In A Nutshell, What Is It Like To Have A Serious Mental Illness?

These experiences are my own and while many people will relate, mental illnesses vary and some people will find this blog post quite alien to how their journey is playing out, especially those who find true recovery elusive. 

To paraphrase Voletta Wallace, mother of Biggie Smalls, I hope you gain something from this.  I remember listening to one of Biggie’s albums when I was locked up in a nearby mental hospital in 2003 (while communicating telepathically with my favourite celebrities), there was a message on the album from Biggie’s mum.  She’d lost her son in 1997 and addressing us on the posthumously released album she spoke of peace and that she wished she had further deterred her son from a career in rap.  Biggie was a very gifted rapper.

Necessary background information

I was diagnosed with ‘cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature’ in 2001.  In layman’s terms I’d taken drugs and started to think I was the modern day Jesus and possessed telepathic abilities.  The grateful recipient of this fantastic destiny, me, knew it was true in this one off case because of some fairly sound reasoning…It all coincided with September the 11th, the beginning of a new millennium, a world that clearly needed the input of God to make changes, the fact that I knew the bible because of religious schooling, I was from Basingstoke – a modern day Bethlehem of sorts and amongst many little things here and there I had an apt personality type.

I wonder what the official statistics have to say about people thinking they were Jesus 20 years ago.   

I was seeing magical things in my life which solidified my delusions, coincidences, signs, messages from God, such as opening a car magazine directly onto a story about a Ferrari while with perfect timing a three inch model car fell off a shelf next to me and a sports car roared right past my house.  Another one was when I finished playing a few songs on my guitar, turned on the TV and it was a programme about how guitars were made.  I was 19 years old and I’d never experienced any weird coincidences before and I quickly deduced they were magical signs from above.  So yeah, knowing what I know, I’m hardly surprised that I thought I was some kind of Jesus.

Fortunately in present day this stuff is a distant memory.  I’m okay and thriving now.  But I’ve been there and back.  I’ve also been there and back with anxiety like so many these days.  In 2004 I started having panic attacks, serious ones, a daily five hour package of hell that got me fearing for my physical safety.  You see, I was forcibly telepathic and every person walking past my house in a busy area could hear my thoughts, feel them, and would surely be banging on my door promptly to confront me, to put an end to these panic attacks that they were also feeling.  Feeling weirdly afraid because there is something wrong with your brain is nasty, and thinking that people passing one’s house could feel you going through it and hating you for it was the cherry on the top of the fuck you message I was receiving from the universe.

In 2002 I escaped twice from the locked ward.  I jumped off a road bridge and spent three months in hospital with a broken back, three broken vertebrae and two broken wrists…I dodged a bullet though and made a full physical recovery in four months, I consider myself lucky.  In 2006 I started a slow but steady mental recovery journey.

I’m not telling you this because I’m trying to be impactful, I thought it necessary to fill in the background information for this post.  Now that the gloom is done, there were positives!

I’m very open about sharing my own mental health.    

In present day I talk about things matter of factly and it rarely triggers any emotion at all, I’m well over it.  As I was recovering I began talking and it helped, a lot.  If mental health ever becomes a conversation topic my ears prick up because I have loads to say, personal experience of illness, of recovery and what helped, of working as a mental health professional, of having several family members who are mental health professionals and it’s been a big part of my life for twenty years now.  I like talking about it too, in the same way that a footballer enjoys discussing football.  It’s not all, I love many things about life including aviation and if that comes up I’ll share with you why my favourite plane is the Boeing 777 and I might ask you if you can help me figure out why the 777 has no winglets.  Google doesn’t seem to know either on my last check.

Visiting the Bristol Aerospace Museum

Being mentally ill impacts your life a lot, and people like to talk about their lives and what has influenced them, we talk about our journeys, we talk about family, we talk about meaningful experiences.  When you are mentally ill and have become comfortable sharing, you might find your brain serving up anecdotes of your journey, I know I do.  I was wildly insane and acting on my delusions for years, I had a thorny and grandiose sense of humour and as a result my journey was vivid and interesting.  2002 – 2004 I was short and skinny but fearless – delusionally brave and I instigated a few fights and many arguments with people twice my size on mental health wards, partly because I was telepathically trained by Bruce Lee himself.  Sometimes my sense of humour jumps back to this thorniness even today…

 I also worked very hard to get better since 2006, had great support and was lucky, I’m full of useful tips.  So people talk about this and that at work and during socialising, I listen, and soon enough my inner voice says ‘Pete, maybe you should tell them about how methods of keeping staff happy in a business can be limited unless they allow for the fact that many of us are having internal battles with depression or anxiety’  (I have written scientific articles, I have been published in a Journal, such a joy to be able to do that)

It’s how I think.  I remember my writing, my ideas for improving life for mental health service users (in short, come up with an idea that benefits both the patient and those that are allocating the funding), coping strategies for parents I have known, my life has shaped me into being wise about mental health.   

Maybe I’ll want to talk about music, films, woodworking, maybe aviation, but people who have had a journey with mental illness and are comfortable talking about it will find their brain pushing them to go ahead.  This is what it’s like to have or have had a mental illness.  Everyone else is hesitant to discuss it, it’s a grey area even if you don’t allow for the taboo factor, we don’t want to encourage a chat about something that is usually negative, but for people like me it’s a topic we want to cover.  It helps me to talk about it.

I live a good life now, it runs like most other peoples most of the time, it just happens to include a personal story of overcoming psychosis and anxiety.  No big deal.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu