Walking Away from Mental Illness

I was born into a priviledged, safe and loving family in north west England in the 60s. I went to private schools and had brothers and we all believed in ourselves. We were taught to be independant, free thinking and we all managed our studies capably well. As I gained my O Levels and moved on in school towards A's, I started to show signs of strain, think strange paranoid thoughts and became aggressive at times, if pushed. I was showing signs of psychosis and was admitted, after 2 months of confusion and increasing stress, to a secure ward in a local mental health unit where I was sedated for 3 days. I had, latterly, not slept for over 2 weeks. I made a remarkable recovery in hospital and was discharged.

Only after a year of recovery and relative good health and achievement did I start to experience the onset of another episode and I was, again, admitted to the same ward. Similarly, after only 3 weeks inside I recovered enough to be discharged and go home. I was safe at home, but in all this process I had gained 2 A Levels and in October 1982 I attended College where I was administered monthly injections of Modecate (remember that one!) The days at college, where I achieved my BA degree in geography, flew past. I found some like minded friends, as you do at college, and we all got on in our joint adventure towards our degree qualifications and views to a better working life.

After a brief summer at home in 1986, playing cricket in a local team with my younger brother, I moved up north to Edinburgh where I sought and found work teaching English as a Foreign Language to mature students who wanted to learn. I had, in the interim qualified in London, as well as my degree, with a TEFL certificate. I achieved tremendous satisfaction from imparting and picking up knowledge from others who were keen to learn and who were actually paying to use my services.

This stage had been foreshadowed by a brief stay in the Royal Edinburgh hospital where, although being unwell, I was joined by my parents who had by now, also, moved up there. My father, who's biography I have recently published, was an eminent children's heart surgeon respected around the world, who is still alive now, but he has suffered with Parkinson's for 20 years. Although I was living in my parent's home during my spell in Edinburgh, they were not my only support during this time. I attended a local Episcopalian church in the city centre and was asked to join the staff team for a year. This opportunity offered me a rare insight into the "inner workings" of a large city-centre church with over 600 members. I found it the hardest but most rewarding year of my working life. I have experienced many, many challenges in my life, especially through mental health experiences, but that year provided me with a chance to gain confidence of another kind, through achievement, not on the sports field, but through graft and application.

That is something I have had to learn with time and as I moved south, after my 7 years in Scotland, I married for the first time and experienced life from a different perspective. This was through the eyes of responsibility, caring for her, commitment, routine and sheer determination. It was not easy. I failed in many ways. I tried to give my marriage to The Lord, to love unconditionally, as I had been taught to as a boy, and work at the jobs that came my way. My marriage failed not through mental illness or any one reason. It failed because my wife became disolussioned with our marriage. I failed to love her in a relevant way and we clashed with expressed anger and much frustration. I bailed out and left to lick my wounds.

God was beside me and His gentle touch and encouragement nursed me back to full health after a terribly low period, where things were touch and go for a bit. Eventually, after an 8 month spell back with my parents, I moved back into my married home to try and live on my own. I thought to myself, "if I can try it for a month, I'll try it for another and if that succeeds I'll be OK" It worked and I spent 2 and 1/2 years learning to survive in a challenging, lonely at times and difficult period that sometimes pushed me to the limit. My mental health (I prefer to say that than mental illness), has been tested to the limit at certain times and episodes through my life. I have had to learn that not all challenges can be met, not all experiences are bad, not every new person I meet do I need to be suspicious of. 

Although this story contains elements of achievement, success and a pursuit of happiness, it has by no means been all plain sailing. I have attended 3 mental hospitals and had 7 admissions altogether. I am still on lithium but am in discussions with my GP (I was discharged from my pysychiatrists services and those of the CPNs about 5 years ago), about reducing the levels and possibly even quitting it altogether. I still take clopixol tablets, not the injection, thankfully. 

I am presently stable and enjoying my life even though I am on my own again. My life has yet a while to unfold, and I have plans for my work, I am a private tutor now, and I also work part-time in sales, which does not crucify me, fortunately! I would love to find someone who I could help to make happy and allow me to walk away from the often selfish, untrusting, over sensitive and unfulfilled elements I tend to veer towards at times. I would love to worship my Lord in a true expression of selfless sacrifice that will honour Him and put a huge smile on His face!
Presently, I still have a way to go, but then mental health wasn't achieved in a Day, like Rome!
   

Alistair Hamilton, 31/01/2016