Taming my errant brain – a team effort

The title of my blog alludes to mental health but there aren’t a lot of posts in it which look at issues around mental health. I do have some mental health idiosyncrasies though, namely a psychotic illness and some mood issues – depression and hypomania. It has taken psychiatrists many attempts to give me an accurate ‘label’ for my mental illness and in fact at this stage I don’t have a ‘box’. My sensible psychiatrist realised that trying to shove me into a diagnosis which does’t fit is pretty pointless and makes all of us unhappy.

Anyway, my brain acts like an idiot at times and gives me a lot of grief.  For the past couple of years I’ve had either mania/elevated mood or depression roughly every six-eight weeks. I have no idea how that works but it is certainly challenging. Recently I have been a little elevated. Sleep hasn’t been happening so much and I have been delighted at all the work I have to do. I have found it hard to stop doing things and go to bed. ‘I’ll just get THAT done…’ I tell myself.

On Sunday of last week I worked on a presentation for four hours without any kind of break.  That evening, when I finally did get to bed  I could’t sleep at all and saw all sorts of odd things on the wall. Apparently Albrecht Speer (evil Nazi architect responsible for scary propaganda and buildings in Germany) had done the decorations as I seemed to have wallpaper with a swastika motif. Horrified by this evil in my bedroom I closed my eyes and saw that the reactionary, murderous decor had changed to thousand of little skulls on my walls – better, but not much. I told Mr Kitty that I loved him about 100 times and then worried that this would mean he would die. When I did get to sleep I dreamt that the micro fibre cloth in the bathroom – which is pink and fluffy – was in fact highly toxic and would kill Mr Kitty and me almost instantly the next time one of us went to the bathroom.

The next day I realised that maybe I didn’t have evil architects, toxic fluff or the Grim Reaper in my house. Maybe my brain was a little bit more energetic than it should be. I went to work – for a little mental illness is rarely enough to keep me from my work – and thought I should tell my managers that I was feeling a little under the weather, brain-wise. First I told my lovely part-time Director. She was amazing and had a bunch of suggestions and care. I then told the other Director. He has been my boss for a long time and remembers when I was spending time in the psych ward, so he is certainly not squeamish around my particular health issues. He also had good advice and kindness and understanding. The one thing I was struck by was the level of compassion and care my managers always seem to show. I’m told that this is not the case in all workplaces, which seems strange to me because we’re all human, aren’t we? But I suppose that some people are prejudiced, ignorant or both.

When I got home I called the local mental health crisis team – who all seem to know me – and the person I spoke to was great. The next day my clinical manager called and we had a good chat. As is often the case, the act of sharing and acknowledging that something isn’t quite right with my health seems to give me power to put my strategies into place. I have felt much better the last couple of days. And tonight I was speaking to a truly lovely church friend who is also a GP and she asked a bunch of questions just to be sure I was OK.

I was struck by a few things from all these interactions…

1. I have some amazing friends and managers

2. It doesn’t take a lot assist someone with a mental health issue a lot of the time, just a willing ear to listen

3. Sadly a lot of people feel uncomfortable to help someone with a mental illness, for various reasons. This also has the effect that the person with the issue may feel uncomfortable to talk to anyone about there experiences. This is a very bad thing because ‘you alone can do it but you can’t do it alone.’

4. If you are uncomfortable talking about mental health stuff with a friend or colleague, think of it as if it were a physical issue like diabetes or heart disease

5. I am probably only here because in the past good and loving people have listened and helped when I had problems. Thank you to all those people. If you are reading this you know who you are.

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