The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Holding Patterns and the State of Me

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I need to talk about me for a second. And Uni.

As a lot of you know, Uni’s spent the last six weeks being ill on and off and it’s worn both of us down. I know stress is THE trigger for my bipolar, especially personal stress relating to animals or people I care about. Uni is the big one because she is, ultimately, reliant on me. This is a dog who takes me everywhere but needs me to take her to the loo. I love animals, especially mine, but I’m a crazy cat lady for a reason (aka: you can leave a cat with food, water and an open cat flat knowing they will survive without you). I got the cats when I was still working because I knew, if I had to go on a trip to London or disappear for a few days, they’d still be okay when I returned.

Dogs aren’t like that.

Uni and I we have this partnership, it’s worked beautifully for six years. She has pre-existing medical conditions but we managed them nicely and it was fine. Now, though, it’s become much more complicated.

Worse, I can feel my carefully constructed barriers being worn away by the littlest things: not sleeping well, not getting enough exercise, obsessing over certain foods, the scary, inebriated woman who managed to trigger me (like full on shut down) when she started drunk-raging at a poor cyclist. I live alone, I have people but most of them are blind, in Norwich or have families and their own lives. Uni being sick is the final nail in the coffin, especially as I’m unable to work her for another week, minimum, and she’s going as far as the pen to pee. Tomorrow is the exception (I have a reason to be in Norwich, selfish as it is, and don’t feel comfy leaving Uni that long) as is Monday (when we’re going to see Guide Dogs at Redbridge, just outside London—and talk about Uni and her future/how we can deal with what seems to be a continued issue).

Worse, I feel like I’m the one under house arrest. I’m not, of course, and can go anywhere I wish, right this second, if I wanted to. As long as I’m back within four-five hours (which when it takes a round trip of nearly two of those to do Norwich, doesn’t leave me much time). I can have a coffee, run essential errands but that’s about it. It feels like a chain around my neck and I’m so sensitive to constriction, it’s bad enough that half the time I’m the one who imposes rules on myself.

There’s Dereham, of course. Everything I need is in close proximity, from coffee to Morrisons, but it’s not the same. All the people I know/want to talk to are in Norwich. The baristas who make my coffee are in Norwich, Wagamamas is is Norwich. The safe places in which I find comfort and sanctuary are all in Norwich.

The other issue is my continued singular status. The vast majority of GDOs have families or partners. This means they can continue their lives, knowing their sick dog is, at least, being watched over. I can’t do that. Worse I’m having to play the visual impairment card which I hate to do: Lovely Vet ordered Uni some specialist food and I had to ask if she could have one of her staff deliver it as there was no way I could get to the vet/or carry 15kg of dog food. She was more than happy to do so and I was so glad because it felt like taking the piss, asking far too much, even though Uni was literally down to her last can of food. It, and more tins, arrived this morning so at least she can eat for the next week.

That, in itself, was reassurring enough to allow me out to grab a coffee. Anxiety remains a bitch.

Lovely Vet’s nurse even gave me a life home on Friday because Uni’d just been admitted and I didn’t have my cane. We’d been in Starbucks when she started being unwell, so I called the vets and hopped on the next bus back to Dereham. I hadn’t planned on her being ill so hadn’t thought to bring my Sightsaber with me (most blind people don’t use dog/cane at the same time). I could have gotten home but the circumstances weren’t the safest, even though I’m competent. White canes aren’t just about helping me divine what’s in front of me, they’re also a marker to other people I’m blind, affording me a tiny amount of leeway. Dogs, BTW, afford more.

Dogs, BTW, afford more. It’s like watching Moses part the Red Sea, truly a beautiful thing.

But I’m entitled to a life (I’m saying this more to remind myself). Uni is a mobility aid, not a pet (which sounds harsh but it’s also true; her existence revolves around helping me get around as well as the sideline in emotional support which is an added bonus but not her official function). I like the freedom my Sightsaber affords but me I prefer a dog; the company, the reliability, even with the added stresses. Yesterday I found myself at my usual bus stop, used the ten minutes I knew I had to get in touch with Guide Dogs, and suddenly found myself worrying if I’d missed my bus. Uni is a big visibility factor plus she pays attention allowing me not to. I can do other things but this call took up all of my attention meaning I saw a similarly coloured bus go by and wasn’t sure if it was mine (the added pressure of needing to get back home to her didn’t help). I had a bus driver waiting for his own ride help me out and it turns out the 8 was simply running rather late.

But it scared me because I like to be self-reliant and, at the same time, have had it hammered into me over decades that asking for help is somehow weakness, despite the number of times I’ve been asked if I need help whilst ‘waiting while blind’. There’s a general rule of thumb amongst the sighted that any obviously blind person waiting in the street and looking calm or bored must need assistance. Especially when walking purposefully somewhere and not looking in the least bit lost or confused.

But back to the bipolar/mental health issues. My conditions, collective, don’t instantly mean I can’t have a dog or get another one. It just means I have to avoid the things I know which trigger me. In this case it’s things like certain people, stress, unfamiliar situations, broken things and the associated adulting, violence and shouting, crowds. I find being around friends helps, as do familiar places and my stash of Valium. I know lots of GDOs with mental health problems, including the ones I have which is reassuring; it reminds me that no one is going to punish me for being ill. They just need to treat me with a little more care because I fracture so easily, especially at the moment, because I’m so worn down.

The weirdest thing has been how angry everything’s made me. Rage is, apparently, as much of a side-effect of anxiety as the stereotypical hyperventilation or my shut down response. At the same time there’s also the autistic meltdown aspect. I’ve spent the last month having to be so careful with people and Uni, either because morons feed her without asking me, or just because I don’t want them touching her in case of transmission. On Friday a woman started petting Uni, post shitting, while I was trying to emergency dial the vet and I had to reign it in, cautioning the woman to leave her alone and go and wash her hands immediately as Uni was sick.

No one would touch and obvious sick human but apparently animals are okay because they’re cute.

Sigh.

My worry right now is that this whole mess is going to push me somewhere I cannot afford (mentally, physically, financially, psychologically) to go. I can already sense the signs: the restlessness, inability to concentrate, my self-worth/esteem plummeting. I feel like I’m a horrible, selfish person, for not staying home with Uni but, at the same time, I’m not safe left alone for long, especially not when I feel forced to do so. The worst part of it is trying to find the line between my psychological self-harming (in which I try to get rid of Uni because I feel I don’t deserve her; honestly some kind of physical self harm would be so much easier to deal with) and the fact that she’s genuinely ill. Right now, she’s unable to work and something inside of her has broken, something tied to her love of her job.

My instructor and guide dog friends know the signs, so do I, when I can’t cope but this isn’t about me, it’s about Uni. It’s been about her since she first started throwing up nearly two months ago. But my hatred of myself, my low self-esteem, keeps questioning if this is just me over-reacting even though it really isn’t. Six weeks of illness means something really is wrong and, unfortunately, if Uni was a white cane that broke, well I would have replaced her by now (and I actually said that to Guide Dogs). At the same time I also know not having Uni, it’s basically going to push me into a very nasty place. Even while she was under observation, exactly where she needed to be and perfectly safe, I couldn’t focus, couldn’t write. I was just waiting for phone calls or making them, trying to wade through the red tape always involved with the trinity of GDO, personal vets and Guide Dogs as an organisation.

I felt naked. I felt even worse for using Saturday, knowing she wouldn’t be back, and spending the day out, on my own. Because guilt is a bastard. I knew waiting at home, though, would be even worse and at least I could do the errands I needed to, get my flu shot and eat a decent meal.

The other problem is still a mental one but it’s bothering me more and more; it seems like my memory problems are permanent. This realisation isn’t a new one (and is probably tied to long-term use of either the Quetiapine or the Ambien I’m trying to, slowly, stop taking) but it’s really affecting my ability to write and live day-to-day. I described it to someone this week as having a week-to-view double page spread in a diary with random cigarette holes burned all over the page, obscuring details, conversations, events.

I know who I am and my rigid schedule (currently in tatters) helps me keep some semblance of normality, as does my digital diary telling me where I need to be and my physical one which tells me where I was. Most of the time I don’t know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. It’s why I have a FitBit which shows me the time/date as a default. I can still force things into my memory, into my long term storage, like passwords and people’s names but it takes a shitload of repetition for that to happen.

This is partly why my longer-form work has stalled; I’ve fallen back into short stories again because that’s all I have the memory/energy for. Short stories are walking to the shops, writing novellas are climbing hills and anything longer, well that’s ascending Everest. Added to that I’ve noticed my balance is getting worse, as is my ability to follow people visually (my Zumba instructor, for example, vanishes like the Flash until she stops moving) and I can’t make my body move how I always want it too. I’m wondering if some of this might have been made worse by the Great Swan-dive Incident and that two day concussion. My brain is already damaged (I have periventricular leukomalacia) so I don’t know how much of this is related to my fall, my medication or age. The point is, it’s not getting better.

But at least I know who I am and how I like my coffee.

I’m not sure, right now, how this will affect my writing. I have a feeling, at some point, I might need to get a co-author in to help. I can world build but I can’t retain information long enough to sustain a novel (plus there’s the stress of editing, the issues of proofing while blind and all the stuff between writing and actual publication). At the same time my ability to actually get sentences down on paper is problematic; words are getting lost and misspelled more than is usual, even for me. Frankly I’m ashamed of this than I am my ability to not write longer things. This is why, for now, I’m not publishing (the financial/psychological toll is the other issue). I’m just trying to write with as little pressure as possible. I have ideas, I have short stories that I’m submitting to calls but I’m tired and need to take it easy for a little while. It’s not burnout but it’s so easy to slip and fall back into the darkness. I don’t want to do that.

And Uni remains my main priority until we either get her health under control or look at other options. So yeah, hopefully I should know more next week but for now, this is the state of us. Thanks for reading.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: A Box of Bastet’s Makes Everything A Little Better

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Because sacred cat plushes really do cheer me up. I should have brought the entire case home with me from London. So, instead, I’ve been hugging my own cats and dogs; it’s the cheaper option.

Anxiety is a bastard.

Seriously, it’s been sneaking around like a ninja and jumping me when I least expect it. First thing in the morning and last thing at night seem to be the best times.

I know this is a side-effect, I can only hope it will eventually go away. For now, though, I’m stuck taking medication that gives me a couple of hours respite or finding a Bramble/Isis to hug. I keep crying, randomly, in front of my best friend and finding comfort in food (ramen FTW) and quiet restaurants with my headphones on and a good book playing.

Writing … well it’s been happening but I had the first tinges of burnout. That forced me to step back. I’m writing the bits I want to write, snatched scenes mostly in The Broken World. Jaada breaking codes, Jaada sensing the wrongness of history and making a friend whom she can never love but will love her regardless.

On a personal front, I’m trying to see my friends, cancel anything in the least bit stressful or triggering and just take it easy. I’m not depressed but anxiety still wears you down. I keep having to remind myself that if I was a diabetic I wouldn’t spend half an hour debating whether to take insulin.

I wouldn’t mind but it’s not like I have the ‘traditional’ panic attack. I don’t hyperventilate; I shut down and I run. My instinct is hard-wired, after decades of abuse and PTSD, to ‘run the fuck away to somewhere safe’. Fortunately, I have understanding friends and this usually happens when I’m not in their company.

Right now I hate being alone because it makes me worse, sitting in public is only slightly better but I need my headphones and a distraction (yay music and books). Being at home bring with it added stresses but at least I can write distraction-free.

But I want food I’ve not cooked, coffee I’ve not had to nip out and buy. This necessitates outside and doing things. It doesn’t help that my body clock’s alarm is set in the region of 5:30am either. I miss lie ins.

At least I’m doing the smart thing and trying to reduce things which might make me worse. Also coffee. Turns out Mhairi has been having the baristas replace my caffeine shot with decaff … sigh.

I don’t even care but it does mean the IBS hasn’t been quite so crippling. So there’s that.

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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 Great Name Change of 2016: The Last Hurdle (AKA WTF Aren’t We Done Yet?)

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a list of who I needed to notify. It was a long one but I’ve been doing it in dribs and drabs updating as I go. My GP hadn’t updated my records, for example, and after a month (and because I happened to be in there) I asked them if they could do it. Ten minutes later I’m officially Asha Bardon on my prescriptions/NHS records. Fifteen minutes later I got them to remove the miscellaneous middle name they’d forgotten to remove.

It does turn out that GP records/mental health services and hospitals don’t talk to each other which means on my next visit to the Norfolk and Norwich (also coming up), I’m going to have to go through this all over again with them. At least the mental health people done it their end.

Hopefully, a deed poll and my passport should be it and the hospital records will update. Done.

This morning, as my railcard is due for renewal, I had to ring them and ask how to change my name (as I don’t yet have confirmation from the DWP they’ve even received the stuff I sent them; that’s for Monday). I need my benefit paperwork reissued in my new name because, now and again, I actually have to whip it out. In the case of a railcard, it’s easy: they’ve seen my Certificate which confirms I’m in fact blind so the deed poll which I emailed over should enable them to simply update the name on my account, allowing me to then buy myself a nice, new railcard.

That’s the theory anyway.

My big task for this week is to tell the Land Registry. In theory this should be easy, in practice it looks like I’m either going to have to make an appointment and go to Peterborough (!!!!) or go to a solicitor (again) and get the forms filled out/my title deeds updated. At this point I’m not sure which is easier so I’m going to wait for a local solicitor to ring me back with a quote/ring the Land Registry to double check. I like double checking and the awesome thing is, due to my own preparedness, I have all the proof of identity paperwork you could ever need from bank statements to council tax bills.

I’m, honestly, quite proud of myself just on this one front.

Seriously, changing your name is actually quite a minefield and I’ve done it in nearly three months. Yes, I still have to ring the DWP (boo!) but once I have the paperwork, it means re-applying for my Blue Badge at the end of the year should be easy. I am, however, a little scared of the cost possibly associated with this Land Registry business (I have a healthy fear of solicitors/the cost of legal services). But I signed up for this, I knew what I was getting into and it’s still worth it.

Interesting point of note on another front. Remember how I said Paypal doesn’t let you change your name? Turns out they do, it’s just horribly worded on their website. I rang them up after, due to opening a shiny new account, they decided to hold some money I’d been paid for a short story for THREE WEEKS (which is forever in Internet Time). Now having had a Paypal account since ’02 (holy shit!), I didn’t realise Paypal is basically like a bank/your credit rating: the more transactions, the longer you use them, the more they trust you.

As Asha I was a new customer and they, for all intents and purposes, had no idea who I was. So I explained my situation. No problem, they said, send us your documents, we’ll update your original account to confirm Lesley is now Asha and continue purchasing crap from the internet as you usually would. Once the funds in your new one clear and you’ve withdrawn them, close it and just update old account with new email address and you’re done.

I have my fourteen-year credit history back.

YES!

Seriously, of all my online accounts, my Paypal account is one I’m particularly attached too.

I am, however, just a tiny bit knackered. Also, due to the whole medication withdrawal thing, I have a tiny bipolar-fueled obsession. It’s not mania but I do associate it with a mix of my various mental illnesses. I do actually have OCD, fueled by the joy of the autism spectrum (my psychiatrist called them ‘tendencies’). Sometimes they’re smart (get a tattoo/get debt free/become a journalist), other times they’re questionable (buy a PS4). They’re also slow burners but do eventually go away (like the PS4 one). Unfortunately, while they’re here, they take up my entire line of thought, to the point of distraction.

This is fine if it’s something cheap/achievable. This one is totally nuts.

I want to tell my family about my name change.

Except I’m not wanting to do this out of pride (I wish), I want to tell one particular family member I don’t like that much just to see their face, hear the reaction in their voice … and possibly get disinherited. That bit, well it doesn’t bother me too much, but as far as I know, thanks to locked down social feeds/the fact my phone hasn’t yet run off the hook, they don’t actually know yet.

I was planning to wait a bit (incoming orphanhood) but this desire, it’s niggling at me. To the point where that and a mix of anxiety woke me up at 1am and valium can’t do anything for obsession. I know it’s a bad idea (as gratifying as it might be) but that doesn’t mean it’s going to fade overnight.

And so we continue on. This last mile has got to be the easy bit, right? A couple more people to phone, a possible solicitor visit (sigh) and that’s it?

I really hope so.

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Exhaling

154638_10151350439671449_1979273517_nI was lying in bed as I do on Sunday mornings. There’s no reason to get up early, the supermarket doesn’t open till ten and there’s no immediate need to get coffee. D was curled up on my side, Uni at my feet (because it’s their bed not mine, apparently) and I suddenly realised I was feeling better. The spider web of confusion and misery had gone.

I know when this all started, though not the reason. I know exactly when I hit rock bottom and exactly who helped me climb out of the pit. I’m still climbing, I think, but my mood as been a little better (so the raised dose must be doing something).

It struck me that I felt like I’d just broken the surface of the water, having held my breath and am now exhaling. I’m alive, the air tastes beautiful and all the cats have been so affectionate, even Ceri who isn’t the biggest fan of being picked up and snuggled. That said, I can’t tell if this is it for my current mood or if I’m going to slip and fall again. I hope not because I’m not good at climbing.

The worse thing isn’t the mood, it’s the guilt at the number of people I’ve worried. The number of days when I was genuinely suicidal and the lack of control I had. It’s a horrible feeling, that lack of control. There is very little you can do and the worse part is I had no one, outside of my network, to turn to. They well you, the mental health and wellbeing teams, to ring the crisis hotline but what’s the point? They regard you as suicidal only if you’re cutting yourself, if you’re thinking of killing yourself in a very manifest way. Oh and there are no beds in the entire country.

So what’s the point in even calling them?

Worse I always present as an aware patient, it’s to do with my autism. The stereotype of suicidal is that you’re a mess, incapable of living day to day life and you’ve ended up in A and E for whatever reason, or the police have been called. Oh and I can’t actually walk into the path of an oncoming car or off a bridge for one reason: Uni. She’s trained to stop me doing that exact thing and, even at my lowest moments, I would never EVER make her participate in my death. It’s not fair on her and would be the most selfish thing I could ever think of doing. My choice is my choice, but I have no right to make it for her.

That’s not me. I can’t actually walk into the path of an oncoming car or off a bridge for one reason: Uni. She’s literally trained to stop me doing that exact thing (we even did a test) and, even at my lowest moments, I would never EVER make her participate in my death. It’s not fair on her and would be the most selfish thing I could ever think of doing. My choice is my choice, but I have no right to make it for her.

Social services, like everyone else, they don’t factor in things like assistance dogs.

Uni has been super clingy, curling up at my feet and following me around. She even wagged her tail at D yesterday which made me realise thing are improving between the two of them. The littlest things can be the most relieving.

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Acknowledging Depression

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I wish I could say I was feeling better. I was supposed to see the Wellbeing Service this morning but the appointment was rain checked. A part of me is frustrated, I wanted a chance to talk to someone. The rest of me is glad because it means I don’t have to do the questionnaire above. Variations of it appear in all parts of the NHS and it covers things like employment, phobias, anxiety, and, of course, suicidal intention and self-harm over the course of the proceeding fortnight.

The problem is, it assumes those last two things can be easily quantified into ‘yes’ or ‘no’ which is bullshit. I don’t cut myself (the ‘traditional’ form of self-harm). I also grew up in a family who worked in the NHS; I read medical textbooks for my own amusement, endured some horrific procedures and am pretty good with first aid. It also means I can be my own worst enemy. Oh and once I take my meds I become a zombie with zero recall the following morning. A couple of months ago, I woke up with a bruise that went up my entire leg; I have no idea where it came from other than to assume it was somehow self-inflicted.

I’ve spent the better half of a week being triggered by the merest mention of suicide (Ta, Eastenders, which I don’t even watch). I found myself wondering whether my stash of quetiapine, diazepam and three days worth of sleeping meds is actually enough to even do anything. I doubt it but I don’t like how I find myself gazing at the pile of tablet sleeves sitting on my desk, surrounding my phone and my computer. If I say anything, my GP will put a hold on the meds (at least the sleeping tablets/diazepam) and not having those will make me much, much worse. I can ring the mental health crisis line but there’s no point, there’s nothing they can do and there are no beds. Plus I have an

I can ring the mental health crisis line but there’s no point, there’s nothing they can do and there are no beds. Plus I have an unchangable appointment that I’m not moving for anything. Again, my local mental health team, they can’t cope. I’d have to actually try something/cut a few veins before they’d even look at me. All because I’m too ‘aware’ and I wish I wasn’t; I’m not raving, I even smile and laugh, but it’s hollow and makes me feel even more guilty because I’m not ‘properly suicidal’. Shouldn’t I, at the very least, be serious rather than messing about with people’s time and emotions?

I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Walker’s blog, she’s one of the few people who openly blogs about life with bipolar. The highs, the lows and her brutal honesty helps when bipolar comes with such stigma. Few people talk about the suicidal thoughts, the side-effects of medication (which everyone seems to ignore in favour of the fact they’re mood stabilisers) and knowing someone else is going through the same thing, it’s almost reassuring.

I walked/dragged myself to Zumba last night and all I could smell was the rain and the whiff of weed; hypersensitivity is one of the signs that all isn’t well. I had to leave because the sound was just too much for my sensitive ears and would have given my a migraine if I’d stayed.

Right now I’m exhausted, looking after myself is almost too much. Changing the bed after vomiting animals (thanks guys) has wiped me out. I’m doing it in stages, while I try to decide what I’m actually hungry for. I went as far as the garage for coffee, chocolate and rhubarb crumbles and that was me done for the day. The weather is miserable and probably not helping, after all who wants to wander in the rain?

I was supposed to have this appointment, the cancellation was almost a relief. Except I’ve done nothing bar listen to Epic Rap Battles of History, started at my computer and watched S5 of Game of Thrones. Oh and get the last of my Kickstarter rewards in for my backers. Except it’s going to be two weeks minimum before I can even think about packaging everything up and, while I know it can be done in a calm, ordered and speedy fashion, I’m just to freaking tired to even consider it.

I want chocolate, sweet things (hence the rhubarb crumble) but the quetiapine has made me crave everything and I’ve put on so much weight. I look at myself in the gym mirrors and actually cringed last night. I know sweet things are the prime side-effect but it doesn’t feel like they’re working, so I maxed the dose. I can’t take any more than 750mg but it also means I now have to talk to my GP about trying something else, which means being re-referred backed to a psychiatrist and possibly losing my CBT place. If my meds are switched, I’ll have to either lower the dose and gradually replace the quetiapine or just go cold turkey (my usual method) and hope new meds will help.

Worse I can’t write. Well, I can but all the words feel forced, hollow. I look at my work, my short stories and the personal rejections and all I can feel is that I’m the worst writer in the world. How could I submit such drivel to pro-markets? I know, really, my work isn’t that bad but it’s so hard to actually look at a favourite story and be devastated when every market I send it to isn’t interested in a purchase.

I quit like Kate Elliott’s comments, they make a lot of sense. I’m trying to follow them as much as possible. All my projects are suspended (short stories and novels) except for my Patreon and I’m trying to be kind to myself (Isis hugs help and she was waiting for me when I got home, so pleased to see me I nearly cried). Uni is sitting on me because she knows something is up, the cats are shadowing me for the same reason. I’d like to think it’s because the cats care but, in truth, they wouldn’t notice if I was here unless the bowl was empty. Uni, at least, gives a shit.

The only thing I know for certain is this will pass, eventually (the key word here and bane of my life), and that I hate that damn questionnaire beyond question. All I can do is wait, acknowledge this is part of my illness and hope it eventually lifts. Except that waiting isn’t my strong suit and there really is no telling how long this is going to last. Worse case: I could be like this for another two weeks or more.

I don’t want to be like this but I want to be a statistic even less, so I hug my animals and hope for the best.

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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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