Hi, I’m Miranda and I am the co-founder of MaDCaff, and thought I’d share my story with you…
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1993. I was 21 years old. I think it’s important to stress that back then we didn’t have the technology that we do today. I didn’t have the same freedom of information, and the ability to communicate with people from all over the world that I am privileged to enjoy today. I mention this straight away because I do believe that with knowledge, education, support, and self-awareness, people living with mental health problems can have a good quality of life.
Back in 1993 though, it was a very different picture. I was given a label, ‘Manic Depression’ they said, and some pills, and that was the extent of the ‘support’ I received. I had experienced a psychotic manic episode, which led to being hospitalized. I was confused, frightened, and very inept to deal with what was happening to me. I felt like I carried a dirty secret and felt very ashamed to have this label.
It wasn’t until my third admission to hospital in 2008 that I was fortunate to meet with someone from Bipolar UK. David, was a Bipolar UK volunteer, going into mental health wards and sharing his own story, and inviting people with bipolar to join Bipolar UK, an organization that went on to become very important to me. I was so touched by David’s story. I had never knowingly met another person with bipolar up until this point. His story was very similar to my own experience of the illness, and yet here he was, large as life and listening to my hypomanic ramblings.
I might add that between 1993 and 2008, fifteen years, not one of the professionals involved in my care had even signposted me towards the charity that is Bipolar UK!
When I became well again, I joined Bipolar UK. I later went on to complete a 3-day self-management training course, which has changed my life. Not only did I meet another 12 people with Bipolar, but I was also empowered to begin to take back control of this condition, realizing I held the keys to my own well-being. This was enormously powerful for me.
I should say at this point that I have a background in Music and Dance; that I am a creative sort of person. Last year I noticed something was missing in my life – something to bring it all together, my experience of mental illness and my creativity. I talked it over with a friend, the idea of bringing together other musicians and dancers who also had experience of mental illness. Later this idea would become MaDCaff, open café events showcasing the talents of those who have been, or are affected by mental illness.
Last year, I was invited by a friend, Dai Sharkey to perform at an event he was putting on called ‘Schizophrenic’. He was working in partnership with Time to Change Wales, in an attempt to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. This was right up my street. I had been well for almost a year, and relished an opportunity to sing my songs, and talk about my experiences. I did the gig, and met the TTCW team. (More Photos here) I then applied for funding from TTCW with the help of a very good friend, Rachel Stelmach, West Wales Field Officer for Disability Arts Cymru, and MaDCaff was born.
Today, with a clearer insight into my own triggers and warning signs, a significant support network, and new technology, I no longer fell alone with my label/diagnosis. I belong to an online group of people with bipolar disorder, as well as a couple of chat rooms. I also have an e-mail mentor from The Blurt Foundation. All of these things significantly contribute to my well being.
I have been well for well over a year now and I am so happy to be involved with TTCW and their campaign to end stigma around mental health.