It’s all this iceberg.
It’s all this iceberg.
A strange night, warm and humid. I slept badly, as always. The difference with last night (in the early hours) is that I had a visual hallucination.
It was a figure, in the darkest part of the room, a yard from my head. The figure was an exaggerated one; marching on the spot, monochrome, side-on to me.
(“All colours will agree in the dark.” – Francis Bacon)
It didn’t appear human. Without lifting my head from the pillow I reached out my hand to touch it, a couple of times. Nothing solid, and no reaction. As unusual as this was, I wasn’t afraid and was too sleepy to react further. I turned over, facing the opposite direction, and fell asleep again. Next time I woke in the night there was no figure there.
William Blake, ‘The Ghost of a Flea’.
Hallucination or Vision? Age 17-ish
Midnight, I’ve walked to the top of a local hilltop, Twm Barlwm with my best friend. The news headlines the evening before was a new Middle East war. Despite not being religious we decide to pray for peace. I do this with the Lord’s Prayer, silently to myself. At the end of this I feel a firm hand on my right shoulder. I assume it’s my friend but on opening my eyes I see he is some distance from me.
A thick fog has enveloped the hill, with a visibility of just a few feet. We are on a hilltop with fog and darkness all around us. There’s the sound of a sheep, or a lamb, which we decide to follow. It leads us all the way down the hill, bleating continually so we can follow as we’ve not seen this creature.
Getting back to the house in the early hours of morning the radio says a ceasefire in the war has just been declared.
Vision or hallucination? Age 17-ish
Late at night, I have just left my girlfriend’s house to walk the half a mile home. It’s a clear night, bright and dry. Fifty yards from her house I stop still as there is a bright light in the night sky – not a star, but the planet Venus. I don’t know how long I stop there, transfixed. Several minutes, not that long.
The star tells me a story: the meaning of Love. I return to my girlfriend’s house, make myself unwelcome as it’s quite late now. In the kitchen I proceed to tell her all about Love as transmitted to me. This takes an hour or so of manic speech. I eventually leave, and run home – ecstatic, full of intense energy and happiness – jumping off walls, climbing over obstacles, unable to wear myself out.
Some years later I discover this story was a re-telling of Plato’s Symposium, something I’d obviously never read at that age and indeed had had no exposure to.
It sounds, I imagine, unbelievable if I were to say that I miss madness. Time is on its side, after all; 55 years until I sought help for what, by then, I knew well enough had to be bipolar disorder. Manic depression. This was three years ago.
I exist now with no medical or psychiatric help; all I have is a small cauldron of medications to keep me sane.
My moods are indeed more stable, with the top and bottom of them clipped. That still leaves an awful lot of space in-between for, well, potential insanity.
Something of me has gone. Maybe it’s me? After all, you live with someone long enough you get to know them, maybe very well – or what you imagine to be so. What’s gone for me is my creativity first and foremost; I am a poet, novelist, photographer, painter. Or at least I was. No, I still am. I just don’t do it as much. I’ve started to write a small amount of poetry again and I’ve always taken photographs. I’ve written no fiction in a few years and as I say, a piddling amount of poetry that I don’t know the value of. Is it any good? Well, it gets published – is that an indication in these days of online magazine and journals? Depends which one I suppose.
Madness gave me a sex life. Rather too much of one I suppose. And with it, some confidence and a way around the crippling social anxiety I have now or when sane. Luckily I escaped the uncontrolled spending that may people with bipolar have. I’ve had no inclination to go out and buy a Harley Davidson or a sports car. I did buy several Fairport Convention albums and a load of cheap watches. I am holding down a good job (I have no idea how) and I can handle this limited expenditure.
After all, in the past, whilst manic, I’ve got married soon after beginning a relationship. And bought a one-way ticket to India (and used it).
I read a lot of blogs and articles about bipolar; I’m pretty much a textbook case, though one of my psychiatrists (when I had some) said I was an ‘unusual case’. This, I assume, is because I have both ultra- ultra rapid cycling (ultradian) bipolar as well as a more typical cycling form that has varied from rapid cycling to a longer cycling model.
Some things are much easier for me now, medicated. I had several months of CBT but it didn’t seem to have worked for me. Maybe if I’d been medicated at the same time it would have helped? Some things surfaced during that therapy that I didn’t like, didn’t feel at all comfortable with. Specifically, bipolar dissociation and even DID itself. One of the more ridiculous things my therapist suggested was that I free the other self inside me (and in the mirror) to see what happens. No, thank you.
I can’t honestly say the ‘extremely intrusive suicidal ideations’ are any less present. Maybe a little less severe though. Maybe not.
You might have by now a sense of what I mean by missing madness? When manic or hypomanic – and especially when in mixed moods – I often have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes I know afterwards, often not at all. I have memory lapses (dissociation?) that scare me. My short term memory is wrecked. I live a separate life in dreams, though I’ve not slept through the night even once in decades.
I’ve put on a load of weight since starting the meds – I usually sum up the choice of being medicated or not as fat or mad? I seem to have chosen the former, though as I said at the beginning of this piece, I’m far from convinced that I’ve made the right choice.
A vision? Age 4-ish
Nursery school. I am riding a tricycle in the play-yard. Suddenly everything stops, goes blank and distant and I know I have had a “daydream”. I can’t remember what I saw in that reverie but I know it wasn’t there and then, wasn’t real.
A vision? Age 6-ish
Jesus and some of his disciples are sitting around a campfire at night, cooking, boiling water or soup. Some of the boiling liquid spills onto Jesus’s hand but he doesn’t feel it. I conclude from this (at the time) that Jesus has leprosy.
Delusion 1: UFOs.
They are smudges against the grey sky, almost hidden; almost unseen. But I see them, on the greyest of days. Just above me, from the corner of my eye driving to work, 8am. And maybe later, if the weather’s unchanged, driving home again when the sky is flat and leaden, devoid of markings and boundaries.
Of course they don’t care if we see them – if we think we see them – there’s reasonable doubt. It takes someone with my illness to catch sight of the things as we drive- or walk along. They have no shape as such. From what I comprehend; as I said, they’re just smudges against the uniform flat grey sky. They come and go, just for seconds.
They’re not from out there; we’ve made a mistake in believing this fairytale. They’re from here. Sometimes in our world but not of our world. They could be from under the sea though that’s unlikely. They’ve never spoken to me.
They’re from here – another universe? They dip into our time and space, who knows what for. Do they even see us – do they even know we’re here? Or are we blips, smudges, against a flat grey or cloudless sky?
It takes someone with an illness like mine to see them, for fleeting seconds and for fleeting spaces. But to date there’s been only one. Come and go, say hello.
Too long without an update or a hello here!
I’ve spent much of each day, for a year or more, sedated. This comes from taking my meds as directed: 20mg fluoxetine, 400mg quetiapine each morning. (Then 200mg quetiapine and 500mg of valproate each evening.)
I’m holding down a stressful job, 3 days a week. And it was tough, doing this with a muddled brain that wants to lie down and take a nap every half hour.
It only occurred to me on Monday that I could take all of these meds in the evening, a couple of hours before sleep-time (except the fluoxetine, which is better taken in the morning it seems). So I did this and there was a huge difference immediately! Doing my job whilst awake was a revelation and it also seems to have helped my anxiety a little too. I have more energy in the daytime too.
Of course, these evening meds should be knocking me out for 10 hours (there are people on Twitter who say 25mg of quetiapine will do this for them). But no, I still haven’t slept right through the night even once in decades.
* * *
I finally got to have my annual blood tests to monitor my meds. A year late. The results were in this week: all ‘normal’ except for my cholesterol, which has always been high, genetically. They were almost 7 before starting the meds and I was quite pleased that they’re ‘only’ 8 now. I was expecting double figures. My GP looked a bit concerned though. My blood pressure is a little high, nothing to write home about. My weight is too much; I’ve put on 2st in the past 2 years+ since starting bipolar meds.
So I agreed to start taking Simvastatin 20mg in an effort to lower the cholesterol level and took the first one last evening. Watch this space..