"Keep aiming for focus and balance" - Nigel's story
Nigel reflects on his growth and new-found perspective since the last time he wrote for Rethink Mental Illness in 2005. He notes that writing, talking and finding faith in God has really helped him to recover from bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.
Back in summer 2005, I wrote my story for Rethink Mental Illness’ ‘Your Voice’ magazine. I wrote of my boarding school and Cambridge education, how both these experiences made me vulnerable to manic depression (bipolar disorder), but also gave me the strength to largely overcome it. I went from being intellectual, intense and socially lacking through acute struggle, to becoming more balanced and personable.
Trusting psychiatrists and medication, and remembering that my experience of mental ill health was not unique, was all important in my recovery. But so was a life of work, rest and sleep, avoiding drink and drugs and sharing with other sufferers.
Eventually, I became ‘manic’ and was taken to a psychiatric ward in Leicester General Hospital (near my parents’ home), where I was an in/day/out patient for nearly three months.
Nigel, 'Your Voice' newsletter, 2005 Nigel, 'Your Voice' newsletter, 2005
After 2005, my diagnosis changed to schizoaffective disorder as the episodes were no longer coinciding with large mood changes and a lack of sleep. Good things still happened, but I gradually went into my own world, feeling like I was chatting with specific other people in my thoughts. So, I remember very little of 2016 and 2017.
Then for the first time, I went into a severe depression. Since it wasn’t worth risking going high in mood, it was a while before I was put on anti-depressants. But now, I’ve been very well on it for the last three years, along with a six-monthly injection of antipsychotics. Having interest in watching football, playing bridge and building friendships has also helped.
Time is a great healer as is talking and writing. Enduring mental illness helped me find faith in God. Although episodes afterwards became more acute for a while, I feel that such faith has been beneficial for me in the long term. When ill, I advise just listening, sitting and passing the time. Then, when well, analysing what has happened with a light, broad brush.
Time is a great healer as is talking and writing.
I think a lot in psychiatry has improved over my lifetime, but I feel there is still a long way to go before it is properly understood. I think stigma in society is lessening, that medication has less side-effects and there are more ‘success’ stories from sufferers, but mental illness is more serious and less understood than many other diseases.
Nowadays, I still sometimes struggle to sleep and I am not so good in the mornings, but I’ve learned not to worry and such is no longer a trigger for becoming ill. I soon feel right again. Fortunately, my parents have always been supportive and being ‘early retired’ has suited me, both in allowing for good rest and in not feeling I had to ‘achieve’ anymore, as well as enjoying some travel to play bridge tournaments. I wonder if I have turned the corner in my mental health, but I’m determined to keep to what has got me to my current good place.
Keep believing that you are important, but not that important. Keep aiming for focus and balance and, above all, keep going.
With love and prayers for a continuing healthy, happy and fulfilling life.
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