Something in my head…
Most readers will be familiar with the biblical story of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, and of how the 'Damascene moment' has passed into everyday usage to express those moments when we experience a sudden and potentially life-changing insight. My own Damascene moment came in The Academy bar in Great Western Road. Sitting with an ex-girlfriend, I decided that it was a fair cop, and yes, I was a manic depressive. I can't for the life of me remember what we were talking about that made me come out with that statement, but it was a very important turning point in my experience of life with mental illness. Effectively, it marked the end of a ten-year period in which I suffered from my illness without medication or any proper contact with the mental health services.
It's not that throughout those ten years I had been in complete denial of my mental health problems (heck, I'd referred myself to a psychiatrist when I started hearing voices, and I'd been in hospital for several months after a particularly severe psychotic episode). No, rather I had preferred to believe that my problems were in the past, that I had suffered from acute episodes instead of suffering from a chronic condition that I would have to live with for a long time. But, by the time of that evening in the pub, this self-deception could no longer be sustained.
However important that moment was, it didn't actually mark an upturn in the fortunes that had led me to admit my situation. No, it was several years after that night before I finally accepted long-term medication, and began to get support from the mental health services beyond sporadic spells of occasional visits to psychiatrists who, however nice, could actually do very little to get me out of my worsening situation. And before I even found this basic level of support, I had to endure life in a dank slum of a bedsit, more extreme psychosis, the deepest, darkest depression of my entire life, homelessness, and the dancing scalpels.
Ah, the dancing scalpels. They were the moment when depression and psychosis reached out and joined hands to torment me from both sides at once (something I only accidentally found out was possible, talking to a psychiatrist some time later). They could have lasted for weeks, or for months, I just can't remember. But for as long as they did last I would be sitting in my little slum, hallucinating these scalpels dancing about on my wrists, slashing them to ribbons. And this at a time when my future bore down upon me as a more than merely metaphorical utter void, a darkness in which I could see the end of my lifeline, approaching. I was in a very bad way, and I knew it.
A few months later I had moved into another slum, in which it turned out I was technically an unwitting squatter. I was so low that I didn't even bother unpacking. Then, the next thing I knew I was homeless and had lost nearly everything I owned. This actually turned out to be the old cloud with a silver lining. Within months, I was on lithium, had a CPN, a GAMH support worker, DLA, and my own flat. I felt reborn. This is it I thought, finally the life I'd always wanted was mine for the taking.
That was seven years ago, and it turned out that my falls would just be shorter, my landings softer, and my bounces easier than they had been in the past. The lithium simply wasn't enough. It just stabilised me into a perfectly predictable cycle of barely manageable highs and lows, a situation which itself proved too unstable to last. The crisis, when it inevitably came, was resolved with new medication, more intervention from the mental health services, and more long-term support. As a result I am mentally stable for the first time in some twenty years.
Mwah hah ha, etc! ;)
Mwah hah ha, etc! ;)