Restore helped me to rediscover my former healthy self
Tomek Brus has been involved with Restore for over ten years, initially as a member of one of our Recovery Projects, and more recently, as a Restore volunteer. Here, he shares a little of his incredible personal story with us:
‘I had been diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder in 1977 and was put on Lithium, a drug that was considered the best mood stabilizer in those days. For about 11 years I was completely fine. I finished my higher education and ended up with four university degrees, including a PhD in Statistics from Warwick University. I worked in University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, between 1985 and 1987. Later I worked at Bristol University, Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company and Oxford Brookes University.
However, in 1989 my mental health problems returned. I came through a sequence of manic episodes interlaced with long periods of deep depression. I was hospitalised on many occasions. The troubles continued for twenty years. During that time, I was sacked from two jobs and my first marriage ended in a divorce. In 1995, I lost my last job as a lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. Since then I have lived off my teacher’s pension and benefits.
Luckily, in 1997, I met my current wife, Joanna, in Poland. At first this relationship did not seem to make any difference to my mental health. My illness had a momentum of its own and it continued unabated. But the perseverance of my wife, and later, intervention of a psychiatrist, Susan Shaw, who changed my medication, slowly begun to make a difference for the better.
Doctor Shaw ran a support group, and later suggested I should join Restore as a member. Since 2009, after two decades of hell, my illness went into complete remission. Not a single manic episode, not a single period of depression. It is hard to say what was the main reason for this remarkable improvement. The key factors were: my wife Joanna, Dr Shaw, new medication, and last, but definitely not least, visits to Restore.
At first, I was a member at the Beehive. Here I joined a theatre performance group, and played Pinocchio in a Christmas pantomime. I took a number of courses, including the Mental Health First Aid course, which runs regularly at Restore. After years of isolation, I became an active member of a thriving community. I grew interested in working in the Reception area of the organisation and here I met a lot of people who worked in the main office under the leadership of Rose Cox. I also interacted with a wide variety of people who visited Restore daily. Very soon I was offered the position of Reception volunteer, a role which I’ve held for the past six years. It became a real pleasure to work in the focal centre of the organisation.
Meanwhile, outside of Restore, my life was evolving as well. One of the members of Restore took me to Oxford Bridge Club, where, after a twenty-five-year break, I restarted playing my favourite game of Bridge, which I thought I would never play again. So, once again, Restore helped to rediscover my former healthy self. Soon I became a member of two Bridge clubs where I met a lot of new interesting people. I feel that I have left my mental health problems well behind.
The latest twist in this story is another contribution from my wife. She took me to Bridge holidays in Poland, where I got in touch with a Polish writer of Bridge books. I suggested to him that I could translate his work into English. He was quite keen on the idea, and I have already translated one book, and I am now working on another. So, I now have a full time job which will keep me going for the foreseeable future.