So, you may have noticed a dramatic drop off in posts here in the past year. That’s for a few reasons.
1) I’m managing mostly fine these days, so I have a lot less to write about in terms of living with mental illness. It’s just the same old- taking medication etc. The latter has caused me a lot of problems at university, and I still haven’t managed to get off Seroquel. But that’s about it.
2) I have been very busy.
3) I am scared to. My name is here and now I’m a student mental health nurse, I don’t feel as though I can be as open as I used to be. And believe me, it is a shame. I feel shit about it, since I’ve spent the past few years writing and speaking and generally gadding around telling everyone my experiences in the hope it would help other people and in the knowledge it helped me. I have done some things I will always remember and met people who are so cool they are coming to my wedding. It has been my life.
Anyway, I already hid the worst bits of my blog last year, so…
I don’t feel as though I belong in either, “world”. I know many people who are mental health nurses have mental health problems themselves, but I cannot think of one who has been congratulated for disclosing it. I have been told- often- that people who work as mental health nurses shouldn’t have mental health problems. I understand why this is. There is issues with boundaries, ones which are in place not just to protect you but to protect your patient (I sometimes wonder- what if someone I was caring for found this blog? It would ruin the therapeutic relationship). I understand it because although I don’t feel it influences my practice at all, and I don’t have the problem of going, “There for the grace of god…”, it can be a bit close to the bone. I do stiffen, in general life, at peoples’ attitudes towards alcoholics because of my experiences with my dad. I want to challenge these things. I want to fight about it. I don’t go shouting from the rooftops on placement or anything, but my opinions are partly informed by my experiences, experiences I feel as though I have to keep largely hidden. At least in the sense that it is difficult to be both- a boundaried student nurse, and a mental health activist who talks about their own experiences.
I found being on my last placement absolutely excruciatingly painful. I enjoyed it as a clinical experience, but I had to wear short sleeves and I have extremely obvious self harm scars on my arm. This was the first time in my entire life I have worn my sleeves up in such a public setting. I have my own limits of disclosure and because of the setting I have chosen to be taught in, I reached them, rather unwillingly.
I undoubtedly want to work in mental health- it is my passion and my joy. But I have seriously questioned, ever since I started, whether I wanted to be a mental health nurse. But I love the patients, and I know that this is my way, “out”. In short- what else have I got? My own mental illness pretty much destroyed all my options. It ruined my education, it put me in bad stead with a lot of people who I could have worked with or could have been helpful. I have no qualifications, I have nothing. If I could find a way to work in mental health in some capacity- whether writing, advocacy or general campaigning- and in a capacity that would help me stay in work for the foreseeable, I would not do this degree. I would do that instead. That’s my being honest.
For the most part, I enjoy what I am doing, but find it painful to navigate as a person with a mental illness, and as a person who is used to speaking out, who is quite vocal and quite straightforward in my views.
Maybe they were right. Or maybe I’m not giving mental health nurses, doctors, etc, the system, enough credit. It’s just some stuff I have heard so far.
My other option has always been writing but I feel so nervous doing that right now. I am frightened it would put me in jeopardy. So I’m in a bind. I can still write, but not so much on my personal experience. And possibly not so much on the NHS or treatment.
But maybe that’s a good thing- maybe I have been so far up my own arse for such a long time, it’s time I did stop talking about myself. Because I don’t feel as though I fit into the other, “world” that much anymore either. I consider myself in recovery. Not clinically recovered, not back to normal, because I had no normal to return to. I had to become someone else, and I quite like who that someone else is, if I’m honest. I still take medication and my illness (and the dead-state side effects of medications) still causes me problems but I am not where I was. I’m not on benefits, I’m not under the CMHT, I’m not someone who is actively unwell. I didn’t write the book I was supposed to because I had an incredible fatigue in talking about my own, “story”. But hiding it is equally fatiguing.
So what to do? I really don’t know.
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder