Back in 2003 I was consumed by a bout of serious depression, at that time I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament. Being ill meant taking time off to recover but taking time off when you are I the public eye and accountable for me meant explaining why I was ill to the people I represented. I also felt very strongly that I should be honest about suffering mental health illness, didn’t want to the ‘stigma’ to silence me – it just didn’t seem right. So, I ‘went public’ I shared my story then I buggered off to get well………. And in time I did indeed bounce back as best I could. I got myself back in the office and eventually back in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament. I had been inundated with supportive cards, comments, prayers etc etc. I was very fortunate and I really appreciated the support I received back then. Individuals and organisations appreciated my speaking out which really helped because speaking out came at a cost. I’ve never really worked out whether being open about my health was good for me or not. Mental health illness still carries with it that terrible stigma and maybe its my imagination, dare I say my mental health, my paranoia but I still feel weakened by the fact that folk out there know about my fragility, my weakness. The thing is I’m back there again – im ill all over again. I have been for months now and I’m not getting better fast. I don’t sleep well at all, I worry when I’m out and about that something bad will happen to me and if it were not for the support of my daughters, my partner, my family and my very patient friends…… well, I’d be seriously fucked.
I get by ok and sometimes for ages even years then it all goes haywire and my wee heid gets invaded with useless worries. I find I can’t communicate the way I need to. I become emotionally tangled, angry, lonely, sad. I make plans then I cant see them through – simple plans like meeting a friend or going to the shops or writing a letter – I plan then I can’t so I fail then I feel worse. I mean to tell my GP how I am and let him know I’m not doing well and the pills are fine but they’re not enough… but instead I joke; I smile; for fucks sake I find myself reassuring him so he can feel like a good Doctor. its not my GPs fault it’s the way I do things. Now… if he tried to see me each day for a week he would soon find out I’m a serial canceller, he would also find out the pills only work a wee bit and he would find out that I’m really a bit of a shambles. But then what could he do ? the services I need are thin on the ground, Christ I don’t even know what those services are which is funny really because I’m a mental health support worker or I would be if I could do my job, if I was well. There is a place I’m waiting to hear from, I’m waiting to hear from PATHWAYS but I don’t know if I can go along. I don’t know if I can do the ‘talking thing’ again. I don’t know who I can trust with the part of me that’s no very well at the moment. I don’t know if I can cope with getting well, starting again, looking forward just to discover in the future that I’m fucked up at some later date.
I know what I like, I like music and drama and I like to write I love having fun with my daughters, chatting with my partner, meeting my friends and more than anything my life is filled with the love of my wee grandson. I think that when I’m ill I’m actually funny my emotions bubble to the surface and I laugh easily, yes I also cry and shout and sulk but oddly my random thoughts seem free and uninhibited and when those thoughts and feelings are free and safe it can be nice. I feel as if I can perform which is no surprise because anyone who has been where I am knows how much of a show you have to put on just to get by. So, I’m not at all well at the moment and I feel a bit bombarded but I also think I should be able to find a way of using what’s working in my head. Why cant I be allowed, supported in this? I need flexibility when I’m ill because if I cant sustain something I run for cover and then I get worse and feel even more isolated. Last month I was fortunate enough to be involved in a musical play called Miss Smith. We did four shows. I got to sing and dance and act. All I had to do was get to rehearsal each week for one day then two days of performances in November. I was able to do this. My friends were involved and my partner was roped in – it didn’t fail and that made me feel good and best of all I got to pretend, I got to be someone else for a wee while and people enjoyed it.
Tomorrow I’ll be forced to tell a stranger all about me. I will have to talk about how crap I feel and how lonely it can get. I will have to talk about all the bad thoughts. I have no idea who this person will be or what they will think of me, I will feel frightened and nervous and I will have my good friend by my side supporting me. This stranger will be medically trained and on another day they may help folk like me – but tomorrow they will be listening to me and ticking boxes on a computer in response to my answers. They will press a button and another stranger will decide whether or not I get my Employment Support Allowance of £67.50 a week. If the ‘me’ that is comical and supportive comes out to play and If I feel a wee bit sorry for the stranger or they look a bit awkward then that’s exactly what could happen, its what I do – then I’m guessing im seriously knackered but I cant really control that so we will have to see.
Bottom line, and this is the ACTUAL bottom line if I can tell it to this stranger for £67.50 a week then I can tell it to you.