Having a strong family network can pick you up and put you back together again. So during my stay in hospital I had visits from many relatives, and if they couldn’t visit, they sent cards and phoned. I knew I was loved and I thank them all for their love and support, and I really wouldn’t be me without all of their input over the years.
I feel I have managed to pack a lot into my life. I have always been aware of issues with mental health as my mum has Bipolar Disorder, or more commonly referred to as “Manic Depression”.
Furthermore my paternal grandmother suffered with depression so I never really stood much hope of making it through life without my very own interruption.
I had a wonderful childhood - it just wasn’t always straight forward, and my mum wasn’t always around, but my dad and other family members stepped up and got me through the tougher periods. My family, you see, is rather large. Both my mum and dad are one of five, which means I have aunties and uncles coming out of my ears, along with cousins.
Not only did I have a close relationship with my dad but I was also very close to both sets of grandparents.
Nanny Wilson was “my” nanny. OK, I shared her with my cousins, but she was mine after my granddad died in 1995. Nearly every Saturday I stayed with her. We had our routine watching Gladiators, Blind Date, Casualty and then it was hot chocolate and Whisk (card game). I loved the time we shared.
So as you can imagine, losing my Nanny Wilson was bad, although due to the high intensity of my course, and reflecting on the events, I don’t think I really grieved properly and that is where it all went wrong. In April 2007 I was found wandering the streets of London in a confused state. I apparently was suffering from a Hypo manic episode and I was deemed to be a danger to myself and potentially others. So I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983, and now had at least a 28 day stay at a Psychiatric Hospital (Section 2).
reflecting on the events, I don’t think I really grieved properly and that is where it all went wrong
Having a strong family network can pick you up and put you back together again. So during my stay in hospital I had visits from many relatives, and if they couldn’t visit, they sent cards and phoned. I knew I was loved and I thank them all for their love and support, and I really wouldn’t be me without all of their input over the years. My time in hospital was difficult and I didn’t like it at all. I had been visiting the institute for many years as both Mum and Nanny Wilson had been patients in the very same hospital. I even had my mum’s room.
I made it through and my Occupational Therapist (OT) made sure that I was always busy, and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks to her I’m now doing something that I think I was born to do. I am training to be an Occupational Therapist. I enrolled at Cardiff University in September 2012 and I love it. I made it clear on the application form I had Bipolar. I wanted to be upfront and be honest, as it’s a part of me (but don’t you dare think that it defines me!). My family asked if I thought that was a good idea, being so upfront on the application form, and with Aunty Tina’s help we got the message across. It obviously worked as here I am in my 2nd year.
So, are my family supportive of my decision to be an OT? I believe they are!
- Mum and Dad can see how happy the course is making me, and I hope are proud of what I’m achieving. “Although we do worry Ames” - almost 30 and my parents still worry.
- My sister thinks I’ve gone all “new age” as I’m doing Pilates, yoga and eating veggies, but she knows I’m happy and is very supportive.
- Nanny Gregory - tells anybody who will listen that I’m studying to be an OT and that she helped me with my presentation. I love that she feels so proud.
- Aunty Pat - Lung Specialist Nurse - thinks I’m made for the job.
- Aunty Deb & Uncle Mike - think that I’ve found me again.
- Aunty Tina - always had faith and believes that things happen for a reason, and that maybe I needed the interruption to find my true self and career.
- Aunty Sheena - admires the fact I hit rock bottom and I picked myself up, and decided to retrain and give back to others.
- Aunty Fred - suffers from Alzheimer’s like her mamma before, and she knows I’m in Wales, but doesn’t really understand OT speak.Aunty George and Uncle Hywel - are my Welsh rocks. I know if I needed somebody in an emergency, one or the other would be here in an instant, for which I am grateful. They have always made me feel like one of the family, and the kids are cool and I love them all.
I made it through and my Occupational Therapist (OT) made sure that I was always busy, and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today
I also have my “Ame Army” as I like to call them. These are the friends that I have gathered on my life journey. I have childhood friends, work friends past and present, University friends (Glamorgan, UCL & Cardiff) and life friends who have come into my life when I needed them most. Some have been short term and some long term. Although it’s important to note that by having even the smallest interaction with them it has shaped me into the person I am today, and I’m pretty happy with who I am.
So thank you to all my amazing family and friends, I wouldn’t be Ames without you. And I’m sorry I’ve not mentioned you all, but please know I will continue to be me, and I’m not going to be defined by my Bipolar Disorder. Let’s unite, stand up and put an end to the stigma. I’m not afraid to speak up, as without it I wouldn’t be the Ames you all know and love.
Do you know someone with a mental health problem? Read our tips on how to start your conversation!
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org