Ok, so maybe I'm not depressed exactly yet but my mood is dipping and I am distinctly lacking in energy and enthusiasm. If I stop to think I feel rubbish. It is as though there is a current trying to pull me below the surface. But I am fighting back.
There is a point on which the day turns. I take care of my animals, that is automatic and non-negotiable. It doesn't involve a choice. But after I have come home and had a cup of coffee and my breakfast, then there is a choice. I could choose to go back to bed - and, oh, I can't tell you how much I want to. Sometimes I have to sit in front of the computer for a while focusing what energy I have on resisting that urge.
But then I get up. I light a fire, I do a quick clean and tidy round the house, and then I start on a creative project. It is interesting and illuminating for me to see that I don't need to be elated to be inspired, that even slowed down as I am now, the ideas come.
I could still be doing so much more, and in the evenings I have to fight off the thought that I haven't done enough, though I don't know what enough would be.
So this is what I am doing right now. Ploughing on as best I can. Hoping that if I can just keep going my mood will not overwhelm me, and that I will come out of the shadows and back into a brighter place.
Yesterday K came over to help me sort out my little house. I did a fair amount upstairs before she came so we concentrated our efforts downstairs. I still need to wash the floor but the end is visible now. Over the weekend I plan to finish upstairs, clean the bathroom and tidy the garden. I am going to start 2014 with a clean house AND I AM GOING TO KEEP IT THAT WAY!!!
I feel very driven and determined at the moment. I want 2014 to be a good year, a better year, a year when my illness doesn't run my life. It has done that for far too long. I want to be doing some of the things I want to do, and not just be busy coping all the time. The question I am struggling with is - how many plans is too many plans? What is realistic to expect of myself? What if I become unwell again, will I be able to manage it better than I have done in the past? The unpredictability of living with this illness or disorder or whatever you want to call it is really hard. I don't have a whole lot of faith in myself. I have too many memories for that. So I don't know. I can't know. All I can know is that I am going to try to keep moving forwards whatever my mind throws at me.
I went to the workshop with K today. It was good, really really good. Everyone there is so friendly and helpful, it's a lovely atmosphere. I'm carving a wooden horse, not a fancy detailed one, just something that I hope will look at least vaguely horse-like, because I need to get used to the tools and working with the wood.
I started to get really frazzled after a couple of hours though, and told K I needed to leave. I'm not used to talking to people, and the muscles in my jaw actually hurt! I want to build up to going to the workshop three or four times a week and if I can save the money go the ceramics course that starts in February. I'm starting to think that, you know, I might actually be able to have a life. This Reablement work is exactly what I need.
But I'm also aware that I have to be realistic. That's something I've not always been terribly good at in the past. I have this pattern of feeling relatively sane and capable, and wanting to catch up on all the things I want to do but haven't been able to, and making various grand plans and then being so disappointed with myself when I fall apart and can't manage. And then I feel defeated all over again. I want to do things differently this time around. Get used to doing one thing and then try adding another. Be patient with myself.
Because it's just after four and the only thing I feel capable of doing is getting into bed and watching a film, and I wouldn't be surprised if I fell asleep before the film was over. Pathetic, eh?
I'm not quite sure what is going on. Something is changing, and when something starts changing I've learned that I need to take notice.
Yesterday the chimney sweep came in the morning. I busied myself cleaning while I waited. Cleaning, which has seemed an impossible task for a while, is suddenly easy. The chimney sweep was late so I had to rush into town to meet K. We went to the library first. I collected a ridiculous amount of books and then I made myself be sensible and reduced my armful to five - a book about living with bipolar, a book of David Hockney's recent paintings, a couple of books about painting abstracts and a book about woodcarving, because I am going to begin learning how to carve wood on Monday.
Then we went for a coffee and we talked. Wow, we talked - art, books, politics, oh yes, lots of politics. It made me feel really fizzy and buzzy, it made me think that yes, I would like to make some friends, that I would join the reading group I saw advertised at the library, maybe I'd even go back to the dating websites. But by the time I got home I was physically shaking.
This morning I had to go into town - shopping, bank, prescription. Except there had been a screw-up with my prescription and they gave me lamotrigine, quetiapine and paroxetine which weren't due, but no depakote, which was. Turned out that because the last letter the GP's got from the hospital didn't list depakote on it they'd taken it off repeat, and they won't put it back on repeat until they have another letter from the hospital, so the doctor just wrote me a prescription for a month, and I had to go back into town to collect it this afternoon, and I'll have to phone my CPN on Monday.
Inbetween all this I carried on cleaning. My muscles were aching and my temperature control seemed to be shot, but I felt driven, I didn't want to sit still. And I didn't want to just get my house basically clean and tidy, I wanted to make it spotless, to organise all my paperwork, and to arrange my books. I have this really strong feeling that I don't want to sleep tonight. The idea of getting into bed is repugnant. My mind is trying to override my body. Which makes me suspect I should do the exact opposite of what I feel like doing. Because of this mix-up with the prescription I now have a fair amount of 'spare' quetiapine, so I think I am going to take some extra and try to get a decent night's sleep.
It's hard to express my current state of mind. It's not that I feel apathetic or unmotivated. I'm not depressed or distressed. It's just that my skull is the only thing holding my thoughts together. I am having to be patient with myself, and I am not very good at that. I am having to be content with the smallest of small steps. I am so far away from living the life I want to.
I remember when I was at school, and I could write essays analysing arguments, or understand mathematical proofs. I used to enjoy feeling my brain work like that. I remember the teachers who told me I was "a high-flier" and would be able to succeed at anything I chose to do. What a joke. These days I struggle to do something as simple as have a shower every day. I am aware of the New Year rushing towards me, and of my absolute lack of achievement during this one.
My mood is good to high right now, but my thinking is very very disorganised. Thoughts don't follow on from each other but leap around and often aren't completed. Words and phrases repeat. Then there are periods of blankness. It's a problem. And it makes it very hard to actually decide to do something and then do it. It's no wonder I don't tend to achieve very much in my life.
I'm trying, when I can, to sort the house out. I need my environment to be ordered because inside my head is so very disordered. I'm still waiting for help with my finances, that just feels too big and complicated to think clearly about. I'm working hard on developing a routine, so the ordinary everyday things that need doing, like showering, I do automatically because that's just what I do and I don't need to think about it. I'm having some success with that. I've started splurging out thoughts into a notebook every morning. It's a bit scary just how all over the place they are, but I think it helps me feel a bit clearer and get at least some stuff done during the day. I think I'm also going to start keeping a more traditional diary because writing it will force me to be more organised (just as writing this blog does). Hopefully that will also help with my memory, which is terrible at the moment.
Sometimes I feel like I've just been parachuted into my life and I'm looking around saying "Huh? What the hell is going on here?" I know that I've had various things I've wanted to write about since my last post but they've never quite coalesced into paragraphs. There was something about the "sick role". And patience. And paradoxes. But I don't really know exactly where my head is at right now, so this may be rather random
I know I've been sleeping a lot, a lot, a lot. It's the quetiapine. I feel great when I'm awake, I'm just not awake that much. It means I'm dreaming all sorts of elaborate dreams, both personal dreams, about emotions and events past and present, and more impersonal dreams about ideas and epic fantasy adventures. So I am spending a long time in another world, and it makes this world seem rather less solid, rather less definitely real. I feel a need to read and read about dreams, and to investigate the holographic nature of the universe. Because maybe experiences that have been labelled "psychotic" are actually telling me some truth about reality. So that's the parodox, I guess. That the effect of the anti-psychotics I'm taking is to make me think about "psychosis" in another way.
I know also that I've been feeling rather expansive, that I've had the thought "I'm just a naturally happy, high-energy person! Skipping in the supermarket, or having to pause because there is a rush of pleasure in my blood, that's just the way I am!" Hmm.
I had the first part of my psychology assessment this morning. It's hard to know how it went, but I talked a lot. The ninety minutes went by very fast. And I'm still talking in my head. I could talk and talk! I must make sure I note down the things I want to highlight in the second part, so I don't get distracted. Today was mostly, inevitably, about family and childhood, but oh, there is so much else I want to say!
Saturday, Sunday, Monday I felt as broken down as I have ever been. I'm pretty sure that isn't true, it's just that time softens and blurs things so the memory of brokenness is never as sharp as brokenness in the moment. But I felt as though I was close to simply ceasing to function, to enacting my recurring fantasy of lying down somewhere and letting whatever happened next just happen. I thought I had reached the point of no return.
Except that something always does return, somehow. I don't know what that something is, but you wake up, you want to die, and then you keep living. It's as blind and stupid and stubborn as that. The body keeps on going, even when the mind believes that to do so is impossible.
The Crisis Team consultant came to see me on Monday. He refused to sit down, he just stood there firing questions at me. Had I heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Why wasn't I taking care of my environment? What would happen if my landlord came round? Why wasn't I doing this? Why hadn't I done that? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Because I'm a complete failure? Because I'm an abject excuse for a person? Because I seem to be incapable of living like a human being?
But on Tuesday I got up and I did some stuff, made a few steps towards sorting things out. Then I comfort ate and comfort slept the rest of the day away. And yesterday I did the same. And today I will do it again.
I feel that the quetiapine is helping. It holds me somehow, makes me feel more solid inside myself. I am no longer filled with sickening fear and a sense of oozing badness. I am sleeping for a long time, and that is good for me right now.
The Crisis Team are coming to see me again today and then I expect they will discharge me. It is some ongoing support I need now, not an emergency intervention. I have a psychology assessment the week after next, and I'm still waiting to hear from the Reablement team, and then there is the tenancy support agency. So it's a case of waiting for these things to slot into place and hopefully help me move forwards.
I feel like there is an oozing badness in me and everyone can tell. It makes me scared to be around people. And no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, I will never be able to fully conceal it. I feel sick and I feel afraid. I wish I didn't have to leave the house.
I hit the wall yesterday. I have been going on day after day, thinking I could cope, and yesterday I knew I couldn't do it anymore, I knew it was all over. I phoned the Crisis Team. I feel like shit for needing help but I didn't know what else to do.
I don't really know what happened next. People must have phoned other people because a man and a woman from the Assertive Outreach team came round this morning with a food parcel. And they asked me how I was. So I told them. And then they made some calls and the Crisis Team came to see me. They were kind, they said I should trust them and they would help me. I am to increase the morning dose of quetiapine and I am being referred back to the tenancy support agency that I used to see. I feel completely rubbish for needing them again, but I simply cannot manage my life. I feel like I should be in an institution.
I see them. I see text, and my mind speaks it, and it gets faster and faster and more and more nonsensical and I can't make it stop. The sentences get jumbled up and then it's not even real words anymore. It's like the total disintegration of language. And I can't make it stop. It's one of the reasons I spend a lot of time on the internet when I can't read books, filling my eyes and mind with other words. And also why I have the news on so much of the time, to have a voice to focus on. Except that lately, more and more, the news seems to be talking about the things I'm thinking. The newsreader is speaking my thoughts. Or are my thoughts only what the newsreader is telling me? Do they know what I think or are they controlling my thoughts? Then it kind of resolves itself and I realise they're actually talking about something else, something on the news.
I'm making a quick note of these things because I want to remember them. They're slippery and difficult to really explain. They happen, and they happen frequently but I forget that they happen, and I've never mentioned them to anyone. When I hear voices outside of me or feel that I am being watched through the windows, those are big concrete things, I can kind of grasp hold of them and describe them. These things are harder to be aware of. But they have just been happening, so I wanted to write them down while I can think about them happening.
I was struggling because I was hearing voices telling me that I was evil and should kill myself. I phoned the helpline for support. During the call my phone ran out of battery. I put it on charge, gathered myself together and went to take care of my animals. When I got back there was an ambulance waiting on the road. I went inside but after a few minutes decided I should tell the paramedics that I was OK and I didn't want or need them. As I was about to do so two police officers arrived. I turned and walked back into the house and the police and paramedics followed me in. They spent a long time trying to persuade me to go to hospital but I refused, explaining over and over again that I hadn't found it helpful in the past and I wanted support at home. They said they could get a warrant, then they moved towards me. I tried to hang on to the taps on my sink but they pulled me away and twisted my arms up behind my back. I shouted that they were hurting me and ended up on the floor. They dragged me out of the house and then they said to me that if I got up and walked they would cuff my hands in front of me rather than behind my back so I stopped resisting, and they put the cuffs on me. They took me to the ambulance and told me that if I got in by myself they would take the cuffs off, otherwise they would come with me and stay with me which would be a waste of police time. Since it was clear that I had no choice but to go to the hospital I agreed to get into the ambulance. I was taken to A&E where the nurses put me in a room. I wanted to leave but I didn't have my phone or any money with me. Eventually I saw a psychiatrist and we agreed together that he would give me some diazepam to help for the evening and speak to my consultant the next day to arrange for my medication to be increased. Transport was organised to take me home.
Struggling to organise my thoughts. Hard to describe and evaluate what I'm experiencing and decide best thing to do about it. Guess that's why they call it losing the plot. Took 800mg chlorpromazine last night and extra depakote as well. Very faint and dizzy today. Keep losing balance. But slept through the night. Win. Sleep the only self-management strategy I can come up with at the moment. Very much living moment to moment. Saw CPN/NP yesterday. She said she can't be someone for me to talk to, her role is to look at meds. Suggested I try the Samaritans. Felt chastised and rebuked. Felt foolish and embarassed. Humiliated myself by crying a bit. Can call Crisis Team if desperate. Did think about it but worried they'll want to admit me. Hence little OD. Going to try quetiapine again. Chlorpromazine not doing much. Hopefully quetiapine will help me sleep. Been given another credit card. Scary how easy it is to get one, even when already in debt. Always with high interest rates, of course. Also being inundated by payday loan offers. In control though. Have budget. Know what I'm doing. Reablement referral gone in. Psychology questionaire returned. Going to ask for referral to Mind. Maybe all that will help. Just services seem very fragmented these days. Social worker used to be central point and organise other stuff. Had chance to get to know and trust her. Felt different.
So, I signed up for Netflix. I don't know why I haven't done so before, I kind of thought it wouldn't work on my thoroughly ancient computer, and I didn't realise how much was available. But it works fine, and I thought it might help me distract myself from everything to be able to curl up in bed with the cat and the rain outside and catch up with all the stuff I've missed during the years I didn't have a television or go to the cinema. But it seems that everything I watch has embedded messages designed to manipulate and further confuse me. Yet even as this agitates and disturbs me I am somehow compelled to keep watching, as though the messages exert a hold over me. And I'm not sure that silence isn't worse. I keep thinking that the fear is easing up a bit, this morning I even thought that maybe I was getting a bit "better" (though I'm not sure what "better" is) but I've been shaking with it this afternoon and it makes me want to die. I'm currently contemplating actually calling the Crisis Team.
Back in January I wrote a post mentioning a film I saw when I was younger - The Secret Cinema - and I woke up at half three on Saturday morning obsessed with the need to see that film again, because it would help me figure everything out. I think it was deliberately arranged that I should watch it back then and if I watch it again it will help me understand what is going on. I found that to see the original I would have to buy a Blu-Ray player and I plain can't afford that right now, but it was remade in the 1980's as part of a Steven Spielberg series and the DVD of that was pretty cheap and I had enough credit left on one of my cards to order it. So I'm just waiting for it to arrive. I know it's going to make things clearer. I also had enough credit to order a copy of "The Twelfth Pan Book of Horror Stories" which I read when I was seven. There were a couple of stories in it that seemed significant to me even back then and I feel I have to re-read them.
My CPN was very kind. I guess she is just very kind. She said I had no reason to be ashamed or to feel that I was weak and a failure, and that as an outside observer she thought I had a tough life and I kept trying. I just find it hard to share her optimism that with the right support and the right medication things can be better for me, even if it takes a few years to work it all out.
She is going to refer me to Reablement and also floated the idea that I could have a Befriender. That just about killed me, because back in the spring when I was feeling pretty well I was interested myself in becoming a Befriender. What a joke eh? The idea that I could provide consistent support to anyone else. I wasn't entirely positive about these things, but eventually agreed with her that they could do no harm. My point is that everything is geared towards recovery. You have a time-limited intervention and ta-dah, you are reabled, you have ten or twenty sessions of therapy, or you have a Befriender for a year, and you are supposed to be well on the way to recovery. I guess I don't believe any more that I can recover. What about those of us that have ongoing difficulties and need ongoing support to live our lives?
I am in despair at the state of my house and myself. I don't understand why I can't do anything about it. It's not a lack of motivation, it's not "I can't be bothered", it's that for some unknown reason I can't. I haven't had a shower for three weeks, though I have washed my hair a couple of times. I am truly disgusting. And I'm having trouble doing any laundry, if I had any money I would go and buy some new clothes because I can't seem to manage to wash any. And I definitely ought to buy a new hoodie, because I am wearing the only one I have all the time. It makes me feel safer to have my hood up and the sleeves pulled down over my hands. But I have no money. I am having to get another Wonga loan to cover the rent that is due this week, and I am worried about my cat but can't afford to take him to the vet which just confirms my thought that I am a terrible owner and don't deserve to have animals.
My CPN put an alert on the Crisis Team's system so that they know I am still struggling if I call in, and she encouraged me to use the Helpline if I am awake in the night and need to talk. But I probably won't, unless I feel really desperate. I have too many experiences of the Helpline wanting to call an ambulance, or sending the police round. I felt pretty desperate yesterday evening but instead of calling anyone I took a strategic small overdose in the hope it would knock me out a bit. And I did sleep through the night though I felt a bit strange today, my vision kept going funny. Tonight I'm thinking I might sign up for the free Netflix trial and try to distract myself watching stuff. I just need to work out a safer place to put my computer, because where it is now I have a window behind me. I'm getting a bit better about the other windows but that one still really disturbs me, even though it's covered.
I have an appointment with my CPN this afternoon and I don't want to go. I feel ashamed because I lost control last week, and I hate that. It is one thing to say that you are feeling low and having some strange thoughts, and quite another to crouch in the corner and then to cry.
So I feel scared and depressed and ashamed. I am tired of this life. I am tired of being the toy of these people. I am not coping well. I see no hope for the future. I have had enough.
I have a mental illness.
Yes, I know, I know, you'd think I would have figured that out by now given my many hospitalisations, the number of pills I take, my ESA and DLA, the severity of my episodes and my ongoing difficulties with those much-touted "activities of daily living". But even at those times when I've been most rational I don't think I've ever really believed it. Because I would surely fix it all, any day now, certainly sometime soon. Just a matter of getting on and doing it, being a little stronger, trying a little harder.
One of the things the Crisis Team discussed with me was having a support worker again, to help me keep on top of the house and go to the community workshop. Afterwards I thought oh no, it's ridiculous to need that, of course I can manage. But what's my experience, what's the reality? And it is that apart from brief periods of time I do not manage to keep my house clean. And I don't mean that it is just a little messy, I mean that it is dirty, often verging on disgusting. And I hate it. As for the workshop - well, when my mood was rising in the summer I was able to go there easily, and chat to people and participate. But then things started to get out of control and I didn't attend, then it was closed for the holiday and I just haven't felt able to go since. And this has happened over and over again with different groups and classes and courses I've tried to do. I have failed to continue with them, despite all my intentions.
Realising this, and trying to let go of my long-standing denial, makes me feel a great deal of sorrow, something akin to grief. Because I have not been able to live the life I thought I would, I have not been able to do the things I always dreamed of. And it's possible I never will. I feel I need to rebuild my life around this new understanding, and rethink my future and what will be feasible for me.
They infiltrated my computer on Friday. It started malfunctioning and then it wouldn't work at all. It made me feel so panicky and isolated. The internet really is a lifeline for me, it is a way I hang onto what sanity I have. I can't tell you how much better I feel to have found a way to fix it. Less alone.
Because they are still watching me, making their comments. I think they are trying to drive me crazy and writing a book about it. That's what they are doing. I had to go to the supermarket today and I got so anxious because people kept saying my name and it seemed that they all knew about me and were part of it.
I also had an appointment with my CPN on Friday. She said I seemed very "distressed and disturbed". She said I wasn't on my own with it, which was a kind thing for her to say. So I am now taking 100mg chlorpromazine in the mornings in addition to the 150mg at night, and I am seeing the Crisis Team for a few days. The chlorpromazine does seem to be calming me down a bit, I don't feel quite such overwhelming fear, though I am struggling with some side effects. I'm actually finding the Crisis Team really supportive. The two who came today were particularly nice, and talking about everything that is happening seems to help. But I'm struggling to believe them when they tell me it's all in my mind, because it feels so real. And as the fear recedes a little I'm starting to feel quite low, sort of defeated and broken down inside, and without much hope for the future.
Yesterday was a slightly better day. The fear was less intense, except when I had to leave the house. Today it seems to be back with full force. But now I've covered all the windows with sheets I think I might be able to do some cleaning later. It feels safer. My house is full of maggots. Last night I dreamed I was eating toffee popcorn and had to spit it out because I realised it was covered with maggots. I keep thinking I should be able to just make myself stop being afraid. But I'm weak. I can't seem to. My mind is veering and swerving around, seizing on various explanations for what is happening and who is doing this. I just wish I could understand. I had to take my jewellery off because I became convinced it was a way they were monitoring me, but the back of one of the earrings is stuck in my ear. I am telling myself it doesn't mean anything, but then I become aware of it again and feel panicked. I should make an appointment with a nurse and see if it can be removed, but I really don't want to go anywhere near the GP's right now. I'm increasingly reluctant to take the pills but I'm trapped by my fear of not sleeping. I've been reading websites that say there is no such thing as mental illness. That psychiatry is evil. That medication kills you. Besides, they've altered me and now they observe me, conducting their experiments, taking their notes. How can any drug change that?
I would have a tiny, cramped bedspace in a room with four other people, with only the privacy afforded by a thin curtain and nowhere to get any peace and quiet. If I woke up in the middle of the night, or very early in the morning, as I often do, I wouldn't even be able to turn the light on, let alone have a drink and a smoke. I would only be able to go down to the garden for a few minutes every hour, and sometimes not even that if the staff were busy. I wouldn't have access to a computer or the internet, and I wouldn't be allowed to do scraperfoils, which are providing my main distraction at the moment, because the tool would be judged too dangerous. The only activities available would be sitting on the uncomfortable furniture watching television, usually the soaps, which I don't like, or colouring in children's pictures with cheap felt-tips that are running out of ink, or completing the couple of ancient jigsaws with many missing pieces that I have already done several times on previous admissions. And maybe the occasional card-making session or Recovery group, complete with patronising tips on how to problem-solve, and set small goals, and eat healthily. The only food on offer would be disgusting, when I am already having problems with my appetite. I would be even less likely to have a shower or wash my clothes than I am at home, and no one would notice if I didn't. The staff would rarely speak to me except to call me for meds. I would feel caged, trapped, imprisoned behind that locked door.
I feel like I can't trust anyone or anything. I'm becoming scared even to write here. I wish I didn't have to leave the house. Dreams and memories and things I've read over the years return to me, and they seem significant, like clues to a puzzle I need to solve.
I nearly didn't take my medication on Friday night but it became clear after a few hours that I wasn't going to sleep without it, and I couldn't cope with that. Sleep is my refuge from the fear, from the sense of being analysed and watched. By whom and for what purpose I'm not sure.
I wish this CPN had called me last week as I was told she would. I don't have friends or family to chase or insist on help for me and sometimes it's too hard to do it for myself. Sometimes I need the professionals to reach out to me when they know I'm struggling, to do what they promise.
I haven't been writing because I feel like I can't write. I feel like I can't think. I'm all muddle-headed. I'm bouncing between ideas I can't articulate, so I can't evaluate. I'm definitely not human, that's the only thing I know for sure. This alien presence in my brain has altered me. I want to stop taking the medication. I haven't done that yet, but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep taking it. I keep thinking it is poison, I keep thinking it is killing me. I can't work out why I have been altered but I feel I am in great danger. If I go to the GP they'll only call me crazy. No one will actually help me. I can't trust any of them.
So much fear. Just fear, fear, fear. It's exhausting. I'm tired of trying to be brave. I'm tired of trying to distract myself, trying to look after myself, trying to reassure myself. I'm not sure I can do it anymore.
I can't cope with the perceptions I'm having, the communications I'm receiving. It's becoming too much, it's becoming overwhelming. There are things I need to do today, but all I feel capable of is pulling a blanket over my head and hiding.
. . . as though I have a demon in my head, except I don't believe in demons. It keeps jumping up and down, flapping its arms and laughing wildly, and it wants me to do the same. I am resisting, even in the privacy of my own home, because it is only one small step from there to obeying in public, and I do quite enough leaping around in the supermarket and the streets when my mood is high.
This "demon", which I guess I could more accurately describe as a personified surge of insane elation that doesn't feel like part of me, is behind me on the left-hand side. I wonder if it is like this for other people, that voices and presences and inserted thoughts come from particular locations, have their own geography.
I seem to have lost my ability to read. I keep trying but somehow the sentences won't go in, and I end up throwing the book aside in frustration. And I am scared to watch stuff because of something I heard the last time I did. This leaves me at a bit of a loss. I don't know what to do with myself.
I should have a shower today. I really should. I know that, but something in me resists. I don't want to have a shower. I don't want to take my clothes off. I don't want to be clean. I find my own smell strangely comforting. And there is little else that is.
I went to the hospital to see my CPN this morning. She said I looked very tense and I told her some of what has started happening. She commented that I seemed slowed down and was taking a long time to put my words together. She notices these things, whereas I don't.
She said that there were three options. We could leave everything as it was, which ran the risk of things further deterioating. We could try another anti-psychotic, which would take time. Or we could increase the chlorpromazine. That seemed the best choice, so I'm going to start taking 150mg instead of 100mg.
She's going on holiday now so I can't see her until the 4th October, but she's going to ask another CPN from her team to call me next week to see how I am, and she's going to leave a note for my consultant in case she needs to get involved with my medication.
Waiting in the pharmacy for my prescription a voice suddenly piped up "That was an excellent performance girl. Well done, you've scored yourself some chlorpromazine". So that's screwing with me now.
On my way back I stopped in my own town. I really wanted to just go home but I needed some more cat food and I wanted to take back to the library some books that were no longer safe for me to read and pick up some about serial killers and the suchlike. Walking through the streets it felt as though everyone could tell what was going on in my head. I really hate that feeling. And then when I got to the library I couldn't get any books anyway because I couldn't afford to pay the fines on the ones I was returning. I hadn't realised how overdue they were. I did manage to find a couple of cheap ones in the supermarket but what I shall do when I've finished those I don't know.
So for now I guess the plan is the same: hunker down and try not to think. If I could decide whether I was ill or not it would make everything much easier, but I just can't figure it out.
There are only a few things I still remember now from the many years I spent at school: an extract from Ecclesiastes ("All is vanity"); the first time I read Wilfred Owen's "Dulce Et Decorum Est"; the diagrams we drew of rivers and the formation of deltas; and a programme we watched in primary school about the emotional power of music. They showed the same clip of a family picnic, the first time with cheerful, happy music, and then again with something more sinister. It amazed me how different the whole thing looked.
Nothing particular has happened in my life recently. I live in the same village, in the same house. The same books and other belongings surround me. I mostly do the same things and see the same people. But the background music has changed and everything seems significant and ominous and dark. I am experiencing almost constant fear.
It will be OK, it will be OK, it will be OK has become my mantra. My focus is survival. When you strip things down to the bone all that really matters is that I take good care of my animals and retain my self-control. It is very important, I think, not to spend too much time trying to figure out what is going on and what it all means.
So yesterday I picked up a couple of thrillers. Stories without too much depth, without, hopefully, any messages. Just good old murder and violence and the solving of crimes. It's hard to read, it exhausts me, but it does fill the time and somewhat distract me. And I have a couple of things lined up to watch tonight. And at least I still seem to be sleeping, even if rather erratically. If that changes I can always get some more promethazine.
I think one of the reasons I can sometimes be rather savage in my criticism of the concept of "Recovery" (as opposed to "recovery") is that I embraced it so wholeheartedly when I first became seriously unwell as a teenager. And over and over again in the time after. Yes, I've been trying to Recover since I was seventeen. I guess I must be really, really bad at it.
I tried the whole reject-psychiatry-and-medication-and-embark-on-a-journey-of-psychological-and-spiritual-healing thing. I tried all sorts of approaches. Hell, I was challenging thoughts and practicing mindfulness decades before these ideas became so fashionable (which is why I haven't always been graciously grateful when professionals have suggested them to me).
But somehow, despite all my optimism and best efforts, I kept becoming ill. Until eventually some persistent friends pushed and prodded and then downright insisted that I seek psychiatric help again. That hasn't been an entirely happy experience, but the combination of medication I take now does help. At least, it helps more than anything else ever has. I may not have been completely well this year but it has still been the best year I can remember since I was about fourteen.
But I have my doubts as to whether I will ever Recover according to my definition of it. Because they say that, that Recovery is a personal thing, whatever you define it to be. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong. I should change my definition, shift the goalposts and ta da, I can be Recovered too. My CPN often points out that I haven't seen the Crisis Team or been admitted to hospital for ages. And that is true and that is good. But I guess I've always hoped for something more. And I'm coming to wonder if I've just been unrealistic in that. Maybe things are always going to be this way. Maybe this is as good as it gets.
How can it be so hard to get in the shower? To do pretty much anything at all? How can it be possible to sleep so much? I keep doing things, but it seems I can only do one thing before feeling overwhelmed. Water the plants. Stop. Put on some washing. Stop. Change the sheets on the bed. Stop. It makes me feel pathetic.
It's weird to be this dull-headed and exhausted when a few weeks ago I was energetic and euphoric. How did that happen? I keep getting waves of dread and despair. It's not as though there aren't plenty of things going on in the world to cause dread and despair at the moment, but these feelings don't seem connected to anything, they don't seem to be attached to thoughts, they don't make sense. So I just curl up for a while and ride them out.
Trying to maintain an objective view of my situation though, trying to figure out ways to improve it, does at least diminish the volume of the voice, and I am more able to ignore it. It wants to take me down a dark road, it wants to shut out hope. And I won't have it.
I think I'm spending more time asleep than awake at the moment. It's ridiculous. How can I have gone from being breezy and bright-eyed on four hours to this exhaustion and lethargy? It makes all those thoughts about just being a naturally happy energetic person who didn't need much sleep seem utterly foolish. It's like I said yesterday, it's so easy when in one mood state to forget even the possibility of another. That's an error I seem particularly prone to.
My CPN phoned this morning and I have an appointment on Thursday. She said the first thing to do would probably be to reduce the chlorpromazine. Makes sense, since I clearly don't need to be taking anything the slightest bit sedating right now.
In the meantime I'm trying to think of things I can do to jazz myself up a bit. Hot showers. Body scrubs. Brisk walks. Sigh. And pushing myself as much as I can to keep taking care of myself and the house, because I know if I let everything slide I will only feel worse. I've been doing a bit of research on using turmeric for depression and wondering if it would be worth giving that a go. The trouble is that supplements and the suchlike cost money, and everything else just feels like so much effort.
But I really want to minimise the impact of this and get back on track as quickly as possible. I think episodes of illness are traumas in themselves, because when I remember how I have been in the past I feel terrified and sick. The memories are awful, and feeling like this again brings on something akin to flashbacks.
I guess what I'm trying to do at the moment is observe and document what is going on in order to maintain my awareness that my current perceptions and feelings aren't the truth about the world or my life. It's so easy to get swallowed up in a mood and forget that things have ever been, or ever will be, different.
Last night I woke around 1am to find I had no power. Went back to sleep and hoped it would be magically fixed by the morning, but it wasn't. No coffee. No computer. No BBC News 24. Woe. (I have a strange obsession with BBC News 24 and except when I'm actually watching something else have to have it on.) The feeling actually reminded me of being in hospital, and not being able to have my little comforts and routines. I remember waking at 5.30 and not being able to have a drink, not being able to have a cigarette, not being able to do anything except wait. Not having the internet for weeks. All adding to the feeling of being trapped.
A power cut is one of those ordinary little things that crop up in life, and that at other times I would deal with without a second thought, but in my current state of mind it immediately engendered feelings of not being to cope, and for a while I contemplated simply not dealing with it and just living without electricity because that seemed easier. But I knew that was ridiculous so I gave myself a little shake and made the necessary phone call. Spoke to a very nice man and then another very nice man arrived to sort it out. Turns out that in addition to the normal trip switch I have an earth trip here and something had happened in the network overnight to turn it off. Since I've always lived in houses with overhead cables I didn't know to look for it and check it. So I soon had electricity again, which was a huge relief.
I left a message for my CPN but she didn't get back to me. I appreciate she's probably busy, but I hope I hear from her tomorrow. It was hard enough making that first call, I don't think I could face chasing. It makes me feel like I am being a nuisance.
I've been very shaky and achy today and my vision is simply screwed. My moods always manifest so physically they really do make me feel ill. I've mostly been taking painkillers and resting in bed, curled up with the cat. I can tell it's becoming more autumnal because he keeps wanting to come underneath the duvet, not just sprawl on top of it.
As I struggle to move from my bed I am struck again by how physical and palpably real my moods are. The part of myself called "I" is only a small part, and "I" can think positively and practice mindfulness and do nice things for myself all I want, the rest of my brain and my body won't go along with the plan.
I ache all over and I feel completely exhausted. I still can't concentrate on anything. My vision is distorted and in addition to the voice giving me strict and fierce instructions one of the wormy ones keeps piping up, undermining my sense of reality and self. I am suffering washes of shame over being unwell, and an occasional sense of hopelessness about the future, though I'm trying to ward those feelings off.
I dragged myself to the shop earlier to buy some sugar. I stopped taking sugar several weeks ago, but I feel like I need sweetness today, probably because I am struggling to eat so my body is craving energy from somewhere, anywhere.
So I am sat with a cup of strong, sweet tea and trying to think rationally. And looking around at the books I was enjoying reading and the art projects I have underway, remembering that the workshop starts next week and I did/do really want to go there even if right now, today, I feel that it's impossible, I keep telling myself that this state I am in is not *me*, and it is not inevitable that I will sink and sink, and that I somehow have to take action.
So I think I am going to do battle with the voice and phone on Monday to see if I can get an earlier appointment, because my next one isn't until the 17th. I dread the thought of doing it, because I feel so suspicious and as though I can't trust anyone, and I feel such a deep sense of shame at being this way and being seemingly unable to keep myself well. But this was the whole point of the work we did on identifying early signs and drawing up a medication management plan. My priority has to be to avoid either a) killing myself or b) ending up in hospital. I have a life I want to live and things I want to do.
Tonight I am going to make myself have a shower, because I really need one, and I am going to rewash that wretched washing and finally hang it up to dry. Apart from that, nothing. I know some people say you should push yourself to do things because "it'll make you feel better" but I've never found that works. Better to accept my current limitations.
Having worked that out, I still feel physically sick and exhausted, but mentally a bit more like myself, a little stronger, as though I *can* fight the voice. Sometimes it seems, you see, that it must be my own fault somehow, that I must have done something to cause it, and that I could just fix it if I would only try a little harder. When I'm able to separate myself from it and see that it is just the pattern of the disorder, then I am able to take steps, however small, to take care of myself. One of those steps is making that phone call on Monday, however much I don't want to.
Except I'm trying not to think like that, because then I'll get scared. And maybe this will pass swiftly. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow. Maybe the voice will shut up and go away.
I have a permanent and overwhelming sense of deja vu and I keep getting paralysed, that terrible impossibility when my mind implores my limbs to move, just move, and my limbs refuse. How am I supposed to distract myself when I can't move and I can barely think? I've managed to avoid my friends so far but at some point they're going to cotton on because I'm already beyond faking. I don't want that to happen.
I:'m not sure I can cope with this. I'm not allowed to ask for help, even if I believed there was anything that anyone could do.
I'm becoming increasingly useless. I just can't seem to get myself together to do anything except sleep. It is as though my ability to actually act has turned to jelly and when I try to pick it up and use it it simply oozes away through my fingers. There is washing in the machine that I have already washed twice because I have apparently forgotten how to open the door and hang the clothes out to dry.
I don't want to do anything. Reading is out. I downloaded an audiobook but it didn't hold my attention. I have a DVD but I don't know if I can concentrate on a film. Music sounds discordant. My creative inspiration has deserted me. My bed calls insistently.
I keep trying to shake up my slow thoughts, because I really can't allow this to happen. I am going to sit outside in the sunshine for a while (except I don't want to) and then I am going to attempt to do some tidying (except I don't, to be frank, give a fuck what kind of state the house is in). After all, maybe this is just a bad day (several days), eh?
So obviously I am not the same as I was a few weeks ago. I am sleeping more. I seem to be losing weight - at least, my belt went up a hole today. I want to withdraw from the world and be solitary and silent. I am in a different mode or mood.
This rising and falling, expansion and contraction, seems like something natural to me, something like the seasons. The days are always either getting shorter or getting longer, and I am similarly never quite the same. The key is managing and moderating it so it doesn't become so extreme as to be disabling.
I feel like I should draw a Venn diagram of my selves, to identify what is in the section where all the circles overlap, because that is the core of me, and those are the things I can trust.
I went into town today. I had to buy some catfood and to get some cash to pay a friend for something. They said there was no urgency for the money, but I don't like to owe my friends, and I don't want them to know how close to the line I am operating at the moment. If I haven't yet learned how to stop myself spending excessively when I am in an episode of elevated mood that is my problem and I must deal with the consequences. I now have 81p in my bank account until Wednesday when my DLA comes through, and I have worked out I must spend less than £10 of that on food for the next week.
Then I took my camera for a walk. I live in a quiet village and it suits me very well, but it is towns that excite me visually. I like the way that once I start taking photographs I begin to see the world differently, that patterns and perspectives and details I might not normally notice catch my attention. Except that then, between one photograph and another, I suddenly forgot how to use the camera. I thought it had broken, that some important part had fallen off it, and I started to retrace my steps, scanning the ground. I haven't had a brain stutter as bad as that for a while, and even though I did eventually figure it out again I am still now plagued by the sense that the camera did change, that it worked differently before. It makes me feel suspicious. But then my mind generally seems to be rather busy playing tricks on me at the moment, turning a leaf on the road into a large, bright green, exotic bird. Or the shadows a tree casts into an enormous piece of farm machinery bearing down on me. And creating countless little creatures in my peripheral vision that scurry away when I turn to look at them.
But this is where I am right now. I can't engage with arguments, I can't get involved with the plans I was making for the future, I can't read books, but it will change again eventually, those desires and abilities will come back. For now I sleep and make pictures and I have signed up for a free trial of Lovefilm so I can watch stuff.
Developing a different rhythm. Or is it no rhythm? Becoming nocturnal. Driving down dark roads with the music loud. Thinking about patterns and cycles. What is the self when the self changes, when the self is strange? When sometimes there is this, and sometimes there is that, and both are familiar but bear no relation to each other?
Eat when hungry. Sleep when tired. The rest of the time make pictures. When one picture is finished tear off the page and begin another. Simple. Except the paper is running out and there is no money to buy more.
Air bite. Fire bright. Trees bare. Fields brown. Crows black. Windows wet. Autumn is coming and the nights are getting longer. You don't need to believe in anything to feel the power of that.
I don't want to discuss or debate. I have no desire to chat. I am losing interest in the internet, fascinating as the anthropology of it can often be. I am folding into myself and my perceptions. Everything has meaning. The curve of a fence. A pebble on the pavement. Lichen on a brick. It all vibrates and shines with meaning. It all shimmers with significance. I can't express the significance in words. I sense that to even try would be to miss the point entirely.
I have this most unfortunate habit of losing my mind in the autumn. Last year I was probably the craziest I have ever been, and the year before not much better. I was on a section 3 in 2010, and also in 2008. I have no memory at all of 2009 but I escaped hospital at least.
I'm feeling very good and solid again now though, and no longer leaping out of bed after < 4 hours sleep, so let's hope 2013 bucks the trend! And if it does then it will be the best year I have had with regards to my mental health for as long as I can remember.