Of colons and paranoia

Towards the end of June this year I caught a virus. I had three days of fever, headache and diarrhoea. When the virus was gone the fever and headache disappeared with it but the diarrhoea remained and, to a lesser degree, is still with me.

A few days of it was an inconvenience, a week was more than irritating, after two weeks I was on the phone to a duty doctor begging for help. In the absence of signs that it was a major illness the only advice I could be given was to wait another week to see how the symptoms developed and not to take anything for it. That was a very long week.

I went to see my regular GP who asked for a stool sample to make sure that there wasn’t a bacterial infection. There wasn’t. He then took blood samples to see if that threw any light upon the matter but the light was well and truly hiding.

I began to suffer sleepless nights because the feeling that I was going to move my bowels wouldn’t leave me and whilst it was happening my brain wouldn’t allow me to sleep for more than an hour at at time. I was exhausted, miserable, losing weight and finding it very difficult to cope. At this point I was prescribed loperamide which can be used as a preventative measure before a stressful event as well as a useful relief during a flare up. I was also prescribed mebeverine to help relax my colon. These both work to a point. Whilst I’m waiting to have a colonoscopy I’m trying, with limited success, to modify my diet. Food that is bad for you is far more appealing than a sensible diet!

All of this has had an impact on the unstable bipolar disorder I have. Ultradian bipolar disorder is rarely seen and is characterised by many mood swings in a day whilst in crisis. I have so many changes some days that it’s pointless and demoralising to count them.

I find it difficult to cope even the times when the bipolar disorder is relatively stable and I just can’t do everything I want to. When I worked most of the posts I held carried a lot of responsibility so I find it quite galling to have such limitations.

Most of this year has been spent in depressive mode with several small rapid cycles that have broken it up. I’ve had a period of anxiety where I couldn’t eat solid foods for a few weeks and lost a lot of weight. It was weight I needed to lose but there are far better ways of doing it. I also couldn’t swallow most of my medication during this time and I think this has contributed to my instability.

Facing the prospect of not going anywhere or doing very much because my toilet and I were “in a relationship” filled me with far less dread than I imagined. I don’t stay at home much as a rule. I love being outside and I find exciting things on every corner. Limitations I may have but I squeeze every drop of glee from my daily life that I can. However I was lethargic, exhausted, in pain and too tired to be irritable even. It was easy to embrace the rest and to try to relax.

A good friend, knowing how chaotic my living circumstances are, suggested I just do little things around home as and when I could. I’ve never really understood the principle of small steps as I run and jump at everything but I was too tired to resist the idea. My life became a round of a bowl of washing up here, a load of washing (done the hard way in a twin tub) there and peppered with watching dire television programmes. Cooking took too much energy so I began to buy low fat and totally tasteless ready meals. After a while things started to change at home. The washing pile shrunk and continues to shrink. The kitchen is chaotic still but less so. I have become more organised.

I had become accepting of my situation and it empowered me to move forward in a way I would never have considered meaningful. Better still my attitude towards the trouble that was bipolar disorder began to change. I have a tendency to fight things that shouldn’t be fought against and bipolar disorder was no exception. I’d grown to live life to spite bipolarity and not in spite of it: my zest and vigour for life out-manicked the mania. I finally began to gain insight into my motivation and my coping mechanisms. I finally began to accept.

This year my mood has been predominately depressive. Being at home settled me and I thought I could see significant improvement. My consultant says no, what I have is acceptance and a contentment that is not mood reliant. I’m not that much better but I am coping with the illness much better so, in a way, it is a significant improvement.

During my time at home the housework has been getting done a little more frequently but I haven’t been able to read or get out and about with my camera. I think a kind of fear is holding me back, restraining my creativity. My next goal is to challenge the fear and get back to the things I love doing. I need to remember that although I have limitations there are times when I can exceed them.

One thing that has come to light that I’m not sure how to handle is that during episodes I become slightly paranoid. I’ve know all along that my behaviour during episodes is questionable but this period of enforced calmness has helped me see things with a clarity unlike anything else I’ve experienced. The paranoia centres around close relationships and the closer they are the deeper it is. For me, psychosis seems to be about inflaming character traits so it seems logical that the paranoia I’m feeling is born from my deep seated insecurities.

Paranoia is, for me, an exaggeration of my fears. I am scared of being abandoned and unloved. I come from an emotionally cold family who find it difficult to feel and express emotions. My fear goes into overdrive, I become paranoid, I make wild accusations and I am treated with love and understanding by the people I am challenging. In a way I am like a child testing boundaries.

What I’m feeling is not jealousy. Jealousy is constant and comes from an insecurity that cannot be assuaged. My paranoia is sporadic and, when it dissipates, I feel secure in the relationships that I’ve been paranoid about. Jealousy is about being envious of what other people have. I don’t get jealous. I’d like not to have bipolar disorder but I’m not envious of those who don’t have it – a lack of a mental health problem does not automatically ensure stability and happiness.

I’m grateful to my colon for messing me about so much. Without that experience I would never have been able to identify a potentially destructive element of bipolar disorder. It’s a biggie but it’s not insurmountable. It’s going to be tough but then so am I.

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