My Journey So Far…

Today I’m writing more of a personal entry, about my own journey, my struggles & challenges overcoming chronic illness & my hopes & aspirations for what I hope my future will bring…
So, to begin with I’ll set the stage of where my life began, before illness or adversity, when I was beaming & brimming with life, full of optimism & full of belief & wonder for the world around me. Forgive me if this reads a bit more like a fiction/story, but aside from writing this blog I am also an aspiring script-writer & the lines get a little blurred from time to time!

I was born on 2nd June 1977, so yes, next Summer I will be hitting the big 40 -which doesn’t scare me ‘at all’, except for the fact, and this is a fact, that I have technically been unemployed, or as I prefer to refer to it as “a lady of leisure” since 2004, yes, that is 12yrs+ now, meaning that for the entire decade of my 30’s when most of my contemporaries have been busying themselves with getting married, having children, buying property & getting mortgages, I instead have been living off my parents, living with my parents for a large part of that time & currently living in a rented flat with my fiancée, with a cat -our baby of sorts, oh, and a few plants! So, I have some catching up to do… my life is definitely not life in the fast lane, but then, I’m glad it isn’t, as this way I get plenty of time to stop & smell the roses, and they do smell wonderful!

Ok, so life began in 1977 for me, in Madrid, Spain, 2yrs after Franco died & 1yr before the new Spanish Democratic Constitution came to be in 1978. My maternal grandfather, a v.special man by all accounts, who sadly passed when I was 5yrs old, was a journalist, a diplomat, later a Senator & he was one of the 12 men appointed by King Juan Carlos to write the new Constitution! He was also a gastronomer, writing books & articles on food & wine as well as actively promoting & celebrating the cuisine of talented chefs, hence my inherited love for all things food! My journalistic & political career may follow someday, who knows?! But for now, this blog is as close as it gets. My great-great-grandmother was a v.celebrated & award-winning author/novelist, Nobel Prize winner for Literature no less, also a feminist of her day & I like to think that perhaps my love for the written word, is, at least in part, due to her, Concha Espina… and of course, therein follows my aspiration to write a feature-length screenplay/film script sometime… it’s currently “in the works”!

As I’m sure you will have deduced by now, my mother was Spanish, proudly so & like the stereotypical Mediterranean ‘mama’, family was the most important thing to her & she instilled these values in me & my older brother -he has experienced more of a normal life-path & is happily married with 2 beautiful daughters & of course with a lovely home & mortgage!

On my father’s side, the Englishman, British side, I can speak of my grandfather, an Oxford University graduate, voracious reader with an extensive library, full of hard back collections of novels, poetry & plays, all the classics of course, all of Shakespeare’s works & even a copy of “Don Quijote”, but unfortunately one I could not read as it was a german translated version! He studied languages at Oxford & could speak 9 languages fluently -English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese & Swahili! Astonishing really. He worked for British Intelligence during WWII & was awarded an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) for services to his/our country. My surname is Peel & I descend from the brother of the mid-19th century ex-Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel… so obviously politics runs in my blood line, on both sides! Interestingly, I am also related to (more distantly) the Communist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna -my mother’s maiden name is ‘de la Serna’ & it was one of her relatives who married the Argentinian Sr. Guevara! So on the one hand a right-wing Prime Minister, on the other, a left-wing Communist rebel/revolutionary… a Spanish mother & an English/British father (& i am also 1/8th Irish)… nations which have historically tended to be at odds with each other, one Catholic, the other Protestant, both with powerful empires & often at war with each other… so really, is it any surprise or wonder that in my 20s I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder?! Which brings me nicely round to one of my health challenges 😊!

Anyway, to move things forward a bit… my childhood was pretty much idyllic, happy, privileged, with great friends & a large close family around us, with a British education… yes, I even had a pony, well more like an elderly retired thoroughbread race horse, but you get the idea! I was a v.v.fortunate little girl & I wanted for nothing -it was a blissful, sheltered (& mostly ignorant) existence.

At 11yrs of age I moved to boarding school in England & that was my 1st taste of a different culture. I’d visited/holidayed before that, but never spent any real length of time in the UK before then, and also it was mostly spent with my grandparents & close family friends, so wasn’t exposed to v.many other people. It was an all-girls school, which I did find pretty weird to be honest, but I made good friends & it was a lovely school. At 16 I changed schools & this was an all-boys school with girls in the 6th form (the final 2yrs of school), so it was v.different, not least b/c there was a 5:1 ratio of boys:girls, which resulted in a lot of attention for the girls & to be fair, us girls were v.spoilt -in a good way! It was at 16 (1993) that I began to experience my 1st symptoms, v.mild back then, which years later, in 2006 was diagnosed as severe CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). My bipolar diagnosis came earlier in 2000, when I was 23yrs old, initially diagnosed as clinical depression in 1999.

Now, from the outset I always maintained that my symptoms were physiological/biological & rejected the idea that they were psychological/mental, but unfortunately all my regular medical tests (blood, urine, X-rays…) always came back normal, so it appeared as though I was wrong. However, stubbornness runs in my family (again on both sides, so I got a double dose!) & I was insistent on my own take on things & refused to accept my diagnosis for a long time & because I was lucky enough to have private medical insurance I went to Dr after Dr after Dr, hoping one of them would prove me right… but still nothing! So, eventually, and v.reluctantly I surrendered to the diagnosis & began a treatment for bipolar with a psychiatrist in September 2001, shortly after 9/11, undoubtedly one of the most horrific events in our lifetimes so far, which, in my case, perhaps due to my own propensity to mental instability, impacted me v.hard & v.deeply, not least because I had been living & studying film in NYC just 2yrs before in 1999 & because a friend lived in Battery Park (lower Manhattan), so I would frequently take the subway to the WTC/Twin Towers & walk through them on a regular basis & I had fallen in love with the sight of them -I, like so many others, felt utterly crushed & devastated by this attack on them, the people in them & everything they stood for (except perhaps for the greedy/thieving neo-liberal capitalists!).

Anyway I digress… so, in 2001, post 9/11, I begin my psychopharmacological journey with so-called “mood stabilisers”, which I took daily for 4.5yrs till June 2005, when, during a bad episode of gastroenteritis, I stopped taking them abruptly, purely as a cautionary, temporary & emergency measure, just until my tummy settled & the medication was well tolerated again. However, I experienced significant weight loss due to that stomach bug & because I was already slightly underweight before-hand, it meant my weight was getting dangerously low & I was in too weakened/fragile a state for me to resume such strong & toxic medication at the time. Naturally, in those circumstances my mental health/mood & cognitive abilities were noticeably affected… I experienced acute stress/anxiety, almost panic, v.erratic moods, from teary/depressed to mania & mixed states between the two; I could be laughing & crying at the same time sometimes & extreme weakness & fatigue, as well as arrhythmias & heart palpitations. Sometimes all I could muster up the strength to do was walk to the bathroom & brush my teeth, and that was hard work! Because I went off my meds cold turkey, instead of safely being weaned off them, I experienced what I can only describe as an electrical short-circuit inside my brain… this happened 4-5 times in the week that followed me stopping the medication. It was frightening & a v.strange sensation. What followed that was extreme ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), near-impossible ability to focus or concentrate & complete loss of ability to process any information… it was a bit like being a baby again, just seeing things around me, but different also in that I was unable to retain/commit any of it to memory… and I was panicked/terrified!

So, yes, I got into a pretty bad way & to top it all off, every time I ate anything, my body not only took forever to digest it… I could literally eat a few mouthfuls of food in the morning, feel completely full & when it got to lunch or supper I still felt completely full & like the food hadn’t even moved from my stomach! And, everything I ate caused an allergic reaction of some sort -my lips &/or tongue would swell up, or I’d get a rash on my skin, arms, stomach or chest, or oedema (water-retention in my legs & ankles), or heart palpitations… once I almost had an anaphylactic shock too! The only thing I found safe to eat was plain boiled white rice, which is all I ate for 3 weeks -after the 1st week I could sprinkle a few dried herbs & a drizzle of olive oil on it without a problem… good thing I love rice!

In late August 2005 I began to see a biopath nutritionist in London & saw her weekly for about 6 months (well fortnightly after a while). She helped me incorporate more foods into my diet little by little, using a supplement of ‘digestive enzymes’ to help both with my digestion & to prevent allergic reactions. Thankfully it worked & I’m here today, alive & well-ish, to tell the tale. This is when my interest in nutrition was sparked off & I began reading books on the subject. I had also been reading about bipolar over the years & so of course my focus was on how foods influenced/affected our moods, our mental health, our cognition & minds/brains in general, as well as our energy levels & immune systems, as both of mine were flailing… and so my journey into health, wellbeing & nutrition began. I followed the nutritionist’s advice, but over time, little by little I began to tweak my diet & became the guinea pig of my own experiment… which turned out to be a successful endeavour as it’s turned out -phew!

Shortly after I began seeing the nutritionist, she introduced me to an Indian ayurvedic practitioner, who would see me once a week for about 12 weeks, giving me a 1hr full-body massage with medicinal oils which his family made in Kerala, India, the birthplace of Ayurveda, a 5,000+yr-old medicine, the oldest known to man. Chinese medicine’s origins, with its acupuncture, herbal medicine and its concept of meridians, chi energy & yin & yang, all stems from the same philosophies and practices in Ayurveda. In Ayurveda you are believed to have been born with a type or combination of types of physical/emotional/mental/spiritual constitution, which is determined at the moment you are conceived and how the stars were aligned at that precise moment in time. This is why the astrology charts in India are considered to be some of the most accurate, because rather than using your date, time and place of birth, they use your date and place of conception (& time if possible). We all have some kappa, vata & pitta in us, these are the 3 constitutional types, but some of us have much more of one than the other 2, or a similar amount of 2 and less of the other, and some people, though these are few and far between, have a fairly balanced amount of all 3. In my case I am predominantly vata, meaning vata-types are usually tall, slim, struggle to gain weight, like to talk (often pursue careers in things like singing, PR/advertising, writing, acting/performing/entertaining…) & have a fickleness to their personality, flighty like butterflies and are easily distracted, hence careers like advertising which harness fleeting thoughts and generation of ideas is good for them. We don’t have a great deal of physical strength or stamina, so manual labour is not really appropriate for us & yes, ours is the constitution with the greatest propensity towards mental instability, as we tend towards neuroses, a nervous disposition, anxiety & can be highly-strung, we can be impulsive, erratic, experience strong mood fluctuations & can have our head in the clouds as we struggle to stay grounded…. so, for vata types, the lifestyle or ayurvedic prescription is to practice calming types of exercise, like yoga, meditation, pilates, stretching, long walks… and to avoid the high-impact cardiovascular ones like aerobics, running, squash etc… to eat lots of root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, beetroot…) as these have a rooting/grounding effect and not to overeat fruits that grow high up in trees e.g. pineapples, coconuts and most nuts either… to pursue a career or hobby that’s in line with a vata constitution as mentioned earlier and avoid the ones that aren’t… and because we tend to have dry skin and a fast metabolism, to eat little and often, 5-6 times per day, and to use oils and massage them onto our skin regularly. So, the oil massages I was receiving helped to rebalance my vata, to nourish my dry skin and to literally feed my cells with food/oils, herbs & spices, since my GI tract was somewhat compromised, so v.v.helpful in my circumstances (& who doesn’t love a 1hr body massage?!). So, I began to follow the suggestions, taking up yoga, continuing with my walks which I was already doing and reading & writing, all of which helped me immensely -life began to feel good again!

In September 2005 I began to see a holistic dental practitioner in London who ran a few tests of his own on me, where he determined that I was not in fact a depressive-type at all, but that I did suffer with low self-esteem, and for this he prescribed that I keep something yellow in colour within my field of vision as often as possible… it would have been orange if the issue was depression. So, I bought a yellow watch and a bunch of yellow flowers which I kept at home next to me at all times… I think Coldplay’s “Yellow” came out around that time, their 1st single, which of course I loved and played often! He also recommended that I have my amalgam/silver-nickel-mercury fillings removed & replaced with white composite fillings, of which I had 9 in all. I had been reading about “amalgam illness”, so was already acquainted with the subject. Mood swings/disorders & other psychiatric illnesses have been conclusively linked to heavy metal poisoning, in mood disorders mercury is the main culprit, in dementia/Alzheimer’s it’s aluminium, but of course others like lithium (controversially used in the treatment for bipolar!), cadmium, lead, or even excessively high potassium, all contribute too. Some of these are found in our drinking water or in the air, so we are all exposed to some, but there are simple & safe ways to chelate/remove them from our bodies, think green leafy veg, herbs (especially coriander/cilantro), algae/seaweeds like chlorella & spirulina… Anyway, the point is, metal amalgam dental fillings expose us to much higher concentrations of mercury, which is the 2nd most neurotoxic substance, after pollonium/plutonium… so WTF are they thinking putting it in our mouths/teeth??!! It baffles me that this is still allowed & hasn’t been banned/outlawed already! By being in our mouths/teeth, it means it v.quickly travels & accesses our brains, settling in there & causing all sorts of havoc with neurotransmission -the communication/signalling processes between our neurons (assuming you have the neurons in the 1st place!). It also poisons the CNS (Central Nervous System), damaging or even killing neurons, perhaps going some way towards experiencing the neuronal damage I experienced! Mercury will always favour the liver over other organs (apart from the brain), resulting in added potent toxins in the liver, compromising the liver’s detoxification capabilities -great! So, mercury leaks/leeches into the body, attacks the nervous system, systemically & progressively poisons our bodies/organs as it bioaccumulates & on top of it impairs our liver & kidney & GI’s ability to get rid of toxins/waste products… a perfect downward spiral/cycle of destruction & potentially death… if not from poisoning, from driving you so mental/crazy that you take your own life 1st! Sir Isaac Newton, celebrated physicist often conducted experiments with mercury, using no safety precautions & became mentally unstable & committed suicide. Virginia Woolfe, famous novelist & fellow bipolar sufferer, drowned herself. Dentistry, where dentists regularly handle mercury through metal amalgam fillings, is globally renowned as the number 1 occupation with the highest numbers of suicide rates compared to any other profession -and they have safety protocols for the safe storage & handling of said amalgams!!! The evidence is clear & the science is unequivocally been proven, to the point where the antiseptic “mercuchrome” (mercromina in Spain) was taken off the markets over 2 decades ago, but not before I regularly put it on when my knees got scraped as a kid in the 80s (which was almost daily!), mercury thermometers are no longer used in hospitals & are no longer available to buy for personal use at home… And yet, amalgams are still being routinely used for dental fillings… in fact, in the UK, if you use an NHS dentist, the mercury amalgam filling is what you will get, unless you specifically request for a white composite one… why? Because they are a few £s cheaper! But if suicide & serious mental health illness are the true ‘hidden’ costs, can you really justify this cost-cutting/saving? I think NOT AT ALL, NOT BY A LONG WAY, NEVER! I am v.clear on my position of this, particularly because I have mental health problems and I have a life before, during & after dental amalgam fillings, so I KNOW my own mind, quite literally, on this subject. I wish there was greater awareness of this “silent monster/killer”, to put more pressure on changing policy on this, so that one day (soon) we can live in a dental/mercury amalgam-free world. Also, Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in some vaccines, has also been unequivocally proven to be strongly linked as a causative factor in cases of autism, a massively life-altering condition & this too MUST change. This issue has caused a great deal of controversy & much debate, so there is more awareness around it, but it is so divisive & people on both sides have such strong views that even now/today Dr’s in America who advocate against vaccines are persecuted & over a dozen of them are currently “missing persons”… it is, undoubtedly a hot topic & v.serious issue, so much so that pro-vaccination advocates appear to be motivated to silence the scientists & medical professionals who are speaking out/blowing the whistle. For more information, watch the documentary film “Vaxxed”, recently screened @ the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC -getting Robert de Niro (founder of the festival) into a bit of hot water, as this is a bit of a political hot potato… but frankly after he recently expressed his wish to “punch Trump in the face”, I don’t think he’s one to shy away from calling things how he sees them!

In mid-October 2005, both the dentist & nutritionist, independently of each other, but within a week of each other, said that I was now ready to begin psychological treatment/therapy, because up till then my physical body had been too weak, compromising my ability to concentrate, or to handle strong emotions properly, as well as affecting my cognition in various other ways. So, I was introduced to a lovely clinical psychologist, who confirmed that it would have been premature of me to have come to her any sooner. She, in turn introduced me to a Dr. Rajendra Sharma M.D., a qualified medical doctor, who also had a holistic approach with knowledge of ayurveda & other complementary/alternative therapies. He was the director/head Dr of The Diagnostic Clinic in London. Now he runs  Dr. Sharma Diagnostics. He took my medical history down and then wanted to run some tests, a live blood test, regular blood test, urine, EEG (electro-encephalograph) and a PEG-4 test which back then only 2 labs in the world, 1 in the UK & 1 in the US conducted… as usual my regular blood tests came back normal, no surprises there, but all the other tests didn’t… finally, something showed I did have things wrong with me physiologically/biologically! Most people, I suppose, wouldn’t be rejoicing much at such news, but I felt like I’d just been told I’d won the lottery -in a way! I was no longer the mental, crazy, nut job, hypochondriac, psychosomatic freak-show that most people saw me as, I was finally a “normal” ill-person, with a legitimate disease! Yay 😊!

So, here we are, 6yrs after I was 1st diagnosed with depression… and now I was being diagnosed with 3 things: 

1) A severe case of CFS -Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

2) Associated leaky gut syndrome (treatable and temporary)

3) Extensive ‘neuronal damage’!!!

My 1st thought was… what does “extensive neuronal damage mean?”. My 2nd… “what is leaky gut syndrome? Sounds disgusting!”. They explained that leaky gut is something quite common that many people experience but is hardly ever recognised or diagnosed and it can occur for a number of reasons, but can be treated and resolved quite easily, usually by dietary changes. Basically it means that for some reason, your gut/intestinal wall/lining has become ‘perforated’ and where it is normally porous, allowing nutrients from the food you eat to pass into your bloodstream and waste products to pass from your bloodstream into your gut for excretion, in this case there are holes in the lining/wall, allowing small particles of food which normally wouldn’t pass into the bloodstream to enter it, resulting in the immune system identifying it as an invading/foreign particle, like a virus, bacteria or other toxin and launching an attack on it, which would result in symptoms similar to those with an autoimmune disease, like inflammation & allergic reactions, which explains why I was having all those “food allergy” type reactions after my bout of gastroenteritis. 

Ok, so that seemed straightforward enough, but what about the extensive neuronal damage? This was a result of the EEG which studies your brainwave patterns whilst you’re doing different mental activities… 1st you rest, sit & close your eyes, 2nd you open your eyes and just let your eyes and mind do whatever they want, so you can look around the room, or meditate, or look at your hands or the floor or wall in front of you & 3rd you read a text like a magazine article. These exercises affect your brainwaves differently and in my case anomalies were found, reflecting that remarkably, and it is remarkable, something like 80-90% of the neurons in my brain had been destroyed/killed off somehow, but yet my level of cognitive ability was not that far from normal! How and why was this the case? Well, it’s not clear or fully understood, but the theory I’m going with is that somehow the 7th chakra… chakras are energy centres in our bodies according to ayurveda and we have 7 of them, from the base of our spine (1st), to our belly button (2nd), our solar plexus (3rd), our heart area (4th), our throat (5th), the ‘3rd’ eye, in between our eyes (6th), to the top/crown of our heads (7th)… so, what showed up in my brain scan was that pretty much all of my brain was dark in colour signifying no electrical activity, but where the 7th chakra is located a huge amount of electrical activity was happening, like a little round circle in the centre of the top of my head was v.brightly lit up, shown as a bright yellow colour, like the sun! It was remarkable and the Dr’s themselves said they’d never seen anything like it -I was officially a “medical mystery/miracle”! 

Now, another anomaly that my EEG turned up (as if that wasn’t enough), was that my delta brainwave was active 24/7. The delta brainwave is usually only ever active (in normal healthy people that is), during the deep-sleep phase of our sleep, which is a dreamless state, and is when we are effectively unconscious… the rest of the time the delta brainwave is usually inactive/switched off so-to-speak, but in my case was switched on the whole time, day or night, awake or asleep… again something that’s pretty unheard of! My 1st response to all this was, “does this mean I’m brain damaged? If so, is it permanent? Is that why I struggle with getting to sleep and waking up?”… I was told it wasn’t exactly “brain” damage, because structurally speaking my brain was fine, that it was neuronal damage, the neurons in the brain that had been destroyed, that it wasn’t permanent because neurons can be regenerated, but that the brain is the slowest organ to regenerate itself and can take up to 12yrs to be fully regenerated and that what did I mean by struggling to fall asleep or to wake up? I explained that sometimes even though I was physically shattered my mind would be wide awake and there was nothing I could do to switch it off to go to sleep, and that my sleep was so deep, almost like a comatose state that I would sleep through alarms or other loud sounds/noises and nothing would wake me up! This has resulted in me often being late for work in the mornings, missing flights or other important appointments… it was such an issue for me that when I was at university I would pull an all-nighter and not sleep at all if I had a morning exam!

The Dr’s began a treatment with me called Biofeedback & Neurofeedback, which involves connecting some electrodes or something like that from your head to a computer, questions are asked to me, which I answer with a yes or no and they ‘read’ my mind/brainwaves & can then see where things are ‘off’/not properly aligned and they can administer something via the computer to my brain which nudges things towards proper alignment. It’s a form of brain training. If you don’t have the right levels of neurotransmitters in your brain like serotonin, dopamine, acetyl-choline… these can be administered too, so you can experience a mood-lifting antidepressant-type effect, much as you would if you were taking something like Prozac! Now that is pretty bonkers if you ask me, but as I experienced it for myself, I know it actually does do those things! They wanted to do a minimum 6 month treatment of this with me, weekly at 1st, but unfortunately I only ever did 3 sessions, as v.tragically my mother passed away at this time, in late November 2005 & the treatment came to an abrupt end, as did much else in my life at the time, as the circumstances of her death were tragic as I said and came as a shock pretty much to all of those who knew her. I was one to have been closer to her, so possibly a little less so for me, but nonetheless it was no less heart-wrenching or devastating… I finally understood the true meaning of what the word “gutted” meant, and even that word belittles the feeling/sensation of losing a loved one to suicide, no words come close… with all the words in existence, sometimes there are none, and any that try, indelibly fall short. Sometimes life does just stop… and mine did just that, for about 3 or so years… I got up every day (ok, a lot of days I didn’t), went through the motions, like I was on autopilot and life around me happened, I was inside out and felt everything and nothing at the same time, my body felt like an empty vessel and it was almost like an out-of-body experience as if I was floating outside of myself, but still attached to my body somehow and it dragged and pulled me around… I moved back to Madrid, where she had died and began to see a Dr/psychotherapist, who specialised in family therapy & marriage counselling. He was Heaven-sent for sure and happened to be called Rafael, so I called him my archangel Rafael, the angel of healing! My father would see him too and we would sometimes do sessions together, sometimes individually, and it definitely helped, both for myself, with my own personal stuff, as well as for the relationship between my dad and I, which had been strained for some time. I am fairly sure we wouldn’t be where we are today without his help, support and guidance, so I am eternally grateful for him, my “wise man”, to have come into my life, particularly at that impossibly difficult time in our lives. In a little over a month from now it will have been 11yrs since my mum passed away and I still don’t know where the time has gone… my life literally hit the pause button and only resumed play recently and I feel a sense of shock when I think of the amount of time that has passed that I honestly can’t really account for!

So, you can picture this, me, back in Madrid, dealing with severe CFS, extensive neuronal damage, delta brainwave anomalies, a.k.a. a medical mystery/miracle, my mother committing suicide, no real treatment plan, a strained relationship with my father and brother… fun, fun, fun, I hear you say? Well, no, not in the slightest… quite the opposite in fact… it was hard, painful and it felt like I had Everest to climb in front of me, with no gear, a broken arm and broken leg and the worst weather forecast! It felt nothing short of impossible… and yet, nearly 11yrs on, here I am, still standing, still talking, walking, finally smiling, loving and appreciating the gift of life, the all-too-precious gift of sanity and health!

So, I apologise for such a long post, but it seemed poignant today of all days, a bit hungover from the 2nd Presidential Debate last night, to #WorldMentalHealthDay today… to over a decade ago now from when I lost my mum… it felt like it was “time” for me to put pen to paper, to write about “My Journey So Far”… where I’ve been, where I came from, where I am now & where I’m hopefully heading…

So, from 2005/6-2016 I can sum it up fairly briefly… I went through the 5 steps of grief, from denial, anger (though in my case it was more sympathy & sorrow), to bargaining, to depression, to acceptance… I stayed stuck toing & froing between bargaining, depression & acceptance for quite a few years. I lived a hermit-like lifestyle from 2007-2009 in a one-bedroom flat, hardly ever leaving the flat except to go to my weekly therapy sessions with Rafael & to buy groceries & Rafael was acutely aware that he was often my only real human contact/interaction on any kind of regular basis. Luckily I adored him & looked forward to the sessions. I had a 3+yr relationship end shortly after I came off my medication in 2005, a brief attempt to get back together, which succeeded for a while, with him moving to London in Oct 2005, 6 weeks before my mother passed & he was with me when I received the news (which I am hugely grateful for), but I returned to live in Madrid in April 2006 so our relationship came to a final end shortly after that. In 2007 I had another relationship, with a lifelong childhood friend who I was at primary school with & who had been my 1st ever crush when I was 15… a few months in I got pregnant, and since I had previously been pregnant twice before (in 2001 & 2003), both whilst I was on medication for depression/bipolar, meant that regrettably at the time I decided to terminate/abort, but on this 3rd pregnancy I was adamant I’d never abort again, but unfortunately my physical strength was still fairly weak/fragile and I miscarried around the 3.5-4 month mark… I think I’m quite masterfully qualified in the “loss” department! Our relationship didn’t survive long after that, but it was also because after a period of relatively good mental health/balance/stability, my moods became a bit erratic, probably due to the psychological impact of the miscarriage, compounded by the fact my brother & sister-in-law had had a beautiful baby girl, born in July 2006 & feeling the loss even moreso b/c of the absence of my mother, her grandmother, as well as unresolved issues between my brother & I, meaning I got little chance of spending time with my niece, also impacting on me & my psyche! 

Then came my hermit-like existence & it wasn’t till I opened my facebook account in 2008 that I began to re-engage with the world… and I jumped straight in, becoming a bona fide facebook addict! I pop-up chatted with friends, old & new, known to me personally, or just “facebook friends”… one fine day I had a friend request from someone I’d been to school with (my 6th form years), but he was in the year below me & I couldn’t put the face to the name, but we had several mutual friends, and I remembered friends of mine talking about him (in a positive light), so I accepted the friend request… a few days or weeks later, one fateful night, 4am in Madrid, 3am in the UK, we were both online & nobody else on our friends list were online except each other… it was 5th June 2009 & I remember the date b/c 2nd June is my birthday & 4th June would have been my mother’s birthday. He pop-up chatted me & we chatted till morning, which I welcomed hugely as I was quite melancholy, and this went on for hours & it became almost a daily/nightly thing. He would send me YouTube links to songs/music videos, the 1st of which was “Another girl, another planet”, my 1st suspicions of things moving beyond just a friendship came when he sent “Baby I Love You” by The Ramones & of course the rest is history -today he is my fiancée… after a couple of weeks we started speaking on the phone, on 4th July, my sister-in-law’s birthday, she threw a big party with 2 other July babies, so a combined birthday party, where I had a blast, but had a little more to drink than was wise perhaps & when I got home in the early hours he was online & I came up with the bright idea of booking flights for a holiday, for him & I & 2 other friends, a couple (one of whom had been to school with us as well, from the year above me) & b/c in June, the previous month, I had finally come into some money, my mother’s inheritance I was paying for everyone… call it spontaneity, drunkenness or a bit of hypomania, either way I decided it had to be a city break in Europe, somewhere none of us had been to & cheap… so I went to the Easyjet website, looked up flights from London & the 1st city on the list (alphabetically) that fitted the criteria was Budapest, so that’s what I booked, for 9th Sept 2009 (09/09/09), which was the 1st date we could all do & where the prices were really low… I figured we should meet properly, in person 1st so I invited him to Madrid & he arrived on 29th July, also my brother’s birthday… we’ve been together ever since. We officially became a couple on 09/09/09 (the day we travelled to Budapest!) & I moved back to the UK to live with him in early March 2010, and by late March we were engaged & we wanted to get married on 11/11/11, but, and this is my fault, every time I’ve tried to organise the wedding (yes, there’s been 5 failed attempts over the years!), I completely spin out with all the excitement & go completely manic & invite everyone & anyone, strangers on the street, announce it to everyone on facebook/social media & then as the manic episode spirals out of control, I can’t keep my thoughts organised to keep track of all the plans/logistics and like a pack of cards flung into the air, it turns into a game of 52-card pick up as it all comes crashing in on itself, totally implodes! It has become a bit of a private joke between my fiancée & I, but to be honest, I laugh about it now, but it’s not that funny & I’ll definitely find it a whole lot funnier once we actually have tied the knot! Luckily I have 2 lovely women, surrogate mother’s of sorts, willing to help me organise it all for next time… so, watch this space! 😊

A toast to us all: to your health… your good mental health!


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