The next nine days.

This is the process for being ‘ill’ and / or ‘in crisis’ in the UK today. I have in the past been told that, if necessary, I am to go to Casualty or ring 999 and ask for an ambulance. As I don’t think I could possibly cope with the wait of several hours for either (assuming either of these would be interested).

My GP surgery has changed the rules for seeing a doctor. Before last month you could turn up at the door for opening time at 8am then wait with the rest of the queue until a GP is free.  Or you could try to book an appointment over the phone; often there would be none free for the next 2 weeks. If there was an appointment free it would invariably be 2 weeks away.

I have a number for the mental health team. Referral appointments for a psychiatrist have always been up to 2 months away.

To reiterate, if I am suicidal and exhibiting other signs of crisis relating to my bipolar / anxiety / OCD I must wait a fortnight to see a doctor.

I have already self-certified myself for having a week off work just before the half term break last week. Which means I must go to work tomorrow or I won’t be paid. I am nowhere near being well enough, mentally (and physically – because mental illnesses have their own physiological friends), to do my job at the standard I have set for myself. That is, as well as anyone else there who doesn’t have a ‘severe mental illness’ such as bipolar disorder.

Technically, I shouldn’t be driving while I am ill, either.

When I do see a GP in 9 days time there will only be two options, because talking therapy is never on the cards: change my meds; sign me off work for x amount of weeks.

Having spent three years trying to get along with quetiapine, Epilim and fluoxetine I am not about to spend the next few months going through withdrawal- and side effects. And I don’t want to put the burden on other staff to cover me in work, even though my manager is very empathetic and helpful (within the realms of employment law). I never think of myself as having a ‘disability’, though this is exactly what I have.

So.. I only have one option, and that is to turn up for work tomorrow, suicidal or not. I am suffering from fatigue, I find it almost impossible to get out of bed, I am trembling, I am confused, I sometimes see shadows, and I continue to put on weight – which makes me feel even more worthless.

Anything could happen in the next nine days. And it probably will.

 

disabilities

 

 

 

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Suicide

Historically my ‘suicidal ideation’ has been extremely intrusive. Sudden and severe, but thankfully very brief episodes with enough space in-between them to make them manageable with the decades of experience I have of doing so.

But the past three days I have been constantly suicidal without breaks, without relief from the exhaustion that carrying this huge weight around – physically as well as mentally – burdens me with. It’s so bloody tiring.

 

Suicide.

 

I’ve spent three days, now, under a cloud

blackbirds have flown into existence. It

 

wraps me in a colourless silk stripping me

of every nerve, every piece of me. I could

 

pull death over me; dive into its net and

drown in the wet ocean of dead fishes,

effortlessly.

 

breathe sm

Crisis? What crisis?

I’ve spent yet another week off work, feeling very unwell. Mood extremely low, I’ve slept very late each day (on and off). What to do about it?

I’ve made an appointment to see my GP. Soonest one available was for 2 weeks time. I rang the Crisis number I’ve been given for the Mental Health assessment team – I have an appointment for 21st JANUARY! That’s >7 weeks away. I will have to go back to work tomorrow even though I feel totally unable to do my job at the moment. I’ll have my obligatory ‘return to work’ meeting with my line manager and will request a referral to the Occupational Health doctor.

I feel very guilty I’ve missed even more time off work; I miss some of every month now, and I only work part time – albeit in a very busy and stressful professional job.

Who knows what scope there is to adjust my meds; there’s no way I’m going to allow a GP or even a locum GP medicate my bipolar. I am still on my Epilim starting dose which is now a low dose probably adjustable upwards. I could really do with some extended time away from work again – I’ll discuss that with the GP in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I just slog on, feeling very unwell. Mood changes rapidly and without warning, and I have very intrusive suicidal thoughts.

I have no idea what the answer is to all this. All I know is that I need help more than ever.

bipolar cloud

I don’t feel well.

Even when my mental health has been relatively stable, there is still physical illness most of the time. ‘I don’t feel well’ is a sentence loaded with meaning and insight. I don’t feel well can encompass a load of symptoms, often little I can put my finger on.

Tiredness – no, utter exhaustion. Myriad aches and pains, especially in my joints. Chest pains (reflux, pain could be anywhere in the torso and feels serious). Confused, total lack of energy, agoraphobia, sleepiness but as usual waking often in the middle of bizarre, hyper-real, repetitive dreams (I go to the same place every night).

I don’t feel well. An ache in the pit of my stomach. Lower back pain – I’ve had medication in the past for a worn disc that wasn’t deemed serious enough for surgery.

Guilt and a sense of futility at how much weight I’ve put on since starting meds a few years ago: 600mg quetiapine; 20mg fluoxetine; 500mg valproate. Probably enough to stun a small horse!

I don’t feel well. I’m tired, I can’t get out of bed. I have to get out of bed to go to my stressful job which I have no idea how I’m managing to hold down.

Just: I don’t feel well.

pumpkin

 

Brief moments of madness

At least my illness is a steady one, most highs and lows (highest and lowest) clipped by the meds. It means that when something does trigger a mood I’m in a good position (hopefully) to work through it.

Unless of course we’re talking about psychosis. However brief and temporary that might be.

One such very brief episode occurred this a couple of evenings ago after a frustrating argument with my son.

Within moments my mood had escalated like a rocket taking off. These moments, if I remember them correctly (or at all), surprise me and I wonder where on earth they come from.

For example, the one I’m talking about now involved two separate obsessions appearing – and disappearing just as quickly. I had an overwhelming urge to saw the coffee table in half. Which let’s face it would have made quite a mess. Sawdust must be hell to get out of a carpet. As long as I keep my sense of humour, eh?

Along with this I had another urge, to stick metal skewers through my throat. Where did that come from, eh? Luckily I don’t own such things. Just those brittle wooden ones for BBQs and they’re locked in the shed.

And just as soon as these obsessions / compulsions arrived, with a breath of air they disappeared again. A welcome characteristic of ultradian cycling.

***

On a different note, my war of attrition against the rat family that set up home beneath my garden – attracted no doubt by the hanging bird feeders – seems to be in its closing stages (for now) thanks to my use of chemical warfare and the employment of mercenary cat infantry. I’d do anything to protect wildlife.. but I draw the line at rats on my property.

 

Rat bastards

 

Not a lot

A long period of silence here. Things go on, nothing really changes though the summer break has finished and I’ve now returned to work.

The first few days left me exhausted despite them involving very little work. Maybe it’s the getting up early added to the usual insomnia and other sleep issues?

Mood is relatively stable, though last week I got stuck in a prolonged bout of suicidal ideation. I judge these thoughts by imagining I have a button next to me I could push for instant death; how often I would do this tells me how my low- or mixed mood is.

Aiming at – as usual – trying to keep a 100% work record, no sickness leave. I do well, and Management knows it; my line manager says he doesn’t know how I manage to come into work at all, let alone be there and do my (teaching) job satisfactorily and even do it to a high standard. I surprise myself at how I manage to hold down a professional post, albeit part time (60%) now.

I also seem to have (touch wood) levelled out with how much weight I’ve gained since starting meds 3 years ago – Fluoxetine, Valproate, Quetiapine. I’m not losing weight, just gaining it more slowly.

Life isn’t easy. It isn’t easy if one doesn’t have a mental illness. As Samuel Beckett put it:

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

 

Sunflower soft