Suicidal tendencies with loads of metaphors

Because it’s been the case with me for so long – well, all my adult life, 35 years or so – I find it impossible to imagine what it’s like not to have suicidal thoughts drift into my consciousness with regular abandon. Do people really not, ever, never ever, have genuine suicidal thoughts? Unbelievable!

If you lose your hearing in adulthood, or even late childhood, or lose another sense, you have a memory of that sense. You know what some things looked, sounded, smelt, tasted, felt like. It must help with dealing with the loss of a sense.

But I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to live without weekly, often daily, thoughts of suicide. And they’re not just thoughts; they’re instincts. A need, almost, same as any other physical and mental, spiritual, need. And this has gone on for decades. It’s bloody tiring, I tell you. Never let it be said people with a mental illness aren’t strong. We’re Hercules, Samson and, uh, other very strong people.

I manage to ‘hang in there’ (an unfortunate turn of phrase) and ride the storm, which comes in waves. Sometimes the waves are like prissy lappings at the Welsh shoreline in summer at the beach. Sometimes they’re like surf-stuff in North Cornwall. Sometimes they’re thrashings at cliffs, like that sea which just hates the land and wants to, like, totally destroy it.

shoreline

At this very moment, I’m in a North Cornwall-cliff thrashing kind of place. And I have no-one to talk to about it. I’m not a ringing Samaritans kind of guy. I’m certainly not a ringing that emergency number my therapist gave me kind of guy. I’m too shy for that; don’t want to cause any bother, eh?

Not only do I have to deal with the idea that there are people who aren’t suicidal, and who never, ever have been not even for a fleeting second, I have to deal with the apparent fact that some people even experience happiness. Daily!

People are strange.

So I put my blinkers on, put the music I know will make me focus, have a glass of wine or two (I know, I know..), and wait for the waves to stop beating up on the land.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell (whose childhood home was in a village with a lot of meaning for me, Trellech) pointed out that just because the sun comes up every morning and has done for millions of years, there’s absolutely no reason why it should do so tomorrow.

I’ve weathered the storm, Canute-ed the waves, and no doubt I’ll make it through the rest of this evening too. Same as it ever was. Same as it’s always been. And if I’ve done it for 35 years then it’ll never be different. Will it?

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Exercise and hypomania

Exercise – and this can be in the accepted sense of the word, or merely exertion above the norm (or even at the norm, whatever that is) – is not a good thing whilst hypomanic or in a mixed state.
The body and mind are already under stress and reacting as if they’re being otherwise exerted.
In this state, every molecule of my body, every fragment of nerve, every spark of nerve-ending driving muscles and breath are racing out of control. It takes an enormous amount of concentration – most of it subconscious now – to stop myself becoming more ill; more depressed, more hypomanic, more of both.
Becoming manic. Having only had (as far as I recall, which isn’t much to go on) one manic episode I have no wish to repeat the ordeal.
Because both – mixed – is when it’s worse. I often told my therapist that depressed is effectively my default state; I was probably born like it. Though it took late teens to manifest. And longer for realization that this is what and who I am.
I have no compunction about saying ‘I am bipolar’. It’s been my whole adult life and probably my childhood too. It’s all I’ve known; it’s what I am.
Exercise, above a very gentle stroll for an hour or less, depending on exact mood at any given time (and oh boy, that’s a rollercoaster in itself of course), is not good. Mentally it’s not good – I get more confused, I seem to move and exist in a slower motion. Physically it’s not good – my breathing changes and seems to control me, rather than the other way around as it should be. I get chest pains, muscle pains. Just pains. There’s a pressure in my head I really don’t like. It’s been filled with some kind of squeaky substance, perhaps cotton wool, or candy floss, or polystyrene chips from exaggerated amazon boxes. It overflows to the top of my spine, crowds the medulla oblongata, attempting to push it out of my neck or my throat. Escapes down to my ribcage. Tickles my legs, and not in a nice way.
Did I mention exercise isn’t good sometimes?
I can see, I can accept, that getting out of the house, especially when the sun’s shining, is therapeutic. For depression at a certain level and of a certain type. It can be slightly tiring then, but not exhausting. Tiring is good. It’s the difference between spending a day working in front of a computer and spending a few hours working in the garden. Physical work. Activity.
It’s getting the balance right. Like medication, like life.
I won’t be hiking up small mountains whilst hypomanic again though, trust me.

Insightful blog post

Although I see and read many articles, links and comments on a wide range of blogs I rarely share them. Mostly because I’m not intimate with the workings of blogs and social media.

I read this one earlier today (via @BipolarUs on Twitter) though and it seemed particularly interesting and insightful. And somewhat relevant to my own version of this illness.

Childhood verbal abuse associated with worse course of Bipolar Disorder

Frustration and Hypomania

Horrendous week so far. A weekend of hypomania followed swiftly by a mixed state for the past four days. Sleep.. what’s that? Awake 2.22am.. and looked at my car’s ‘how many miles before fuel needed’ display: 222.

Magical Thinking is one of several things that manifests itself when hypomanic/mixed. But that’s interesting rather than a nuisance. What is a nuisance is the OCD that steps up several gears whilst in these moods. Oh, and the anxiety.

And what really isn’t helping is that I rang for an appointment with my psychiatrist (to start meds) a fortnight ago. Nothing happened so I rang again last week. Nothing’s happened again. Which means I’m going to have to ring a 3rd time.. Do they not realize that this kind of behaviour is not what we need??

And my ‘discharge papers’ arrived now the CBT has finished, from Secondary- back to Primary Care. Which means I’m having no treatment, support or guidance whatsoever at the moment.

As I said, horrendous week..

MH letter

“Crash”

As well as holding down a (professional) job, I also ‘work’ as a poet. I wrote this poem 6 years ago, about the process of crashing: that sudden overwhelming drop into depression. It isn’t even a case of ‘the higher you are the further there is to fall’. It doesn’t seem to work like that, does it? A crash is always what it is, whatever ‘speed’ you might have been travelling at at the time.

CRASH.
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.

©2009

An Anatomy of Hope

Despite having this (it seems we have it rather than being it) for 35+ years, when I have a day, or a few days (rare) during which I feel almost fine, I still allow that thought to creep in: I might be better. Cured.

Cured by what, or whom, I don’t know. I’ve never examined it that closely; the absurdity of the thought would soon show itself, for sure.

Despite being in yet another stressful situation out of my control, when I’d expect to be fluctuating wildly between hypomania and depression – with a heavy dusting of anxiety, insomnia and OCD – I’ve felt fine the past few days. That’s unusual for me; very. Of course, often I think I’m ‘well’ but it turns out I was just high, or the high side of mixed.

During those moods I kind of lose touch with reality. But then again, maybe I actually touch base with ‘reality’? Who knows? I don’t.

So.. a few days of feeling as fine as I ever get to feel. Managing, coping. No over-stressing, no morbid thoughts driving / driven by obsessive behaviours (no waking up from 1am repeating sequences of numbers over and over lest something horrid happens to my son). No ‘black dog’, no buzzing nerve endings and lead-heavy muscles. No nausea.

As long as I redefine ‘no’ as ‘not much at all.. for me’.

So.. cured! Without medication (psychiatrist’s secretary never got back to me with an appointment, now I’ve finally decided to begin Quetiapine). With six months worth of CBT recently ended. Well!

But then, in the flick of a finger and thumb, in a single movement of the clock’s second-hand, in the blink of an eye and the gush of air into a single deep breath, it was back.

What happened to cause it? Nothing. Nothing at all. I was making a sandwich. Like when I put my back out for 3 weeks while brushing my teeth. It just happened. There were no thoughts, no worries or concerns. No stress. No nothing.

My mood simply dropped, like a rock from a bridge.

And now my skull is crammed with damp grey cotton wool; tons of the stuff. My muscles have been replaced with concrete. My skin is sagging (my posture has slumped, totally). I’m typing this but running numbers through my head – up, down, sideways. Breathing deeply in an attempt to compensate. Confused and.. well, I can’t really be bothered to even think about it.

All that hope, wasted! All this fear, returned!

‘The rejection of hope, in absurdism, denotes the refusal to believe in anything more than what this absurd life provides. Hope, Camus emphasizes, however, has nothing to do with despair. One can still live fully while rejecting hope, and, in fact, can only do so without hope. Hope is perceived by the absurdist as another fraudulent method of evading the Absurd, and by not having hope, one is motivated to live every fleeting moment to the fullest. In the words of Nikos Kazantzakis: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”’ (Wikipedia)