Over three years have now passed since my first manic and psychotic episode, and I sometimes wonder just how much I’ve changed. Lately Luke has been telling me that I’m growing back into my old self, my pre-mental illness self, and that’s been so encouraging to hear. I am the type of person to set targets; I tend to work in measures that I can quantify (I have to remind myself that one person’s comment on the site is worth innumerable page views). So realising that I’m somewhere back to where I was before everything changed is heartening.
It was only a few months after we married that I became unwell. I’ve written previously about the experience of visiting a –crappy – locum doctor for my anxiety issues; how she dismissed me and my concerns out of hand and sent me on my manic way with an SSRI. From there the anxiety grew and the paranoia grew and I quickly retreated into my own world of psychosis. To give an example of how I was at my worst, I could only leave the house with someone I trusted alongside me; shopping trips were pre-planned and super speed with Luke in charge of getting in and out in minimum minutes. Going to work was only enabled by virtue of my then-manager collecting me from my front door and dropping me back again after we were done for the day. Looking back I have no idea how I actually continued to work at all; my mind was elsewhere most of the time so I can only hypothesise that I worked on auto-pilot, that pretending I could still work kept me going along as normally as I could’ve hoped.
Since that first, protracted episode I’ve been different. I’ve always been fiercely independent since I was little; I moved out of the family home when I was 17 and took the decision to leave college around the same time despite the protestations of parents, mentors and friends. Being brought to my knees by schizoaffective disorder left me nervous in public thanks to a paranoia that I have only recently been able to shake off. To my mind, every person who cast a glance at me in the street was implanting thoughts in my mind, or planning an attack. There was no escaping the endless thoughts of suspicion and the anxiety of being alone in public was crippling. Lately, as I’ve been finding my confidence again, I’ve been able to open my horizons beyond home-work-home-store-home. I posted yesterday about step-class – something that would have been beyond the scope of my mind even six months ago. It feels fabulous to be re-embodying the confident woman I know lives in me.
I no longer walk with my eyes cast to the ground to avoid eye contact. I get into casual (and sometimes heavy) conversations on the bus. I have the enjoyment of some alone time again – I love my husband but it feels amazing to trust myself enough to be home on my own! I walk myself to the gym, through the park and just enjoy being surrounded by the greenery. The change in just six months has been drastic and I am thankful every day for the new outlook I have been granted that enables me to not just live, but actually enjoy living.