Friday, 30 December 2011

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Hi Everybody

I am an advocate of sleep.  I send my kids early to bed every night, or as early as I can now that they are getting older.  It is actually quite late these days, especially in the holidays, before the girls settle down, which bothers me.  The boys are easier. 

My husband is much more relaxed in his attitudes.  But I feel that our children will grow better, learn better, heal better, etc if they get plenty of shut-eye and all that I read in the health section of the newspaper and in magazines bears me out on this one.  So I push the point.

I practise what I preach, too.  I have gone to bed early for as long as I remember - ten o'clock, or ten thirty, like the boring old lady that I am.  Except in recent weeks, since I have become gluten-free.  I have found that now I have loads more energy; I go to bed each night a couple of hours later than usual, sleep soundly and feel fine for it (I have woken up later too though, to be honest, with no school run to do and a wonderfully accommodating husband). 

But last night an odd thing happened.  I failed to sleep at all.  I went to bed, did not feel tired, and found that the bed was uncomfortable (it is not usually) and I tossed and turned the whole night.  Toddler woke up a few times too, but he didn't disturb me because I was already awake.  Perhaps I woke him up, thinking about it.  To be fair, I must have slept a little at some point, because I had some dreams, but my feeling when I awoke was that I had not slept a wink (and Paul readily agreed - I must have disturbed him too). 

I was expecting a miserable day today.  But actually, it has failed to materialise.   I have had plenty of energy, despite a tiring time taking my eldest daughter to see the orthodontist at the hospital and then going to the shops to return something I had bought her in the sales that she didn't like.  I also went to visit my niece, cooked the dinner and then took my little daughter swimming.  Then came home and hoovered the house.  And I still don't feel tired - not sleepy tired.  And this is a little alarming.

I am otherwise compos mentis.  Not silly, not high, not low.  Just normal.  SO I think I am ok mentally.  If I didn't have the schizophrenia diagnosis (which I have discarded but still wrestle with occasionally) I wouldn't be thinking mental health at all.  But the advantage (disadvantage?) of having been through the system is that I am now well aware of any warning signs - one of which is failure to sleep.  I am fine though.  Happy.  Sane.  But such is my obsession with sleep that I can't help but feel a little disturbed that I am not tired. 

Oh well. Hey ho.  Life is a strange thing sometimes.  I am sure I will sleep fine tonight and all will be well.  I will let you know.

I am not sure why I did not sleep last night.  I didn't particularly have anything on my mind, although of course since I was awake I did find myself pondering various matters.  I suspect I may have an intolerance to oats as well as wheat gluten, because I had had an evening bowl of porridge and felt unsettled, kind of edgy afterwards, and also I had a really bad stomach ache.  An intolerance to oats would be a shame, because my in-laws have just bought me a huge new bag of porridge oats, and they are absolutely delicious.

I guess I will leave it a day or two and then experiment again.   Anyway, I don't know if all that is interesting to anybody.  But I might as well say here that in my view one of the most important factors in mental health is sleep.  It does a person so much good to sleep well, to process the day's events by dreaming, to rest and recuperate.  I am stating the obvious here, I know.

What else happened today?  I didn't walk my little dog - I was too busy, and it was too wet.  It won't do her any harm - I will take her out for an extra long time tomorrow to make up for my neglect.  I did enjoy seeing my niece and her children, and spending time with Little Daughter, who is so sweet and smart.  We were getting changed after swimming, and couldn't help listening to the lifeguard, who was laughing and joking with a girl who had been in the pool.  They got quite rowdy at one point, and I whispered to Little Daughter, 'What are they doing?' 

'They're flirting' she replied matter of factly, and she shocked me with this insight.  I hadn't realised she knew the word, never mind what flirting was, and she was so spot on, and so insouciant with it.  Sweet, funny, clever and now quite grown up - and the child is not yet ten!  What have I bred? 

I love my life!  There was a time when I would never have thought to say that - but I went into all that in yesterday's post, so will stop there before I bore you all solid.

Louise x

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Favours from Friends

Greetings again

I love the holidays.  The sleepover went successfully last night, and the kids slept well as far as I know.  They said they did, anyway, although I have noticed a good deal of yawning in the ranks today.

We went to a friend's for lunch - it was lovely  (hi, Sarah!).  I have been badgering my friends recently - now that I have decided to be a full-time writer (what took me so long?) I have a vested interest in getting my work read.  So I have been reminding people of the existence of my book, asking them to recommend it to their friends, begging for feedback, etc.  I hate asking for stuff - but on the bright side, if you ask a friend for a favour, they benefit too - they get the warm and fuzzy feeling which comes with having done a good turn.  And I don't ask people for things often.  I will have to watch that though - I suppose I will know I have overdone the nagging when people stop answering my calls...

Later this afternoon we popped in to see another couple of friends, two elderly ladies who have offered to help with my Rethink group.  I went for a chat about that, took my lovely little daughter with me (and the dog, because we were on our way to walk her).  We had a lovely time there too - our dog got on well with their dog, and little daughter was in a good, patient and communicative mood (and was rewarded when she was presented with a gift as we left).  It was all beautifully wrapped, but with no name on the label - they must keep a few handy for visiting children over Christmas.  How nice is that? 

Then we walked the dog across the muddy fields of our most local nature reserve, in the late afternoon sunlight.  It was so mild, especially considering it is midwinter.  Now, back home, I am cooking sprouts and carrots and rice and a pie and some sausages (such bounty) with the kitchen door closed so that Muddy Dog cannot escape into the house.  Paul is decorating the front room (he started about a month ago, but has done nothing for at least three weeks and was mildly surprised, if not affronted when I said that I was going to take the children to lunch with their friends so that he could get on with it.  I think he had forgotten all about it, and thought he was on holiday!  JOKE.  But he did get on with it, and now he has got going he is motivated again.)  The girls are doing something quietly somewhere (probably watching something on DVD in elder daughter's bedroom) and the boys are playing noisily but happily in their room.  Bliss!

Sorry if this blog sounds all complacent and happy families recently.  And not particularly relevant to anybody's mental health troubles.  Especially sorry to those who have just come over from the Rethink site, and who are looking for help.  There will be more universally applicable content on here soon, it is just that now is the holidays, and things happen to be going well in my life, and so I think, why not write about it? 

Anyhow, the overall message is the same as it has been for a long time - I was ill, I am now better, and I am not unique in this.  Anybody who has been suffering with mental illness, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, or any other condition - remember, you are normal. 

It is a normal reaction to extreme stress and distress, sometimes to cave in under it.  It is normal to panic, normal to turn your misery inwards if you can see no way through it.  It happens to animals too - just look at those creatures who are badly treated, underfed or poorly housed or otherwise abused and you can see clear signs of mental distress in their disturbed behaviour. 

But put the environment right for those animals, treat them with love and patience, and they will recover their mental health - so too can human beings.  Forget about the fact that you have been told you are a schizophrenenic.  It is nonsense.  Take medication if you can't manage without it, but remember that one day you will be able to, work towards that day and look forward to it.  Even if it is in five or ten or twenty years time, you will have good times along the way too, gradually you will find that you are becoming stronger, and one day you will find that you are healed. 

Never give in to shame - it is not shameful to be ill, mentally or otherwise.  I did some mad, mad things, some of which luckily I have edited out of my brain over time, some of which I committed to paper or to memory and which will be there forever.  Some of the memories come back to me sometimes.  It doesn't matter.  They make me smile. 

I remember when I was in hospital during my third and final breakdown, following the birth of my eldest child, my husband came to visit and we went for a walk along the beach, pushing the baby in her pram.  There was a young man knee deep in the water, and there was a bed by him.  He had pushed this bed into the water, presumably.  He had a camera set up on a tripod.  Clearly, he was an art student engaged in a project.  And what did I do?  I went out there, and lay on the bed, and suggested that he take my photo.  My husband (although we were not yet married) was aghast.  Acutely embarrassed.  I don't blame him.  How mad was that?  But it was funny too, and if I was walking along the beach today and saw somebody else behaving in that manner, I would just smile and walk on. 

So what?  In fact, if I had told him I was a patient in the local mental hospital, it would probably have enhanced the young man's project.

I didn't take my clothes off, by the way.  It only occurs to me now that I might have done, and how much worse would that have been?!

To conclude, today I had a lovely day, my life is full to bursting, and when I came out of hospital as a scared and shaken nineteen year old, after being there for three months and held under a section of the Mental Health Act, I would never ever have foreseen such joy and completion in my life.  That is what I want this blog and my book to do - to talk to those confused, ashamed nineteen year olds, and show them that they have a future.  To assure them that nervous breakdowns are a part of life, that they are normal, they will recover.  To tell those young people that nothing has really changed, only their perceptions of themselves have altered, and that they will be solid and whole again, one day.  I hope that day comes soon for rmany people, and that I can be part of making it sooner.

Louise x x   

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Hi all

We had some friends around this evening, for festive food - they have gone home now, but left their son behind for a sleepover.  He is no trouble - like a cousin or a brother to our lot - and they are delighted to have him to stay, not just because of the added opportunity for play, but also because I am much more lenient when we have a child from another family in the house.  I always get them to sleep reasonably early though - I hate those sort of sleepovers where the parents let the children stay up half the night, or even the whole night.  I just think it is so bad for them, to lose all that sleep.

Anyway, we have had a nice day, quite low key.  We had a good walk along the beach; the whole family, plus the dog, plus our friends.  And lots to eat.  But we still have numerous boxes of chocolates and biscuits in the house, and hundreds of mince pies, two Christmas puddings...  We are going to have a New Years Day party and I am hoping that most of the sweet and sticky stuff will be consumed then.  We have never had a New Years Day party before, and I am quite looking forward to it.   Have not issued many invitations yet though, due to being slightly disorientated in time and space because of the holidays. 

Thinking about it, today must be Tuesday, which means our party is on Sunday, which is not all that far away really, so I must get on with some planning.  Not tonight though - I have decided to watch the new TV, which Paul and I bought as a Christmas gift to each other and ourselves (and the children of course).  I have not actually watched anything on it yet.  I love the new TV - it is a flat screen, it looks great and the picture is fantastic.  The snag is that it has no remote control (we ordered that separately; long story) and I am not quite sure how to operate it via the buttons yet.  Also, the screen keeps going blank, which has to be fixed with a judicious tap, which is quite annoying.  The online shop we bought it from has been closed throughout the holidays and only re-opens tomorrow, so hopefully it will be sorted out then.  So yeah, to sum up, the new TV is great, except that it doesn't work properly.

I have become obsessed recently with looking up my book on Amazon, to see if it has sold any copies and whether anybody has written any more reviews.  I am going to limit myself to two checks a day from now on...  which means I have already exceeded my quota for today. 

I am off to be a couch potato for what is left of the evening.

All the best to all of you.  Hope you are well and happy.

Louise x

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Hi Everyone
I didn't enjoy Christmas very much, before I had a family of my own.  I was always so lonely.  For several years I went swimming every day, on my own at the gym, ploughing up and down the pool wearing my swimming hat.  I was an oddity. 

I was a member of that gym for five years.  I remember I used to be upset when it closed on Christmas Day and I couldn't have my usual swim.  The day seemed to stretch before me endlessly without my normal routine. 

Yet, how things change.  I met Paul at that same gym, when I was thirty, and within a year I had a child.  Within seven years, four children.  Christmas today started at six o'clock this morning in a flurry of excitement and just kept on getting better throughout the day.   It didn't enter my head to go swimming.

Although I do still need my exercise.  I took my eldest with me today to walk the dog, because the beach is so crowded at the moment and I didn't want to be out walking on my own on Christmas Day.  I had to persuade her to leave the television and the warm house and the rest of the family, but I was glad we went together - I would have been the only lone walker.  And also my daughter and I had a lovely talk as we went along, and a bit of a sing-song, and a giggle, and although the day was darkening and the wind was whipping us along and my cheekbones felt frozen and my ears were sore, I was conscious that this was a precious hour, and that being in my daughter's company was worth more than sunshine and clement weather.  We both said afterwards that we will remember that walk.

I am still gluten-free, and feel very well for it - no stomach aches for several weeks now.  Amazing.  And the sense of calm has continued too - doubly amazing.  Paul bought me some gluten-free mince pies and a gluten-free Christmas pudding, which was very thoughtful of him.  I am already piling on the pounds though, which is rather unexpected - I thought I would be ultra slim by now, considering all the biscuits and cakes I have been turning down recently.  Still, I always said I would rather be overweight than nervous - I have always eaten huge amounts of food but I think it is because of my raw nerves that I have stayed reasonably slim over the years.  And I stand by that - I don't really mind being slightly overweight, and anyway I am sure it is only temporary - everyone expects to get a bit lumpy over the holidays and it is not that hard to kickstart your body back into shape in the New Year.

I am looking forward to the New Year newspapers and magazines - I love New Year resolutions and all those motivational type articles.  I relish the idea of a new start every year, even though I know by looking back at previous year's diaries that the impetus for change does not continue for long.  I like the challenge.

This coming year I intend to build myself a real writing career.  I have decided that I am going to come off disability benefits in the New Year, which will give me the incentive and motivation to work harder at my writing, and I think this will make me feel a lot better about myself.  After all, I can't keep on about not being sick and keep collecting benefits.  It doesn't make sense.  I do feel some trepidation about how I will manage financially, but I feel that it is time now to move forward, and actually I am looking forward to it.   Looking forward to the challenge.  

Here's to the year ahead!  But first, here's to the last week of 2011! 

All the best


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Another Daniel Mackler film

Hi again

I just watched a You Tube film by Daniel Mackler called Schizophrenia- Full Recovery through Therapy.  I haven't mentioned Daniel's work for a while, so I thought I would link to this film here:

And here is the link to his website:

I don't agree entirely with all that Daniel thinks on the subject of mental health; I particularly oppose his views that all childhood trauma is caused by bad parenting and that nobody should become a parent until they are entirely healed, or 'enlightened'. 

In my opinion truama comes from many sources and for various reasons - maybe it is just part of our inheiritance, our path through life to encounter difficulties and learn to overcome them.  (I know I am not a perfect parent, but I am sure that my kids are going to turn out to be well-adjusted and happy - all the signs are good). 

Anyway, Daniel and I have agreed to differ on these things, which are after all only opinions.  He is an all-round good person as far as I can tell from his work (we have not met).  He is someone who has faith in the human ability to recover from serious mental illness and his work shows that.  So when I stumbled across this film (see link above) I just had to share it and tell you all again how inspirational I think this man is.  I shall cite his work in the evidence I intend to give to the Schizophrenia Commission (they have just asked for evidence and opinions about recovery, so anybody else who wants to contribute, please look them up online.  If you don't find time, don't worry, I will post a link soon).  It amazes me that so many medical professionals still seem to be unaware of all the information out there on the net about healing from schizophrenia (or are they turning a blind eye?)

Let's make it our mission to inform them!

Louise x  


Schizophrenia and Mince Pies

Hi everyone

The title of this post is a blatant attempt at attention grabbing; I have long since noticed that posts with the word Schizophrenia in the title attract readers.  I feel a bit of a cheat when I use the word - I actually do not consider that I have schizophrenia any more, based on the fact that I don't have any symptoms, which seems clear enough evidence to me.  However, the medics are lagging behind me here - in their view I have an invisible illness (disease?) or am in denial, or remission...only time will tell who is right on this one, them or me.  But I am going with my own opinion of my own mental health.  I monitor it closely enough to be pretty aware of it by now, and those doctors don't live inside my head, so I reckon I know more about me than they do.

I re-read the book this morning.  And one part that upset me, remembering, was when my first son was born.  I had not been on any medication during the pregnancy or for many years beforehand.  The psychiatrist I saw when I was pregnant said that I was in charge of my own mental health - that I should have medication with me when I went to hospital to give birth, but only take it if I felt I needed it.  I preferred not to, because I was keen to breastfeed my baby, but I felt that it was a sensible precuation to have the medication with me just in case - I did not want to risk another breakdown.

But in the hospital after my baby was born, the doctors decided that I was unwell and must take the medication and stop breastfeeding my baby even though I was fine, and I told them I was.  I was not delusional, hysterical, hearing voices or anything else.  The more I protested that I was well, the more they insisted that I was unwell.  I was so upset by all this that I nearly did lose the plot - luckily a kind nurse noticed my distress and let me go home (I was supposed to stay in hospital to have a blood sugar test a couple of days later). 

Once I got home, with Paul's support, I stopped taking the drugs, started breastfeeding my baby (after a time lapse to get the drugs out of my system) and spoke to the psychiatrist on Monday, who approved of what I had done.  But it could have turned out very differently. 

Oh, the injustice of it all.  But I know things are a lot worse for a lot of people.  In fact I was telling my eldest daughter today that everything that has happened in my life has been lucky.  I think she thought I had lost the plot, 'I don't think it was all lucky, Mummy' she said (she knows about my times in hospital, it has been a hot topic in our household the last few days because the free book promotion has boosted sales figures so Paul and I are buzzing with the possibilities).  But I said it was, because if things had not happened in my life exactly as they did, I would never have met her Daddy and had her and her siblings.  And I might never have been a writer - I have always felt that the ability and desire to write was innate in me, but I think circumstances have made it a necessity. 

What is more, now I have the opportunity to write.  If I had graduated from Law School without the crippling nerves that made my life so difficult I would probably be working as a lawyer now.  I would probably not have found the time to have four children, and I would be earning so much money that I would be reliant on to pay my huge mortgage that I would not have any free time to devote to writing, the thing that gives me the most pleasure and sense of achievement in my life (apart from my wonderful family).  So it has all been for the best.

Did I ever have schizophrenia?  I don't know what schizophrenia is.  I don't think anybody really does.  All anybody knows is that some people can cope with the vicissitudes of life, and some cannot.  And I also think that some experiences are so extreme that nobody could cope with them and remain mentally intact.  This was probably not the case for me - lots of worse things have happened to better people than me, as I have said here before. 

I was completely barking mad on three separate occasions, that's for sure.  I was also a victim of circumstance - lots of circumstances in fact - and of the weakness of my own nature.  I was crippled by anxiety for many years.  I also made some bad choices.  But nobody is privy to the workings of my mind except me - and since I was very uncommunicative when I was in hospital, any diagnosis must have been based partly on guesswork, as well as observation of my bizarre behaviour.  I was mad and I am now better.  I am not 'a schizophrenic' and I am not honestly sure that anybody is. 

Anyway.  I am still gluten free, although not entirely stress free and calm.  Streets ahead on this time last year though - or any year really.  Went to another social event tonight - a very small one, but exactly the kind of thing that would have paralysed me with nerves until recently.  I would have tried very hard to speak articulately and failed abysmally, and gone home very disheartened and feeling even more inadequate than usual.  As it was, tonight I did try a bit too hard to communicate clearly, was still not super-articulate (I guess I need a bit more practice) but the big difference was that by the end of the evening I didn't actually care too much about my failure as a sparkling social being.  I am an adequate human being, and that is enough.  And I got to come home and bath my beautiful boys and put them to bed and listen to one daughter sing and give the other a hug goodnight and sit down to write my blog.  There is more to life than mince pies!

I did have one nervous moment - I was taken aback when a rather elderly and genteel chap (this was a family gathering, but he is an in-law on the other side who I don't know very well) suddenly told me (sotto voce) that he had downloaded my book from Kindle and read it! 

Aagh!  My mind raced through the book (I had been re-reading it this morning, as I said, because it suddenly occurred to me that I should acquaint myself with it again since we have sold a lot of copies recently ('sold' is an overstatement; most of them were free copies on the one day promotion).  I wanted to remember what it was people were reading about me.  And suddenly I was unexpectedly confronted with a real life reader.  I suppose I have realised that some people who know me are reading the book without me knowing they are, but I don't think about this on an individual basis.  I will now.

I didn't know quite how to respond.  I did go a bit red.  He said that writing the book was a brave thing to do and that it would help a lot of people, which was lovely of him.  What I wanted was his opinion of the writing, but I didn't ask that.  And actually I am going to relax about that, because one thing I got from re-reading the book this morning is that the writing is fine.  Lots of people have told me that, but perhaps I needed the distance from writing the book to see it myself.  It really is fine.  Clear enough, readable enough, good enough.  On to the next book.

Goodnight.  Sweet dreams. 

Louise x

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Gluten-free is Good (2)

Hello again

I had a nagging feeling that the last post was incomplete, that it might read as a little odd even.  I am not in the throes of mania, honestly!  Obviously I can't be sure that this new sense of calm is due to the gluten-free diet, or that it will last.  It just feels so good to be anxiety-free, or very nearly so, after being in thrall to really excruciating anxiety for so long, that I wanted to share the news.

The best thing (and the strangest because it is so unexpected) is the energy I have had in the evenings.  Not last night, but the night before, I found myself oddly alert and wakeful at ten pm - the time when I usually stagger to bed exhausted.  It was such an alien feeling that I ignored it and went to bed anyway, feeling a little unsettled.  I slept well, although not immediately. 

Last night, when I felt wide awake again at my usual bedtime I took the hint, and stayed up for an extra couple of hours.  It was the perfect opportunity to get started on the Christmas wrapping.  Paul was surprised to say the least - he has resigned himself by now to saying goodnight to an exhausted me each night not long after the children go to bed.  In fact, the only time I usually stay awake later than ten or half past is when I am agitated for some reason and can't switch off - but this was not like that at all. 

I don't know how tonight will be - in fact I am quite tired already, but that is probably due to the fact that I got upset with the noisy houseful of children earlier, and because we have not yet eaten dinner.  I really hope that these new evening energy levels will turn out not to be a fluke, but a result of the new diet - imagine how much more I could get done, with those extra hours!  I had resigned myself to the fact that I was more tired than average because of my busy lifestyle and because that is just how I am - but am really excited by the possibilty that this change could be permanent.  I really do feel a lot less nervous too, and whether that is due to the gluten-free diet or the counselling, or a combination, or even a placebo effect, I am happy with it.

As far as gluten goes, by the way, it is the wheat based foods that I have cut out.  I seem to be fine with Ryvita.  I have not tried oats, because the porridge we have in the cupboard is horrid, and I keep forgetting to buy more. 

Must run, dinner is burning!

Louise x

Gluten-free is Good!

Hi everyone

I have been following a gluten-free diet for about two weeks now.  The only time I deviated was for a home made sausage roll, and I wouldn't even have eaten that had it not been the only thing available.  Paul and I were with the children at a party and I hate them to see me not eating, or not eating enough - I think it sets such a bad example. 

For about a month previously I had been trying to go gluten-free, but I found it hard.  On social occasions when I am offered a biscuit or a cake, for example, I hate to be rude and say no, so I would make an exception for these occasions - which seem to happen very often in my life.  So I had not really got it into my head that these things, as well as bread, contain gluten and thus should not be eaten at all.  I have finally arrived there - I automatically discount eating cakes, biscuits, and bread as well as any wheat based cereal and so on, and it is quite easy to do now. 

I didn't really get on with gluten-free bread, partly because of the ridiculous cost of the stuff and partly because it is so insubstantial.  So I tried rye bread, and that was a lot better - tasty and filling, but without the bloating and stomach pains that I get from wheat based products.

The reason I decided to go gluten-free is because I have read so much about it on the net recently.  In particular, people with nervous problems are said to be allergic to gluten - problems with the gut and symptoms such as anxiety have strong links.  I also have a friend who is a nutritionist who suggested to me twice recently that I should try a gluten-free diet - this woman is wise and I decided that I should respect her advice.

I am astonished at the results!  Really, amazed.  I am just so much calmer that I would not have believed it - and this is taking into account the fact that I had already come a long way in conquering my nerves over the last year or so.  I love it - it is just a revelation not feeling the twang of nerves all the time.  In the last week or so I have been in several social situations that would have floored me a year ago - and I have sailed through them without thinking twice. 

I was diagnosed with IBS some years ago, and have tried various strategies to combat it.  I had worked out that if I ate small meals, and avoided trigggers like chocolate, things were better.  I have also been taking probiotics on and off for several years.  But nothing has improved my life like cutting out gluten.  I knew all about the links between mind and body; I have been saying for a long time that we should look at the whole person.  But I had no idea that by removing one type of foodstuff from my diet, such a huge difference would be made, not just to my body, but to my mind too.

To be fair, I have also been seeing a counsellor for CBT, and I am sure that is part of the picture.  I am also re-reading my book on the Alexander technique.  Maybe I am just finally in the place to see some proper improvements in my life.  And of course, everything is not always perfect - sometimes I still feel slightly stressed.  Like this afternoon, for example, when the children had friends over and for some reason the only game they wanted to play was fighting.  But I seem to have finally found a more solid foundation - the sense of self that I have been lacking.  Long may it last!

Louise x 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Free Book Today!

Hi all

Did I mention that we had signed up to the Amazon lending library, so my book is available on there?  Actually, all my books are, I think. 

Today is a freeee day!  Some sort of promotion - beats me, but Paul thinks it is a good idea.  So you can download my memoir for free.  I think you get a month then to read it.  And you do not have to own a Kindle to take advantage of this offer - the book can be downloaded to any PC or other computer type device, iPhone or whatever. 

Just go to Amazon Kindle and download the app - it is all quick and easy to do, as I know because I have done it my very own self and I am not that computer savvy.  Click on the link at the top of this page, or go to Amazon and Google 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Tale of Sound and Fury'. 

And enjoy.  If you want to, of course - no obligation.

Have a good day.  I will write more soon.

Louise x

Monday, 12 December 2011

Rethink Meeting

Hi Everyone

Met the lady from Rethink today.  I was confused, because I had been emailing this lady, who I had only met once at the Rethink AGM, and hoping I would recognise her again when we finally met.  I had a picture in my mind of who she was.  But she turned out to be someone completely different - although I did remember her from the AGM, she was not the person I thought I had been emailing and was going to meet!  The one I thought it was had been sitting at the same lunch table as Paul and I, this one was sitting at the next table.

So that was an embarrassing start.  Luckily the two ladies who I had brought with me to the meeting were much more socially ept than I, and while I was burbling on about how I thought she was someone else they smoothed things over, bought her a cup of tea, etc...  I have not felt more like someone with a mental health problem for a long time.

We talked through setting up the group, and came to some conclusions, although I must say I am a little befuddled by it all.  The whole business seems to be a little political.  Which I suppose it would be if a large organisation is to be involved.  They have to have rules and regulations and so on.  I suppose the best I can do is give it a try.  I want to get things up and running in the New Year, although nobody else seems to be in much of a hurry. 

Anyway, it went ok, I suppose.  I do let my mouth run away with me sometimes in conversation; I wish I could express myself more lucidly.  I am still so much clearer on the page than in person.  Maybe I always will be.

The wind is raging outside.  The kids had trouble settling down to sleep, because of the racket.  Paul has gone to the supermarket - he likes to shop in the evenings.  Hope he gets home soon. 

That's all for now, folks!

Louise x

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Not Long Now!

Hi All

Not long until what, I hear you wonder...  A big lunch.  Lots of presents (for the children).   A nice long walk with the dog.  A visit to the relatives.  At this time of year it seems as though everything is building up to that one day.  Sometimes I think it would be nice if we celebrated in lots of little bursts, instead of one big one.  It would take the pressure off.  But then I suppose we do that too, with birthdays and Easter and such, so I am just burbling on really...

I am hoping to blitz all the present buying tomorrow morning.  I have done some bits and pieces already of course, but time is running out now - I have only a couple of free days before the end of term, and one thing I know is that it is not going to be possible to shop with the children in tow.

I tried it on Friday - took my Mum to the shops, with Toddler.  He was very good considering, but did encourage me to overspend in the DVD department.  He kept badgering me to buy more DVDs, and I must have been feeling weak, because I complied.  They weren't just for him, but for all the family, they were inexpensive, and I do think DVDs make good gifts. 

But then I had to tell Toddler he had to forget I had bought them, because they had to go to a central sorting office for Santa to see who they should be given to, and if he was really good we might get the DVDs he had chosen back (?!).  'I have forgotten already' he said, but when we got back to the car he kept asking to be allowed to hold the bag.  'No, you have to forget we bought them' I told him again, and he replied again, 'I have forgotten already'.  He hasn't mentioned it since, but I am sure he is just biding his time. 

Toddler was funny at dinner time.  All the children were being silly, as they so often are at mealtimes, but as his big sister was holding forth he said to her, 'Don't you start!' in an extremely high and mighty tone.  At the end of the meal his big brother sang 'Silent Night' which he has been learning at school, and he listened most patiently.  He must be growing up.  I will have to find a new way of referring to him soon - he is no longer the Toddler he was when I began this blog (two whole years ago!).

After the shopping tomorrow I have a meeting scheduled with the lady from Rethink Mental Illness who is going to help me set up a new group in this area, hopefully starting early next year.  I do hope it works out, I feel very positive about doing something...positive, and useful.  I want the emphasis of the group to be on Recovery, and I will start by handing everyone out a document referring them to all the useful sites and blogs I have found on the Web.  Although I suppose not everyone may have access to the Internet.  Anyway, I will keep you all posted, and if anyone has any useful ideas for the group, any  suggestions about how it should run or what might help people, please post your comments  below - any help would be much appreciated.

All the best

Louise x

Friday, 9 December 2011

YouTube film about Recovery from Schizophrenia

Hi Guys

Spent a good evening, looking at other mental health blogs, and following various links.  This is a film I came across on YouTube, by following a link from a comment on Ron Unger's great blog.

This guy is very young (24) but had 'schizophrenia' from the age of ten.  He is better now, largely because he finally found the courage to tell his GP about the paranoia.  The film is well worth watching. 

On a different note, my dear husband, who helps me sometimes with techy things, has this evening, while I have been browsing the net, made my memoir available to lend to (Amazon Premier Account Holders?) in the USA.  Amazon have just set up a lending library, and we thought that my book might as well be a part of it.  Just thought I would mention that.  I think that one way to beat this mental illness thing is to stand up and be counted, and if this young man (on You Tube) is willing to put himself out to fight the stigma, I am going to redouble my efforts to do the same.

Louise x

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Hello everyone

Ventured to Lidl today.  Had both boys off school - the big one is really poorly, with a hacking cough and a cold that has been lingering for weeks.  The little one was sneezing and coughing this morning, so I thought he might as well keep his brother company, since play school is optional.  They have had a whale of a time.

This morning I cut their hair!  I was fully prepared to rush them off to the hairdresser if it all went pear shaped, as I was sure it would.  But to my amazement they look great.  Aided by the fact that they always look great, but they really are good haircuts.  They have had worse haircuts, in proper hairdressing shops - and better, of course.

We went to Lidl at lunchtime - seemed to be really short of supplies, and since Paul and I are out tonight I had no choice but to take the boys shopping with me.  They were lovely but annoying; hanging on to the trolley so that I could hardly manoeuvre it, they were genuinely convinced that they were helping me and I didn't like to insist otherwise.  I ended up buying them a book each. Toddler's was an animal atlas, which was not as good as its cover suggested.  (Why didn't I guess why it was shrink wrapped?)  His big brother's book was great though - a flip page quiz book, which is just up his street.  He will read factual books for hours - in fact he will read anything for hours these days, he has become such a bookworm.  My boy!

Drove to collect my eldest from school - I don't usually do that but it was pouring today and she is singing in a carol concert tonight, so I thought she deserved a couple of hours at home to chill out first.

I am feeling a bit stressed again.  Mainly because of my Mum and her recent health scare, although she seems to be back on track now - she has been thoroughly checked at the hospital, and is back home with her dog now.  She can't drive for a while, so tomorrow I am going to head up there with Toddler (hopefully his brother will be back at school) and take her to the shops.  She will enjoy that.

I think I am also stressed because I haven't written much recently - keep failing to get into a routine.  I will get organised soon.   Only one more week until the school holidays, hurrah!

All the best to all of you

Louise x

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

TIA - would you know the signs?

Hi Guys

This is where watching very little TV, and almost never the commercial channels, has done me a disservice - apparently there is a TV advert which gives the FAST signs - Face, Arms, Speech - of an impending stroke.  Not knowing this, I sat and watched my Mum have a TIA - a mini-stroke - in my front room on Friday night.  We were having a conversation about recent tests she had been having at her GP surgery, because she had signs of high cholesterol, when she was suddenly struck dumb.  I could see that she wanted to speak but was having trouble finding her words, and when she did work out what to say, it came out all wrong.  A few minutes later it was all over, and she was sitting and speaking normally.

I phoned my friend, who is a nurse, and she said it was probably a TIA and that the GP would want to see Mum immediately and would probably send her to A and E.  I phoned the GP, but he did not want to see her.   She had had a recent blood pressure check and a blood test, of which he had the results as he spoke to me.  He told me to get her some aspirin and start her taking them, and that he would write her a prescription for some medication to lower her cholesterol levels, which we should pick up on Monday, and that was pretty much it.  Now it is pretty much business as usual - she has been staying with my sister since Friday but is due to go home today.  Hopefully she will soon get a referral to the TIA clinic at the hospital, where they will hopefully confirm that all is now ok.

The worst thing, in a way, is that she has been told not to drive for six weeks, which is a huge blow to her independence.  So she is going to need a good deal of looking after.  Poor old Mum.

Of course, nobody wants to be reminded of the mortality of their parents, but it must be worse for the parents themselves.  Even a minor incident like this is a huge blow to the confidence.  My children were devastated, of course, once they realised what had happened in front of their eyes; although at the time they didn't even notice.  Afterwards, they were terribly upset at what could have become of Granny, and I felt so much for them.  Death is the bogey man for all of us, but he seems most threatening when you are young, before you have weathered a few storms and realise that nothing is the end of the world, except of course the end of the world. 

I feel that I have coped surprisingly well through all this.  I have spent a lot of my life in a state of arrested development (until I had my own children, in fact) and the biggest fear I could name was always that of losing my mother.  But at times when that loss has seemed most likely - on several occasions over the last few years - I have not found myself descending into panic, but reacting instead to the situations as they have evolved.  I think it is because I have more balance at the core now - my family, my home.  I have to manage when times are hard, I have to teach my children how to manage. 

I would hate to lose my Mum, at any time.  I will never be ready to part with the person who gave me life.  But maybe these happenings are a way of toughening us all up, preparing us.  We know that we are not immortal, but we have to keep ignoring it - until one day the fact pops up and bops us in the face.  Then the only challenge will be not to fall flat over.

Louise x

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Notes on a Book

Hi again

Well, I did some work on the book last night, kind of.  I was really tired, but I made rough notes of the chapter headings and a few lines on each, up to about Chapter 8, just so I felt I had done what I set out to do.  I suppose I can build on that...

I went to the Ladies Group at the local church tonight.  I feel a bit odd about admitting to that - I have this childish inclination to scoff at organised religion, although I find myself becoming more spiritual as life goes on.  In actual fact I have an unshakeable conviction that there is definitely a God in the world, because I am so happy these days - which as my atheist friend pointed out, is most egocentric of me.  But when I am in church, I feel this rebelliousness, as if I am still a cynical, unhappy and disillusioned thirteen year old sitting in school assembly feeling that everyone around me, quietly praying and conforming, is deluding themselves and trying to decieve others by holding out false hopes, mirages.

(The next bit is in the book, you can switch off if you have read it).  I was a very religious child - I loved reading, and the Bible was my default setting when I had nothing else to read.  Jesus was definitely the man for me, and I was very disappointed at the age of eleven or so to be told he didn't exist and that I was Jewish from now on.  I came to embrace Judaism, but unfortunately it didn't feel the same way about me - as a reform Jew I never felt that I was properly accepted as one of the clan.  But a person can't keep changing their moral bedrock, and although there are a lot of churches around where I live, all staffed and populated by lovely and welcoming people, I have got out of the 'Jesus habit'.  Apart from anything else, I feel it would be betraying the Jewish race to become a Christian - I have read so much about their (our?) struggles and the Holocaust and so on.  I have been to Yad Vashem, for goodness sake. 

As people sometimes put on their Facebook status, 'It's complicated'.  So I have come to the conclusion that my belief in God is best kept private and that organised religion is not for me - but I love the ladies group!  One of the ladies there is a proper maverick - she told everyone present this evening that you won't find God in church (I know her quite well and although she is a very active member of the church she seems quite disillusioned with the politics of it all).  She is very sensible, lovely, and makes me feel that not only is it possible to believe in God on your own terms, it is actually the best way.

Lights are always dim in the Ladies group, to lower the reserve, I believe.  Tonight's meeting was aimed at opening up, talking about ourselves, and attendees had been encouraged to bring something to show, which said something about who they were.  One lady brought a journal, another showed the contents of her handbag, another had a cobbler's last.  It was extremely interesting.  I love the stories of peoples' lives, and almost everybody shared something (I didn't, but I have spoken before to this group, so most of them present already knew my stuff, about the book and this blog and so on.  In fact, the reception I received from them originally, when I read out excerpts from my poetry book, really helped me to open up generally).

I haven't been to the group for quite a few months, but am going to start attending regularly again.  Apart from anything else, there is always a welcoming cup of tea, fresh flowers on the tables as well as chocolates and sweets, and tonight there was cheesecake and chocolate eclairs and champagne truffles!  Enough to cheer up anyone and make you feel valued, even without the sense of fellowship and fun...  Just a little prayer at the end, but a sensible one and one that did not mention the word Jesus, so nothing I couldn't say a genuine 'Amen' to.

To go back to the rest of the day now... I visisted my niece after dropping Toddler at play school.  Her baby was sick all over me almost as soon as I arrived, so I had to go home and change.  I was soaked, literally, to the skin.  I walked the dog.  I saw my counsellor (I could write reams about this counselling, but shouldn't and so won't.  I asked for counselling six months ago, anticipating a period of stress around the release of my book, and the sessions have finally started.  Fortunately, in the meantime I had weathered the period of stress, but decided to go ahead with the counselling, since there is always room to improve.  Well, there certainly is in my case.)

Then I tidied.  A lot.  Last night Paul went into the loft to get the advent calendars and Christmas cards that were left over from last year.  We are not feeding the children year-old chocolates by the way, these are refillable advent calendars, with little fabric pouches  that Paul spent the evening stocking with Roses chocolates and then tying up the tiny red ribbons on.  Top Daddy.  Meanwhile, I was busy trying to start my new book. 

Anyway, Paul had also chucked down a load of bin liners from the loft filled with clothes that I had put away at various points over the years and needed to sort out again.  Also old cuddly toys, ancient duvets and so on.  So this morning I got up and made my bleary way to the kithcen through a hall filled with all these bags of stuff,  and felt quite overwhelmed by them - although I had asked him to get it all down for me. 

I didn't feel that I was going to be able to tackle the mess.  But I had to - because the alternative prospect, of steering around the clutter for days, was worse.  So that was my day - sorting out loads and loads of old tat (some of it not tat at all actually).  I did the same on Tuesday - a massive tidy of my younger daughter's bedroom, which took almost the whole day.  I know what I am doing - finding excuses not to knuckle down properly to the writing.  Displacement activity, they call it.  But the side effect is a tidy house, or something heading, almost certainly temporarily, in that direction.  So, every cloud has a silver lining. 

Louise x

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Weekday Weakness

Hi Guys

I have figured out that I really need to get on with some work - by which I mean writing, but with a purpose.  My recovery book is still not much more than a series of notes, and could quickly become a jumble of them, so I am going to start this evening by ordering the thing, writing up a proper plan.  So that I can see where I am going with it, chapter by chapter.

If I don't have a project on the go my mind tends to wander and pick over stuff, and worry it.  I have spent the last few months recovering from my foot op, and trying to organise the house, which fell into chaos when I couldn't clean and tidy at my usual pace, and settling the kids into their school routines, on.  Now before I know what has happened I am feeling unfulfilled, a bit miserable and a bit fidegety, and I know why.

So here goes!  I will keep you all posted.

Louise x

PS - I signed up a while ago to a website called the Happiness Project (there is a book of the same name) and I get an email sent free to my inbox every day, with a quote for the day.  They are often uplifting, and quaint and also surprisingly apt.  It is a nice thing, so I thought I would share it.  Yesterday's quote was by Oscar Wilde, something like 'I must find a way to make everything that has happened to me, good for me'.  I liked that.  Here's the link:

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Manic Weekend

Hi all

I have just survived the busiest weekend ever - it can only get better now.  We have had a child's party (great fun!) two shows, a school Christmas Fayre and countless other committments to get through - and we have done it!  Half past nine and I am ready for bed, but hurrah!

Now I am on a mission to keep the children well through the winter months.  We have had so many years of coughs and colds and chest infections, but now that they are getting bigger and stronger I feel that we may be starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.  (As I started that sentence Toddler just began coughing in his sleep: talk about tempting fate!)

I have realised today that our home phone literally never rings these days.  We can go days without a single call.  I suppose that is because everyone has mobiles and sends text messages these days.  Makes me feel like a bit of a billy-no-mates at times though...Then again, I used to spend far too much time on the phone.

Everyone should be back at school and work tomorrow.  That means I can crack on with my book.  I will have to find some discipline at some point... Give myself a target of a set number of hours to work each day, or each week. 

Anyway, I am waffling, and none of this can possibly be of interest to anybody but me...

Which leads me to the question, is any blog post better than no post at all? 

Probably not.

All the best to all of you

Louise x

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Schizophrenia and Stress

Hi there

I am feeling a little stressed this morning.  I think it is because the house is a bit of a tip (Paul is redecorating the front room) and Toddler is having his birthday party on Sunday.  I wanted to take him and some friends to Pizza Hut, but he insisted on having the party at home, so I will just have to get organised at the weekend and have a massive tidy-up and sort out. 

On the bright side, quite a few people have already announced that their kids can't make it, which is understandable because it is such a busy time of year.  There will still be plenty of attendees (my four can make quite a rollicking party on their own and I know at least six of Toddler's friends are coming, and some of his cousins).  But at least we will have room to move now - I always ending up inviting too many to my children's parties because I don't want anyone to feel left out, so I am quite pleased when people say no (although usually they don't). 

The weekend is going to be really busy - we have four big things to do just on Saturday.  All nice things, but still.  But I think that must be playing on my mind too - generally I am quite zen like and calm these days, but today I have a creeping sensation of anxiety. 

I am going to tackle it by writing (more on my Recovery book, hopefully not just in note form now, but actually make an attempt at a proper beginning).  Then I am going to go shopping for some of the party bits and pieces, so I feel as though I have made a start on that.  I find that doing is the solution to stress these days - stop worrying, start doing.

Which brings me to the title of this post - Schizophrenia and Stress.  The very word Schizophrenia makes me feel stressed.  And just a few short years ago I would have thought that the stress and anxiety I happen to be feeling this morning are symptomatic of my illness, which would have made me feel even worse.  But I am moving away from all that now - I no longer consider myself to be Schizophrenic (which makes it odd using the word in my blog, but I do that to make the point that it is a misnomer, an unfair and misleading use of guesswork that can adversely affect the whole of a person's life).  If I am stressed, then there is a reason, and by accepting that I can deal with it, and the stress dissipates as a result. 

What a lot of damage has been done to so many people!  I am one of the lucky ones - no-one would have known my diagnosis if I had not announced it (after many years of keeping it a secret).  But those people who are still medicated, still in and out of hospital, total victims of the system, freaked out because of their diagnoses of schizophrenia - who is going to give them back their lives?  It is so unspeakably sad.

Anyway, I feel better already after that little rant.  Writing as therapy.  Sorry if I sometimes repeat stuff - I feel that this blog could do with a good sorting out and tidying up - a bit like my house!

All in good time.

Louise x    

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Facebook and Schizophrenia

Hi Everybody

I was delighted to find on Facebook today that Rethink made a very perceptive and succinct post listing the five chief myths re schizophrenia.  I couldn't resist commenting, and linking to here, so I just thought I would say to anyone who has arrived from that source - go to the early posts if you want to find out about my story.  I have recently been considering trying to order the posts in some way, so that people could see at a glance what is relevant to what they want to know - assuming that any of it is. 

For now, all I can say is that when I started this blog, I wrote it anonymously to work through the issues I had dealing with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and trying to keep it secret from anyone who knew me.  Two years later, I have come a long way, to the point that lots of the blog posts nowadays are not particularly about mental illness, although it is still a subject that interests me, and which will probably always have a bearing on my life.

So I am afraid that newcomers may have to trawl through a bit of a backlog - if you want to.  |Go back to the early posts.  Alternatively, look for my ebook on Amazon Kindle - 'Surviving Schizophrenia:  A Tale of Sound and Fury' by Louise Gillett.  You can download the first eight or so chapters to your computer, Kindle, or any reading device, free of charge, with no obligation to buy the rest of it.  It should make you smile (sounds strange for such a subject, but take a look!)

Louise x

Monday, 21 November 2011

The New Book

Hello out there

I have just put the phone down on a long call from a friend, who has just finished reading my book.  Despite her reassurances that it is all well written and very interesting, I know the book needs more work - it is hard to define, but it is a bit like when I was at University - I knew if I had written an outstanding essay or done really well in an exam, and I want to feel like that about my book before it goes to hard print. 

I suppose some other people must feel differently - the majority of students when I was at Uni seemed genuinely not to know whether they had done well or badly in tests etc.  And most young people I know now are on tenterhooks when it comes to waiting for exam results.  But back then I suspected that they must be hiding something - I felt that everyone knew how they have performed even before their work was marked, because I did.  I was never surprised when I received a mediocre mark, because I knew it was for mediocre work.

Thus with my book.  It is good, I know that.  It is very good in some ways.  But it is not brilliant - it is not a bestseller, not ground shaking.  Not yet.  (Paul will hate me for writing this, he says you should never put yourself down because there are plenty of other people willing to do it for you.  And he is right in a way, but I want to be honest about how I feel about what I write, because the honesty is important to the writing too.  My book will help people to understand schizophrenia, or the diagnosing of it, better and to be reassured if they or those they love are told they have it.  It will give hope to certain people, if they stumble across it.  But I want it to be more than that.  I want it to be of universal interest, universal application, universal hope.  I want the average person who reads it to feel that their understanding has been enhanced in some way.  And I won't feel that it is properly finished until and unless it accomplishes those aims.  And if I don't feel that I have achieved that then I will just move on and start another book.  on a completely different subject).

Which brings me to another point.  Or two.  The first is that I need an agent.  I want an outside person to give me an honest, critical assessment of the book and to take up the job of marketing it - to find me a publisher.  (Readers, if you know anyone in the field, please point them to me.)  And the second is that instead of working on the book some more, trying to improve it as much as possible, and then, or alternatively, write a book on recovery, I am going to amalgamate these two jobs.  I am going to improve the book and make it about recovery as much as about my history.  So that I can use the subtitle that my dear friend just suggested to me on the phone,  'A journey of hope and recovery', and know that it is properly true.

Let me know what you think.

Louise x

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Hi guys

I feel truly empowered today.  I mowed the lawn!  'Huh?' you may well be thinking.  But this honestly was a big moment for me, because it is usually something Paul does.  We have been living in this house for ten and a half years, and for all that time, he has mowed the lawn.  Before that, I lived in various flats, none of which had a garden.  A long, long time ago, I used to mow my Mum's lawn (fifteen, twenty years?) but that had receded into the distant mists of memory.

It has been so long since I mowed a lawn that I honestly believed it was something I could not, and should not, do.  I thought I might mow through the cable accidentally, or run over something which would break the mower...I am not sure what I thought, but gradually over the years mowing the lawn began to seem like something that was totally out of my reach.

Part of the problem, of course, was that I did not need to mow the lawn, or particularly want to.  OK, sometimes Paul left the job longer than I would have liked, but he always got on with it eventually.  It is not one of his favourite tasks, but I reasoned that he did it better than I would have done.  In the same way as he used to fill my car with petrol for me, he mowed the lawn and that made my life easier (he stopped filling my car up a couple of years ago, and I still sometimes feel a bit resentful about having to do it myself.  Incredible, that.  I used to be so independent).

I have been hemmed about with anxieties for a long time.  In some ways, they have paralysed me.  For example, I convinced myself for many years that I could not drive on the motorway or do any long distance driving, and it is only quite recently that I realised I am capable of this too.  It is amazing how you can be hedged in by your mind, if you allow this to happen.  Or rather, if it happens and you don't find or develop the tools to reverse the process.

Anyway, at the moment Paul is really busy.  He seems no sooner to finish one job in the house or on one of the cars than he starts the next.  Plus, of course, he works full time.  So when I looked out at the garden this morning and decided that I wanted the lawn mowed, I knew that somehow I would have to do it myself. 

I nearly lost my resolve.  By the time Paul had got the mower out of the shed, where he keeps it behind loads of other stuff, and found the extension lead and set the whole thing up, he probably would have needed very little persuausion to just keep on going and mow the lawn for me. 

But the kids had got wind of the fact that I was going to mow it, and this was big news for them.  They all lined up in the conservatory to watch the show.  And I decided that I had better give them value for money, so I got started.  And carried on.  And realised (remembered) that it is actually quite a pleasant job, and not difficult at all (and is indeed a bit like hoovering, as my niece had pointed out earlier over lunch, to hoots of derision from Paul).

The kids quickly lost interest, and started to play with the keyboard that I had just moved from the shed to the conservatory (I have had a massive clear out today).  It was more lovely than I can explain properly to watch them through the glass, all four of them messing about together, dancing and singing in unison.  They were playing so happily, and so unselfconsciously.  Wonderful.

I carried on mowing, and was about half way through my task when I realised that I was getting a huge sense of achievement from this hoovering of the garden.  I was doing something that I had convinced myself was beyond my capabilities, and it felt better than I could have imagined (and I do realise this must sound pathetic).  I then realised something else - that going out to work would feel the same.  That is something I have ruled out of my life for so long now.  But I feel that I could do it.  And even though I am not convinced that me going out to work would be the best thing for the family, it would almost be worth trying it just for a day or two, if only to get the sense of achievement that it would bring.

In the last day or two though, when I think about working I realise that really I just want to write and that writing is probably where my future lies.  Nevertheless, I am still considering the options, because it feels so good to have those options.

All the best to all of you

Louise x

Friday, 18 November 2011

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Hi again

This title 'How to Be a Woman' by Caitlin Moran is one of eighteen books currently on my bedside table.  I have just counted.  Yesterday the pile appeared to be teetering, and I thought, 'That's odd, it's not long since I took a whole load of books out to the shed'  (Paul built the shed several years ago for me to write in: I now have a corner and the kids have the rest for their toys).

Anyway.  I have read eight of the books (they can go out to the shed now).  I have partly read three (one of them I am reading in stages with my older son).  The rest are just gathering dust. 

But the reason I mentioned it is because my son noticed the Caitlin Moran one the other day.  He looked at it.  He is a good reader for his age, is at that stage where he suddenly reads stuff all over the place.  And he looked mystified as he said, 'But you already know how to be a woman'. 

So sweet.  I just had to share that.

That is one of the books I haven't yet read, and I should.  Trouble is, it has gone to the bottom of the pile because it has been so widely reviewed that I feel I don't really need to read it now - I have already got its measure.  I just wrote my Poppy Shakespeare review - the first Amazon review I have done, which I can hardly believe - and then had to rewrite it because I had given the plot away in my first attempt. 

I am definitely going to review every book I read now.  And I will find it easy to start - I started keeping a record of what I had read and what I thought of them about a year ago (stopped after about six months, but there is still plenty in there to get me started).  It is quite nice to see my name in print in a different place, and I enjoyed writing the Poppy Shakespeare review, although it was very brief in the end (once I had taken all the bits out that gave the story away).

Anyway.  Hope you are all well and happy.  More soon.

Louise x 

Benefits, Madness and Laughter (not necessarily in that order)

Hi everyone

I was thinking today, I have a bit of a death wish about being on benefits - the more I keep shouting about not wanting to be on them any more, the more chance someone is going to take them away.  And they do provide a buffer against stress...but let's not go through all that again.  I feel that change is on its way, and that it will be a Good Thing when it happens.

My girls (who keep their eyes and ears open so wide you would think they are in training for MI5) have cottoned on to the benefits thing.  The older one was upset that I am on benefits - she said she hadn't realised we were so poor.  The younger one is using it as a stick with which to poke me.  We were messing around this evening, being silly, and she said, 'I wouldn't give up benefits if I was you.  Because you are MAD!'  Then she kept poking.  'In fact' she said, 'I think they should double them.  Because you are SO MAD!'  She was delighted with herself because I was laughing so much at her cheek, and I was just astounded, wondering where on earth it all comes from.  She is nine years old!  How did she get such an understanding of what makes people tick and of how the world works? 

But it is good that I can laugh, and that I can be more open with my daughters.  I have reassured my elder one that we are not in poverty, and not about to descend into it.  When I finally stopped laughing, I told the little one she should have more respect, and more belief in her Mama - I am going to make it good in life, even though I may be taking the long route round.  But a few short years ago I could not even have said the word 'Mad' out loud - now I can laugh at someone taking the mickey out of me for it.  The shame has gone, and with it the fear, and it is only a matter of time before all the anxiety and other nonsense follows the rest of the unecessary emotions out of the door.

More soon

Louise x

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Poppy Shakespeare

Hi all

They were selling off some books at the Rethink AGM the other day, and I bought a couple.  I had read the reviews for Poppy Shakespeare a while ago, and meant to get around to reading it sometime, so when I saw it for sale for just a pound I was delighted.  It took me a few days to get around to starting it though, but when I did (yesterday) I was surprised at how good it is.  It is unputdownable.

I suppose this is partly because I have spent some time in a day hospital, although it was quite unlike the one portrayed, or at least my experience of it was quite different.  What is good about the book is that it is written from the perspective of a patient - a very messed-up one, one with (almost) the worst childhood imaginable, but one who knows the system, and who plays it.  It is just so funny, but at the same time so awful.  I can't remember finding anything so funny since the Adrian Mole books - but then I read those when I was a teenager, and identified with Adrian in a similar way. 

But poor poor Poppy Shakespeare, a sane woman who somehow finds herself in the day hospital on a compulsory basis....  So it is heart-wrenching too.  I am definitely going to write a review of this book as soon as I have finished it.  And I am going to learn from it too - my book is humourous, but the humour tails off about a third into the book.  Lightness of touch is definitely to be recommended. 

Although of course P S is fiction, which makes a difference (although I do seem to remember reading that the author had some sort of insight into mental illness; if I recall wrongly I apologise profusely.  You certainly would not think from the quality of the writing that this was the case.  Which sounds really rude to those who have been mentally ill, including myself, but I am just trying to make the point that I am not being rude.  Although if Clare Allen never had been ill or spent time inside a day hospital the book would be just too unkind for words, so she must have been....It would have been quicker if I just Googled the facts on the internet instead of speculating, but it's too late now.  Well, it's not, but I'm not going to right now). 

Anyway....I was actually a bit jealous of Clare Allen recently - I read that she was teaching an Arvon course.  I would like to teach at Arvon one day - I reckoned when I was there about a year ago that I might achieve this goal in ten years' time, but this 'goal' may well be deluded.  Having read (most of) her book, I would now love to take one of her courses - what a writer!  She really has the hang of story telling, which still eludes me - most of my writing is still journalistic in tone.  Now I am starting to wish that I had fictionalised my own book, but I am not sure if I could have done. 

Poppy Shakespeare is so good I really had to tear myself away to write this blog post, and I am well aware that I should be doing housework and neither reading nor blogging.  Hey ho.

Didn't get an interview for the Time to Change job, by the way.  Applicants called for interview were due to be notified by email yesterday at the latest.  I checked my email obsessively, most of the day, but there was nothing from Time to Change.  Hey ho again. 

Still want to get off benefits and into work, somehow.  Reading Poppy Shakespeare makes it seem even more urgent.  The big issue at the day hospital is the workings of the so-called 'Ministry of Madness' and the MAD money forms that patients have to fill out, around which their daily existence seems to hinge.  It is cringeworthy.  Anybody who hasn't read it yet really really should.  I wonder if Clare Allen has written any more books?  That I will Google.

So, do I have anything else to write about?  Not particularly.  I suppose I will put my efforts into starting up a Rethink group.  It will keep me busy for now, and hopefully pave the way to employment somehow too.  I will also plug on with the writing - because first and foremost a writer is what I am, even though sometimes other writers seem to be a lot better at it than me.  Which is so not fair!  (But is probably because they work harder at it).

Bye for now

Louise x

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Another interesting blog

Hi again

This guy recovered, or as he prefers to term it, was cured from schizophrenia when he was thirty, which is now thirty years ago.  So there is a wealth of experience here:

I read a lot of it the other day, need to go back and finish. 

He is completely well now, and I guess by his 'Skyblue' standards I am not quite there - he suffers from no anxieties for example, and I still do.  But I do like to read someone who writes from the perspective that complete cure is possible - because belief that one can become better is essential in order to be able to do so.  This is where psychiatrists are failing their patients most - in refusal to believe in them as complete human beings.

I want to make the point today that for all my attempts to write clearly on the subject of mental health, I am only speculating a lot of the time.  I don't know a lot about schizophrenia really, except for my own experience of it, which I have analysed a lot over the years, and the experiences of others who were ill alongside me.  I know, for example, of two men who made amazing recoveries, both of who attended the same day hospital as me.  Both of them got better after they embarked on relationships with mental health nurses from the hospital - from this I conclude that the love of a good and strong person is a vital aid to recovery.

Also, I write about schizophrenia from the perspective of someone with a chaotic upbringing and very little or no family support.  Therefore I cannot speak for the experiences of those who have had loving chidlhoods, except in so far as they have experimented with drugs such as cannabis, where their experience overlaps with my own.  For this reason I may seem dismissive of family 'carers'.  Rationally, I know that they are loving people, who want the best for those who they support.  I can see this, and I understand it. 

When I write about how families can sometimes hold a person back, I am personalising the issue.  My mother is an alcoholic - I have always felt secure about the fact that she loves me (I think I would have completely disintegrated without this knowledge) but as a mother when I was growing up she was useless.  I see her failings all too clearly now that I am a mother myself - I know how much attention children need, and how little I was given.  I still love her though, and she is a good Granny to my kids.

After I became unwell, I became emotionally reliant on my sisters.  I tried to cling to them - they had homes, children, they seemed secure.  They led their lives successfully.  I longed to learn from them.  I couldn't let go, because I felt that I needed their approval, their validation, their love of me.  It is only since I have had a family of my own that I have been able to move on properly - to approach the world from an adult perspective, to stop being so sensitive.  I still have a way to go!

Another point that I wanted to make is about psychiatric drugs.  I believe that they are over-prescribed, that people should only take them when they choose to do so and that they should be encouraged to believe that they can manage without them.  Because they can.  However, I never stopped taking any medication without the full knowledge, consent and monitoring of a psychiatrist.  I would have been too scared to do anything else. 

So really I was quite fairly treated by the mental health system - except when I was sectioned.  I was lucky, though, because I could have been swallowed up by the system - it was only my longing for a child, and my discovery that the drugs had made me infertile, that helped me to find my way out.  The diagnosis nearly did for me!  It does upset me when I see people who have been on medication for many years, and who are basically walking shells, but I don't know all the circumstances behind their stories.  I only suspect that things could have, and should have, been different for them.

Anyway, that is enough about me.  I am only rattling on about this because I have embarked on my book about recovery, so the matters of the hows and whys are in the forefront of my mind.  I am really enjoying the writing process this time - writing about mental health in a positive way is very cathartic!

Bye for now


Monday, 14 November 2011

The Schizophrenia Commission

Hi again

At the Rethink AGM on Saturday, Paul and I met Terry Bowyer, who has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and who has been invited to sit on the Schizophrenia Commission.  He is collecting recovery stories for the consideration of the Commission, and he asked me to send mine in. 

Sorry, if it seems self-aggrandizing to publish it here.  It represents several hours of work, which is why I am doing so.  Not because I think it is brilliant or anything!  Also, I decided on Saturday to go ahead with an idea that I have had for a new book on the subject of recovery from schizophrenia.  This statement is my starting point.  I have no idea how many thousand words it contains, because I forgot to do a word count, but I know that I will have many many thousands more to go before I am finished.  It feels good to be on a mission again.

Louise x


I am pleased to have been offered this chance to give evidence to the Schizophrenia Commission about my experience of diagnosis with, and recovery from, schizophrenia.

I use the term 'recovery' in its fullest sense. I have been free of medication and free of symptoms for twelve years now. I have a husband, a home, and four young children – all things that I never thought would be possible at the age of twenty-five when I was given the diagnosis. At that time I accepted what I was told; that the outlook was bleak in the extreme, that I would get worse as I became older and that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

I do suffer from anxiety and stress, to some degree, but I know very few people who do not. I do not hear voices, or suffer from delusions or hallucinations, and I have only had these experiences when I have been in the throes of psychosis. The last of these occasions was twelve and a half years ago. I know that I am still classed as 'schizophrenic' in medical terms, but do not consider this to be a true reflection of the facts. Perhaps this is something the Commission could consider – that full recovery from serious mental illness is a reality. In this way, hope could be offered to those given the diagnosis.

In any case, I will set out first a few facts about my history. I was an extremely shy and nervous child. I had a chaotic upbringing – my mother was an alcoholic and my father a gambler. He was also a very volatile character, and extremely verbally abusive. My only happy years were the three I spent at boarding school, Roedean in Brighton, but I had to leave when I was thirteen because of lack of funds. (The school offered me an 'Exhibition', under the terms of which I could remain indefinitely with no fees payable (I was an outstanding student) but my father refused this offer because it was not extended to my older sister, so he felt that it was unfair).

I fell into bad company and bad habits as a teenager – I was extremely unhappy and isolated. I left home at sixteen, lived in various bedsits and smoked a lot of cannabis, but managed to get through my A levels and win a place to study Law at the University of Southampton. I found though, that with no social skills whatsoever and with very low self esteem, I floundered. I had a breakdown when I was nineteen, was sectioned, and spent three months in a mental hospital, St Anns in Poole, Dorset.

The treatment I received in mental hospital was brutal. Forced medication should be outlawed in my opinion, or saved for the most extreme cases; those who have been violent or suicidal. I was neither. The emphasis in hospital was on containment, not understanding, and this amounted to an inhumane system, notwithstanding the good intentions of some members of staff.

When I finally left St Anns I was keen to get on with life. I stopped taking medication gradually, under the supervision of a psychiatrist who I saw as an outpatient. I went back to University and gained an Upper Second Class LLB. However, I was still extremely nervous and insecure. I found it almost impossible to relax in company, although I longed to be more sociable. I felt like an outsider. By the time I graduated, although I was academically qualified to do a professional job, I knew that such work was out of my reach.

Instead I took on work as a waitress and cleaner (I had worked in the catering department at the University throughout my studies, something that was very unusual at that University at that time. I had to make ends meet during the holidays – when most people went home to their families I still had to pay for rent and buy food). My mental health deteriorated without me realising – I started to smoke cigarettes again, then cannabis, and before I knew it I was sectioned again and back in St Anns.

This time I did another three months' stint. I hated everything about that place – the forced medication, the atmosphere of fear, the mixed wards, the humiliation of finding myself in such a situation once again. But by the time I left I was still very weak mentally, and when a psychiatric nurse visited me at home and offered me the opportunity to attend a day hospital, I accepted through lack of any other options. At least this way, I could claim benefits to pay the rent on my flat, and so I would survive.

I was now twenty-five, and it was at the day hospital that my life changed. I was told that schizophrenia had first been diagnosed when I was nineteen, at the time of the first breakdown, but that it had not been thought appropriate to tell me then. Apparently the condition was confirmed by my second breakdown. Although I was confused at the lack of proof of the illness – there was (and remains) no physical test – I was told that there was no chance of recovery unless I accepted the diagnosis. Then, in a room filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health nurses, I was told that my life was effectively over. They spelled out that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life, and that I would get worse as I got older.

I know I mentioned this earlier in this document; that is because in my opinion the thing that most hindered my recovery was this dismal prognosis. I respected medical opinion, and I believed it. I started smoking again (by a huge effort of willpower I had stopped in the St Anns). I ate constantly – meals were free and plentiful in the day hospital, and my weight and general appearance seemed to be completely unimportant in the context of the fact that I was now a SCHIZOPHRENIC. I gave up hope. For years I took my medication, travelled to the day hospital and basically vegetated. To be fair, there was some effort made at the day hospital towards education – we were told that schizophrenics are more of a danger to themselves than to others, for example, but nothing detracted from my fear of what I had become, and what I might do as a SCHIZOPHRENIC.

After two or three years of this, when I finally began to recover, the impetus came from somewhere within myself. Somehow, I decided that I had had enough. I saw my sisters thriving, with their jobs and their young families, and I wanted what they had – I didn't want to write myself off any more. I didn't want to be fat, so I began to control my food intake. I decided to start exercising – I walked to the local pool every morning and swam. I was offered a flat by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association – the wife of the manager was a receptionist at the day hospital and she put in a word for me. This gave me some self-respect – it was a decent home that I could be proud of and where I felt safe.

I began to work again, as a chambermaid in a local hotel. It was menial and poorly paid, but it kept me active and was as stress-free as a job could be. Eventually I found a better job, in a call centre. Here I sent in an article to the internal newspaper, which resulted in some work setting up a newsletter for the Home Insurance department, and writing some internal communications documents for the call centre manager. I realised my vocation – I was a writer.

It took a while for things to settle properly. I met my husband, and we had a child, but I had my third and final breakdown after she was born. I was under considerable stress – my longed for child was born a month early and was taken directly to the neonatal intensive care unit. But the breakdown was bad – I was sectioned again. It was a huge shock to my system. and was regarded by everyone, including myself, as final proof of the schizophrenia.

I could not give in to the illness though, as I had done before, because I had my child to think about. As soon as I was released from hospital my husband returned to work and I assumed full care of our daughter. I looked after her diligently – played with her constantly, took her for long walks, and to mother and toddler groups. I was determined that she would grow up confident, so I learned to start and to share conversations with other Mums. And it worked! My daughter grew into a perfect little child, and my husband and I decided to cement out union with another. We were advised against it, but fortunately this pregnancy and birth was straightforward, and I remained well afterwards. Two years later we had another child, and eventually our fourth and last, and still I did not require medication. I gradually became more confident of my ability to cope with life.

I realised over time that if I kept my life calm and quiet, I would thrive and so would my children. I am busy these days, and my life is very child centred. My children are growing up to be incredibly smart and grounded, and the pride I take in them has given me the belief in myself that I always lacked. I have a place in society now, and I carry out my daily business as a full-time mother in much the same manner as those around me.

I now recognise and respond to signs of stress; for example if I have difficulty sleeping I make sure that I step back, calm down. I eat well and regularly. I never let myself become agitated to the point where I feel I could lose control. I bear in mind that what is important in life is my family, and that is where I direct my efforts, because I know that without me the home that my husband and I have built would crumble.

Benefits have helped, by removing financial stresses from the picture. I have been in receipt of sickness benefit for many years, but I am now at the point where I want to move on from this. It is hard to get better when one is paid to be ill; but it is hard to give up benefits when they provide a buffer from stress. Perhaps this is an issue that the Commission could address – that there could be more emphasis on provision of paid, therapeutic work for the mentally ill.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to manage without medication. I think that if I had taken long term medication I would not be as well as I am now. I believe that medication should be used only when necessary, and only when people agree to take it. Mental illness can be dealt with in many other ways, and anti-psychotic medications have many extremely damaging side effects. There have been times in the last twelve years or so when I have wanted some magic pill to relieve the effects of stress and anxiety in my mind – but by exercising, eating and sleeping well, staying calm and quiet, confiding in friends and so on, I have managed without it, and I believe that this has made me a more resilient person.

It has not been a straightforward journey to recovery; the stigma of the condition, the very word 'Schizophrenia' has been a cause of shame and has made me hide my illness for many years, and has certainly contributed to my low self-esteem. The campaign of the charity 'Time to Change' helped here – they gave me the courage to speak out. I would welcome a change in the diagnosis – for many years my GP claimed not to be able to spell the word 'schizophrenia' and wrote 'nervous debility' on my sick notes instead. I wish I had taken the hint.

I believe that if those who have recovered could speak to those who have been recently diagnosed – if I could say, for example, 'I have suffered exactly what you are going through – it is truly awful, but things will improve', this could only be a good thing. To this end, peer support networks should be strengthened, so that hope and inspiration for the future can be passed on to sufferers.

Another point I would like to make is that while carers of the mentally ill are naturally concerned for their well-being, they may disenfranchise the patient. In my own case, my family, although I love them, find it hard to accept even now that I am now healed and as well as they are – they persist in seeing me as vulnerable, as schizophrenic. We can become trapped in others' perceptions of us and find it hard to move on – in this way, to depend on the care of one's family may hinder complete recovery, as the long-term provision of benefit may- although of course it would be far worse to leave the mentally ill alone and destitute. Schizophrenics need to be protected from the adversities of life, but also taught to cope with them.

In my case, I feel the lack of constructive support from my family was actually to my benefit – I have been forced to find my own way through my difficulties and my achievements are more tangible as a result. However, without the support of my husband, I doubt whether I would ever have got better. In the words of Karl Jung, 'A schizophrenic is no longer a schizophrenic when he feels understood by somebody else'. All of us deserve that somebody.

I have experienced some extremely stressful events over the years; my mother, who I adore, had throat cancer, my eldest child was very ill in hospital with a streptococcal infection. But I did not break down in response – and this in itself has given me confidence. I see psychosis as the mind's way of escaping from reality, when reality becomes so awful that one cannot cope. In that way it is a protective device. But the final step to recovery for me has been accepting that I am now completely healed; that I am no longer any more vulnerable than anyone else, that anyone could break down given the circumstances I found myself in, and that I am in fact now much stronger as a result of my experiences. I have written a book about my life so far, 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Tale of Sound and Fury' under my maiden name, Louise Gillett, and am now embarking on another book detailing the steps that led me to recovery.

I wish the Schizophrenia Commission all the best in their enquiry, and put myself at their disposal should they require any further information.