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Hello? Is Anybody Out There?

*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDE*

I’m desperately unhappy.
When I was suicidal a few months ago the Crisis/Home Treatment Team (HTT) and Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) talked about how I’d fuck my daughter up if I killed myself, mentioned new therapies to try. I felt guilt tripped out of killing myself and was given a shred of hope. But where are these therapies? Where is the support? It was all bullshit. So now I’m left here like this, with no quality of life, when this all could have been over months ago.

I last met with anyone in a professional capacity (aka Paid To Help Me) in August. My next scheduled appointment with the CMHT is the 22nd October. I missed two recent appointments, at the beginning of September. One because I forgot (I’m increasingly frustrated with a brain that doesn’t work) and another rescheduled a few days later because I was ill (physically). So, I feel like they’re punishing me. I’ve been bumped down the list because I’m not committed enough. MrTPM has called them (I can’t use the phone, another frustration) to ask to see someone before the October date. They said they’ll get back to him.
We’re still waiting, five days later. I don’t know what to say to them now. I’m honest whenever I see them, I tell them I still think of suicide, that I’m not happy. I don’t know what else I can say to get more help.

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Doing one step at a time was fine. At my last appointment (about 20 years ago…) I was told to try planning meals and answering the phone. I’m ok for a couple of days. But I can’t manage those things AND the day to day stuff that I HAVE to do. I have to look after my daughter, keep her clean, feed her, dress her, take her to preschool, engage with her. And each one of those things is a real challenge for me. I analyse each step, each thing I have to do. And while I’m sitting there, trying to play with her, I’m thinking about how unhappy I am. I have no patience, I’m snappy, then I’m upset that I’m treating her like shit. She needs to not be near me with how I am at the moment. And that’s my everyday. I can’t achieve the small steps because I cannot focus on them.
I just need some fucking quiet. How can I get better if I can’t focus on it? And with no health care professional around to guide me?

As far as the ‘working diagnosis’ of bipolar disorder and the Lithium therapy goes, I have no idea. I’m on a trial, which indicated to me that it’d be monitored, both physiologically and psychologically. I’ve not had a blood test in weeks. I’ve had one blood test since I started taking it in June and none since the increase to 600mg. Whether it’s helping my mental state, I don’t know. I think I’m better than I was, overall, but with episodes like the one a few days ago (triggered by the letter from the CMHT), I’m not sure how effective it is. Have I got bipolar? Have I not? If I haven’t, what have I got? I’m very lost, and left to figure this stuff out on my own.

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I feel unsupported. And with that I then become disheartened. I’m struggling to not give up as it is. Is this a government thing? Lack of funding? Is this a communication issue? Are staff over stretched? Should I be thankful that I’m not ill enough to be a priority? Does a person have to be literally hanging on a rope to get a helping hand? At times, I’m concerned I’ll find out.

(Apologies if this post makes no sense, much of it is excerpts from text messages to the Samaritans.)

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It’s Not Me, It’s You. Wait, What?!

I’m ridiculously over sensitive. Which, in turn, makes me completely unreasonable. I feel that every single person should consider my feelings ALL THE TIME. Not only is that totally unrealistic, it’s unbelievably self involved.

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Don’t talk to me about your good day. I don’t want to see your scan photo. Why would you invite me somewhere so public? Don’t call me on the phone. Don’t expect me to drive to you. How dare channel 4 air One Born Every Minute?

The following topics are off limits and must not be discussed under any circumstances:

Pregnancy
Birth
Motherhood
Parenting
Breastfeeding
Employment
Sex
Money
Happiness
Phone conversations
Friendship
Driving
Mental health
Holidays
Your Dad
Family planning
Nights out
Future events

Due to this absurd level of sensitivity, it’s easier for me to just not go out or communicate with people. It only takes one comment, one text, one image, one tweet, just one little thing that pulls in my stomach somewhere, and I completely unravel.

The trigger goes, and there I am. Paranoid, full of hate, feeling excluded, anxious, jealous, angry, worrying, over analysing, reliving…

What I’d ideally like to do when this occurs, is live in a bubble, with no other living being, until I’m ready to emerge. Everything outside this bleak caccoon should just freeze, as it is. No one else can have a life, or be happy, or be friends with each other. There will be no laughter, because I’m miserable and that’s all that matters.

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It’s easy to forget someone that isolates themselves. There’s only so many times you can invite them to things and not get replies to your text messages before you give up. No one really knows what to say, there’s not anything they can do to make you snap out of it. And I do get that, when I’ve got the head space to be rational.

It’s hard feeling this way, acknowledging you’re an asshole, when you know that somewhere inside you is the decent person you used to be. Someone that put others first, liked doing favours, embraced all people. But at the moment, I’m this self centred, paranoid, bitter old shrew, offended by everything and analysing all.

Normality Is Terrifying

Good grief, I can feel the anxiety rising as I write this, but I may as well put it out there with everything else. Honesty and authenticity is important to me.

As I slowly start my ascent back up from wallowing in the absolute festering pit of despair, with the tiny blink of light and hope at the surface, a new feeling descends upon me. It’s a curious mixture of relief and sheer terror.

I’m relieved that mental health professionals are taking me seriously, that they realise this isn’t a quick fix with six sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, that actually, some if my issues are rooted deep into my childhood. The cynic in me still believes that they tell everyone they’ll get better and that I’ve heard it myself a hundred times before. But, if I just think about my therapists empathetic face, I have something to hold onto, a guide rope to assist me out of this hole.

When I think of my life when it was more ‘normal’ (or as normal as my life has ever been), I miss it for a moment. Chat with friends, play groups, walks, going to work. Just day to day things, the simple pleasures, lighting incense, sorting the recycling. I feel there’s a sort of nostalgia about it. It seems so long ago that I was building train track, trying to drink a coffee before it went cold.

And then, debilitating fear. Shit. I’m not going to wake up one morning with all this baggage gone. Baggage I’ve collected over 27 years, with a little extra acquired as I was dragged down into this current rut. It’s going to take work. Tears and time and open wounds and breathing techniques and mood diaries and medication changes. That’s not what I want. I don’t have that kind of energy. Where’s the exit? I should have got out of here while I had desperation and the enthusiasm for overdoses.

What happens when I’m through the other side of that (if I ever get there)? Life. Life is what happens. Day to day routine, a little high, a little low, normality. Every day. Every. Day. And there it is again, that heart constricting, suffocating feeling. This was a huge mistake. That life I was getting all sentimental about earlier? I don’t want it. The responsibility, of raising a human, running a home, going to work, it’s too much. I’m going back to option A, the pills and the bath tub. Cowardly? Yes.

I need the therapy to fight the depression and anxiety. Once the depression and anxiety lift, I may not feel this way. But I’m too depressed and anxious to try. These circles of torment, I’m exhausted. I’m completely overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start or how to help myself. The only positive that I can draw from my present situation is that at least I have occasional moments of wanting to get better. They’re brief, but they’re there. Sometimes, instead of death, I want ‘normality’.

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Heart: 1 Brain: 0

I’ve just had a breakthrough, a glimmer of something hopeful. I need to hold onto it as tight as I can and not let go. This episode of depression is battering me like a hurricane, but I will tighten my grip and ride it out.

Moo woke from her sleep at around 10pm, obviously too hot in this muggy heat, perhaps woken by the thunder. MrTPM went to her, I didn’t even hear her until he flicked her bedroom light on. When I stepped onto the landing, she was face down in her doorway, sobbing, not wanting to be held. This is where the magic began.

Just four hours previously, we’d been to the supermarket, the three of us. Anxiety high, pins and needles in my legs, I’d hated it. Moo wouldn’t sit in the trolley properly, she was being loud, typical two year old stuff. I couldn’t deal with it. I came home and cried. I didn’t want to be a mother, having to care for this thing that wanted so much from me. It would make me the worst parent, but I was done.

But tonight, as she lay on the hard wooden floor, hair stuck to her face with sweat, my heart was drawn to her. I calmed her, picked her up, soothed her, undressed her gently. I stood holding her in the dark for a while, watching the storm clouds out of my bedroom window. I tucked her back into bed and lay with her. I told her I loved her, I kissed her. For the first time in days, I wanted to be near to her.

Every inch of my heart loves that girl. My body seems to physically ache with it at times. I may want to disappear, to change my life, to undo the last few years, but there’s no doubt that Moo means so very much to me. I just need to get my brain on board, before I fuck it all up.

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Have I Ever Been The Real Me?

I wonder if, once my bipolar medication is effective, I’ll be this whole other person. Does a person ‘develop’ bipolar disorder, or are they born with it? I’ve certainly had mental health issues since my teenage years. So perhaps I’ve lived my entire adult life so far under this cloud of disease? Maybe the ‘monster’ has always ruled my thoughts, my actions, and once it’s under control, I’ll finally be ‘me’.

I wonder which bits of me will be left. Will I still have a short temper? A penchant for alternative style? Will I crave coffee and nicotine and need to plan everything in advance? Maybe I’ll be less emotional, or perhaps more so?

I like to think I’ll be able to achieve the things that I’d like to right now. Driving again, answering the phone, the social phobia gone. Less Dermatillomania would be great. A career might be nice. Or travel. But I’d settle for just being content with what I have now, and being a better parent to Moo.

My entire thought processes might be different. Just the way I function day to day altered. What if I don’t like the new me? What if the bits about myself that I do like (surprisingly, I can think of a couple) are also gone? A tick sheet to fill out would be great. If only I could opt out of some of my personality and keep the rest.

Once I’m this new person, will I have deep regrets? Will things that were once blamed on ill mental health suddenly become more rational? Maybe I am just an asshole. Maybe I do just hate being a mother. I won’t have depression and anxiety to hide behind. Maybe I’ll just be a lazy, demanding, high maintenance, ungrateful, snappy, moaning old bitch?

Meh, we’ll see.

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Sometimes

Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes all the bullshit and the trauma and the crazy simply fades away and I’m left with this wonderful girl. Just me and her, on a journey together.

Sometimes we just sit, the two of us, reading or watching a film and for those few moments, I forget. I forget that there’s a monster inside of me. He’s quiet for a while, and I can just…live.

Sometimes Moo and I go on adventures. I’ll be brave and we’ll go walking or I’ll get the paints out and I don’t care if she covers herself from head to toe. Sometimes I can just ‘let go’, not care, even enjoy the chaos.

Sometimes the thought of parenting makes me feel excited. I feel like I did before she was born, before I was pregnant. I have ideas, hopes, projects for us. Even folding her clothes can make me happy.

Sometimes I’m just…me. Like right now, while I’m typing this. I can hear her playing with her doll house, the conversations between the sylvanian figures, her chatter. I can hear her feet pattering about. She’s giggling, lost in her world of imagination. It fills me with nostalgia, I once experienced the same, with that very doll house. Sometimes I can look back and feel warmth. Warmth that isn’t anger.

If this ‘sometimes’ could become ‘most of the time’, then I think I could do it. I think I’d be ok.

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How My Mental Health Ruined My Holiday

The general day to day tasks stress me out. Like, really stress me out. I write lists of things to do and get pissed off when I don’t complete them all. I’ll spend hours cleaning the house in preparation for a visitor popping in for a brew. Work often fills me with dread. A trip to the shop takes an hour and two cigarettes to prepare for. An unexpected call or knock at the door has made me hide, crying on the landing. And then there’s parenting on top of that. Am I getting it right? Is she happy, well rounded, secure? The whining, the begging, the constant demand for my attention. It’s relentless, draining and some days I just can’t be arsed with it.

A break away was just what I needed. My husband planned a surprise. The trip was announced on Mother’s Day, the destination revealed on my birthday, and we were to fly out on our fourth wedding anniversary. Gorgeous, historic Venice. Suitcases were borrowed, my passport renewed. I even shaved my legs. A chance to meander through narrow mazes of streets, soak up the culture, eat whatever and whenever we wanted, drink coffee and eat gelato in the sun. No restrictions, no responsibility, bliss.

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It could not have been more opposite. Sure, I ate an ice cream. I spent hours looking at architecture, Mirano glass and sickening couples in gondolas. But I spent the majority (or so it felt) of the holiday feeling anxious, tense and too fucking hot.

I’ve had panic attacks before. Stomach knotted, shaking, hyperventilating in tears. But this was in a totally different league. Vomiting, sweating, the skin on my arms felt as though it was on fire. My legs were shaking so uncontrollably that I thought my body was going into shock. I sat, holding my face, hoping to die. I’ve only felt that ill once before, just after giving birth, suffering a haemorrhage. Flash backs to that time made the anxiety spiral further.

Suffering with an illness on holiday is never a good time. I had a bad cough in Athens years ago and was miserable. Communicating with 112 operators and paramedics in Italy made for a fun game. I can recall sitting in some wheelchair type thing in a hallway, next to a woman with a drip in her arm, wishing I was dead. Praying to God to please let me die. I was administered with Benzodiazepine and sat back out in the hall. The fire like skin feeling would come in waves, my head started rolling from side to side as my exhausted body was begging to sleep. Eventually I became calm, we paid our bill and got a taxi back to the hotel. I don’t even remember getting into bed.

We tried to salvage the holiday. We planned a chilled day. I slept in late, we mooched about, got take away food and sat by the water. And then there it was again, the burning feeling, stomach churning, cold sweats. Even typing this makes me start to feel it. I abandoned my gelato and begged my husband to get me home. I had to call time on Venice.

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The airline wouldn’t switch our flights, or let me fly at all, without a ‘fit to fly’ letter. There was no way I could go to the hospital or see a doctor. I couldn’t leave the hotel. The holiday insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of a new flight as it was my ‘choice’ to cut the holiday short. We paid the money, packed our bags and left the next morning.

I was so embarrassed, ashamed, that the weird bullshit that goes on in my head had ruined the break that my husband had so lovingly planned. Checking out of the hotel. The expense. How do I respond to ‘how was your holiday? Did you ride on a gondola?’ No, I didn’t. I didn’t get to ride on a fucking gondola because my brain is so wrongly wired that I’m ridiculously sensitive to any change.

So, holidays are out. I’m home, surrounded by my own things. When I venture out I can come home if I need to. Daily life is the same, monotonous. It’s as stressful as it was before, I didn’t get the luxury of a few days relief. It’s confirmed to me how ill I really am. My life is becoming so, so limited. I can’t talk on the phone, I can’t drive, I can’t go many places on my own, I can’t sit in the garden if neighbours are out in theirs, I can’t work full time, I can’t invite people round on a whim, so many things. And now I can’t explore the Earth. I wouldn’t have got to see much of it anyway, unless I received an unexpected windfall. But to not have that freedom, it’s suffocating. I’m so restricted. My world is getting smaller and smaller. Soon I’ll just be a little cocoon, turned completely into myself, a life of nothingness. It’s pathetic, but also wonderfully appealing.

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The Lithium Diaries

26.06.14

Today could be the last day I’m living a life without Lithium. Feeling apprehensive. I’ve never been a huge fan of popping pills, and now my life has become a whirl of anti depressants and anti anxiety medication and mood stabilisers. My ECG was fine, so if my blood test results are good then I’ll be starting a Lithium trial.
The thought of regular appointments and blood tests is overwhelming. I’ll have to arrange childcare and get myself there. But I guess I’ll have to make it up as I go along.
I hope to be as honest as I can in this journal. Side effects, changes in mood, the impact it has on my life.
See you on the other side.

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27.06.14

I start 400mg of Lithium tonight. Thing I’m most worried about? My hands shaking so much that I can’t crochet. I despair at myself sometimes. I’m feeling really agitated today, nobody likes change!
At this point, if they offered me a brain transplant I’d go for it so this is nothing.
It’s funny, now I can say I’ve got bipolar disorder, I somehow feel less of a fraud. Which is wrong. That’s society looking upon depression with a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude.
This one small daily pill feels enormous to me. It really could change my life.

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28.06.14

Nothing to report really. No side effects that I’ve noticed, so for now the crochet is safe.
I’ve filled out my ‘Lithium Alert Card’, the ultimate accessory, so now I can really show off my status as a fully fledged nutter.
I’ve never had a condition like this before, with a record book and blood tests and wallet warnings. I’m going to get one of those ├╝ber trendy pill organisers too, to complete the look. If I’m gonna do this, I may as well go all out.

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30.06.14

Still crazy. Mouth tastes like shit.

04.07.14

One week in and a few of the side effects are arriving. My mouth still tastes pretty rancid in the evenings (I hope I don’t have breath to match!) and I’ve noticed my hands being less steady. My fingers like to hit all kinds of letters on the keypad (thanks predictive text – I owe you one) and I no longer get the perfect roll on my cigarettes.
Im also exhausted a lot. I’ve always been a lazy arse anyway, but I could genuinely nod off at any moment, up until about 3pm.
I’ve been a lot more tearful. Whether that’s the lithium or not, I don’t know, but it seems weeks since I last cried. I’ve felt a lot of sadness, sadness about things that I can’t change, things that happened a long time ago. I’m hoping an improvement in my mental health will enable me to ‘let go’.

08.07.14

Blood results were normal. Perhaps a little disturbing, but I was almost hoping I’d have done some irreversible damage to my kidneys and could just die. Ah well. Dose to be increased to 600mg. I can cope with the side effects of dry, foul tasting mouth, shakes and fatigue as long as this shit makes me better. Just got to keep hanging on in there. It ain’t fucking easy.

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24.07.14

Taking a drug like Lithium is totally alien to me. It’s the same shit they put into batteries. How freaky is that? I’m ingesting battery filler. I’ve never taken such a ‘hardcore’ medication before. I’ve probably only had antibiotics a handful of times in my life. I used Domperidone long term, but barely noticed I was taking it, besides the lactation. I’ve never suffered from side effects when previously taking anything. This is something else.

The increased thirst is fine; I don’t drink enough usually. And the temperatures at the moment is probably something to do with that anyway. But the fatigue is awful. Being mentally unwell is exhausting anyway, the over analysing, the sobbing. At the moment the days seem far too long, every hour drags by. I’m so tired, I’m willing it to be bedtime by lunchtime. The shakes are becoming an issue. I somehow managed to shatter the handle of a fork by dropping it and walking down steps makes my legs quiver.

The various professionals I’ve been seeing, from the crisis and community mental health teams, are starting to play with the idea that this may not be bipolar disorder type 2, perhaps it’s a personality disorder instead. If this is the case then the lithium will probably go. I don’t know what this is, I just need it gone.

Testing The Bipolar Waters

It’s kind of a big deal writing this, and I guess that’s our good old friend ‘stigma’ meddling with things. But, it’s better for me to put it out there, I’m a firm believer in honesty being the best policy.

So, my psychiatrist is considering the possibility that I have Bipolar II Disorder, formerly known as manic depression. I have periods of ‘highs’, in which I’m busy, excitable, I take too much on, have a million ideas. And then come the more drawn out ‘lows’. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by all the plans I made, I become stressed and anxious, wanting the world to go away, even wanting to kill myself.

A trial of Lithium has been suggested, a word that immediately brings Nirvana and Evanescence to mind. Nice dark, moody music. Pretty fitting. I’m beginning the process of blood tests and ECGs, to make sure I’m fit enough to even try the stuff. Testing of this kind isn’t stressful for me, but coordinating doctors visits and work and childcare is. I’m not sure how I’ll manage the anxiety.

How do I feel about a mood stabiliser? What if I become void of emotion completely? Sometimes the hypomania is productive, I tidy the house, I’m brave enough to go out. I just wish I could balance it better. Maybe that’s what the Lithium will do. Would I trade those highs to avoid the desperate lows? Hell yes.

What will a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder mean for me? More stigma? A simpler way to explain my mental health issues? Employment difficulties? My abilities as a parent questioned? I guess we’ll see.

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