Remembering Why

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Just before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I got this tattooed on to my right arm. When looked at from the perspective of someone shaking my hand, they’re the chemical formulae for serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is what decides if you’re depressed (when you don’t have enough of it) and dopamine, well too much makes you (or, rather, me) manic.

I got it to remind me not just to take my medication (which is making me feel miserable right now, due to the side effects of weight gain) but that it’s a better thing than dancing between high and low. It’s also there to remind me that walking the narrow path between the two is something I have to do on a daily basis. Mania is wonderous, you never want to end. The creativity, the ease of everything, it’s like being able to fly, but at some point you’re always going to come crashing down.

Hard.

Worse, you never want it to end. But, in two weeks, maybe three, that glorious feeling evaporates and, if you’re lucky, you don’t break anything in the fall.

Depression is almost easier, you use the darkness, rely on the banal tasks to get you through the day. Eating, doing laundry, feeding the animals, going to bed and waking up just as tired. I make a point of meeting friends, of being there for the people I care about and hugging as many animals as I can get my hands on. Then I count down the days. At least, you know it’s going to end and, unlike mania, it will be an easier thing because you’re not crashing, you’re climbing up out of the pit. As long as you remind yourself that a new day is a new start, it’s okay. Any scars, mental or physical, you accumulate on the war are simply proof of survival. I’ve actually lived through worse.

At least, you know it’s going to end and, unlike mania, it will be an easier thing because you’re not crashing, you’re climbing up out of the pit. As long as you remind yourself that a new day is a new start, it’s okay. Any scars, mental or physical, you accumulate on the war are simply proof of survival. I’ve actually lived through worse.I find music I love, television which entrances me (hence my

I find music I love, television which entrances me (hence my Game of Thrones rewatch), and wait through the days. Living on my own actually helps because it forces me to do the things I’d otherwise relegate to a partner, I don’t have anyone so if I don’t do the basics, I’ll starve … or the animals will eat me.

I also try to keep some kind of schedule.

Monday: Early starts in Norwich. Coffee and Game of Thrones, lunch and time with friends. Sailor Moon Crystal.

Tuesday: Zumba.

Wednesday: Whatever. I’m trying to use Wednesday as the unplanned day where I can chill out, have lunch with Uni, do errands. Get a massage. Free run the hound. Wander the shops.

Thursday: Zumba.

Friday: An early start with appointments, maybe coffee with friends. Home, knowing the weekend has arrived and I can sleep in.

Saturday: Coffee and a lie in. Start my house cleaning. Do the washing.

Sunday: Another lie in, perhaps an early night. My writing crit group meets in the afternoon. After that I’m free to write or just watch TV, knowing no one else needs me to do anything. I’ll put the washing away, hang clothes, empty the dishwasher.

And we begin again.

What I didn’t realise, though, was that the little white tablets I take to regular my mood aren’t infallible. No one bothered to tell me, instead they were touted as a miracle which would finally put my mood on an even keel, like a seesaw with someone sitting in the middle to keep the weight of the kids on either end from sending me stratospheric or into the earth.

Then I got stressed. Physical stress, mental stress, it doesn’t matter though both just makes it worse. Stress means those little tablets, they might we well be placebos. Last year I had five manic episodes and I’m still dealing with the fallout. I’ve just had my CBT confirmed (mainly to deal with crushing anxiety) which should start this week and that’s a great thing, even if it’s taken sixteen months to get anywhere. People keep telling me to hang on but I’m so used to waiting a long time for things … but I’m not suicidal, I’m patient. I have to be because the cogs of the local mental health surface are so rusted over they’re barely moving.

Unfortunately, I’m also about to do something which, at worse, will trigger another manic episode. It’s a necessary evil, pre-planned to be as easy as possible. My credit cards are tucked away, details removed from websites so I can’t just purchase stuff. The amount of effort involved in prep has been stupid, from dog-related stress to making sure I’ll have food in the house. I can deal with the actual event in my sleep but it’s the rest of it that’s going to be a headache. I’m worried more that I’m going to end up with an unexpected manic episode than I am about physical pain because the mania is, hands-down, actually worse.

So I have my tattoo, there to remind me, there to help me remember the line I have to walk, a tight-rope. Balance was never my strongest suit but I’m getting better at it because falling or flying is worse.

I just need to remember why.

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