I'm Judith and I was born in the UK in l955. I was brought up in a dysfunctional family and remember feeling very lonely as a child. Up until the age of 3 I lived with my parents and my grandparents and I was very attached to my paternal grandmother who sadly died when I was 14. I became depressed after her death and began to hear voices. I neglected myself and without my knowledge or consent my parents took me to a child guidance clinic on a school morning when I thought I was being driven to school. I was too terrified to tell the doctor what was really going on at home and so was my mother so I was medicated. Looking back I wish there had been bereavement counselling available at that time but I had to cope alone and I stayed on medication for over two years. I managed to leave home at l8 on the advice of my psychiatrist who felt it was detrimental to my health to remain at home with my family. I moved to London and stayed with relatives. I was worried about the welfare of my two younger sisters and gave up my job in advertising to return home and go to college to study for my A and S levels. I returned to London for year before moving to Sheffield where I read politics at the University. At this time my mother finally found the courage to leave my father and took my 2 younger sisters to live in a flat. I felt free in Sheffield, free for the first time in my life, free from my family, free to be. I had another bout of depression during my degree course and had to take medication again. I graduated and returned to work in advertising and marketing and found myself nominated for a week's course in London. I stayed with a relative and there happened to meet the man I would go on to marry. He turned out to be a version of my father and it was as if I was repeating a pattern set out for me by my mother. I went on to get married and it was a disaster. I experienced rape and domestic violence and eventually found the strength to walk out. I broke down for a month but did not take medication. I was in debt and just beside myself with stress and worrry. I returned to work in London and then was relocated to a job near to my new home. I struggled to cope and made the mistake of hiding my thoughts and feelings. I wish now I had gone to counselling at that stage and let my emotions out rather than bottling everything up. By summer 1993 I was highly anxious and agitated and starting on the terrifying descent into psychosis. I was admitted to a psychiatric ward having spent a week living alone while experiencing the most frightening and upsetting hallucinations, both auditory and visual. Once in hospital I was still catatonic and mute and refused all food and drink for eleven days as I believed I was dead or in some stage of metamorphosis. I had to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and I stayed in hospital for six long months. I was still hallucinating; distorted bodies, severed limbs, bright colours, music, flames, fires. It was overwhelmingly terrifying. I felt isolated and lonely, hated the many types of medication I was given and even had to endure six treatments of electro convulsive therapy (ECT). I was so homesick, I used to keep my belongings packed up in the hope of leaving. I was eventually released from the section and went to stay at a relative's for a month before returning to my house. My confidence had gone, I felt lost and didn't know where to start again. My recovery was quite slow until I was assigned a support worker who took me out and that helped my confidence. I found my motivation had gone. My doctor suggested sticking to a routine and that did help to bring it back. I was sad that I had lost my job through my illness. I found the side effects of the medication hard to cope with; dry mouth, swollen ankles, dry eyes, blurred vision ,dry gums, increased appetite and a feeling of mental slowness. In l994 I had to go back into hospital for a hysterectomy about which I had very mixed emotions. In l995 I was involved in a car crash. I wondered what else would happen to me; I was still living alone and finding the experience isolating and a real challenge. I knew something needed to change. I went to see a psychologist for sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy and that really did turn my life around and I lost my fear of cooking (I'd worried about explosions when I lit the gas) and generally my confidence increased and I felt more at ease with myself and more in charge of myself. I did some voluntary work and a college course. In 2000 having divorced my first husband, I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful man and we married in 2001 and I have 2 stepdaughters. Unfortunately during my recovery I have relapsed a few times, but only for periods of a few weeks. I found out that after a psychotic episode the dopamine receptors in the brain do take a long while to settle down and so that explained why in subsequent episodes I was experiencing the same hallucinations.
It is now 17 years since my major psychotic episode; I am happy and settled. I've had to go through cataract surgery twice, in 2003 and 2008. The ophthalmologist said my cataracts were not like the usual ones he saw and asked if I'd ever taken chlorpromazine. I said yes, in huge quantities in l993. He said the medication was responsible for the lens opacity, On a positive note I've been on 2 college courses and passed GCSEs in Maths and Science and also passed a mental health course. I've been to art classes. I'm currently studying anatomy and physiology. I've had an article published in Mental Health Practice magazine and my book Don't Mind Me was published in 2008. I decided to write my book to tell the story of my upbringing and my psychosis and wanted to help others as well as myself. I want to help to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and do all I can to raise awareness of mental illness. I set up my own website http://www.judithhaire.vpweb.co.uk/ so that I could raise awareness and share links and resources. I have always found writing about my mental health to be very helplful and cathartic and would recommend writing to others. If I could turn back time I would have sought help earlier and talked about my problems earlier; sometimes it is hard to talk about mental health problems but once you do, you feel better as you are not alone and you can be given the right help and treatment.
My illness in l993 was the most debilitating event in my life so far but I suppose I had to lose my mind to find it again.
Publishers's website http://www.chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/ You can download my book in e book form, for free, by clicking on E books and then Specials
Don't Mind Me by Judith Haire (Chipmunkapublishing)
This is a piece of art I did for an exhibition and auction for the teenage cancer trust.