The GP - a retired Air Commodore doctor - must have thought it was serious, because I got an appointment to see Eric Anthony, the Consultant Psychiatrist, very quickly. He was a quiet man, with great depths of empathy and a terrible taste in socks. He asked me how I felt, but I hadn't the words to describe my feelings, except to say I had none. He was gentle and kind, and eventually decided I was suffering from major depression. He put me off sick and I went back to my empty flat with antidepressants to keep me company.
A word about my private life. I was semi living with a very senior Army officer who was separated from his wife, and we intended to get married as soon as his divorce came through. We had told the relevant people. However, the RAF couldn't cope with what they called my "social misconduct" - ie having an affair. Even the Army was quite put out, but there was no one senior to Tony to take him to task. I, on the other hand, was an easy target.
I was seeing Eric Anthony once a week and was obviously deteriorating - I became almost wordless and stopped feeling anything. He put me on lofepramine, an antidepressant, but would only let me have a short supply as it was dangerous in overdose. At that point, I should have been in hospital.
The small minded, punitive regime of the RAF slowly started to move against me.
One day, Eric asked me if I'd ever felt like this before, and I remembered the incident while I was at school after Carol committed suicide. I told him about it. He then asked me about my elated periods - how hard I worked, how long I could stay up without sleep and so on. It must have been obvious to him that I was bipolar, but he didn't tell me at that stage. That's when I opened the envelope which had the letter saying manic depressive psychosis. After I'd looked it up, I told Eric that I knew my diagnosis and we spent the next few sessions discussing the way forward. I didn't realise it, but he was being pushed by the RAF machine to throw me out, because of my social misconduct.
There came a day when he told me he thought I would be better out of the RAF as my illness was too severe to go on serving - the machine had struck. I was horrified - the RAF was my life. However, Eric put the wheels in motion to have me medically invalided out of the service. At that stage, Tony was away and I was alone in the flat, feeling suicidal. The phone rang, and it was someone I had previously considered to be a friend, called John. He told me that the RAF was going to "throw you out under the same regulation as we throw out drug addicts and alcoholics". When I told him I was very unwell, and not really able to have the conversation, he replied "You didn't have to fall for a married man". I realised I was being punished rather than treated for my illness. I explained that manic depression was mostly genetic and had been brought on, in my case, by work stress - he wouldn't listen. I was shocked and terrified - what would I do if I wasn't in the RAF - my family? My life?
Things went from bad to worse and I deteriorated even further - but still no hospital. I discovered later that Eric had been ordered not to treat me, but to discharge me. He fought and fought the machine on my behalf, but to no avail. The Black Dog was sitting on my lap - I didn't tell Eric about the voices, stupidly; I thought I was a freak and that no one else had them. (In fact, I kept quiet about the voices for many years) I was to be chucked out without a pension.
I left the RAF in a dreadful state - very unwell and paranoid. I was on a high dose of lofepramine. Eric, who had retired by that time, continued to see me in London as a favour. Had I been seen by a civilian psychiatrist, I would have been admitted - however, I struggled on. Tony and I got married and I got a bit better. We went to live in Dorset at weekends and had a house in London during the week as Tony was still working.
I decided to fight the RAF for a pension. Social Services, who had examined me when I left as I had claimed incapacity benefit, were dismissive - they said it was impossible to be invalided without getting a pension. I wrote to the Air Force Board and got patronising letters back, which made me depressed again. I waited for the postman every day to see if the RAF had changed their minds. After a year of this, which was hellish, Eric got involved and wrote a stinking letter to the AFB. The result? A pension. No apology, just a letter saying my illness was due to my service.
It was the injustice that got to me, along with the hidden messages and the lies. I wasn't being heard - no one was listening as they'd already made their minds up to punish me. At one stage, the machine accused me of trying to work my ticket so I could get out - I asked them why they thought I wanted to leave at all. I loved the RAF, so why should I try to lie my way out of it?
I won, but never received an apology for my treatment. Since then, I've had 24 hospital admissions in Dorset, and I think the shadow of that time is still with me. I dream about it - I'm shouting but no one can hear me.
I spent 16 years in the RAF defending the Free World , then got bunged out unceremoniously for being bipolar. I and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Funny old world, isn't it?