A few years ago I was so seriously disorientated by my mental health problems I was forgetting to top up my electricity and gas meters, forgetting to cook food that I’d bought and was deteriorating rapidly. There wasn’t an obvious reason for this decline, it’s just the way it is sometimes when you have serious mental health issues. I rang my two closest friends and we agreed that the way forward was Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and, as one of them is an independent financial adviser, my finances and my handling of them improved no end.
Last year I decided that the way forward for me was to stop seeing my doctor quite so often and this followed on quite naturally from my self-discharge from my consultant psychiatrist. Both doctors have been fabulous and neither of them fit into the imagined boxes that people shove them into. They’ve both convinced me over the years that just because I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder it doesn’t mean that I have to behave in the stereotypical ways and this is because neither of them fit the stereotypes of their jobs.
Last year I went through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and I was lucky enough to be judged to be put straight into the support group for life without having to have a face to face assessment. This means that not only is it accepted that the way I am is as good as it gets it also means that one enlightened person in the system realised that it would do more harm than good in dragging me in for assessment. I think the fact that I am at risk of suicide if I’m forced back into work helps.
Also last year I successfully stopped taking lithium after 20 years. I had been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and lithium will only make things worse, I hadn’t been anywhere near compliant with doses for a long time so my GP and I decided that the time was right for me to stop taking it. All’s well that ends well.
I have no major money problems any more, I have a good relationship with my GP and I’m no longer in such dire need that I have to see a consultant psychiatrist anymore and as a result I have the time and space I need to have to manage myself and my illness. I can rest when I need to, I can divert my manic energy into doing positive things and know that when I crash I can take the time I need to isolate myself and recover as much as possible. I have become stable within an instability – far from stable but much better at managing it.
So this week I’m sitting down with my GP to talk about stopping taking the last remaining medication for stabilising my moods. It’s a drug used for managing epilepsy (believed to be on the same spectrum as bipolar disorder but a variable distance apart) and so it’s not quite the gamble it was when I stopped taking lithium. I will agree to start taking it again if the gamble doesn’t pay off but I’m very hopeful that it will.
I am never going to be well but I am managing well. I’m sat writing this at my dining table (two large cats have taken over the bureau so no chance of using that) swigging from a “sharing” bottle of diet coke and eating cheese & biscuits. I’m almost dressed but not quite (jeans yet to go on) and my teeth need brushing but I’m doing something that is useful for me.
My “recovery” will never become meaningful remission but that’s ok because I’m now at a point where I know how to cope and I know that it’s more than ok in the times that I can’t cope.
And that’s the point – we eventually get to the point where we can stand up on our spindly little bambi legs and walk. I’m walking.