My son, Tom, rang me a couple of weeks ago to wish me a ‘Happy Mental Health Day’ ! I thought this was very thoughtful and I was quite touched ( no pun intended!). They had been greeting each other with this salutation at the place where he works, and where mental health is an issue.
I have been thinking since then that I should have wished everyone a ‘Happy Mental Health Day’, and that the point of having such a day is to encourage people to talk more about mental health issues and not treat them as something to be hidden away in shame.
So, here goes, here’s my story …….
I have suffered with mental health problems since my teens, and was first given medication at the age of 18. Over the subsequent years ( I am now 54) I have had very few periods without medication, when I have been without meds my depression has plummeted to terrible depths. I have managed to keep working through most of this, and bring my son up on my own, although at many times he has been the one doing the caring.
I got to a point about 9 years ago where I had had 8 different jobs in 8 years, not just different jobs, but completely different careers. I was yo-yoing between the dizzy heights of excitement at each new career, and then the feeling of utter inadequacy and wondering whatever I was doing there after a few months.
Eventually …. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It was such a relief ! I felt I had been struggling all my life – all those years not understanding what was happening as I veered between delirious excitement and intense creativity – not sleeping for days on end and churning out massive amounts of work. Then the opposite extreme – laying on the settee in the daytime with the curtains closed, not answering the phone or the door. and Tom having to get himself ready for school – such a guilty feeling about this, even now.
Lithium was the answer – I have now been taking this for 9 years, and despite the side-effects ( of which there are many !), and need for regular blood tests to make sure it’s not poisoning me, it has saved me. I will be on this for ever now, but I don’t mind, it has made such a difference to my life. I am still on a cocktail of other drugs too – Tom says I’m on enough meds to sedate a rhinoceros !- but I’m fine.
The other thing, apart from Tom, that has kept me going through all of this has been my stitching. The repetitive, meditative act of pulling a needle and thread through fabric has given me such pleasure since I was a child, and will always do so.
I hope you don’t mind me using my textile blog to discuss this, but maybe more of us should talk about these issues – I mean, you’d tell people if you had a poorly leg wouldn’t you ?!