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

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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

 

 

 

Delusion or truth. Again.

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.

 

fog

 

 

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.

 

 

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.