I was 19 when I first discovered that I had a mental illness.
I had severe mania and psychosis, leading to a long stay in a mental hospital. Coming less than a year after the death of my brother it was a very difficult thing to come to terms with. I was very depressed for a year or so after my first manic episodes as I had to drop out of university and spend a lot of time at home doing very little. I restarted university and was hopeful that I could get over my illness but I didn’t like taking my medication. I had several further manic episodes, meaning that I had to drop off my course another 2 times and eventually had to come to terms with the fact that I was not going to get my degree and do the things I aspired to do. After 2007 with no university course to focus on I was again depressed and directionless. I was still reluctant to take medication for any length of time and suffered a relapse of my mental illness almost every year. This put a strain on my most important relationships and the way I drifted without anything to focus on undermined my social confidence and I became more reclusive and found it difficult to relate to other people.
After yet another relapse in 2011 I went onto a course of drugs that I stuck with for a good length of time. As I started to feel better in 2012 I was persuaded to try something different from the past and instead of isolating myself, reading many books and going on long solitary walks, I voluntarily signed into a rehabilitation unit of the local mental hospital. As my mental health was better than it normally was when I entered hospital I was able to see the institution and staff in a more positive light and realise that their main aim was to help patients feel better and be able to do more.
Looking back I would say that the difference between my recent experiences and earlier ones was that latterly I was more willing to trust people, whereas before I had a very independent mind- set, feeling that I didn’t need other people and did not want to accept help. So earlier in my illness I felt like I was being badgered against my will and complained a lot and saw things negatively, whereas once I started to believe that other people could help me feel better and had good intentions I started to perceive my situation in a more positive and hopeful way. I began to look at opportunities for the future rather than concentrating on regrets and resentments. We often see self-reliance as a good thing with mental illness it is hard to accept sometimes that we cannot fix things ourselves and that there is nothing wrong in needing and accepting the help of others. Since I began in a rehab unit in 2012 getting structure back into my day with regular activities and getting used to the idea of socialising on a day to day basis without nerves and embarrassment I feel like I have moved to a healthier psychological state.
I was referred on from the rehab unit to AMH new horizons where I have undertaken computer and employability skills courses. I have been captaining a local sports team for 2 seasons and I’ve enjoyed this as well as becoming more confident. I have returned to studying with the Open University which provides enough flexibility to make me feel confident I can achieve my educational goals without the stress I experienced before due to ill health. My growing trust in psychiatric doctors and other mental health staff has helped me commit to staying on my course of medication and this has given me the stability and freedom from mania or psychosis so that I have been able to make progress in my life and restore self-esteem and an optimistic outlook.
Having a mental illness can feel like something that ruins your life when you are feeling at your lowest but accepting help and looking to the future rather than the past can mean that in time it becomes more of a minor inconvenience that can be worked around. For me, a steady course of medication and the method of taking small steps in becoming more active and social helped get me to a position where I could get back a sense of optimism about the future. For anyone suffering from a similar condition I would say that just because you feel awful at a given time does not mean you won’t feel happy and hopeful at a later stage.