05.23am is one of the most significant points of my life. It was the time I was admitted to a Psychiatric Ward. So that is why I decided to name this blog it because it changed my whole life, and my family's life completely. They have been my rock throughout all this and would not have coped without them.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Building and Breaking

In my last blog I talked about how hard it can be to tell your family and friends about your condition. But not about how and when and why you will inevitably have to tell strangers about it and what there reactions are like. 
It is everywhere, I filled out a drivers licence application a couple of days ago, and it asks if you suffer with mental health issues. Why ask that in those words? And I can't think of a half sensible answer to that. If it asked more specific questions about hallucinations or the like I could understand why that is important to tell someone, in relation to driving. But why ask about mental health under one overarching stereotype. This I must say I have a slight issue with. As I had to tick the yes box, so any sort of assumption can and probably will be made by the assessor of the application form. My point is is that the term mental health covers so much and so many different illnesses that the question is just wrong, and to an extent redundant. That being said if I get a reply asking me what my mental illness is I would be more than happy because then they are not tarring everyone with a mental illness with the too unstable to drive brush.
In the car this morning I was trying to think of a half decent metaphor for what it is like when you tell a stranger about your illness, for what ever reason that is. The best one I can think of is taken from Harry Potter, in book number two during the dueling club Harry speaks Parseltongue to ward of a snake. Something which is associated with being bad and dangerous but was in fact being used for good. However the reaction of the crowd around was that Harry must be bad and dangerous because he can speak it. In exactly the same way that saying you have Psychosis to a stranger sets alarm bells ringing and triggers instinctual defense mechanisms within them. I don't blame them, I blame the lack of education people receive about mental health. If it was talked about more at a school level people would grow up with an understanding of it so much better.
I am lucky with my boss I have the sort of open friendship so I can tell her everything and she understands it all but I am pretty sure people like her are in the minority. Not just because bosses like her are rare but also people are too scared to go to their bosses and have the conversation for whatever reason, which is totally understandable.

I had a similar problem when I tried to go to the USA with dad on holiday last summer, during my first psychotic episode, on their visa applications it asks about mental illness and was I a danger to myself or others. No I wasn't but they still demanded at least two letters from health care professionals to back it up. Which I had and when I went through security there were no issues and it turns out I didn't need the letters they asked for. But I had to wear a long sleeved shirt to hide old scars on my arms in case they saw and got twitchy about it, and that made me ashamed of myself, and what I was suffering with. Which no one should have to feel, no matter what the circumstance. In this instance I understand for security reasons why they do what they do but it is not helpful and I think could be handled better. because if i had said i was a danger to myself I would had to travel to the American Embassy in London to be assessed to see if I am fit for travel.

I think that when you tell someone who doesn't know about or understand mental health issues they automatically build walls to protect themselves from a threat that is most likely not there. For a while I thought it was my responsibility to break down those walls other people surround themselves with. But I think I have come to believe they can only be truly broken down by the person that builds them. 


  1. Keep up the blog Sam, be assured, that wall is coming down brick by brick for you and everyone around you. Well done.
    Love from Julie Hardy

  2. Thank you very much for your kind words Julie. Hopefully it will for us all

  3. I have also thought that "mental illness" is far too broad a lable. Way too easy to make sweeping generalizations. It's also completely wrong to use the same term to describe depression and psychopathic behaviours and everything in between. Impossible to make important distinctions and impossible to heal the stigma.
    At any rate...so wonderful to read your blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Your writing is making a difference.