Transcription for Recording 1.m4a:
Hi my name is Michael Cronin and I wrote this piece about two weeks after coming out of psychiatric hospital it’s called it can happen to anyone and 46 married to and most beautiful woman I have two gorgeous daughters and a dream job and I live in a lovely house from the outside looking in everything looks perfect but last November I had a mental breakdown was diagnosed with depression and I spent two weeks in the mental health unit of the see you Hache I’m not really sure why am writing this but I keep going if that’s okay I’m not convinced that there is as much mental health awareness as we think okay or attitude to other people with mental health issues has changed significantly but I wonder about peoples attitude to their own mental health and how to recognise when there is a serious problem and how to take that first and most important Parton step to getting help and ultimately getting better I always think that when there is a discussion on either TV or radio about depression or mental health issues it’s celebs such as actors or singers et cetera that are on talking about it while it’s great that these people use their high-profile to try and raise awareness I often wonder if it has the desired effect and do they really connect with the ordinary person on the street you see I’m just an ordinary person living in ordinary life just like most people I wasn’t abused as a child I wasn’t bullied in school and I didn’t have trouble some teenagers I have some money worries same as everyone else but my coping skills were not strong enough and I ended up in the situation I’m in this is nobody’s fault it is what it is but I don’t ever hear people talking about this kind of issue maybe it’s an Irish thing maybe it’s a man thing but with seem to have real problems talking about money and about how we are feeling I don’t I don’t like to tell you about my experience with the mental health system on the day iPad my breakdown I rang my GP explained my situation and I got an appointment within half an hour I spoke to my GP who are so caring and empathetic she explained that she felt she wasn’t equipped to deal with me and how I was feeling she rang the see you Hache and told me to go to the mental health unit not A&E and I would be seen as soon as possible my brother brought me in and I was seen by a psychiatrist within 20 minutes we spoke for about half an hour she said she then had to talk to my wife and her team to discuss the best course of action she returned after about 20 minutes and she said she felt it would be best if I stayed in hospital for a little while while this was very upsetting for me and more so from my wife I knew it was the best thing to do I was at me Was admitted and I had a bed in my own room within half an hour I know this isn’t everybody’s experience with mental health services but I can only speak about my experience from the time I visited my GP to the time I was admitted it took Leston three hours I cannot finish without talking about the staff of the mental health unit they were the most caring empathetic kind people I’ve ever met the mental health health unit is a modern building where everyone has their own private ensuite bedroom there are different types of therapy classes every day and there’s always someone there to talk to I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today with out my stay there I continue to meet at therapy nurse every week in the town where I live can I remind you that every part of the service was provided free of charge by the state I’ll be the 1st to criticise the health system and the shambles it’s in but thank Philly Finally I can see that my experience has been nothing but positive
In a way I’m actually glad I had a mental breakdown last year. I feel bad for saying this considering how much I hurt those people that are closest to me, but it’s how I feel. It’s probably like an alcoholic having to hit rock bottom before they can start recovery. I see my breakdown as the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of another. When I look back now, I realise how crazy my behavior was. Every morning when I got up I was like an actor going on stage. I was pretending everything was ok, but in reality I think there was barely enough room in my head for all the crazy shit that was spinning around. Thankfully that all came to a head and I ended up in psychiatric hospital. And if I’m to be honest, there are times I miss being in hospital. Isn’t that a very strange thing to say? You see, after a few days in there you start to feel safe, like nobody can get to you. You’re told you must put yourself first if you want to get better. It’s like being given a licence to be selfish. I definitely developed a “poor me” attitude. There were times when we’d sit in the tv room and joke about being “mad”, but there were also times when we’d say “nobody understands us”, or “they don’t know what it’s like because they’ve never been through this”. It was nearly like a collective us against them and that’s not healthy.
My father was an alcoholic and he spent some time being dried out in a few different places. We used to go visit him at weekends and have family meetings which used to drive me nuts. I used to come out of them thinking how selfish he was. It was all him, him, him. How he had a disease and none of this was his fault. He made it sound like he was the victim in all of this. Well, I decided one day in hospital that I wasn’t going down the road of being a victim or thinking “poor me”. But I was going to work really hard at getting better. I was going to take all the advice and help offered to me. And with the help of my family and friends I’m definitely in a better place now. I also have huge thanks for the company I work for and in particular my boss, Graham. Without his help and understanding my recovery would have been much more difficult.
The reason I say I’m glad I had a breakdown is because I think I’m a better person now. I’m more open and honest with people. I appreciate the small things in life. I try not to worry as much, but that’s an ongoing battle.
We’re 19 years married today. I hate cliches but it honestly doesn’t feel that long. It should be a happy day, but it sometimes feels like one step forward and three steps back.
I came home from work yesterday for my lunch. I knew the second I saw the envelope on the floor that it wasn’t good news. I thought about going back out and pretending I didn’t come home for lunch, but I decided,” no, cop on and open the bloody letter.” To say what was in the letter was bad news would be an understatement. It was devastating. The bank had decided, based on the most recent information from us and taking into account my current mental health, that the best course of action for everyone involved would be to increase our mortgage by 50%. Yes, that’s right, 50%. They said if we didn’t agree to it they would continue with the repossession order which is due in four again in June. Here’s the thing, I honestly believe had I received this letter 6 months ago, I wouldn’t be here today. I rang Eimear straight away. Her immediate reaction was, ” ok, don’t worry, we’ll sort it out.” She said ” put the letter away, sit down and have your lunch. This shows why it’s so important to have strong people around you. I went back to work but it was so hard not to think about it. All crazy scenarios going around in my head.
When the kids went to bed we pulled out the letter and started discussing our options. “Here’s what we’ll do” said Eimear. “I’ll ring them tomorrow and explain the situation. I’ll tell them again how unwell you were and how you’re still getting treatment”. She said she’d explain how we’re trying our best and ask would they not look at other opinions like extending the term or parking the arrears for a period of time. “Don’t you worry about it ” she said. “I’ll sort it out.”
Well, I thought to myself, about 2 o clock in the morning lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. “Aren’t you a great man? 19 years married, and it’s your wife has to ring the bank to try to sort things out because you can’t “cope.” “I’m sure she must be delighted she married you.” I felt so weak, not a real man and a shit husband. I don’t know whether it’s sexist or not but it felt all wrong. I’m the man, I should be dealing with this. I didn’t sleep much that night. I just kept thinking “I’m some coward, I’m some weakling. What must Eimear think of me? What would my daughters think of me? What would I do if they married someone like me?
Every day has a beginning and an end and that’s exactly the same with bad days, they do end. To make a long story short, Eimear did ring the bank and they said they’ve done as much as they can for us. Sometimes you must accept the situation you’re in and look for ways to work through it and that’s what we’re going to do. In a strange way I think these situations make me stronger as a person and myself and Eimear stronger as a couple. By the way, we had a lovely wedding anniversary. Myself, Eimear and the girls sitting by the fire watching television, chatting and laughing. What more could you want? Happy days.
What’s Psychiatric Hospital Like?
Some people have asked me what it was like to spend two weeks in a psychiatric hospital. Well, to be honest the whole experience was very surreal. I was seen by a psychiatrist within twenty minutes and was admitted within an hour. A psychiatric nurse came to the interview room and said he’d show me to my bedroom. As we were walking, he was explaining where everything was. “Follow me through the double doors” he said. No member of the public was allowed beyond this point because of confidentiality, he explained. I still find this a little odd to be honest. We’re all about being open about mental illness, but the general public can’t go beyond a certain point in case they see the patients. I can understand it on one hand but on the other it doesn’t do much for the stigma of mental illness. When a visitor comes to see you, you must come out to them and go into one of the visiting rooms.
Anyway, I was getting my guided tour. “The nurses day station is on the right. Just knock if you need anything. To the left is the ladies wing, to the right is the men’s wing. Straight ahead are the two tv rooms. Follow me and I’ll show you to your room. Ok, here we are. You have a room to yourself with an ensuite bathroom. The night nurses station is just across the hall if you need anything. Any questions?”
My head was spinning at this stage. Any questions, I thought. Ya, I’ve a few alright. What the f**k am I doing here? Why do I feel like this? What did I do to deserve this? Why me? The nurse was so empathetic. He explained that I had just been through a very traumatic experience and I was mentally and physically shattered. He gave me something to help me sleep (Xanax I think) and said he’d be back later for a chat.
He did come back later that evening and he reassured me that I was in the right place, and they would do everything they could to help me get better. These words meant absolutely nothing to me at the start. I didn’t need to get better, I needed someone to sort out my money problems. Of course this wasn’t true, what I needed was help with my coping skills. You see, there isn’t a person in this world who hasn’t a problem or a worry. It’s how we deal with them that matters.
One thing you are encouraged to do is get up at 8 O’ clock every morning for breakfast. Speaking of food, I was quite surprised as to how healthy the food was. There were therapy classes every day and I was advised to take part in as many as possible. I didn’t really fancy the thought of art therapy or baking therapy, but the one I really enjoyed was relaxation therapy. It’s something that I have kept up to this day. I hope I’m not portraying the hospital as a holiday camp because I can assure you it’s not. There’s a lot of time spent on your own with your own thoughts. This is extremely difficult at first, but it becomes a lot more manageable as time passes.
One of the things that struck me while in hospital was the variety of people there. There was a guy who liked to take all of his clothes off and run up and down the corridor. There was a young girl who had a troubled childhood and was bipolar and suffered from anxiety, depression and o.c.d. There was a college graduate whose mind wasn’t his own because he smoked too much hash. There was a nurse, an occupational therapist, a teacher, a chef, a carpenter, young people, old people. Like most other illnesses, mental illness isn’t ageist, sexist, elitist or racist.
After about a week it was suggested that maybe I would be ready to go home. At first I was happy with this, but as the time came closer I began to panic. I remember the psychiatrist asking me what I thought about being in hospital and I told him it was like a big blanket around me and I felt safe. After a long conversation it was suggested that I would stay for another while.
One of the hardest things about mental illness is that it’s a very selfish illness. When I say it’s selfish, I mean the person has to be selfish. You have to stop thinking and worrying about those you love the most and start concentrating and thinking about making yourself better. A good analogy is that of an air steward explaining that if the oxygen masks drop down, you must put yours on before you can look after anyone else. It’s a very difficult thing thing to do- put yourself first, knowing that your actions are hurting all of those around you.
It was a difficult time in my life, but I’ll always be glad that I rang my GP. I’ll always be glad that she referred me to the acute mental health service and I’ll never forget the kindness and care shown to me whilst in hospital. My experience (and it’s only my experience I can speak about) is that I received and still am receiving the best possible care that I could have imagined, and for that I am truly grateful.
Talking mental health
Here’s a podcast of a chat I had with the wonderful Deirdre O Shaughnessy on 96fm
One step forward, two steps back
My depression was triggered by financial worries which had built up over a period of time until I couldn’t take it any more. Here’s something I wrote five days after being discharged from hospital.
Tuesday 21 November
I’m sitting in Tosnu (my local mental health centre)waiting to see “my team”. Doesn’t that sound good? In a strange way I’m kind of looking forward to it because I see each of these meetings as a step closer to feeling better. I’ll tell you what I’m dreading- meeting Frank (my solicitor) later with Eimear (my wife). It’s probably a bit like facing my demons and all that stuff. You see, the last time I filled out a statement of means form and concentrated on money, Credit Union, banks etc I had a complete and utter mental breakdown and ended up hurting all those around me and I spent 2 weeks in a psychiatric hospital. That’s why I’m petrified. More about that later.
Yesterday wasn’t a bad day. It was definitely an improvement on the previous few days. Maybe starting to write this helps. I got up before the girls went to school, which is always good. I kept myself busy all morning and my friend called to bring me for lunch. When I saw him at the front door my first reaction was “ah, for fuck sake how am I going to do this?” But I was honest with him and I told him I wasn’t feeling very chatty. This particular friend is one of my oldest friends and luckily he likes to talk a lot, so I was ok.
I spoke earlier about being petrified meeting my solicitor. It all started off well. Frank is a very level and practical man who always shows compassion. The problem is, the longer the meeting went on the more agitated and anxious I became. I left the meeting and went back to my car where I rang my brother just to see if it would calm me down. It seemed to work so I decided to go back to Frank’s office. For some reason when I got out of the lift in the in the car park I started crying. I must have looked some state walking down The Grand Parade crying like a little girl, but to be honest I didn’t care. When I got back to Frank’s office I got worse so we had to leave. We rang the doctor from the car and she said I would be seen immediately. I’m not sure what happened in the car on the way. I can only presume it was a panic attack. I couldn’t stop crying, I was hyperventilating and I thought my hands would explode with the pins and needles. It was a terrifying experience for both myself and Eimear. Thankfully it was all over within 15 minutes of arriving at the doctors.
Do you remember earlier I said I was petrified going to see Frank? Well, I definitely learned a lesson today. Trust your instincts. I’m joy of sick of analogies but my brother said earlier- ” if you broke your leg 3 weeks ago you wouldn’t go running today.” While I do agree with him, I think I’m in a bit of a catch 22 situation. I now realise I probably did too much too soon, but I also feel the quicker we start to deal with banks, Credit Union and court, the quicker I will start to feel better. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Since this happened today I’ve spent most of my time trying to understand the whole situation from Eimear’s point of view. I keep going back to November 1st. I do realise that this was one of the worst days of Eimear’s life. I’ll never forget the look of horror on her face as I broke down in front of her. I also realise the anger and hurt she felt when she found out I had been lying to her about how bad our financial situation was. It’s hard to explain how the mind can trick you into doing the wrong thing believing it’s the right thing. For all of this I am truly sorry, but unfortunately I’m not clever enough to put this into words so that I’m believed. I do realise how hard it was for Eimear while I was in hospital for 2 weeks. She had to cope with the shock of what was going on and at the same time try to keep things as normal as possible for the girls. Thankfully I’m home now and hopefully we’ll work together as a team dealing with all the ups and downs. I know all of our family and friends are sending Eimear texts asking how I am and sending their best wishes, but I wonder how many of them are asking how Eimear is feeling and if she’s looking after herself. I’d imagine not many, and that’s not fair. It really hurts me to see Eimear upset at the moment and I’m absolutely useless to her. I’m the sole reason for her being upset and I don’t have the wherewithal to help. Aren’t I some husband?
One final thing for today, and I’m not going into detail. I’m really hurt and disappointed by Eimear’s reaction to what happened today. I realise she got a shock and I did apologise but she never once asked if I was ok. I’m not sure why, but all I can think about since this afternoon is why myself and Eimear are not talking. All I can think of is that she can’t stop blaming me for the situation we’re in.
I hate being a statistic
Here’s something I wrote when I was just 4 days out of hospital. It actually feels strange reading it. It’s like reading someone else’s words. I really think it’s a good idea to keep a diary. It’s like a lot of things in so far as the hardest part is to get started. The easiest way for me is not to give it much thought, just sit down in a quiet room and a blank page and start writing.
It gives me great encouragement when I read back and see how far I’ve come in 4 short months
4 months on
This day 4 months ago I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I spent two weeks there but unlike some illnesses, with mental health you don’t feel better when you leave hospital. I’m writing this sitting in a waiting room waiting to see my psychiatrist. This is an ongoing process but I have to say my visits are becoming less frequent. I also see a therapy nurse every 2 weeks which is very helpful.
I’ve heard some negativity recently about anti depressants and over prescribing of same. I’ve also heard a lot of people say their doctor doesn’t seem to care and they just keep prescribing anti depressants and send them on their way. If this is the case then it’s completely unacceptable and maybe the best advice would be to change to a doctor who is more in tune with mental health. Let’s put it this way: if I went to a barber and they made a mess of my hair I wouldn’t go back again. I’d like to think my mental health is a lot more important and I deserve the best help I can get. When it comes to medication, I remember the conversation I had with the psychiatrist. He said he would prescribe a low dose of anti depressant and it would take up to 8 weeks to see any noticeable effect. He also spoke to me about diet, excercise, meditation etc. I think like with any illness or injury medication should be only one part of recovery. For me the most important and probably the hardest part is the effort I put in. I believe I owe this to myself and equally important, I owe this to my family, especially my wife. I also owe it to my friends and work colleagues who have been incredibly supportive.
I haven’t become an all happy clappy type person but I am trying to look after myself. I believe if I can look after myself first, then I can look after those who are most important to me. I’ve started to eat a little healthier, I’ve cut way back on the amount of crisps I eat. I have yoghurt and granola every day now instead if crisps. I drink about a litre and a half of water every day- that might have something to do with being constantly thirsty, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve also started cycling, not as much as I’d like but I’m getting there.
Finally, I’m spending more quality time with my wife and kids. My eldest daughter loves going to and watching soccer matches, so we do that. My youngest daughter loves hugs so we do that. Here’s a tip: When your child hugs you let them decide when the hug finishes. My wife and I like to sit down and watch an episode or two of a box set. That might sound simple but believe me simple is good.
I’ve just seen my psychiatrist and all is good. I will be on medication for another few months but that’s ok. What’s more important for me is that I get more exercise, spend more time with my family, do things that make me happy and hope that I will have the courage to change the things I can and accept that there are certain things I cannot change.
It can happen to anyone
I’m 46, married to a most beautiful woman, I have 2 gorgeous daughters a dream job and I live in a lovely house. From the outside looking in everything looks perfect, but last November I had a mental breakdown, was diagnosed with depression and I spent 2 weeks in the mental health unit of the CUH. I’m not really sure why I’m writing this but I’ll keep going if that’s ok.
I’m not convinced that there’s as much mental health awareness as we think. Ok, our attitude to other people with mental health issues has changed significantly, but I wonder about people’s attitude to their own mental health and how to recognize when there’s a serious problem and how to take that first and most important step to getting help and ultimately getting better. I always think that when there’s a discussion on either tv or radio about depression or mental health issues it’s “celebs” such as actors or singers etc on talking about it. While it’s great that these people use their high profile to try and raise awareness, I often wonder if it has the desired effect and do they really connect with the ordinary person on the street. You see, I’m just an ordinary person living an ordinary life just like most people. I wasn’t abused as a child, I wasn’t bullied in school and I didn’t have troublesome teenage years. I have some money worries, same as everyone else but my coping skills were not strong enough and I ended up in the situation I’m in. This is nobody’s fault, it is what it is but I don’t ever hear people talking about this kind of issue. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, maybe it’s a man thing, but we seem to have real problems talking about money and about how we’re feeling.
I’d also like to tell you about my experience with the mental health system. On the day I had my breakdown I rang my GP, explained my situation and I got an appointment within half an hour. I spoke to my GP, who was so caring and empathetic. She explained that she felt she wasn’t equipped to deal with me and how I was feeling. She rang the CUH and told me to go to the mental health unit
(not A&E) and I would be seen as soon as possible. My brother brought me in and I was seen by a psychiatrist within 20 minutes. We spoke for about half an hour. She then said she had to talk to my wife and her team to discuss the best course of action. She returned after about 20 minutes and said she felt it would be best if I stayed in hospital for a little while. While this was very upsetting for me and more so for my wife, I knew it was the best thing to do.
I was admitted and I had a bed in my own room within half an hour. I know this isn’t everybody’s experience with mental health services, but I can only speak about my experience. From the time I visited my GP to the time I was admitted took less than 3 hours.
I cannot finish without talking about the staff of the mental health unit. They were the most caring, empathetic, kind people I’ve ever met. The mental health unit is a modern building where everyone has their own private en-suite bedroom. There are different types of therapy classes every day and there is always someone there to talk to. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my stay there. I continue to meet a therapy nurse every week in the town where I live. Can I remind you that every part of this service was provided free of charge by the state. I’ll be the first to criticise the health system and the shambles it’s in, but thankfully I can say that my experience has been nothing but positive.
The Journey Begins
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton