• Lloyd's story

    I believe one of the best ways to understand mental illness, is to understand the person with it.  After all, no one illness is the same.  When I am depressed, it is a different experience to when Kate or when Lloyd are depressed for instance.  Yes, there are some common themes and manifestations - just like cancer, but how the illness plays out is intrinsically connected with the person playing the lead role.  

    I don't just mean personality, I mean their genetic make-up, experiences, loves, hates, values, principles, interests, education, country of origin.  All of these things will colour and tailor the way their illness manifests.  As a case in point:  Lloyd has found comfort and healing in surfing.  The thought of that makes me feel scared frankly.  For me, disappearing in to a book - the metaphorical doona, is one of the best ways I know to calm my mind. This is a bit simplistic because other things happen as well, but it illustrates a point.

    How mental illness is managed and treated is SO connected to the individual.  Recovery is SO contingent on the individual being actively involved in their own plan.  Any other way can't really work or be sustained because at no point has the individual's opinion really been sought on whether the plan resonates as useful or even "doable".  Why would anyone commit to a plan for themselves in which they had no involvement?  What would be the point?

    I don't think it is reasonable to talk about insight-less and treatment resistant clients when it is somebody else's insight and treatment preference being imposed.  Do you? Yet I believe this can happen a lot in busy clinical settings.  KPIs dictate treatment and often, in a bid to get results on the board now, a sustainable plan is overlooked.

    Through talking to Lloyd and giving you his experience, along with my own (and anyone else who might like to volunteer), we might be able to offer another view point about living with a mental illness - what people find useful and what works in treatment. Thoughts we have when reasonably well and articulate, thoughts that get mulled over way more than anyone could imagine..... 

    Over to Lloyd.

    Lloyd Valentine is 30, he is a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Law, he is a consultant and his main interests include travel and sport.  

    What is the story of your illness?

    I was first diagnosed with depression back in 2011 when I was agitated and angry with everything in my life. I was also having irrational negative thoughts throughout the day which were also making me extremely anxious. I was only able to sleep for 1 or 2 hours a night before waking up too my mind racing with negative thoughts.

    I was originally prescribed Zoloft (Setraline) and some sleeping tablets by a pschiatrist which only made me more anxious to the extent I lost 7kg in the following week. I was then prescribed pristiq (desvenlafaxine) which settled the negative thoughts and between the medication and my visits to the psychologist I improved to the state where we thought the medication was not longer necessary so I came off it.

    I then moved over to Norway in 2012 with my girlfriend at the time and almost on my first day there the agitation and negative thoughts started to reappear. Over the coming months I was then on a downward spiral which I tried to stop by going back on pristiq and seeing a psychologist.

    Unfortunately my anxiety and anxiousness continued to grow to the extent that I was no longer able to look after myself and I was forced to return to Australia.

    In Australia I was re-diagnosed with agitated depression and because the medication was not being effective I was admitted into hospital for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I have since returned to hospital for another round of ECT and a change of medication.

    I have recently being re-diagnosed a relatively rare strand of mixed state bipolar where on a high I am very agitated and irritated while on a low I am anxious and depressed. My condition is largely genetic and biological not psychological.

    What frustrates you the most about it?

    The fact I don't get the typical bipolar elevated highs (joking). How the illness has restricted my independence and prevented me from living my life the way I would like (at this point in time). I feel like I still have no (and may never have) control over how I feel each day. My mood can also change dramatically in a day because of my diurnal rhythm.

    What has made the biggest difference to your experience to date?

    My amazing support team made up of family, friends and medical (psychiatrist, GP, psychologist) professionals. I cannot reiterate how important it is to build a team around you so you are not tackling a mental illness on your own.

    My medical team have gone out of their way to explain details of my illness to me and shown me where I can find more information on my condition so I can have a better understanding of what is going on. The more I know about my illness, the more empowered I feel to manage it.

    What would you like the future of mental illness to be?

    For mental illness to be granted more funding for research so that one day there is a cure or effective treatment available for all illnesses. For the public awareness of mental health to be such that there is no stigma for people with a mental illness.

    If you could be completely cured by a magic wand, would you do it?

    While I have learnt a lot about mental health and myself through having the illness, I would be lying if I said I wouldn't take the cure in a heart beat.


    Lloyd Valentine, Newcastle, August 2, 2013.

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