Is there a witty side to mental illness

Is there a witty side to mental illness

I have found a rather interesting site which provides a daily prompt for blog posts. If you are a blogger like myself, a ‘fits and starts’ type, it might be useful. The site is called The Daily Post , check it out and see what you think.

Anyway, I have decided to take up their challenge of both writing a post every day, and also writting a post ‘inspired’ by the daily prompt. The word today is witty. Now as I write mainly about my personal experience with mental illness, and occasionally my views on mental illness, trying to formulate a blog post around the word witty is interesting.

Here.  I have to be careful, putting witty and mental health could get me in trouble. Some people could take it that I am saying mental illness is funny, I am not, though I do laugh at myself. This I think is my first point, the ability to laugh at yourself. I do stupid things, I spend money when I know full well that I don’t really have it to spend. Until recently I drank (see my post ‘The trouble with alcohol and mental health’), and other things that made my life just that bit more difficult.

Now I used to get angry at myself for doing these things, fuelled the self loathing, gave myself more to mentally beat myself up, now I try to laugh them off. Logically I know what I have done and what the results of my actions will be, I now accept that it cannot be undone, so it is ‘counter productive?’ For me beat myself up. I try to say to myself “oh well, thats another fuck up” and move on. I do talk to myself a lot, often out loud when alone, I try to keep a positive mindset by joking with myself.

This leads nicely into my second point, what some call ‘military humour’, though I believe it is shared by many front line services. When you see a lot of bad things often the way to accept it, is to joke about it. Now I feel I am coming close to the line, but fuck it I will say it anyway, “why the hell can we not joke about mental health”. I know someone who had a heart attack last week, I seen him today laughing and joking about it. My own mum passed away as a result of cancer just a few months ago (another time) and right up until the end she kept her sense of humour.

Try to make light of mental health and run the risk of scorn and damnation. Is mental illness funny, no it is not, but neither are heart disease and cancer. Is the use of wit when explaining your condition wrong? This depends in my view, I am very open about my illness, I do take it very serious. However trying to explain my illness involves going into some rather heavy stuff, to those of casual acquaintance who enquire I simply say “oh I had a crap electrician wire my brain”, or “I am fit and healthy from the neck down”.

I think you get the picture, sometimes people enquire out of courtesy, they neither want, or, probably fully understand the clinical “I have <insert label here>”. My daughter read my last blog post and nearly cried, she hugged me tightly and said “daddy, it’s so sad”. Now compared to some of my past posts it was very matter of fact, at least that is what I thought. It got me thinking, do I write depressing posts?, and more so, is that the reason people read them, I really hope not.

I know that there is still a massive amount of stigma attached to mental illness, I actively support the education of the masses to the serious plight people face with mental health issues, but are we making a problem with a solution. As most mental illness involves some form of anxiety and/or depression, by stamping our feet so hard to get the masses to take us seriously do we not run a risk of further reinforcing  negative beliefs? Just a thought. Now I may have crossed the line with this post, and I do actively encourage debate (though just calling me a dumb asshole is neither constructive but possibly true….anyway) but I have said what I feel.

No person should take a characteristic of another and use it to cause them discomfort. That being said, within the confines of a social circle, you will often find banter, sarcastic wit and repartee the binding ingredient. I wonder if it is possible to use the power of social media to create such a place. I have just set up a Twitter group called The MHB Club which is open to anyone. There is a Facebook group called The MHB Club which you can ask to join.

So, before I get stoned (with metaphorical rocks not weed) please think, join the groups, spread the work, and let us use our wit to help each other, who knows it might actually work.

Love and peace to you all,

David

NB The picture for those that do not recognise it is the stoning scene from Monty Python, The life of Brian. If you have never seen it shame on you. Yes this is my.  Type of humour.

One year on

One year on

It is now 11:20 on the morning of the 18th of May 2016, I am writing this on a bus to London, a long journey but I must admit I enjoy it. I have time to think, to work, even to sleep, but it is not as long as the journey I have taken in the past twelve months. This time last year I was sat on the floor, facing a wall, staring at a picture of my daughter. I was in the office of a member of the local community mental health team, a man was trying to reach me. I was broken, when I spoke it was the language of hysteria. That day, I was no longer a person, I was not a father, son, lover, friend, human. I was a shell, it was not so much that I wanted to kill myself, I just could not face living.

I, today, accept my actions that day, and the days, weeks, months that followed. The guilt I have carried, the embarrassment and the shame, today, I lay them to rest. I know now that my actions that day, were the actions of self preservation, the last act of a desperate mind. I do not think that even now, a year later, I could describe how much mental damage I felt. I can only say that I knew nothing, felt nothing, I was no longer a person, I was a ghost.

I have always been able to lie, both verbally and physically. On that day there was no lies, I laid my soul out for all to see, and it was not a pretty sight. Today, I sit on the bus, wanting to write about how much I have achieved in the past year, wanting to share my fight back against mental illness. The sad truth is, I don’t think I can. There is still so much of me that is mending, others fragile, to fragile to even try to fix in fear of it breaking again. Few people will understand, unless they have been there. Looking healthy, happy and content, does not mean that I am, it means I have started to rebuild from the outside inwards.

My challenge now is how to move forward. I am training to be a therapist, yet I am still broken, who would accept help from someone who is possibly as damaged as they are?. I desperately want to strive forth into the world. Big and bold, look at me, I can help you, I want to help you. The desire is growing every day, I want it so very much, but there is a part of me that is holding me back. The part of me that fears the worst, the part of me that still sees the damage being repaired. It tells me “not yet, you are not strong enough”, “you will break yourself again, and next time you might not…….” (NB I can not even finish that sentence in writing).

Despite my conflict, I have found peace. I am mindful of the value of time, how much beauty and wonder I can find in a second. What started as a way to control my anxiety, has now become my happy place. Maybe it is because I have found this place that I am scared to move forward, what if I lose it. I have found ‘my plot’, I now need a way to bring the life that I want to me, to my ‘plot’. I can no longer afford to chase dreams, I must listen to that part of me that protects me. I must never forget what can happen if I become complacent. Every step I take from today will be towards the future that I have started to shape this past year. I will strive forth, I am ready, I think…………..

Opinions are like A**holes

Opinions are like A**holes

There is a great saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most are full of shit”. I like it, and being a very opinionated person (although nowhere near as bad as I used to be) it does me well to remember, am I being full of shit?. You see I, like many others, easily fall into the trap of thinking that what the other person wants to hear is my thoughts on the subject, often not the case. It is a fine line though, and it also depends on the circumstances. Let me give you two examples.

I have a friend, let us call him Mark. Mark, like many of us is travelling the road back from the dark place to more pleasant surroundings. Now Mark has found help in the form of a well-known self-help therapy that is on tv etc. Now Mark, likes it, feels it, and what is more is feeling the benefits from it. When I found out my first reaction was……. well to poo poo the idea. Yes, gasp you may, I, the person training to be a hypnotherapist, casting scorn upon another form of therapy. Okay, well here I stand, hand up, YES I AM A BLOODY HYPOCRITE. I do actually feel shamed, not just because I poo poo’d another form of therapy, but more so, that I practically rubbished it to the friend it was helping.

So that is my little example of why opinions can often be full of shit. Sometimes, (and I hope I have learned this lesson) it is best if we keep our thoughts to ourselves and not be too quick to judge. Especially when it comes to things that people find that ‘help’ them. Okay, I know what your thinking, “what if they are actually being a bit daft?”, well, I guess my answer to that is, “make sure you are there for them if it does not work out”. FYI saying “I was going to tell you but didn’t”, probably will not go down well, keep it to yourself.

My second example is slightly more serious, talking someone down. We have all, in our lives had that phonecall from a friend when the shit has hit the fan and they have had enough. Probably spent hours on the phone, talking, listening, consoling and agreeing that, yes, Tom, is a complete cockwomble and needs to be beaten with a horse whip (NB Tom is a fictional character and horse whipping is not to be condoned). The issue I want to raise is the one where, the person is not a friend, in fact, the person is someone you know next to nothing about, but, through the magic of the internet, has found you to be the one (or one of ones) to unload on.

The beauty of the internet is the anonymity that it provides. People can find it much easier to tell a complete stranger their troubles than a person they see every day. The trouble comes when those troubles are of such a magnitude, how do you cope? Take Mary for example, same as Mark, been down the road and back again so is no stranger to the darker aspects of life. Mary got talking to someone, someone who was in a bad way and like a good person, Mary tried to help. The long and the short of it being, that Mary actually felt bad for doing so. Now Mary went above and beyond to help. In my humble (and yes I am still humble from paragraph two) ‘opinion’, Mary was amazing. Mary however did not see this, she felt that possibly she had done too much, she actually felt embarrassed!

So I guess what I am trying to say, in my usual long-winded way, is that sometimes to help people you have to keep your mouth shut and just be ready if a person needs you down the line. Other times, you can never do too much, what you do might just be the thing that stops someone going the last step down the wrong road. Those that know, will know who they are, I just wish that again to one I can say I am sorry and to the other I am very proud, and that both of you are amazing.

The groundhog day of mental illness

The groundhog day of mental illness

It’s morning,

Early again,

I think I have had five hours sleep,

But hey, it’s a new day, time to start it all over again.

Get up, step on scales, tell scales to go fcuk themselves, go pee, wash hands, go grab phone, man bag and e cig, head downstairs. Glass of water, check, grind the coffee beans, check, boil the kettle, check. Same start to every day.

Probably no different to any other person on the planet, I guess a lot of people have routines that they go through. Mine is likely no different to any other knuckle dragging male who lives on his own, (it’s okay I am clothed). Anyway, beans ready…………….

Okay next up the ‘am I still alive checks’, first blood pressure….. 117/78 pulse 62, little low but then I am beyond a ‘resting’ BP lol. Next up smarties, SSRIs, anti-seizure meds and vits and bits yummy. Next first blood sugar test, 4.8mmol not bad for first thing and finally nasal spray, god, I feel like Charlie Sheen………

Okay next we plug all this into various apps on my phone, Actual time slept 5 hours 11 minutes, weight 12 st 7.1 lbs (+5.0lbs), then we tick off all these things as done….. and then check the list of things to do;

Make bed

Breakfast

zero inbox  – Overdue – (my never ending task to get on top of my emails)

Track my budget – Overdue – (that should be fun)

Eat some fruit – Overdue – (coffee beans are from plants)

Vacuum – Overdue – (yay I get to fight with the hoover)

Gardening – Overdue – (must add reminder to get dad to bring his mower over)

Yoga – Overdue – (definitely, not doing with my daughter in house #humiliation)

Write blog post – Overdue – ( finally, something being achieved)

OU Study – Overdue – (okay, assignment due in five days #panicstations)

CBH Study – Overdue – (above takes priority)

Tidy the house – Overdue – (but I’m always tidying the bloody place)

Sort laundry – Overdue – (bedroom chair should class as wardrobe)

Ironing – Overdue – (yay, get to fight with hoover and iron)

and these are just the things that are overdue….. Okay, fight the temptation to have another coffee, and move on to social media……

Facebook, open, scroll, close, wipe hands

Twitter (my medium of choice ( @davesoapbox if your interested)) This may take a while

Check through, re-tweet, those that know me will know that I use twitter a lot so it takes a while. I really must set up lists, my timeline always seems to end up full of people pulling bugs from their skin or T&A pictures, (I should vet who I add more closely)…….. anyway skip forward a bit and know that both accounts are checked ( @MHPathway )

And I could go on and on, my day defined, ruled by apps on my phone to constantly remind me to do the things that most people just do. Today, like the past few, I have been riding the wave of positive mindset. Adjustment to medication times seems to have worked, no recent (past week) manic moments, no depressive moments, in the zone for now. However I am constantly walking the tightrope, always aware that the slightest thing and I could fall one way or the other.

Every morning proving to myself that I am physically healthy, medication taken and all information recorded. Spending my days making sure that I stay on track, watching myself all the time, judging each emotional reaction to each situation, was that a negative thought?, was I right to feel that way?, am I slipping?, stressing?, what if I have another seizure?,Spot the trends, find the balance and I will do exactly the same again tomorrow…….

 

Learning to live with my problems

Learning to live with my problems

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I am who I am, everything that I have done in my life has contributed to make me. When you find out that you are living with any form of illness, it can very easily change your perception of your self and your life. I know it did for me. Long before I even considered that I might have had a mental illness I was diagnosed with photo sensitive epilepsy, it ruined my life.

Or rather I should say, I let it ruin my life. I saw this diagnosis as being the end of everything, epilepsy, I foresaw a life of medication, fits and being different. I even felt ashamed of it, I hid it and hid from it. I also went out of my way to prove I did not have it, not by being sensible, I went off the rails instead. Drink, drugs, standing in nightclubs staring at strobe lighting, daring the epilepsy to get me. I let it consume me.

Factor this in to my present but unknown mental problems and I was seriously putting myself in danger. I was out of control, I hated myself so much that nothing bad that happened to me was ever bad enough. On the other hand, good things were to be destroyed. It was to be twenty five hard years before I would see the light, twenty five years of destruction. All because of an undiagnosed illness and the stigma I felt about a diagnosed one.

I labelled myself defective, I saw only the negatives and amplified them in my mind. I hated myself and the world for letting this happen to me, common sense did not apply. I was damaged, broken, a reject. I took this and hid it at the core of my being, I created another me, based on lies who the world would see. The lies and the hatred, the pain and despair only going on to feed my other illness, eating away at everything I did, proving to myself how pathetic I was.

The stigma of epilepsy feed my mental illness well, I can see that now. My illness already had made me insecure about myself and how I related to others. I needed reassurance that I was normal, I had value, that I was lovable. The epilepsy diagnosis made these things much more important, I did not know how to feel and then I did not want to feel anything. It is no wonder so many people disliked me, I went out of my way to be disliked. If nobody was close to me then I was right about hating myself, if I treated people badly then I must be a bad person.

Finally learning to accept that I have two illnesses, that can feed of each other was not easy. However finding out that I have a personality disorder helped. It explained why I acted how I did, although I do not blame the illness for my actions. I accept responsibility for my actions, with the mitigation that I was ill. I do not hide my illnesses, I live with them, I try hard to live in harmony with them.

When people say I am looking good, I feel good about myself. I know that often how I appear on the outside is often better than I feel on the inside. I like to think that if I make the effort to look better on the outside, it is a projection of how I want to be on the inside. Instead of lying about who I am, I now show the world who I want to be. I do not consider myself as any form of role model, far from it, but I do hope that people will judge me for who I am not what I have.

I used to worry that if I did not look ill, people would think me a fraud. People seem to have this perception of what being ill is, this includes those with the illness. I want to prove to myself that I can live with my illnesses, that I can be the person I want to be. I want to be able to correct people when they say “you look great, so glad you got over your problems”, with “I am feeling great, I learned to live with my problems”.

 

Not sleeping with the enemy

Not sleeping with the enemy

 

I remember in in younger days having this cavalier attitude towards sleep. Drink in hand at silly o’clock in the morning, I would declare to the world that I would get all the sleep I need when I am dead. A noble sentiment from a young man in the prime of his youth? Or the pathetic ramblings of an idiot?

Thinking back on my live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse youth. I can see the irony in my attitude. Yes, I did have periods where I would burn my candle at both ends. Yes, I was often to be found at the centre of some drinking madness. Yes, I partied hard. I also know now that not only was it all a facade, but it was to signal yet another self destructive episode.

Back then I really did not give a crap about anyone or anything, including myself. I was running, hiding from myself, hiding how I felt from the world. Lying, cheating, drinking were the norm, I became a chameleon, even I didn’t know who I was half the time. To different people I was a different person. The one thing I know for sure, I was hardly ever me. Me, was a dim voice at the back of a very noisy crowd. Me, was the elephant in the room that even I did not want to acknowledge.

When your world shifts, when day becomes night and night, day, you struggle to fit into the ‘norm’. People think you are a party animal because you stay up till stupid o’clock in the morning and then go off to work. Or people think you are lazy because you sleep until noon, not knowing you were awake all night. Its a slow process but for me a regular one. As my worries grew and the darkness started to descend, it would become harder to sleep at nights.

Lying in bed with all self doubt, self hate, self created problems has always been a problem. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed and just went to sleep. Good sleep is essential to have a normal functioning life. I wish I could sleep. For the last six months I have been on sleeping tablets, Instant sleep without the hours of self analysis. As with all medication induced positives, it also has its down side. The Zopiclone hangover as I like to call it. The next day can be spent in a kind of groggy haze, whilst I am fully able to function on one level, I am also left with a kind of lethargy that leads to a lack of motivation. Lack of motivation then leads to hours lying on the sofa either napping, watching tv or destructive self analysis.

So now, sleeping tablets are used in small doses or as a last resort. I often see two am, sometimes later. I still only manage to average just under eight hours sleep a night but it is disturbed sleep. Right now it is one of my biggest worries. I no longer want to take the sleeping tablets at all, I am lucky to be in a position right now where I have no morning deadlines so I can afford to sleep if needed. However it is such a struggle, battling fatigue most days.

I am sure my story will resonate with many people with mental health problems, sleep disturbance seems to be a common problem for all. Trouble is it does not seem to be a well discussed problem. I would love to know how much my disrupted sleep affects my mental health. I often feel that I am trapped in a cycle, poor sleep leading to lack of motivation. Lack of motivation leading to depression and anxiety which further disturbs my sleep.

The positive now is that I am aware of this problem. No longer do I hide from it, try to destroy myself over it. Now I invite it to the table for a chat, see if we can come to some form of understanding. I am glad that I had the tablets when I was going through the worst times, but now I need to take control and start sleeping with the enemy.

 

Talking to myself

Talking to myself

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How many times have I sat here looking at a blank page, I am sure I have even used this opening in a post before. I want to write, I enjoy writing, the problem seems to be that I do not feel I have anything of value to say. Being realistic I am in a good place right now, I think of it as my recovery phase. That part of my cycle when I rebuild, when I start to have hope again. I still have some moments, periods of self doubt, periods of self hate, fatigue, anxiety, frustration, procrastination. I try each day to achieve more, I have started to look forward.

Next Tuesday I will again go and see my GP, firstly because I have come to the end of my meds supply. Secondly, so I can find out what happens next. I know what my problem is, I know how it affects me. I have even written my own care plan to deal with it, should it all go like it has in the past. I am so very scared of the future. Now, when I should be enjoying the lull in my condition all I can think of is the next time. Will there even be a next time? I am now so self aware of everything I do, everything I feel, how can it happen again? It might not but I do not think it wise to think that way.

Right now I have to think that what is, is, and always will be. The only way I can be sure that I can stay on top of it, is to never forget that I am ill. You see, the slipping has already started to show. I have stopped keeping track of my mood, my meds are no longer taken in a timely manner, I have become distracted. Failure to adhere to routines, to finish started projects, to stay on top of life events, these are warning indicators.

For me to function properly I need to have order and routine. Otherwise I will start to neglect things, let them snowball. Bills will go unpaid, things I start will go undone, gradually all these little worries will build. Not completing things will nag at me, reinforce the feeling of failure. I need to be challenged and stimulated, but not over tax myself. I become absorbed in things, but new things come along and I get absorbed anew. I have always failed so far in life, I am so scared that it will happen again.

I have made plans for a future, plans I have made before and failed to achieve. This time I must have faith in myself that I can see them through. Admitting I am ill helps, in some strange way it gives me a sense of hope. I know that being an arse was my way of dealing with my problems, I hope that in time I can become less of an arse and a more useful individual. I do not want to be the person I was, but habits are hard to break. Changing yourself is possible, but not easy. Finding the balance between useful self analysis and destructive self criticism is hard to find.

The page is no longer blank, I did have something to say, even if it was only to myself.