I remember so much so vividly, and yet there is so much that I have forgotten. When I look back five years ago, to when I first took the antimalarial Lariam, it seems odd to think that this is the person I have developed into now. People often say that substances such as alcohol, smoking and cannabis, are gateway drugs to a life of addiction on harder, more illicit substances, and a gateway to self-destruction. For some people, alcohol and/or smoking are a necessity to get through the day. Although cannabis is illegal in the UK, it is still widely used as a form of therapy and relaxation. It was almost as if Lariam was my gateway. A gateway and a catalyst to a life that I couldn’t have even dreamed of as a teenager, whilst learning about drugs in school. It was a gateway to realisation, and eventually acceptance.
For me now, Aripiprazole is my necessity. Otherwise known as Abilify, the only regular medication that I take is what keeps me going through life reasonably normally. It acts by keeping my ‘happy hormones’ under appropriate control, and most importantly, it helps me with my psychosis. This isn’t to say that taking one or two pills a day keeps all my problems away. I still do sometimes get paranoid, anxious, insomnia and even hypomania (low level mania without any psychosis). With diabetes, you regularly have to check and monitor your blood sugar levels to help prevent the disease from worsening. Likewise, I still have to double check myself every now and again in order to prevent my mental health from deteriorating. I regularly challenge my thoughts, and I regularly use certain techniques to stay calm in times of trouble.
I have a loving family, who couldn’t be more supportive and helpful. They’ve seen my at my worst and have taken care of me in times of need. My brothers are usually my first port of call when I need some reassurance. I have a good group of close friends that know me and my condition, and have helped me on multiple occasions when I have deteriorated in the past. I couldn’t be more grateful.
I was officially diagnosed with bipolar in 2014, following my episode of sleepless nights, mania, psychosis and then the subsequent depression that followed. I am usually seen by my local Community Mental Health Team every three to four months or so. This is usually just to touch base and to make sure that my Care and Treatment Plan is being adhered to, and that I am looking after myself, mentally and physically. Accepting the diagnosis was strange at first. The extent of my knowledge about the condition was very limited. I had a picture in my head of Charlie Sheen, and how he had ‘gone off the rails’ with his career and personal life. Whether or not he’s bipolar is irrelevant, but it was that people were ‘accusing’ him of being so at the time. It sounded like a very destructive disease. It sounded very scary. It sounded like it can kill people, and it can.
Being at a point in my life now where I am content with the way in which my condition is managed, I would not want to go back and change a thing, as controversial as it sounds. Having experienced the things I’ve had to deal with mentally in the past, and having experienced either end of the spectrum of emotion on a fair few occasions, it has allowed me to open up my eyes more to the world. I have been able to appreciate more things for what they are, and to stay calm in situations that would have originally petrified me.
For me my mental health is like a muscle. Sometimes it needs to tear in order to grow stronger, and more stable. As well as being more in tune with my own emotions and emotions of others, I know a few things for certain: what goes up must come down; what seems right can often be wrong, and vice versa. And in light of this, I will always be the same person. I will always be Jamie.