This blog post isn’t about sleep

Sleep is weird isn’t it? Leaving aside all the deep scientific questions surrounding it, sleep is just a bit weird.

Have you ever had a night where you don’t dream? Where you close your eyes and open them again, and somehow six hours have passed? I used to get them all the time growing up, but now it tends to be the other way around – I close my eyes and try to sleep, the seconds feeling like those hours.

I just don’t sleep all that well anymore. It’s half midnight as I write this in the living room, having spent the last couple of hours willing myself to fall asleep.

Or maybe I get too much sleep? At some point last week, I fell asleep at about 5:00AM and slept through until 1:00AM the next day. I’m no doctor, but that can’t be good for you..

Whatever, this blog post isn’t meant to be about sleep.

I’ve been toying with writing about myself (how self-centered, I know..) but putting it off for a couple of reasons. Leaving aside the fact that I hardly think I’m interesting enough to write about, my concerns are more along the lines of prospective employers/clients reading the thoughts which fill my mind and deciding to give me a wide berth.

Like a block his number and never ever hire him sort of wide berth.

You see, my mind isn’t that special – it’s not impressively smart nor is it freakishly broken. It’s just not quite right, but there’s nothing special about that, as lots of people suffer from much worse. I’ve got ADHD, but then again so have a lot of people. I’ve been diagnosed with severe manic depression, but again, lots of people deal with that on a daily basis.

Growing up, I was fairly normal (as normal as an introverted, geeky person could be). Around the middle of secondary school, I started having issues with friends. This is something which I know needs to be explored in therapy properly one day because I just can’t get my head around what went wrong.

Side note: a lot of people see therapy as something someone needs to do to get better, or they see it as a big deal. Lots of people seem to dislike therapy, and it carries a bit of a taboo (or is that just mental health in general?). I’d ask you to see therapy as a tool, because for a lot of people that’s all it is – the therapy I’ve had over the years has been a tool to help me understand my own mind.

During this time, I alienated a lot of my secondary school friends. Unfortunately, it’s much easier for these people to see me even now as the person I was rather than the person I have become.

In 2019, I had my first psychotic episode.

Before I continue, I’d like to clarify what that means, as the word “psychotic” gets thrown around a lot. Psychotic symptoms are thoughts which are out of step with reality, normally categorised as “delusions” (false beliefs) or “hallucinations” (false perceptions).

So, early 2019 – something inside my mind snapped. I began to accept my delusions as facts. It took months of therapy, some of which is still ongoing, to work out what went wrong, and why. I think it’s worth saying that therapy did not “fix” my mind, the thing which snapped remains snapped, but an understanding of what happened helped me move past my delusions.

I hurt people during that episode and the long recovery afterwards. I also learnt the hard way one of the most important lessons someone who has suffered a psychotic episode can learn – we are all accountable for our actions, regardless of our mental state.

Up until that lesson was learnt, I felt that my psychosis gave me a free pass to “write off” the things I had said due to my delusions. Where I’d had the false belief that a friend did something out of malice to punish me, for example, I would believe that the cruel words I had said to them in that moment should just be forgotten, as it was “only my condition talking”.

As much as perhaps in an ideal world this would be the case, here in the real world it doesn’t work that way – I had said these things, therefore I had to be accountable. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but your mental state is not an excuse, nor can it be a crutch.

So, where am I now? It’s the end of 2020, and this has been a tough year for everyone. On the whole, right now, I’m doing good – a month or so ago, not so much. The psychosis which I’d spent months working through at the end of 2019 and start of 2020, which I’d perhaps naively thought had gone for good, reared its head again and I wasn’t prepared.

Not just unprepared to handle it, but unprepared to accept that it could happen – I had fooled myself into believing that once I was “better” after my episode in 2019 that I was cured. Perhaps this was a delusion as well? A friend told me recently that last year I at least accepted I wasn’t well, that this time around was scarier as I did not recognise my illness. That friend unfortunately took the entire force of my psychotic outburst.

In doing so, I recognised the delusions and could begin to work to bring them under control again.

In doing so, I hurt someone close to me irreparably.

Never has the painfully learnt lesson been more applicable.

We are all accountable for our actions, regardless of our mental state

So what’s the purpose of this blog post? Is it simply a rant? A way of getting catharsis from these pent up feelings? I’m not sure, but perhaps someone will read this and begin to challenge their own delusions, or at least understand that they’re not alone in feeling these things.

Mental health issues are slowly becoming less of a taboo, but we’re still a long way from having a healthy public discourse about them. Repressing these issues, which I’m fairly confident in saying affects everyone at some point in their lives, is dangerous.

Feeling these things can be so lonely, especially when you are able to separate your delusions from your own thoughts. You can see the pain you inflict from both the position of the aggressor and the outsider, but you have no place as either.

Social media is filled with empty platitudes when it comes to mental health awareness days – statements from people entoning that “You Matter.”, “You Are Not Alone.” – the same people who will so often shun a genuine call for help.

Please don’t offer your words in a Tweet or a Facebook update. Instead, ask your friend who seems to be struggling a bit how they’re doing today – then ask them again.

If you’re having a hard time, visit and talk to The Samaritans – help is available right now.