Sunday, 1 March 2015

1st March 2010: 5 years on

For many people, today's main focus has been the fact that it's St David's day or (for those of us in Suffolk / Norfolk) the Norwich v Ipswich East Anglian Derby, or Ireland v England in the Six Nations rugby.

But I am quietly acknowledging another anniversary today. It is exactly 5 years since I went into hospital with mental illness - and have never had to go back.

I went for a walk this morning (pic below) and pondered on the last 5 years - I am v proud of what I have achieved since then - 

- I have started, finished and passed an undergraduate university degree
- I have procrastinated with many blog posts and tweets, but have hopefully built something that is actually worth reading
- I have hopefully contributed in someway to stamping stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues
- I have learnt a lot (about people, me, the world, my brain etc...) that I was previously muddled and unsure about
- I have made some of the greatest friends
- I have landed a proper, grown up job in this proper, grown up world, which 5 years ago seemed totally incomprehensible and unimaginable. 



I remember the first people I ever met in hospital - I walked into a busy dining room, grabbed the nearest empty chair and quickly got chatting to a somewhat buoyant and entertaining bunch of people. They turned out to be the addicts. I sat next to a very twinkly reassuring lady called B. And it was at this moment that I knew it would be ok - however hard the next few weeks / months would be, I knew the people I was going to meet and get to know were going to become very special friends. I was right. 

B was coming to the end of her 28 day programme and was able to fill me in on what the nurse hadn't told me and she re-showed me everything like how to work the washing machine and she pointed out which sofa was the comfiest in the sitting room. That kind of advice and help was appreciated more than anything. 

What makes today quite emotional for me is that B - the twinkly, kind lady who I sat next to that evening - is no longer with us. Her alcohol addiction killed her last year. Mental illness and addiction are a bitch like that - not all of us were going to make it. And B didn't. 

In my "Happy 5 year anniversary to us!" text that I sent a few people this morning - it was another lady called P who reminded me about that evening in the dining room and my first encounter with B. 

I am in constant touch with lots of the people who were fellow inpatients - we often meet up and do various things - funnily enough, in 2011, 8 of us went to see Ruby Wax in her first show Losing It and I never imagined 4 years later that I would be in touch with her now.... We also went to a Patrick Holford workshop AND on another occasion did a road trip to Cadbury world.

Of course, the last 5 years have not always been plain sailing and some days are the kind of two steps forward, one step back days. But on the whole, for me life has turned a corner. I am very mindful that for some people (including me sometimes), things can be or are still very difficult and the black dog is still barking loudly. 

Here's hoping for many more years of recovery. I still have to take a very small dose of medication and there is still a lot to be achieved on the mental health stigma stamping front - but I'm still willing to keep tackling it. 

On that note, Bill Oddie has stressed me out again.... I hope he reads this from November 2013 when he last made my blood boil. 

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