Thursday, 17 May 2012

Reply to Rossa

Hi Rossa.  I did my usual thing - spent so long replying to your comment on my previous post that my reply ended up being too long, so I have had to make it into a new post.

I don't think I will relapse either - but I wouldn't dismiss the possibility - it is never far from my mind.  If I suffered major stress - if something awful happened - I think I would be very vulnerable.  It is a bit of a conundrum - always expecting to get ill is not good for the mental health, but neither is refusing to acknowledge the possibility of it.

Well, I would say that the key in staying mentally healthy is to remain calm.  This gets easier as you get older - I used to get over-excited about things and a bit obsessive and then kind of go off at a tangent.  This is why I base my mental health strategy on preventative measures - eating properly, exercising, sleeping well and so on.  Having kids has helped me immeasurably - keeping a routine has become very important, and I know how vital it is for them that I remain stable.  Also, having a partner has been crucial - you already know how supportive Paul has been.  He also helps my hormones (I joke that he has restored my chemical balance) - physical affection is a great healer.

I never used to think of myself as having a mental health problem - which is why I never saw the warning signs.  And the main reason I kept breaking down was because I was always so anxious and panicky and worried about everything.  I don't know how your son is - but I would guess that he suffers from anxiety at some level - I feel instinctively that this condition is at the root of most (perhaps all) mental health problems.  The single biggest thing I have done to help myself, and the thing that has made me strongest, is learning to deal with this anxiety.  I did this through CBT - recognising negative thought patterns, learning to replace them with positive thoughts, changing my core beliefs to positive ones, learning to care about myself.  Conquering my anxiety has really revolutionalised my life - I now take pleasure in things that I would have found an absolute trial before.

Your son should value himself - I just googled Recovery Innovations, Arizona, because this is the recovery model that my new employers base themselves on, and there was some interesting stuff on there about the importance of work in establishing a sense of self esteem and purpose.  So I hope he is busy...  Don't let him feel bad about what he has been through, because although 'going mad' is a really humiliating experience, it shouldn't be.  Show him Jung's writing, which says essentially that he is a more complete human being because he has suffered psychosis! 

I consciously relax if I feel myself getting stressed.  There is a brilliant website called Glasgow Steps with all sorts of hints - I like their guided relaxation technique.  You can google that too. 
I guess if there is someone your son can trust - someone not too close - it would help.  He might well know if he was becoming ill, but might not want to worry you by talking to you about it.  When I felt odd after waking up from the anaesthetic after my foot op last year, I really should have told a medical professional, but didn't because I thought they might just section me.  Is there a mental health phone line he could call for reasssurance, or someone supportive he could speak to if he became worried about his mental health?  

Does your son write?  I know I would say this because I am a writer - but I think it is a really therapeutic thing to do, to put your feelings down on paper - they are then out of your mind.  So he could keep a journal - although he would need to be sure it was private.  Or he could take a creative writing class and disguise his emotions in stories, or work through emotions and thoughts he thinks other people might have.  Or, if he is musical (I know you said he sings) he might prefer to write lyrics or music to satisfy his creative needs.

I presume he has a written record of his early warning signs - perhaps he could add to it with a list of positive things he can do to keep himself healthy, so that at times of stress he can refer to this and just try and stay on track.

Most of all, keep loving him as you do - it will mean a lot to him, even if he doesn't always show it.  My own mother has her failings (she is drinking again very heavily these days, I despair for her health) but the fact that she loves me has been central to my recovery - I always knew she believed in me, she never thought I was a schizophrenic, no matter how much I believed it myself.  

Hope it helps.  I could go on - this is all stuff I have been thinking about recently, for inclusion in my recovery book.  I will send you a copy of that when I have finished it - you can even proof read it for me if you have time.  I have been neglecting 'Blog-land' recently, but have had a great time catching up today - and thanks for your comment.  It is always good to hear from you.

All the best


  1. Thank you, Louise. Much more than I was expecting!

  2. Yes, I agree with everything you are saying. That is exactly how I recovered from my break down. I had to figure things out for myself because counselling did not exist in my youth. I came to the conclusion that eating and sleeping and above all relaxing about life's vagaries was the answer to my problems. Stand back and see the funny side of things was one way. Acceptance was another: horrible things happen to most people. I also felt that the brakedown made me a better person, kinder, less judgemental, more resilient. And yes, one needs to watch oneself and recognise the signs. It helps a lot if one has someone to love and to laugh with instead of getting things out of proportion. Sadly it is not always easy to find that someone.