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.

 

10 tips

My advice, from experience:

  1. Allow yourself, wherever possible, to be not well. Some days are like that; in fact many days are like that. But it’s easy to feel guilty handing your day over to something outside your control. If you have a job, it’s even more difficult. But on those not well days, take it easy: watch TV for too long; don’t shower if it’s not essential (and when is it essential?); indulge, mindfully, in your drug of choice later in the day (thanks, I’ll have a kir or white wine).
  1. Get some sleep. Preferably at night. OK, so this is totally outside our control and I really don’t know what the answer for insomnia is. Mine is chronic and seemingly without reason. It used to be worsened by night-time hypomania but I’m medicated now.
  1. Speaking of which, always – always – take your meds. Don’t change the dose without consulting your psychiatrist / doctor. Follow your medication programme closely. And if you’re bipolar then why aren’t you on meds?!
  1. Exercise isn’t the be-all and end-all; sure, a little walk on a sunny day isn’t going to hurt you. I discovered quite recently that too much exercise can trigger hypomania. So before you decide to climb that mountain, take heed to allow plenty of time and be mindful the whole time that you – not your illness – are in charge.
  1. Treat yourself. Indulge in those treats that ease your moods. Could be music – those old favourite tunes – could be chocolate (tell me about it..), could be a glass of wine (go easy, young fellow!). Don’t let it be anything destructive; hypomania rules that part of you so stand up to it, show it who’s boss. In theory at least.
  1. If you must buy loads of crap, buy cheap crap. And no, that Harley is definitely not cheap, even if it is cheaper than a yacht. I bought four USB drives the other day, didn’t need any of them but I can handle a £20 hit and they’ll get used eventually. Maybe not in my lifetime, but eventually.
  1. Do what the Walker Brothers and Edith Piaf told us and have no regrets. Don’t obsess on things. Just learn from things.
  1. Try not to kill yourself; it leaves a hell of a mess and doesn’t achieve much. It also means you’ve lost.. and you’re not a loser are you?
  1. Talk about it. Preferably to someone with ears.
  1. Get a grip. Do what it takes to stay sane. Yes, of course it’s a battle. A daily battle. Focus on the endgame: not the battle but the war. Be who you are.

Sunday

 

Sunday

 

Today I’m not well.

The swell in my chest the

catching of breath, an over-

 

whelming anxious death

each second rests for a

hair’s breadth of

 

distance. Each nerve

flares and bristles, neurons

whistling; I’m a taut

 

shivering muster of endings.

Today I’m a mess of systems,

a total failure at existence:

 

there’s a tide pulling me in

and a mass of moods, outwards.

 

Teacher with bipolar disorder

I rarely post links to articles in the press, but as a teacher myself this story was important to me. Last year, beginning meds and therapy, I had almost 9 months off work. Since I returned to my teaching job at the end of last July I haven’t had a single day off. This is the result of great effort (and a lot of stubbornness) and I feel proud to have achieved what I have done. I’ve had little or no support from Management, including seldom if ever being asked how I am and if they can help in any way. I’m certain if I had my arm in a sling or a foot in plaster they’d be falling over themselves to assist. But of course you can’t (usually) see bipolar… so evidently – to them – it doesn’t really exist.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/teacher-bipolar-disorder-been-awarded-12519829