“We are not meant to do hard things in isolation.” Elizabeth Johnsen
This is a realization that has dawned on me in the last few weeks as I’ve been living through another challenging situation.
By ‘another’, I am referring back to my mental illness this time two years ago. Last Wednesday was the two year anniversary of my being taken into hospital under police guard. Yup. Humanly speaking I really messed up back then! I ended up spending a month in hospital and seven weeks in total away from my three precious children. While I recovered fairly quickly from the manic episode, soon after moving back in with my children (my husband moved out on my request), the realities of my life caught up with me and I realized that I had lost almost everything that was important to me.
The love and security of marriage (I thought I wanted to get free of my marriage), my home of 35 years (New Zealand), my established friends in New Zealand, a relationship with my biological father (because of my words and actions in the course of my mental instability), financial security and more. I had thought I was surrounded by friends, and yes, I was, but not to a deep degree. There were wonderful people who were there for me in the ways they could and they helped me to get through that time, for sure. However, as I look back I realize that in comparison to the strength of my connections now, I was really quite isolated two years ago.
On the 28th March this year I recorded in my journal that I was noticing similarities with what happened 2 years ago. In the month that followed I gradually noticed more and more similarities and I became worried and sometimes fearful that I was going to have another episode. My sleep patterns also changed and while I tried so hard to counteract this by having lots of naps (and putting the need for them down to the fact that I am now 40 years old!) it still wasn’t enough. Enter a stressful situation on the 27th April and….
It was enough to push me over the edge into another psychotic episode. HOWEVER! This time most things were different! This time I called my husband Stuart and asked him to come home early. My amazing friend Chantal called Stuart too about what she was observing and he made an appointment at the local doctors surgery. My whole family gathered around me and went with me – which felt amazingly supportive. Yes, the next day I had to leave the comfort of my home and be taken to hospital by ambulance, but my husband had been there to observe my manic state and offer his support throughout.
Last time my family was fractured and separated. This time we are stronger together than we have ever been. Last time my children were at risk, this time I made sure they were safe. Last time I couldn’t get them to bed, this time I made sure they were tucked in for the night. Last time I left my house in a mess, this time it wasn’t too bad. Last time I felt incredibly confused and lost and alone. This time I started coming back to me within 48 hours of flipping out. And the very next day (Monday) I noticed with amazement that the journal entry I was writing was neat and made sense.
Last time I had people to connect to and to visit me, this time I had people telling me and showing me that they love me. I had 5-8 very special friends writing to me, phoning me and video calling with me – AND THIS WAS THE KEY to my speedy recovery! After putting the phone down after a call on the Monday or Tuesday I literally felt physical healing flooding my body! Amazing. So one thing I know for sure about myself is that I need deep and meaningful connections with a number of people in order to be truly mentally and emotionally healthy. I felt so surrounded by Divine love, so supported and held and provided for.
I continued to recover very quickly. The staff at RP Hospital were fantastic and I was there from Saturday to Thursday, then I was transferred to a hospital closer to my home, and the one I was at 2 years ago. I wasn’t even there 24 hours before I was allowed to go on leave for the long weekend. I returned on Tuesday last week to be discharged. The Dr was wonderful. He explained that while initially they were talking about bipolar, if it was I wouldn’t have recovered so quickly. He says instead they believe it was an acute stress reaction. Whatever it was, I am now pretty much back to myself,older and wiser and with even more understanding of myself.
Through my experiences since May 2016 I know that I need to honour my body’s needs AND I need to honour my soul’s deep need for connection. I was doing these two things very well this time round. I now know I need to add two other things to remain balanced. The first one is that it’s okay to ask for help with getting sleep. For now I’m taking a sedative and every night my sleep quality is improving. The second thing is that I need to trust that in doing the three things above I will remain healthy.
All in all, as I’m sure you can understand from above this recent experience has actually been incredibly healing for me but also for my family and my wonderful friend. I’m beyond grateful! And I’m also very aware that it gives me a unique opportunity to speak up for other mental health patients – because I have been there on the inside. In fact I met some amazing people there – there were about 5 of them that I felt were like sisters. They were each incredible in their own way. Courageous young women who are doing their best in the situations they’ve found themselves in. I honour them and I send them my love.
In closing I would like to encourage you to reach out to the empathetic people in your life and push a little deeper into heart-to-heart connections with them. If you are not sure what that looks like, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have. I look forward to hearing from you.