Living with mental illness

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Leon de Camp and I have been a sufferer of Bipolar mood disorder for the past 27 and a half years, since I was 21 yrs of age.

I have been trying to think of an analogy to best describe Bipolar and the best I could come up with is this.

Firstly I will have to get those of you who are not male to pretend that you are.

Alright, so here we go.

Lets pretend that you are invited to a Fancy Dress Party, and you decide to go to a costume shop to hire a costume. You look at many costumes and on this occasion you decide to go as superman.

You go home, get dressed and go to the party. You have a wonderful, very stimulating time at the party and after many hours decide to go home.

Now, this is where the problems begin. After a few hours your partner suggests you take your costume off, but you flatly refuse. The next day you are still in your costume and your partner is starting to worry about you.

You keep telling her you are ok, despite the fact that you haven`t slept for 3 days.

After 4 days she decides to phone a friend who is a geologist. She knows he has a piece of Kryptonite from outer space that he found whilst fossicking in China a number of years earlier.

She tells him what is going on and asks if he could come over and bring his piece of kryptonite with him.

The geologist friend comes to your home as quickly as possible.

Upon showing the kryptonite to superman, superman collapsed to the ground and was then lift into bed by the geologist and the wife, where he slept for 2 days straight.

In my analogy the superman suit has made the man believe that he really is superman and the kryptonite that the geologist brings over represents the antipsychotic medication that would be administered by a psychiatrist at a hospital in order to get superman back to reality.

My consultant psychiatrist has diagnosed me with TYPE (1) Bipolar. This means that you have had at least 1 psychotic episode.

I have had more than a dozen manic psychotic episodes.

Some of the people, characters or entities I honestly believed I was during my manic delusional psychosis` include:

A close friends brother, the highest paid super cop in the world, the highest paid commando in the world, son of the richest man in the world, David Helthcott (the famous concert pianist), Jesus, God, Superhuman and superior versions of myself.

I have learnt that the human body cannot tell the difference between reality and what is vividly imagined.

As a result of a chemical imbalance in my brain, something happens which can cause a delusional manic psychotic episode if I am not compliant with my medication regime.

My manic psychotic episodes generally go for 2 weeks followed by 2 to 3 months of depression coming down from the high.

I have not had a psychotic episode for 10 and a half years. However I have had 2 very brief hospitalizations in the past 6 years suffering from suicidal ideation.

Manic psychosis for me has been like living a dream where you are the centre of the universe and everything revolves around you. This means absolutely everything. What`s on television, what`s in the newspapers and magazines, what`s in books, what people say, how people move, what machines do – for example a toaster when it is been operated, even the weather.

I remember towards the end of my manic God psychosis, sitting on a barred balcony of one of the RBWH psychiatric units, looking up at the sky, chain smoking cigarettes and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

God smoked in those days, many years ago, to blend in with the common folk.

Unfortunately for me at that point in time whilst looking up at the sky I realized that I was not the only god in the universe, and that there were in fact 3 gods and the universe was divided into 3 sectors.

Apparently the other 2 gods had decided that they were very unhappy with the way I was running planet earth and had decided to sack me.

I didn`t have a chance, because in this universe a 2 to 1 vote meant you were finished.

All 3 gods were believed to be omnipotent. Except in the case where any 2 gods could join forces and bring about the demise of the third. This had never happened in history before, but it happened to me.

I took my medication and went to bed, knowing I would not wake up the next morning. But, surprise surprise, I did wake, realizing that I wasn`t god and that I was in fact only Leon de Camp from the western suburbs of Brisbane. And so began a couple of months of acute depression.

My doctor believes that I had a genetic predisposition for Bipolar and that I most likely would have had a psychotic episode in my late teens early twenties, no matter what.

One thing I am absolutely certain of is this - `you can`t fix a sick brain with a sick brain`

Some of the health care professionals who have helped me in some way improve my life over the past27 and a half years include:-  psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologist, social workers, dietitians, occupational therapists and even dentists.

I have had to live with my parents in the family home for 37 and a half years of my 48 and a half year life.

I have never lived with people who had anything less than unconditional love for me. Some of this time was with my older brother and the rest of the time was with my now ex- wife, Cindy. I have 2 daughters, Tegan 21 and Georgina 19, both attending university in NSW. I have been separated from Cindy and the girls for 16 and a half years and try to meet them in Sydney once every 6 months.

My working life has been very erratic and I haven`t been able to work full time for about 16 years. I have 2 part time jobs at the moment and 2 voluntary jobs, totaling about 8 hours/ month. This is about all I can handle at the moment, however I am always looking at opportunities to increase my work load, if suitable work should arise.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the Mantle Board and the staff at Wesley Mission for their time and effort in working towards the vision of seeing the first Mantle Apartments come to fruition.