Lann is a father of two and runs his own business selling calligraphy-based artwork. He’s also a Research Champion, helping spread the word about our research. This is his story:
My name is Lann, I’m 42 and I live in Cardiff with my wife Lydia and our two children.
Six years ago I lost my job working in sales, triggering problems with my mental health. Although looking back, I wasn’t myself for some time before I was made redundant. I’d be stressed and angry a lot of the time, but I thought this was just what people who work in sales felt like, that is was normal. But when I lost my job, everything just started to crumble.
One day I parked in a lay-by up on the mountain, switched off my phone and just sat there and cried for hours. And then I did it again the next day. I knew something was wrong and decided it was time to speak to my GP.
This wasn’t easy for me; I grew up in a rural area in West Cork, and attitudes to mental health were very old fashioned when I was kid. It wasn’t something you talked about or admitted to – it was seen as a weakness, or something you were putting on. I had to go through it myself to understand what it was really like, and just how much it can affect your life.
My doctor began treating me for depression, but I was also experiencing unusually high moods which were just as destructive. Even though I was being made redundant I bought a brand new car and signed up to study on a course in Reading. It was completely impractical and unmanageable, but at the time it seemed like a great idea.
I’d always been the kind of person that would throw myself into new things but never see them through. I thought it was just my personality until I read an article about someone suffering with bipolar – it was like a checklist of all the things I was experiencing.
I discussed it with my doctor and he agreed it was a possibility. This was the first step in a long and difficult journey not only for myself, but also my family. Eventually, with the help of my psychiatrist and my loved ones, I was able to stablise my moods and stay well. I found that medication helped. It took a long time to find what worked for me, but when we finally got it right, it just felt like someone turning the lights back on. I felt like me again.
I’ve always had an interest in calligraphy, and now I’ve been able to start selling my work. I’m getting orders through, and it’s all going very well. For the first time in ages I’m carrying a pen and paper round with me all the time so I can jot down ideas and sketch things out. I’m really feeling like myself again.
When I found out about NCMH I didn’t see any way I could not help with their research. If there was one thing I could do to help people in the future, I had to do it. Taking part wasn’t difficult or painful, it just involved talking through a survey with the researcher, letting them take a blood sample and filling in some questionnaires.
The only way we’ll ever tackle illnesses like bipolar is by understanding them, so if I can give a little time now to make a difference for people maybe 10 or 20 years down the line, then why wouldn’t I?
Lann’s calligraphy can be seen on www.inkrdbl.com