On the death of my mental illnesses. The tombstone is already made.


I drew this 5 weeks ago.  More precisely, Lucy, a child ego who is some kind of dissociative alter in my head drew this.  It was a couple of days before I took my final tiny dose of a psychotropic drug. Yes, I’ve been drug free for a month having taken time to taper the doses as safely as I had patience for.  For me, getting off the medication has been the best decision I could possibly have made about the pills.  Please don’t take that as medication advice for anyone else.  Just for me.  I’m feeling more human and more like myself than I have in years and people comment about how much clearer my eyes look now.  Withdrawal was shit.  The side effects through withdrawal were horrible and a month on I’m still left with pretty wild insomnia which will ease off as my head gets more used to not having those drugs in it.  The drugs cause biological changes and it takes time to recover from that.

A year ago I was suicidal and getting more suicidal by the day. Last autumn I was experiencing probably the worst mental health of my life. I honestly was more afraid than ever that I’d be dead by the end of the year.

I stayed alive. Thankfully.  Partly through sheer bloody-minded stubbornness.

This year has been about recovery. It’s been tough. I’ve had suicidal thoughts nearly every day. Far less in the last month.  I’ve now started to have days in which I don’t say the words, “I want to die,” which is very pleasing. The hallucinations continued to be dreadful for much of the year. Right now they’re pretty much absent. I still have issues, anxieties, mood swings, lows, frustrations and so on – doesn’t everyone? – but right now I’m doing mentally better than I have in a very long time and better than I ever have in terms of what I believe may be possible.

This year has been lots of work.  Every day. Even on the days when the work has been to not treat myself badly on the days when I’ve not been able to do a thing.

I am determined that the words on the tombstone will be correct.

I have the second half of my dissociative disorder assessment this week. There are issues in this head (such as the picture being drawn by a dissociative alter) that aren’t exactly average but which I refuse to pathologise or medicalise any longer. For me, the medical view has failed dismally and repeatedly. Because I have no definable or detectable medical illness, no matter what psychiatry says.  The place I’m being assessed won’t pathologise me either which is a massive relief.

Part of my tombstone correctness determination comes from redefinition. I’ve defined too much of what goes on in my head as illness. It’s not. There’s distress, trauma response, all kinds of not fun things. But I don’t believe in my mental illnesses anymore. Instead I accept that these things are currently a part of me. With that acceptance I begin to move on. That might not work for anyone else but it’s working for me.  As I’ve read this year I’ve learned it’s part of the experience too of many people who would call themselves psychiatric survivors – people who have only found a measure of that acceptance and happiness and self-determination by walking away from how they were treated within the psychiatric system.

Part of the redefinition comes from that determination to be functional, to grow, to overcome, to give up needlessly limiting myself, to accept rationally where there are limitations. The determination to continually look at all the stories I told about myself and see which ones were false, learning and daring to drop them in the process.

I WILL be well. Perhaps I already am but still lack full faith in that. Perhaps as an old friend used to say “There is NOTHING wrong!” What does “wrong” mean anyway? Is this illness or a normality of being human that I’ve been led to believe was a combination of illnesses and abnormality?

I’m trying lots of things. I’ve fallen flat on my face a few times. There are things I’ve tried and learned I can’t do – or can’t do yet. There have been setbacks. There are still horrible days. The assessment is needed. Help arising from it would be very useful – because all of us need support and help with things sometimes. Self reliance and self acceptance never imply social or practical independence.

Horrible days. Dissociation. Difficulties. Much progress still to be made. But you know what? That’s okay. That’s life. Accepting it is a hell of a lot better than just kicking it. Acceptance isn’t resignation either. Acceptance is the place where many things that were impassable barriers are becoming, often with much work, changeable. Sometimes action is needed. Sometimes a change of view is all that it takes for transformation to arise naturally.

There will always be things I can’t do. I’m human. But …

If I can go to art workshops and draw things for publication as I have, twice, in the last few days …

If I can perform stand up comedy as I did for the first time, two nights ago …

If I can do all the other “impossible” things I’ve done this year …

… then what else is possible that I believed impossible?

It’s funny. On Saturday people kept saying “I could never stand up in front of people and do that.” At the art workshop yesterday people said “I could never do that … I can’t draw.”

And I thought “Why not?”

Because they were saying exactly what I always said about myself.  I can’t.  I can’t.  I can’t.  No way.  Impossible.  I just can’t.

And yet … and yet I can do it.

My drawing skills aren’t exactly immense but I can do it.  A bit. I can go to the workshops. I have the potential to learn and practice and gain skill and the chance to discover things about myself and have some enjoyment (and frustration too maybe) as I learn and practice. The same goes for comedy. I could learn and practice and gain skills. Lack of potential isn’t stopping me. Lack of desire may. Lack of commitment may. But the potential is very very real.  I only believed it didn’t exist.

What other impossible things will I find I can do?  And where will I continue to fall flat on my face as I try and don’t “succeed”?  It’s going to be such an adventure finding out.

If I can do impossible things, perhaps so could they. If they want them.

And what impossible things might you be able to discover are possible?

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