No holidays. None. Ever.

I originally wrote this piece for a minor publication and, having just re-read it and then tried to stiffen my upper lip, I thought it worthy of a wider and more enlightened audience. Luckily, with Elitistreview I have an organ of enormous proportions and great appreciation at my very fingertips. It is not about food or wine, but that’s fine – as you know, dear reader, diversity is the helping of San Marzano tomatoes in the mozzarella caprese. Tonight’s topic is mental health.

I have paranoid schizophrenia and it pretty much dominates my life. It’s not my chosen occupation; indeed, I developed it just after I’d finished my doctorate in epidemiology and so atomised my childhood dream career of being a biologist. It’s a shame as, back then, before my mind was filled with voices, delusions, paranoia, hallucinations and thoughts of killing or hurting myself, I used to be quite brilliant and startlingly good at epidemiology. Now I’m a nutcase and the longest job I’ve managed to hold down since going insane has been a few weeks. These were always followed by suicide attempts and stays in the loony bin.

Hell isn't other people, it's my mindWell, I say I hardly held down a job but that’s not true – paranoid schizophrenia is serious work that occupies me always and will do forever. No holidays, no quick breaks for a crafty pint, it’s always there. The voices always shout horrible abuse at my and tell me, in luridly unpleasant terms, that the whole world hates me me and wants me to die in painful ways. I always see nasty, hairy rat like things running around and I know one day they’ll eat me alive from the inside. I know that you, kind reader who has made it this far, are reading my thoughts in order to construct some fiendish method for my demise. And so it goes on. This may all sound fanciful and you may think “Well, you can tell that’s not real, right?” but looking through my eyes and experiencing in my mind it’s as real as the screen in front of you.

I’ve had a particularly rotten time of it over the past few weeks. Last night a horribly be-fanged demon was sitting at the end of my bed and the voices screamed if I called my partner in from the next room to comfort me it would spring at me and eat my face. That presented quite a dilemma; I’m glad after only half an hour of lying there sweating in silent fear my partner came it to see how I was doing. There’s been a lot more of that and a lot worse recently.

I don’t suppose anyone has made it down this far, and if you have you probably want me eviscerated with machetes. However, if you have please remember this: if someone tells you they have a serious mental illness they are not layabouts, they work much harder at what occupations have been unwantedly forced upon them and they never, ever get a holiday from it.