On Mental Health

A time-appropriate cautionary tale of schizophrenia.

Never think something won’t happen; it seems to me, at this point in time, that my simplistic notions of previous experiences may have inadvertently led me back into hospital. They gave me a lot of strength, but it was an uneasy strength, a ‘not quite convinced’ strength.

I knew I’d made an “amazing recovery,” I knew I had “incredible insight,” and I knew I was “mature, patient and determined.” I’d always held onto the importance of these positive traits, over the course of the last 12 years; this year, however, I started to wonder why they were so significant, why any of it mattered.

I broke up with my boyfriend of five years, messed up another potential relationship, and then another, and then shot myself in the foot at work over something trivial. Stress beget stress beget frustration and disillusionment. By the time I left work a part of me was bordering on the bitter and cynical- why had I broken my back trying to get back to work, trying for self improvement, trying for all these things which had ultimately only left me miserable.

So my apparent “strength,” was starting to feel more and more like a monkey on my back; or maybe I was the monkey. Just before leaving work I started to really think about the negative connotations of the word unstable, I was subconsciously deconstructing the positive version of events it had taken me years to solidify. I was too pissed off to care.

Years previously I’d wondered if I were to suffer a relapse, would I be aware of it. Would it be the same as it was previously, would the experiences be similar, or would it be an entirely different kettle of fish. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it would happen, more that I’d been relatively well adjusted for so long I couldn’t imagine experiencing intense symptoms again. Turns out, it’s still possible, despite you “not being able to imagine it” beforehand.

It’s such a difficult thing to describe, because it’s as if I was aware of the nature of my experiences but also wasn’t. I hadn’t “given up;” I wasn’t suicidal and I truly believed I could work through what was happening. I just didn’t have any real strategy for how I’d do that.

I fell into the symptoms and the stories again, except this time I didn’t truely lose touch with the world, or the people, around me. They pulled me in, the stories, in the same way they did previously, except they seemed more focused on the wider world this time which seemed to give their content more validity.

I won’t go into the nature of the experiences here, though I might describe them at some point. I guess the only important or relevant conclusion to make is to re-emphasise the point that relapse is possible after a long period of relative stability, and it is possible to break with reality whilst also remaining in touch with it. The experiences may not be the same, and so to assume that just because you’ve lived through one psychotic break, you will recognise the next one, is not valid or necessarily true.

For myself I think if anything might have pulled me back it would have been noting my bad diet and over reliance on alcohol. I don’t know if I would have wanted to hear it though, as my survival instinct went to sleep for a bit, but it may have been enough to pull me through.

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