Sunday, 5 January 2020

Where have I been? Fighting with myself

If you already know me or know of me, sorry I haven’t been around for a while and thanks for checking in to see if I’m still alive.  To say it’s been a tough few years would be an understatement and if you’re interested, here is the reason.

After I called time on performing in 2013 because I couldn’t get my head in the right place, I focused on my motion graphics and video work.  It wasn’t long though before the same problems crept in like it had done with music and the band.  Wild unpredictable mood swings from deep depression and anxiety to euphoria, over confidence and outbursts of anger.  The whole time I felt increasingly disconnected from people and everyday life.

Lucy suggested we took time out to make changes, to find a new path that would lead to rediscovering our love of life.  We didn’t take this lightly, we sold our house to go travelling in South America and Australia.  Inspired by our travels, we started to come up with ideas to take us in a new direction, my confidence returned and so did our energy.  We got home and threw ourselves into work in order to afford to achieve our new goals.  It didn’t last though and it really didn’t make sense.  I was in a fantastic job, one of the best I’d ever had with people I really liked and a new life to aim for.  However in less than a year I was not only back to where I was previously but much worse.  On the way home from work one night I drove the car off the road and into a ditch.  I don’t know if it was a feeble effort after months of suicidal thoughts or an attempt to feel less disconnected but either way, I was ridiculously lucky.  The car somehow bounced into the ditch and back out onto the quiet country road.  I was hugely shaken but unbelievably, even that wasn’t enough to get me to seek help.  I was becoming a physical wreck, exhausted from barely sleeping and drinking way too much.  After months of trying to persuade me to see one, Lucy finally dragged me to a doctor.

Anyone who’s had mental health problems knows that this next stage is a long and desperate struggle with the NHS system to receive proper help.  I was initially given the GP’s standard response of Sertraline and CBT therapy for which there was a 4 month wait.  The drugs clouded my thought, killed any motivation I had left and the CBT therapy was like being told how to use a diary by a softly spoken primary school teacher.  I was in such a mess I had to quit my job and was getting absolutely nowhere back in front of my GP who had decided that I didn’t want to help myself because I wouldn’t take Sertraline.  I got in touch with Mind - the mental health charity for one to one talking therapy.  My therapist was amazing, I finally felt I was being listened to and it gave me the confidence to do my own research into the symptoms I had.  When I research things, I go into a lot of detail and every avenue I pursued, I kept arriving at Bipolar Disorder.  It explained so much about my state of mind.  I hadn’t been fighting this for the last three or four years but for my whole life until I was at breaking point.  My therapist at Mind was also coming to the same conclusion.  There were so many unexplained moments, awful memories and crazy decisions that could now be understood.  I had been using my own coping mechanisms for years and now, they were no longer working.  My GP though, clearly insulted that I had the audacity to read books and use the internet, dismissed this immediately.  Apparently, people with Bipolar are totally incoherent and need to be physically pinned down?!  The following day, I broke down in front of my Mind therapist, telling her what happened and that I was desperate for help.  With my consent she wrote to my GP suggesting that maybe I should be referred to the local hospital’s mental health unit to get to the bottom of the problem.  I heard nothing back from my GP but months later and totally out of the blue, I got a hospital appointment.  After two assessments, I was diagnosed  Bipolar II.  I changed my GP.

I’m now on medication that controls the extreme highs and lows but doesn’t leave me feeling groggy or suppressed creatively and I’ve also had to make a number of lifestyle changes too.  Obviously I’m still learning to live with what I have and accept that it’s part of me and what drives my desire to be creative.

Now, I have been very, very lucky because eighteen months after seeking it, I got the help I needed.  The average time in the system, trying to get a diagnosis and the help you need is between six to eight years.  One thing they tell you that helps to keep you going is writing down how you feel.  Over the last two years I have been doing just that and I’ve turned a lot of these thoughts and feelings into songs and making this album has become the best therapy.  You don’t have to write songs or poetry and you certainly don’t have to publish your thoughts but it really helps to unload your brain onto a page.  Also, once involved with a health care professional, it really helps to refer to these notes as you don’t always feel that way when in front of a therapist.  I’m a very lucky boy to be able to articulate how I feel and have this as an outlet.  I’ve never taken the NHS for granted and the people who work within it are absolutely amazing, hugely undervalued and working incredibly hard in a totally archaic system.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t wait, please talk to someone.  If you know someone who you think is struggling, please talk to them.  You’ll probably say some things that will seem stupid later but if that person is in trouble, you’ll be glad you did talk and so will they...

… in the end.

I thoroughly recommend getting in touch with Mind

Call Samaritans free at any time on 116 123

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