Positivity amidst chaos
Mental illness differs from physical illness in many ways, obviously. But the one that I am noticing most at the moment is the difference in recovery. Perhaps it is more a chronic illness vs acute illness issue rather than mental and physical but whilst in acute physical problems, recovery from ill-health is expected to be roughly linear and directly proportional to time (the more time that passes the better you are expected to get), chronic mental illness recovery is far more chaotic. Over the years I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, anorexia and EUPD. In addition to that I had traits of OCD for a time. None of these have seen a straightforward recovery linked to time, they have all seen me feeling positive and doing well for periods followed, often out of the blue, by backwards steps and very difficult phases. This has been true even if I have kept engaged in treatment, taken my meds etc. You just don’t know how long a good episode is going to last; whether this is it, you’ve reached the illusive light at the end of the tunnel for good or whether tomorrow, it will feel like you’re back at square one. This last week has proven difficult to navigate for all these reasons.
In essence, I have been up, down and somewhere in between more or less every day. It was getting difficult to see any progress at all. However, I did have a worthwhile appointment with my GP. It took me years to find someone who was sympathetic to mental health in my doctors practice. I literally tried every doctor and left so many appointments feeling unlistened to and misunderstood before several years into the exercise, my current GP joined the surgery. He just gets it and I am so thankful to have found him. The appointment this week was difficult, I was truly honest about how I was feeling and how difficult things have become as a result of my EMDR work. I also admitted that I was barely sleeping, instead spending hours awake with thoughts churning over and over in my mind. He really listened and said he was sorry that he couldn’t do more but just having that space helped so much. He also prescribed me some sleeping medication for the short term, which has helped considerably. Only by getting a decent night’s sleep have I realised how little I had been getting before. Now that I have been sleeping, I have been able to inch forward, closer to that light, largely because I have more energy to deal with the backwards steps too.
On Thursday I co-facilitated some more Time to Change tackling stigma training to the staff at a local mental health base. We were only expecting a small number of attendees but they just kept coming and we ended up with a whole room full! It went well and we got some great feedback, including from one individual who said it was the best staff development training she had been on in 25 years! I think I need a raise! Seriously though, it is always good to hear how you have changed people’s perceptions of things after the session. Even if staff change one little thing to develop their practice it might make the world of difference to a patient in the future. It was also good to be there because I recognised one of the attendees - he worked with me frequently on the ward when I was sectioned and we got on well. He was rather surprised by my presence as a facilitator but he was very pleased for me and it felt so good to be able to talk to him in such different circumstances and to show how far I have come.
The best news of the week though, came rather unexpectedly on Saturday morning. I got up just in time to prevent my dog wrestling the post once it came through the letterbox and amongst it was a brown envelope. That usually means bad news from the DWP so I was a little anxious when opening it but instead inside I found my driving licence!!! It has finally been decided that almost 3 years after it was revoked for dissociative reasons, I can have it back and am a fully fledged driver again! I am SO excited!! I reapplied for it after I came out of the Cassel back in March and it has taken 7 months to sort out so I am over the moon that it has finally arrived, it took a lot of patience to wait this long. I am very much looking forward to getting my car back into a roadworthy state and then having freedom - I will be able to save so much time not having to get the bus everywhere!
As you can imagine, that has lifted my mood somewhat for now so I am trying to capitalise on that positivity whilst it lasts.