I miss the mad me

 

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.

 

 

Delusion or Truth.

 

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.

 

so vivid

Delusion or Truth.

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.

 

tall sky

Too long

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..

 

bluebell wood-tiltshift layer

 

 

Those manic moments

A few things I’ve done whilst manic:

 

  1. As a young child, had a ‘vision’ that Jesus had leprosy. Also, at nursery school, had another ‘vision’ with depersonalisation.

 

  1. As a teenager, had other religious ‘visions’ including psychosis.

 

  1. As a teenager, the planet Venus told me (in compressed time) the philosophy of Plato’s ‘Symposium’.

 

  1. Got married. (It didn’t last.)

 

  1. Bought a one-way flight ticket to India. (And used it.)

 

  1. Been a total slut.

 

  1. Marched up and down the living room wielding a large kitchen knife, frequently stabbing the dining table.

 

  1. Had various delusions, most of which I still have (to some extent) despite meds.

 

  1. Bulk bought: cheap wristwatches; USB pen drives; clothing; etc.

 

  1. Written what I estimate to be more than a million words since my teenage years: fiction (several novels), poetry (thousands – many published), reviews, plays, etc.

 

  1. Wrote a 70k word autobiography in two weeks at the age of 20-ish despite nothing actually having happened in my life at that point.

 

  1. Made 20+ ensō paintings in 10 mins or so (total). The lawn was covered with them.

 

  1. Driven up to the Black Mountains obsessively, 3x a week for a couple of months.

 

14. Danced on a table in the staff room at lunchtime. No-one seemed to notice.

 

trees

Progress, or lack of such

To be honest, I thought I’d have seen more progress by now. Three years after CBT started (it lasted about 8 months) and just over two years since I began taking meds. These have changed and dosages upped several times to where they remain steady at the moment. Daily: 600mg quetiapine, 20mg fluoxetine, 500mg sodium valproate.

And yes, they’ve topped and tailed my more extreme moods. In that respect there’s been significant progress. I still get frequent – and fleeting – suicidal ideation, but I don’t have the strength and wherewithal to actually do anything about it. I tend to ere on the side of caution and add ‘yet’ to that statement. It wouldn’t do to think I’m cured. I know there’s going to be no such thing.

So two years.. I’m holding down my job and – I think – doing well at it. My team gives me some support by way of accepting and dealing with my many cognitive and memory issues that pop up daily more than once.

I have no-one to talk to about my illness; at least, not in detail. Twitter remains a source of support, albeit from people I’ve never met and never will meet. There are loads of us on there exposing our souls and craving help and attention. Whenever it’s good to talk, Twitter offers a (usually) one-directional ‘conversation’ outlet. I have no input from my GP or any other medical service. I saw a psychiatrist last before the summer but that was only because my GP referred me due to a down-turn in moods. I have no future appointment set.

It would be interesting to see if I could hold-down a relationship at this point in my treatment. Bipolar destroyed all the romantic relationships I’ve ever had, and I still feel so bad about that. Some of these were good for me, and I let them go through my – admittedly uncontrollable – moods. As it stands now, three years since talking therapy began and just over two years since meds started, I have no such relationship. Indeed, I’ve not had a girlfriend (or even a date!) in two and a half years. That’s the meds for you; I’ve been stripped of emotions, feelings, libido and effort. I create no writing work, and barely any art work – the things that I’ve always done and done well.

I don’t really live; I exist. And even then, there are occasions when I get hypomanic and don’t even believe that. I exist with moods and delusions, my physical health has taken a hard knock (illness and meds) and I generally ache all over 24/7. I still don’t sleep. My short term memory is f*$*&d, basically. I’ve put on a couple of stone in weight since starting the meds but from looking at other people’s experiences I could have put on an awful lot more. Who knows, maybe I will? I’ve had to get rid of a load of clothes and start acquiring from scratch. (Though that’s actually been quite therapeutic!)

The biggest shock to me lately has been a letter from the Pensions people; I still have 9 more years to work in this stressful job. Until I’m over 66. How the hell’s that going to happen? I’m living day to day. Small mercies.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/e/e5/Magritte_TheSonOfMan.jpg/225px-Magritte_TheSonOfMan.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

From depression to brief relief

I’m having a brief evening’s break from depression it seems and it’s such a relief. There are signs it’s coming, before I realise it’s here:

I’ll have a drink – not much left of that bottle of white wine. Small glasses, straight or tall glass of kir.

I’ll listen to familiar ‘up mood’ music: invariably this will consist of Underworld, Mew, maybe some Psychedelic Furs. But always Underworld. ‘Two Months Off’ especially

Such a relief; just to lift that mood that’s persecuted me for weeks, months. Try to forget that this break will more than likely last no longer than an evening. I’ll wake tomorrow filled with anxiety, low mood, suicidal ideation and OCD-driven thoughts and ideas I wouldn’t wish on my enemies.

An evening off.

The music in my head and in my body. Moving. Feeling. Being.

An idea that everything might be alright; not forever. Hell, not even for a day. But for now, it might be good. Shift those thoughts, overcome those blades and car crashes, live for another day.

Such a relief, so impermanent. A relaxing of muscles, a loosening of nerves. Just being someone, something, other than who I am. That can wait.

Breathe in, breathe out. Sleep, because tomorrow’s going to be the usual bastard of a day.

 

 

Poem – ‘Sunday, so’

Sunday, so.

 

 

 

I’m ill today. I know I

say that every Sunday

but it’s true, I do.

 

I’m low today; I know

there’s nothing new to

tell you, but I’m low.

 

So the wind swings

from the autumn trees,

I ache from head to

 

toe, that’s so. Elbows,

fingers, knees and toes,

the sort of pain that

 

lingers throughout the

day and blinds the night.

I’m right, I’m ill today.

 

Poem – ‘I am Full of Bees’

I am full of bees.

 

I am full of bees; every

cell of my being every

breath of my soul aches

 

and pains day and night

night and day ad infinitum.

Gravity is in league with

 

this illness; I’m pulled

down. Down towards the

centre, making my feet

 

heavy, dripping the atoms

that compose me, leaving

me heavy but with little

 

mass. And I’m tired; you

couldn’t even guess how

much I’m tired. I don’t

 

sleep. Never have. Mired

in that sinking sand I’ve

tried everything. Nothing

 

works. My opponent is

me; however the moods

make, take, me. I am

 

full of bees; each cell

buzzing with exhaustion,

creating a sea-swell of hell.

 

 

Meds update

I’m on a relatively recent cocktail of meds now and overall they’re doing their job. The side effects are substantial, significant. I continue to pile on the weight (quetiapine). I ache literally in every cell of my body, constantly. I’m sedated much if not all of the time. I still don’t sleep through the night.

20mg of fluoxetine caps the low moods. 600mg of quetiapine stops the psychosis and the high / mixed moods pretty successfully. (Though see my other post of today.) And the latest, 500mg of valproate stabilises my mood. These three meds seem to have made friends though they gang up to bully me now and then. They know I need them.

I still have ‘extremely intrusive suicidal ideation’. I still have ‘rapid and uncontrolable mood fluctuation’. But regarding the former, I can control it more (hopefully – time will tell). And the latter, the valproate seems to have gone in with fists flying there.

It’s taken months to get the GP surgery and local pharmacy to get my (psychiatrists’) prescription right. This has caused me a lot of stress and worry. It’s isn’t rocket science; it’s a straightforward repeat prescription that should take moments to set up. So far it’s been 3 or 4 months of getting it wrong. Three or four months of stress. I wrote my GP surgery a begging letter recently, imploring him/her to get the ‘script’ sorted. I can do without the hassle basically.

I speak to no-one about my illness. No professional has come forward to offer me counselling or has even offered an ear. It’s all bottled up, and I hold down a stressful job because I hate the thought of being defeated by the evil bipolar monster. I’ve spent the day shaking and confused (again, see my other post of today). Got home, had a couple of glasses of wine, took my meds. Is it bedtime yet?