Saturday, 12 November 2011

That way madness lies

My mother was a psychiatrist. I remember one ward in her hospital where I felt if you weren’t mad before you stayed, you would be by the time you were supposed to leave. There was always someone crying or shouting. The doors were locked (I think), handles turned the wrong way round.

I sometimes worked in Occupational Therapy there. I remember, during a cookery session, asking a patient who was stirring a bowl of yumminess “What are you making?” “Oh, I’m not doing any cooking today.” Her reply was accompanied by an uncertain smile and bewildered eyes. She kept stirring with the wooden spoon and later produced some excellent biscuits.  

Recently, I received a letter from my GP surgery: “Having a long-term health condition or chronic illness, such as diabetes, pain, or a heart or lung condition, to name just a few, can really impact upon your life…” – no kidding! It offered me “a FREE programme, choosing Self Management for Life, that can help you understand how your condition impacts on your life, your job or even your relationships with family, and how managing these effects can help you take more control of your life and your health… excellent opportunity… runs over seven weekly session, with each session lasting three hours…”

I won’t be taking up the offer. I fear that way madness lies and I’m not afraid often.

I went through a stress management Mindfulness Wellbeing course at a time when I felt no stress but was very sad about my DX. And I was probably still grieving for my father who had died the year before. I felt braver doing that course than jumping out of an airplane (which I also did!). Mindfulness practice seemed to lead to me being more distracted than normal. Everything was thrown off kilter by having to attend the sessions when I was still only just adjusting to a regular routine of taking meds.

At the same time I was having counselling. I would be asked if the Mindfulness course helped. I couldn’t be sure one way or another. I found it very hard to be told I was depressed. It was even harder to admit it to myself. Positively depressing in fact. Or should that be negatively depressing.

Not long after DX, a consultant put forward the possibility that I had the capacity for clinical depression. This was totally alien to me and my BFF who was with me at the time. We rejected the potential as I was ‘normally’ such a positive person. Of course, ‘normal’ no longer existed.

Later, when the idea of being depressed was suggested by my MS specialist nurse, I accepted it.

At the time, I hated being dictated to by routine – meds, injections (I was still on Rebif), the stress reduction clinic, counselling sessions – I didn’t recognise the person with a regular pattern to her days/weeks. I am glad I had admitted to my GP that I wasn’t coping. That I needed help. Needed anti-depressants.

The latter work though I do think it’s strange that, with serotonin levels raised by the anti-depressants, it became harder to write. Perhaps some writers are miserable because they write better when depressed. Is writing therapy for or a symptom of depression? Oh, that way madness lies.

P.S. I googled 'That way madness lies' to check the quote source. For some not-entirely-KingLear viewing, you can watch this: Slings and Arrows - Season 3, Episode 3: That Way Madness Lies

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