I was barely 22. In fact, I had not that long turned 22. I remember it. We had a huge party in the Psychiatric Hospital where I had cakes and candles and everything. Everyone had their fill. Chocolate cake goes down a treat. Even when some of the inpatients tell you that they’ve shit in it. Chocolatey colour can do that.
I sat there looking at the short, balding man in front of me. I remember him as a sort of weasel. I didn’t like Dr Murphy. He was a psychiatric consultant but he would have been more use as a clothes hanger for all I could tell. He leant over to the desk and talked to my Mum. Obviously, to my Mum because I wasn’t able to fully comprehend the situation. I was still struggling with the four consecutive months I had spent in Psychiatric Hospital. Two of them in a locked ward. To me, it felt like bloody years.
“Your Son has been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, Mrs Baxter. He’s going to be on Medication for the rest of his life”
I don’t know how my Mum reacted to that, I was more concentrating on me. Thinking of all the trauma and turmoil I had been going through over the last four months. Just because I was on my way out of hospital today didn’t mean everything was going to end. I’d still have the voices, I’d still have to see the outpatient ward. People were going to JUDGE me for Christs sake. My hell, my hell was far from over.
I wanted to cry out right there and then. I wanted to kick the table from under the smug little weasely man in front of me and shove his head against the wall. I wanted to scream into his pointy, overly confident face that I had enough being this way. I was done. He seriously needed to take this off me.
If I had done that though I would have been shoved straight back to Stratheden locked ward. I was in there a month ago. A month ago because a nurse had his ego bruised. Even the people there told me I had been misplaced. But you sleep with one eye open at night at that place. I didn’t want to go back there again.
I believed that all my voices and the troubles that I had gone through was the hospitals doing. I believed that my life would have been fine if I didn’t admit myself into that god forsaken place. They had taken me and had their wicked way with me. Testing out new medication and situations with my fellow inmates. I had some strange altercations there. Things that didn’t add up. Obviously, it was them. Who else could it be?
But of course, that wasn’t the case at all. That was just a bruised and battered boy trying to find someone to blame. A man with the ego the size of a house who thought that he, himself could do no wrong. I had yet to truly search deep into myself. I didn’t understand why they were nicer to other people in there than me. But I understand now. I truly understand.
I didn’t want to change
I literally went against the grain of anything the hospital suggested. I was like a teenage boy kicking his football against his bedroom wall to provoke a reaction from his parents. I was rebelling. Life wasn’t fair and I was kicking out. I was lashing out because I had absolutely no-one to help me. No-one to sit down with me and say
“Hey, Raymond, I’ve been there before. Here are my shite stories”
I wish I had that. My life would have been so much easier at the time because I would have listened. But it was at a time when Mental Health wasn’t discussed. We were on the cusp of the Dark ages of Mental Health. Only ten years ago did they have people walking out in chains, drugged up to the eyeballs and not interacting very much.
So when Dr Murphy comes out with a statement like that I start to panic. I start to think, shit. What the hell am I going to tell my friends? How are they going to react? My family? My Dad? My Aunties? It was like I had just heaved a rock the size of the room we were in onto my shoulder. You could see it in my eyes. 22-year-olds shouldn’t have sad, greying eyes. My sparkle, it has fizzled out. All that was left was a panicky young man that didn’t know how to deal with his new-found illness.
I see a lot of how to help people in such situations but I don’t hear from many people that have been in the situation themselves. It would be nice to hear from them. How at diagnosis did they feel their life ripped away from them in one foul swoop? I did. I felt that was it. I was going to be a no-one, never achieving anything. And I had so many plans.
So many god damned plans.
I was a civil servant at the Job Centre the year before. I had plans to move up through the ranks as I grew older and wiser. I had a permanent position and back then it was a job for life, not like it is now. I wanted to go places, do things and see things. I couldn’t see that I was on the verge of a breakdown. That I had been slowly destroying myself from the inside out for at least five years now. I couldn’t see that.
I just wanted to live. Live and love. I wanted to have great friends, a welcoming family and a loving girlfriend. But now this pointy faced man at the other end of the table who to me was as much use as a coat hanger was telling me that I was going to be a Paranoid Schizophrenic for the rest of my life. I had to take pills for the rest of my life. And if I didn’t I’d end up struggling again. By god, my life was over. That was it. Doomed. I may as well give up now.
And the letters that were sent out to me the following days from that chat at the doctors weren’t any better either. I was labelled as someone with a “serious” illness. I shouldn’t drive, or attempt to work for a good six months at least. Work? Work was my life! What the hell was I going to do? I had been underhandedly pegged as a societal hazard. Can’t even take up the most menial of tasks because “I need to take it easy”. Yet I was physically healthy, more so than at least 85% of my peers at the time. It was awful.
I gave up. I gave up for three damn years. I washed my regrets down with swathes of alcohol and drugs and didn’t give a shit about any kind of mess that I was in. I learned to peg my illness on any sort of problems that I had created for myself, and people, they let me off. Because they didn’t understand. I don’t blame them. I didn’t understand.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There was for me. There came a point where I sat there and thought to myself,
“This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be acting like this. I need to change. I need help.”
And as soon as you begin to think like that then the world takes on a whole new meaning. It did for me. I sought help. I sought to better myself and change I did. For the better.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, friend. Please. Just reach out and take it.
Thank you for reading: Being diagnosed with Mental Health