So they say life’s a ride – a roller-coaster even. And the people saying that are – quote unquote – normal. If my colleagues, friends and family think this is something akin to the Big Dipper, where does that leave me?
Three years ago I fell dangerously ill. A life threatening health issue brought me to my knees, and no one knew what to do. It was scary – touch and go at times. My husband watched me deteriorate into a husk of who I was when he first met me. He wanted to do anything he could to get his wife back.
No, it wasn’t cancer. I didn’t have heart disease or diabetes. I was still working, walking, talking and functioning (just about). The illness was of the mind; I had a psychotic break.
It started with anxiety like nothing I’d ever known. Anxiety that stopped me sleeping for fear that my husband and I would be murdered in our sleep by our neighbours (who, incidentally, I believed to be aliens – oh hi there paranoia). Panic attacks that left me a sobbing mess in my husband’s arms. I developed a sort-of-selective-agoraphobia too; getting to work and back was alright, but the prospect of visiting the supermarket on my own was just beyond possibility. Again, this was down to typical paranoia; I was afraid the people out there in the world were tracking my thoughts and following me.
Then the mania came flooding in. I felt alive, fantastic, amazing. Nothing could stop the dynamo ball of energy I became. I stopped sleeping unless my body demanded it; this was usually a three hour nap every third night. Work days lasted from 6am to 6pm and I never stopped to eat. It was incredible, I had never felt such vitality and vigour. When I wasn’t working I was being creative and vomiting words endlessly onto the page. There was no stopping me – or at least that’s what I thought.
Back to that roller-coaster analogy now. I had been on the rise, being taken to a great height. But, of course, when you reach the top there’s a plummet awaiting.
Whilst I’d been manic I began to hear ‘voices’. I’ve never met anyone who has experienced what I did (and still do to some extent). The sounds were of bells, melodies and tones and I understood it like it was my mother-tongue. My mind took the sounds and translated them into words with meaning. And what they told me was ‘You must die to save the world.’ I’ve heard people refer to manic delusions like this as being suicidal with motivation.
We breached the summit of the ride, and I went into free-fall.
I lost my job, I lost previously solid friendships. Thankfully I never lost my husband. It was he who took me to see my GP and got the referral to the Early Intervention in Psychosis team. I got put on anti-psychotics and slowly came back to this reality.
I suppose there’s a lot more bumps on this roller-coaster ride. I found myself in crisis care twice last year, but thankfully I’ve had supportive workplaces and managers so no more jobs have been lost. I work full-time, and I’m gaining my confidence back. Friendships are proving easier to form with each week that passes; and now I’ve chosen to speak out on the topic of mental health awareness. I think, hope and pray that the new medication will keep working, that I will finally be able to get off this scary fairground ride and maybe have a go on the much-gentler carousel for a while (forever, please?).
Yes, I miss the manic highs. I even miss the hallucinations, because they made me feel special. But now I am finding out that I don’t have to save the world to be special, I just have to make a difference.
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I’m female, 25 years old and I work full time. I have been married for three years to the man I met aged 18 in a call centre. I have been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar type and I take Olanzapine and Sirtraline to control it.
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