How I healed from a severe Psychiatric Illness
My good friend Marina asked me last night how I recovered from hating myself and thinking I was worthless to being happy and comfortable in my life with zero anxiety and being able to tackle any situation as it comes. I wanted to tell her right there, but it was late and I needed to go to bed, and this sort of answer deserves an essay rather than a few lines. So I'm going to write this out in full.
I hope it helps her in some way or at least one of you, my awesome readers. I'll write it in chronological order. What I tackled first to last.
In July 2002 I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. I remember sitting across the table from my doctor thinking that my life had ended, that my life was all but over, that I would never be able to do the things I was fond of ever again. It was like a wrecking ball to the face -- something that I didn't come to terms with for many years later. What I didn't realise though, is that I was still me, and nothing had changed, but I guess hearing it meant that I had to deal with it head on. I didn't though, I spent the next few years drinking and hiding.
To be clear I spent a grand total of 3 episodes in Psychiatric hospital. The first was a month, the second was six months, and the third was for about 2-3 months. These episodes were all close together through the space of about two years. I heard voices, and the voices used to say terrible things to me, like that I should kill myself and get life over and done with.
After psychiatric hospital I spent around three years moving house, running away, getting parabolic on beer, trying to run away from everything and forget at the same time. I hated my life, didn't think I was useful, thought I shouldn't exist, and that I was on borrowed time.
It of course all changed when I read a book No More Mr Nice Guy by Dr Robert Glover. I'll be honest and say that I was struggling with women, and every time I met women they would end up being my friend rather than my girlfriend which I always wanted. So my friend gave me this book, and through reading this book it was the first time I realised that something was gravely wrong with me. It was the first time that I accepted that I had an illness, that I was broken, and that change was the only way forward.
I was in a rubbish job at the time. Management was terrible, and I didn't feel supported -- so I began drinking lots again, and one thing led to another where I lost my job. They said that they didn't need me anymore, but I know it was the nicer thing to do so I could get unemployment benefits afterwards.
On my unemployment benefits day the disability advisor called me over and asked me if I wanted to see her, because she had a few ideas of where she could send me, to which I agreed, and then I was sent to this little charity in the middle of nowhere that dealt with mental health.
I think the biggest thing going for me at this point was that I had accepted that I was ill and was willing to do anything to change.
Mental Health isn't straight forward. Just so you know before we go on. What worked for me may not necessarily work for you, because our individual experiences through life make us very unique people, and the way that we go through healing can be very much different.
Before I started here they asked me that I not drink. If I did I wouldn't receive any help. So I did. It was hard at first but I was desperate to change the person I was into something different. That was at least 14 years ago now. I am sober and I do not think about alcohol. It's just another story from another life. What I'm going to tell you as we go further into this story was healing all the parts which MADE me drink. Drinking was a self-medicating way of getting rid of my troubles because I didn't know how.
So at that place I received counselling. Not through them but they allowed me time off to go see a counsellor. In my counselling sessions it was revealed (through introspection, a counsellor never reveals it to you, you have to reveal it to yourself) that I was just like my dad. That the man that I had fought so hard to not be like all of my life I was becoming like him. I had become the extreme opposite version of him -- and those who know, extreme opposites are more similar than different. It was also revealed that I was a manipulator and I used other peoples emotions to get what I wanted. Boy did that sting!
A pivotal moment for me was flushing the turmoil between my mother and father down the toilet. I had taken their troubles from childhood into adulthood, and spent a great deal going in between spates of mum, and then dad love, and taking sides, and etc. When I finally realised that this was between them and absolutely nothing at all to do with me it was like a monumentous weight from my shoulder had been lifted. I stopped getting involved. Left them to their own shit.
Now when things are revealed to you, you can either do one of two things. Ignore it and get on with life, or change it. I sought to change it - every time I noticed myself manipulating, I stopped and did something else. Instead of being nice to people to get what I wanted, I just asked outright. Fuckit I thought, if I want it, I'll ask.
You see, I had always been afraid of the word no. A lifetime of being abused for asking questions as child and being told to shut up. I stopped asking, and my brain began to get afraid to ask. We learn these patterns from a very young age and repeat them into adulthood. Counselling, if anything, taught me to delve into the reasons as to why I do these things. Introspection has helped me a great deal.
And as I began to ask more, the less I was afraid of the word no. In fact, I even managed to ask one of the girls out on a date that I had fancied for months. She said no, but I took it well, and in a weird way I was really happy. So being afraid of the word no was fading for me. Exposure therapy really works. But you need to want to change.
Also in that period I began to understand that you can be nice and ask for the things you wanted without being manipulative. I've always enjoyed being nice, I didn't want to change that. So I didn't. I kept being nice and respectful whilst at the same time asking and doing what I wanted to do.
Around about six months into this place I had a moment which I call my great awakening. I remember listening to two people in that place talking and I realised i didn't understand anything what they were saying -- you see I had spent all of my youth only concentrating on where my next beer was coming from that I had forgotten to educate myself in any way, or learn from life's lessons. I usually had to get my friends to bail me out. So this is when I went on my journey of knowledge.
I think the main things at that place I learned was introspection, getting what I wanted, saying no, and being comfortable with my surroundings.
I met my wife there, and through her I learned a lot of things too. You see, my wife is a teacher, and she has a speciality with people like me. She was good with us. I guess she never realised she would land married with one. Nevertheless she was exceptionally well read, and we would spend nights awake at 3am after long and passionate sex sessions with her telling me stories of Hamlet, poetry, 15th century sea-fare and the likes. This also encouraged me to go out and do my own reading, so I found classical history and a real pleasure to read. Greco-Roman history. That gave me a real foundational understanding of where we've been and are now heading.
I was at that place for four years, and spent a further two years unemployed. I took myself to the Open University and began learning Computing and Business Management. Also, our son was born in amidst all of that. I'd be lying if I said it was all plain sailing. No money, late nights & early mornings, and real arguments with my wife and I. It was tough, for both of us.
That all settled down where I got my next job in Community Management. At this place I learned the real benefits to selflessness - giving without want of return. I learned the art of giving out so that you receive plentiful back. In essence it's like what you give out to the world is returned ten fold. It's your choice what you want to give -- goodness, or hate. Totally up to you, but remember, whatever you give you will get back. I was an only child that was spoilt rotten so let's just say I needed to learn these lessons.
Management changed my life in essence. I was always a perfectionist and always expected the best from myself. Through introspection I learned that it was because I was held to impossibly high standards as a kid and I was beat down when I didn't achieve them. A big part of why I hated myself was because I was always trying to achieve the impossible and when I didn't reach those goals I was incredibly harsh on myself. It was like I had set myself goals I couldn't reach, and hated myself for not reaching them.
I also learned that I wasn't always right, and that most people know more about something than I do. Everyone has something to teach me, big or small. In fact I realised that the more I learned, the less I knew about the world.
Through managing an amazing team I realised that I was just as flawed as them, and that I too make mistakes, and actually when I make them people are usually pretty understanding. The pivotal moment being when I failed in front of a large audience and everyone was telling me that they would have done the same. I remember speaking to my manager afterwards and her telling me to pick myself up, get back in there, and everything will be fine.
You'll find that people are more empathetic than you realise
To which they were. So I began to slowly relax and realise that I was flawed, and just like everyone else, slipped up now and again.
Through that I began to read, and understand, and most importantly reflect.
Having my son also helped me a great deal also. I started to learn how structure and routine helps others through the way we were bringing him up. I also realised that what he's going through is quite a bit similar to me. He also taught me the art of picking my battles. That sometimes it's just not worth arguing over spilt milk. Sometimes I should let sleeping dogs lie for an easier and comfortable life.
Sadly that job ended in 2015 and from there I went into self-employment.
I also realised I needed to toughen up through later lessons. A lot of the jobs I had done in the past had me in empathetic mode, and a mode that requires me to have a great deal of sympathy to the plight of others. This was all great and all but after leaving those jobs I learned (again) through reflection that I can't just let people walk all over me. I tended to slant to the forgiving and peace side. But I realised later that being around harsher and stricter people the benefits of not letting people walk all over you.
From there I learned balance. About letting people in, and not letting people in. How keeping some people at a distance is probably for the benefit of everyone.
That's where I'm at now.
And through all of that I have a lot less problems than I used to. I mean I still take medication because my depression is neurological. But the medication keeps it at bay.
And by all means don't think I'm "cured" or at a position where I'm this all and mighty sear, because realistically there's always something new to learn, whether I like it, or not.
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