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Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.
There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.
Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.
After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.
So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.
One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.
Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.
I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.
When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.
Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you!