I am a fraud. There, I’ve said it. But before you go running off to the Daily Fail to dob me in (I’m working and disabled so I must be on the rob), let me clarify this revelation.
I’ve been an out and proud ‘service user’ since long before my involuntary admission for clinical depression in the late nineties and been the poster girl for all that is bipolar since a diagnosis (and medication) tweak six years ago. I’d previously admit to a little wobble when I was given the bipolar label (I know the label shouldn’t matter, but I work in the NHS) as it made me question where the ‘good’ me stopped and the ‘ill’ me started. After all, when I was a depressive, it wasn’t me that couldn’t get my arse out of bed, it was the ilness. I wasn’t moody or intolerant, I was depressed. But I was also creative, driven, had a photographic memory, could smell an ant fart a mile off*. So at work, wasn’t it fantastic how I could do what I could do with all I had to cope with?
Now, don’t get me wrong, now knowing that those ‘good’ bits are parts of the illness don’t make either the depression or the increasingly difficult mania any more manageable but they give an element of context within reason. It still frustrates me that the context is normally based on ‘isn’t that what Stephen Fry’s got?’ (no, he has cyclothymia actually) but it’s better than it’s ever been.
Or is it?
You see, for me, the old ‘you just need anti depressants like a diabetic needs insulin’ quote rang hollow a couple of weeks ago when my psychiatrist told me she just wanted to try me out on olanzapine, an anti psychotic. Now, I’m not currently psychotic (I have been in the past) but I immediately started to think about how people perceive psychosis. And by people, I also mean me.
After all, when the government each year survey the population and find out that 40 odd percent of them wouldn’t let someone who has had a mental health related admission babysit their child, they clearly don’t mean me, do they? What will my boss think if she finds out? Will I be allowed to act autonomously again? Will hubby let me have access to the joint account again (well, he hasn’t actually taken it off me ….). What will my mother say? How can I tell my friends? (I’ll need a reason for the weight gain). I labelled myself and I didn’t like it.
One of the wonderful tweoples who is bonkers enough to follow me and who I follow back, tweeted about how sometimes her struggles seem trivial against those of others in our little ‘mentalists’* group. It saddened me that she thought that way, that I may have contributed to that thought and that we appear to have developed a hierarchy amongst ourselves. A ‘my cat’s blacker than your cat’ mentality.
Sometimes it feels like the ‘Time to Change’ campaign may need to do some work on their own members …..
Note: All asterisked phrases are copyrighted and used with permission from Zoe Smith