Monday, 30 May 2011

The sea, the whisper and the promise. Bedlam and stigma

That long silence, think of it like the noise a body might make when it fell off the edge. That's all it was. A gentle whoosh, mouth in a silent 0, mind racing knowing that the landing wouldn't be soft. And no, it wasn't. It was horrible. An abyss so deep it took nearly two years to fall to the bottom and crawl out again.

That's the strange thing about mental health. Bedlam and stigma. I feel sure that if that had been a physical illness visually represented by say, bleeding from every orifice (eyes, ears and nose particularly) and total paralysis, the NHS might well have invested a little time and energy in me. As it was, those around me who know me as someone else, were bewildered and frightened. My family watched me both physically shrink and mentally shrink away from them. I lost the ability to have proper conversations. I lost things I had never even owned and spent days anxiously searching for them, wringing my sweaty hands together and muttering. I suspected innocent people of having the worst possible motives. All bodily processes disgusted me, including eating. I would find myself driving down the motorway with my fists clenched around the steering wheel, certain that something appalling was about to happen. And as for car park tickets and lost telephone hunts, they were a real problem. My pulse would race and I would sweat, knowing that they were both lost, lost forever, and that the consequences would be dire and unbearably complicated at best. At night I would sweat buckets and wake at 3am with a thudding heart and a million and one reasons why I had failed to be as good as I should be. And then by day I would do my very best to keep it all together. And fail. And yearn to run away, or sleep forever. And the only place I felt safe was on Facebook, where no one could touch me, and I could exaggerate the funny side of it. And then I'd get carried away and say too much and leap out of bed in the mornings to do some hurried housekeeping and editing and deleting. I still do, when the Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society meetings (Membs. 1) I hold in the kitchen late at night get a bit rowdy.

So, there. That was what it was like down at the bottom of the cliff, being dragged out to sea, swept in and pummelled on the sharp rocks for two years. Finally when I felt utterly smashed up, torn to shreds and broken, the sun came out, the sea calmed, I pulled myself up onto the rocks, caught my breath, looked up and started the climb.

I can't tell you how I survived. I'd love to, but a super injunction of sorts means I can't. I was blessed with a whisper in my ear, daily, and made to promise something that was very hard for me. Thanks alone to the whisper and the promise, I am still here.

I didn't opt for drug therapy. I was offered that, and counselling by my GP, but I was too ill for either of those options to be viable. I couldn't be bothered. I wouldn't take either. What should have happened was that I should have been hospitalized. I would have agreed to it, and one day I very nearly drove to my nearest A&E and surrendered myself as a broken doll. I don't know why I didn't really. Fear of the drugs making me fat, lumpen, compliant I suspect. And the truth is that even at my maddest I could see the funny side, the absurdity of it all.

And now I am better. The sun came out. I don't know if the Psychotherapy has made that happen or if this is just an illness that comes and goes, as it pleases, like an annoying and smelly cat. And no, knowing that bloody Winston sodding Churchill and Stephen effing Fry are both members of the club doesn't help one bit. Nothing does. And strangely, while it is lovely to be 'back in the room', I rather miss the madness, the hurly burly and the adrenalin, but not the terrible fear. The motorbike riding classes seem to be filling that gap neatly. And I can see the funny side of that too. An old Biddy in leathers humming 'Born to be Wild'. Special, in all the wrong ways.