After I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I struggled to relate to the therapeutic treatment on offer, so gave up on it. It was only at my last admission that I decided I had to try something and made some clay egg cups in the shape of chicks. Keen to put them to use, I asked my occupational therapist where I could boil eggs and was told I couldn’t. I felt inept, but needed to do something; my occupational therapist finally let me make pizza for the other people on the ward.
This was my turning point. Sharing pizza that I’d cooked myself not only made me feel useful, but gave me a way to start conversations with other people. I let go of previous thoughts that I was not like the other patients and allowed myself to share my emotions in a way I’d never done before.
Mental illness can bring with it a sense of guilt and shame, but here I wasn’t judged. I was with others who had gone through the same as me, many whose illnesses had destroyed their lives. I learned about their insights, coping strategies and how they planned on staying well when discharged. At last I felt heard and gradually saw the positive effect on my wellbeing. With the right diagnosis, medication and peer support, I started to feel well.