Truth stranger than fiction

At times when experiencing disturbing ‘paranoid’ thoughts, how reassuring it was to have trusted and trusting friends who did not deny my sense of reality. They might well have doubted some of the content of my conversation!

Entrusting my thoughts to the psychiatrist who was responsible for my treatment plan was hard. I’d had no previous contact with him, neither had I any previous psychiatric history. Despite working within mainstream constraints he was kindly and willing to concede ‘a kernel of truth’ is always present in ‘bizarre’ thinking, this proved a comfort to me. Although the state of mind I was in proved chaotic I managed to keep some things ‘close to my chest’. The saying ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ applied, had I entrusted him with  the ‘whole truth’ of  the events I’d experienced, and which led me in to his presence, I might well have appeared more bizarre, whatever that means. This might have led to receiving a different diagnosis, as it was the label, ‘ bi-polar 1’, was ‘attached’…..yes, the DSM considers there are differing types! “Oh!” I thought, “I’ve only got grade 1”, after looking at the criteria for them, I considered I’d rather have been a 2 or 3,….. preferably none.

Over the last 11 years  I’ve been trying to find ways  how  best to describe the experience of breakdown. Events surrounding the onset of the first ‘blip’ were  overwhelmingly out of the context of my usual everyday experience. The process of breaking ‘down/up/through’ patterns of thought enabled me to reorder and process  them. My existing preferred mode of being had become untenable, no longer useful. How I wish there had been a system in place that allowed this to happen with limited use of medication or electro-convulsive therapy.

Years before I’d seen someone close to me receive a psychiatric label, it was only in recent that the diagnosis was revoked. The person’s current psychiatrist was of the opinion that schizophrenia, was an outdated  term, and that it had  previously been used ‘conveniently’  to categorise  and lump together people with serious social problems. In addition this  psychiatrist also saw no point in the prolonged use of  medication for my loved one’s ‘psychotic’  symptoms. However enlightened and progressive this particular doctor is, and I believe he is not a lone voice, other support professionals working alongside him continued to use those terms in connection with my loved one. It has  not engendered my trust in services.

If someone becomes vulnerable for whatever reason, retaining a healthy dose of skepticism for those who exert influence on their well being might be a useful defense.

Measuring up

Most of our lives we are measured by others; our weight, height our IQ and often we  compare ourself against some standard or average. I feel this can be a detrimental factor in our mental well being.

A recent incident brought this home to me. On a course of study that I’m undertaking I had to submit a piece of  written work, identifiable only by my ID number, it was intended both as a preliminary informative piece for staff appraisal, the main purpose being  an opportunity for students to get acquainted with the marking criteria of the institution  We had previously been asked to study the University marking guidelines and then use that knowledge to grade another student’s work, however many still got got hung up on their mark.when their piece was returned, I wasn’t  immune to this sentiment. I had been given 5/10, a 2:2 in higher education, I managed to console myself by remembering what the main object of the exercise was, knowing also that the tutor would give the final result and feedback……I could be marked down….or up! At my present stage of life, third age, marks out of ten are irrelevant to my confidence or happiness, however I do want to pass to the next level, 4/10 is essential for that.

It appears that many young, first time students are content to achieve this kind of mark early on,  they are aware it doesn’t count to their final degree classification, a strategy no doubt, most seem to shape up later by the second year. For me it is the opportunity to use the extensive library facilities, discuss and consider ideas new and old and improve my ability to articulate them… address  issues I’ve never previously been privileged to, rather than any grade I achieve. I have a strong feeling that students recruited from non-traditional backgrounds, like myself, have been grouped together for some activities, perhaps there is some wisdom in that.

I had struggled long and hard to write my  short piece, as I do with these contributions to the Wellbeing blog, my  ‘learning style’ is classed as a specific learning difficulty, akin to Dyslexia, I was not assessed until well in  mid life, at that time I felt some kind of relief as it made sense of the disparity between my intellect and academic work in the past, particularly at school…… my eyesight (myopia) was an added factor as it was not identified until I was a teen..’rager’, therefore I missed out on visual learning, I spent a long time day dreaming, …… library books, the Bible, associated religious publications and some dog eared family poetry book were my educators.

Not having the advantage of knowing the educational background of the persons work I was given I had decided to mark it up, primarily as a morale booster, the work was not well constructed, not proof read, poorly punctuated AND horror of horrors, seemingly plagiarised, I still gave it 6/10. I also thought that the expectation of the institution in question was unrealistic, we were expected after a few whirlwind weeks to make sense and comment on huge political issues, dating from the run up to World War 2. The person next to me was quite distressed at her mark, she had fathomed out who had marked it and had her daggers drawn!! she clearly thought that person was less capable than her.

Having a  statement of Assessment of Need together with a mental health diagnosis or other disability can lead to both financial and practical assistance, applying for them well in advance, gives the best chance for jumping the first hurdles.