I don’t know when I first lost my marbles. I think rather than the whole bag going overnight, perhaps I lost them gradually over the years. Looking back, I don’t think I was ever well, over 24 yrs before I was eventually rescued. They never gave me my marbles back, but I have gradually found my own sanity over the last ten years. Life pre-diagnosis is a blur under a dark heavy cloud with just odd spots of brightness. The childhood ‘horror’ of having a parent who didn’t want to know embarrasses me now because all those other kids went through far more than rejection and survived or struggled. Why I took it so bad is another story. When he died, it was like I gave up because there was no longer the hope of a reconciliation.
Intervention during that time would have proved useful. It would have been invaluable had I had the insight to my mental health. Instead, every antidepressant didn’t work and would send me even more manic until the exasperated Doctor told me to get a book from Amazon. Sorry, who, where? Id never heard of them. I needed a psychiatrist, and moving house and Doctors did that for me. I sound contradictory, I know. In my last blog, I say I’m coming off the medication, and here I am saying I needed more than a fucking book. Different horses for courses and I will return to this point in my next blog. By this stage, I had, sadly, gone beyond a book. I couldn’t be fixed with books if the medication didn’t work. What I needed was a professional intervention, an expert in mental health. Thankfully that is what I got from my very own superhero.
My first psychiatrist spoiled me because he was every inch of the man I put on a pedestal. Perhaps because he gave everything I was feeling a name; a title. He passed me a shiny new pin that said Bipolar disorder on it. I can still feel the relief now when he uttered those words. Man how immaculately turned out he was ‘pristine’ like my said new pin. This diagnosis and the lithium helped stabilise my mood, and here is where I think it all goes pear-shaped and the next ten years becomes lived in a fog. Life happened, and no one considered it. It was all too much to bear not only for a recently diagnosed bipolar man getting used to his new meds while continuing to run a business but for anyone even of stable mind. In six months, my marriage broke down, and I lost my home, I lost my business and a part-time job. Then the killer blow, a tragedy of epic proportions. So from there at every session with the mental health team (I had moved and no longer saw Mr Pristine) every blip, every struggle I was asked the following question: ‘what is wrong with you’ rather than ‘what happened to you?’ Look up Eleanor Langdon and her Ted talk. She is an inspiration to anyone with mental health.
I was in mental health services for ten years, and in that time, I gained just six therapy sessions to talk about the shit I was struggling to control. They gave me three more sessions, but I had to lie about why I needed the extra sessions. Can you imagine telling someone with bipolar not to be paranoid over lying about why you need more sessions? I am still on a waiting list and have been for three years for some sessions I must ring and ask them to remove me from that list. Yet when it came to increasing the doses of medication, they were freely available to you, and you were encouraged to take them.
I don’t want to sound bitter. But people who, like me, are broken can be fixed. People who lose their path in life can find a whole new better one again I will quote Eleanor Langdon for a second time here we do not want to be diagnosed, drugged and discarded. Under the wait of those six months of life events, I continued to struggle. I tried to put on the appearance of being normal mentally, but I couldn’t keep it up. So my journey started there to rediscover me. I was in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find the key to unlock the box and let me out again.
I tried to read anything that may help me psychologically while I continued to take the medications prescribed. In my time in services, I have always taken my medication and had my blood tests because I believe that I am taking responsibility for my health. I would never have stopped or reduced them without professional advice. There were times I asked, and the direction was not now, and I accepted that. I tried again sometime later, and I struggled, I didn’t feel right, so I reverted to what I had been taking before the reduction. It finally worked, and I didn’t notice the drop, but it took over three months. You can’t just stop! I believed then was the right time. If I had carried on regardless, I would have set myself back on my recovery. It was better to wait patiently. Recovery from mental health is not a race; it is a marathon.
Mental health recovery is like standing on the edge of a lake and making that first step on to a stone jutting out of the water. There is a path of stones leading you to the other side, but you have to take one action at a time. I have sat in mental health workshops and felt threatened because someone in the room was on a medication reduction program. I used to scoff at the idea. I had chosen to accept who I was. Accept who I was? I wasn’t ready, clearly, but with that in mind, I worry about other people who stop without advice because they want to be like him, or her. Mental health is so complex, and we are all so different that all everyone needs to concentrate on is not him or her but their journey. Make that first step then the next when YOU ARE READY.
It’s been ten years since these life events, and for the last five years, I have been slowly recovering, yet I still had five years in total wilderness. I love my life. I am now excited to get up each day I’m excited to feel happy and not have cloudy dark days. I have still so much more to work on to cross the recovery bridge. This moment right now hitting the keyboard a cup of black tea to my right. Working again being up at 7 am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I now also have the discovery I mentioned in the last blog that has turned my life around even more. Remember too that labels are for jars. That pin had BIPolar written on it, and I wore it. I’m Bipolar it said, and you become labelled by it. I cared for a while but no longer do anymore. My marbles are back with me in my pocket as I walk each day. It seems I hadn’t lost them at all.