A testing time (again)

The next 10 days are really going to test my mental (and physical) strength and resolve. Bipolar mood swings can be rapid and unpredictable. Stress is one of just several things that can cause depression, hypomania – or mixed mood.

I’m not a sociable person. Though I have done many poetry readings without stress, the thought of having to take a school Assembly this coming week is beginning to hit me. I could probably get out of it but I’m going to give it a go if at all possible.

And during the week after this coming one we have a re-Inspection; this is without doubt the most stressful time for any teacher. During a previous inspection, in a different school, I worked a 92 hour week leading up to it.

These two things really aren’t going to put anyone with a mental illness in a good frame of mind. Consciously, I’ll do my best to, well, do my best. But I’m not in charge of my bipolar with its depression, hypomania, OCD, anxiety and often dissociation.

I’ll see you on the other side..

 

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Been a while..

No news, as they say, is good news. And in this case, that’s correct.

I’ve been pretty stable all through the Christmas season. Minimal suicidal ideation, a little anxiety, some [bipolar] dissociation, and the usual (relatively) low-level OCD.

That’s how unpredictable mental illness is; a renowned ‘stressful’ time can have little effect, whereas a ‘manageable’ time can see symptoms escalate wildly.

The meds are working, it must be said. Talking therapy would be useful, but that’s not going to happen.

I’ve even been tempted to begin writing again (a 4th P.I. Wall crime novel) but I’m not painting; there has been some collage work and poem-writing however.

Work can be very stressful, especially with us waiting on ESTYN to re-inspect us.

I continue to become physically less fit, and the meds are still making me put on weight. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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?

 

 

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.