I remember my first crush was on a Russian gymnast called Yelena Davidova. I had the copy of Newsweek when she was on the front cover. She was the women’s artistic individual all-around champion at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. I was 14 and intensely miserable. I had undergone a transformative experience at 13, namely puberty, which had left me with little confidence and very low self-esteem. Something which has followed me through life. There was something mesmerising about the young Russian gymnast. I thought she was the same age as me, she looked so young and elfin. I just checked Wikipedia and she is now 61 so she must have been 19 to my 14. Six to Seven months previously the Old Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, a conflict that lasted ten years. 1979 was a bad year for the Soviet Union and it was a bad year for me. I regressed into myself. From being a naughty, cheeky, arrogant, and fun-loving early teen, the years between 13 and 17 which formed the bulk of my school years were so miserable that I came out the other end pretty seriously messed up.
At 21 I had my first hospitalisation, two weeks only at the North Wales Medical Centre, where ‘extreme sensitivity’ was put down on my notes. Into denial and moving from North to South Wales and pretending for eighteen years that I wasn’t mentally ill. You become a very good actor and expend a great deal of energy daily pretending to the world, namely your friends and family, that you are ok.
I recently saw somebody smile and it made me sad because it reminded me of the smiles that I used to have where the lip movement never matched the eyes. The sadness in the eyes. The eyes are the windows of the soul and I have sad eyes and that is why I wear dark glasses much of the time.
I tend to agree with the diagnosis of extreme sensitivity rather than the diagnosis that I was given first in a prison in Amsterdam and then back in Cardiff in 2006. Bipolar Disorder, that catch all term, that just drops you through the net.
I have not really experienced mental health stigma apart from self-stigma. I have hated myself for much of my life for being such a failure. I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I have blown them all…on purpose. My life in retrospect has been a protest against ‘normal’ conformist society. It hasn’t impacted at all on society but the withdrawal from life has impacted me greatly. I feel alienated, bitter, angry quite often, numb, resentful and all the above without the assistance of neuroleptic medication. I gave up medication in August 2008. I knew that I would have to manage my unhappiness without the aid of happy pills because I had seen the effects of ‘tardive dyskinesia’ on a member of my extended family and I didn’t want that to happen to me.
My latest crush is also Russian. She is a Lecturer, an Educator, a Writer and a Mental Health Activist. I don’t mean to embarrass her but I do admire her greatly. I knew the instant that I came across her blog, that there was a unique soul here, a world traveller who was using her experiences to make sense of the present through humour, spirituality, and a love of cats. What is not to like? And she kindly asked me to write a Guest Blog Post and this is it!
It was the Netherlands link that made me realise that we had both had other dimensional experiences there also known as Psychosis. My one and only full-blown psychosis lasted so long in the summer of 2005 that this is what led the Prison Medical Team to believe that I had bipolar disorder. Initially they had put borderline personality disorder. Lots and lots of such lovely labels. I stick with the initial diagnosis all those years ago of ‘extreme sensitivity’.
Obviously, I am no longer extremely sensitive. That gets kicked out of you by 24-hour news. From Lockerbie to 9/11 to 7/7, the latter which immediately preceded and triggered my psychosis.
I am now a hard bitten and grizzled 56 year old who looks back at the life he has led with bitterness. Whatever insights and benefits have come my way because of my misfortune or should I say ‘Chemical Imbalance’, you can keep them.
You only get one life and I have blown mine.
Thank you to Ekaterina Netchtailova for allowing me to share a few words here on her blog.
If you would like to read about my psychosis I will put the link to the ebook, detailing it here. The publishers ask for your email address and then you can download it.
Here is again the link to David’s book
Thank you, David for choosing my blog to publish this marvelous piece.