The probability is that you have got huge financial commitments. Getting this month’s credit card bill or a final demand for mortgage repayments may have been the tipping point. Finding one day that you ‘come apart at the seams’ and you feel sick but don’t know what kind of sick. You start shaking but you might be hot, or cold, or both. You feel panicky You manage to get to the Doctor, and you are confronted with the reality that this is a breakdown.
Then you get home and panic. You can’t even make a cup of tea. You can’t watch television. You are signed off work for 2 weeks, and the Doctor told you the pills will start working in about ten days time. You are bouncing off the walls. You are screaming inside, and weeping uncontrollably on the outside.
You don’t want to talk to anyone about ‘it’, because you don’t know what ‘it’ is.
Your life is a massive motorway pile up right now. You are a casualty. You are in shock, and depending on how well you can look after yourself, or let other people look after you, will make a huge difference to how you cope with the process of re-building a new life.
Your family and friends are all in this pile up together. It’s important for you to know that you need them. You will need to rely on key people. Forget being proud, accept their help right now.
It’s important for them to know the support they give you must be unconditional, un-judgmental, and the stuff heroes and saints are made of. What they have to acknowledge right now is that this may be short term, or long term, but both are serious.
Both you and your supporters will need to address the possibility that you may not and probably never will be the same after this. Forget the word ‘recovery’ or ‘Get Better’. It’s simply the wrong word and the wrong concept for the wrong reason.
Your mind and body have thrown your toys out of the pram. Whether you think those toys are worth trying to get back will be a serious question that will need to be evaluated during the coming weeks and months.
You are in for a difficult but interesting battle. Which isn’t such a terrible metaphor, considering what you are experiencing isn’t a long way off the first recognized symptoms of shell shock a little under a century ago.
The physical symptoms are real, the crawling skin, aching cramping legs and arms that make you feel you are having a heart attack. The doctor should have taken your blood pressure, and checked you over physically so don’t worry about any weird physical sensations. This is just a hard wiring loop that has kicked up. Your muscles are in spasm.
Try not to be on your own, get friends to organize a ‘watch over you’ rota. If you live alone and can get a friend to stay for a few days it’s a good idea. Don’t feel you are putting people out. They want to help. You have to eat, sleep, bath, and get out to walk. You are not going to be ‘yourself’, this is no different to a physical trauma like concussion at the first stage; you just don’t have bruises.
This first part is awful. It’s like a confusion where nothing is real, or makes sense. Yesterday you were on top of your game, had everything under control, and now you have a prescription for medication, and an appointment with a psychiatrist, if you are lucky, or one to see you doctor in a couple of weeks.
In some cases you may have already been admitted to a psychiatric unit. This is not a bad thing, although it seems like the whole world has gone insane, not you! The medicine of psychiatry has come a long way, but depending on the hospital it’s a complete shock just to be admitted. Just remember this is all part of a process. Think of it like this, if you were in a pile up on the motorway they would take you to A&E.
If you have been admitted to a psychiatric unit for the first time it’s a huge shock. You may be delusional, in which case this experience will feel like being in a nightmare. It’s normal to feel like this. It’s normal to have wild emotions and thoughts. You have been admitted because it’s safer for you to be in professional care. Someone else has had to make this decision for you, and it feels like a betrayal of your human rights when you realize you are in a locked ward.
It may take a week or more before the staff have been able to assess exactly what is happening with you. This is going to be a difficult time, but it will get easier once the medication kicks in.
The magic carpet ride of reality just ended for you. Imagine a loose thread from the fringe behind you got snagged up somewhere, perhaps a little thorn in some distant vale long passed, and it has been unraveling the carpet behind you like granny’s knitting until you simply fell off the back. You never saw this coming, because the carpet looked good at the front where you were seeing it.
Is this your fault?... Just an unproductive question!
Is this someone else’s fault? … Blaming people, events… You were on the motorway of life, riding a magic carpet the same as everyone else.
If you learn to live differently from this experience, you will be more profoundly able as a human being. You will have different values, better or real relationships with other people who will accept you as an individual, not the ‘successful picture’ you represent.
If you choose not to undertake a radical change of perspective, learn to live differently and continue strive after the life you ‘used to have’ you will be constantly chasing something that was unobtainable or unsustainable in the first place. That’s why your mind and body have just crashed.
Your brain’s hard drive has shut down, how serious this is going to be will take a few weeks to find out. However you aren’t a machine that can be taken to a workshop and fixed. You aren’t a car that’s written off and only good for scrap value either. You are something entirely different, and that is what this experience is going to show you.
People around you are going to react to you in very different ways. People you thought were friends will not be able to countenance what’s happened to you because they are frightened. Some will disappear from your life for good. Its awful when these are partners, work colleagues, bosses, children even parents. What will happen is that you will make new friends. A close group of real friends that are a privilege to know and rely on in ways you have never experienced before.
What you will find is that you are not alone. What is happening to you right now is more pandemic in our society than anyone realizes. There is a network of people who have crashed in similar ways, and who have had to re-build worthwhile lives after the crisis point you are at right now.
Fear is the worst enemy we all experience. Losing our job, home, family, car, benefits, housing… the list is endless. The truth is you may lose everything. Your life may never be one that resembles your pre-crash life.
To be brutal the current term used is ‘survival’, not ‘recovery’. I don’t like this either, because life is meaningful, beautiful, and worthwhile. It’s just a question of personally discovering values that give yourself and other people dignity, and a quality of life that is not based on external desires, but internal realizations, then putting those realizations into some kind of practical expression.
Please take the medication you are prescribed, it’s important. You will feel awful with the side effects, but it does help considerably, and it takes time to work. I would like to see a way of treating our kind of illness in ways that are more holistic, but for the moment the drugs will have to do.
Your mission if you wish to undertake it is exploring the possibilities of changing your whole perspective on what make a ‘successful’ person, because it sure isn’t being a superstar, or a wealthy stinking rich person, having a new car, house, kitchen, wardrobe of clothes, or a better job or more money.
Politicians and bankers don’t have the answers. Your local practice Doctor is not always equipped to deal with anything more than prescribing you with anti depressants and probably a sedative, sleeping pills, and a muscle relaxant. (My Doctor has spent a while in a psychiatric unit, so he is well equipped to deal with my immediate needs).
Medication helps you with the symptoms, but won’t resolve your underlying instability. Think of it like buying a new laptop with the latest version of windows and trying to run all your old programs on it. You will find most of them are incompatible, and you need the ‘incompatibility wizard’ to get them installed, in some cases, you just have to scrap and get new software. Most of the time your laptop comes with new programs already loaded, if you are the type who ‘backs up’, you can reload your data and off you go.
However if your situation is serious, you haven’t got a recent backup and you will take a long time to rebuild what you lost, or simply not be able to recover lost data at all.
We are dealing with your mind, which works in a completely different way to memory storage on your laptop.
Your memory is associative, and you may find great chunks of your memory inaccessible because your mind is protecting itself from triggering painful stressful responses to current situations. When functional abilities are associated with other memory pathways that are ‘shut down’ to protect your neural pathways, you may find it difficult to do simple tasks until you have re-learned that skill in a new environment and in a slightly different way.
That’s why attending workshops, exercise, playing games, taking cookery lessons, learning to play an instrument or anything that helps you to establish some regular activity program is so helpful. Your old memories can re-stick themselves to new skills, smells, sounds and visual stimulation. It’s a bit like using de-fragment to sort out where your memories are stored. This takes time, and you need to be patient and loving with yourself. So do people around you. This is a process I have successfully used many times.
Psychiatric hospitals now have all these activities where staffing permits. These activities are essential to recovery, Art is my favorite. Since my last in patient visit that lasted about two months, (just over two years ago) I have continued to experiment with ‘off the wall’ art stuff that gives me a great deal of pleasure. I have stopped worrying what people think of it as well. I used to attend a regular out-patients art group and enjoy the process of discovery this gives me, unfortunately this got axed in budget cuts.
What most people don’t realize is that there is ‘life after crash’, another life and a different life. People around you need to make room for you to have this new life. You are more than their expectations of you.
Don’t panic…. You have been flying by the seat of your pants for a long time, now you have set fire to your knickers. You will have been trying to do the impossible for so long you won’t know how to begin seeing things a new way.
You will continue to feel awful for a long time, each day though is a little victory in itself. You may not be able to get out of bed until lunchtime, but you did get out of bed. You got something to eat, got a shower and changed your clothes.
You might simply sit around doing nothing, but you are up! This is quite normal. You won’t be able to concentrate on doing anything, and have a sense of dread about everything.
You may well be consumed with awful worries. ‘What will happen’ sort of worries. This often manifests itself in physical OCD activities, like constantly washing your hands.
You are trying to ‘wash off’, those awful feelings that’s all. Try using a hypoallergenic hand cream instead, you don’t want horrible dry cracked hands and dermatitis as well.
While you have OCD try to make it something positive. A lot of people like iorning, it seems to smooth things out a bit! Try to take trouble with yourself and your personal hygiene and grooming. Get someone to help you.
I remember when My Husband first had his heart attack and was convalescing at home. I gave him a really nice manicure and pedicure and then painted his toenails one day. It was a lovely deep magenta colour. I think this was one of the best ‘diversionary’ activities we did. He decided he would keep the polish on his toenails, because he said he couldn’t possibly die with painted toenails. It was liberating for him, and surprising how other Men reacted. I remember the postman taking fright when he saw David had painted toenails peeping though his sandals. He kept it on for about a month. Just don’t worry about anything (safe) you want to do. If it’s safe just do it. But the basic thing is to look after yourself physically, and let other people help you.
At this point for you. You may well be overdrawn at the bank. There will be any number of financial aspects to consider. It may be that you have been laid off work because of the recession, or that you are already unemployed. You might have been struggling to just keep your business afloat.
The first thing to do is get help. You may need a friend or partner to help you go to your local citizen’s advice and find what you can do about all your financial commitments.
I remember when my Husband suffered with heart failure about 10 years ago I went to Lombard finance and explained the situation to them. I couldn’t meet the payments on his car, but it would have been a disaster for him not to have it. I was sitting in tears with this lovely lady explaining what had happened and what I could manage to pay. We agreed that the two years remaining on the loan could be re-negotiated to five years. This was the start of me taking hold of our financial situation.
I then went through our bank statements, credit card statements, and looked at all our expenditure. I took a yellow marker and simply highlighted everything that wasn’t essential. The takeaways went first. I was horrified that although my husband was a restaurant owner at the time, he had been living on takeaways!
We both love curry, and especially Thai curry, so when he started to recover he took a Men’s evening cookery class to learn to make authentic curry, beautiful. Now he makes batches of curry and freezes it, so we can have ready meals of our own.
We were in the direst of financial situations, with my husband on the critical list back then. I am diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and need to manage stress. At this point I was running my own hair salon and David’s restaurant. When I checked out his books, I found the business was just breaking even, and it had broken his health. Because we had been both so busy doing our own thing our relationship was at an all time low as well.
I would love to tell you how I managed to get through it all, but it was so awful my memory has blanked it. David was adamant that he didn’t want me to sell his restaurant. We sold the restaurant about eighteen months later. Thanks to a very good estate agent. Yes we lost money, but I gained a huge peace of mind. Sometimes cutting your losses, axing your expenditure and simply taking reality by the horns is the bravest and most rewarding thing you can ever do.
Never worry about ‘losing’ money. We have built up this idea over the last fifty years that we are measured by our ‘net worth’. We seem to think that our income gives us security, that ‘owning’ our house makes us better in some way. Undertaking to paying a mortgage for 25 – 30 years is not in my opinion a very good investment. With family breakdown and the divorce rate so high, what’s the point of committing to buying a house until you have got through the first five years of your marriage? Why not just rent. It was the Gazumping period in the early Seventies and Thatcher years in the Eighties that encouraged us all to move away from renting, (which placed the property maintenance on either council or private ownership of these properties).
Britain has the highest home ownership on the continent. The continentals rent, and it’s not expensive compared to the commitment of paying interest on a mortgage. What I am trying to explain perhaps is that with a rental agreement, you won’t have the ups and downs of interest rates to deal with. The household budgeting is a lot different. You don’t then feel the need to spend a fortune on home improvements to re-sell your house, (just so you can ‘make some money’) and if you are looking for a better house, or a different location to move to, it’s a lot easier to up sticks and re- locate for work instead of driving an hour each way morning and evening.
You will avoid Lawyers fees, capital gains tax, and all the associated expense and headache of buying and selling. With so many houses on the market right now it would make sense for people to simply swap homes and rent to each other the ‘differential’.
I have a flat above my Hairdressing Salon that I rent out. I get the carpets cleaned, and make sure the flat is in good order. I don’t want someone living in an awful flat, it’s their quality of life that I am responsible for. If it’s trashed, I just have to spend the money to put it right for the new people.
Some tenants are wonderful, some are terrible, some landlords are a nightmare and others very good. At least when renting, if you can’t pay you don’t lose all the money you put into the mortgage.
I want to spend money on making the flat better, the first thing is to get some double glazing done, and repair the pretty little roof gables. I know this must be done before this winter, but if we can’t afford it I will make an allowance towards heating. The tenant has a lovely little five year old daughter, and there are very few two bedroom flats available for rent where we live.
The cost of moving house as families expand is huge as well. Yet you may only need a three or four bedroom house for ten years. Then you will probably want to downscale once the family starts to go on to further education. What’s the point of saying you want to ‘leave something to your children when you die’? They will probably squabble over the will anyway. With interest rates at an all time low, have you really noticed a surplus chunk of money to spend now it’s not being sucked out of your bank account to pay interest on your mortgage? I bet you don’t ‘ring fence’ that money for a ‘rainy day fund’.
There were many things I learned from the financial crisis experience. The first was to stop looking at magazines. I knew I couldn’t spend any money on clothes, or any kind of luxuries. The moment you flip through a magazine it’s designed to give you the ‘wants’. Besides the magazine is expensive enough, and it’s designed to make you feel that you aren’t good enough the way you are. It will make you feel you need a new wardrobe, better make-up, a better car, the latest phone, new shoes, a designer kitchen, a landscaped garden.
The insidious barrage of TV advertising and makeover shows, gardening and cookery programs, although in some cases informative, are not aimed at helping you to be better at managing you budget. You end up feeling that if you had more money you could make your life somehow ‘better’. This is not true.
The art of living comfortably is to be creative with what you already have. One of my favorite programs is Gok’s Fashion Fix, when this financial meltdown happened to us 10 years ago Gok wasn’t on TV. I used to visit the charity shops, and get clothes that I could ‘fix’. I dyed shoes and bags. I had to make the most with what was already in my closet. I don’t think I looked that bad.
What came home to me was who our friends really were. We were given so much by people in very many different ways by friends and strangers who knew we were struggling. Just have the grace to accept people’s help.
If you are a caring for someone who is ill, let your friends take you out for coffee or lunch. If you are ill, let yourself be ‘treated’ by friends. If someone offers you something never turn it down. Show grace in acceptance and thankfulness that they are thinking of you. There is no embarrassment for either the giver or receiver this way. Whatever they have given you may not be what you need to use, so you can quietly take it to the charity shop, or do a car boot sale with it. Let what you don’t need benefit someone else.
We are all worried about what other people think of us. We want to present a successful image, but the truth is that very desire exposes such an inner insecurity. It’s something that often starts when we are very young with the peer pressure we all get at school. If our peer group get new toys, we have to have them. New phones; we ‘need’ to have them otherwise we have a fear of being a social outcast. The derision children give to each other for not having the essential ‘kit’ for their peer group is a disaster for adult life. You only have to read ‘Lord of the Flies’ to consider what peer pressure does in children and adolescents.
One of the things I realized about having periods of mania and depression is that what other people think about me says more about them.
I was bullied mercilessly at school. I was not ‘cool’. I suffered with depression throughout my childhood, but no one knew why I was so introverted. I couldn’t cope at school. I couldn’t deal with the name calling, the nicknames or the derision. I had low self esteem, no personal confidence, and no ability to do homework, I simply couldn’t concentrate.
My clothes didn’t fit me very well. I wore national health glasses and was the epitome of the ‘ugly duckling’. I remember a pair of sandals my Mother bought for me, which were in my opinion actually very nice. They served well, were comfortable and French. All the time I wore them I was called ‘Jesus Boots’. Looking back on it, I am pleased I carried on wearing them.
I have never had a sense of ‘fitting in’. Somehow I just felt I didn’t belong anywhere. I realize now that this is part of my own ‘wiring’. I have a detachment from people, and it’s just me that doesn’t feel involved. I have to make a lot of effort to get involved, and not to take things people say personally!
I used to think I wasn’t loved. I didn’t feel accepted. Now at over fifty my attitude is ‘what you see is what you get’. Some people love me dearly, and accept me unconditionally. Notably me which makes a huge difference!
I am gifted, clever, and have a great insight into problems and what could resolve them. It’s just taken me this long to feel the confidence, and reach a place of inner development that I can stand back from striving to start living.
I have periods of depression where I can’t do very much. It’s just a question of living from day to day, and having the knowledge that the depression eventually passes, and I make a transition into a more outgoing and ‘doing’ phase. I just have to work with it.
I sometimes think of the story of Persepherone, who ate five pomegranate seeds, and then had to spend five months of the year in the underworld, and seven months of the year in the world. (Look up story). I appreciate what both aspects of manic depression gives to me. When I’m depressed I am more creative, when I am ‘normal to high’ I get more practical things done.
Going back to when David got ill, the first three months were the worst. I lived in terrible fear of waking up in the morning to find David had died during his sleep. Then one morning I woke up, and thought he is still breathing, if I carry on like this I will go mad. If he does die I will have to live with it. If we are going to come through this I need to get my head round what has to be done to survive, and to help him through recovery. Living with fear paralyzes you mentally.
Whatever situation you find yourself in that is unusual and outside your experience or comfort zone, you will feel fear and anxiety. It’s just normal to have these feelings. It is possible to detach yourself from how you feel though, and do the things that need to be done to live through an ordeal or crisis.
Just remember this is going to be the biggest opportunity to make real friends, and to get a sound realistic perspective of what you are going to become during the rest of your life. It will just mean a whole new learning process that changes what you have been doing, and places different values on what you can expect from yourself, your life situation, and what constitutes peace and contentment for you and those around you.
Your illness is a symptom of your environment and expectations of the life we have all created. Our habitual thinking and activities within the context of our wider social position have been flawed and unsustainable and unrealistic. The whole social infrastructure around us is fractured.
Your breakdown is evidence that without fundamental change in you, and the attitudes, expectations and habitual behavior of those around you, this fracture could simply become a permanent disability, rather than an opportunity to heal a fragmented and broken way of living that we seem powerless to change on our own.
You are the one who is fractured right now, but the responsibility for your healing is going to be a change of attitude and the development of a human spirit of kindness, patience and tolerance in the social group that you are part of.
Is there a social solution to renewing our involvement in our society?
We need community of purpose, and involvement with one another in small groups to achieve projects that give us all a sense of being part of something worthwhile. Having a ‘something worth getting up for’ and a sense of being needed, because we have something to contribute.
This need is generally fulfilled by the work that we do, or the social investment we make to charites or organizations in our out of work time.
When we have a ‘breakdown’ it’s because we can’t continue living to the standards we have set for ourselves. Your human needs have been sublimated to expectations of commercial, political and social peer conditioning that have obscured your own understanding of what basic needs your life can comfortably and humanly represent.
Most people want to know why this has happened to them. Friends and family can have the same ‘what caused this’ attitude as well. It’s not a helpful stance to take. The probability is that you have been trying to meet their expectations of you. We have a strong desire to ‘live up to’ our own and society expectations, finally this has made you brittle enough to snap completely.
We are all caught up in this endless vortex, people skimming around the edge think their life is ‘better’ than other people’s but the truth is when the plug is pulled out of the bath they will also go down the plughole at some point.
The whole of our life conditions us to perform and conceive in very narrow ways. We are a culmination of parental childhood conditioning, fairy tales, perhaps a few bible stories, or a formal religious education, a national education curriculum that has been engineered to ‘make you fit’ into an economic and social profile, then training for a job that supports the social and economic profile of your countries tax structure. We are categorized into consumer groups, like cattle at a spring fair.
You have been conditioned to work towards contributing to provide a ‘standard of living’ for yourself and your family, which measures up to your social aspirations.
Or alternatively the reality is that you are unable to fulfill this seemingly endless treadmill of demands from work, your business, and home life. An economic house of cards built on a foundation of shifting financial sand.
Perhaps what we are seeing in global economic crash is the wider ramifications of the ‘thorn’ principle. There was no one specific event that made the yarn unravel, it got caught up in numerous events over centuries. Except that no one was looking for a Minotaur, and didn’t follow the trail back to the centre of the maize. Historians may discuss the global economic crash for years to come, but it is you and me that will have to decide how we ‘vote with our feet’ and think for ourselves in future. Printing more money isn’t the answer.
The pandemic of mental illness, disassociation and anarchy is starting so much earlier for many young people, who simply ‘do not fit’ any social or educational profile that is acceptable to an employer or the state. The ‘system’ has failed long ago for them and the stress and boredom of not working, having to claim benefits, and not having any sense of personal vocation or self worth is developing successive generations of families who can’t break out of the economic and environmental prison they are locked in.
There is a huge budget given to Hospitals, sadly not enough to mental health, and I wonder if the reason for this is that there are so few people that are considered to ‘recover’. Most people once in the ‘mental health system’ become institutionalized quickly. The system is geared to managing the increasing number of people who can’t return to their previous job, or be found paying work because they lost their previous job, and become a commercial liability to a prospective employer.
This is not as desperate a situation as it seems. Our human condition has to be addressed rather than the ‘social problem’ someone with ‘mental illness’ represents, and why so many of us can’t function in our current society.
You and I are part of this change, we aren’t broken shattered people. The world we live in is not able to sustain itself much longer without considerable reform and renewal. We are casualties of the structure of society breaking apart.
All we hear about resolving the Global economic crisis is to get economies robust again. We need production back on its feet. The real factor is if you and I are in a position to work hard, and don’t want more than we can afford to pay for, and continue to pay tax, our country will be out of 'debt' in about 30 years.
Nothing wrong with this if you still have a job, or your business is still solvent. However everyone is beginning to wake up to how our British politicians have been skimming it, and also how much it costs Britain to be part of the European parliament. We are perhaps waking up to how much waste there is in our political structures. If our money was used frugally without waste and excessive bureaucracy, and spent consciously and wisely we would have no complaint.
We have been at the mercy of Banking structures, and credit companies offering more money than can be repaid. Yes most of us are in some kind of borrowing situation. Debt is simply when you can’t pay your borrowing installments.
Fifty years ago borrowing to buy furniture or a car was called the ‘never-never’. It was considered a truly unadvisable thing to do. Now it’s inconceivable that someone doesn’t use a credit card, or take out a loan. We have come to expect and want so much, and it has to be ‘got’ right away. The problem is all of these small borrowings are adding up to millions of debt, which has become an unspoken burden for everyone. How soon the new and shiny tarnishes. How soon things wear out and need replacing. Always before the ‘Instant Credit’ has been paid off. Ever had ‘buyers remorse' ?
Perhaps the last few paragraphs seem a strange ramble. They are obviously politically incorrect ideas, and to voice something like this to a psychiatrist when being admitted will definitely get a tick in the obsessional box.
What I am trying to explain although not as well as I would like, is that we are a sum of everything that has happened during our lifetime. We have opinions and ideas about everything even if we don’t realize it. We soak up information around us, but filter out what is not relevant to our own interests. At some point this outside reality breaks the bubble that we create for ourselves. We can’t ignore what happens around us however insular we have become in our way of living.