Well hello depression

I have always been on the depressive side of manic depressive and even during the times when I rapid cycle so many times a day that I lose count there was always the certainty that when the cycling stopped that I would stop in depression and not mania.

Depression, while a disgusting and debilitating experience, has always been familiar to me. I never recognise the onset of it but once I do I know how to handle it. I have a check list of things to do until I see my GP. I see my GP at least once every three weeks so I never have long to wait. People often envy my frequent visits to the GP but try being so ill that they’re seeing you often to keep you alive – it’s nothing to envy.

For the past two years or so I have been hypomanic. Hypomania is mania without psychosis. I have never had a full blown pyschotic episode but I have had episodes that are so close that I’ve felt the cold breath of psychosis on the back of my neck.

I hate being  manic. The management of my illness is centred around being in control. I can’t control depression but I can manage it if I’m prepared to lose sleep and look like a mess.

Over the past week or so I’ve seen my sleeping pattern change. It is a paradox that when I am manic I sleep soundly and when I’m depressed I get insomnia in a big way.

I have felt lethargic over the past few days. There have been bursts of  energy and enjoyment but today I just want to curl up into a ball and live in the airing cupboard for a few years. I sent a message to my best friend last night saying that I couldn’t find any positive things about the day, that I wanted to get monstrously drunk (I’ve been in recovery for 26 years) and that the safest thing I could do was to go to bed.

This morning I sent him a message saying that it had dawned upon me that I was actually was depressed. It had taken me two days to get to that point but I got there in the end.

Depression is a violent drag away from all that is enjoyable and worth living for but the feeling is much better than the relentless optimism (and the lack of empathy that came along with it) for the past two years.

If I spend the next few days, or weeks, or months crying and feeling like nothing counts anymore I’ll be happy in a weird kind of way but anything is better that the relentless mania and all the chaos and indignity that comes with it.

The family tree and not doing the laundry

The past few days I’ve been filling in my family tree on the Scottish side because now I’m not manic I’m exhausted from the experience. I’ve been napping in the afternoon and generally feeling washed out. It’s easy to sit at my desk and research details because if I don’t feel like doing it or I get tired then all I have to get up is walk away from it.

Not so the laundry as it has be done in a mini twin tub (yes they do still exist) and it takes time and usable energy and usable energy isn’t always a by product of mania.

The biggest positive of recent weeks is that since I’m only dipping a toe into Twitter to respond to tweets about a photo or a blog post I’m writing much more often and I’m enjoying it far more than I have for a long time. I had become less enamoured of it but I think that was Twitter draining me of the right to write in larger bursts than 140 characters. I had been thinking in tweets but now I can think about longer sentences, who paragraphs and entire blog posts.

Anyway, I’m hoping to do some laundry tomorrow and bake some bread. I haven’t thought about food as yet but then if I don’t feel like eating there’s plenty of places near to where I live that do reasonable food (and a few that don’t) so I’m not unduly worried even if the miser in me tells me not to waste money!

Today is gratitude day…

Yesterday was the final day of three days of mania. It was extreme irritability day (I was very annoyed with myself even) and it was breaking point day. If I were ever to commit suicide – and I sincerely hope that I never will – it would be on the final day of a manic episode. I want to tape my mouth up, rip my brain and self harm big time.

I contained myself as much as I could and I blogged about it. I think it’s important to  share the manic experience because so few people experience it for themselves but I also think that if I put the experience down on “paper” then I am, in a way, freeing myself from it. I truly believe that staying silent enslaves me.

Most people were wonderful. My family and friends were there with kind words and unspoken support and I felt protected by them. Other people weren’t so nice and one in particular wrote off my feelings of frustration at somebody refusing help and rebutting my offer of help at me being mentally ill. This, at its best, is discrimination but when it comes from someone who claims to have personal experience of mental illness it is damaging and disgustingly spiteful.

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Today was different – the quick chat in the pet shop, bumping into a neighbour in the street and laughing together, the packet of Revels that was cheaper than I thought, the easy talking with the checkout operator as I packed my shopping and the longer talk with another neighbour out in the churchyard that serves as a park which is right on my doorstep.

He and his wife have a rescue dog who is the sweetest if oddest looking dog I’ve seen. He recognises me and runs towards me with that smile that dogs have and today I got the supreme compliment from him – helicopter tail! Dogs don’t do helicopter tail unless they love you immensely.

As I talked to his owner I was really counting my blessings out loud and inside I was tearful as I did it. Counting your blessings in your head doesn’t work unless you say them out loud to somebody else or write them down and it’s always good to remind myself of my privileged life.

  • I have the time and space to be ill – sounds bizarre but I can take time to manage bipolar disorder even if I can’t cope with it;
  • I have lots of animals and there is always at least one that’s awake and ready to be cuddled;
  • I live on my own so if I can’t face the washing up or doing the laundry then I don’t have to;
  • I can nap in the afternoon in a haze of Valium if I need to;
  • I can catch up on television programmes or watch a movie without consulting anybody else;
  • I can eat when I want and what I want (and  yes those are cornettos you can see in my freezer);
  • I can live the life I need to live and not the one that other people think I should.

Tomorrow will be the day I feel as though I’ve lost people and that I’m emotionally detached from them but I’m expecting that and I know it will pass. I may chatter a lot on social media or I may sit quietly at home and read but I will do what is best for me and that’s good enough.

On being unbelievably ratty…

I’ve been really high manic again for three days and it’s wearing me out.

I’ve baked bread and scones, I’ve done laundry, I’ve hoovered every day (unheard of) and walked for miles and it’s all taking it’s toll.

When I have a long cycle through a very high mania I tend to have a build up over a couple of days until it all explodes into an unbelievably ratty mood. I am not pleasant to have around at these times.

I knew the mania was building up at the weekend because I started shifting furniture about and had a total disregard for what I was doing to my body. I’m not 27 anymore no matter how many times I claim to be and I’m always covered in bruises or clutching my back or both. By the end of Saturday I’d dismantled a chair (with the help of a hungover neighbour) and filled three bin bags of stuff that I’d been meaning to get rid of for ages. I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night because my mind was racing.

On Sunday there was more of the same only in the baking department and with laundry. I couldn’t seem to stop doing either and both at the same time which was far too much even for a mega manic me. By this time my words were becoming muddled and I was not making any sense. It’s one thing to talk a million miles an hour but when those words come out in a jumble because your brain works faster than your mouth it’s a pain in the arse.

Yesterday was a day of everything that needed to be done (including a walk with my dog, baking a batch of bread, hoovering, bath and hair wash) before Ogden got picked up at 11.00 for his afternoon with the pet sitter. At this point I should have taken a couple of Valium and slept the afternoon away but I’m manic so I don’t listen to common sense.

I went into town and found that the exhibition I was planning to see was £5 to get in and I refuse to spend money to go into museums or places of worship. I then decided that instead I would walk over to the cathedral to take a few photos and have a sandwich in the coffee shop except that it was a graduation day so there was nobody allowed in except over-excited students and their over-dressed parents.

By then I was getting a bit short in temper.

I picked Ogden up and on the way home a man bent down and almost kicked my dog in the face. I swore not quite under my breath and told him off. This man then justified his behaviour of not taking care about what was going on around him because his child was the most important thing not just in his world but everybody else’s too and basically my dog was way down the list of consideration. Of course I let rip.

When I let rip I am accused of being rude, bitter, over the top or all those and some more. I’m actually not being rude intentionally but I am inadequately expressing an irritation that boils over into anger that, because I’m manic, I have difficulty in controlling it. Yes, sometimes it does come across as pure rudeness but other times it very definitely comes across as big anger. I am harmless though and I’d never get physically violent.

I am not bitter – that’s an emotion or mood or whatever you want to call it projected upon me. The unfortunate recipient thinks,”If that was me then it would because I was bitter.” One woman told me God loved me and that she’d pray for me after almost knocking me down as she drove across a pavement to park on it. Bitter – no, rude – yes.

Yes it is over the top because mania is about being over the top. Mania isn’t about being sedate and controlled, it isn’t about being moderate and dignified and it certainly isn’t about being restrained.

So today I’m feeling sorry for the bloke that I verbally lashed out at but still angry at him for almost hurting my dog then  dismissing him as though he didn’t count and I’m sat here wishing I could live in a wood with my animals for company and just never talk to anybody ever again except my family and my closest friends. In the meantime I’m keeping the list of people I need to speak to very short and counting to a million whenever somebody has the misfortune to irritate me…

Stop the world, I want to get off

I’m waiting to see a psychiatrist again. My GP requested a referral and we’re both hoping I’ll get to see my last consultant mainly because he’s amazing at his job but also because I saw him for about 10 years and we developed a mutual language so it would be easy to talk to him. I can go in and tell him I feel well fucked up and he’ll know what I mean. Priceless.

I’m ultradian cycling (though at this point it’s only one change every 12 hours or so) and this started on Thursday. It was odds on it was going to start – EU Referendum, opportunity to write about it for a website and staying up all night to listen to the results – it was never going to end well. Politics leave a lot of people cold but I love it. I’m not eloquent about the subject but I know what I believe in and that passion, like all the others that inflame me, burn me out with mania and turn me into ashes with depression.

I’m fed up with the in-house mud slinging of those within the Labour Party re Jeremy Corbyn. He was voted leader by people who know that, despite the leadership and Tory Lites of recent years, the Party was born in red brick houses and not red brick universities. If he is deposed then the Labour Party membership will drop overnight.

I’m not at all surprised at the antics of the Conservative Party (has anybody found George Osbourne in their shed yet?) and the desperate please of the Liberal Democrats is rather sad but have any of the shit stirrers thought about what this is doing to me and all the other vulnerable people who have elected them, voted in the referendum and left feeling scared at the uncertain future that has been created?

I’m in that tiny section of people who are considered so ill I was put in the support section of ESA for life (without a face to face assessment) because the risk of me committing suicide if I was forced back to work is too high for them to take the chance. This means that my income is guaranteed but I am not invulnerable to rising prices, higher utility bills and I cannot tell myself to worry about life in the UK because it is something to worry about.

Anyway I’ve been so manic that I can’t get the words in my sentences in the right order and today I’ve dipped into depression and couldn’t care less if my words are in the right order or not. I’ve decided to focus instead on a day out in London I’m having on Thursday and if I burn out then so be it.

Meanwhile the country is being fucked roughly by the people we have trusted it to. Bastards.

Help and the lack of it

When people talk about people with “mental health issues” slipping through the net it’s usually because a person with a mental health diagnosis has killed somebody or they’ve committed suicide after they’ve been in the system and discharged or thought not to be a risk but there is another side to it.

I’ve been in the system three or four times but I’ve never been hospitalised or sectioned because I’m outwardly competent if inside a wreck and because I manage my illness well even though I cope with it badly.

I need help but I fall out of the remit of all the services available. I’m not in a crisis that’s severe enough (I am not in danger of taking my own life but I am close to self harm) so I can’t be referred to a psychiatrist. If I become suicidal or in real danger of self harming badly then I can get in touch with a Crisis Team who, on one occasion, told me if I could verbalise the way I felt then I wasn’t truly suicidal (bastards).

I’d like help in my home but I fall out of the way that Social Services help even if they accepted my referral and I know they wouldn’t.

A group on Twitter in the town where I live want to do “good things”. I need my living room redecorating & I’d like laminate flooring laid. I’ve money to pay for the paint etc. but I need to get estimates and estimates come at around £80 a pop and I can’t afford to spend that to get ripped off. I volunteered myself to this group and was turned down as not being a “real cause”. By that they meant they want photos in the paper of a frail old lady being overwhelmed with gratitude or a “plucky” child in a hospital bed and an article lauding the group. If you want that then you’re not into doing good things, you’re into be praised for them. It’s a barely disguised form of discrimination.

Yesterday a neighbour stopped me in the street to fish for gossip and I let her fish. She asked me outright if I’d been “cured” (I’m not a side of bacon) because I seemed so cheerful. I was manic and tried to explain to her it was a high mood and that I wasn’t cheerful, I was out of control. She looked away from me and muttered words to the effect that I looked all right to her.

And that’s the rub. I spend my life looking okay on the outside and on the inside I’m a peeled baby inside a suit of armour. My greatest fault is being able to mask my illness too well and because people with mental health problems aren’t considered to be in physical need then through those gigantic holes in the net I fall again. And again and again and again.

 

Changes, changes, changes

After around 8 – 10 months of what has become chronic mania I am finally depressed for more than 24 hours. It feels awful but it also feels good in a bizarre way. I’m not in a high grade depression, it’s relatively low grade, and so liveable with.

Strange though it may seem to some people, it actually makes me feel kind of optimistic because after a relentless period of mania I’m feeling something that’s not incredibly out of touch with reality. It’s a form of insanity and I’m glad of the relief that comes with it ending at least temporarily.

How long this will last I don’t know. I am sincerely hoping that it lasts for at least three or four days. I want to be depressed so that I can feel something. I want to cry at the begging adverts on television asking for money for starving donkeys instead of being irritated about them. I want my empathy back for more than 24 hours.

I cried yesterday as my mood plummeted and I’d like to cry some more. It may seem strange to here but I’m actually enjoying this depression because it’s a wonderful change from the relentless fucking optimism that has been haunting me for far too long.

I feel outside of the world and I feel detached from reality but I feel something and I’m grateful for that.

 

The deterioration of self…

I feel as though I’m disappearing quickly and all that is left to see and feel is mania (though one day I’m sure that mania will be replaced by depression). It’s quite a dramatic thing to think and say but it is by no means the statement of a drama queen.

Last week I went away off to London/Kent for a few days with my wonderful dog who came to live with me as a rescue last year. About 6 weeks after he arrived I made a similar journey with him and he coped admirably but last week was totally different. His first visit was made whilst he was still timid and not sure of who I was or that this was his new life and last week he was brimming with confidence, playfulness and a need to demonstrate that I was his mum. It was exhausting.

On the way back home we got to Paddington station early so he could calm down and sit in the waiting room peacefully instead of the hour in Hyde Park that I’d planned. It would have been fun but he’d have been so hyped up it would have been nearly impossible for him to sit still on the train. While we were waiting for our train the sad news filtered through that there had been a death on the tracks just outside of Reading and that meant changes to the journey. We got on an earlier train and that meant a 40 minute journey at the other end by bus before a 20 minute walk home – small changes compared to somebody losing their life but the impact on me was bigger than I expected.

I found myself sat on the train crying which, being in a chronic period of mania, is unheard of these days. I felt confused and unable to cope with getting off the train, walking 100 yards and getting on the rail replacement bus. It felt as though I was facing an arduous journey. Luckily I was able to talk to the train manager and show him my railcard that states I’m disabled and he made sure I got to my bus safely.

Almost a week later I’m still exhausted. After talking to my GP this morning it’s obvious that my ability to cope with small changes has disappeared; I can no longer cope with small changes in my routine. Five years ago I’d wake up really early and go off out for day to who knows where and not think about the impact on myself – I could cope with change. Even without a dog in tow I couldn’t do that now.

I had forgotten that I had an appointment with my doctor today until I got a text reminding me. It has thrown out my plans for the day because it was a small change. It has shifted my day by about 45 minutes but my brain tells me that I can’t have the day I’d planned because the timing has changed. I get a physical feeling on one side of my head as I try to reason with myself that I can still do the things that I’d planned but it doesn’t work.

It’s acknowledged that this isn’t me, this is bipolar disorder – I want to do the things that the illness is telling me that I can’t. A friend reminded me this morning that we all have limitations and that we can’t always do the things we want or need to because we can’t get our head round them and that’s true, I’m not special or unique in that way. I struggle a little more perhaps because the illness gets in the way. It’s hard going from being a spontaneous and chaotic person to somebody who is no less chaotic but is less able to embrace it.

People often say that it’s the little things that count and in my case it’s the little things that count against me.

An endless springtime

There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that manic depression is a hibernation cycle that has gone badly wrong.

In the lows, the depths of mood where it is impossible to feel even in despair, we are hiding in caves not of our choosing waiting for spring to creep in and enlighten our lives.

In the highs, the manic fevers where it is impossible to get true rest or think very clearly, we are outside tilling our fields like there is no tomorrow and shooting everything in sight to prepare for the long winter that will surely come.

I have spent far too much time in the hibernation stage and, until recently, I have never experienced a period of chronic mania. I can cope with depression after a bizarre fashion as days pass by, albeit at a ridiculously slow pace, and they are all the same. If I can get out of bed I do and if I can’t I don’t. I carry a cushion around inside my head that acts as a buffer against the world but it also over protects, it shields me from myself. But it is comforting and it is only once I improve and gain energy do I pass through the dangerous zone when I become suicidal then move on to self harm and, finally, back to the instability that is considered stable.

I have spent little time with prolonged mania and have had to accept that my period of acute mania has now become a period of chronic mania and I hate it. I no longer have mood swings and what would have been periods of depression are now bouts of exhaustion. I collapse into bed at least once a week to sleep for 12 hours and I rarely sleep less than nine hours. It is driving me crazy.

I can’t stand the relentless feeling of being upbeat, of seeing only the positive, of being hugely irritated by people who I think are too stupid to understand what they should, of having people not follow the lines of thought that leap magically across huge gaps so that the first few words in a sentence bear no relation to the last few words and most of all I am tired of my mind going so fast it can’t lay down memories.

We all go through the going into a room and forgetting why we went in there moments but with the memory problems that have come about because of bipolar disorder I often have no idea why I’ve stood up or how to finish a sentence I’ve started or started to put on shoes and socks to find I’ve only managed to do one. It’s a relentless struggle and it is madness.

I have to accept that this isn’t going to go away quickly and that even a period of recovery will take time. There will be no waking up one morning to find myself back in my own instability and I have to stop kidding myself that I’m within my own instability when clearly I’m not.

What worries me is that I find it hard to accept my limitations at the best of times and in these not quite the very worst of times I could make things a whole lot worse. I never thought I’d say this but, I miss being depressed.

Not coping, managing

I have a difficult illness and, as my former consultant psychiatrist often said, I present an unusual “picture”. He has never seen anybody quite like me and I have never met anybody with bipolar disorder with whom I could identify. I often think, as people talk and relate their symptoms, that if I had their version of bipolarity then I would be living a much different life.

I have been taught by the aforementioned psychiatrist (and many other people) over the years how to manage my bipolarity and to really find out where it and I divide; where I stop and it begins.

I have been taught not to assume that the way I feel when I wake up is anything other than feeling the way other people feel when they wake up. I have been taught that a day that starts badly can finish well and a day that starts well can finish badly but both can be counted as successes.

I have days where the highs and lows change so often that I want and need to rip my brain out but all I can do is take sedatives and wait to be sedated. There are days when I can’t keep awake (no drugs to help with that) and nights when I can’t sleep (no drugs can help with that) and the middle of the road days where medication helps and nights where I succumb to the effects of sleeping pills. There are also days when I touch on normal and sleep comes easily – apart from the ever present fear that I’ll die as soon as I close my eyes.

For the past year or so it’s obvious that my unusual picture has become more unusual and there’s nothing I can do but sit back and wait and see how it pans out. I’m a few months short of a year of much mania and ultradian cycling but I’m sleeping and I am getting a lot of bread baked. I’m not getting much housework done, my personal hygiene takes a knocking at times (I could well be that woman who smells of pee on the bus at times) and my chaotic eating habits are uncontrollable.

Having said all this I manage the illness. I take the medication, I practise mindfulness, I live to spite it not in spite of it, I try to look after myself and I recognise that there are days when I blame the illness for things because I refuse to own up to them.

This is not coping with an illness this is management of an illness.

I don’t cope because, try as I might, I don’t get enough baths in a week, my hair often smells like I have a sheep living on my head, I buy food and then don’t eat it, I get the vacuum cleaner out and it stays out and unused for weeks at a time. Some days I sit and wish I could cry just so I could feel something other than the borderline hysteria that I’ve felt for the past year. I cannot control the irritation that I feel (I don’t suffer fools gladly at the best of times but when I’m manic I want to kill) and it boils over into an anger that isn’t always, if ever, reasonable.

I don’t cope because I have to be alone because I like being alone but I have to go out and be with people I don’t want to see. I want to be with the people I am emotionally close to but I keep them at a physical distance because it’s kinder on them.

I don’t cope with the effects of my illness I manage the symptoms. Big difference.