The year of qualifying for a provisional driving licence. The year before sitting exams that would navigate my future. The year I was hit with a mental health diagnosis.
Next year, marks the 30th milestone of living with a mental health condition for me. I have lived with, sometimes, struggled with my differences, achieved on my own terms my entire adult life. Never knowing another way.
Pointless and useless to question ‘what if?’ I had not received this label. Was I not, in a way, lucky ‘to have cut to the chase’ and to have known just before adulthood? Did this save me from the wranglings of, possibly, complicated addictions masking a mental health condition? Did my initial few stays in mental health hospitals humble me and see freedom as a gift worth fighting for? Would my friction with psychiatrists lead to meetings with valuable therapists, who would turn my life around? All I knew for a decade was resentment and a heavy shame but now, I thank my experience.
Please do not think for one minute that I believe everything is fine and dandy in the sphere of the mental health world. I am very critical and, aghast, that in thirty years, treatments and scientific progress are ‘null and void’, even though the need for this is recognised by the medics.
We talk about mental health due to the fantastic initiatives and patronages in this country. But my label is still considered freaky and everything about me can be instantly dismissed by the uttering the phrase, ‘well, she is mad.’ Not a whole person, with one strand of biochemical ill-health rather I become and embody that one flaw!!!
I have big hopes for the future. That funding will be created for far-reaching research into the biochemistry of the mind and the causes of severe mental health conditions. That we will accept and embrace each others’ differences, as we are all human. And that going to see a mental health practitioner for an emotional check-up will be as commonplace as a visit to a dentist.
And me? In 2021, I will, hopefully, be ticking off another achievement, after doing a sky-dive for the Mary Frances Trust, which will celebrate my survival and growth on this planet. My recovery may have been called ‘remarkable’ by some but as David Bowie quipped: “Ageing is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” I am just grateful I have been given the strength to stick around!
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