A rule here before we start today’s post, it’s about mental illness, and if you will find that triggering please don’t feel obliged to read, and secondly this is my story, about my illness, it doesn’t apply to everyone, please do not think of it as definitive, it’s far from it.
So there I was, three years ago, in a badly painted room with plasterboard walls and a cheap book shelf. I’d been in this room and many other ones like it for the last five years, usually with the same person. He had some news for me and was concerned how I would take it. My diagnosis was being changed. For five years I had laboured under the belief it was Bi-Polar disorder, people had accepted me, they would say “oh like Stephen Fry”.
Then he looked at me as if to gauge how I was receiving the verdict. After the years of analysis, the failure to respond to the proscribed treatments and consideration with his colleagues it was felt that I had Emotional Personality Disorder, with Schizophrenic Traits. Yep, two diagnosis that had sinister reputations, ones the Red Topped Tabloids love to paint vivid pictures with. They will be used every time they can alongside the worst types of criminals, the most evil of our society. Well I’m pretty sure I’m not one of those, I wasn’t even in on the Hatton Garden Heist and I can do a mean saaarf laaandhan accent as well.
Would it help if I explained a bit about the symptoms . . .
EPD (similar to Borderline Personality Disorder) – emotional instability (a psychological term for this is affective dysregulation), disturbed patterns of thinking or perception (psychological terms for these are cognitive or perceptual distortions), impulsive behaviour, intense but unstable relationships with others.
Schizoid Traits (parts of schizophrenia but not full diagnosis) – Hallucinations, Delusions, Disorganized speech, Disorganized or catatonic behavior,Negative symptoms (emotional flatness, apathy, lack of speech)
Well I tick many of those boxes. What is it like, well it surely is very hard at times I can’t deny it. I think the worst part is when I do things that hurt people and I have no idea. When you don’t have proper emotional response’s you can’t always see the mistake. The acute feeling of emotion can be a downside, but also an upside, nearly every one of you will never experience the intensity of emotion that is my daily life, Purest joy, crushing sadness, I roll deeper than you can ever know.
I have the auditory and visual hallucinations as well. That can get weird.
How could I ever explain that the person I see is as real to me as you are, that I can not only see them, but feel them and smell them. The complete package, and at times that can be very painful, when I see the vision of a lost loved one it can be overwhelmingly sad, the reminder of what I lost. But the flip side is it’s a chance to say all those things I had wished I had said, a second chance to say goodbye. They can rage from obscure to terrifying, and have no mercy at times. But and this is important to me, I have learned to cope, learned how to deal so far.
I won’t sugar coat it all, at many times this has been the shittest journey, I have known hurt and misery on a scale that no human should have to endure, I’ve almost been committed in the worst phase, I’ve lost so much time learning to cope with this thing that affects every single day. I’ve hurt people and lost friends because they haven’t been able to cope or I have done things that hurt them without me knowing. So many times you could say that it’s handed me a beating worse than the one Sonny gives his brother-in-law in The Godfather.
But, and it’s a big but, it has also taught me how strong I can be, how I can face down things others would consider insurmountable, I now know that I am tough, that I can fight harder and longer than I ever thought possible. I learned that the friends that stayed are the best I could ever hope for. Loyal, honest, forgiving, I owe them so much, they truly have shown unconditional love.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, the treatments have had no effect. The pills just made me feel awful. There will always be a question of how long I get before the decline sets in, this isn’t an illness that gets better, has remission or cures. But in the cold light of morning, or the heat of night I do know one simple truth.
I may have nothing in a lot of people’s eyes, I may be someone to pity, but I’m richer than them, and because of this illness I know I’m tougher than an adamantium bare knuckle boxer. I a who I am because of this illness, without it I wouldn’t be me.
you may ask why I wrote this, Stephen Fry knows why . . .