The Madwoman in the Attic

Many meaning to the title

This is the title of a book which is in the study of my sister-in-law in Radwinter in Essex.

For some people it conjures up the story of the madwife locked up in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre. Actually, it is about the suppression of women writers in the Victorian era.

For me, it suggests that it is how people might like to treat me with my mental illness!

Just shut me away in a dingy attic and perhaps let me out to keep my birthday or Christmas

Perhaps this attic could be an acute mental health ward where one can be forcibly injected, put in seclusion and sectioned, when one does not know why these highly unpleasant actions are permitted and, really, are they fair and necessary? This happened to me last Christmas and I am not very happy at the way I was treated at all.

It is thought to be funny, although in reality it is not when it is thought that if you are lively (my name Vivien means just that!!) that you are well, compared to when you are down and miserable you are ill. Neither is close to the truth about mood swings and certainly you can be far from well when high and far from ill when low.

A little while ago, I wrote about this and I repeat it again: when our friends are low, we sustain each other, and when they are high we understand.

How I wish the general population could be a bit more understanding about our mood swings which of course lead to our diagnosis now of Bipolar Disorder. Everyone goes up and down at times even if it is due to the waxing or waning of the moon or just human nature

If unfortunately, as I did, you become part of the psychiatric system you are no longer classed as a normal person. You will probably be given medication, if you are unlucky E.C.T., have to drop out of employment and eventually receive benefits which you promptly lose if readmitted to hospital or you try your hand at work again and earn more than £20 a week.

I have decided now to just do my church activities, work on LAMPpost and carry on with the jobs I do with Network for Change Limited, as I cannot be reliable to do more serious voluntary work. I did think I was much better but I have had a warning that problems can crop up again. I have received a lot of help from my son and family and Church, LAMP and Network and really I am more dependent on them than I like to admit to, but then I have had nearly 30years in the system.

I know for a fact that I have had side effects from nearly thirty years on medication, but am frequently told to get on and don’t think about that; it is nothing to get worked up about. I sometimes think that, generally, people do not realise that all medication works differently on each individual person (one man’s meat is another man’s poison). One tablet may be fine for some but dreadful for others. This, of course, is true of the diagnosis in mental illness.

No two manic depressives are the same, and the same can be said of schizophrenics, etc.

I do not want to sound bitter about my life: there have been compensations. But I do not think the vast majority of people in this country would like to live with the stigma, unkind quotes (often overheard when people do not know I am a sufferer) or just live a life when you know you can never be accepted as a well and ordinary member of the human race.

Living with a mental illness has completely changed my life and, although many aspects are not very nice, I guess there are some times when I have been able to take on board things which I could not have done normally.

After nearly thirty years in the system, I hope that perhaps I do not need to be sent to the attic (or perhaps I’m in the roof as one friend suggested) or else on the landing (another friend’s idea)! I do not think, however, I will ever get out of the front door!!

I have been involved in the past with the debate about what Service Users, etc should be called, and of course I like the word SURVIVOR as it contains my name VIV!!!!! I am very grateful to my friends both in the system or out of it who do help to make my life worth living.

Lived experience of mental health: Viv Addey

Edited by The Genesis Project

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