I was in my third year at university when I became ill. I had always felt uneasy and anxious at Uni. I think there were several reasons for this. Partly it was because I was a long way from home. Also I found the work stressful as there was a lot of writing and I always find this difficult because of my dyslexia.
My way of dealing with this was to try to get rid of the stress by taking drugs. This did not work but the answer to me was to take more. Finally I was way behind with my work and becoming paranoid. I sought help from the counsellor at the university who advised me to take time off the course, so I went home to my family.
I wanted to be at home to feel safe but my paranoid and delusional thoughts were getting the better of me. This was a new experience for me. I had felt anxious in the past but never as bad as this. I was afraid to go to sleep. This made the symptoms worse and finally my parents got the doctor to come out and see me.
He phoned Derbyshire's Early Intervention Service but, when they arrived a few hours later, I was sure everyone was against me, even my parents. This meant I was not co-operating with anyone and wouldn’t agree to go to hospital as a voluntary patient and the police had to be called to take me.
I was taken to the Radbourne Unit in Derby for my own safety. At first I wouldn’t eat or drink, but after I had been given medication and slept I began my recovery. I spent a month in the unit while they diagnosed that I was suffering from drug-induced psychosis and that it would take a couple or more years for me to recover fully if I didn’t have any lapses.
My medication was changed to one that had less side effects and I was given lots of support when I went home. I had a community psychiatric nurse who visited me every week to begin with, to check I was okay and we worked together on ‘staying well plans’. I also had check-ups with the psychiatrist.
I went back to finish my degree nine months later and I finished it, but looking back now it was too early and I fell into the old coping patterns. It was around this time that my driving licence was revoked for six months and this really hit me hard. I realised that my driving licence was more precious to me than carrying on taking drugs. This taught me how to set myself a goal and work towards achieving it. I knew that I did not want to risk having my licence revoked again and this was the real start of my recovery. This was very important because I had worked it out for myself and used willpower to achieve it. It was me telling myself what to do, not someone else telling me.
I was back home again and after a few months I began to take advantage of the groups and courses the Early Intervention Team had to offer. I particularly enjoyed the photography course which was based in Ilkeston and I was pleased with the work I produced. We exhibited the work in a public exhibition at the end of the course. I also went to an art group at Arboretum Park in Derby where I met people with similar conditions to me. It was good to talk to people and later I joined the Making Sense group where I learnt most about my condition and general mental health. I also did a one-to-one CBT course to look at my behaviour and thought patterns in social situations.
I began volunteering for the NHS and this has been good to get me back into the swing of things. Being ill, I lost the structure of my days and weeks and my sleep pattern was turned upside down. Having a work pattern has helped me to feel I have moved on a step towards full-time employment. My recovery has taken three and a half years to get to where I am now. The road has been long, but with a lot of people helping me I think I have learnt a lot and cherish life more now then ever.