I have been pondering the list of honours since it's release, both accidental and official. The most striking honour is the knighting of John Kirwan:
This endowment marks a new era in the modern social landscape. I used to cringe when people admitted to some kind of mental illness. Bipolar? Get a hold of yourself. Depression? That explains the funny package in your bathroom.
By the time I reached the age of 20, I had been diagnosed with all of the above, and more. Doctors loved to give you labels in the 90's.
I liked the reassurance of a diagnosis and the chance to "Start Again". I did so many times. A new scrip every time.
A period of active addiction lay in wait when I went to university.
As did a crippling stroke while I was pregnant with my second child later in life.
I used to think I was having a bad day. A 1.2 sq cm hole in your head can certainly put things into perspective.
For a while I lost my depth perception, half of my eyesight (excluding my macular vision) and the ability to walk.
I had an interesting condition called prosopagnoisa; my ability to recognize faces was grossly impaired.
I was fine with people I knew because I was used to their voices, mannerisms and clothing but I couldn't follow my favourite TV series. Everyone looked the same.
My son looked like all the other children in photos.
I used to joke how my situation was the original "50 first Dates". I would wake up in the morning and my brain would say to me:
"Who the fuck is that? man you are lying next to"?
Of course it was my husband and once I had reassured my brain on that count I would need establish to myself the identity of my sons.
The weirdest condition I endured for six months after the stroke was that of "Neglect". My brain could not register the left side of the world. In hospital I would diligently eat exactly half of the dinner on my plate. I would deftly finish off one side of my plate and leave a semi circle on the other side. My husband would turn my plate around and say, "look what you missed".
How did I miss that"? I would say, dumbfounded.
Because I had an injury on the right side of my brain, my perception of the left side of my world had been altered. My brain didn't register "Leftness". It wasn't quite a case of, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" - Well actually, yes it was. Needless to say my overall emotional and mental health was poor.
After three years I had for the most part recovered from all these conditions. I still limp, but I have regained my drivers license and for the most part pose no danger to others on the road or my children in my care. Arguably :)
It has never occurred to me that I might not cope. Thus far I have coped with all the shit sandwiches hurled at me by life.
Mentally ill? Unstable? Cuckoo? Yes. But the real craziness has always lain in the denial of my conditions. No matter what is going on, I will steadfastly never admit I have any handicaps, never admit anything is wrong. Never ask for help. I might have a deer in the headlights stare, but fucked if I'll ask for help.
Whaddya think I am? Craaazy?
This is the normal human reaction. It takes guts to 'fess up to "insanity".
Real valor led to JK's knighthood. It took real courage to come out on the world stage and admit mental illness in an era when a leprosied dwarf would be looked on more favorably.
It must have been incredibly hard to admit. He did it to help others and prevent a similar hell from engulfing other men.
Good on ya mate.
Thanks to people like Sir John Kirwan, mental illness is now less of a stigma than it used to be.
Living life fully. "Living"is a form of mental illness we all experience unless we are dead.