Mental illness is rife – approximately one in four of us experiencing it to some degree in
our life. That means you, statistically, or someone in your family probably has done so.
‘Hello Mrs Palmer, do take a seat; now how can I help you today?’
‘I’m a shell’ I whispered.
‘Pardon?’ said a surprised female voice.
‘I’m a shell’ I repeated faintly, sat hunched over in the chair with hands tucked between clenched knees, unable to look at her directly. ‘All that is left of me is a physical, moving shell. Me? I have gone, I am not here anymore’.
I remember a look of concern alight upon the locum doctor’s face as she stared intently at me, all those years ago, at some stage asking me to take a seat in the waiting room while she made a couple of calls. I am unsure how, but some time later I then found myself being ushered in to a consultation room of the local community mental health team…my first ever visit! I recall pulling a chair to the corner of the room, where I curled up into a ball with my head resting on the wall, for some reason. An Asian lady psychiatrist, with long black hair and buckteeth came in after a while; the result was her stating I must be admitted to hospital immediately. ‘I can’t’ I murmured exhaustedly, ‘I have three young children at home who need me’.
Sometime later I was led down a stark, magnolia coloured corridor on to the female ward of the local psychiatric hospital; two ‘firsts’ in one day! I remember my physical shell of a body and not a lot else it seemed, move painstakingly slowly into unfamiliar territory, aware of doors closing and locking behind me as I went. With my arms folded in a feeble protective type posture I attempted to take in my new surroundings, noticing the odd picture screwed in to the wall, a young woman spinning round and round and round on a computer type chair, hearing the constant clunk of keys, smelling the smell that only hospitals have, hearing someone crying and I remember thinking…’Oh God, help!’
After being asked many questions by ward doctors, having blood pressure and other vitals checked, I was finally led down more corridors to my room; a small curtained off area in a larger room divided into four. I vaguely remember my ‘room’ consisted of blue pull around curtains with yellow flowers on them, a single bed, small wardrobe, chest of drawers and chair. I was then left alone, now recalling how I sat on the end of the bed staring vacantly through a first floor window at a sense of freedom beyond the locked, secure unit I was now in. This was three days before Christmas!
From all I can remember the first few weeks in hospital involved insurmountable questions from doctors, wandering aimlessly around the unit, eating hospital food and feeling deadened. I witnessed many strange sights, heard many strange things and met one or two beautiful people even amidst the pain and suffering they were so obviously in.
And that was the beginning; the first of 13 hospital admissions over the course of 12 years, plus medication, ECT (electric shock treatment), more medication, therapies, weight gain, even more medication, chronic pain and yet more medication.
Have you ever felt so low there is seemingly no solution to the mental turmoil you are in? Or do you experience physical pain that feels too much to carry? Have you had enough of the way things are? Do you feel something in your life needs to change?
Well, I’d given up hope of ever changing, repeatedly being told by psychiatrists I was a ‘vulnerable adult with a life long disabling condition’. But that was then; and since then many things have changed.
I’ve now realised that life is a journey, a roller-coaster ride of ups, downs and circles. I’ve come to understand that we can either be on the roller-coaster ride of life willingly, or unwillingly.
The first way is empowering, uplifting and creates space for life’s ups and downs to occur. The second way involves a great deal of suffering. Imagine the difference between choosing to go on a roller coaster ride, versus being made to go on one.
We all experience life differently to each other, coming from our own perspective or take on things, and this too, can shift and change over time. What comes our way is what comes our way, but how we are in any given situation is down to us. We don’t need to suffer.
I’ve learnt this the hard, suffering way, now realising there is a simpler way - yoga.
Yoga means union (of mind, body and soul), and has transformed my life. The practice of yoga, which is a method to cleanse the body of ‘energetic debris’ or ‘trauma’ that is produced from our out of control minds, leads to a calm mind and the ability to remain more steady and peaceful through life’s rollercoaster journey.
Yoga (union) can, and does, also take place in other ways I feel, for we are all on an evolutionary journey. What works for one, invariably may not work for another. I can only share what has worked for me.
I’ve now been medication-free for over six years, despite the odds and despite mental health services trying to section me around the time of my twin sons' 18th birthday because I wasn’t’ doing things their way! I only escaped their clutches thanks to one of my sons alerting me to the fact that police and doctors would be arriving to the house at 5pm on that same day with a search warrant to come in and remove me from my own home. The reason for this was because I was trying to come off my medication, for I no longer knew what was ‘me’, what was ‘illness’ and what was ‘medication’. Did you know the top few side effects of any mental health drug can
cause the very thing it is supposed to be curing?
I’ve been to hell and back, it has to be said, the details of which would make a jaw dropping film, but the effort has been so worth it, for my life has completely transformed.
My mind was a mess, a seeping wound, which was affecting my body also. Just take a look at metaphysics if you don’t get what I mean. I have learnt the hard way that the mental health services don’t necessarily know what is best – they didn’t for me anyway! I have come to realise that the mind cannot cure the mind and medication only adds yet another plaster over a wound of past trauma (mental, emotional, physical or all of these).
To change we need to connect to our inherent wisdom, to our source, heart, centre or soul. Through doing so we wake up to our ‘inner sat nav’ and true ally. We need to face our fears and do the work on ourselves to take back the reins to our unruly minds. It can be done – I know it can.