I thought my ex girlfriend was a terrorist

There are a number of factors which I believe led to my psychotic episode in September 2022. My three year relationship had ended after a difficult six month period and although it had been a gradual process, our separation was a rough one.

During our first year together we got along like a house on fire; we laughed and joked like any other couple in love would. But things got more difficult after we had a baby.

I already had two girls who lived over an hour away from us and I felt like I was being dragged from pillar to pillar trying to manage everything. We fought a lot and as our relationship broke down it became more and more difficult to see my son which took a huge emotional toll on me.

Martin Waddilove, 38, from Essex, England, participates in The Hope exhibition, commissioned by the mental health charity St Andrews Healthcare. Lui suffered a nervous breakdown in September 2022 and was admitted to St Andrews Healthcare\’s Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The St Andrews Hope/Health Exhibition

At the time I was living in Ipswich, England and working in air conditioning, but six months was a long time to be under such stress. Eventually, I decided to move back to my hometown in another county and start a new job, but that\’s when things got worse.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003 and, despite having had it for 20 years, had never been hospitalized before. I have had ups and downs over the years and bipolar affects me massively causing episodes of both mania and depression.

On a bad day, I wouldn\’t go to work or shower; I felt like I couldn\’t do anything for myself. Then when I was at my max, I was very erratic, walking around talking to everyone, constantly changing the subject and spending money I didn\’t have.

Both have been very difficult and you have to be on that middle ground, which is what drugs do. I\’ve only taken two medications over the years; olanzapine and aripiprazole, which I was taking at the time of my breakup.

Last year, on my 38th birthday, I realized I had run out of my meds. I called 111, a free phone line in the UK to call when you are in urgent need of healthcare, and told them I was in desperate need of my meds.

By chance, all the pharmacists near my house had run out of medicines I needed. I was concerned as I knew that with my disease it is essential to take it every day.

Three days later I was able to access my meds, but by then I was already going into a psychotic breakdown. It was like flipping a switch. One day I was fine, and then bang, I was immersed in an episode.

It started with not being able to sleep well, then I suddenly became convinced that someone was coming to kill me and my loved ones – I sincerely believed my ex girlfriend was going to kill my son.

I really thought she was a terrorist who would take my son out of the country and kill him because she didn\’t want him anymore. It was all in my head, but it felt so real.

It\’s a bit confusing, I don\’t remember everything, but I was very paranoid and confused. At one point I phoned the police, who visited my ex partner\’s home and of course found that both she and my son were fine.

Of course everyone around me was telling me it wasn\’t true, that my thoughts were crazy. It was a horrible time and I never wished anyone else would go through something like this.

I think missing my meds for those few days played a part in my episode, but I also believe that over a long period of time the type of med I was on didn\’t work as well as it should.

I also feel that with my illness, sometimes there doesn\’t have to be a reason. It can only happen to me. Obviously, I was under a lot of stress which gradually built up and eventually got over me.

The episode lasted for about a week, during which I was on my way to work and trying my best to act normal, but on 19th September my family admitted me to St Andrew\’s Healthcare Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in St Andrew\’s Healthcare. \’Essex, England.

I was very disoriented at the time and I don\’t remember getting to the hospital. Sure, being admitted to a hospital and stuck on a ward isn\’t a good situation, but I was incredibly well looked after by the staff. I couldn\’t blame them.

Martin will soon be returning to St Andrew\’s to volunteer as a support worker. The St Andrews Hope/Health Exhibition

In the beginning, things were a little rough: I misbehaved and set off alarms. I was very angry and confused and aggressive but once I settled down and got on the right medication I started to calm down.

I became very close to some of the staff there, some of them even called me their \”golden boy\” on the ward because I was recovering so quickly. I didn\’t do therapy while there but did various activities such as music sessions and had many heart to heart discussions with some of the staff.

It was very emotional, after three months in the hospital, to be told I could go home.

Every two weeks during my stay I had a meeting with my doctor and the nurses summoned to the ward, and a few weeks into my stay I asked when I could leave.

I desperately wanted to get out before Christmas so I could spend it with my kids.

When I was told on December 21 that I was ready to discharge, it was the best news I\’ve had all year. Going back with my kids over the Christmas period was amazing. I felt like I was back where I was supposed to be. Words cannot describe how good that feeling was.

I will be returning to St Andrew\’s soon to volunteer as a support worker for a month or two. The hospital staff has given me a lot of their time and effort from him, so I want to do the same. If I can help a person progress in recovery, it will be worth it.

I don\’t think people talk about mental health enough, and I was one of those people. Before all of this happened, I was repressing my feelings. But I\’ve learned through this experience that it\’s okay to not be okay.

If you\’re in pain, talk to someone; talk to your family, talk to your friends, get anything off your chest.

Whether you\’re a man or a woman, whether you\’re young or old, just talk to someone, because there\’s always light at the end of the tunnel and you\’ll always come out on the other side.

Martin Waddilove, 38, from Essex, England, participates in The Hope Exhibition, commissioned by the mental health charity St Andrew\’s Healthcare as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

All opinions expressed in this article are the author\’s own.

As told to Newsweek\’s My Turn associate editor, Monica Greep.

Have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com.

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