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Jean Winter’s Story The Getting of Wisdom - WhatCausesMentalIllness.com
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Insanitya perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.
RD Laing
   

FAQ  


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Word Cloud  


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Latest Additions  


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Glimpses

Jean Winter’s Story The Getting of Wisdom

Details

Jean Winter’s Story

The Getting of Wisdom

Valeria was sitting in the waiting room of the emergency department. Her daughter was not well and had just been summoned in, to talk with the doctor.

Valerie was concerned, as her daughter displayed symptoms and illness of a type of mental condition. It seemed obvious that joy, her daughter, was in distress. Eventually the doctor and Joy came out of the office. It was imperative that Joy should go to hospital. Valerie took Joy home and with John, Joy’s father, took her to a public psychiatric hospital.

I am not well mum”, Joy said. “I know Joy and we are going to get help for you”. Her mother said. Joy was confused and frightened; not only of herself and the change in her mental condition/state, but the thought of going in to a ‘loony bin’ was frightening. Joy thought she might be told that her mind was insane or mad.

Joy packed her clothes and her mother helped her with the necessities of clothing and such. When it was time to leave, Joy’s parents said their goodbyes. Joy was in such a state that she thought then they were leaving her, never to return. Joy looked back partially to the life she had left, before her illness came upon her. Her resentment, at being in an institution was paramount and more to the point, all the friends she had made, previously, had now deserted her. The shame and guilt Joy felt was constant. It was like going through shock, as if all life had now ended, and only left standing was a shell of a human being.

It came to mind, many years later, that Joy had this illness for quite some time, and the abuse of drugs and alcohol that Joy turned to, was to escape the torment of mental anguish. The moods of despair and the opposite, with life being excitable. Many would say that is just a part of growing up, but to Joy those concerns of drug abuse, did eventually put her in hospital.

I don’t know who I am. Am I crazy? Joy said to the nurse. The nurse didn’t say anything, he just wrote down the notes that were needed for admission.

In the hospital, there were facilities to play games and listen to music. Joy was often seen just sitting and staring into space. Her family, her siblings would visit her, and all Joy could do was cry. It even came to the point whereupon the social worker said to Joy’s family that they should not visit. Of course Joy’s family refused. They wanted to see their girl; Joy didn’t realise then that her mental condition was disturbing and upsetting for her family too. They felt like their hands were tied, and there was nothing they could do.

Joy rang every night from the red phone in the day room. Ringing her mother asking and pleading to pick her up and take her home. Valerie could only say no and that Joy needed to be where she was for the moment.

Joy had different kinds of treatment. The Electric Convulsive Therapy didn’t work and neither were the tablets. Joy didn’t eat and after being in the hospital for six months, they hospital staff asked if Joy could be taken home; there was no more that they could do. Joy’s mother was pleased to a point, because if the hospital couldn’t help, she was certainly going to try to do all that she could.

Joy came back to her childhood home. Joy slept most of the time, day and night. Her anxiety, panic attacks were so uncomfortable that her fear would make her angry and her abuse, verbally, towards her parents made her feel so guilty and ashamed. Joy’s parents understood to an extent. Joy’s failure to understand the world in which she lived. Joy felt it was all her fault. She perpetually apologised for everything she said or did; but being ashamed with the stigma, was hurting Joy more, keeping her feeling and blaming herself for something that wasn’t her fault. Valerie tried to help Joy and Valerie was Joy’s saviour. Joy’s mother made sense of Joy’s illness; she supported her daughter to the extent that when all was hopeless and everything seemed overwhelming, both Valerie and Joy went to a church service. The church and the people attending the church became Joy’s saviours. Joy was helped by the people that believed in Christ. It gave Joy hope and the understanding that Christ did indeed suffer and he did know the suffering and condition that Joy was in. It was said by her favour friend, that when we look at a tapestry the other way, we see pieces of threads all mixed up, but on the other side is a beautiful picture.

Joy’s friend Gaynor believed that life was like that, a picture that was immeasurably wonderful, but at times hard and sad. Joy knew what hardship was, as her mental condition proved. Her chance to be given hope and a belief to be loved and be given friendship that was constant, made Joy’s life so much better.

Twenty years later, Joy is in hospital, her condition has changed over the years. There have been times when she has been very ill with depression, manic and had psychotic episodes. The times in hospital have proved worthwhile as she did eventually get better with the help and understanding specialists. Joy has not accepted that she has an illness. It has taken the better part of her life to do it, accept the problem for what it is. She has no shame now, about talking of her illness and she now views the public and her family as understanding. Many very frightening, but the good that comes from people helping people has made the illness a tragic event, but also and enlightening one.

After seven years or so, from first being diagnosed with Bipolar, Joy found herself addicted to sleeping tablets. She eventually couldn’t go to sleep and no matter what tablet she took, she couldn’t sleep; it was then that she stopped taking her medication; and for eighteen nights Joy did not sleep. It was only a matter of time before she became floridly psychotic and very, very manic.

On one night Joy hallucinated that her brother was talking to her from above her wardrobe. He said come to my place, I will help you. Joy then walked from the home, without shoes on and went at least fifteen kilometres to her brother’s home. During the walk she thought a star in the sky was directing her. Joy called on taxi’s, which took her a bit further, but she jumped out before paying. She even entered a coffee house and sat down and talked to the patrons.

Joy eventually reached her brother’s house. Her brother Roger rang her parents and joy was taken to the public psychiatric hospital. The hospitalisation was difficult, to say the least. Hoy felt overwhelming happiness when they gave her something to go to sleep. It was only a short hospitalisation, whereupon Joy received treatment and could go home.

Mental illness as a general term, covers a wide range of disorders. To understand what illness is can be very complex and even to accept the association between the symptoms and the name given to the disorder is difficult too. To make sense of your thoughts in your mind, to realise what is real or not real; to be in terror with disturbed thoughts and images. It is no wonder that the general public don’t understand, or find it hard to. But medication is given and the ‘mental condition’ is treatable and therefore it is a legitimate illness. It was said to Joy that her disorder ‘Bipolar’ was like diabetes, there was no cure for it, but it could be managed. This really does not bring solace to the person at the time going through anxiety and distress, but it does give hope that the crushing trauma of depression or mania can be treated, given time.

When the title tells of the ‘wisdom one learns’ it is understandable that compassion and facing the facts, are predominantly part of the chain of events, like a jigsaw, putting pieces together that makes for learning and understanding ourselves.

Joy did not really believe she had a problem. It was too hard to accept that she was not like everyone else. This type of resentment made the illness worse in her mind; thinking others couldn’t understand or accept her. Of course if she couldn’t accept herself as she was, how or why could anyone else understand or accept her either? The reality was that denying her illness, she also became paranoid of the mental health system. Joy wanted to be independent, she didn’t want to be labelled; she didn’t want to be stigmatised. Joy never even considered that people did understand what she was going through.

The black hole of depression comes and goes. ‘The getting of wisdom’ is the truth one learns about oneself. Joy ultimately learned in the process of having an illness, that indeed she was special and worthwhile. It did take years for Joy to become confident in herself, to emerge from the black hole into a light, which was more profoundly different and brighter. To be able to learn and to have an interest in helping others are the concerns that Joy discovered. There was a reason for her illness; only that she could be at peace with herself and with others and to learn that above all, history’s questions and life’s meanings, that love for one another was the key to the doorway to heaven.

Life continued for Joy, the challenges and difficulties, the success and failures in life kept Joy perpetually in motion, some would say that having a thought or psychological disorder would be the most cruellest and difficult of all known illnesses. What most people take for granted, Joy had to fight for, meaning and understanding the complexities of depression and manic episodes left Joy confused, irrational and very, very frightened. There was a time, when Joy was well, developing a stronger personality and the consideration of accepting herself, meant also that she could laugh at herself.

Joy loved to laugh, and she found friends in hospital that laughed with her. ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ and humour helped the constant bombardment of lethargy and despair. ‘There was always hope….never lose sight of this’. Joy tried to keep that thought, but how can one se the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ when in a condition of depression, you could only see blackness.

On day Joy met a man, and she discovered that her emotions were not as dead as she first thought. The idea of her life, a relationship with another person, made the world brighter. Joy had problems with her self-esteem and the relationship, the consideration and admiration of another person towards herself; made Joy very happy. She felt wanted, and for the first time life had another meaning.

The reckless behaviour of Joy and her ‘new’ man was not observed at first. The alcohol and the drinking for hours on end seemed to be a natural occurrence. It was fun at first for Joy and it also helped her discover that life was indeed good. The alcohol masked ‘the mental state’. Joy was freed from torment, she didn’t; have to work hard at making life understandable and peaceful. The drink made everything magical. That was the beginning of the downward spiral, the wonderment of having a ‘real’ relationship and the future seeming so joyful, Joy thought of getting a house, making a home. What she had always wanted, what she had always dreamt of.

The alcohol was a drug, it made a rosy picture of life, when pain and torment were so to speak ‘drowned’; life became easy and when life was hard, the alcohol soothed the pain. Joy and her new ‘friend’ drank from first thing in the morning until late at night. Joy never considered the dangers involved in becoming addicted, or that her psychiatric medication would make her body sick.

The relationship started to decline. The verbal abuse, the fighting, was now a common element in their shared life together. Joy was in a world of drug abuse, aggression, recklessness and arguments with verbal abuse being a common thread. There was a world that once looked bright and happy; Joy tried to everything to keep that world together. The relationship, the struggle for Joy, to eliminate the pain. The years of being ill, the grief, the sadness, were things that Joy wanted so much to let go of. The destruction of her soul and body with the continued drinking, the mania that had now become everyday life. The credit card was the meaning behind Joy’s life now. She could spend thousands and not have the clarity of mind to realise the increasing debt. At this time the life that joy tried to live, was a hallucination or desire for things better. She so wanted the world to be a wonderful place for her.

To all who knew Joy and her close family, saw the slow destruction and deterioration of her mind. It seemed that there was nothing they could do. They could only wait until she came to her senses or be hospitalised, given medication that could help.

The relationship eventually ended, the fairy tale for Joy had turned into a horror story of epic proportions, and her addiction for drugs had now left their scares. Joy wanted so much, the fairy tale that was imaginary, to keep on going. To destroy the pain that the relationship had created, to ignore the torment of desolation and destruction. The mania of self-delusion.

As the tragic circumstances kept going, so did the confusion and excessive outbursts continue. Eventually though, like a river drying up in the summer sun without rain, so did the relationship end. Joy was left disturbed by the continual changes of mood, the perplexity of Bipolar. Her reactions and behaviour that seemed rational to her then, now in hindsight, a few years later were a mass of misunderstandings and a struggle for sanity.

Life came back to Joy, a life that was not complete in a happy sense, but she recognised that the illness was treatable; her sense of wanting happiness in a relationship was and is a common and not unusual request. Her accepting the lose wires of her mind during the period of the relationship, was a truth that set her free. No longer drinking, no longer drunk, no longer always abusing drugs, Joy continued to struggle life’s pathways. The learning was difficult; the failure of a fairy tale and the recognition of reality doomed from the start.

We never stop learning and Joy wanted desperately to get off the roundabout; but there are other roundabouts and there are other roads, doorways to see and enter. Joy felt then that her life was to all purposes a failure. She even felt that not only her life was worthless, that her life had made others’ lives hard, to say the least.

Today Joy sits with her mother at the kitchen table. Joy is trying to forgive herself, and the ideology of blame was an issue she found difficult. In the end, was there anyone to blame? Joy had left home as a late teenager, destroying herself with drink and drugs. She came back to her childhood home, very sick, very fragile, very sad and very mixed up. Her mother and father welcomed her with open arms. If Joy was to say now that her life was doomed from the start or that her life’s mission was absurd, she would really wonder if it was true. The past did have its reasons and life was a combination of circumstances and Joy’s personal issues, her personality. The medical condition, caused by what; who really knows?

Life had a blessing and that blessing for Joy was the compassion she found in a world of hate, greed and the fighting for power. Joy’s mother looked across at Joy and Joy’s mother said…..’I love you very much Joy and I am so proud of your courage’. Joy felt tears on her face and the tears were a release to begin a new journey, to start on a new path. ‘The getting of wisdom’ had occurred.

A compilation of uncensored real life experiences with Mental Illness.

GLIMPSES © 2007  For permission to use the content of this manuscript please contact Nicci Wall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fax +61 3 5222 6847

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Glimpses - Our Experiences with Mental Illness


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