Impact assessments of the long term effects of mental illness are both dry and sharp, with hidden depths. I could make a wine analogy here but I’m one of those people who goes on price.
Deaths per annum, GDP lost due to sickness. Often the medical literature offers as a digestif ‘…the personal impact on the lives of sufferers and their loves ones is of course impossible to measure’.
There is stuff. Stuff I wanted to do, stuff you expect to do. Even if you don’t make plans, you have them; sketched out on future white in lines soft and faint. It never works out quite right of course, that’s life. But I didn’t ever expect to be a highly educated 30something living at his parents’, skint and uncertainly employed.
It’s disappointing. More than disappointing, it’s enraging, infuriating. If I can’t hold them back, waves of recrimination and shame leave me a bloody mess.
But it also simply is.
I had hoped that I was getting better, in the sense I could scale myself up from not working, to a part time job, to full time – then getting better paid work, a contracted position, finally able to move out, get a mortgage, live independently. More than a hope in fact, it was an assumption, and not just mine. Family, friends. But taking stock of the past few years, the repeated episodes, it becomes clear to me that working full time now carries a real risk of catastrophic mental breakdown.
When I started working full time again I was so happy, it kicked me a little hypo. I finally felt in financial control again, independent again, useful. I could arrange to see friends, I could buy that sound system I’d been longing for – fuck, I could casually afford a flat white. I was on the up, until I suddenly very much wasn’t any more.
I’m one of those stories behind the figures, one of those lives interrupted. I’m hugely – hugely – fortunate in having an unconditionally loving and well-resourced family, without whom I could well be homeless or dead. It’s hard when I remember all those sketched out assumptions of an independent life and a home of my own or see friends with these things and so much more – but I have a home and am loved, I am secure; these are huge, huge boons.
But what now?
The sooner you make peace with your life, the sooner you’re at peace. Part time work is the healthiest I can hope for, and it will hopefully give me enough of an income that I’m not continually scrimping – which has its own negative psychological effects. Part time work might also free up time that, if I apply myself, I can use to build up a secondary income.
But ultimately it’s not about the down side or the bright side. Because it’s not about sides. It just is.