I refuse to accept the idea that I ‘suffer’ from a mental illness. Suffering implies unbearable pain, anguish, and sadness. For as long as I am ‘healthy’, I will always claim that I ‘live’ with a mental illness. I live with my condition, or more importantly should I say it lives with me? Every morning and evening I brush my teeth. Every night I take a shower. Every single day I make every effort to look after my mental health. This is becoming routine, and second nature.
Losing my paternal grandfather four years ago was one of the most challenging moments in my life. He passed away the night before my 21st birthday, and just days before I had a psychotic relapse. He was ready to go, and we had said our goodbyes, however my brain didn’t want me to deal with his passing in the normal, healthy way. My mood was already on a knife edge, as this was just a month after I was started on Olanzapine. The culmination of stress hit me like a sledgehammer and I fell down the rabbit hole once again. My brain selfishly decided that this would be the end of the tracks for me, and this was the closest I ever came to ending it all. With the help of my family, I recovered, switched medications and got back on with life. I was one of the pole bearers at his funeral. That felt like justice.
My maternal grandfather passed away very recently, and this was and still is difficult. This time I didn’t truly get to say my goodbyes. However, it was a peaceful passing and that’s all I could have hoped for. I had only seen him three weeks prior, and he was on his best form, relatively speaking. When I heard that he had passed overnight, I simply put my clothes on, ate my breakfast and got on with my day. It wasn’t until after work, when I got home, that I broke down in tears. This felt far more appropriate. A fully grown man crying to himself for any reason is still frowned upon. However, it is becoming much more widely normalised, and most importantly, is healthy. My mood was naturally low for a number of days. I told some of my work colleagues and friends, and received love and support in return. I did not relapse with my mental health.
Paul Simon once sang, “breakdowns come and breakdowns go. So what are you going to do about it, that’s what I’d like to know”. I used to resent these lyrics. I wanted Simon to give me an answer; a solution to my problems. This is not how mental health works. Others are never going to be able to pull you up from the pits of the rabbit hole if you don’t attach the clips, pull up and kick off the sides yourself.
Losing loved ones will always be an inevitability in life. But it’s how you deal with it that helps shape and strengthen who you are as a person. Four years may seem like a short space of time in the grand scheme of life, but it can be the difference between coming inches from death, and living life to the full.