It seems like a good time to reflect on things as the year draws to a close.
For me, 2018 has been a year of new pathways and journeys. This Christmas was the first in three years that I was totally free to celebrate as I wanted, the last two me having been an inpatient and unable to drive, even if I did have leave. It passed fairly quietly but it was such a liberating feeling to be able to come and go as I liked and not to have the looming discontent of having to return to hospital at some point.
I have now been out of the Cassel Hospital for as long as I was a patient there and since my discharge in March, many things have changed for me. I now feel I have a purpose in life, which not to put too fine a point on it, is largely just to live life itself. I may not yet be well enough to work but I have things going on that give me a focus and that have helped me find my drive again. Some days I will engage in more things than on others but on each day I do engage, rather than merely existing. Whether that be engagement with the environment as I take my dog for a walk or with 180 people when I give a talk at a conference, it doesn’t matter.
I have become better at living in the moment, seeing how life turns out. Yes, I am still highly anxious and hyper-vigilant at times but I am making progress with this and the rational side of my brain even sometimes wins out now.
I have learnt to have confidence in myself and my abilities. One year ago I had never spoken openly about my mental health to pretty much anyone and now I have the confidence to give talks based on my experiences to hundreds of people I have never met. Not only that but I have confidence in my own ability to navigate this journey now. Last year I felt that I was still very much fumbling my way from day to day and didn’t know if I could cope with the inevitable ups and downs ahead. Today I know that those extremes are still going to appear but I have faith in myself that I can handle them better. That doesn’t mean that they won’t affect me at all - more that they will affect me but now the tunnel will always have a light at the end of it.
I also know that I can manage friendships without always feeling guilty about something or having to ‘people please’ rather than being my true self. I know those who have stuck by me want me in their lives and vice versa - it really is an equal platform.
I have taken a journey into the area of mental health in a different capacity than that of a patient and found it is something I am passionate about. I have found that I can speak up not just for myself but on behalf of others too - my campaign for a local personality disorder service getting so much support illustrates that. In this way I have discovered that I can use my strengths flexibly; I don’t always have to do what I have always done before.
Some of these things have come directly as a result of the treatment I received in the therapeutic community environment of the Cassel and some have come as a result of daring to live life just that little bit more. Many more things strike me as different this year as compared to last, and even more so than 2016.
As I often say though, life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Aspects of the last 12 months have been very challenging and I would go as far as to say that all of it has been, and continues to be, challenging in one way or another. I am wary of painting a picture that is too rosy as that would be unrealistic. Nevertheless, here I am writing this entry - a feat in itself when two Christmases ago I was actively suicidal and had just come out of a coma.
I am hugely grateful for everything I have achieved in 2018, be it concrete, visible progress or smaller changes inside of me, as well as just a little bit proud, precisely because of where I have been in the past.
Not all progress is remarkable however. Or should that be rather, that all progress IS remarkable. Even the small things make a difference, not everything has to be huge to be life changing. If you are reading this and have had a difficult year, please keep going - you have come further than you imagine.