Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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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 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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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Dealing with Writer’s Block

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This hasn’t been a good week for writing, which is annoying as I need to get a story done by the end of the month for a competition call, then work on another story for an anthology call I’ve been looking forward too. I’ve mostly been rewatching Game of Thrones from the beginning (oh the foreshadowing!!) and bingeing on House (go Netflix!). It frustrates me, staring at a blank screen and knowing the words are there, I just can’t access them, especially when there are deadlines to meet.

My way around this is to have fall back projects, once I love, like my blind lawyer stories. These are the ones I allow myself to write when there’s nothing else I feel like writing. I know some of the ‘not feeling like writing’ is down to my illness. I had an idea for a short story, endured the glorious manic morning that comes with inspiration, then the idea died like a lead balloon and left me feeling vacant and a little lost. I know that if I can just get writing, the normal flow will resume, it doesn’t matter what I write, only that I do it.

Because I’ve all but cut out alcohol (barring a single pint now and again), my medication is working. This is great because it means the quetiapine is doing its thing unimpeded. Unfortunately, it’s also making me drink gallons and crave sweet biscuits (I have OCD traits which mean I fixate on people, things and, especially given my upbringing, food). I was hoping the latter had been balanced out by the amount of exercise I’ve been doing but not so. Plus biscuits cost money and I’ve run out of both for the week.

Oh and my other obsession is wanting to get myself a snake. Like a real one. A corn snake. I’m in love with the idea and know someone who has two they need to rehome, except I’m not sure the cats would approve. I know you have to feed them actual mice (and you can buy them frozen) but I love snakes, I always have. I also recognise this obsession is a slow burning one, similar to my desire for a tattoo. I waited a long time before acting on that need and was all the better for it. Plus I’m not sure I can afford the extra financial burden of new pets (insurance, food etc). Not right now. Even as I want them, or the romanticised version anyway.

Feeding something a dead animal … there’s no romance in that, only survival. And the smell of death.

I had my thyroid and glucose levels checked and they’re fine, my heart is as strong as an ox. However I’m now battling with my weight again, which makes me sad. Plus my IBS, caused by scar tissue from gastic surgery and the fact sweet biscuits, chocolate and coffee, are my prime triggers aside from stress. Oh and I have been stressed, trying to arrange emergency boarding for Uni on very short notice. The IBS, in particular, has been making me double up in pain like I’ve been kneed in the gut.

Stomach pain is not, in case you were wondering, conducive to being able to write either.

Of course, if I just gave up these things, the pain would go away and it would all be good. But I can’t. I need caffeine to battle the large amount of sedating medication I’m on (quetiapine and my sleeping tablets). I’m no longer an eighteen year old who can pull all-nighters. Even if I even try that, and mess with my sleep patterns, I can trigger a manic episode. Sleep is important, which is why I need to spend one day a week sleeping for fifteen hours just to reset the clock, so to speak.

Today I’m just exhausted. I spent all day in Norwich doing stressful things yesterday, battling my writer’s block and by the time I got home, all I wanted was a cider (just one) and my bed. In that order. I feel better but just going to grab a coffee has used up all my spoons so I’m going to skip Zumba tonight and try to write today, while finishing up Season One of Game of Thrones. Despite being awake, I feel tired.

I just need to rest and chill out.

I know I can write this story, which needs writing, in less than a week if I put my back into it. The story is one I want to write as well, it’s just finding the state of mind to do so. It’s a fascinating story and I want to love it, I want to dive into a new world and relish swimming in it. But today I’m tired.

But today I’m tired so we’re going to take it nice and slowly.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Would I Like to Talk about my Anxiety?

12724643_1763824533839088_612201933_nThis fortnight has not been great. It sounds silly but it’s only when Uni goes her on much-deserved hols (and the cats take over again, as is their right as Rulers of the Earth), that I realise how much I rely on her emotionally. After all she’s a crap guard dog but she does, to her credit, growl menacingly now and again and, at least, tries to eat the Waitrose delivery man as he carries my groceries in.

We’ve established a firm ‘eat them after the food has been unpacked’ rule.

She can do scary when she needs to and that’s all that’s important, especially as she’s as protective of her territory as I am. I protect her from potential dogs which might hurt her (aka any small/yappy dogs that she thinks might even me slightly suspicious) and she protects/consoles me.

Now if she could just get people’s credit card numbers and sort codes when she’s being fussed for the other 98% of that time … but, ah well.

Yesterday morning she got to catch up with Bramble (I got hugs, which helped given the 10mg of Valium I’d just taken post-panic attack). That makes, like, my fifth in two weeks and I am not a fan. Drinking is normally my way out of this (oddly I don’t want to get addicted to Valium) but I’ve made a conscious switch to a very nice Normandy apple juice with fizz in it from M&S. It look like cider, tastes like cider and, for the price of four cans of cheaper hooch, I can get two bottles which will last me a couple of days.

If it helps me with my alcohol … issue, I’m all for it. Failing those, I’m cutting back on coffee and going for a cheaper option, these nice Innocent lemon/lime/apple drinks. Now the weather is sort of warming up, there are mornings when I want a cold drink not a mocha. Plus my meds are making me stupidly thirsty so I’m drinking water like a fish anyway.

But yeah, the anxiety is not good and it’s the most random things: loud noises like the doorbell unexpectedly going off and the Oven of Doom at Starbucks (it sounds like something counting down in a Bond movie), the kids playing outside who find the need to commentate every time Uni goes out to pee, my phone ringing, Uni’s toileting habits (though she’s under the weather today so I couldn’t pick up even if I tried). Uni crossing paths with D and shaking as she sits at the bottom of the stairs.  Oh and people.

Oh and people.

Not having Uni and it being a little harder to get off my estate due to electric works, it meant I stayed in a lot more. That, in itself, didn’t make me anxious, in fact it was almost comforting. I was able to settle and focus on finishing Ash Seeketh Ember (it’s nearly 30k, with one chapter left for me to write). Normally focus is a huge problem because Uni needs to go out every four hours or so and, if we’re out, she’s distracted by other people, many of whom she knows.

Little things like that, well it has a bigger effect on me than it does her.

For starters people move out the way of a person with a dog. I’ve spent several days walking bang into people without them either moving or, instead, suddenly stopping dead for no reason. With a dog, I’m basically Moses doing the Red Sea trick. Dogs are more adaptive and Uni, barring small dog alerts, can help me move much more fluidly.

At the same time, I’m a lot faster with my cane simply because it’s just me. There are no loo breaks, no need to snuffle at that nice bit of grass or endure people going ‘Aw a dog! Can I pet her?’. That said I’m also getting a lot more assertive by saying no because she’s lying down and it’s taken me five minutes to settle her. This is thanks to Mhairi who’s almost been giving me an advanced course on dealing with people without swearing at them (I’m not actually allowed to tell someone to F off, as much as I would dearly like too nigh on daily’).

Uni’s tartness, it’s a part of her character and I wouldn’t change that for a second. She’s my dog and they all come with their own individual characters, the closer we come to the end of her working life, the more I value her. She’s a curious creature but, at the same time, she’s always looking for me when people pet her, not for permission but to make sure I don’t run off. That’s love right there.

I had a phone call from the Wellbeing Service (I got passed over to them a month ago, right before everything kind of went to shit) and they politely explained I’m going to have to wait for therapy (mainly talking/CBT) which is fine by me. I waited a year for my Asperger’s diagnoses, I waited three for my bipolar 2 and over a decade before I was formally registered as blind. I can do waiting, I just hate that every phone call seems to come at the tail ends of intense periods of anxiety and stress.

So my plan for this week is short story revisions, getting Ash done and proofed and watching as much YouTube as possible. It’s the little things that help, right?

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