Back in the day…

I’m so old I can remember when I didn’t talk about having Manic Depression because people would take a step back. I don’t know if they thought they’d catch it or they didn’t know what it was but the name scared them.

Sometimes you could tell that they did know what it was and they pictured me hanging round bus stops with a machete because we all know that people with mental health problems have the desire to murder someone just under their skin.

A few years ago a did an hour long interview on the local BBC radio station and that came up during the broadcast. The presenter said “Well we all know that couldn’t happen here because the buses are so bad you’d get fed up of waiting.” I couldn’t help but laugh because he’d deflated a misconception in a way that had a bigger impact than discussing it in a sober way.

When they changed the name from Manic Depression (which I thought described it well) to Bipolar Disorder it became a bit of a fashion item and it’s increased in popularity over the years. There appears to be a tendency that experiencing moods make you “bipolar”. It a load of fucking shit of course.

While we’re on it, I hate the terms Self Stigma and Imposter Syndrome. You’re experiencing doubts. THAT IS ALL.

Anyway on to the point of this blog post. I read a tweet from @simonfromharlow about dishing out unsolicited advice to strangers. Whether it was tongue in cheek or not I don’t care (sorry Simon) but I get it a lot. I mean every single day.

It’s worse now we have the internet of course because everyone is an expert because they read an article in an outdated magazine while they were waiting to see the doctor. Or some celebrity “bravely fights it” We don’t fight it by the way, we live with the effects it has on us and learn coping strategies to help us manage it.

People are well meaning, I know that but it’s physically and mentally exhausting to fend off someone’s advice when they haven’t a clue what they’re experiencing.

While we’re on the subject of well meaning advice NEVER suggest to anyone with a mental health problem that they should take medication and have a lie down. Would you tell someone with cancer to have a bit of chemo? No, so don’t tell me to take my medication.

Unless you know someone personally and they’ve talked to you about their particular brand of Bipolar Disorder then lay off. The kindest and best thing you can do is give them time, space and no advice. Truly.

 

Here we go yet again

I’ve been feeling quite good for me the past few weeks. I’ve been unstable and disorganised but I’ve been trying to manage my time well and I’ve almost managed to do it several times. At other times I’ve failed miserably and that’s been really frustrating.

One of the tell tale signs that I’ve not been coping or managing my illness is the lack of baking that’s been finding its way into my freezer. I’ve made sausage rolls but because I made them I couldn’t bake bread.

I did a lot of shopping before Christmas, particularly of animal food, and now I have no real idea of what I’ve got in and what I haven’t. People will advise me to go to the cupboards and write things down but my brain can’t work like that when I’m feeling pressured. I can assemble the ingredients for a simple dish that I’ve made countless times but I can’t work out how to get the raw ingredients into the finished product. So going through the cupboards to write a shopping list is a bit beyond me right now.

It’s a sign of stress and it’s a form of dissociation which is both uncomfortable and unnerving. A few days ago I was stable within my shaky instability (which means I’m not very stable at all) and now I’m unstable again and it hurts.

This is a cycle that I go through countless times a year. This cycle may go on for hours or days or months but one thing is for sure, it will stop when it wants to regardless of what I do.

I both the time and space to be ill and to recover to a certain point. I am never well, I am just less ill at times. I’ve seen this coming for a few days but, like all the other times, I didn’t see what it was. Such is the artfulness of bipolar disorder. It’s a dodgy bastard.

More cycling than the Tour de France

Last week I was anxious and it grew until it was a monster living in my head.

Anxiety doesn’t always have a source but this one did. I was worrying about a friend, I was worrying about money and I was worrying in general.

The anxiety became turbo charged and on Saturday it transformed into an ultra manic episode. I revisited the suicidal ideations that I had many years ago and, not to put too finer point on it, I was scared shitless.

Then the episode began in earnest and I spent the next 90 minutes fighting against my own mind. I have two armies warring in my head and I feel as though I’m stand in between them trying to keep them apart.

It is exhausting.

I sent texts and messages to a few people as it was going on and I got the supportive replies back and those soothed me. When I read the messages back I feel comforted and thankful for those friends. They have no understanding of bipolar disorder and that is a blessing for both them and me.

My sister and I have a strong bond and we don’t need to say a lot in order to understand one another. We do well together.

I had an appointment with a GP yesterday evening and I talked frankly to her even though I was also afraid that she would mention hospitals and sections. She didn’t and I have now been referred to see a psychiatrist that I’ve had an on-off working relationship with for the past 17 years.

My regular GP rang this evening to talk over what had been said with his colleague last night and to make sure I was okay. We broached the subject of ECT as a treatment which is a bit scary but also not as scary as it sounds.

In a study in the US last year the results were hopeful. 61% of people who completed a course of ECT had periods of stability that lasted for at least nine months. I have had one period of stability of eight weeks and I am so desperate for longer periods I am willing to seriously consider a treatment that is not without risks and may not make any difference at all.

I am tired and I need rest but I am still moving forward.

The wind, time immemorial & the inner explosion

I live in a small churchyard where there are still bodies underground but only one marker left behind to remind people of what was once there. These days it’s a tiny park just over 1/3 of an acre and is an open secret in my part of town. Most people don’t know it’s there and those who do use it as a cut through without looking up from the desire path that they’re establishing and re-establishing as they go.

I walk around the perimeter with my dog most days and I often walk the perimeter alone thinking of goodness knows what.

Often I will see the trees in the far corner moving gently and they set off a ripple that becomes stronger and more audible the closer it gets. Sometimes the movement dies out before it reaches me, sometimes is batters at me and brings rain but, more often than not, it passes by in a fury.

The gentle undulation in the trees remind me of approaching mood changes and I question how quickly they will descend on me, if depression or mania will dominate the episode and even if, yet again, I’ll be driven to the point of suicide.

Not all warnings of mood changes turn into episodes because sometimes it’s just feeling pissy or happy because I’m a human.

I do not like being caught up in the tornado of mania but it picks me up and spits me out at will these days. Other people have told me that they love the giddy spinning around even though it is also frightening at the time. I am left exhausted, disorientated and I wish I didn’t want to stay alive quite as much as I do.

On the days when the winds bring rain and the only way to walk is with me bending into the wind and hoping I don’t get swept away are the days of depressive episodes. Life is a battle and the storms rage as much inside my home and under cover as they do outside – a permanent exposure to the elements.

This has been happening since, it seems, time immemorial (which 1189 but don’t quote me on that) and it feels as though it will go on long after I am dead, It waited for me to be born and it will haunt me when I am no longer here – it will never let me go.

I didn’t ask to have bipolar disorder and I can’t think of anybody, in their right mind or otherwise, who would wish it upon themselves.

I lived with these episodes for a long time managing to crawl back to the real world but my resilience eventually disappeared along with life as I knew it. Something inside me burst out and I no longer fit into my own skin.

A sense of relief, rebound stress and balloons

In May I had to have a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to see if I was still eligible to remain in the Support Group of Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

I was one of the last people to be moved across to ESA and filling in the WCA form 2.5 years ago was an stressful experience.

I have a severe form of Bipolar Disorder and my doctor often refers to my fragility and lack of stability. He does this when I go for my appointments so we both know exactly how I am. I visit him at least once every three weeks and at one point I was there every day so he could keep me alive.

I finally got a letter saying I was being put straight into the Support Group without having a face to face assessment. This rarely happens and I was relieved to say the list.

This year I had to be reassessed and, no matter how much I told myself that I’d get the same result again, I was still terrified in case I was put into the Work Related Group even though my illness had deteriorated.

On both occasions my doctor has written letters of support and written starkly of how I would be unlikely to survive being forced back into work. In short he was saying I’d kill myself because I wouldn’t be able to cope.

I’m not dreading the next assessment quite so much because it’s highly unlikely I won’t get the result I need but I am hoping it’s at least 2.5 years ago.

I cried a lot the day I got the letter and I cried even more the next day. On the third day I was hit by rebound stress. All the feeling and crappy feelings that I’d been holding on to for a couple of months sprung back on me and hit me squarely in the face. I had a very miserable few days and yes, more tears but now there is a sense of calm. I don’t wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I get the judgement that may not go my way.

This week has been the Balloon Fiesta and it’s been a lovely weekend. The only thing that mars it is the two firework displays they have. My dog is terrified of loud noises and he barks until they stop and needs a great deal of comfort but we get there.

The balloons were fantastic as usual and I’ve taken hundreds of photos yet again. It’s surprising how many photos turn out looking exactly the same when it comes to balloons – or maybe it isn’t.

Anyway, this past week has been stressful and I’ve had to try very hard to get through it but that’s the thing, if I keep trying I eventually get there.