Posted by: hypomanic | July 18, 2013

What does it mean to be discharged after 17 years of psychiatric care?

I’m not the prolific blogger I thought I would be about my mental illness. I guess I’ve been concentrating more on living my life than writing about it. I’ve been too busy, to inclined to focus elsewhere. I’m not really sure what ‘Hypomanic – the blog’ does anymore from a holistic point of view? What I always wanted aged 23 was a channel to let out publicly how furious I felt as a young man to be cut down and bound by a condition that most people deride, including my younger self, before I was diagnosed. It’s always about the stigma, S.T.I.G.M.A.T.A. Cut down and bound before I even got started with life. There was this incredible force to fight it inside me. I was petrified and mute in public and neutered socially but at home, alone in front of the computer it was going to be pay back time. Boy did I vent. My fuel tank emptied as soon as the book was published, the website made, twitter live, the youtube videos uploaded etc. etc. etc.

I hate the word ‘cathartic’ in some contexts so I’ll liken my own personal media exorcism to swallowing a milky, chalk-like enema – or even having a massive poo! Recovering from my initial breakdown in 1995, a psychiatric nurse on the ward said to me, “Keep a diary Victor, it’s really good to write things down. It can help your recovery” I think I sort of took that advice and ran with it, like Forrest Gump – sprinting off into an obsession with understanding what had happened to me, purging it and then sharing it all as beautifully as I could. Classic text book ‘blah blah blah blah blah.’ Stick whatever label into that you like.

The digital footprint of my massive drawn out brain-explosion has been online and searchable since the mid-noughties and slowly over time an enlightening and really special by-product occurred. The more people fed back to me the more I actually started to feel responsible to everyone who would be digesting what I had created (then curated) off the back of an acutely painful life event. I felt that what I write should be oriented to help the people visiting in some way. It must help them make a recovery or get out of whatever negative situation they found themselves in, related to whichever aspect of mental illness they have been experiencing. People search for answers on the internet, they say it’s about asking the right questions but in my case, I have to ask myself; am I giving them the best answers with the most hope and with realistic encouragement.

What I’m trying to say is that today, after 17 years under observation, I’ve been discharged from psychiatric care. My psychiatrist said, “It is because you have done so well and your moods have been stable for so long.” I’m no fool, I’m aware this could also be David Cameron and a Tory NHS initiative. That said, I guess I’m a bit emotional, hence this post was written in this open way. Just record my initial reaction to this news. Quite a lot of things, good things, are going around in my head. I wanted to share the news out of responsibility and if I’m sharing it then it would be helpful to tell you how I’ve managed it. I think in linguistic terms ‘managing it’ is the best way to describe how to live with a diagnosis of bipolar type II. Even though I may be discharged it will never leave my side. I’m still petrified in public of being ‘exposed’ and I do smile and laugh a lot but socially but I am still an outsider to everyone but my wife and kids, not forgetting my heroic parents. I think a hard truth to accept is you won’t find many new close friendships after diagnosis, partly down to your own personal stigma, particularly if you are like me and you want to keep bipolar and/or mental illness off the table in your relationships at work. I like ‘bothering’ people in the form of accessible text over the world wide web but I really don’t like vocally burdening people with my stigma-related news. If you ask me, the world’s not quite ready yet. In life, I think I just want people to know me as me. Everything else, all the chaos and the heartbreak, plus the strength and determination is hidden secretly away behind my mask, my smile. I’m defined by what I can do, not by how much lithium I take every evening before I go to bed. That’s another thing – always take your medication on time and as regularly as directed. For me, that is the one key foundation to recovery. The rest is much simpler than you thought. One step in front of the other. Oh, and try writing down how you are feeling as often as you feel necessary!

With hope and huge gratitude, Victor

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