17. (Bonus) Mental illness doesn’t give 2 hoots by Andy Lawson

When I was 16 I swallowed around 80 paracetamol tablets and a packet of Rennies. I was rushed to hospital, got my stomach pumped and that was that. Everyone assumed it was a cry for help. It wasn’t.

Time passed.

When I was 29 I had a massive breakdown and became a monster. Very quickly everything I relied upon disappeared : my career in TV production, my decade long relationship, my friends, my life. I was not the kind of person you would want to meet. I was the kind of person you would cross the street to avoid. The man I once was had been erased. I was gone.

Time passed.

When I was 32 I spent my last £100 on cheap booze and threw out what little food I had, in order that I be able to starve and drink myself to death. I almost made it, just not quite. My mum found me and weighing five and a half stone I was admitted to hospital. During my treatment I received a sodium overdose which put me in a coma. My family were told I was unlikely to wake up. Apparently my mother vomited when she was told, a fact that still makes me cry.

6 weeks passed. I woke up.

Im 40 now and I live in a care home. My coma left me with locked in syndrome. Nothing works. I get fed through a tube and speak & write using a computer which I control with my eyes. This piece was going to be about living with a serious disability but while I was writing I realized that it isn’t disability which has defined my life. It‘s mental illness. I’m pretty certain that, had I been the recipient of a course of CBT or even just given someone to talk to all those years ago when I was 16, I wouldn’t be sat here a physically broken man of 40. Instead I was given a pill, and told to get on with my life.

You will have noticed that I haven’t talked much about myself. There is a reason for this. For the record my name is Andy Lawson, though it could just as easily be Anne Wylie or Matthew Stone. We are a society in the grip of a mental illness epidemic. It doesn’t care if you are young or old, rich or poor, male or female. Mental illness doesn’t give two hoots. Talk to one another, visit your elderly neighbour, or the single mum across the road. Life is a bag of shit sometimes but if we all stand together we just might save someones life.

Andy

Oh! I should point out that I’m not some bitter old goat. In the ultimate irony, my coma rejigged my brain and I’m probably happier now than at any time in my life. My friends all came back- they never really gave up. Its amazing what you can do with a computer and the web. Not every part of my body is broken, if you catch my drift…

Andy lives in Gourock.  His Facebook page is not for the faint-hearted but is a brilliant and wickedly funny assessment of real-life mental health issues.

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