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.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rethink AGM and Members Day

Hi again

Paul and I went to London yesterday, to attend the Rethink Members Day and AGM.  The AGM was probably the quickest part actually - just a show of hands on various matters such as voting in new trustees.  The rest of the time was taken up with various talks, question and answer sessions, and a workshop in the afternoon - we chose to attend the one on the new Schizophrenia Commission.

We were very well looked after.  The conference was held in the Russell Hotel in London - a beautiful place if ever I saw one - and there was tea and coffee on tap most of the day, with cake and biscuits, and a rather sumptuous lunch.  Which of course is irrelevant, or should be, but I am easily impressed by posh hotels and good food. 

The Rethink staff - there were many present - were very tolerant and patient, as of course they should be in their profession.  Some people became upset during the day - not terribly so, but emotional.  There is a lot of injustice in the mental health system, and this was very apparent in the type of issue that people wanted to raise.  When people speaking out about their problems became overcome by emotion, nobody sniggered or sighed or smirked or tutted.  Everybody listened and was sympathetic.  That was rather wonderful.

I had high hopes for the Schizophrenia Commission workshop, and it was fairly conducted; opinions were canvassed, listened to and duly noted.  However, several people repeated points of view that had already been raised - a lot of parent carers who were present were concerned, for example, that the finger might be pointed at them for not raising their children properly and 'allowing' them to get schizophrenia, or contributing to their development of it, and they became quite passionate while trying to state their case.

The issues of schizophrenia are so complex, and people affected naturally hold strong and passionate views on the subject.  It is a good thing to canvas the opinions of those who are personally involved, as sufferers or carers.  I came to the conclusion by the end of the day though that it is important to remain detatched - if progress is to be made, we need to keep an objective stance and study and consider the subject carefully and rationally.  Only then will our personal experiences be of value.

When I had a chance to speak, I said that I thought the Commission should look at recovery, and how the message should be put across that recovery from schizophrenia is a possibility - that the outlook at the point of diagnosis should be hopeful.  And also, I said, the diagnosis itself should be reviewed - the stigma of manic depression was lessened in an instant by renaming it bipolar disorder, and only after this occurred did such luminati as Stephen Fry and Catherine Zeta Jones put their names to the cause.  In the same way, if schizophrenia was retermed a 'nervous debility' for example, the pain and suffering caused by the diagnosis itself, this awful label, would dissipate. 

Others in the workshop objected.  I think their point of view was that renaming the illness would detract from the seriousness of the condition.  But here I really think that the sufferers of schizophrenia should be canvassed thoroughly - and I am convinced that almost all of them would prefer their condition to be differently termed.  In fact, Bert Johnson (the Rethink Chairman) himself was present in this workshop and he said there is a precedent for changing the name - that those now spoken of as suffering from learning difficulties used to be known as mental defectives.  So he understands.  

We were asked for our views on medication.  I put my hand up immediately, but I was passed over as I had already spoken.  Which was a pity, because everyone who then had a chance to speak spoke on other subjects, and medication was not discussed at all.  I got a bit down at this point - will the Commission make any real changes, I wondered?  Earlier in the day I had picked up a booklet about research into recovery from mental illness - which, to its credit had been co-written by 'Service Users' as well as mental health professionals.  But the research was sponsored by Astra Zeneca. 

Of course I had vaguely realised that Rethink must get some funding from the pharmaceutical industry, but I was still dismayed to see it in print.  I believe that drugs should only be used in crisis, and only with the consent of the patient, unless the patient truly is a danger to himself or others.  I never was a danger, but I was forcibly medicated many times, and the forced administration of medication is the aspect of psychosis that was more frightening, more disturbing, than anything else I remember. 

And I was not the only one - I have mentioned on this blog before that one day I watched as a girl broke down in tears for no apparent reason.  She was inconsolable, but they were only tears.  She would have got tired and stopped crying, even if nobody had done anything.  She might have stopped sooner, if somebody had taken the time to talk to her, or listen to why she was suddenly so upset.  But no; the response of the psychiatric team was to descend en masse, drag her off to her room, where I didn't need to be present to know what was happening to her.  They pin you down, arms and legs, face down on the bed, pull down your trousers and pants and inject drugs into your buttocks.  They did that to a young girl because she cried!

Anyway, what was that I was saying about remaining objective?  Hmmm.  Well, I think drugs should be short term, and given in conjunction with psychotherapy (another point that was made during the Commission workshop).  And then the patient should be consulted all the way, and the drugs should be tapered off, and the patient still consulted and monitored and helped, with the aim being to live drug-free and to learn how to manage any symptoms - anxiety, panic, sleep difficulties and so on, and to eventually learn to monitor and regulate oneself - one's own health. 

Instead of which, the assumption is that the schizophrenic patient will need medication for ever.  Those doctors who told me that I would need medication for the rest of my life, and that I would get worse as I got older, were nearly right.  If I had taken medication for the rest of my life, I would have got worse.  The result of long-term anti-psychotic medication is brain damage.  By learning to live without it, I have been able to recover.

By the end of the workshop, I asked Paul to go for a short walk with me.  We missed a couple of award ceremonies, but I needed some space to think.  At the start of the day I had been hoping I could be of some use to Rethink - and that they could be of use to me too, in getting me back to employment.  I have recovered, I thought, I could be instrumental in helping others to recover, what could be better?  But as the workshop finished, and the event was due to finish just an hour later, I started to feel a bit dismal.  All the people I had listened to seemed to have quite a different point of view to me.  They were upset about the muddle and injustice in the system.  They wanted to know what could be done to improve services.  But nobody was very hopeful about complete recovery.  Nobody objected to the use of medication.  Maybe, I thought, this charity is not for me.

So Paul and I walked and we talked.  We have talked a lot about benefits over the years - I hate taking them, but they have been valuable for relieving stress, for taking away the pressure that would have come with needing to find a job.  They have contributed to my recovery.  But I have the feeling that a lot of sufferers and their families are accepting the label and the medication because they come with the safety net of the benefits.  It is a difficult subject - the single thing I have found most striking about mental hospitals is how poor the patients are.  You can just tell by looking at them.  You can see why they got ill.  They were desperate, destitute. 

(I know in private clinics like the Priory you get a different class of patient, but I think they recover a lot better in those places.  I bet they don't get diagnosed schizophrenic as easily either.  More likely to be told they have bi-polar or a sex addiction or whatever.  I could, of course, be wrong).  I feel a sudden urgency to ditch the benefits - I would be foolish to do it without a job to go to, and with Christmas coming up, but it seems to be a part of the problem.  Maybe it is the last thing holding me back.

And the diagnosis.  When I started this blog two years ago I had no idea of challenging the diagnosis.  When I went on my writing course a year ago I spoke about my schizophrenia publicly for the first time, and the reaction of most of those present, who ranged from psychologists to therapists to tutors on the subject to a lady who had sat on Mental Health Appeal Tribunals, was that I didn't appear to be schizophrenic.  Maybe I had ben misdiagnosed, they suggested.

I have taken no medication for twelve years and I have no symptoms of the illness, so I could see what they meant.  But I could not agree with it at that time - I have always been scared that if I deny that I have schizophrenia, I will become ill again.  That I could only keep the spectre under contril by acknowledging its presence.  (This goes back to the day hospital, when I was told that I would never get better unless I accepted that I was ill.  And then, of course, they said I could not get better anyway, because nobody ever does from schizophrenia).

And I also felt that if I accepted that I was not schizophrenic because I had become well, what hope of recovery would that give to other schizophrenics.  Psychiatrists could continue to tell them that there was no hope for the future etc, because those that do carve out a life for themselves, like me, are then told that they don't have the illness after all. 

Not that it seems as though anyone is ever going to tell me that.  After my second daughter was born a pyschiatrist talked about reviewing the diagnosis, then changed his mind when he spoke to the rest of the 'Team'.  (Sorry for repeating things I have written earlier in this blog.  I generally try not to, but I am trying to develop a coherent argument here, and some of this history is relevant).  These days I sometimes think - twelve years, no drugs, no symptoms - is nobody ever going to say I am not ill any more?  And why not?

I became gradually more confident since my writing course.  All these people thought I was normal, I was ok.  Thought I didn't have schizophrenia.  Maybe I should work with that?  Just walk away from it/

I look back on my situation, and I see a child who was unable to cope with life, who grew into an adult who was equally vulnerable.  I was born nervous.  I had all sorts of problems at home.  I left home at the age of sixteen.  I smoked cannabis.  I got myself to University although I had no support from my family.  It would have been odder if I had not suffered a breakdown or three. 

Nowadays, I honestly think that I no longer suffer from schizophrenia (if that is was it was).  I think I have an anxiety disorder, or a panic disorder, of some kind, which is pretty much under control.  In fact, it is getting better all the time.  I have learned not just to cope with life, but to take an active part in it and enjoy it.  I have been lucky along the way - I met a wonderful man and we had a family, but none of this was handed to me.  I have worked hard at becoming as 'normal' - as happy - as possible. 

So I realised about six months ago that I was in the position where I could walk away from the mental health issue.  With my law degree, I could get a job of some kind, talk my way through the gaps in my CV.  Probably I could hold that job down - because I do still suffer from stress, but who doesn't, and I have various strategies to cope with it.  I didn't have to publish my book.  I didn't ever even need to mention the word schizophrenic again.

But I didn't take that option.  I published the book, and I let my friends and family know what I had done.  It is therefore a bit late to refute the 'schizophrenia' label.  And as I said, no mental health professional seems to want to remove it for me.  But I think that I made the right decision to be open about my past.  Whether or not I have schizophrenia now, I have suffered the effects of it.  I was as ill as anybody could have been, I was psychotic.  I had three nervous breakdowns.  And I came back from the brink - but I can't walk away now, I can't leave everybody else in there, and not try to help.  I have to try to share my experiences of recovery, because it is only fair.  I do know more about schizophrenia, about mental illness, than a lot of people - and Rethink is my best hope of helping others through it. 

Rethink are trying, after all.  They understand.  They care.  They are listening to sufferers, and trying to improve things for them and their carers.  Had it not been for the Time to Change campaign, I might have never had the courage to become open about my diagnosis - and that has been a positive experience for me, to learn that my friends have not all abandoned me, that they still see me as a person, and that to a great extent I have misjudged the perceived stigma (although had I not kept the diagnosis to myself for so many years I might never have had the confidence or opportunity to make so many friends).

So I will stay with Rethink, try to help with their campaigns, try to stay objective, try to be patient.   Try not to militantly propound my views about medication, and about the damage done by labelling, and just trust that the system will change for the better, in time.  Hopefully it will all be ok in the end.  And I want to be part of making it ok.

Louise x x

 (PS  Does an extra long blog post make up for a week of hardly any blogging?  It has taken me TWO HOURS.  On a SUNDAY NIGHT.)

Friday, 11 November 2011

That Friday Feeling

Hi Guys

It is Friday already - I can't believe I haven't posted all week.  I have a lot of stuff to write about, I am just not sure that I can or should write about it here.  Oh, the joys of my lost anonymity.  Or should that be, the joys of my anonymity before I lost it. 

But thought I should check in anyway.  I have been reading stuff on other blogs - Gianna Kali on 'Beyond Meds' pointed to the 'One boring old man' blog (or something like that, I should check it but you would do better to go on Beyond Meds and look for yourselves, because you will find so much else of interest there.)  The 'boring old man' in question is a retired psychiatrist who feels that psychiatry is far too reliant on medication.  Well worth a look.

I have been nit busting this evening.  Friday is 'Nit busting' day at my kid's school, and I have done my duty today - we won't be part of the nit chain for at least a week. 

Done a few good jobs today - had a friend round for Toddler and someone to chat to myself, but was able to do a few chores at the same time.  Tomorrow Paul and I are off on a Big Day Out - I will tell you more on Sunday if I have time.  Don't expect a post tomorrow (not that I assume you are holding your collective breath out there).

A happy weekend to one and all.

Louise xx 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Link to Rossa's blog

I should link to Rossa's blog too, rather than just stealing her link.  Here it is:


Rossa's Link

Hi everybody

I have just copied this link from Rossa's Forbes' blog 'Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia.  I could have just referred you over there, but I didn't want to lose any of you on the way. 

How do people find these amazing other sites?  I have spent a lot of hours today on the computer, but have not achieved a great deal - then by chance I looked at Rossa's blog and found this:

What I like about this site (which I have never chanced on before, so thanks again Rossa) is that it is written by a psychiatrist who, unlike most of them, is brave enough to own up about his misgivings; to admit that medication may not be the answer to psychiatric problems, and to look for clues as to what the answer might be.  I do still, by and large, admire medics.  I don't see them as the Gods I used to, but I believe that most of them are motivated by altruism, in their choice of career.  Even psychiatrists. 

But then what?  Does the ability to think and express oneself freely get swallowed up by adherence to the opinions of one's colleagues?  Does the salary start to matter more than the job?  Why else, in the face of so much evidence that they are barking up the wrong tree with the drugs and the sections and the damnable cruelty of it all, are all psychiatrists not searching for alternative solutions to mental health problems?

Anyway.  As I said, I have been largely unproductive today.  Hopefully this will lead onto a more productive day tomorrow, as happened at the end of last week.  I have done a lot of washing... And walked the dog for longer than usual.  And I also had a very pleasant chat with my young niece over a cup of tea.  She is half my age and brighter than me by a long chalk.  How do one's infant nieces and nephews ever become so grown up? 

More anon.

Louise x

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Read it


I have just re-read the article and it is all I remembered and more, especially in its stance re medication.  As the author said, it was a marketing coup to re-label major tranquilisers as anti-psychotics, thus making it appear that these medications were a tailor-made treatment for psychosis.  He also writes of the brain damage caused by long term ingestion of these drugs.  Here it is again:
My only reservation is that the article was written ten years ago - why, why is it taking so long for people to sit up and take notice? 

Louise x

The Times

Hi Guys

Commented again on the Times article, although of course now that is yesterday's news.  I wish I could always remember exactly where I read what - I must get more organised.  In my newest comment I linked to the article I mentioned on here a few days ago - Caron, The Tragedy of Schizophrenia - the one which is long, but worth ploughing through.  I think it had some valuable insights on the treatment of mental health problems, but now I am going to have to re-read it to make sure.

And it is Saturday - I have promised the dog a long walk, and have various children-based errands to run.  I should not really be propped up in bed with my laptop, still attired in dressing gown and pyjamas, teeth unbrushed and hair unkempt, searching for solutions to interminable problems.  Lucky I have Paul to assure me that I am still reasonably sane - he has just returned from the doctors, newly flu-jabbed, and flung today's newspaper onto the bed next to me.  My hero.

Anyway, hope all of you out there are well and happy.

Louise x

Friday, 4 November 2011

IBS and other gut problems

Hi again

Still browsing the net (bad me; I try not to have the computer on while the kids are at home, but this afternoon I have become obsessed with checking how many people have ticked the 'Recommended' box next to my comment on Philip Collins' article.  Sad, I know).

Anyway, looked at the 'Beyond Meds' site earlier this afternoon and skim-read Gianna's very salient piece on how IBS should not be labelled a 'mental' health problem (although she acknowledges that mind and body are linked).  Meant to go back and comment on that, to say that in my experience stress plays a large factor in IBS, but then when I went back I read the whole article properly and saw that of course she realises that. Here it is:

Meanwhile, I came across this old piece in The Times by Thomas Stuttaford, who was the newpaper's doctor until fairly recently, and whose views I always respected.  This is spot on in my opinion - not only his comments on the link between schizophrenia and gluten, but even those of us without coeliac disease (or without active schizophrenia) can benefit from avoiding gluten.  I know if I eat well I feel an awful lot better - although unfortunately I forgot that this afternoon and accidentally ate a large portion of cheesecake (it was delicious though).

I also find this piece useful because it mentions that by avoiding triggers such as cannabis, gluten and stress those at risk (including perhaps my own children) can be saved from becoming ill in the first place.  I am going to file it carefully for the future - because one day I will be sitting down with all my kids to have a serious talk about the dangers of drugs and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and this will help my case.

If you are interested, you can follow this link to read the article:

Enough for today.  All the best

Louise x


Hi all

I have just read an article in The Times by Philip Collins about schizophrenia - it made me want to cry.  Because a 'proper' English newspaper seems to have taken up the cause, and published a balanced and informed piece on the subject.  A big step forward, in my opinion.

Here's the link:

Anyway, I couldn't resist commenting on the article online, and referring readers on to Gianna's blog, Rossa's, Duane's website and here.  Now I feel I had better explain to anyone who does arrive here for the first time - this is a blog about schizophrenia, or about living with the label of it, but also about my daily life with the kids, my recent foot operation and lots of other mainly irrelevant stuff.

So, if you want any information about my experience of mental illness, best to go to my early posts, when I was blogging anonymously about how I felt.  Way before I had finished writing my book.  These will give you an idea of what I experienced during my three long epsiodes in hospital, my feelings about it all, and how I finally moved on to the point where I consider myself to be free of mental illness (although not perfectly sane - who is?) and resentful of the fact that I was ever labelled a schizophrenic.  Well, not resentful exactly - I no longer regret anything that has happened in my life - but determined to do my best to ensure that people who have been recently diagnosed with a mental illness, or who are currently in mental hospitals, can look to the future and be hopeful that they will, in time and with patience and perseverance, recover fully.

Louise x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Different Sort of Day

Hello all

Mmm, have had a different sort of day today - one that might be best described as lazy.  We got back from a short break away (only four days, our first holiday in a year!) on Tuesday evening, and I was amazed by how much better I felt for the break.  Presumabaly Paul and the kids did too.  I should ask them.  Lazy AND selfish!

Anyway, the holiday feeling had already dissipated somewhat by yesterday evening, as I realised when I found myself haranguing Paul for not helping enough with the boys' bedtime (on the grounds that yes, he was shattered, but SO WAS I!)  I was a bit disappointed with myself about this, as I had decided that I would be calmer and more patient in future (with everybody about everything) and it hadn't lasted nearly long enough.

Today, I got up at six thirty.  I prepared this evening's meal, put it in the slow cooker.  Fed everyone (well, supplied them with a cereal bowl and a spoon) made some tea, and filled four lunch boxes.  To cut a long story short, three hours after I woke up all the children were at school or play school and Paul was at work.  It was half past nine.  My time was my own until half past two.

I started to work out in my head what I could do in the alloted time and how.  Take a book back to the library. Walk the dog.  Collect the newspaper, read some of it (I am usually in too much of a hurry to read all of it properly).  Write something.  Write lots.  Here panic set in.  Should I try to write a humourous poem? (I have had an urge to do some more of these for a couple of weeks now). Or a short story? (for some reason I think the time is right to embark on a short story - I have not ever written a good one of these, but perhaps I need more practice).  Of course, I should look at this blog, and maybe do a diary entry too, but I should also begin or preferably complete something more concrete, as confirmation that my writing career is progressing. 

The stress was building.  What should I do first?  What was most important?  Then I did something unprecedented - I sat down and watched catch-up TV for an hour.  It was episode one of the Food Hospital on Channel 4 - a fairly graphic programme showing why you should eat healthily.  It was very good.  And very relaxing.

Then I put the lead on my little dog and took her out for a long walk.  Almost an hour.  Came home, had a leisurely lunch and read several chapters of my book, which is an Alexander McCall Scotland Street one, very reassuring and gentle writing, calming, good for the soul. 

This was great.  Then I got on my blog (hi!) and looked first at the writings of others who I follow.  Ended up watching video clips of Pat Deegan (thanks again to Gianna from Beyond Meds).  From that went to look up Peter Chadwick, because I remembered that for some time I have had a note to myself on my phone to look up both of those people (both doctors).  Brilliant.

This is the sort of day that I could have every time Toddler is at play school - except then I would have to do the house stuff on his days off.  Or in the evenings.  I will have to see how I feel later - whether today's strategy leaves me more energised later in the afternoon and early evening so that I can achieve more, workwise, at those times, or whether these are just lost hours.  But are they lost hours, even if I haven't achieved anything?  Maybe not all achievements can be measured.  Maybe my achievement today is to relax a bit. 

I am waiting to hear about the Time to Change job.  Interviews are supposed to be held in London next week and I have not yet heard anything - does this mean that I am not called to interview, or that they have had so many applications that it is taking them longer to sort them?   It is exciting to think that my life may be moving on properly at last - to think that I may have proper paid work in my life.  If this job is not for me, then I am sure something else will come up - I feel that change is not far away. 

Anyway, I have just ten minutes left before I have to embark on the school run, which includes an after-school meeting with elder son's teacher, and then taking him to his first choir practice (sweet).  I will be busy for about two hours, but luckily dinner is done already so I can hopefully stay calm into the evening.

I am not complaining by the way.  I love all this. I need all this to get me out of bed in the morning.  I love having all the kids and looking after everybody.  But I would like to enjoy it all more, rather than feel as though I am chasing my tail just to get things done all the time.  Slow down and smell the roses (wake up and smell the coffee?)

Anyway, I guess this post has not been about mental health very much, except my own individual experience of it, which today has been a good one.  I feel very lucky actually - especially after listening to Pat Deegan's experience.  I have many more good days than bad - I can say that I am recovered with almost complete confidence these days (although I am more than conscious that I am not even vaguely perfect, and that some things are definitely more difficult for me than for the average person).

Must go now, hope all ok with everyone else out there.

Louise x 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Check this out too!

Now I really must go and do that unpacking!  Got three kids to get back to school in the morning (Toddler has a day off).

Louise x

Check this out!

Hi Guys

Check this out - a really good article, in my opinion.  A long read, but worth it (I skimmed some bits, I must admit, because I have just come back from a short holiday and haven't even unpacked properly yet.  I shouldn't be here at all). 

I couldn't resist checking on what had happened today in London, with Rethink's 'Unhappy Birthday Schizophrenia' campaign.  Then one thing led to another, I found this article, and I decided I should link to it straight away instead of my usual, 'I read something really good, bit busy now but will link to it soon' and then forgetting. 

Here it is:

I haven't finished looking at the Rethink campaign stuff, but I did read a bit on the Today programme (a short article by Tom somebody).  Hang on, I'll find that....

I was a bit disappointed by it though, especially when I read all about the usual 'brain disorder' bit, which seems to rule out the possibility of anyone ever becoming well again. I have posted a couple of comments online about how recovery is possible, and how I have got better, and will continue to do that. 

Anyway, hope you are all thriving out there.  Just wrote down today's date and realised how groovy it looks.  1.11.11.  Full of possibilities!

More anon.

Louise x