I Am A Human, Not An Object.

Dear Train Station Guy,

I was feeling really beautiful today. Make up was perfect, and I felt confident enough to wear my favourite red dress. I’ve been losing weight and haven’t felt able to wear that dress in a long time. It’s been a long road back to being myself again.

It was hard to miss you on the platform – you were loudly complaining to the station staff about the delays and my spidey-senses were tingling with that ‘trouble’ vibe. I moved further down the platform. I’m not the best in busy public spaces as it is.

You approached me. I’m a nice person, so when you said “Hi,” I said it back. It’s important to me to be friendly, because the world sucks sometimes and a smile can make a huge difference. But then you started undressing me with your eyes.

“You’re pretty nice,” you said, slowly trailing your gaze from my feet to my cleavage.

You were about 6’3” and a fair few stone heavier than me.

I felt vulnerable. I looked around for anyone to rescue me, but no one was paying attention. And why would they? The words themselves weren’t red-flag words.

Taking a deep, steady breath I said, “Thank you, but I’m married.”

I shouldn’t have to justify my unwillingness to engage with you by my marital status.

“He’s a very lucky man,” you said, talking to my breasts. Then you left.

I felt naked. I felt small.

I felt scared.

You’ve probably already forgotten about that brief chat with me. But I haven’t. And I probably won’t.

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I Am A Human, Not An Object.

Medication Tolerance

It’s been a rough few weeks. I’ve been very depressed, which is unusual for me – normally my moods are like the wind and a low spell doesn’t last that long. This has been different, a pervasive malaise that just won’t shift for longer than a few hours. I wish I could pin it down to one thing that I could fix, but I just think I’m going to have to ride it out now. This morning feels a little better, but I’m not hopeful that it’ll hold; maybe that’s a self-defeating attitude.

I’m actually wondering about my medications now, and if I’ve somehow developed a tolerance to them. Research online shows this is definitely possible, but because it seems so counter-intuitive I’m being stubbon about it. Thinking logically I can see that tolerance is demonstrated in the way side effects tend to pass within the first few weeks of starting a medication. For example, when I started on my antidepressant – sertraline – I had a feeling akin to travel sickness for about ten days, but that passed – I developed a tolerance to it. So now, is it possible that the tolerance has extended, after three years, to the beneficial effects of the drug?

I’d like to be able to ask my psychiatrist about it, but she’s on leave this week, and I’m not due an appointment with her until June. Plus, I hate to feel like I’m being a ‘bother’. It’s the oddest thing. I know I need to ask the question and see if she can help, but minimising things is so ingrained into my psyche now that I consider even the smallest requests for help as an indication of my ‘drama queen’ status. Even though I’m really the last person to make a fuss, I worry that I’ll be seen as an attention seeker. Maybe that is part of the borderline stigma. Maybe it’s because people with limited knowledge of the disorder tend to see sufferers as melodramatic and manipulative. Whatever the reason, it’s a thought I just can’t get over.

I really want to feel better. I can’t see the light of hope that it’ll ever happen right now.

Medication Tolerance

Serotonin Syndrome and Reaching Out

Today is a week since I wound up in the hospital with serotonin syndrome, and I am still struggling with keeping my head above water. They said that I should expect some low-mood as a consequence; serotonin syndrome is caused by too much of the happy hormone (serotonin) in the brain. Restlessness, agitation, high blood pressure and heart rate, and at one point I was hallucinating a radio in the wall. Poor Luke was sitting and fretting, and psych liaison was useless, as they always are in A&E. She seemed disinterested for the most part, and promised to write a report to my care coordinator. Since last Thursday I feel like my mood has been in a nosedive. Each day is getting bleaker and harder to motivate. I showered this morning for the first time in about four or five days, and I only did it because I was stinky enough that I could smell myself. Nothing, not even walking and hanging out with my little puppy friend, can motivate me.

 

I’ve been keeping busy with my poetry, and even that has had a pin in it for the last week. I’m preparing my collection for publishing on Amazon; I need another five or so poems to make up a relatively decent length book to justify the list price. Then I need to get a cover designed for it, and that feels overwhelming. Everything feels overwhelming. I want to go out and be social but I keep withdrawing into myself. It doesn’t help that everyone’s so far away, and I am not reaching out the way I should be. I’ve missed calls from Dad and not returned them. I’ve got a message from Mum sitting in my inbox that I’ve skimmed but not read or replied to. My friends I made in therapy group have messaged me, but I’m just not up to conversations. I feel like I’m spending all my energy on surviving – on treading water and not getting anywhere.

 

The CBT group I was referred to was a wonderful experience. If you get the opportunity to get into CBT, take it! It might sound a little condescending (I thought so – I thought it would be all about things I already knew. It kind of was, but not in a ‘duh’ way), but the skills they teach are really helpful. I’m trying so hard to apply what I’ve learned to my life, but I’m still struggling with heading-off the ‘wild’ moods before they get so bad that I just want to do stupid shit to cope. In terms of applying the CBT model – the interaction between thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviours – to my life, I think I’m doing alright. It’s just the coping skills that need work.

 

I’m going to try to update the blog more regularly with how I’m getting on, especially with STEPPs group on the horizon; I’m just awaiting my letter to invite me for assessment. So, here’s to the future.

Serotonin Syndrome and Reaching Out

Has It Really Been That Long?

Well wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. All too predictably, life is beating me down and I’m losing the resilience I thought I’d built over the past year or so. My little episode 6 weeks ago had knocked the puff out of me, but I got through it (thanks hubby), and was on the up. Like, really actually feeling good again. There were things bothering me – the episode I had was largely thanks to trying to come off meds – but I was rocking this thing called life. Work felt good, home felt good and things just felt good.

Is it bad that I’m not surprised that things had to take a dip? It feels like an annual tradition for peaks and troughs. Stuff happened with work – I’ll not get into lots of detail, but suffice to say that my previously good/great relationship with my boss is now in tatters. My self-confidence was pretty much the highest I’ve ever known it to be; now it’s at an all-time-low. Did I get too cocky? Did my confidence come off as bad attitude? And how on earth do I prove that I’m still capable of doing my job well – that I’ve not changed in the last 6 weeks.

Sometimes I feel the need to write these posts to communicate things to people who don’t know me. And sometimes I use it as a cop-out when things are too difficult to express directly to those who do. My mind is a dark place at the moment. I don’t like living with me. Mornings are filled with anxiety – ‘what’s going to go wrong today?’ – and evenings are spent trying to enjoy time with hubs,  then a thankful descent into a dreamless sleep. I feel guilty that all the domestics are falling on him. For a while there was flexibility with work; that I was able to leave 10 minutes early some days which makes a huge difference to the time I get home. I miss cooking. I hate feeling like such a burden on the man of the house. It’s not like he doesn’t work hard. He just works closer to home and by default gets dinner ready, along with chores.

I don’t like the way things are going. I don’t know if I’m cut out to stick this out. I’m going to try my best not to cut-and-run as I tend to do when things get tough. But I don’t know if I can get through it.

 

Has It Really Been That Long?

The Broken Arm

It’s kind of like having a broken arm, and trying to ignore it. You pretend not to notice the pain, because if you focus on it too much you end up wanting to cut the damn thing off. Occasionally you think about asking a doctor to check it and fix it, but you know that they will just send you away and put a note on your file: “attention seeking pill addict”. You know the pain is there but no one else sees how bad it is. Eventually it becomes overwhelming and you realize you’re going to ed whatever it takes. You take everything and anything you can find and wind up in hospital, where you cry in pain whilst you tell the emergency doctor about your broken arm. He reads your file, shrugs his shoulders and sends you home with advice: “stay distracted and think positively”. 


You go back to pretending your arm is fine.

The Broken Arm

An Interview with B.P.

I spent some time talking to B.P., who shared her experiences with me – of care in the 70s, in the USA and how things have changed for her as time has gone on.

How long since you were diagnosed? Given that you’re older I assume you’ve been living with mental illness for a while?

He changed it. It used to be schizophrenia, then he changed it to schizoaffective about three years ago. I have been seeing him for many years. I’m 61, it hit when I was 18. Originally I was diagnosed with bipolar 2.

Did you seek help when you were 18?

Yes, and they gave me drugs, heavy duty, and said “see you in 6 months”. I didn’t take them. I had hyper-sexuality as well, so my 20s were wild. No one explained anything to be, so I had no clue, I just lived.

It sounds like there wasn’t much support. All the studies say early intervention is key, do you think that would’ve made a difference?

Yes. Yes I was alone, nobody, just a kid who didn’t know anything. Today I see so much help for these things; they help us to understand better. It was common in the 70s for people not to talk about mental illness. I see it at groups where they are closer to my age. At the age of 18 I went to a psychotherapist who never told me anything. I went because it was a person who I could be with, as I was all alone.

Have you ever been an in-patient?

Yes, once for 10 days in 2001, and another time just overnight. In 2001 I was highly manic, very high.

Did it make any beneficial difference to your condition?

I felt it made me worse, they take you off the drugs you are on and put you on more, and you come out so messed up. Then the regular doctor has to get you straight again. I hate going inpatient. I didn’t like it at all but I love my peers there.

We talked a bit before about peers and support groups, can I assume you’d recommend that option?

Yes, all those years I said I’ll never go to groups – oh my gosh, I had no idea what I was missing. But perhaps where I go is just a good place.

How about your family? Supportive, or didn’t want to know?

Our family is not close, so I’ve been alone. I married when I was 18 for a short time, a very strange time in my life. And then in the 90s I was married for 9 years. Otherwise I’m much a loner. But support from mental health groups seems helpful. It’s what got me through the last episode and helps me today as well. It’s like they give you whatever you need. They give – not things – but help. I do one on ones and groups.

What does an episode look like for you?

The last was very severe. I was dissociated, very far away inside myself. I had mania highs, was very happy. I also had a feeling I called the drunk feeling – I felt like I was drunk. I was very paranoid. I don’t get low but the dissociation scared me, cause I don’t know how to get out of that. I acted as a child at the psychiatrist’s, would say very strange things to him. The dissociation came last. If I get down it’s only for a day. I didn’t sleep much, and I should have been hospitalised, cause I was still driving. In the doctor’s office a feeling of love came over me and it stayed six weeks. I didn’t hear voices or see things, I never have. At the end I started losing time, I wanted to be with the stars. I was psychotic then, leaving reality. Then he put me on a med, stopped it really quickly. I didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake. This all lasted a long time. It took months for the dissociation to go away. It was the only thing the meds didn’t handle. I believe my illness if dissociated from myself. I would have different characters as well. My doctor told me I don’t have split personality, but I had characters. I can’t remember them all, some are common to bipolar. I get something I call the genius. I can learn anything, but I am manic so it doesn’t last long – a few days. I probably had seven characters. I believe the characters are a dissociated part of myself, that somehow shattered as a kid.

That was very honest, thank you. I have an alter called Eve. Did you find they had very different personalities to you? Did they ever get confused with “you”?

It’s hard to remember the characters now. I can only remember the genius. But that’s often come before with other episodes. When I was acting as a child I think that’s just who I was as a child – I didn’t call that a character though. Everything seemed very normal to me. The doctor told me I was deluded three times. It was so funny cause I was happy to be deluded then, if he says I am, this is awesome. I was only frightened by dissociation. I didn’t know they were called alters. Is she very much like you? When you say did I get confused, everything seemed normal to me when I was ill. I didn’t understand my language with the doctor. The weird things I would say but they were all based in my reality. So it made sense to me. Though later I understood better. Stress seem the thing that made this episode severe, so I never allow myself to be stressed. I don’t put myself in any situation where there will be high stress, or I will get out right away. I think that is very important, stress is the trigger and no one is worth stress to me. No one – and I love people very much.

I can relate to so much of what you have said – thank you for chatting and being so honest.

An Interview with B.P.

The World Of Now

I’m sitting here watching The Last Leg on catch up and it’s just hit home to me just how painful it is to live in this awful world sometimes. Somehow the news of Orlando and then Jo Cox felt removed until I saw grown men who make a living off their brand of funny getting so emotional about it without a hint of humour.

The husband and I are talking about bringing a child into the world next year, and we’re taking steps towards becoming ready for that. One of the big things to do is get me off meds and stable without them, and that’s a big, scary ask. With the whole world seemingly falling apart around us, I wonder what will happen in the world my child will have to inhabit. Even here in Woking, last night, I walked to the store and saw a heavy police presence. Today I found out they were out to catch a guy with a weapon, which thankfully turned out unloaded.

I’m trying not to get in a tizzy about things, but the more that happens, the more freaked out I get. I am anxious, I am afraid, and I don’t know how much of my fear is actually rational. Tonight I obsess about keeping the husband safe. Four years ago I was worrying about the same thing out of paranoia. It’s only four years later, and it’s now a fairly tangible threat.

The world sucks and I’m not dealing with it particularly well. What do we do next?

The World Of Now