The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Why I Canceled my Kickstarter

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I didn’t start out today intending to cancel my Kickstarter for One in Blue, The Other Green. It just kinda happened. I wrote a brief blog for my backers but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more here, on my personal space.

First off, physically I’m okay, mentally I’m wavering but I’m neither manic nor depressed, I’m just trying to pick up the pieces of my life and putting them back together. I’m not well, I know this, but it’s not like previous episodes. Mostly it’s anxiety (which I recognise as a withdrawal system from my medication), the weird weather makes it worse as does stress.

I realised this morning, I need to take the pressure off. No self-enforced deadlines, no unrealistic expectations. I spent the last two Kickstarters, though successful, going over budget something which as been worth the expensive but something I’ve also had to absorb. It’s going to be May/June before my the combination of that and my personal debt has been paid off.

Fortunately, I still have excellent credit and all the cards seem to be 40 months of 0%APR at just the right limits. I just sorted out the second half of my debt and thanks to a little adult advice from other people older than me (no one ever taught me about how to use credit card sensibly), I’ll save around £600 in interest alone whilst also being able to easily snowball the debt. The important thing is: I got myself into this and I know I can get myself out.

That’s assuming I don’t have any more manic periods.

But even if I do, I’m trying to wean myself off relying on plastic and working out how much I realistically need. This means, perhaps, taking a month or two more to pay off the debt but allowing me to live off of cash (I try to live off £70 a week but it’s looking like, realistically, I need at least £100 to break my credit card habit). My main credit card remains there (now clear and in credit for the first time in two and a half years) as an emergency option (and is tied to my phone for specific stores so I don’t have to actually have it on me, which makes it easier).

I’ve discovered the trick with credit cards is just to not have them available. The ones with my debt on them aren’t maxed out but they do stay, unused, in a secret spot. They’re out of my line of sight which means it’s easy to forget about them (I use the same trick to keep an emergency note on my person). Plus the aspie in me really does enjoy putting money on the cards and watching the balance go down, it’s my favourite part of getting my benefits in.

I’ve tried to be more organised financially over the last couple of months; all my household bills are automated and I’ve just changed my media consumption for Spotify and Netflix so these are paid with money on my Paypal account (from Patreon) rather than automatically going on cards. Those are the only things I really enjoy and music makes me a happy author. Having those two things really does help distract me and keep me writing. I need background noise to write, you see, and music/movies on demand is a dream come true.

And that, folks, is what I want, though, right now: to write. To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely).

To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely). Instead I’m asking people to consider my Patreon instead, to help me finance writing and research. The publishing, that can wait until I’ve sorted myself out because I really do need to be in a good mental place to be able to withstand editing.

I’m delicate … to the point where I’ve actually asked my crit group if I can take myself out of the rotation for a bit because, while well meaning, their comments on my stories will make me so much worse. Plus I’m totally out of writing short story mode (and will amend my Patreon tiers accordingly, when I get a second). I feel like a glass with water in it being dropped to the floor, from the wrong height I will shatter. This is part of my illness and will pass but until it does, I need to protect myself in any way I can. This includes sending out stories because rejection is, similarly, over-personalised when it’s actually not that at all.

I just can’t face it, any of it.

I’m coming up to the end of almost a year of therapy, realising I could do with another two or three in order to put myself back together. I’m about to start CBT but that’ll be ten hours maximum and will hopefully help me deal with the low moods/pesky anxiety. The worst part is I have to ring my GP tomorrow to get my valium sorted because I’ve had so many anxiety attacks in the last month. I get 28 tablets … that’s fourteen days’ worth IF I take them (10mg works for me). I always feel, despite valium being the one drug I don’t have a dependancy on, that ringing up and asking for a prescription somehow makes me a drug addict whereas, in reality, I simply don’t want to run out (which I know is actually smart, adult behaviour).

I’m aware of the anxiety, painfully so. I’ve been waiting for something to come in the post which has been stressing me out (because I must have said item and feel like I have to wait for the postman). Each day it doesn’t turn up, each day I find myself at home waiting for the delivery only to be disappointed, it doesn’t help. I also know the meds help but taking them, it’s a battle all of it’s own, even though I use them sparingly. Panic attacks are not fun and, for me, I don’t hyperventilate, I just clam up and my flight instinct takes over.

I hate it when it does that but then my brain, thanks to the PTSD, is now wired that way.

The other problem is anxiety stops me writing. I want to do it, would rather curl up at home with Netflix on and my manuscript open, than go to a movie. Yet, because I’m anxious, I find myself unable to write. To open and close the file, to write part of a scene and panic about whether I should wait for the postman or just get the bus because I don’t want to be alone in my own skin.

At the same time my memory makes it hard for me to remember details and obsessing over those, over not making mistakes (despite this being a draft one project and so required) isn’t helping me. I know I should write everything down as I world build but I don’t want to, I want to tell the story and so it’s balancing those out. I’d like to hire an assistant but, again, that’s just not financially possible (and I’m not good at delegating).

So, before I start publishing again, I need to sort myself out. That’s the priority: self-care. I’m trying to eat at least one proper meal a day (something filling and healthy), I’m snacking on a lot of carrots and doing exercise. I’m being diligent with my expenses but also understanding sometimes it’s worth paying more for convenience, especially when you’re all out of spoons.

Right now, I need to just take some time, chill out and look after myself first. I’ve spent so much of my life being altruistic, being around for everyone else that I’ve never been good at recognising that sometimes it’s me who needs a shoulder to cry on or a dog to hug (I’m hugging every dog I meet at this point).

That’s why I cancelled my Kickstarter but I don’t regret it, there’s no shame in it. Sometimes you just have to prioritise and this is definately one of those times.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: So, Erm, I Came Off My Quetiapine

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I’m writing this mainly for my own reference and because, apparently, I’m not the only one coming off quetiapine this week.

I’ve been noticing the more quetiapine I take, the more nasty the side-effects have been becoming. Aside from the weight gain (boo), the biggest one is my brain. My memory, my ability to function. It’s not sedation, it’s not brain fog, it’s someone going through my head and randomly chopping out bits or pulling entire pages right out my grey matter.

This is problematic, not personally, but from a writing perspective. I can’t remember much about my own books, who a character is, what colour their eyes were, names and places. Yes, I should have a concordance of this stuff but hush.

Now I don’t taper. I am, at heart, masochistic and somewhat impatient so I cold turkey things. This isn’t, I admit, the smartest move or the first time I’ve done this but I’d rather have a few days/weeks of feeling shit than months of halving pills and lowering doses. Bollocks to that. Granted my GP probably won’t approve (and while I’ve not consulted her, I have spoken to several pharmacists who’ve given me an idea of withdrawal symptoms, apparently being on Biquelle XL, as a form of quetiapine, should make it easier though I thought it was just a brand name). Worse case, it’ll be three months, best case it’s already out of my system.

So, stuff I’ve noticed:

  • My memory is still shit. Maybe the damage is permanent? I hope not. It’s not what I have to do, it’s what I have to buy or where I’ve been.
  • I had one morning of intense nausea without needing to be sick, exacerbated by an extreme hypersensitivity to smell. Like everything made me feel ill, from bars of chocolate on a stand to that damn burger place up near Morrisons on Riverside. When I don’t want dinner then my friends know there’s really something wrong with me. On the upside, when I did eat, no problems. Also, I’ve actually been enjoying food more though having someone else cook has helped.
  • I had some flu-like symptoms but they passed in a couple of days
  • My IBS has cleared up, though I’m still having some issues with constipation. I don’t think it’s my diet though, I’d had lots of proper meals and vegetables this week.
  • There have been some weird vision things, like changes in light perception and flashes but I’m blind so able to cope easily enough.
  • I’m a lot calmer and when I’m not, I take my valium like a good girl.
  • I want to come off my sleeping tablets but I also want to sleep. One thing at once.
  • Alcohol is really making me ill. I had two pints and felt like shit. My internal thermostat stopped working and I just shivered. No more for me for now.
  • My concentration has improved. We went to see Independence Day: Resurgence on Monday and I couldn’t concentrate, so I talk. By Wednesday, when we went to see The Secret Life of Pets, I was engrossed. I don’t know, maybe it was just a better movie?
  • I’m being more talkative to Uni and she, sensing I’m off, is being uber-clingy. I love my dog and we’re being much more physically demonstrative. Also, I have this running dialogue with her which seems to help, even if she doesn’t answer back.
  • I’m making a conscious effort to eat (more healthily and actual meals). Yesterday I had to be somewhere at noon, so we went and shopped then went specifically to the pub for breakfast (and met Mhairi by a total fluke of two seconds later and would have missed each other). My appetite is definitely better and my cravings have become more manageable.
  • I’m able to deal, both with things and people. I’m not as irritable or paranoid. I’m more rational and if there’s a problem, I actively try to fix it, including ringing people. On my phone. Fuck me …
  • I found myself not worrying about time management for the first time in ages (which also included giving Uni a change to have a roll on some nice grass/an ice cream for me). Normally I obsess over buses and hate missing them, even when I know, logistically, I just can’t catch certain ones due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • I’ve been more active, watering the garden, walking and being willing to do stuff.
  • I’m not sleeping as much … and I’m waking up stupidly early, like before I need to as opposed to when my alarm goes off. Though much of that could be down to the recent weather/stupid humidity. Plus quetiapine is a sedative so not having it in my system is, of course, going to not make me as sleepy.
  • I am not manic. I’m level and okay. I’m a tad worried about withdrawal but I also know if I sleep, I’ll be okay. Sleep, for me, is a key trigger for my episodes. Or at least it helps me have an idea of my mental state. Too little sleep and I start to become more manic, too much and well, the opposite.
  • I have people on speed dial who know what I’m doing and will be there for me if things go bad.

Some of this might be psychological or psychosomatic but it feels real then it is, at least to me. Uni is there if I need support and having her definately makes me feel like I can face things, situations or people. I also have a small but amazing batch of friends. I’m trying to be kind to myself, if I’m tired, I go to bed. If I want to watch a movie or go home, I will. Heck, I was also asked if I wanted to do something and rather than panic and madly rearrange my schedule, I simply expressed interest but explained the timing wasn’t good (very short notice) and could I do x in a few months’ time?

Just to be sure, my diary is clear until Wednesday to the point where I don’t need to go out if I don’t want to. I also know, if I feel ill, I can just chill out. Tuesday is my big do-stuff day (the boiler needs servicing, the dog food is due and I’m having a new dryer delivered) but none of it requires me to go anywhere. I’m booked for Zumba on Tuesday but if, like Thursday, I feel sick, I’ll simply cancel. I’m also seeing my GP on Wednesday so at least she can be made aware of what I’m doing.

So yeah … I’m alive, it’s good, hopefully the weight will start to go down as well as I try to eat real food. Plus it’ll be nice to have some time to give my system a break, not a detox (I’m still on valium and zopidem) but I’m hoping I feel better (and I do have some quetiapine in the house, should I need to go back on it).

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