My Story, My Mental Health: An Author's Journey

Update from Care Opinion Ireland

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About: Donegal Mental Health Services

picture of Tracy Molloy

An Author 'One one one' shared their experience of Mental Health Services over the years, they kindly shared their story via this blog which makes for a moving story about their journey with mental health:

Part One-Growing Up

I grew up in Ireland during the 70s/80s. Women got two weeks maternity leave at this time. My Grandmother minded myself and my younger brother while my Mother went to work for the first two or three years of my life. I don’t know how, or the specifics exactly, but I get the feeling that myself and my brother suffered neglect at this time in early childhood. I don’t know if the adults around me were sufficiently emotionally available, smoking indoors was acceptable then and it’s since become family knowledge that our Grandfather committed sexual abuse on my aunties.   He was an alcoholic but he was a gregarious community man and put the entire family through school and third level education, on the positive side. I was always a sensitive fella, got scared by loud noises when I was a toddler and was once rushed to hospital during my infant hood after I opened and swallowed a bottle of pills. I had my stomach pumped there.

I did well at school and went to university in Scotland. I completed my degree but was starting to dissociate/ encounter sensory intensities in my final year there. I returned to Ireland, back home in fact. I had no job or much social contacts or friends and was beginning to get unwell. I helped out in the family business and tried to carry on as normal. My Father encouraged me to get a job in Dublin, which I did, in the year after I came back. In Dublin, I really started to get unwell. I was maintaining a ‘normal’ exterior but inside I was in a ghastly turmoil of disturbance from time to time. However the work ended and I returned home once more.

My Father had cancer by this stage and was dying. I couldn’t properly say goodbye to him as I was often in an altered state or maybe catatonic. He passed away in 1994. I couldn’t grieve; I was frozen, the catatonia again. It was Hell, not just for me but for my family and village community as well. That December my best friend from primary school took his life in the village. It was very dark times, terrible trauma. It seemed that my best friend had been abused by a local paedophile but had never disclosed it to anyone. I was in a terrible state but it would be another year and a half before I was admitted to the local psychiatric hospital.

Part 2 Hospital

A kind nurse gave me a sandwich and xanax to make sure I got to sleep.

I woke up, a psychiatrist looked into my eyes and then, bang! Blackout, I don’t remember the next month. It’s like a black hole in my life. But the burn was supposed to help. Started smoking seriously, tobacco, ; gained seven stone in the next four months. But I came to, despite whatever treatment I was put on, Melleril (chlorpromazine), Haloperidal (Haldol), E.c.t. (not supposed to be given for voices/ visions but as sometimes us s.u.s/ survivors joke, you get depression into the bargain!). The smoking room was a great help. And John Peel. But I eventually got out. I found myself in the daycentre, the workshop, Parkside House, and then Rehab placed me on a fish farm.

Recovery was tough.

Part 3-Recovery

A Eureka moment occurred when the Irish Advocacy Network, then in its early stages, held an AGM around 2003, near where I live in Donegal. It was like seeing the light for the first time. I was able to find out much about mental health conditions, treatments etc. and also network with other service user/survivors. Subsequently, whilst training for a Certificate in Peer Advocacy with I.A.N. I learned of a General Practitioner who specialised in Vitamin Therapy for mental health.

I undertook a regime of vitamin supplements and oils about seven or eight years after I had been in hospital. The GP had based this regime on bloods. I began ordering some B vitamins, fish oil, evening primrose oil and some other mineral elements from Holland & Barrett - style outlets. The doctor who specialised in Vitamin Therapy, maintained that Niacinamide, or vitamin B3 (note: not Niacin) was a natural antipsychotic. I am not sure if this has been effectively studied. He also said that the effects of the vitamin therapy would not be seen for several months.

Eventually, after a few years, I was able to reduce and tweak my vitamin regime, to the point where I was taking one good quality multivitamin, fish & evening primrose oil, vitamin c and some b vitamins. This I was taking along with a major tranquilliser (to keep voices and visions at bay). During this time, with the help of a Smoking Cessation Officer, I was able to successfully quit smoking. Giving up smoking allowed me to invest more in plant medicine for my health.

Currently, I take a pint of water with a dash of good quality Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) and a dropper each of Ashwagandha and Astragaus, first thing in the morning. The benefits of apple cider vinegar have been known for thousands of years. Ashwaghanda is one of the best known Ayurvedic (Indian) medicines, an all-round strengthener, normalises the brain and steadies moods and thoughts. Astragalus, another Ayurvedic herb is a modulator of the immune system, and helps to keep it strong. The immune system is key in health.

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Then, as mentioned above, I take one good quality mens multivitamin (I’m in my fifties), some high potency magnesium (25 years of Psych Meds take it out of you, joints start wearing down, aging also; and magnesium is good for this), evening primrose oil and fish oil. Note: with the decline and overfishing in the world ocean ecosystems, fish oil these days is not thought to be as good. I also take Vitamin D (as sunlight is scarce here). Vitamin D also sends calcium in the body to the bones.

A Note on Vitamin Supplements: Many vitamin supplements contain calcium based bulking agents. These can lead to calcification of the body, which can be a precursor to more serious conditions. Checking the ingredients and monitoring your intake is important. Calcium, along with excessive vitamin c, can also lead to kidney stones. Many supplements are available without high levels of calcium, and many more types are based on natural products. There are a good range of decent quality multivitamins available from online outlets such as Iherb etc.

When I 45 I discovered cbd (or cannabidiol). This is an extract from the cannabis plant but does not necessarily contain the intoxicating compounds that some cannabis strains contain. I found that the cbd had an immediate calming effect on my nervous system, and helped sleep and appetite in a big way. While I had been in psychiatric hospital I had effectively been ‘cured' of voices i.e. the neuroleptic medication I was on was sufficiently heavy to quell my voices and visions for four years. After that I began to hear voices again, when I was 30. For the next fifteen years I experienced roughly one episode of (persecutory) voices or psychosis practically every second day, for durations of three to seven hours at a time. When I began taking cbd, I found my episodes ameliorated in both frequency and duration. Soon, I was having roughly one episode, lasting one to two hours, every five to ten days. I used progressively stronger cbd, starting at 4% (I currently use 10%). 10% cbd is the second strongest cbd product (25% is also available). Note: cost is a factor with cannabis products; they are quite expensive. Anecdotally, cbd with thc (tetrahydracanabidiol: the intoxicating part of the plant) is popular with some voice-hearers as it seems to reduce psychosis, just as it is known to quickly quell epilepsy. The link between voices/visions/psychosis and epilepsy is probably pretty close; temporal lobe epilepsy produces the symptoms of psychosis. The ratio of cbd:thc is important: a 1:1 ratio seems favoured for mental health issues. Cannabis oil is also known to be anti-carcinogenic, as well as having other health promotion purposes. Note: compounds containing thc are still currently illegal in Ireland North and South. For more information see: The Irish Medicinal Cannabis Council.

Western Medicine targets the specific at the expense of the whole, whilst Holistic medicine looks at the whole. For the most part, the two traditions do not work together. While Western Medicine is relatively new at around 100 years old, Plant or Holistic Medicine date back thousands of years.

Medicinal mushrooms are known in Chinese Medicine as key Immuno-modulators. Reishi, cordyceps, lions mane are among a few of the best known of these. Reishi in particular is known in China as ‘the mushroom of immortality’. Medicinal Mushrooms are available from several outlets in the UK as well as North America. In general mushrooms are known in China as a ‘cold’ food, which means they are better taken in warmer weather, whilst food like chilli is considered a ‘hot’ food, and is deemed more beneficial to be taken in cold weather. However I wouldn’t stick too strictly to this wisdom.

Generally speaking, the more you cook and bake yourself, the more control you have over what you put in to your own body. As mentioned above, chilli based foods are reckoned to be more beneficial in colder weather (though I wouldn’t hold too hard and fast to this). Other ingredients from Indian cooking are also beneficial e.g. turmeric, ginger, coconut (milk and water) are all good for health. When I’m taking curries, I tend to drink one spoon of spirulina powder mixed in a glass of coconut water. Spirulina (blue-green algae) is a major superfood. It is a source of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. It is reputed to work well for people with underlying anxiety issues.

Human beings, as well as other chordates, are evolved for occasional high stress encounters. Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha are good for stress and are also good for anxiety. Tulsi or ‘holy basil', reishi and nervines such as hawthorn are also highly beneficial in this regard.

For general brain health, there are culinary plants such as rosemary, sage, ginger and saffron which are good. Goadacola and ashwagandha are good also. In general what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, as the mind is rooted in the heart. Other useful substances for memory and cognition are the amino acid theonine, calamus and the adaptogen bakopa.

A note on cancer. Having worked for over fifteen years in the area of mental health, I have noticed that a leading cause of death among people getting treatment within the mental health system seems to be cancer. Cancer is a breakdown of tissue milieu, a toxic process. It is a warning and a dysfunction of the immune system. It has a spiritual element also. Therapies for cancer have to be intense and an integrative approach between Western and Holistic medicine is advised. Cancer is a state of inflammation or oxidative stress of the body. Immuno-modulators like medicinal mushrooms are scientifically proven to help in this regard. The question is how to nourish the immune system intelligently. Ginger, turmeric, coconut, chilli and peppercorns are thought to be beneficial. Astragalus also. Medicinal cannabis is good for sleep, anxiety and pain management, among those who have cancer. Lifestyle is also important in cancer, a connection to the Earth, meditation and exercise. Time is of the essence and cancer is a teacher. Also recommended are a full blood panel and chemo sensitivity test – Rggc test. I believe that this test is quite expensive.

Bodywork is also important in general as well as mental health. Reflexology, massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic; there are a few different types. An hour of bodywork can be quite expensive, it helps if you get a special rate. Personally I find spending an hour or two rolling the body out on tennis balls, as well as other exercises such as ‘cores' (which are known to build emotional strength) each evening to be quite effective.

I acknowledge that I have arrived at the above wisdom through my own trial and error but also with the help of online health series such as Remedy – Plant Medicine. I have also found that the above regime works for me. I’m not saying that it will work for everybody, or that it is the only way. I’m just sharing my twenty or so years of experience. People will find their own ways through what is a complex, myriad world of human nutrition. It may be wise to consult a herbalist, and certainly conduct as much research as you can.

Best wishes, thanks for reading.

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