Sometimes I have trouble remembering a time when I didn’t get scared when I had a low day, but I know the first 15 or so years of my life must have been heaven. I thought about doing this post a while ago but decided against it as I didn’t see what the point was. So when the story came out last week that Catherine Zeta Jones had admitted herself into a psychiatric hospital (let’s drop the term mental hospital right NOW) as a sufferer of bipolar II disorder, I decided that maybe it would be a good time to get things out in the open.
I remember all of those years ago when the doctor came to see me in the hospital with a rather grumpy looking woman who was going to “have a little talk to me”. Even at 15 – as I was when signs of depression began to show – I knew I wasn’t quite right. I would shout and scream for no apparent reason and when people asked me what was wrong I would just break down. I even remember watching a comedy film and laughing as my parents nipped out to the shops, on their return I was slumped in my chair crying but didn’t know why.
No. I’m not nuts. Thanks for asking. It took a while and a few close calls with medication, but it all made me stronger. I am however one of the lucky ones. I still have my bad days and being bipolar is something I will live with forever, but – and it took me a long time to realise this – it is nothing to be ashamed of. A few years ago I had a bad few months in Oman and it was all made worse by the fact I couldn’t find anyone to help. For me, one of my biggest problems is being out of control and the struggle I faced trying to find a professional to talk to almost led to me packing up my bags and moving away from here. Luckily I got through it and live to fight another day, yet it showed how difficult it can be for not just expats like myself who have psychological problems but locals themselves.
B is very understanding, but to be honest with you it took time. At first he thought I was telling him I was the equivalent of all those “crazy people” you see in Hollywood films and I was hearing voices, talking with the dead and considering throwing myself in front of a bus every 30 seconds, but he got there. Yet it was hard for him as he has had it drummed into him since birth that mental illnesses are something to hide away and not talk about.
A few of my friends here know about my illness and what amazed me was the amount of them (many of whom are Omani) that could say “Oh yeah I know someone who has similar problems, but she doesn’t see anyone… her family won’t allow it” or “crazy people bring shame on the family”. WOAH – I am sorry, I didn’t realise that illness bought shame on the family. So if your little brother breaks his leg after being hit by a car when walking sensibly on the pavement he has bought shame on the family? Because that is basically what you are saying – he is living his life then when something outside of his control happens to him he should he ashamed?
If anyone has any contact details for psychiatrists or councilors in Oman please do let me know and I will post them up here. My final message to anyone out there suffering. Don’t do it alone. Get the courage to talk to someone you trust and if they knock you back or don’t take it seriously, don’t give up. They are probably as nervous as you are about talking about it.
*UPDATE* Thanks to Stefani for posting details of Claire al Turihi at Al Harub Medical Centre. She can be contacted on 24600750. I was amazed at the response this post got not just from comments below, but emails too. Thanks. OB