Armed with a lot of tears and frustration I had pretty much decided by the time I walked into the psychiatrists office today that I did not want to be on the same tablets any more. As far as I can tell they are not working and as I only see him every six weeks it is hard to tell him this.
One of the most frustrating things about this latest diagnosis is that so far it has been treated only medically, previously I’ve had counselling but what with being out of work for so long I haven’t been able to afford it myself so far and I haven’t got the heart to ask my parents to fork out like they have in the past, it’s not up to them and it wouldn’t be fair. They tell me there is a CPN who will see me to discuss coping techniques but though I have called her and left messages I have never heard back and so I keep getting discharged from the team. One would expect a formal discharge would only happen once the person is better or at least able to cope better than before but you would be wrong. People have said in the past this quick fire discharge helps their figures but maybe its more simple, maybe they just don’t care or simply don’t have the time so let a few slide along the way.
The last time I went in to see The Shrink I felt a little overwhelmed by how quickly it was over and as I am always in a bit of a state when I go there I asked my mother if she could come in to the room with me. It sounds pathetic but sometimes its just good to have someone there on your behalf who can say the words that have been in your head for weeks but just don’t come out when they need to the most. The last time I came here I admitted I was sleepy and tearful a lot of the time and was taken off duloxetine to try something new. Today when my mother admits that I am still half asleep when I leave the house he says he will take me off the tablets he put me on before.
Its all going very fast and I feel as though I have no part in this and I’m crying but I just wish I could take control. Thankfully my mother is a former English teacher and her negotiating skills are such that I sometimes wonder whether she missed out on a calling as a peace keeper. Her voice rings out clear bringing the ball firmly back into our court. If I had been alone in here I would probably have walked out of the room with a different anti depressant another referral to the elusive CPN and a feeling of utter frustration that I failed to fight my corner. It is not The Shrink’s fault but I am a wisp of myself at the moment and one of the things I wanted to get across is how hard I am finding it to connect with people. Unfortunately I am failing to connect with him as I am crying too much and am too busy hunting out tissues to properly convey how dreadful I’ve been feeling. By the time my mother has intervened carefully explaining what I have said there is an agreement that I need something other than just medication and a firm decision to take me off the quetiapine. I am relieved but terrified as this means the start of yet another drug and all I want to do is flush the whole lot down the toilet.
The whole experience is exhausting and when I walk out of there I am so frustrated I can’t stop crying. In spite of the tears I am grateful because if it wasn’t for my mother we would have got nowhere and I feel for those who come here alone.
Though it seemed like a bad thing when I was booked, visits to The Shrink generally involve travelling a good twenty miles in traffic to get to the hospital. It works out in my favour as it gives me an extra thirty minutes to stop the tears and reapply the make up. By the time I get to work I have sectioned off all thoughts of the appointment and if I can just get through the day without crying I can pretend I am just like everyone else.
- The dress is from Boden and is beautiful. My godmother gave it to me and it is so bright and cheerful it helps me in my great pretence. I feel dreadful though and I can’t stand the way I look at the moment, in anything. If I could I’d hide myself in baggy jeans and a jumper and these photos would never see the light of day.
After spending a weekend on what may well have been a mini high I have now entered free fall. Last night the boy and I had a horrible fight over the “future”. Admittedly I was probably being a little irrational. I wanted him to show me in some way that this is going to work; that we will be able to get through the next 18 months without falling to pieces and that this will all have been worth it in the end. It just feels strange a month ago we were considering the possibility of moving in together and playing house and now I am looking in the local paper for flats to move into by myself.
Though I am quite excited about the prospect of living alone for the last time I am sad to see our little dream end before it had really started. I know we can make this work but when I’m feeling low and pessimistic its hard to persuade myself of the positives. I do feel for him, I know it can not be easy going out with a girl whose head is so often in the clouds; the dark and the thundery as well as the light and the fluffy. He has always been the realistic one of the two of us. Though I might run away in my mind with schemes and plans about trips away to Cuba and a home in the Lakes where he can teach and I can write, he will be there holding my hand, ready to pull me back down to earth when the schemes become too wild.
Yesterday we argued because he is frustrated at how little I have been looking after myself. He hates to see me go into decline and understandably gets angry when he thinks it might be because I have been staying up too late, forgetting to take my tablets or just taking on too much. Although he has upset me this weekend by choosing to spend the Easter holiday at home rather than coming down to be with me, considering how much of a mess I was last weekend I can hardly blame him.
So often with mental illness it becomes all about the person who is sick. It is we who are given the tablets, the counselling and the coping strategies, all to often it is our partners, family and friends who fall by the way with little advice or explanation on how they should cope with the giant grey elephant in the corner who can not seem to stop crying their eyes out or talking at a hundred miles a minute. There are groups and websites which can help friends and partners but it is hard to know where to turn. There was one stage when I was living in Manchester when the boy was having to spend so much of his time making sure I was okay. I wasn’t seeing a Doctor, I was no longer on any anti-depressants and I had started having panic attacks. When I am a wreck it is all to easy for me to forget how much he has done and continues to do for me. I never want him to be my carer but there has been times when I know I couldn’t have coped without him. We work the best when we are both happy and I hate it on days like today when I sink so low that I refuse to believe anything he says. I tell him he should not be with me, that he should find a normal girl who is not so high maintenance but because he is sweet he tells me I am not and that he would not have me any other way even if I was.
I do love him dearly but I am so afraid of what the next eighteen months will bring. I am terrified that one day I will shoot us in the foot by saying something I do not mean and he will walk away for good and find himself a girl with fewer issues. One day he tells me he will write a blog which he hopes will help the partners of other people with problems, but at the minute I think he might be a bit too mad to write.
- Today’s dress comes from Lara. It is beautiful and I put it on because I knew the boy liked it when he first saw it in the bag of donated dresses. I wanted him to get on the train with a happier memory of me than the tired, tearful, weary eyed woman he went to bed with last night.
Though I appear to the untrained eye to be a brunette people have often asked me whether I was a blonde in a previous life. I did actually have blonde hair up until I was six but then it all darkened and the last time I was even a little bit light was when I was 17 with honey and burnt red highlights.
For whatever reason today has been a bit of a blonde day for me, or a ditz day if you are blonde and at risk of being offended. I was researching a story this week about a group to get a cinema for Harborough. The dear young girl who had set it up was refusing to speak with me about it as she had been advised by Alistair Campbell not to do any publicity. At first I thought she was taking the mick and then, because I am a bit of a blonde I started to genuinely believe it was The Alistair Campbell.
When I mentioned the joke in the news room trying to case out whether it was true that Alistair had in some way involved himself in the campaign for a cinema the boys confirmed the fact. Today I got an email through from the girl requesting we did not publish because Alistair did not wish it to be so. I had a little rant about it and during a discussion one of the lads mentioned how strange it was that he had the same name as the Alistair Campbell, previously friend of downing street. Too disappointed to hide my mistake I said sadly: “So is it not actually the same Alistair?” It was not.
As though that wasn’t bad enough later on in the day I got my first follow-up phone call from an article I had written. The worst thing was I was left a message and for the life of me I could not remember where it was from. I checked through my contacts, my quote write ups and scanned through my stories but there was no sign of the woman who had asked that I call her back. I started to get a little nervous. In another example of negative thought; rather than thinking it was someone calling to tell me how much they loved my article I was convinced it was a cross patch reader who had taken issue with something I’d written.
In the end I forced myself to deal with the issue head on; I called up the woman and was greeted by a lady from the church. I had run an article about a job swap between a vicar and a landlord due to take place in a couple of weeks. The reverend had given me a great quote about just wanting to be like Jesus who after all had turned water into wine at Cana. Unfortunately I had somehow managed to write it out as wine into water which didn’t really portray poor Jesus in the best of lights. There are worse mistakes I could have made and yes it is quite funny but it was my first page three lead in the paper and I was a bit upset I had gone and got it wrong.
I went somewhere today. A place I have been putting off going to for weeks because I was too scared. There is a group in Harborough, it is affiliated loosely with Mind but is mainly a place to go, a support group for people with mental health problems of any kind. It took a lot of courage to go but I am glad I did. The people there were kind, welcoming and accepting and the group leader, the one who first contacted me months ago to tell me about the group was great. Support groups like these are so important because unfortunately there is not a lot of funding for mental health. Psychiatrists and counsellors are in short supply and so having somewhere to go where one can get advice from others about handling one’s health is essential. There are volunteers who help to run such groups and though the world at times can seem a dark place, even to those of us who are not visited by the black dog, it is people like these who give without want of reward that make our earth just that little bit lighter.
- Today’s dress is from Lara. It was a pleasure to wear but I unfortunately did not understand how to use the panels to transform it until the evening. It has an orange layer sowed into the body of the dress and can be buttoned up as high or low as one wants. I wore my wedges today because having been working from home for two days I felt the need to make an effort. They are death traps and one must totter rather than stride but I still get a kick out of wearing them. I had my first major wardrobe malfunction in town today whilst walking to the group. As I past the farmers market where half the town had assembled to purchase meats and sweet treats my entire skirt was blown up by the wind in my blonde moment of the day.
Come this Saturday me and the boy will have been going out four years. In spite of me having a fair few up and downs and in all honesty a couple of quite serious breakdowns during this time, I think the reason we have come the distance; aside from the fact that he has the patience of a saint and we still quite fancy one another; is because we have always right from the start applied the basic vows of marriage to our relationship. Now, I’m not one to say that marriage is essential to make a relationship work; I have plenty of friends who have got along quite nicely thank-you very much without ever feeling any urgent need to put a ring on it; but nevertheless I think that relationships work best when you apply principles such as “in sickness and in health”, “for richer for poorer”, and unless you have a really very cool/ liberal lover, “forsaking all others”.
When myself and the boy first met I was flat broke and though I was not looking for anything serious as tends to be the case we accidentally went and fell in love. At the time I was spending all my spare pennies on cigarettes and alcohol and because he was a sweetie and probably because he didn’t want to see me lose my rather curvaceous figure he kept feeding me fry ups and insisting on cooking me dinner. I remember one day when I was about to set off for home he slipped me a tenner to go and buy food. Ten minutes, 20 Marlborough mediums and a bottle of red later I came to the conclusion that yes 12p chicken noodles were a suitable source of nutrition.
Although he was the provider at the start of our relationship by the time I graduated I was making a tidy enough package so that if he was skint we could dip into my privy purse to pay for cinema outings, bottles of wine, nights on the tiles and steak.
The boy graduated two years after me, not because I am seeing a toy boy you understand but because he was rather more keen in being the drummer in every Mancunian band around the way than getting all academic. It was because he was still a student that when our one year anniversary came round, I ended up treating us to a holiday to Rome and when we were too lazy to cook it was me who paid for us to eat out in West Didsbury, Manchester’s one stop haven of heavenly cuisine.
When I lost my job though, both times, it was the boy who helped me pick up the pieces, kept me financially afloat when I was too proud to go to the job centre and who even helped me search through the rubbish to find a new role.
Although most of our relationship has been spent just below the poverty line we have always found ways to entertain ourselves; games of Scrabble where JB, Onions lead singer always wins; games of monopoly where I always win; tea and music; my ever more elaborate attempts at dinner parties for ten even when we have no table; gigs; walks in the woods; running (failed after one attempt when he smoked throughout whilst I had a series of small heart failings) tennis, technically not necessarily legally sound movies and more gigs. Although we loved it when I was making a tidy package money never brings happiness and as Neil Sedaka’s wife says to him in Laughter In The Rain, “Sometimes I miss the cold days.” Struggling together is terribly romantic and there’s nothing quite like playing cards through the night with nothing to fuel you but a pot of decaf tea.
The other issue is of course the sickness and the health. Luckily the boy is fine and dandy other than the occasional sulk and the dreaded man flu, according to the boy he has single handedly fought off swine flu and is a pillar of strength in the face of modern medicine most of which he views as being in some way linked to a conspiracy of making us weak. Maybe because of this, when we first met I waited till June to come clean with him about my crazy. I didn’t want to scare him away and if I’m honest I thought I had completely recovered, love does wonderful things for your brain and your body; eating becomes a chore and your entire mind turns to mush. if you don’t watch out you end up boring all of your friends to sleep by talking about how fabulous your lover is. Luckily however, by the time me and the boy got together I was a cynic about love and when he etched the words “I love you” on my back I told him to, “Get a grip”.
When I told him about my poorly head it was because I had decided to come off the anti-depressants I’d been taking for two years. Buoyed up by love and the wonderful newness of it all I didn’t think I needed them. With his approval and no advice from any medical practitioner I came off the drugs. Within a month I crashed so hard and so fast that some days I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I felt so ugly and frustrated with what I saw. I put on weight and because getting out of bed was so hard I would sleep for hours and rather than looking for work I would watch West Wing episodes convinced there was no point trying because I was useless. In the end I had to move home so I could survive. The boy did try to support me but he was still a student and one part-time job shared between two people equals not a lot left to live on.
With the help of some friends in the know, my family and the boy I managed to pick myself back up but it wasn’t easy. Every time I go down hill it is always the boy who has been there over these last few years who is there straight away to drag me back up again. Every time I get poorly he’s there to wipe away my tears, calm me and convince me that the world is a good place and that things will get better.
On one poorly head occasion when we somehow found ourselves at A and E after a particularly bad reaction to Sertraline, (the name still gives me the shudders), we came face to face with a psychiatrist who had obviously decided he was not a fan of women. After deciding, from looking at me rather than my notes you understand, that I was anorexic with father issues he banned the boy from hugging me, told me there was nothing wrong with me and then finished by telling me I should just go ahead and give up then and live in a mental health ward. Thankfully both the boy and the psychiatrists assistant realised I was just extremely anxious in a very scary place and needed to get some sleep and the boy got me the hell away from him before had a chance to lock me up and throw away the key.
I have never forgotten what he did that day and acknowledge that what ever happens with us in the future, without him being by my side that day I could still to this day be living in a closed ward, misdiagnosed and miserable overseen by the most tyrannical mentally unstable medical professional I have ever come across.
We never signed any contract when we got together but both of us always find a way to work it out, scream it out or just forgive regardless. I like to think that its because he like me knows that whatever our problems with us when its good it’s so very good, though at times we can of course both be wicked.
Sometimes the blues come on so unexpectedly one is left feeling somewhat shell-shocked. After looking round and looking internally for the cause of them at times you are forced to admit sometimes there is no raeson for one’s state of mind other than just because; at other times you can pin-point the start of a bad mood to a specific event in your week or day. For me I think my blues started around yesterday lunchtime when I came across a posting by a girl who seemed so utterly distraught all I wanted to do was find out where she lived, climb aboard a white horse (still no car due to giant’s concerns) and go help her.
The problem is with all the help-lines available, inparticularly NHS direct is that if you come across someone not properly trained or who has been having a bad day themselves it can put you off seeking help from other sources. I remember one particuarly bad episode when I called the NHS only to be confronted with some idiot who was so concerned with protocol they refused to give me any assistance until I gave them my address. I was taken to hospital by ambulance the next day.
There are many useful telephone counselling services; univesrities usually provide their students with a night-time-hot-line which you can call if you are feeling low and they are usually able to offer advice or listen as you run through worries you are too scared to share with your house-mates or fellow residents for fear you will come across as a crazy person. I had a few struggles in my second first year at university and pretty much just wanted to hide away in my room. Luckily for me my mother is not one to do nothing when she thinks her daughter may be in danger and after speaking to me on the phone she decided I was too low and was on the blower to the resident-in-house-tutor at 11 at night with her concerns; by the next morning I was in a comfy chair discussing my problems with the lovely fella for which I felt better even if it was only because he told me he had a hard time when he started himself.
Over the past week I have come across incidents of several people, some via the blog, others from checking out other blogs written by sufferers of bipolar who are very much in need of extra help. The problem a lot seem to be having is they do not know where to go for assistance. Finding out that figures for suicide have increased over the past couple of years is a fact which utterly terrifies me because these people obviously felt there was no alternative, what it shows more than anything to myself at least is that they have been failed by a society which was meant to be there for them.
The difficulty is in-spite of every service available unless a person who is feeling head poorly is prepared to make the first move and reach out just a tiny bit to anyone, these services can not be accessed. Although I have had mixed experiences myself with the NHS, the facilities are there to help people who are in need of care. After a few traumatic incidents last year around May I went to the Doctors in tears. I couldn’t get a grip on myself and was so close to falling off the edge it was unreal; luckily that day I was booked in with a caring practitioner who took immediate steps to help, putting me in touch with emergency counsellors. When the situation later deteriorated the same practice referred me to The Crisis Team who came round to the house as often as was deemed nessecary to get me through the darkness. This was a relief to my partner, my lovely, the boy, and I am eternally grateful to his flat-mates for putting up with strangers visiting their house for regular visits for a nearly a month.
The boy has advised me against doing this, but from my own experience I know there are times when one finds it too hard to pick up the phone and reach out and writing or speaking to someone neutral can help. All I can say is if you are feeling blue, please try and reach out to someone, and then perhaps they can get in touch with people on your behalf. If however you just need to vent to someone who has been in unplesant head poorly situations before please just send me a comment here or if it is too difficult email me at email@example.com not for counselling, and not for an immediate response, I can not promise that, but I will try and get back to you within a week at the latest even if it is just to advise you on a number to call. Please if you know someone you think is struggling try and bring them out or get them to seek help, people may say they want to be left alone but if you are really concerned don’t let them suffer in silence, there are things that can be done to help and no matter how dark a day is the sun will always shine again even if you have to drag them outside to see it.