To me, being successful means reaching my goals, being happy and living looking forward, not back. For me, sometimes success is getting out of bed and feeding myself, other times success is forcing myself to stop working and knocking myself out with sleeping pills so I actually get some rest. Success isn’t just measured by your grades or your job title or your pay slip.
Some of you will know I didn’t finish my a-levels. I didn’t take my exams. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know how I was going to carry on going because everything I was familiar with had fallen apart. I thought about returning to sixth form at Nower Hill but decided it had too many memories associated with it. I thought I was going to go to sixth form in Clevedon. I thought success for me was getting my a-levels, getting good passes, following the traditional path. I know now that life is so much more than that.
I’m at college studying access to nursing so I can pursue what I think will be a profession I love. I study 2 days a week and love my course, I’m surrounded by likeminded individuals who aren’t all 18. In fact I’m the youngest. My class is filled with people from all backgrounds. It’s showed me that life happens. You might have kids young, you might change profession multiple times, you might travel, you might get sick, you might not know where life is taking you. That’s okay. I used to plan everything, living by the rules I’d set myself. Now I’m letting life take me away. I don’t have set plans. I know what I’d like but I’m so much more open to spontaneity.
Bipolar. When the word was said I shattered. How can I be 18 and have something like that. How can I be told I might be medicated for life. I changed antidepressants 5 times in 6 months. I’m on my third antipsychotic. In 6 months I’ve been on sertraline, trazodone, lofepramine, mirtazapine, aripiprazole, risperidone, quetiapine, clonazepam, lorazepam, procyclidine, promethazine, zopicolone and haloperidol. I’ve had talking therapies, had 4 psychiatrists, been under 2 crisis teams, camhs and cmht, been on 3 psychiatric wards and been put under a section 2. I’ve been transported to hospital in a police van, reported as a missing person. My life has changed. I’m not the person I was 6 months ago. I’ve grown & I’ve learnt so much about myself.
Bipolar has its ups and downs, obviously. I like to think of the fact I get totally drunk on 2 double vodka cokes as a perk. Do you know how much money it’s saved me. I joke about it but it’s a fine line I walk. Medication and drink don’t get on too well. I learnt that the hard way. I recently spent £300 on a manic shopping spree. I’m very lucky not to have an overdraft.
What do you imagine when you hear the word psychosis? Do you imagine seeing people, hearing voices, smelling things? If you do, you’re on the right track. Psychosis for me consists of seeing people, spiders, sometimes out the corner of my eye, sometimes staring me straight in the face. Sometimes I hear voices, not in the stereotypical way, I think I can hear the neighbours talking, I hear people saying my name, I hear people talking about me on the bus. I get paranoid to the point I don’t leave the house and cry in the supermarket with anxiety. I think people follow me, watch me, listen to everything I say. It’s crippling. Quetiapine is my current antipsychotic, I’m not keen on it. It makes you very hungry, bloated and can make you very tired. For me I can’t be sure whether the side effects are worth the benefits at this point in time. I have stopped taking meds in the past, usually when I’m manic.
So what have I learnt this year? I’ve learnt that I will be successful, no matter which path I choose to follow because I have the commitment to make me so. I have learnt to appreciate the preciousness of everyday life, to be kind, to be strong willed and confident. I have learnt that smiling at strangers makes my heart warm, that helping elderly people carry their bags at stations will make their day, that asking if people are okay, saying hi and just checking in can make someone feel a little less lonely. I’ve accepted my illnesses and come to terms with them. I can honestly say I look out the window and smile at the trees, at the school children, at the rain, whatever it maybe, because I appreciate the fact I’m alive now, I’m living, not just existing, but truly living. Living is different to existing, living scares you, living makes you feel something, living lets you feel joy, take chances and not look back, except to see how far you’ve come. Existing on the other hand, you don’t feel very much at all, I didn’t see what I was missing out on, and I didn’t really care if I’m honest. Now I don’t think I could go back. Some might say I’ve been ‘enlightened’ but I think I’ve just opened my eyes wide enough to see what has always been right in front of me. Nothing has changed except my perception. But perception is everything.