Wednesday, 21 December 2011

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


  1. Wonderful post. Thanks for telling it from the heart.

    Have a nice holiday!

  2. Thanks Rossa! I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas too. Louise x