This evening I began watching a BBC dramatisation of Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser with Ian McKellan and Antony Hopkins. I’m staying at my parents’ at the moment – one of the rare times I get to watch TV programmes on an actual television, as I haven’t owned one for over a decade. In their living room however, I was overheating (despite wearing only summer nightwear, in November, with no heating on), and the relationship between the position of the chair I was sat on with the angle of the television meant I could only see what was on two thirds of the screen. I could have moved next to my mum on the sofa but I feared I’d overheat excessively and have a minor meltdown. These tend to happen due to panic and proximity to people when I need space, or when I’m overheating (which also can be a factor in panics). I can sort of jiggle about as if in discomfort looking about somewhat furtively, and struggle to concentrate on whatever it is. I can endure it but I’d rather remove the source of distress for a bit. I’m essentially looking for an escape route. Anyway, I’m quite sorry not to be watching the play, but I might catch up with it via the wonders of the internet later.
I’ve been meaning to describe how I have come to be writing this blog. It should (and likely will) go in an About section at some point, but in lieu of that for now I’ll begin to mention it.
For quite a while I’ve been wanting to start a blog. As usual, I’ve had numerous wonderful ideas, none of which have come to fruition. I start a PhD in Psychology/Neuroscience in January and have intended to blog my experience, and have also been banging on for about 18 months about coordinating a magazine style blog authored solely by individuals of minority status in science. Reading the Touretteshero blog however, I realised the thing that I know most about, and that is rarely talked about, is the day-to-day experience of having mental health conditions-slash-problems-slash-illnesses-slash-disorders. I term it that way as there are supposedly clear lines dividing conditions and illnesses (which I will come back to anon), generally determined by the level of distress and impairment that is caused. For example, schizophrenia is considered an illness and synaesthesia a condition.
Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about some mental health diagnoses being called illnesses. I understand why they are, and some of the benefits of terming them such, but although depression (for example) is an illness, and there have certainly been points in my life when I have been quite unwell as a result of it, it’s also there at the times I am getting by ok. It affects the way I function and respond most of the time, bringing me some unpleasant but also extremely rewarding experiences. I am certain I wouldn’t be the person I am without all the mental health experience I have, both first hand and vicariously, and for that reason I don’t think I would be without its presence in my life so far. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t like to reach full mental health at some point, just as I’d like to reach full physical health, but both prospects seem unrealistic. Very few people are at both optimal mental and physical health through their lives.
As mentioned, this discussion of terminologies and nomenclature is something I will likely return to later, but for now I (had) intend(ed) to outline my purposes with this blog. I will be brief as I certainly don’t intend to make each entry an essay.
In short, my purpose here is to convey my quotidian existence in such a way as to communicate to a general audience how my mental health conditions affect my everyday life beyond the obvious. There has been a big improvement in recent years in attitudes towards mental health conditions, not least due to their being included in the Equality Act of 2010, giving such conditions consideration and protection as disabilities. This means I may not be refused a job or studentship position (or most other things for that matter) on the grounds of my mental health, and accommodations should be made to enable my ability to work, study, live, and be treated with respect like anybody else.
This, alongside various national campaigns (e.g. Mind and Mental Health Awareness campaigns, and Time to Change) and certain discussions in the media – famously by Stephen Fry – are very slowly reducing some of the stigma around mental health. They are also revealing how damaging and offensive media portayals can be in their representations of mental health conditions.
The result of this is that when I am having a particularly bad time, people are relatively understanding. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people that are lovely and most are accommodating, more often than not because they have a physical or mental health inconvenience too. Nevertheless, it is the everyday way in which things affect me that people don’t seem to understand or make accommodation for. The fact that I can be unreliable or last-minute sometimes are betrayals of something going on. The fact that I’m overheating or a bit wobbly. The reason I haven’t replied to your messages or have messaged you a lot. The reason I am sleeping too much or not at all. The reason I am helpful to a fault when you are not feeling ok or need help. And a number of other trivial things I will recount in coming posts.
Update: I’ve created an About section now. It’s here.
image credit: http://craftsmumship.com