I used to wonder why all my close friends were mentally ill, addicted to something or both. Why did I attract them? Was I co-dependent? Possibly. Did I have such a low self esteem that I didn’t think myself capable or deserving of having regular, healthy friends? Could be. Was it because I found them to be more creative, open-minded and interesting? Possibly, though plenty of mentally well people also have these characteristics.
That was it – the final straw! I had to do something or risk getting a ‘diagnosis’ myself.
I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I know that there had been an accumulation of stuff. Just one thing after the other; seemingly relentless.
It was February 2016, the UK EU referendum debate was beginning to warm up and my tolerance for absorbing toxic tweets and frustrating Facebook posts was dwindling fast. Not long before this Stephen Fry’s documentary ‘An exploration of manic depression’ had been aired and Ruby Wax was on a riotous roll, touring with her new book and generally shouting about ‘broken brains’ at every available opportunity.
The narrative of diagnosis and disorder was all over the place. It had somehow, when we were not looking, managed to sneak quietly into our profession.
In 2003, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Over ten years later I published a book called Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too, written under the pseudonym Q.S.Lam, which deals specifically with postpartum psychosis.
I find the term mental illness very stigmatising. What does it actually mean? I see myself as high functioning, creative and productive, even though I am often battling with complex symptoms. Faking being normal is very exhausting for my brain. It would be much easier if I could simply tell people openly about my condition.
What happened when compassion replaced clinical objectivity, and creativity replaced compliance.
One morning in 2009 I was sitting in the psych ward, working on a plan to kill myself. I was made an involuntary psychiatric patient following a rather extreme type of self-harm, even for me. My home had been rushed by police, ambulance officers and a psychiatric crisis assessment team, and I’d been carted off to the ED, and then the psych ward. I was being plagued by the voice in my head, who I called ‘The Judge’. I thought there was a beast who lived inside me, I thought I was evil and I thought that I had to be destroyed. I felt trapped in an inescapable and tormenting madness.
Today is Katie Mottram’s birthday, and it’s also the launch of her #emergingproud, coming out of the spiritual closet campaign. “Coming Out” is normally understood as a rite of passage for people from the LGBT+ community, to transform stigma and shame into pride and celebration. Katie hopes her campaign will do the same for people who have experienced mental health crises, encouraging them to speak out about spiritual experiences as a way to combat stigma. Katie’s campaign aims to help build a bridge between psychiatry and spirituality, to normalise rather than pathologise unusual experiences.
I don’t just hear voices
I hear life everywhere
I hear the bricks in the wall
calling each other’s names Read more
Open in Open Dialogue refers to two different but linked concepts. One is transparency. No decisions about the person in distress are made outside of the network meetings, and within this setting the clinicians openly discuss their observations. The clinicians are part of the polyphony – they are ‘with, not doing to’. Read more
I want to tell you about a magical tool I use particularly for navigating challenging situations. It’s called Non violent communication (NVC). It’s a way of understanding and communicating that I’ve found particularly useful in situations of conflict. I’ve hyped it up in the first sentence as a magical tool, but (like all useful things) it’s got its limitations. I guess the key is how and when to use it. Read more
A Compassionate Approach to mental health services is not just for the people using the services. Those of us working in mental health services know, as well as anyone, that life can be tough. Most of us face periods in our personal lives when we feel overwhelmed by work, relationships, sickness, or we experience losing someone close.