Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

 

 

 

Today, again, I’m not me. Today,

again, I see reflections of elsewhere;

else-one. Some other to be. Buzzing

with a particle pulse of happening,

sampling on another level, distant.

 

Withdrawn and imagining how the

smooth cut of a wet stem makes

the flower undone. I’m not here

today; something is, but not me.

I am that close to the atom, see?

 

 

Madness

However much I improve, however much I remain stable, I’m still balancing on the edge of madness. So much so that I feel, even with a smile on my face, that balance could be tilted and into the mire I slip.

There’s no doubt I’m so much better now than I was all my life until the climb began a couple of years ago. While therapy did little except drag up tons of old stuff (childhood issues, physical and psychological abuse) that was then left to fester un-dealt with, the meds – currently 550mg Quetiapine, 20mg fluoxetine – have clipped the ends of my mood swings. There’s been no obvious hypomania for quite a while now, no deep low. My sleep is still almost as bad as ever and decades have passed since I slept right through the night – if indeed I ever did so.

Anxiety is always there to some degree; it’s the main symptom of my ultradian bipolar that hangs around stubbornly poking a long stick at me. The OCD, while a nuisance and often unpleasant, is mild and I can handle it.

I’ve had to live with this my whole life – I don’t just have bipolar, I am it – and as the saying goes, I’ve survived every bad day I’ve ever had. I’m still here.

But I’m still doggedly hanging onto sanity. Those claws could slip any moment making me fall into madness.

I call it (but only to myself) the other one. That other me sharing my body but lurking in the shadows rather than being out here with Me. The one in the mirror sometimes. Dissociation is something else I’ve always had; I can remember it in existence as a child. I’m uncertain whether the other one wants to choose madness. I think we always opt for survival, and bipolar suicidal ideation I believe to be little about actually wanting to die but rather, wanting to be free. To be whole, to be well. Whatever that is.

On the edge of madness, 24/7. Fighting a range of battles, physical and psychic. It’s quite the balancing act. Sanity is winning a struggle against ‘inner demons’ or the other one. Always teetering, always throwing one’s weight in the direction of self.

 

So long ago. So clear?

This October has marked one year since I began taking Quetiapine (Seroquel) and yesterday my son told me I am very much better (“nicer”) than I was thirteen months+ ago. Personally, I can’t see it, though I’m aware that the meds have worked their virtual miracle on my out of control, life-long bipolar symptoms. I have no reference point to ‘getting well’ as I’ve never been well.

Although I only sought medical and psychiatric help two years ago, at the age of 54, I can recall mood swings and what I now assume were brief psychotic episodes back to the age of four. So then, a half century of bipolar and depression, untreated and ignored by those who knew me. Who know me.

Having had eight months off from my stressful job last year, I have managed to stick at it for a couple of months now without missing a single day. I’m stubborn; I won’t let bipolar dictate its terms to me anymore. I must have always been stubborn, otherwise I’d have sought help before now. Actually, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading this sporadic blog (sorry), I did present myself to my GP when I was 20 with severe depression. He told me: “Pull yourself together” and sent me away without help. I was so embarrassed I waited almost a quarter of a century before handing my current GP a letter detailing my illness.

I know exactly when the light bulb above my head lit up regarding bipolar. I’d tried several different anti-depressants over the years for reactive depression: divorces, deaths in the family. That kind of thing. But these meds had made me ill; none of them worked. Then I read a book called ‘Why Am I Still Depressed?’ and it all made sense.

Which brings me to October 2016 and twelve months of Quetiapine (and at some point the addition of fluoxetine). The Q dose crept up and I now take between 500-550mg a day in three or four doses; the days I’m in work I take that extra 50mg for anxiety.

The biggest issue for me has been the Fat or Mad? decision. It became apparent early on that I had to make a choice, and I chose not to be mad. So in a year I’ve gained over a stone in weight and my general fitness has suffered greatly. No-one talks about the physiological symptoms of bipolar, but they’re very much there. I’m sedated half the day and I ache like hell from tip to toe.

I still don’t sleep through the night, not by a long way. I wake every hour or so then fall asleep again quickly. My anxiety level is still higher than I expected it to be by now, and my mild OCD with it. The meds haven’t really touched the OCD at all. Neither did the nine months of CBT I received last year before starting meds.

I look back on hypomanic and manic phases with more embarrassment and utter bewilderment. How on Earth was that person me? A stupid question as I have no idea what or who me is.

Some things disturb me more than others now. About the illness, I mean. The dissociation is scary and confusing. I tried to get help for that during my therapy but after dragging this issue out from the depths of me, it was then left unaddressed. Yes, the dissociation disturbs me; I don’t like it at all.

The meds have lessened the occurrences of ‘extremely intrusive suicidal ideation’. It’s clipped the top off the highs and the bottom off the lows. I’m more stable. The fact that I’m compliant – both with taking my meds and attending my psychiatrist appointments – shows that I’m in a better place than I was. Not a good place, just a better place.

 

 

 

Exhausted

‘You want to know why I feel exhausted?’ I asked.

‘No, not really. But go on, if you must..’

I haven’t slept right through the night even once in perhaps 30 years. Not once. I ache down to my very soul; if you thought bipolar is solely a mental illness then you’re mistaken. It’s also a physiological illness, a painful one. Between the disease and the medications they pound away at muscles, joints and bones 24/7.

Then I have to hold down a job. A stressful job at that. And when I’m not holding down a job I have to run a house and be a single parent. Not wanting to end up living in a sty that has hundreds of baked bean cans stacked on the stairs or newspapers going back to the 80s, I have to cook and clean the same as the rest of you. Pride, necessity. Being civilised and human, I guess.

And the moods.. they’re all over the place as I have a layered illness, that’s the best I can describe it. I might be hypomanic for months and depressed for months but on top of this I have acute shifts in mood, often very brief intrusions of one mood type upon another. Ultra-rapid cycling. Ultradian.

That means my mood can shift dramatically within one day: periods of hypomania and periods of depression, and most significantly periods of mixed-mood which for me are always the most dangerous and unwanted. When I’m mixed I am depressed enough to want to die but high enough to be able to make such a thing happen.

Today I stood by the kerb at a pedestrian crossing. Lorries were thundering past at 30mph and it took all that I had not to take one step forward just as the next lorry was approaching. Fighting this urge is exhausting. On the way to the crossing I’d experienced some kind of hallucination (more than, I think, a delusion per se) where I was suddenly walking along seeing the ground from 7’+ high. I’m 5’ 5”. That lasted just a few seconds, but dealing with this was tiring nonetheless.

It’s all one thing on top of another. Chronic, acute, a bit of this a bit of that.

Then there’s the meds: 20mg of fluoxetine in the morning (slightly sedating) with 100mg of quetiapine (more sedating). Then another 200mg of quetiapine mid-afternoon, followed by yet another 200mg of quetiapine in the evening.

This isn’t even a lot of meds for someone with bipolar (plus anxiety and OCD). I’ve met people who are taking 15+ doses of meds per day.

Spending most of the day (and night) sedated is physically wearing. I have to fight myself to leave the house, to walk, to exercise. To live rather than simply to exist. Plus, I self-medicate with alcohol by late afternoon though thankfully I’m in control of this and I manage to keep within my weekly recommended consumption as an adult male. That’s a miracle in itself!

I have to put on a brave face, a smile for my son so he doesn’t worry about me too much. This act requires energy and focus and tires me out also.

All of this, and more. Not just for a day, a week, a month, a year; I’ve been battling this more seriously for a couple of decades and on the whole since my late teens and indeed probably my childhood. I’ve only been on meds for several months, only sought treatment 2 years ago.

Everything I’ve described happens almost every day. Most of it happens every day.

It’s no wonder I feel exhausted.

 

So happy I could die.

 

 

Suicide is a complicated business. Or rather, bipolar suicide ideation is a complicated business.

Being ‘suicidally depressed’ and wanting to die is how most people imagine the subject. To be so low, so clinically depressed that life has no meaning other than that it should end. Wholly and completely. It is utter despair with, in that moment (which might be a prolonged moment; linear time doesn’t always apply here) nowhere to go, no escape route. No solution other than un-life.

But as I say (and of course I can only speak about my own, personal experiences) suicidal ideation in bipolar can be a very different kettle of fish. So to speak.

Medicated (Quetiapine 400mg, fluoxetine 20mg) I haven’t had an extreme low or high for a while. What I do still have however is the hypomania and mixed mood episodes I’ve always had. Rapid – or ultra-rapid – cycling, at least they don’t last long. Not long enough to dig themselves a sizeable hole or system of clogging trenches I have to drag my metaphorical feet through.

Having suicidal thoughts because one is ‘happy’ is where the complicated bit comes in. And I imagine those people who’ve never experienced it – personally or with a family member perhaps – find it impossible to comprehend.

Put some favourite music on, loud: maybe those old or new Underworld tracks, that Oceansize song, anything from ‘Definitely Maybe’ or the first Strokes album – basically anything upbeat and rowdy, something singalong.

Have a glass of wine or three. Get lost in the moment.

I’m never happy, per se. Never have been. Anhedonia. So when I feel like I might be, like in these moments I’ve mentioned, I get suspicious. I’m aware (but perhaps not entirely aware, consciously) of the mood; but it’s a very welcome relief from the usual overwhelming pain of bipolar and anxiety (with its associated mild OCD).

Fuck, yeah… I’m happy! I’m dancing, one with the music. With the wine. With the universe at that moment!

WBBcc

So hell, yes, why wouldn’t I kill myself? Why on Earth not? It’s the logical thing to do. I’m – unknown to me at the time – depressed enough to want to die but high enough to have that energy, that ultra-rare joie de vivre to carry it out.

Mixed mood suicidal ideation is the most dangerous for me, by far. Then, it makes absolute, perfect sense to kill myself. As I say, Yes! Whyever not?! I’ll never be as happy again as I am at this moment and I want to celebrate, to prolong this happiness.. by dying. Confusingly and ambivalently however, I want to live forever. In fact, I will live forever! How could that fact possibly not be true?

“Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” – Jean Paul Sartre.

Fortunately this kind of mood state pays me a visit at home. Occasionally it descends (or ascends?) upon me when I’m driving, alone. Music playing, sun shining, countryside slipping by each side of that motorway or A road. I’m so happy that I see a lorry speeding towards me in its own lane and for a moment think I want to remain in that ecstatic moment by turning the steering wheel sharply and ploughing into that vehicle. Did I mention the sun’s shining? I’m doing 60, he’s doing 60.. that a 120 mph impact. Sorted!

Then the moment passes. For now at least. What was the trigger? Well, it was probably nothing external. Just me; my electricity.

Was I aware at the time? No, or at least barely. Was I ‘myself’? No. Was I in control of my actions? Subconsciously, automatically, hopefully. Consciously, no. But I’m alive. At least, for now, same as it’s ever been.

 

 

 

 

 

Pain

I’m not well at the moment. I always keep this to myself, but I’m tired of hiding it all the time. People don’t know that mental illnesses – including bipolar – are accompanied by much physical (especially neuropathic) pain. As if struggling with one’s mind, moods and anxiety wasn’t quite enough to cope with already. ‪#‎FightingStigma‬