Eventually, I did see someone and kept seeing different people asking me similar questions over days. I remember the young intern in a light blue uniform. He was slouched in a chair, bags under his eyes, dragging his hand through his hair and rubbing his face.
His demeanour demonstrated to me how I was wasting people’s time and always had done. I apologised to the intern for taking his time because I could see he was very tired but I didn’t mean to do this, that I hadn’t slept for the last few nights; that I’d been in the waiting room all day and everyone wanted me dead. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I’m sorry for taking oxygen.
I wasn’t being sarcastic. That is how I felt. He knew it and sat up and looked at me anew. At the time I thought it was with knowing sarcasm but in retrospect, it was one of empathy as well as some self-consciousness.
I had a brain scan and blood tests. A fairly general letter was written to my place of work stating that I was “unwell” and had to be admitted to hospital, to explain my absence.
Because I was older and hadn’t had previous psychotic episodes it was decided this might be a one off and I was diagnosed as depressed with psychosis.
Grabbing up the necessities of my life I left that inexplicable mess behind and moved back to my parents.
At first, I tried to re-establish my career, but it was a revolving door of hospitalisations at that stage and I finally realised my life was no longer in my control.
Around this time I had a vivid dream. There were people having a celebration in the sewer. The colours were of orange and black, dancing colours from the bonfire. At first, I was nauseated by the putrid stench and the thought of getting dirty. Yet I was drawn by their music, laughter and dancing in this hidden world. To be part of something where I was welcomed, as I was. Soon I was dancing as if I belonged.
I don’t know what you think the dream says about me, but I interpret it that I had very high and rigid expectations of myself and as much as I had lost status and income, I also felt released from those expectations. I could now allow myself to dance, where I liked, and relish it.
And indeed I embraced fellow inpatients and mentally ill sufferers as if they were life-long friends (so different to my usual standing at arms distance). Someone would play guitar in the walled quadrangle and we’d reminisce, philosophise, talk about side effects, smoke and drink coffee. Everyone who had a mental illness was a natural friend. They understood this madness, therefore me, as no one else possibly could.
I learnt the hard way that those with mental illness are no more perfect than anyone else when my boyfriend and best friend slept together.
However today I’m not free falling, nor am I desperately trying to conform. Today I’m happy to make decisions that I know support my mental health. And I’m gently exploring this new world and its opportunities, knowing that as I carefully allow others into my life I feel part of something bigger and more wonderful.
Crucially my little daughter provides an anchor to my efforts by constantly reminding me how central my mental stability is for her happiness and security. When it’s particularly tough that may seem a burden, but mostly it acts as a compass, guiding my way.
In essence, I began to embrace a mindful life. I was introduced to mindfulness during Dialectical Behavioural Therapy which gave me tools to engage with this new world.
Ed Halliwell explores three attitudes we can foster for a mindful life: commitment, courage and cheerfulness.
Getting back to Bradley and his piece, Things I’ve Had to Let Go, that inspired this series…
Have I let go as Bradley has done? Not quite. I get furious and frustrated and am known to rant by my mum. Although that’s lessened over time, I am moving toward acceptance, and as Bradley points out that doesn’t mean you have to be in 7th Heaven all the time – as long as I don’t turn into a bitter old woman!
But look at what I’ve gained – greater comfort in my own skin than I’ve ever previously had, vast life experience, and a wonderful daughter. And as I know from first-hand experience the future can not be predicted and so my journey is filled with anticipation and hope.
Once again, thank you, Bradley, for taking me on this journey…..