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   

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