pretty crazy. No-one “normal” could ever understand what proper “crazy” is like.
It’s bloody scary, that’s what it is. Especially in hindsight, once you have calmed down about the fact that you were really fucked up there for a while, and start to digest what might have happen. And it can change your life.
Personally, I don’t want it to change my life. And to be honest, it hasn’t.
But I can never forget what happened to me. Because now I know where I can “go” and need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. To me, the only way to do this is truly understand what happened, then you have more chance to control it and, so far, so good.
This is the weird thing about mental health disorders, some of us can live a “normal” life after it happened, and some of us can’t. Those are the stories I see on those sites, from the ones who can’t. It makes me wonder if you focus too much on the diagnosis and not enough on trying to get back to “normal”, it’s a losing battle.
I don’t like seeing mental disorders glamourised or normalised. I don’t want to see it compared to a broken leg. Bones heal and repair with the right course of action. Can the same be said for mental disorders though? Not yet.
And so, understandably, the stigma continues. And it starts with me. I don’t want to be “bipolar”, I want to be someone who had a mental health disorder for a while there, but doing just fine these days.
Time, as I have learned, will tell.