By Harriet Russell
Hello again lovely readers, I thought today I would write about how I got to where I am today, i.e. in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve lead a very charmed life and am extremely fortunate in that respect, but I’d like to stress the obvious: mental illness does not discriminate against race, class, age or gender, and anyone can end up on a psych ward.
How did I end up on a psych ward?
I was born and spent a glorious childhood in London. At the age of 11 my family decided to swap the conventional city life for an adventure and we moved to rural France. So off we went – my parents, 3 brothers and I – and enjoyed a blissful, almost hippy-like lifestyle. The boys all grew out their hair into long flowing golden curls (I obviously got the bad genetics on so many fronts as I had mousy brown rat tails 🤷🏻♀️), we grew sunflowers & tomatoes, had kittens & chickens and the sun always shone.
A few years later I moved to Gay Paris for University and finished off my degree with a stint in Germany, before heading back to the Big Smoke to find work. I was lucky enough to find an amazing job as Community Manager for a super cool company and had the honour to work alongside some of the brightest and most inspiring young minds around.
Everything was going swimmingly! Then November 2015 happened. A date etched into my brain. That’s when everything fell apart.
Everything fell apart
I had something like a mini-stroke. Returning to my parents’ house in France, I was hospitalised on a Neurological ward. I had speech difficulties for months, forgot my French and German and had some minor issues with one side of my body: slight paralysis on the right side of my mouth and problems with my right hand. Needless to say Christmas that year was a bit of a write-off.
Luckily though, through all the tough times I had an amazing family who would sit with me and take the p*ss out of my distorted speech & facial tics, that made it look like I was continuously promiscuously winking at them until we’d all fall about wetting ourselves laughing. (That may or may not have actually happened to me at some point… 🙄 oops there goes my dignity!)
Post this little hiccup, and to me it was a hiccup, because it happened, it’s over, in the past, finito, it took a little time but I recovered. Whereas what came next and the impact that it had/is having/will always have is HUGE! That’s the thing with a chronic mental illness. You have to learn how to accept it, to manage it, to live with it, think about how others will perceive you, what it will mean for current/future relationships, job prospects, whether you’ll end up on a psych ward… the list goes on. So yeah, the mental health bomb was officially dropped in my life.
I started having major panic/anxiety attacks
After the whole “November 2015” episode, I started having major panic/anxiety attacks and was diagnosed with depression, for which I was prescribed a cocktail of various pills that I remember popping like smarties. Needless to say, I was away with the fairies a lot of the time, and quickly developed an unhealthy and unsustainable need for these meds. The cycle of depression/anxiety continued to spiral out of control, with bouts of what I now know were hypomania/mania.
Mania: a person may be euphoric, have increased energy, louder/faster speech, heightened creativity/productivity – sounds fun right? 😎 here’s the rest of it… you don’t sleep, racing thoughts, hallucinations, hypersexuality – maybe that’s a plus??? 😏, irritability, poor judgement…..)
I was diagnosed as being bipolar type 1
Then in October 2016, I was diagnosed as being bipolar type 1.
(Stay tuned for more on what bipolar is soon 😘)
Here we are today, nearly one year on, having seen numerous amazing specialists, I’ve tried countless not so amazing meds – for me, in any case – as they’ve had horrid side effects: weight gain, headaches, nausea, mood swings => the irony!, skin rashes and zombified me. And most importantly none of them helped me manage my bipolar. For the past year I have remained in a clinically depressed state.
This is why I decided to stop taking my meds nearly a month ago. I very rapidly entered a hypomanic state with elements of mania. I informed my Dr of what was going on, and agreed to be admitted to hospital. And so, I’m currently on a psych ward.
Bipolar is part of me
So there you have it. If you’d have asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself, it most certainly wouldn’t have been here! I’m not sure being on a psych ward would feature in many people’s 10 year plan. For now, I’ve accepted this journey I’m on and my bipolar is part of me; it adds to my quirkiness if you like! Yes there have been some bloody tough times (I lost control of my body/mind, my life, had to quit my job and move back home) and I’m not out of the woods yet. But the silver lining makes it so worthwhile, and the experiences I’ve had have enriched my life greatly! And hey, everyone has a shit-storm in their life, I actually think I got dealt a pretty sweet hand.
My point – love and accept who you are & catch those curve balls life throws your way. After all, victory may just lay in the fall!
H xo 🍍
Reproduced with permission, originally posted here