Spiral (poem)

This is a poem I wrote in 2009, an attempt to describe what happens when I ‘crash’ into a depressive episode and spiral downwards:

 

Spiral

 

The bird asked me:

          How does the crash happen?

I replied:

          It begins as a subtle,

          idiotic skimming of feathers

          about my head

          but builds to a blind

          thrashing of wings

          pulping my whole

 

          body

 

          contorting even the

          pose I hold, sitting.

 

The tree asked me:

          How does the crash develop?

I replied:

          The wind pulls me

          this way and

          that; grows from a

          rustle to an angry

          mob. It

          envelops my head:

          speech, nerves and

          movement

          slow

          -ing

          each to an infant

          crawl when swaddled.


The rain asked me:

          How dark does it become?

I replied:

          My whole being

          fights to preserve itself:

          I feel the ambivalence of

          wanting to live yet

          being almost unable

          to countenance

          survival. I wish for

          the whole world to

          hold me; to swaddle

          me in a bright blanket

          made up of atoms

          drawn from life itself.

 

The baby asked me:

          How do you grow?

I replied:

          In this state I barely         

          exist: pain wracks my

          entire body, neck to

          toes, head to

          tips of cold fingers.

          I go on only

          because it’s dictated in

          my genes. My DNA

          tortures me, tying me

          to life in these

          episodes of

          string-bound

          cloud.


I asked myself:

          Will you always go on?

 

I replied:

          I’ll fight. What

          else can I do?

 

There was no reply

this time.

 

 

Change of direction

I’m back. Originally, I had an intention for this blog but I ‘chickened out’ and made it about politics.

What I wanted it to be about – what I’d intended it to be about – was mental illness; specifically, about my own.

This is my story:

 

Very very few (less than half a dozen) people in the world know about my illness. Not even my GP… OK, here’s the story as brief as possible:

I had a breakdown at 20, though it had been brewing for some years. The realisation that I am almost certainly cyclothymic (‘mild’ bipolar) came just a few years ago when I read a book called ‘Why am I still depressed?’. It also showed why none of the several attempts at anti-depressants had worked (different type of depression).

I then also realised that I had been having hypomania episodes for a long long time – the first I can pinpoint was age 18 or thereabouts, though there are some signs that these had been happening since I was around 7.

After the breakdown I went to my GP finally and told him about suicidal thoughts etc. He literally said ‘pull yourself together’ and sent me packing. I am not sure how I got through the 3 years that breakdown / Depression lasted. I never told a doctor again after that, though I have had some treatment for reactive depression (after first divorce, for eg.).

In the 30+ years since, I have been depressed I would say about 95% of the time, probably more. It has been my whole adult life and I wouldn’t know what ‘normal’ looks like. This is ‘normal’ for me.

Friends (I make friends rarely and with great great difficulty – I wouldn’t really be surprised if I turned out to be somewhere on the ASD spectrum too) now say ‘oh yes, of course I can see that’ when I have told them some of what life is like for me. As I said, this is only a few people. So the cyclothymia/bipolar thing is just self-diagnosis, backed up with a few people agreeing with me and thinking ‘uh, doh!’

The hypomania is usually very very brief, but can come with rapid cycling or as part of a mixed state. It almost always comes suddenly for ‘no reason’ and manifests as me painting or less often writing. (Interestingly, editing / varnishing etc. is a depressive sign.)

The highs are much more dangerous for me because I usually don’t know they are happening or imminent and at times like that I can get quite suicidal and those thoughts make much more sense to me logically then. Don’t worry, I’ve had this a long time and I’m still alive – though it is a huge fight sometimes, I admit. Without Gabe, I imagine I would have done something a while back though.

I keep thinking I will finally tell my GP, but how do you pour out this story you’ve kept for 33+ years?? Then I think I might write my GP a letter – just like this email – and leave it to him to see if he acts on it.

Of course, psychotic ex-mother in law would then push my ex- to go for full custody. Work would also find out about my condition and I would probably lose my job. Spiral….

I self-medicate with small amounts of alcohol. A small glass or 2 of white wine 5 days a week at teatime, never any more. This seems to be a fraction of what everyone else in work drinks anyway!! Though as part of my attempt to lose half a stone from Christmas I haven’t drunk anything since last weekend.

I heard someone – a writer, a woman – on the radio a couple of years back saying how society only sees the bad side of alcohol, but for her, as a depressive, moderate amounts of alcohol had saved her life as without her occasional glass of wine or whatever she’s have killed herself many years before.

The hypomania episodes as I say are very very brief – often a few minutes – but they can leave me extremely drained and are always followed by a low. Well, lower I mean haha. There are usually around half a dozen mild ones a year, and as I said, one severe one rarely. Probably less than half a dozen of those in 35 years, but I’m guessing those were generally severe enough for hospitalisation or at least intervention.

The table thing.. my new girlfriend was there (haha that didn’t last long..) but had no idea what to do and really should have phoned an ambulance. Somehow (I think I put something on FB?) friend turned up within 10 mins but he did nothing either. My life today might have been very much different if they’d got me some help then.

There was a very big but very blunt knife, and lots of pacing up and down manically, but no-one, them or me, was in any physical danger at all. None. This was internalised. That lasted a few hours until I fell asleep.

Anyway, this is more than I have told anyone about this – anyone. Please treat it confidentially.