My mental health story
In February I started as a Communications Manager at Twining.
I was drawn to the mission to help people with mental health conditions to gain or maintain work because of my personal experiences.
My uncle had Schizophrenia, I recall from a young age my mum having to collect him from random situations like being found naked in a tree or on the floor of the Spa. As a family we kept in good humour about uncle Pip’s foibles including collecting tea bags and drilling holes in his caravan floor! But as I grew up I saw the impact, it made it difficult for him to manage his diabetes and so he lost his foot and his sight, he never worked or had a girlfriend. His life was so limited by his diagnosis.
In my early twenties I experienced two periods of Mania. In both instances I was happy and elated and after the stress of exams, took a holiday and then experienced a manic incident. The first time I was 21 in Spain with my Geography department. I was so desperate to make friends. After long days being shown how to interpret the history and culture, and read the city, combined with evenings socialising I found myself too excitable to sleep. Feeling increasingly agitated and confused after a few days without sleep I became irrational and a danger to myself.
I was admitted to hospital in Alicante, getting in the ambulance took hours, god knows where I thought I was going, I changed outfits, run away, threw my (vital) contact lenses away and generally gave everyone the run around. It’s easy to make light now but it was a scary experience.
The Spanish system is somewhat different to ours. I was misdiagnosed as Schizophrenic in Spanish, straight jacketed and heavily sedated. After a few days of sedation I was allowed to roam freely. Strolling through the reception I heard a phone ringing, without staff around, I simply picked it up. To my relief it was my husband. He urged me to resist the medication as the Spanish system aim seemed to be sedate and forget. 24 hours later and my whole family arrived to argue for my release.
I only had two incidents, the second in Cologne, but as a consequence of those two intense events whilst at uni, I wasn’t allowed to study for my finals. It’s definitely impacted my subsequent career decisions. I was lucky I help that enabled me to understand the contributing traumas and recognise the signs of Mania so that I could better manage my sleep and enthusiasm to prevent it reoccurring.
My experience helped me recognise when my husband was having his own problems. He didn’t think he was ill and only agreed to visit the GP to shut me up! He was diagnosed with a Social Anxiety Disorder in around 2013 after a period of psychosis. I supported him to get the care he needed but the strain sent ripples through every aspect of our lives. My experience had been a short sharp shock followed by a return to normality, but his journey was very different. He lost all confidence and motivation and quit his job and unfortunately the knock on effect led to the breakdown of our relationship.
These experiences mean I truly understand that everybody’s mental health story is different and that it can affect every aspect of your life.
I wish either of us had been able to access employment support such as Twining’s when we were experiencing our personal blips, I am convinced we’d have got better quicker!