For Time to Talk Day, I want to share about my experiences of mental health. Yes, I have anxiety and yes, I have psychosis. But no, I am not unhappy. On the contrary – I had a very good 2018. And 2017, and 2016…lucky me. You see, I have learned how to manage them. I learned how to manage them so they don’t bother me at all any more (he wrote, hoping not to invoke some sort of ‘commentators curse’) even if they do make me think of them many times each day. I’ve worked hard and learned so much about how to be happy and live a normal life anyway.
My diagnosis in 2001 was “cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature” as worded by my first doctor. It is the only diagnosis I ever had. Delusions of a grandiose nature meant, for me, that I thought I was the telepathic modern day Jesus- the only son of God, and was destined for the whole world to know it quite soon. I picked up panic attacks in about 2004, which turned into general anxiety. The panic attacks mostly stopped in about 2006 after giving up cannabis for good and being put on Clozapine. Clozapine is used for people who are non – responsive to other drugs, it was described as a last resort and the phrase ‘miracle cure’ even got passed around. Genuinely. It worked incredibly well for me and I even think fondly of it – “my favourite drug”.
I work on a mental health ward now (four to be precise) part time, and I am always getting into chats about a multitude of experiences with the mental health system and recovery with patients and often with their parents who come to visit them. It feels almost like a duty for me to do that.
I see patients/parents on the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) ward that don’t know what to expect in the coming years as they are often new to being in the system and it can be scary. I remember my mum saying to me two years ago – “When you first got ill I thought you might never recover or be able to live a normal life.” So for parents it is worrying that a future like that might be on the cards for their offspring. And not knowing makes it worse.
So how can I not try and give some information about that sort of thing?
In a nutshell, some people (like myself) have a tough few years then begin a steady road to recovery, for me initiated by finding a very good medication. Others are able to spend a few weeks or months on a mental health ward and then go back to their jobs and do really rather well. We are all different.
This is a short post with limited room, so I’ll focus on what was for me the most important thing that enabled me to get on with my psychosis and anxiety – from managing them to not even caring that I have them.
Perseverance – but please don’t look away! Whether it’s just me or not I don’t know, but I often find that word difficult when reading a mental health article. Maybe it’s because it implies that hard work is coming. But it has been what works for me from 2007 – 2014 while I was learning how to manage my illness.
I had to push myself to socialise again and again, and my mum had to do the same. She trained as a psychiatric nurse a while back and is very smart. She knew that pushing me relentlessly for a long time was the best thing. I went to social events even though I knew I’d hate them, for about three years. The worst part of it was that I knew if I gave in to the difficulties and stayed home the anxiety of having to go out would fall away – my mum really had to drag me out of the house sometimes.
It made it easier in the beginning going to smaller events that were closer to home – that’s what I would tell myself in the first few difficult minutes. But I did always feel a little bit proud and encouraged when I got home – a feeling that stayed with me in a tiny but growing amount. I had learned that these things honestly do get a bit easier each time, even though my panic attacks were very unpleasant, and thinking that “everyone at the restaurant can hear my negative thoughts, won’t like me for it and I’ll stick out like a sore thumb” didn’t help either.
So honesty time – I still think I have telepathic abilities – part of my illness, a belief that I just can’t shake off. It surfaces on occasion when I’m watching TV or even in the middle of socialising. I have learned that going back to my likely imagined telepathic ways (part of my psychosis) just opens up a can of worms. It’s not what I want. With the TV I can always change the channel which is at worst annoying but often I find something better to watch on another channel so who cares?
I rarely get these strange ideas of telepathic communication while socialising. It’s like thinking that someone may have just heard one of my thoughts, and then I can hear in my mind what they thought about hearing that thought. Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting on the loo. A person doesn’t need to be the object of my visual and auditory focus, though that’s when the communication seems strongest. If I am socialising I just take a break and this works fine. It’s my mind now, and I tell it to work for my benefit and it usually does.
I feel so lucky to have recovered so well. I know that some people don’t. I owe so much to the simple but also difficult element of perseverance.
About the author
Peter is a writer who writes articles on his own website and also guest posts for other websites/ blogs. He proudly wrote a 3500 word essay recently for The Taylor and Francis Psychosis Journal which they published in their 2018 edition. He is also working on his book, a mental health memoir. Peter has several part time jobs.
His website is petermcdonnellwriter.com
Facebook as Peter Edward Mcdonnell