#TimeToChange – Revisited

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When I first suffered from mental health issues in the UK, back over two years ago, I joined the campaign “Time To Change” because I felt it was important to talk about mental illness to end the stigma, which is the group’s main mission.

When I checked out the website and the blogs though, I was fairly quickly put off.

I saw stories of people telling us how well they are coping with their mental health “illness”, some were “bipolar”, some had anxiety disorders – ALL seemed defined by their “illness” – that really put me off because at the time, and still to this day, I didn’t believe I was, or had, whatever term is PC these days, “Bipolar”.

I am sure to have spoken about this somewhere in this blog previously, but my diagnosis came five years ago, an hour after speaking to a psychiatrist, in full psychosis mode – although I had no clue I was as it was my first -, drugged on to the eyeball – from medication I was given the previous night when I was taken in/sectioned although again I had no clue I had been sectioned, to make me sleep.

SLEEP

Some four months after a very good friend of mine had killed someone, about three months after my husband had left me and about two months and 29 days after finding out he fancied my best friend instead and about two months after quitting alcohol and pot straight after over 20 years of abuse.

You could say I had had a lot going on in a short period of time that may have affected my stability somehow.

Oh and to top it all, I was literally homeless then too. My husband wanted me out of the house and the house I needed to move back to in a different country wasn’t vacated. In between houses and in between countries. In between life would summarise it well.

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The psychiatrist who examined me – I have yet to file my complaint against him and mark my words I will – asked me a very simple question:

“Do you know why you are here?”

The floodgate to my repressed emotions opened: I started to tell him all about the crap that had happened to me, since I was a child. I felt I had limited time to fit it all in so I was talking 12 to the dozen, ie, extremely fast. [I have since realised that what I do when I get excited and/or feel I have limited time to make an impression.]

After the hour, I sat back and relaxed, fully expecting some answers. How do I deal with this trauma, or this other one, how do I move on from this event or this other one – type of answers.

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His? “Clearly you have Bipolar”.

“Huh? What the hell? What? Huh?” were my first thoughts (my mind was pretty foggy don’t forget too).

My seconds were “Cool, so what is Bipolar then?”.

He wasn’t interested in replying, he had his diagnosis which gave him the green light to prescribe any old shit he felt like (and he did).

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So off I went on the internet finding out all I could about this “new” me.

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This was my very first experience of a psychosis. Since then I have had five psychosis and two depressions, fitting in nicely with the diagnosis (to be diagnosed you need two episodes of depression and at last three psychosis, although that may have changed since).

That psychiatrist was clearly a clairvoyant.

Anyway, back on the subject at hand, I eventually started to realise “The Truth” and decided I wasn’t bipolar. Too late though obviously, with my five psychosis, it will never wash.

My two depressions I am not too worried about because the first was due to going back to the UK to an empty house, two suitcases and a savings account in my name. Nothing else.

No income, no car, no insurance, no friends, no anything else. No dog too to start with, then a few weeks later a dog whose health had started deteriorating since the split, becoming more and more blind (and a liability).

No life in effect.

NOLIFE

The second was when I was signed off work for six months to a psychosis where I was sectioned,and realising I was getting no income from work sick pay (I hadn’t been permanent long enough, despite having worked there as a temp nearly three years), my driving licence had been suspended (making me stuck at home with no money), and I was suffering from a massive heartbreak (from a relationship that could be best described as friends with benefits and feelings).

I dare anyone to try either situations for size and tell me if they don’t suffer from some kind of depression too ;-).

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Time to Change being mainly focussed on the illness, I felt the site wasn’t for me. I wasn’t about to go brandishing banners saying “Bipolar rocks”.

Mental illness sucks – big time.

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Just go and visit a mental health ward and tell me what you think.

Just for the record, and in case this isn’t clear, those people in there are your siblings, or parents, or relative, or friend, or workmate. NORMAL people.

You may see them rock back and forth against a wall, or on the floor doing weird shit, crying in a corner somewhere, away from everyone. They might be unable to sit still or they might be staring at you blankly because they are unable to focus on what you are saying.

Worst of all, you may see their arms all stitched up after they cut themselves.

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The biggest tragedy of all is that one day,

you might not ever see them again.

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So no, I will not say having a mental illness rocks.

It sucks, it sucks big time – it can very well fuck up your life enough that you have no choice but live with it, because no-one wants you like that, no-one truly understands what you are going through – and most just shy away for fear of making things worse.

That’s what living with a label does for you.

I am Pascale, not a label.

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When a quarter of the youth suffers from mental health issues, we can no longer call it a label. More a way of life – and that is scary.

Whilst on the ward, and this is where I saw each and every behaviour I mentioned above by the way, I saw a display dedicated to Time To Change.

It seems Time To Change is changing in the right direction for me. I now really want to get involved: #lets-end-the-labelling.

The name of the people I mentioned I met above are:

Pam (So sorry I saw you where still “in position” when I came to visit),

Ray (so sorry you had a heart attack),

Lee (sorry I missed you my last visit, looking forward to catching up),

Simon (I saw one of your carers on the way to the hospital, I mentioned how much 70s music brings you back to earth, she seemed to take it in),

Pascale (crying in private is the best way to be if you don’t want to be diagnosed as being too emotional when you are sad, the happiness though, spread that shit everywhere ;-)),

Andrew (I will save you I promise),

Matty (crazy adorable monkey despite all, I will send you a post card from Canada),

Jo (I want to experience your candle massages!),

Amanda (Amanda, the state of your arms the day I was discharged will forever be engraved in my mind, I love you so much girl!),

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Lisa (oh Lisa, I won’t forget you I promise),

Harvey (A great reminder of my friend Wade, thank you, I love you despite your toughness ;-)),

Trish (Sista’, sorry I missed you my last visit, hope you enjoy the CD I brought in for you),

Ema (so shocked to see you back in after we were both discharged last week!),

Yvonne (I can’t wait for you to get better to help me with the website),

Bill (missed you my last visit, hope you were discharged rather than hiding in your room),

Glen (so glad I caught you, you were amazing with enabling me to release the pressure),

John with an H, (you were out sorry I missed you),

Andrea (sorry I missed you, hope you keep spreading those wonderful hugs),

Emma (so glad I caught you, can’t wait to meet you in the outside world),

Roger – one day I will show you, it’s not about money or heritage, it’s about Love.

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Mental Health Revolution: Open Letter to Trustees

I am finding myself sectioned again. This is the letter I am going to give to all the people in charge of my “wellbeing”/”recovery”:

Open Letter to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

My Name is Pascale Taylor and I am currently sectioned under Section 2 at Southgate, Wedgwood, Bury St Edmunds, a facility that comes under your remit.

From personal experience, observation and listening to the feedback of most Patients whose primary consultant has been Dr Michael, this is the style Dr Michael seems to have adopted to treat Patients under his care at Wedgwood – which is quite common in Mental Health Institutions, in the UK but also quite common Worldwide, from personal experience in Canada and accounts from the US model:

  • Diagnosis, in Doctor Michael’s case: on the whole Schizophrenia for males, Bipolar for females, often with side diagnoses, such as borderline/split personality disorder, disassociative disorder etc
  • Medication
  • Discharge
  • Sectioning again
  • Medication
  • Discharge
  • …. To Infinity and Beyond….. And Back Again.

This has resulted in Patients being discharged before their mental health “dysfunction” has been dealt with.

Dr Michael, as the Primary Consultant of Southgate, Wedgwood, is generally seen as the “Monster”  by Patients, someone who doesn’t listen – rather than the “Enabler” – as he tries to get you “bettersolely through Medication.

As a result, most Patients found at Wedgwood are serial “Offenders” and require to be sectioned over and over again and are unable to function in society as we know it, often claiming benefits too as they are unable to work due to their mental health issues and/or Medication Side Effects, costing society a lot of money paid through Taxes and funding for mental health is ever decreasing whilst mental health issues are increasing.

Quoted from “The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundation of a Theory of Personal Conduct” by Thomas S Szsz:

“the entire psychiatric enterprise hinges on [the notion] that human beings diagnosed as “mentally ill” have a brain disease that deprives them of free will”.

Dr Michael – and all Psychiatrists I have come across since experiencing mental health issues some five years ago following a Trauma I suffered then – appears to re-inforce this Notion: that Patients aren’t able to think for themselves. Which indeed, pumped full of Medication, they are mostly unable to do so and rely entirely on the Psychiatrist getting it right.

I believe most people with mental health issues have suffered a trauma left unresolved and their inability to get to the core issue(s), and/or dealt with, has resulted in repression of said trauma, causing shame, guilt and/or anger, which can result in “hearing voices”, disassociation (personality disorder), or being on an emotional rollercoaster (bipolar), extremely angry or, worse still, so depressed that people feel they have no options but take their own life to end the suffering, all of which has become uncontrollable enough that they need hospitalisation, or prison – some may say same difference as both result in loss of freedom.

My suggestion:

  • Get to the root of the core issue(s) – “Listen
  • Understand how the issue(s) has shaped/is shaping their lives – “Think/Analyse
  • Find a way to “de-programunwanted behaviour, using medication if necessary in the short term with a view to dealing with the core issue(s) and its (their) effect(s) in the long term – “Resolve

I believe Human Beings are made of Essence (core being) and Personality (life experiences/circumstances).

The goal of mental health care should be for Patients to understand what their essence is and how their personality has been shaped by their experiences and influences in life since children, with a view to bringing more of the Essence to the forefront and correct unhelpful behaviour from their Personality.

Influences come in all shape and sizes:

In early years, Influences will have come from parents/family (including family friends), school, friendships and later from their working environment/social life as well.

As a person grows, influences come from all sorts of environment the person choses to find themselves in, particularly, in this day and age, influences from TV, the media as a whole (including social media) and the information available on the internet, as well as friends, as it is drummed into us that to thrive one needs a big social network.

The bigger the social network, the bigger the influences are, and the more damaging this can be, providing many people whose standards one “needs to live up to.

A Patient needs to be guided to understand that as an adult, they and they only, have the choice over their environment.

I believe labelling someone with a mental illness is a sure way for Patients to believe they have no choice in how they conduct their lives and this is very damaging to their recovery – ie, they believe there is no recovery possible, only medication will help them and they often aren’t able to function properly in society and often live on its edge.

Taking my own example, last year around February 2015 time, I decided that I needed to deal with my issues once and for all after I had fallen into “bad habits” again: drinking and a total lack of self-respect.

Two books allowed me to start this journey whilst many others enabled me to carry on this self-discovery journey:

  • One called “Attached” which explained attachment issues in relationships, after which I realised that I had suffered attachment issues all my life steaming from childhood issues, being the middle child with two disabled brothers and the pressure I had been put under from my parents being the only “normal” (abled) child. As well as an unfortunate first sexual experience at aged 12.

I was also quite a boisterous child and this “over protectionresulted in my mother and grandparents – who had a big hand in my care as my parents’ time was taken up looking after my two disabled brothers – being over protective over me, this in turn resulted in my cousins, who I spent a lot of time with on holidays in Morocco where I spent most, if not all, my childhood vacations as my grandparents lived there, resenting me or keeping me at a distance for fear of reprisal if something was to happen to me.

  • The other called “You Are Not So Smart”, a book on learned behaviour and biases every human being “suffers” from.

In that book, I found myself in so many biases it started a quest to understand who I was – “Know Thyself”- through self-inspection, observation and then introducing new positive habits to change my core “Personality”.

From Attached, I started the process of detaching myself from as much as I could in my personal life to give myself space to re-discover my core “personality”.

From You Are Not So Smart, I became aware of the automatic behaviour(s) I had acquired whilst being shaped by events outside of my control which resulted in the personality I had developed, and I started a quest to change myself as a result.

With those two realisations, I started an intense period of self-study which resulted in quitting alcohol in December 2015, out of choice rather than need, as I had realised I had used alcohol to “escape myself” for over 25 years.

In short: I hadn’t liked who I had become and used alcohol in order to function with this dislike of my persona.

Through this self-study, I found my true Essence (or core values) and worked on bringing them to the forefront.

Best of all, I started to take personal responsibility for the human I had become and corrected as much of the learned behaviour I was able to, particularly away from “friendlyinfluences I had allowed in my adult life, as well as family influences, which were the basis of the Personality I had developed throughout my childhood/teens and also adulthood.

I tried and tested various methods too, finding the ones which worked best for me.

Example: I had had weight issues since my teens and decided to try and find a way to resolve this and I decided I needed to try and eat healthier food and exercise more and so I introduced a lifestyle change in my diet and exercise regime which resulted in losing 2.5 stones in a little over a year.

Unfortunately finding myself sectioned, I found I have put on four kilos so far through comfort eating. I was 56 kilos, close to my target weight, when I arrived at Wedgwood, two weeks later I now weigh 60 kilos due to unhealthy eating habit via comfort eating and lack of exercise due to being restricted in the amount of exercise I can do as I didn’t have the right shoes to exercise, due to being tricked into being sectioned – which I am addressing via the  and Care Quality Commission (CQC), a UK company which protects the rights and interests of people who are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, nor do I have the freedom to go for walks on a regular basis, something I have found works well for me in the “outside” world, following a no explanation abrupt restrictions on my leave, which were luckily recently lifted.

I am also concerned about my diabetes as the diet I had adopted at home resulted in lowering the level of diabetes to below the diagnosis level 7 consistently over the past year, following two checks in the past six months.

Here, with the comfort eating and lack of freedom to exercise, I fear the rate is going to increase and so I have to try to be extremely self-disciplined in my eating habits, which is proven to be hard due to my circumstances: being sectioned under a regime I don’t agree with and surrounded by Patients each with varying degrees of mental health issues.

Lack of freedom is a major issue for me being in Wedgwood as I process my thinking best at night (I started this letter at 1:30 am and it is now 4:00 am), as I find this time of day (night) more peaceful and quiet.

Unfortunately at Wedgwood, night becomes a time when most freedom is restricted, ie, I cannot make myself tea and need to rely on staff to keep me “watered”. I am also unable to smoke freely as the courtyard is normally out of bound at this time.

Smoking helps me process my thinking by taking a break from it, some kind of mindfulness best achieved when no-one else is around so it allows for little distractions.

Recently there was also talk that access to the Ward laptop, that I use to write my thoughts on as I didn’t bring any electronic devices with me apart from my kindle (to read and listen to saved music), was going to be restricted to be used only between 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.

I believe, quoting The Myth of Mental Illness: “hospitals are like prisons, not hospitals; and that involuntary mental hospitalisation is a type of imprisonment, not medical care; and that coercive psychiatrists function as judges and failers, not healers”. Again a model Dr Michael and the staff, or at least the ward manager, seem to have adopted here.

The quote continues to say “I suggested that we view and understand “mental illnesses” and psychiatric responses to them as matters of law and rhetoric, not matters of medicine or science.”

Medication having a purpose to “correct the brain chemistry”, subject we still know very little about, particularly when it comes to Consciousness, I am very reticent to be pumped full of medication, which Dr Michael has imposed on me since I have come here, even injecting me with medication not recommended for diabetics.

Let’s also not forget not so long ago, lobotomy was used to correct the brain’s perceived imperfection(s). Now we could say the equivalent is ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), which scares me as much if not more than lobotomy.

All this is messing with the brain, an extremely powerful organ that we still know very little about, despite science’s progress to understand its functionality in what makes us “human”.

I am a great believer the answer to one’s mental health dysfunction, as I prefer to call it, lies within.

To quote from The Myth of Mental Illness again, Shakespeare had a similar view.

Referring to a dialog in MacBeth with a Doctor:

Shakespeare’s insight that the mad person “must minister to himself” is at once profound and obvious- profound because witnessing suffering calls forth in us the impulse to help, “to do somethingfor or to the sufferer, yet also obvious because understanding Lady MacBeth’s suffering as a consequence of internal rhetoric (the “voice” of conscience, imagination, “Hallucination”), the remedy must be internal rhetoric (self-conversation, “internal ministry”).”

It is therefore very difficult for psychiatrists to truly understand what is going on in someone’s Psyche, unless the psychiatrist himself has experienced similar mental health dysfunctions.

Psychiatry seems too focussed on medication and not enough on understanding what brought the Patient to the state he/she find themselves in.

of the observer’s construction and definition of the behaviour of the persons he [the psychiatrist/staff in a mental health institution] observes as a medically disabled individuals [patients] needing medical treatment.”

I believe this is wrong, and I am not alone in this thinking.

The author of the book I am quoting from states: “[…] it taught me, at an early age, that being wrong can be dangerous, but being right when society regards the majority’s falsewood as truth, could be fatal”.

This is the exact situation I am finding myself in, totally at the Mercy of a psychiatrist whose techniques (medication) I disagree with, despite the fact that I have proven my techniques work better.

Again, I believe one can only get better by self-enquiry and starting the process – which doesn’t bring overnight results and is an ongoing process – of correcting unwanted, detrimental behaviour to live a more fulfilling, balanced life.

The book I am quoting from agrees:

“Persons said to have mental diseases, on the other hand, have reasons for their actions that must be understood; they cannot be treated or cured by drugs or other medical interventions, but may be helped to help themselves over the obstacles they face.”

Not something Dr Michael seems to understand and/or agree with as his main purpose appears to be Medication.

This unfortunately seems to be endorsed by society because it sanctions easysolutions” for problem individuals.

So I am finding myself going against the grain of the accepted psychiatry model and since Dr Michael is my Primary Consultant, I cannot see how working with him can help me and, as I am under Section, I find myself completely at his Mercy.

A very unsettling and scary thought for obvious reason: my freedom depends entirely on his say so, so does my brain.

 

Mental Health – Depression

“Sometimes, a friendly chat is all that one needs to feel connected to the world.”

As I typed this last sentence on my previous blog entry, I realised that really, it is all anyone can ever give to people. For we are all ultimately in control of our lives, and how we react to our experiences.

I have been thinking about mental health and how I can help that cause, since my experiences with it gives me a good understanding of the issue.

I have been observing, thanks to the internet, what is happening in the world with regards to Mental Health and can see that people are starting to get it – only by facing yourself fully can you get out of mental health issues.

I fell on a great video the other day on Ted of a woman talking about her experience with “hearing voices”, and she put into words exactly everything I have realised about mental health issues, it was great to see – the best bit was to see over 1 million people had seen her video.

And so I don’t need to try and shake the world out of their belief mental health is to be treated with medication and shame. Other people are doing that, and they are doing a much better job than I could ever do.

However, there is one bit of mental health I really want to do my bit about – and that is depression. And ultimately, I see that out of all the mental illnesses, there is no “cure” as yet. Although there are many many books written on the subject – I know because I read quite a few when I was going through depression myself – and all are talking about a black dog taking over your life and learning to live with it so it doesn’t overtake your life anymore.

There are also many forums where people share their experiences in the hope it will help them – and whilst I agree it is great to realise you are not alone, I found it didn’t help me, the same ideas that I had read in the books were going around those forums, there was nothing new there.

This is the only mental illness I still fear for myself.

I had never experienced depression before I moved back to the UK, I was always quite a cheerful person in fact, especially when the circumstances were right – and to suddenly find myself plunged in the depth of despair was very traumatic for me, I tried as hard as I could not to be dragged down, anyway I could, did everything I knew was supposed to help, exercised, walked in nature, look at positive stuff, try to understand my depression etc, yet I was constantly being pulled from underneath and started to sink. To the point that I just wanted to die.

I have mentioned before, the only reason why I didn’t actually kill myself was thanks to my dog. I couldn’t find a way to do it while ensuring his safety. I even thought of taking him with me, but was worried what would happen if I failed my suicide and found I had killed him, or if I succeeded my attempt but he’d still be alive – who would rescue him then?

And so I got myself to the doctors and demanded medication, which my doctor had resisted giving me until then. It took a lot for me to do this as I am scared of medication – and the few people I knew in my life who had taken medication for depression told me being on it and coming off it was worse than the depression itself – so I was pretty desperate when I got myself to the doctors and said I needed help through medication and I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

And it worked, the new doctor I saw gave me a low dosage of anti-depressants and within weeks, the black cloud lifted. I came off the medication soon after that too, as I was conscious staying on it too long could be addictive. And I knew I would be fine, I just needed that stupid black cloud to go away.

Recently, two people in my life came off anti-depressants soon after meeting me.

One who isn’t in my life much, a girl I met via the Social Group I had created on Facebook and whom, to be honest, I have kept my distance from as she seemed very unstable. That group though seemed to help her take positive decisions in her life, and she has thanked me on occasions for creating it. She recently announced, clumsily, on facebook that she had decided to quit the meds and start living again. I shall try and keep informed how she is doing as she hasn’t really been in touch much since I left Facebook, but I am pleased she has decided to take control over her life again and I hope she is successful.

The other person is my new guy friend – I only found out when we met the second time that he was medicating for depression and he has since gradually stopped his medication.

I am trying to understand how people shift their perceptions that it enables them to decide to free themselves from depression – I know I couldn’t, despite all I was trying – and had to resort to medication.

The only thing that I can see is that maybe, all it takes is a friendly ear. An independent, no agenda friendly ear.

And looking back, this is what I missed when I was going through my depression. The rare people who were trying to help me had an agenda, they wanted me better. Whether it was my family, or the medical profession – I attended CBT sessions too – all wanted me better. And so the pressure they put on me made it all the harder for me, I felt I was failing them, and myself, by not being able to get better – and so I started to shut them off too. I was tired of hearing their own despair, in the case of my family – in their voice. In fact, I now realise the only person who made a difference to me in that time was my brother – I remember chatting with him one day explaining how bad I was feeling and he said “You’ll get there, I have faith in you – you can do it”.

And then there was my mate who lodged with me recently. He would come every night to walk Frodo and Sam with me during the week. No pressure, no heavy talking, no trying to help me, just there, and go for a walk with me. I have mentioned before, this was my only lifeline during that time.

So I am getting the picture that people with depression just really need someone or someones just to be there.

I know there is the Samaritans, and I did call them during that period once, but even they have an agenda, to prevent you from wanting to kill yourself. And so I really didn’t find it useful, they were interested in getting me out of my rut. Well, no-one could get me out of my rut at the time. Not even me. And that’s what scares me about depression, it really is like something takes over you and will push you down no matter what. And it touches a wide variety of people in this world, with no discrimination. Kids even get depressed! And animals too as I believe my dog did too when his lovely, happy world got turned upside down and he lost my husband, who he loved too and got stuck with me who wasn’t a fun person anymore.

I am realising that maybe the only people who can actually help you during your depression are those who just don’t care about it. 

I know when my new friend told me he had depression and he had been medicated for a long while through it, I instantly felt detached from him. I knew I couldn’t help him, and nor I wanted to. By then I had started my disconnection from people and depression was definitely something I wanted to leave well alone. I liked him, a lot, but I wasn’t going to get involved in that side of him.

And since, he has taken his own decisions about coming off medication and done his own thing, occasionally updating me on his progress, although I never ask these days. Yesterday, he told me he hadn’t taken his medication in over two weeks and made some joke about something else to which I responded “lol” – the fact that he hadn’t taken his medication for two weeks really registered nothing with me. Not even a well done. I don’t know how he feels about it, whether he was expecting me to say anything or congratulate him, but I just didn’t care truth be told.

Maybe that’s the answer to helping people through depression – it’s to just not care. I am not saying I don’t care about him, of course I do, and I want him to be happy – but I just don’t care how he does it. 

Maybe if people stopped putting so much pressure on people to get out of depression, maybe they will.

Mental Health: Why I refuse to be labelled

Following my two, what the medical profession calls Psychosis, they tried to label me Bipolar.

I fervently refuse this diagnosis, and have found myself going against the flow from the medical profession but also from the mass of people who are happy to accept such diagnosis.

From my observations, being labelled seems to be a means of explaining your behaviour: I can’t help it if I (insert whatever behavourial issue you fancy) it’s because I am (insert whichever diagnosis).

I refuse to accept that because I firmly believe we are responsible for our own actions.

We react to ourselves, to whatever experience we have lived that makes us who we are.

Until we take responsibility for this, we are not going to change.

And so being labelled gives you this sense that it is ok to carry on on that path, without needing to question the deep rooted reasons why we are such. Worst still if you take the appropriate medication, all will be just fine.

There is a reason why you “misbehave”, why you don’t feel you fit in and you need to embrace it rather than deny or suppress it. This is how I became awakened.

I have found I need a lot of emotional stimulation, and so I have found ways to get this. Eg, the pages I have registered with on Facebook talk about love, self improvement/discovery, scientific stuff, posters that make you think.

I have found I have problems relaxing as my mind seems forever active, and so I have found alternative ways to relax. Eg floatation tanks and taking baths in silent, by candlelight, or listening to music whilst driving.

I have found I am a deep thinker, and so I have found ways to express my thoughts. Eg, this blog.

I have found I have problems sleeping for long periods of time, and so I go to sleep when I am tired and complement with naps when needed. I also now have little organised at weekends so I can properly relax.

I have found I get bored easily and I have a short attention span however I am very curious, and so I have found a variety of activities to get involved in which stimulate my needs. Eg, getting involved in all sorts of short activities.

I have found I had emotions stemming from experiences from the past that had been left not dealt with, and so I confront them, one by one as they arise. Eg, see previous entries in this blog, The man who broke me, My cross, etc, I talk to my parents regularly too about issues I need to resolve. Also issues at work.

I have found I lack confidence expressing myself in public, and so I am going to learn. Eg, I found a public speaking group in my town.

I have found I cannot exercise the usual way, and so I am looking for activities that will help me exercise as well as doing something else. Eg, learning to modern Jive, will also soon be getting a table tennis table.

I have found I get stressed easily, and so I have found ways to avoid stress in my life. Eg, I spent time organising my paperwork so I don’t spend hours looking for stuff, same with my wardrobe.

I have found I am over sensitive and have a lot of empathy, and so I have adjusted my life to only let in what I can handle. Eg being very selective of who I let into my life and the images that are displayed in my newsfeed, not reading the papers.

I have found I need to feel I am making a difference to this world, and so I am taking steps to make a difference to my world. Eg the Social groups I have created on Facebook, one which deals with getting people together and the other to tackle the litter issue in my town, volunteering at the animal rescue center, soon to get involved with “wellbeing” group at work.

I have found I need to know why I am here. And so I am looking at the options and what spirituality means.

Knowing yourself without labels is what enables you to thrive and adjust what needs adjusting so you can be a happy, balanced person. Not medications, which numbs your brain, nor listening to the experts or people who seem to know best, who have no clue about who you are.

Only you know who you are. It’s your job to make yourself better.

Open Letter to a Psychiatrist

 

I got a copy of the Discharge Summary the psychiatrist, who I met once for an hour while at the mental health ward submitted to my doctor and I got a bit pissed off by what she said. I felt it needed addressing. This is the letter I am sending her:

 

Dear [Psychiatrist]

Re: Discharge Summary submitted for [me] dated 2/10/2013

I am in receipt of a copy of the discharge summary you submitted to Dr xx, copy enclosed for ease of reference, and part of its contents has me puzzled.

During my admission, you spoke to me once, for about an hour, at my last ward review when my section was lifted, yet apparently this was enough for you to make judgement on my condition, that you refer to as Bipolar Effective Disorder and also declare a lack of faith on how I intend to remedy this condition, ie quit alcohol for the foreseeable future, if not ever, and stabilise my mood without resorting to medication whilst dealing with issues which affect me.

I came across this behaviour before from a fellow psychiatrist in Canada, who, he too felt speaking to me for an hour, while I was heavily sedated the day after I was admitted, was enough to declare I was bipolar and needed heavy medication, and I have decided now was the time to put a few things straight.

First of all, I am puzzled how you can make such a judgement having spoken to me for only an hour. You know nothing about me, my past and what brought me there, yet you are happy to diagnose me. And for the record what happened to me on 27 August (by the way, you got the admission date wrong on your document, as well as the spelling of my first name in the summary) was a little more than a “brief manic episode”, speak to the Police Officers who brought me in and you might realise this.

And yes indeed, in Canada I have suffered two similar episodes, which I told this hospital about, but again you don’t know any of the circumstances. No-one can really understand what happened to bring me to those unless they have lived under my skin and know what has been going on in my life for the last 30 years.

I will try and explain a few things to you in the hope you might learn something your text books clearly didn’t explain to you.

You mentioned in the summary that I have “an understanding that one of the factors that sometimes contributes to relapse is that I stop drinking”.

First of all these episodes are not “relapses” they occur when I stop repressing my deep feelings by quitting alcohol.

You might have noticed in your line of business, or simply by looking around people in every day life, most people these days have various ways of repressing their feelings. Why? My bet is because they don’t know how to deal with the truth, which is they are not satisfied with their lives.

Some drink a little too often and a little too much, some play computer games for hours, some go to the gym or do a sportive activity to excess, some take drugs/smoke pot, some watch TV for hours on end, or work long hours, whatever is available to forget their lot.

I decided twice in my life to stop escaping myself. Simple. I don’t call that a relapse but an awakening.

The first time was semi-successful except I started to suffer from depression because my life was pretty shitty after my husband left me to pick up with my best friend, in a foreign country where we had just moved to and I found myself being forced to move back to the UK with two suitcases, an empty house and a little saving to start my life from scratch.

This was tough, I can assure you, and when the depression lifted, with a little help from light medication, I started drinking again, because that was the only way I knew how to cope with stress and also it gave me confidence to “fit in” again in the normal world – have you noticed how much alcohol is part of society these days? Pretty scary I’d say.

I soon realised I had started using alcohol to mask unhappy feelings again, this happened when I started dating the wrong chap, and I decided to quit for the second time.

The wave of repressed feelings hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. This time though, I decided to ride the wave.

It felt good actually, and I got over excited, started lots of worthy community projects whilst still processing 30 years of repressed emotions and I got burnt out. I started to sleep less and less due to the excitement, and started to behave in a manic behaviour. I actually spoke to my doctor about this a couple of weeks before the incident which brought me in. What happened that day cannot be easily explained and in fact, I don’t think scientific knowledge can explain it, but this isn’t something I am willing to discuss with you as I have little faith about your ability to understand such behaviour.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to clarify. You “somehow doubt” that I know what I am doing. Which is to manage my drinking sensibly whilst dealing with emotions I need to deal with – you cited issues with my mother but it runs much deeper than this – and not to use mood stabilising medication. You even suggest I should take medication long term, if I remember correctly at the ward review, you mentioned something about “for life”.

You met me for only an hour – and yes granted, you may have had feedback from the other professionals I spoke to, namely my primary Nurse and the Psychologist that I requested to see during my stay – yet you feel you know me enough to pass such judgements. Worst of all that I should be on medication for life!

I just do not understand why Psychiatrists’ answer to everything seems to be medication. I got exactly the same from the psychiatrist I had the displeasure to deal with in Canada.

Is that what they teach you at school? Meds are the answer? I was really hoping they’d teach you a bit about human spyche, enough that you’d learn it takes time to get to know a complete stranger to be able to fully grasp what might have gone wrong with them emotionally to then put them on the right track.

And no, that doesn’t mean which meds will numb them enough to function again in society. It means helping them process their feelings properly, feelings which usually range from fear, shame, guilt and anger, depending on what has happened to them to get them there (most likely some kind of abuse when they were younger).

Really not rocket science this, but apparently judging by what I observed during my stay at the ward, you professionals don’t seem to have a clue.

Patients there were really left to their own devices. I got the support I needed because I asked for it. Oh yes, it was there, but it seemed you guys concentrated on finding the right meds, rather than really getting to the nitty gritty of speaking to the patients on a regular basis to find out exactly what was in their heads, what happened to them to make them mis-function and how they may be able to deal with it, what support is available etc.

I believe mental health wards are the best place for people with mental health issues, however, they need help once in there. Yes granted, medication can help regulate inappropriate behaviour, but talking is what is needed more of.

I met a fellow patient today at Tesco [girl]. A lovely girl, I was very fond of her whilst at the ward. I recognised only too well the signs of over medication when I saw her. My face lit up as I went to say hi and hug her – she just looked at me spaced out. I managed to have a normal conversation with her, but I knew this wasn’t the real [girl].

Is this really what you are trying to achieve? I sure hope not.

Anyway, I needed to say my piece, for what it’s worth. I might or might not have a stay at the mental health ward again in the future, but it really doesn’t worry me. I know it’s not the end of the world, and sometimes, a place like this is the best place to be to process emotions, because, apparently there you are left completely alone to deal with your lot, and there’s plenty of fun activities to join in when the mood takes you. A great place to holiday I have decided. Shame about the stigma attached to it.

Please feel free to comment, clarify your thinking should you wish to.

Yours sincerely

My Take on Mental Health

I mentioned in an earlier post that I recently had a Psychosis and that my stay in a mental health ward was a real eye opener.

When I lived in Canada, I suffered a couple of Psychosis too and stayed in one of the top hospitals there, The Centennial Centre, and another smaller ward too south of Alberta.

After my stays in Canada, I had a lot of thoughts about mental health but I didn’t want to talk about it until I was sure of my thinking, this latest stay has confirmed a lot for me: most professionals have no clue how to deal with mental health issues.

All they seem to do is give you medications to control whatever mental health issue you have experienced, wait til the meds work (this can take weeks, and months even) and send you on your way. To see you again next time you loose the plot, and so the cycle starts again, different meds, different dosage and off you go.

Am I really the only person who sees the problem here?

Every single patient I have come to know has one big issue: inability to deal with something they have experienced in their past.

Usually it’s abuse related, but it could be anything their brain and heart haven’t been able to come to terms with. There lies the disconnection, you can rationalise your thinking as much as you want, if your heart doesn’t follow suit, it ain’t going to happen, And so they go through life feeling more and more tortured, mostly trying to repress this ache they feel, self medicating with alcohol and/or drugs until eventually, the brain can’t take it no more and something snaps.

This, to me, is what mental illness is about.

I have so far only heard of a handful of people who genuinely can’t find any reasons why they are depressed, I guess that’s called clinical depression.

So my rocket science answer? Talk, get it out, process what has happened that makes you feel so messed up, find a way to deal with it. STOP TRYING TO REPRESS IT, it won’t work. It cannot work. You need to get rid of the shame, guilt, fear and anger that tie you down. Trust me. Meds are good to calm you down a bit, enough so you can start processing safely but they are not the answer.

During my stays, the only good counselling I had was talking to other patients about their experiences that got them there. Slowly but surely I started to realise that is the best councelling in the world, talking with people who have experienced similar situations, found how they coped, or didn’t as the case maybe. Realising you are not alone is the first positive feeling coming from this, and then giving each other a different perspective on the problem another. A problem shared is a problem halved, the more you share the smaller it becomes.

I get so angry with the medical profession because they just don’t seem to understand the basic.

When I left the hospital last Friday, I had a chat with my primary care nurse, a great woman who gave me all the support I asked for. I told her I found it amazing that in my two weeks there not one professional talked to me about my psychosis itself. She said it was because they didn’t really understand it. I got very confused what they were doing working in a Mental Health ward without knowing exactly everything there was to know about mental illness.

And then I thought back to my stay in Ponoka, same thing. No-one there talked to me about Psychosis, even worse there, after an hour of chatting with me the day after I was admitted, the Psychiatrist doctor decided I had Bipolar. AN HOUR would you believe?? And straight after I had been admitted and pumped up with medication. How many diplomas do you need to fuck it up do you reckon?

Misdiagnosis is king in Mental Health. People finally relieved there is really “something wrong” with them go home “happily” thinking “well there you go, now I know what’s wrong with me, I shall just take those meds and everything should be alright”. No they won’t, they will never be alright until you process what has got you there in the first place.

My first Psychosis happened shortly after I stopped self medicating with dope and alcohol. Once my brain became alive again, I got floaded by thoughts and emotions I had repressed for over 20 years.

I’ll tell you what was wrong with me. I had a negative experience sexually when I was young and I let the shame, guilt, anger build inside of me, as it was, had to be, a secret.

For many years this repression affected my relationships. I could never ever find happiness with anyone and I thought it was because of this. Sometimes I would tell my partners and it kinda gave me Carte Blanche to not get intimate with them. I would only get intimate after drinking, when my barriers fell down and I could relax enough to have sex. And eventually that died down because sex, as fun as it may be, doesn’t give you the emotional connection needed to make love. And so relationships messed up eventually.

During my first psychosis, I actually opened up about that negative experience. Directly to the person concerned. And do you know what? He felt as shit as I did about it. And I was then able to forget about it and put it down to experience. Sometimes you make mistakes in life and you need to learn from them. No Regrets now. Such a liberating feeling.

The “Psychosis”, which looking back, lasted a few weeks, enabled me to open up without a care in the world to all sorts of people about stuff that had been bothering me most of my adult life.

My mother’s adoration for her (dead) brother, who I knew had abused his daughters, she got to hear how I felt about this man. Since then, not one word about him. Phew!

My dad “abandoning” us when my mum and dad split up. Him and I are so close now.

I still have two major issues I need to deal with, one concerns my mum and the other, God. God incidently was the subject of my last psychosis.

I got angry with him.  How dare he give up on us so easily. How dare he punish Adam and Eve so dramatically that we are now left with such a shit world that nature and animals are starting to suffer, how dare he let people abuse people, even more so defenseless beings and nature?

I have found my connection to God and I won’t bother trying to explain it to anyone. If anyone is curious, I will just say, “Can you explain love? but you know it exists right? well the connection to God is just like that, you can’t explain it, yet you know it exists”. I have also decided that there is no point looking for God, just as there isn’t looking for love, he’ll find you. or not as the case may be. Funnily enough, you have heard it say many a time that God is love.

I also get angry about this Jeebus story, but that’ll be a post for another time.

Oh and I like to call him God because it reads Dog in reverse, and I love Dogs, without a shadow of a doubt, yet I can’t explain why.

This was what my Psychosis was about: on the morning I woke up, I was angry at God and I wanted to prove to him that he made a mistake, people are worth caring about, people are worth saving. Apart from abusers. They can go to hell. I don’t care what excuses they have to be taking out their frustrations on other beings in such ways. We all know the difference between right and wrong. Whatever your beliefs are.

freedom

Happiness is a mental illness

I had a doctor’s appointment booked tonight for something and I thought I would mention that I was feeling slightly manic recently and that I haven’t really managed to get more than 5/6 hours sleep a night since I became a tea-total.

I also explained to her what happened to me after my husband and I split up, when I stopped alcohol and drugs straight and went into a big manic phase which got out of control and for which I had treatment to give her some background as to why I felt I needed to mention my current mood.

Well, she is referring to a psychiatrist for assessment and talked about possible mood stabilisers (apparently much better than they used to be). She said when someone says they are happy all the time, it rings alarm bells to her. A friend of mine said something similar recently “No-one can be happy all the time”.

Well, guess what? As I am sitting here typing, tears are filling my eyes. It seems being happy is a mental illness.

I know I have been manic recently, but for the first time in my life, I am living free from addictions (dope, alcohol and toxic relationships) and re-discovering the world in a different light.

I have everything I need to be happy. I have a job I truly love, I have good friends, I have two lovely kitties, I have a nice house which doesn’t cost me a fortune, I have a car, I earn enough money that I don’t have to need for anything. I am closer than ever to my family, I am having healthy fun in my life. I have started successful worthy projects, I have reconnected with people I had neglected during my depression, I have made up with my husband and forgiven my best friend for being with him. I am now starting to turn my attention to what I can bring to the world and people who may need help and it brings me great pleasure.

Yet I should be on medication.

Funny thing happened when I was starting to type I was feeling tearful. A man, a Rastafarian, knocked on my door. He was looking for a house on the estate, No 8 something Close.

He said as I opened the door, “I know this isn’t the right place because the number is different but I don’t know where to look”.

I offered to look up the direction and asked him to come in. I showed him where he needed to go and as he left, he said he was going to visit his grandchildren that he hadn’t seen for a long time, you could see the happiness on his face, mixed with some sadness in his eyes. I smiled, feeling happy for him, and happy that I was there to help him find his way.

How many people would have opened the door to this man and told him he was at the wrong house and sent him on his way?

That little moment of connection we shared when he told me about his excitement of seeing his little ones was all I needed to make me realise I am not going crazy: Life really is wonderful and full of special moments.

Three times during our little encounter he said “God bless you”. I am not religious, but I felt what he was telling me. I realise he probably wasn’t expecting the welcome he got. This warmed my heart and left me with a big smile.

I am learning to appreciate life now I have nothing to worry about and sometimes I get a little over excited. After 23 years of repressing my feelings, I’m not surprised sometimes, all this processing gets a bit much.

And now to convince the “experts”. Perfect timing actually since I have been wondering what my contribution to the mental health issue could be.

And anyway, that doctor gave me something serious to worry about: apparently, I am one kilo in the obese zone. Bummer.

Cannabis

Something has been bugging me big time recently and I just don’t know what to do about it.

At the moment, I am learning to “choose my battles” carefully. As I mentioned in my Post about the challenges of staying positive, I cannot change the world, I know that and so I try to do what I can in little ways to better my little world, hoping that if everyone starts doing the same, eventually, it WILL have a ripple effect and the world may start changing for everybody (my world is already changing for the better). L’espoir fait vivre.

However there is a subject that I feel extremely strongly about and I just don’t know how to approach it to make a difference, and it is starting to sadden me: Cannabis.

I used to smoke pot, a reasonable amount. I used it only in my private life and went about my professional life without it. I became a master at it, I knew how long the buzz would last so I was “back to normal” before work started for instance, or was able to drive home after a meet up with friends.

I could take it or leave it, and had many years without and then I would start smoking it again and for a few months, then stop again,

When I lived in Canada, it became part of my everyday life. I was happy to smoke it alone (my husband had knocked it on the head after we had a bad experience whilst having a dinner party), and I would have a few drags of a joint before taking my dog for a walk before work.

Smoking it was actually a very uplifting feeling for me in the morning. I would set off with my dog for long walkies by the river and marvel at the beauty of the world. I loved hearing the birds tweeting and watch the Sun rise, with my heart full of hope and joy to be alive and living in this wonderful part of the world (Alberta, CN). I took some amazing pictures too during that time.

I could walk for hours in that wonderful state of mind, I’d meet people along the way and have chats here and there, I really felt so good.

In the evenings, I would use it to level my moods. If my husband came back from work and things didn’t go well, I’d go and have a few drags and come back all relaxed and happy. And so the evening could start again on a better footing.

With friends, I smoked it to replace alcohol, I much preferred being stoned than drunk. When Drunk, the truth would spurt out of me, often without care or tact, and I could often upset people. When stoned though, I was a very different person. Everything and anything interested me, being around me then was a whole different experience.

All this stopped for me when I went to share a joint with a friend after my husband and I split up. I had two drags on it, and hoped it would “take me away” from the turmoil my life had become (as two weeks earlier my husband told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore and then told me he wanted to be with my best friend). Things were complicated at the time and that girl was not the best choice to have that joint with (she was also one of my best friend’s closest friends).

There were issues between her and I and within minutes of having had those drags, I felt threatened and wanted to leave. She wouldn’t let me (trying to make me stay by force) and I suffered a panic attack, my first.

The experience freaked me out and I decided I had to stop smoking pot to deal with what was going on. So I did. That was two years ago. And I haven’t missed it at all since.

So it’s fair to say, apart from the last one, I had a very positive experience smoking pot, and it doesn’t appear to be addictive.

Yet, I have a problem with it now. I have a problem with anything that alters your mood that isn’t natural, and Cannabis, to me, comes under that category.

I have no doubts that it has its benefits, any natural product does, and yes, maybe it can help with pain relief, some say even help with Cancer. Fine. But let’s be honest, it isn’t what the majority of the people campaining to legalise it use it for.

The worst of all, it is being used by people with Mental Illnesses, proclaiming it levels their mood when nothing else has worked. And now, I see some top doctors are coming out saying it’s ok to use it.

It worries me.

On the Mental Health side, to me, it’s a chicken and egg situation. I have a feeling deep down that Cannabis actually creates a lot of the mental health issues there are around. Most sufferers I know are smokers, or previous drug takers and so it’s hard to see what came first.

Now, I also understand the financial side, as most campaigners seem to have latched on to that aspect of it = if it’s legalise it can be better controlled. I am actually rather amazed that Governments haven’t jumped at the chance of making more money out of people’s misery (I guess maybe they are happy with the income they get from cigarettes and booze already).

I also understand the argument about how people can get sent to jail for possession and sometimes the sentence is inappropriate compared to other crimes, when really Cannabis is not a big deal (its effect on behaviour being far less damaging than the effect of alcohol), and people should be free to do what they want.

I just don’t understand why people don’t see that smoking pot is yet another way to mask reality: they feel they are unable to cope with life without it.

I will admit I was a bit worried when I stopped that I would loose this wonderful feeling of well being I experienced walking my dog. Soon after I stopped, I also suffered from depression (for the first time in my life) and so it made me think maybe I should have carried on smoking pot as I never felt depressed then. But instead, I faced my life. And eventually came out the other side.

These last few weeks, I have started to feel the exact same feeling of well being I had when I was smoking pot.

I have started to love doing the exact same things I used to love doing while stoned. Walking a friend’s dog, marvelling at nature, snapping away anything that catches my eyes, chatting to random strangers, and best of all, I have a great big smile on my face when I do these activities.

How did I get there? I believe it’s because I sorted out the issues I was previously hiding thanks for the pot and alcohol.

Yes, I guess this is what is bugging me about smoking pot. It’s another form of escapism. Is your life really that bad that you need pot? If so, deal with your issues, because they won’t go away until you do, Pot is only helping you cope better. It’s just another crutch.

Wanna be happy? Learn to live without crutches.

[I will talk more about Mental Health and drugs in the future]

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