Lyndsay, who has used our services and now volunteers as one of our Experts by Experience, shares his story.
*Trigger Warning – Sensitive Content*
Living with mental health problems
“I have lived with mental health problems my whole adult life. I have had several different diagnoses some of which have proved to be incorrect, like being treated for personality disorder for 18 months. I had variants of anxiety to depression and now have the diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder, however mine is atypical.
“I was first diagnosed with mental health problems at University after being bullied psychologically by my housemates (dismantling my self-confidence with criticism and generally undermining comments). I studied Applied Biology and managed to come away with a degree with honours, despite the life-limiting symptoms I was struggling with. My first symptoms presented as anxiety. A year or so prior I had noticed significant anxiety during two driving tests. I failed these, which lead to a week of depressed mood. which I now perceive as panic attacks/performance anxiety.
“I withdrew from friends, family, constructive activities, social occasions and work. I suffered long periods of depressed mood, feeling unshakeable hopelessness. I was made redundant from a permanent job after moving to Birmingham at significant cost which was during another episode.
“It wasn’t until 15 or 16 years in my mental health journey that I noticed symptoms of mania, this felt very unusual given my history of uni-polar low mood. It quickly led to erratic behaviour and ultimately psychosis. I experienced this as a significant detachment from the self I know with errant behaviour, completely out of character and delusions of grandeur.
Coming to Oxfordshire Mind
“I have made lasting lifelong friendships with people like myself, with a vast range of conditions within a Mind drop-in centre in Oxfordshire [Oxfordshire Mind Wellbeing Hubs are located in Cowley, Abingdon, Banbury and Witney where peer-support groups and wellbeing courses and other services are held]. People had varying diagnoses including OCD, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders and Eating Disorders. I feel that developing and maintaining a mental health community is very important to allow people not to feel so alone with their difficulties. The Oxfordshire Mind centre [near] where I live offered courses such as self-esteem which I attended.
“A highly effective but underrated and misunderstood method for improving one’s mood is finding acceptance, we can’t change everything and some things we have to understand may not even change in the long term. We must live with a certain amount or even adapt to the status quo.
“I have been involved with Oxfordshire Mind’s Experts by Experience since the 15th November 2019. It feels important to make a difference for people like myself, my friends and my acquaintances who live with various mental health concerns. The overall aim being hopefully, to have better systems in place so they don’t feel as desperate and hopeless as I did. I strongly believe that outcomes are hugely better if mental health conditions are nipped in the bud at an early stage and I want to be part of the solution.
“Training from Oxfordshire Mind’s Experts by Experience group has been able to continue online and is a very positive way to use our experience to use our many years of experience to give something back. It is a cornerstone of Oxfordshire Mind’s Influence and Participation policy to have current and former service users involved at all levels of the charity. The group has been an important factor in improving my confidence, particularly in regard to public speaking and sharing parts of my life warts and all. I have been involved at a national steering group with Oxfordshire Mind for the influence and participation.
“I have found lockdown surprisingly enjoyable. Of course, I feel slightly vulnerable over potential symptoms, were I to catch Covid 19, having asthma. I have however, learnt lots of techniques over my long illness to occupy myself whilst unable to work. I am a keen gardener and the warm weather is handy for raising crops from seed and maintaining other plants. I limit my exposure to the news daily as it can be detrimental to one’s mental health to see or hear too many negative stories or attitudes. I prefer to hear the news on radio as negative images can stick in the mind.
“Increasing amounts of people live alone and I have friends with mental health concerns who are struggling now and other friends with a historical mental health past who are shielding alone.”
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