One mountain climbed

At an early age I was unhappy with my life and often found my
family situation confusing. I felt that some of my mother’s
priorities were wrong. During the day my brothers and I would be
sent to private school and then we would return back to our house,
which was shared with what seemed to be hundreds of cats and the
odd dog, some of which used to leave faeces on the floor.

Over the years, I often felt depressed but it was not until my late
teens and after my mother had moved the family to Devon that I
approached a doctor about my unhappiness. Life there was difficult
and soon after the move depression affected me in a big way.
Although I was living in a house with my mother and grandparents, I
felt I had nobody I could communicate with and became mentally

My doctor suggested that I should see a psychiatrist and I agreed.
I remember asking my mother what a psychiatrist does. She told me
they were for Americans and anyone that needed to see one was

My first experience with a psychiatrist was not good. Instead of
the swanky office that I had imagined I was confronted with what I
could only describe as an old caravan. I was immediately put off
and went home, which I now know was so stupid.

After years of depression I met my future wife, Rebecca. We moved
to Dorset where I met my psychiatric nurse, Barry King, whom I
began to entrust with my deepest thoughts. I was suddenly being
assessed and cared about and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
When the diagnosis was made I was relieved. After years of dealing
with paranoia and terrifying symptoms such as the feeling of being
constantly haunted by evil, it was a great relief to meet my enemy.
Rebecca had been fighting my illness in her own way and it was good
for her to finally know its face.

I have only recently come to terms with my schizophrenia. I could
never have had the right kind of support had the draft Mental
Health Bill been in force when I finally dealt with it. It is
difficult enough living with a mental health problem without being
threatened with compulsory care.

Now I realise how important it is to talk about your problems. I
believe that I owe my sanity to three “thought sorters”: Rebecca,
Barry and my Rethink carer, Paul. With their help, I have been
awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship which will
enable me to travel to Nepal in February 2003 and trek for a month
from Lukla to Base Camp Everest to show schizophrenia in a more
positive light. I chose the trek because the tough ascents and
steep descents to the foot of the mountain symbolise the struggles
I and others face with a mental illness.

Every step will be a reminder of every struggle I have had to face
with my illness. I hope that those steps help me to leave behind
some of my past troubles and enable me to see and reach new
personal heights and strengths that may wait at Base Camp Everest.

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