Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Great Outdoors

Feeling smug this morning - just read an article in the paper (yesterday's paper, I am playing catch-up) that said today's kids don't get enough fresh air and exercise.  And where are we off to this morning?  The nature reserve, where we went last Saturday morning and where we will go next Saturday morning.  The kids love it, they run and play (and nag for ice-creams and whinge a bit about being thirsty and tired, but hey-ho, they obviously just need to build up their stamina).

The dog loves it too.  She doesn't come out with the family often enough, and just has the time of her life when she does.  I sometimes think she must wonder why we don't take her out more often.  She must think that every time we go out of the house we are having lovely walks (because that is the only thing we do when we take her out).  It must be quite baffling to her that we only take her with us occasionally for our lovely walks.

I walk her on my own almost every day - it is not a chore, it is the best part of my day.  I walked her quite late in the evening yesterday.  The sun was getting low in the sky, and as we walked towards the local park, dog off her lead, all was peaceful.  Not for long.  She spotted a group of teenagers sitting on the grass, a couple of them lying down, hoodies up, eyes closed.  She leapt.

The poor girl that my dog had landed on squawked and squawked.  Her mates, boys and girls, roared with laughter as the dog enthusiastically sniffed and licked all over her face (and I bet, nibbled at her ears, the dog has a fetish for nibbling ears).  I was mortified, kept trying to call the dog off as the girl kept squealing, unable to get up, and her friends just creased up with laughter. 

But when the dog did eventually follow me and I called back to apologise profusely, the girl just joined her friends in laughing - the squeals which I had taken for alarm and dismay had apparently been sounds of pleasure.  She thought the whole thing was great fun and kept attempting to call the dog back, trying to make her do it all over again, but by that time the dog had moved on, and just kept on going.

Anyway, gotta go get dressed and make the picnic.

Quick book update - it is possible to get paperbacks on CreateSpace or Amazon USA, but then you have to pay postage from America.  Paul is working on a way to make the book available to order in the UK, and I am sure he will get there soon.  Meanwhile, the Kindle version has been at a low price for about ten days now, and will have to go up again soon.  Here's the link if you know anybody who might want to get a cheap copy while they still can.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Paperback on Amazon!

The paperback edition of my book is out on Amazon USA!!!  I am really excited about this (can you tell?)

Here's the link -

All I need now is for the UK Amazon site to list the paperback - then I can order myself a few copies.  I may turn out to be my own first customer.  I have to send a copy to the British Library (not being vain, this is the duty of everyone who publishes a book in the UK).  And I will send out a few review copies - do let me know if you want to be considered for one of these, obviously on the condition that a review will follow as soon as possible after (you would be free to write whatever you want, of course).  

I feel as though a cycle is completed (or very nearly) now.  And I am really looking forward to getting the next book out there.  I still hope to publish in other genres eventually - not only mental health, not only non-fiction, but at the moment that is the type of writing that is calling me.  The working title of the new book is 'How to Recover from a Nervous Breakdown' but if anyone can think of anything more catchy, or less catch-all, please let me know. 

The schizophrenia word has served its time as far as I am concerned - whether or not the Commission recommend its abolition (and I have a feeling they will) I don't personally believe in the label any more, for me or for anyone else.   'Nervous breakdown' is just a better, kinder, more humane way to describe extreme emotional suffering.

Anyway, I will stop now - on a high because of the appearance of the paperback on Amazon USA, and resolved not to check for its appearance on the UK site until at least the end of the day.  Going off with Toddler and some friends to the beach, to enjoy the wonderful weather.  Have a good day, you all!    

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I have finally got back to writing my book on recovery over the last few days.  I was itching to get on with it - I had been so busy with other projects that the recovery book had been on the back burner, and I started to resent the fact.  I printed up all that I have written so far, which made the task easier and clearer, and I intend to keep printing and reviewing every few weeks now. 

I just posted a comment on Rossa Forbes' Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia blog - she had asked for opinions on something she wrote on a Mad In America Op-Ed piece.  I found myself not just answering her question, but then rattling on at length about myself and my experience of mental illness.  I suppose that right now I am in the mindset of writing about my experience because I have been engrossed in my recovery book today, but eventually I deleted the part of my answer that was not relevant to Rossa's question, and decided that I might as well expand on it here because I have not blogged for a few days.

Rossa had made the point (in response to the Op-Ed article) that it is not helpful for mental health professionals to blame family members, although she said it is ok for sufferers to blame their own family for their problems, as they speak from personal experience.

I think she is right, and yet I would say that the ultimate aim should be to move on from blaming your family to understanding them.  I found writing my book a very therapeutic experience - I could understand the series of events which led me to break down much more clearly when I had put them down in an orderly fashion.

I can honestly say though, that I do not regret or resent anything from my childhood or early adult life now - I see it all as a learning experience which led me to the point where I am today, which is a very happy place.   I might never have been as content as I am now if I had not experienced difficulties along the way - I have learned to appreciate the good things in my life all the more, because I was once mired so deeply in unhappiness.

However, in recent months, as I have completed the process of healing (which is not to say that I will never become ill again, just that at this moment in time I am better than I have ever been) I have distanced myself, emotionally, from my birth family.  They have probably not noticed the difference in my attitude (although they will know now if they read this blog!).  The reason they have probably not noticed the difference in my attitude is because none of them are remotely emotionally dependent on me (except perhaps my mother, poor old dear thing) - but I have been emotionally dependent on them for far too long. 

Even since I have had Paul and the children for security I still harked back to my birth family, perhaps feeling on some level that if I could find security there I could fix myself.  That was never going to happen - I became broken in that environment, and it was not going to be a place where I could heal.  In fact the perceptions of my family members - that I was vulnerable and weak, held me in that position, without them intending to do so. 

At a family wedding a couple of years ago, for example, I had a glass of wine.  A single glass of wine.  Now, I tend not to drink, but I have never taken a vow of abstinence.  I don't take any medication, as readers of this blog know - there is no reason why I shouldn't have a drink if I choose.  And yet I overheard some of my family members talking as if I was on a rocky road, 'Louise has got a glass of wine.  Is she OK?'  I felt humiliated, as though I was a forty year old child. 

It was nine years since my last breakdown at that point.  Why did my family persist in thinking that I was not normal?  How could they not see that having one alcoholic drink on a social occasion was no more a sign that I was becoming mentally ill than it would be for anyone else?  (And by the way I have never had a drink problem.  The reason that I tend not to drink is partly because of the spectre of having had an alcoholic mother, and partly because I am quite happy not drinking - I don't need it).   And why, in any case, were they talking about me, and not to me?

You could see that as concern on the part of my family, of course, and that is the construction that I always put on that sort of event over the years.  It is the only construction I could cope with.  For the same reason I have always been the member of the family that tries to keep the other members close.  I phoned one sister every evening for literally years even when she made it quite plain that she had better things to do with her time than talk to me about nothing in particular.  I couldn't bear to let go.  I felt that without the love of my birth family I would crumble.

Now that my self-esteem is restored, I have stopped trying to establish the regard of others for me.  Quite simply, I don't care what anybody else thinks - well, I do obviously, I have not become a psychopath - but I don't judge myself by the opinions of others, especially not family members.  I still love them, but without the need that they should love me back.

It is a very liberating feeling, this, which is why I have tried so hard to explain it clearly.  It is not very complicated, and yet it has taken me a long time to work it all out.  Love is the key, love holds the answer (as I wrote on my recent Amazon review of Jeanette Winterson's book, 'Why be Happy when you could be Normal?').  But to love is one thing, to feel oneself to be deserving of love is quite another.  And I wonder sometimes how many of us in the human race have the same problem. 

I have finished my course of cognitive behavioural therapy now, and found it invaluable - no matter how many books I have read about anxiety and self-esteem and how well I understood the principles (like the importance of positive core beliefs) nothing has been as beneficial as ten short sessions talking to somebody who is knowledgable about these issues and how to manage them.  So, let's hope I can keep applying those lessons I have learned.  I have a good feeling about it all.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Paper copy of 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir'

Finally!  A paper copy of my book is available, at $11.95, from Amazon CreateSpace.  Here's the web address:

In about five days, the book will be available on Amazon, and the price will be visible in pounds sterling too - it should be priced at £7.50.

For now, if anyone wants to buy from the UK, they will have to pay in dollars (with delivery extra).  I don't know how the delivery will work once the book is available on Amazon UK - I hope that standard shipping will be free as usual with Amazon, but I really have no idea.

When you publish through CreateSpace the books are printed on demand - which is great as there is no wastage (and no initial outlay) but I am not sure how exactly it will all work.  I hope there will not be an extra charge for delivery...  I suppose it depends where the books are printed.

Anyway, I am pleased the book is available now in a printed form.  My friend spent two whole weeks proof reading, and came up with some really helpful edits (quite a few actually, I am embarrassed that so many errors had sliped through).  Thanks, Jackie! 

Another friend, whose husband is an English teacher, pointed out that the 'Sound and Fury' quote which I had attributed to Hamlet was from a different play - Macbeth.  I am not so much amazed that I made that error as I am that it was never pointed out before - people who have read the book must now number in their thousands (if at least some of the people who have downloaded copies on days when the book is free actually read it).

Anyway, I feel that my memoir closes a certain period of my life - there it is, down on paper now, sealed in stone and laid to rest.  I am not quite finished yet though - the book which I am currently writing on the subject of recovery will cover some of the same time period of my life, but with less about what went so wrong that I ended up mad, and more about how it all eventually came right again.  The aim is that, as the first book has hopefully helped people to see that there is hope beyond an experience of severe emotional distress, the second will illustrate more exactly how I recovered, and hopefully inspire and help others to follow the same path.  I am looking forward to setting aside more time for that, now that the paper copy of my first memoir is finally available.

Have a lovely weekend, all of you.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

London, the Schizophrenia Commission and Everything

Well.  Indeed.

I had a fantastic day yesterday.  I felt that I had done so many worthwhile things.  Not the least of which was travelling to London - alone, and finding the way to my destination, via the Tube - alone.  I know this is something that other people do every day of their lives, but because of all the issues I have had with anxiety over the years my horizons have shrunk, and even though I have improved so much in the last six months or so the journey really did seem like a challenge for me.

I was helped by a couple of things.  I was at my daughter's school the other week, waiting to collect her for some reason, and I saw a notice on the wall, a quotation from somewhere.  I assume they change them regularly, and I like this sort of thing (I get an uplifting quote delivered to my email inbox each day by the Happiness Project, as I have written here before). 

Anyway, I can't remember who was quoted, or exactly what was said, but it was something along the lines of, 'God has given you tongues in your heads, so for goodness sake, speak up!'  And I thought, yes, that is exactly the sort of advice I needed as a youngster; instead of which, I became more and more introverted until...well, you know how it ended, I shrank so small that I almost ceased to exist.

Anyway, I took that advice to heart on the journey to London yesterday, and whenever I was in doubt, I just asked.  The first person I asked for help, when I had to change trains along the way, was very kind, and when I explained that it was the first time I had travelled to London on my own, he said, 'An adventure, then'.  And that was the second thing which helped me on my way - I thought, yes, it's an adventure, it's something to enjoy, not to be frightened of, and from that moment on I was practically zen-like in my attitude.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the journey was a doddle.  I arrived at the King's Fund building half an hour early and proceeded to have one of the best days of my life (so far, and apart obviously from the children's births, meeting Paul, etc etc). 

What was so amazing was that I found myself to be capable of so much.  It helped to know that no-one was judging - the Commissioners were all open-minded people and truly interested to know our opinions.   They had invited us - about fifteen people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia - to a meeting to discuss our experiences of the system, what needs to change and how, what are the barriers to supporting those with psychosis, and so on. 

We were divided into three groups - ours had three commissioners, Clare Gerada, a GP and Chair of Council at the Royal College of Practitioners, Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor from the Independent newspaper, and David Taylor, director of pharmacy and pathology at Kings College London. 

The discussion that ensued was fascinating, although I fear I did more than my share of the talking - what was I writing here a few weeks ago about resolving to be polite and take my turn?  All of us - the three Commissioners and six 'schizophrenics' in our group, engaged in impassioned debate for an hour and a half as notes were taken by two members of the Rethink staff - and glancing around the room I could see equally heated discussions taking part in the other groups. 

After a break for lunch - which took me ages to eat because I was still so busy talking - we returned to the room, where the chairs had been arranged in a large circle, for feeding back and summing up of the various discussions. 

There turned out to be a lot of consensus in the room.  It was agreed that understanding the social factors which influence mental health is crucially important, as is continuing to work towards decreasing stigma.  That there should be more normalisation, and less pathologisation of mental illness.   There should be more emphasis on hope for the future, and the possibility of recovery.  More choice, as regards drugs and types of treatment.  More humanity.

At the end of the afternoon, Clare Gerada summed up the general feeling succinctly, 'The label (of schizophrenia) acts as a barrier to recovery'.  I left the meeting on a complete high, with real hope that the Commission will do their best to put this problem right, and I headed home with the sense of a day well spent, in the company of honourable people.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Recommended Reading

Here's a post from Rossa (Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia) that struck a chord with me today.

And some excellent information from Duane Sherry (Discover and Recover)

I have had a really exciting day today - been to London to give evidence about recovery to the Schizophrenia Commission.  It was a real experience and I am desperate to write about it here - but I am going to leave it until tomorrow because it is late (I've just looked at the clock and it is not in fact late, but it feels late!) and there is a lot to do here in the house.

If anybody I met today is checking out my blog (I handed out a few cards) it was lovely to meet you all, and I hope you find what you are looking for here, or through some of the links to other blogs which you can find on the sidebar.

A proper post will follow soon.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

How to Self Publish an e-Book

This is something I stumbled across on the net just now and thought might come in useful for anyone who wants to follow me down the self-publishing route - it has been great fun, a learning experience and has even earned me some money, so I would recommend it to anybody.

The information is from David Carnoy of CNET.;txt

Another piece on the same subject, by the same guy:

Pass it on if you know anyone who is interested in self-publishing - and if anybody is, just comment here and I will write another blog post with more of what I have learned along the way in the last nine months or so since my e-Book was first published on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Free Memoir Today!

My memoir is free today to download from Amazon Kindle - here's the link:

You don't need a Kindle, it can be downloaded to any PC or mobile device.

And the paper copy will be available to buy from Monday; it will cost £7.50.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Officially 'Recovered'?

I have got an appointment with a psychiatrist after all - I will be interested to find out whether I am officially recovered!  The appointment is midway through April.  I am not dependent on the verdict now though - I know it will make no difference to who I am or how I feel.  I will just be interested to know whether I meet the criteria for recovery from schizophrenia, if indeed there are any (and there should be now that medical opinion says that recovery is possible). 

It doesn't actually matter to me, because I have decided (learned, actually) that psychiatry is a pseudo-science.  I am happier relying on my own opinion about my mental health.  Although I have been glad to hear that things are improving in the system - for example, I spoke to my friend the child psychiatrist on the phone last night and she says that she sees each of her patients for an hour, and that treatment does not always consist of medication.  I know this is not the rule in general psychiatry, but according to 'Kitkat' (see yesterday's comments on this blog) psychiatry is becoming more humane (at least in some hospitals).

Paul and I found ourselves alone with our elder son for a couple of hours this evening - a very rare occurence.  We took him out to dinner and he was in his element - it was lovely.  For pudding on the child's menu there was ice cream and a 'bambinochino' - a frothy milk with chocolate sprinkled on top.  He said, 'I am just going to call it a cappuchino' and I was so surprised - I had no idea he knew what a cappuchino was or what it looked like! 

I am putting the final touches to the paper copy of my book now and can say with near certainty that it will be available for sale from Monday.  I am excited!  And incidentally, the Kindle edition will be free tomorrow (or from midnight tonight in the USA, I think) so please do spread the word to anybody who might like to read it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Quiet Day

I was at the GP surgery a couple of weeks ago, having a routine asthma check for one of the children, boasting to the nurse practitioner that all of them had had a really good winter - no bugs to speak of - and I had a sneaking feeling that I was letting myself in for it.  Tempting fate.  Today I have three of them at home - one on antibiotics for a chest infection, another with a cold and a painful cough and a third who was due to be off school anyway today but who now can't enjoy it because she is poorly...  At least I got Toddler to play school, although only because I decreed that the television would not be on at all today and so he decided school would be more fun.  So now the bedrooms have been tidied, somebody is practising the piano, and there is a game of snakes and ladders happening. 

I hate sending the kids to school when they are ill.  I think it is pointless - they are likely to feel worse for not resting, and to spread their germs around.  On the other hand, I can't help feeling that I am being taken advantage of when I let them stay off and then they appear to be perfectly well, happily watching TV and being waited on hand and foot.  So this is the middle way - at home, resting but not slopping about.  Am I a good or a bad mother?  Sometimes I have no idea of what is the right way.  But somebody has to be in charge...

When I start work, even though I will be very part-time, days like this will be even more problematic.  I suppose I will have to do as most parents do and send them to school whether or not they feel unwell, unless they are literally unable to get there.  Luckily, they are getting older now and the bugs are relatively infrequent.  Or am I tempting fate again by saying that?

I got a bit stressed last night.  The house is chaotic at present, and seemed worse than usual yesterday because the spring sunshine was showing up all the dust and the hundreds of little finger smears on the glass doors throughout the house and in the conservatory doors.  I spent several hours hoovering and sorting out washing, whilst being aware that I was just dealing with the tip of the iceberg.  We have so much clutter - some of it accumulated throughout the winter, some seems to have become a permanent part of the household.  I need a week at least to make any headway, but never seem to have any time free at all.  So I have enrolled Paul's help - under duress - and we are going to have a weekend of clearing out clutter - something to look forward to...Not.

But I am sure we will both feel better when it is done.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Back on Track

Ah, all good again.  I have realised that I have always been far too dependent on medical opinion (one of the reasons for my downfall) and also that it is stupid trying to get anyone, psychiatrist or not, to agree that I am mentally well.  Let people think what they want - they will anyway (and are more likely to consider me mad the harder I try to convince them I am sane).  Who cares? 

And, as my email from the Happiness Project declared yesterday, 'To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy' (Samuel Johnson).  I read that only after I had written yesterday's post, otherwise it might have stopped me in my tracks.

By the way, I would recommend a visit to The Happiness Project website - it may sound a bit naff, but I get a free email from them each day with an uplifting quote, and they are quite nice.  Today's - 'To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real' (Winston Churchill.  I wonder if the 'really safe' means from the black dog - he was a notable sufferer from depression). 

Anyway, I have not yet read The Happiness Project book, by Gretchen Rubin, but I have found the quotations uplifting if anyone wants a look or to sign up for the free newsletter here is the link to her site:

If it is validation I want, I got it today from a nice man at the DWP, who said that it was lovely to meet me, and that I am a success story.  I feel so lucky to be able to put all the government benefits behind me - although I would like to reiterate that I am very grateful to have been in receipt of them for so long, and that they did contribute to my recovery. 

Stress about money plays such a major part in mental illness, and we are lucky in the UK that our benefits system has to date been run generously and humanely.  I do hope that things will work out well for everyone - I know some people who are beset with fear at the changes that are currently being implemented, and I feel so sad on their behalf. 

The impetus to work really needs to come from those in receipt of benefits, and those with mental health problems just may not be ready yet to take that step.  If everybody concerned can be motivated, encouraged to believe that they can cope with change, and be supported through it, but without being forced into anything that would damage their health or wellbeing, the humanity of the system will be preserved.

I have been asked by somebody to ghost write his autobiography, which is exciting.  The proposal is in its infancy, so I will say no more for now, but if I do go ahead it will just be for a few hours a week until the book is done .  I seem to have my fingers in a lot of pies suddenly and want to make sure that I have sufficient time to do everything to the best of my ability. 

Especially, of course, looking after the children.  Younger Daughter had a day off school today with a streaming cold, and she helped entertain Toddler for an hour this morning while my friend was round helping me proof read my memoir.  I have a paper proof copy, and I had gone over it with a fine toothcomb, could have sworn that it was all finished - but she has come up with an astounding number of typos - mostly small ones, but very real.  Unbelievable!  But brillliant that she is reading it so closely.  As soon as she has finished, the paper copy will be available on Amazon CreateSpace - so it should (fingers crossed) be early next week.  It will cost £7.50 - I am pleased with that price, it is less than I had thought it would cost.  And it should be typo-free!

At the moment, by the way, the Kindle copy is only £2 - here's the link to that again, in the UK:
and in the USA:

Thursday, 8 March 2012

I have only just stopped crying...

First off, apologies for the dramatic nature of the post title.  I have been crying as it happens, and it is not something that happens often, and not something that I am in the habit of advertising when it does happen.  I literally cannot remember the last time I cried - it must be at least a year ago.

Anyway, I will explain.  I went to the GP this morning, to ask for a referral to the local psychiatric team.  He asked why, I told him it is because I want them to do an assessment, to record that I have recovered from schizophrenia.  He said, after some umming and aahing (Why did I feel that was necessary? etc) that he could 'Sort of see what I was getting at' and would write the referral, although he thought I should know that they were unlikely to see me.  They have meetings, he told me (as if I didn't know about their 'meetings') and since they had already signed me off from their care in October 2008 (diagnosis 'complete remission schizophrenia') that was likely to be, from their point of view, the end of their dealings with me.  They are busy, and need to see people who are unwell.

The trouble has long been, and remains, that I am nowhere near as articulate in person as I am in the written form.  I tried to explain why in my opinion, 'remission'  is not the same as recovery and said that it is to do with how a person feels.  Of course, medically, remission is not the same as recovery and the GP knows that as well as I do - you can be in remission from cancer, but after five years you are declared to be recovered.  So why I should I accept this label for ever?

He said he couldn't see the point in all this because the illness would always be on my medical records.  I said it is not my aim to try to change that (although it would be nice to see those records - I have asked the appropriate manager of the local NHS Trust three times to do so, in writing, and never received a reply.) 

I am never going to deny that I was mentally ill - I was totally raving mad, three times, and it was awful.  But as I said to the GP, there should be some process of acknowledging recovery.  Look at it like this - if schizophrenia is a disease of the brain, something that will never get better, will get worse as a person gets older, and for which they will always need medication (I was expressly told all this) then clearly I was misdiagnosed.  I have no symptoms, take no medication, lead a full and happy life, etc.

If I was not misdiagnosed, and accept that the diagnosis of schizophrenia was the correct one, and if schizophrenia is something that you can recover from (which is the current medical opinion) then clearly I have recovered.  Because I don't have the symptoms, or the medication, etc.

But it sounds as though they (the psychiatric profession) want to leave that diagnosis hanging over my head for the rest of my life.  I am 'in remission'.  Therefore I dare not consider myself recovered, I must always be watchful of myself and forever fearful for my sanity.  I can never have a normal position in society, because I have been officially declared an outcast, a 'lunatic'.

 Leaving aside the whole question of whether schizophrenia is a valid diagnosis for anyone in the first place (because I am not articulate enough to try to challenge all that in person, although I could certainly point in the direction of a lot of very convincing literature on the subject) refusal to acknowledge recovery seems to be to be in direct contravention of the direction in the physician's Hippocratic Oath to 'Do no harm'.

I am not despairing yet.  But the GP (who was being kindly) clearly wanted me to recognise that I am unlikely to be seen by a psychiatrist for an assessment.  'These people have meetings' he said, and I wondered if he was hinting that it was a closed subject.  And then as I was leaving, tearful but struggling not to let him see it, he said something about how unusual it was for the diagnosis to be challenged.  And I understood what he was telling me - that the psychiatrists would feel that their authority was being challenged, and that they don't like that.

I didn't cry in the surgery, or when I was driving home.  I tried not to cry when I got in.  But I couldn't help it in the end - I am getting weepy again just thinking about it!  It is the frustration, the sense of powerlessness, that has done it. 

What kind of nonsense is that?  To burden somebody with a label and then refuse to speak to them about it? 

Anyway, it hasn't happened yet.  Perhaps they will see me, after all.  Surely they will see me, after all? 

I  don't know, I can only wait and see if that appointment letter plops onto the doormat.  (Toddler's passport arrived this morning by the way, hurrah!)  And if I do get an assessment then I will ask Paul to come along with me - because he is the person who knows me best - just a person, just like those psychiatrists, and he knows that I am normal, even if they refuse to acknowledge it.  Because if that meeting does take place, I am not entirely sure that it would go in my favour - if I come home from the GP and cry just because he said I might not get the meeting, maybe they are right, and I am fundamentally flawed and too weak for words.

Excapt that I know I am not.  I know I am recovered.  But I have been thinking about that famous experiment in the seventies.  I just finished reading Richard Bentall's 'Doctoring the Mind - Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail' and that reminded me of it.  Eight people (a psychologist, a psychiatrist etc...) pretended to have heard voices saying 'Thud, hollow, etc'.  Once hospitalised, although they said they were completely better, they were still detained for between 7 and 52 days each, and seven out of eight of them were given a resulting diagnosis of schizophrenia. 

In my case, obviously I was ill, but I know I am now better.  It has been many years since I had any symptoms of a serious mental illness (I have had a lot of anxiety consistently through the years, but have finally, and only very recently, managed to tackle this successfully and I feel that I am now fully healed).  However, because psychiatric diagnoses are based on observation of behaviour, I am well aware that any small oddity or weakness that I display in any meeting could (and probably will) be taken as a sign (or proof) of my madness.  I can't win!  Unless they act normally, and humanely, and see the fact that I have raised four healthy and happy children and have a successful marriage, lots of friends and a pretty average life that I greatly enjoy as an indication that I am now as medically 'sane' as the next person.  We will see.

There is one positive thing.  However all this turns out, it has given me an added incentive to crack on with my book on recovery.  I will soon have my last chapter, and a tidy end to the book one way or another.  I am going to walk the dog, and then get straight on with that.  Have a good day!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Schizophrenia Commission

I am WELL excited!  I have been invited to speak to the Schizophrenia Commission in London about my experience of recovery, following the recovery story that I sent in to them last November.  I have so many things I want to speak about, I keep having to remind myself that I will not be the only person they have invited in.

I was so impolite at the cinema the other evening.  I had gone to watch The Blind Side.  I had been invited by a friend  whose church had hired the cinema and were selling tickets for just fifty pence each to members of the public.  I took the older children and some friends along.  The very kind and generous church members gave us all sweets, tea or coffee and cake before we went in.  And then - incredibly - somebody came around the cinema handing out free ice cream.  She gave them out to several of the rows, then turned.  I thought she was leaving and called out to remind her that we hadn't got any yet.  I really embarrassed myself - she had only been trying to reach us by coming around to the other side, and even those children who hadn't yet been given an ice cream hadn't called out in dismay as I had done!  I had to apologise for my impulsiveness, and I really did feel stupid.

Anyway, my point is that I will have to take care to behave nicely at the Commission meeting, take my turn and be polite.  And remember my table manners of course - they are laying on lunch.

I am excited about the whole day, although I do have some feelings of trepidation.  The trouble is, I have leant on Paul for so long during our marriage that I am now incapable of doing simple things for myself.  I hardly ever go to London - now I have to get there on my own, and find my way to the venue.  Part of me appreciates the challenge - I know I can do it (I think) - I certainly know that I should be able to.  Part of me is baffled that I ever became so dependent on anybody else that I stopped thinking for myself.  And part of me is still beset with doubt as to my capability - something that won't go away until I start taking on more responsibility. 

Today I drove a fair distance, something that would have terrified me a year ago, to meet some members of a local mental health organisation.  I left an hour later feeling boosted - I had an offer of work (I think, subject to references).  I will be providing peer support to those in mental distress, something that I feel well equipped to do, and which I am looking forward to, although it will be another challenge.  But it will prove to myself that I am capable at last - work feels like a hurdle that I have to face, although I will not work outside the house for many hours while the children are young.

I notice already that since I am devoting more time to writing I have been distracted, and that it is not good for the children.  They need me to be available, to pay attention to them - they have each other to play with, but they need to know that I am there to talk to and that I will listen to them properly.  It makes a huge difference to their emotional welfare and my own - I hate to feel that I am neglecting their needs in any way.  I don't know how mothers manage to work full-time and look after their children.  I suppose most people don't have such a large family, and those who do go out to work have support networks and childcare arrangements in place.  I just want to make sure I don't start getting carried away with my fledgling career at the expense of my children - the family is the main part of my existence and I want to keep it that way.

Enough for now, more in due course.  I hope that all of you out there are well and happy.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

This looks Good

This article in the Guardian:

links to a website about research into mental health recovery:

I shall be wishing them well and hoping that the conference goes well and that they make progress in their studies. 

Toddler is Smart!

My daughters came home late-ish last night - they'd had an activity.  Toddler, who is normally fast asleep early in the evening, was sitting up at the kitchen table calmly eating oranges, and took no notice of their noisy arrival.

'What's he doing up?' they demanded to know.

'He fell asleep in the car earlier, so he had trouble dropping off tonight'.


Then a thought struck them.  They had left the house for their activity in a hurry, and although they had eaten dinner, they'd had no pudding.  'What was for pudding?  Can we have it now?'

'There was no pudding' I told them (a white lie, I didn't want to delay bedtime and I knew they had had some snacks when they were out).

They didn't believe me and started on Toddler.  'What was for pudding?  Tell us! What did you have?' they squealed at him.

'Don't remember pudding' he stated evenly.

'Good boy!' I laughed.

'If you tell us what you had for pudding,' eldest daughter said cunningly, 'I will give you a sticker tomorrow'. 

And without missing a beat, just as calmly as ever, he said, 'Ice cream'.

Clever little monkey!  He hadn't had ice cream at all, he'd had a chocolate roll and he had forgotten, but he had very quickly computed that he needed to make something up to get his sticker - and honestly, there was not even a pause while he thought about what to tell his sisters.  I was in fits.

It was one of those moments that I hope I will always remember, so I thought I would write it down here.  Also, I am aware that I haven't blogged much recently - there are more than enough back posts already, but I will make an effort soon to think of something riveting to write about.  Toddler and his ways will have to fill the gap today. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Stop Press

Hurrah!  Two days and three phone calls later, the Passport Office and the Register Office have liaised with one another and it has been decreed that Toddler will after all be issued with a passport.  Result!

So, was all that kerfuffle for nothing?  Actually, I think I will take a positive slant on things and decide that a little tussle with the authorities did me good - I was assertive and it paid off.  Therefore I will allow my ego to be boosted and my confidence increased....