Mental health is a big topic currently, and it can cover a wide range of issues that each differ in severity and symptoms. We are such incredibly complicated machines, both physically and mentally, and just like anything that gets misused, we can end up a bit broken or bent somewhere along the road. We are like a grand orchestra of instruments, and it can take a while to find out what is playing out of tune.
The following is my story of how I ended up out of tune, into and through mental health issues. This is a recollection of the events in my life from who I am now, with plenty of hindsight and analysis. I am not proud of many of these times, but neither am I ashamed, for it has happened and I accept it was the route that my journey went in order for me to end up where I am now. I am sharing this because it is important to share our experiences with each other, and learn from others mistakes and successes. I hope that in reading this you will better understand that whatever you are going through right now, it is simply a small step down a much longer path.
At the age of 16, it started to become clear that I was not using my instruments correctly, that I had started to become out of tune. I had finished my GCSE’s and then events unfolded in the family that resulted in a change that I had not seen coming. I will not go into details for I do not wish to cast anyone in any light where they cannot explain or defend themselves, so simply put, some of us had to go our separate ways. My beliefs and ideals became challenged and the stable foundations under my feet had begun to crumble.
One day I woke up and although the lights were on, nobody was home. I had become a zombie and was unresponsive to those around me, incapable of even climbing out of bed. After a few days my family took me to the doctors who assessed me, concluding that I was suffering with severe depression with the recommendation of putting me into a mental ward, the first of about three more suggestions to come. Fortunately, my family decided that this would not be necessary, and so collected my prescription for me and brought me home to begin my course of treatment.
Over time the drugs worked enough to allow me to function in daily life, but I was still mentally imbalanced and was now simply propped up by chemicals. Life began to feel numb with things such as laughter feeling false and far from genuine. I had been labelled as depressed and took pills to remind me regularly that this was what was wrong with me.
Being on legal drugs, it allowed me to experience how chemicals can alter our moods, so I started to become interested in the other drugs around me. After a few experiments here and there, I gradually found a new focus to allow me to feel something and that was to get as high as possible as regularly as possible. I would not say that I was a drug addict, but I was a drug abuser. This is another subject I will not go any further into as it could end up as another post entirely. I cannot condemn or condone drugs, they were a part of my journey and I have learnt from my experiences.
My issues were not being dealt with and were simply being drowned in a cocktail of chemicals that resulted in my life heading down a direction that saw me homeless for a period of time living out of my car. It was through this period of time that my mental illness took on a new form.
My brain was so scrambled and my memory was so shot that a delusion grew. I managed to find myself believing that I was in fact already dead; that this experience was like a dream and was the remaining activity of my brain playing out its final minutes before finally shutting down. At a later date, telling my doctor of this, it was something they had not come across before and so it was only recently I found this delusion being suffered by others. The delusion is called ‘Cotard Delusion’. The best way to try to understand Cotard Delusion would be to think of ‘Limbo’ dream level in the movie ‘Inception’, except the difference is that you know you are in ‘Limbo’ but there is no waking up from it.
This was the most dangerous part of my life, as I did not care about the consequences, for I believed there were none to be had. I was reckless with my life, and put other lives in danger as well, but I am lucky and happy to say that no damage was done. I had run-ins with some dangerous people and the law a handful of times, but again I was fortunate that nothing lasting ever came from these moments.
I ended up in hospital one weekend where my family found me and brought me home, where the road to recovery began. The experience I had that weekend allowed me to take a step back, look at my orchestra and realise I needed to figure out how to play a few instruments properly, and then to step up to the stand and become the conductor of my own symphony. Slowly I began to learn and teach myself meditation.
As part of my recovery, I still saw doctors and was put on a waiting list to see someone who was a bit more specialised. It was a long path and I stumbled many times before my appointment came with the specialist, but when I met with him it turned out what he was going to prescribe me was what I had already begun to put into practice. The specialist who was a psychologist not only prescribed mindfulness to those he met with, but he also practised it himself. After our first meeting, we only met once or twice more as I was working hard to live a mindful life and get control of my thoughts, so there was nothing more that he could do for me. It was all down to me.
Through meditation and yoga I have managed to pull myself out of the sticky tar pits of depression and delusion to be the person that I am today. There is still work to be done; in fact I think there will always work to be done. Sometimes I find that the thoughts I created over the years are still bumping around in my head somewhere, but I can take a step back from them and watch them come, just as easily as I can watch them go. I spent years creating a perception of reality that I could find no argument against, no point that could work to disprove my beliefs, and I spent just as many years doing things with my body that were not healthy for me. If I had the choice to try again and see the other paths available to me I would walk this same path again and again, because of what it has taught me. I have learnt that I am that which stands in front of my orchestra, that I am my own maestro, that I have control over every note played by each instrument, and that I decide the symphony they create.
Evolution over millions of years has transformed us to adapt to a life lived over generations and generations, yet now due to the rapid transformation of technology and data, the lives we live can change so dramatically in just a few years. Our tools are evolving at an accelerated rate whilst our organic instruments are still the same as they have been for thousands of years. We can’t keep up and it’s stressing us out because we are being taught how to use our tools before we have even realised how to take the stand and be our own composer.
So stop. Take a breath. Slow down. Have a stretch. Then go and show the world something they have never heard before.