“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Wow, it’s been 3 months since I last wrote here. I have no excuse, though my mood has been relatively stable and I’ve been calm. I’m still not well, of course – there is no cure, just an endless swallowing of tablets – but things could be a lot worse. If anything has got worse then it’s my OCD. And what irks me more than OCD is that people have no idea what it entails; what it is.

Just this week, again, a Facebook friend asked me how OCD is – if at all – more than just a hankering for neatness. How can anyone define OCD in a few sentences? It’s importance. It’s an evil, chronic, debilitating disease with no cure and – as far as I’m aware – no treatment. Vicious, that’s what is is.

I’m managing to get to work; and to stay there. I’ve had little more than a week off work sick in the past 12 months, which frankly is something of a miracle. My ex-psychiatrist once told me I had ‘too strong a work ethic’. Probably true. But if I gave in to bipolar, anxiety or OCD every time one or more of them hit me, I’d be off work constantly.

After starting writing again (another novel) that ground to a – hopefully temporary – halt a few months ago. I’ve been doing research but no actual creative writing. I’m sure it’ll return however. It has to.

I went away for a few days last week, to Tenby, a seaside town with a small harbour, in southwest Wales. I felt almost perfectly well. What was it that made such an effect on me? I wish I knew; maybe exercise, no stress or pressure, warm sunny weather, fresh air and exercise (walking, swimming). Doing things I like to do: writing poetry, taking photos. Sleep.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I still have intrusive suicidal thoughts and rapid mood swings. I’m still taking my meds. I’m still, I don’t mind admitting, very lonely (no relationship of any kind for four years). I’m still carrying on. ‘Steady’ is good. Long live ‘steady’, eh?

stones manorbier

 

 

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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

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.

wire

Poem – ‘Check List’

Check List.

 

Mustn’t cross this knife with this

spoon with this fork with this

knife. Must check that window’s

shut now for the tenth time; line

 

of sight not enough must touch

must repeat beneath breath the

mantra, the spell, must put left

shoe on before right must walk

 

upstairs again. Must check the

windows. Must lock the door,

try the handle; time after time

try the handle. Get to the gate,

 

go back check the handle.

Did I shut that bathroom

window? Must go back in

must check must reset the

 

alarm. Make an exit.

 

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.

22 of them

Time passing fast, almost the end of January.

I’ve been pretty much discharged by my psychiatrist as I’m seemingly one of her success stories; the meds appear to be working. The fluoxetine is clipping the extreme lows, with Quetiapine helping it out and of course clipping the highs as it does so. Poor overworked Q!

I returned to work at the end of last July, just before schoool broke up for the 6 week summer break. And I’m still there, having not missed a single day so far. That’s how stubborn, some would say how strong, I am. I’ve had a lifetime, middle-50 years, fighting, struggling, but ultimately winning.

It takes concentration, a continual fight, to exist. Yes, that’s what it comes down to: maintaining existence.

My enemy (well, part of the pack) is still that damned intrusive suicidal ideation that looks for any glitch in the system, any gap atomically small. And says “hey, do it! Why wouldn’t you?”

Why wouldn’t I.

And I’m in this war alone; single for almost 2 years. Almost friendless, alone. I was pretty much discharged by my psychiatrist at my latest appointment in the shadow of the New Year. Now I really am on my own. Me and my meds. Featuring battles such as “fat or mad” – I continue to put on weight despite my best efforts.

I don’t trust the meds; it would be extremely foolish to do so. Madness still breathes and creeps inside me. I still don’t sleep. I’m sedated much of the time, I’ve stopped writing (poetry, fiction). Meds and me, we’re like that chess game in “The Seventh Seal”.