Alan's Mental Health: An Introduction

I'm Alan, and I'm ill. Mentally ill.

How's that for an attention-grabbing headline?! Well, ignoring the possibly slightly narcissistic tone of it, it just so happens to be true.

I've been this way for as long as I can remember, but I wasn't given any sort of official diagnosis until around 2002. That diagnosis was depression. Since then it's evolved into Dysthymia and I've 'acquired' a number of other mental illnesses. I've also been told by qualified health professionals that I have symptoms which point towards other mental illnesses, but which are not strong enough nor intrusive enough to qualify for the full diagnosis. Oh yes, and I've also tried to kill myself. Twice.

So, without further ado, here's a list of my current medically diagnosed mental illnesses (in order of severity of the effect they have on me):
  • Dysthymia (also known as persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Adult separation anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • General anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Dissociative amnesia
  • Depersonalisation disorder

The others which I have been told I have symptoms of, but which don't qualify me for a full diagnosis, are (in alphabetical order):
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (it's not the same as OCD)
  • Schizoid personality disorder

From the lists above, I would appear to be a very broken individual. But you see that is not the case. Despite my many issues, I am what's known as 'high-functioning'. That is to say, I actually have quite a normal life in spite of everything that is wrong. I have a job, a house, close family and friends. I am also in a wonderfully supportive and happy relationship. I go to the shops, go for days out and chat to new people. If you met me, you'd never even know I was ill. I have also been told that there is no chance I will ever recover. And you know something? That's ok. I've made my peace with that. (I'll explain that in a future post!) Unfortunately, being high-functioning means that I have almost no chance of being helped in England (where I live.) I'll cover that in a much later post.

So, what is this all about? Well, as I've said, I've been this way for a very long time. However, until now, I've never been able to discuss it or write about it openly. I've tried many times, but on each occasion, I've stopped myself. It has just been too painful or too much of a risk to my own well-being to be open about it. Or, it's just not seemed to be that big a problem or worth wasting other people's time with. Quite why I've found the strength to talk about it now is something I don't understand. It's also something which I'm not even going to attempt to understand. The point is I am strong enough, so now is the time to open up.

I intend to trace back my mental health history through posts on this feature. Perhaps I'll start with my first diagnosis of depression, perhaps I'll go further back to my traumatic childhood experiences. I'm not sure yet. Whatever the starting point, I'll continue chronologically from there - to the best of my ability at least and from what parts I can remember. There will probably be interjecting posts in between, but I'll make sure somehow that these aren't part of the chronology of my journey back differentiate these. The chronological posts will all start with Alan's Mental Health:. The interjecting posts will not.

I'll also be touching on the huge amount of respect I have for two specific people - my partner, and a friend who once said something that I'm certain everyone who knows me has thought, but she was the only one brave enough to say. Along the way, I'll almost certainly be mentioning someone else who had a huge influence on my life - and why my understanding of her behaviour continues to elude me. I'll no doubt mention a group of friends who, at my lowest point, literally saved my life. Naturally, I won't be using any names, but they all know who they are. I'll also probably veer off on related tangents on my journey.

Whatever this ends up being, I foresee it being a very difficult, very emotional journey. It will no doubt bring up feelings that I've long since forgotten. I'm sure it will force me to confront a painful past. I'll have to relive experiences that others would think it a very bad idea to revisit. The posts will also be very 'wordy'. I doubt I'll be using many photos for this. It won't all be negative though! I'll share my insights into mental illness, and share my methods of coping with my own issues.

So, the ultimate question is.... Why? Why on earth would I deliberately put myself through this? If this stuff is all buried, why not bloody well leave it there? Well, there are several reasons (in the order in which they occur to me):

  1. I need to. Don't ask me why - because I don't know. I just feel an overwhelming need to do this.
  2. I know I am strong enough (for the most part - there will certainly be omissions from these posts.) So there really is no better time than now.
  3. I've buried things in the past. Doing so led me to try to take my own life on two occasions.
  4. I think maybe I'll be able to reach out to some people from my past through this. Perhaps help them understand me a little better. (Note to those people should they read this: This is just metaphorically of course - I'm not suggesting I'll be contacting any of you nor am I suggesting that you contact me.)
  5. Perhaps it will help me heal a little. I honestly have no idea though. It doesn't matter if it does or not.
  6. Perhaps something I write somewhere along the way will resonate with someone. Perhaps make whoever feels in any slight way even remotely like I do, that they are not alone. Perhaps it will help someone else.
Now, there are plenty (probably hundreds of thousands) of web pages offering a technical description of what mental illness is/isn't/can be/can't be/whatever... There are also plenty of pages offering advice and help. I won't be doing any of that. These posts will be solely from my perspective, based upon my experiences and my way of handling each issue. There's that narcissism again...!

Before I close, I give a note and a warning. I will put a link to this post at the top of each new post that forms part of the chronology. That way new readers can read this first, and see that the post isn't a short rambling of a mad-man, but rather a series of long ramblings. Probably by a mad-man. (Yes, that's right, mentally ill people have a sense of humour too!) I will be linking to the Samaritans (UK) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) at the bottom of each post. 

Warning: Some of the content of the posts may affect you personally. These are known as 'triggers'. It is impossible to say what may trigger an individual. If you suspect that the content of my posts may trigger you, I strongly recommend you do not read them.

If you feel you need immediate help with your mental health, then contact one of the organisations below (click the logo for their website):
Samaritans (UK)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)

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