I've long known, and most of you probably have as well, that there was something not all there with me. Mostly I put it down to me being bad. I was always told my behaviour was bad as a child and innately that was something that settled with me as a certainty. Various people, friends, lovers, their family have begged me to get help, but I said no. My reason, I didn't feel I deserved it and that taking myself somewhere to chat about my favourite subject for an hour every week would be like treating myself for my bad behaviour.
So what changed?
Well a lot has to do with this board and the people I have met here. I've met people in the last couple of years at the fests and established a number of very precious online friendships that have made me realise that there is another side. I am NOT all bad. That there are actually likeable qualities too and good ones. I've taken great pride and pleasure in sharing my experiences - the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright dirty and been so touched when they helped people in any way. Just as many many experiences have helped me here. But I felt a few weeks ago I had come to an impasse. I have reached as far as I can go on my own. And I felt fradulent for dishing out advice any further because basically my life is falling apart. Lets see this year - I lost my lover of 9 years, I lost my home of 6 years, and right now my job is very tenuous because I have been so depressed I havent been able to leave the house for weeks at a time. I am trying to rescue this situation before I end up homeless because that IS what will happen and I will just be a sad statistic. With the support of some special friends here I decided to ask for help as a last resort.
I told my doctor the story (which some of you probably read on my myspace blog and breathed a sigh of relief) about a month ago and got an immediate referral. My first appointment at the Psychological Unit happened on Thursday just gone. For the first half an hour the counsellor took notes on what my history was so I told her about the cult, the shunning, the suicide attempts, the rape, the self harm, the domestic abuse. Then she started to ask me questions. Questions I've never been asked before. And that had a sharp resonance with me. She asked do I get high? I said yes, manically so. And she asked what I see and feel during these episodes and how often the recurr. So I explained how the air becomes electric, colours become sharper but overlaid with blue and green, I feel like I can read people's minds in the street, I sometimes believe I can fly like I do in my dreams and I physically become lighter, I process thoughts and words and speech at aggressive speed and become extremely impatient at the slightest hold up, and inside I fizz and become extremely aroused. I never actually put any of this into words before. I didn't really think it to be that different from other people's experiences of life. I don't really know what triggers this - apart from stress, good stress and bad stress. But the high becomes exhausting and frightening after a while and so sometimes I drink or over eat to damp it down because I can't cope with it and there is no outlet. I can go nights with no sleep or very little sleep and days without eating because I dont need to and I write pages (probably of nonsense) in my diaries and feel superbly creative. Its a fantastic feeling but it also gets overwhelming. Hence the self-medication.
So at the end of her questions and my responses she said have you ever heard of Bi-polar disorder. Well of course I have, but I didnt know much about it and have to admit half of me just thought it was an excuse for selfish behaviour. Shows what I know. She explained that everything I described as being an experience of my whole life, the fact that I couldnt smile as a child for very long periods to the annoyance of my parents and the long depressions where I cant talk to anyone at all and just go into lock down mode as I have been doing for a few weeks now and the mania which happens at least every two weeks , more usually once a week and sometimes several times in a day are all strong symptoms of a chemical imbalance in the brain which can be regulated and moderated through medication. Now I shied away at that. From the outset I didnt want to take drugs. I really really dont. It makes me feel scared just thinking about it. I wont be the same person. And part of me loves the highs despite the lows. When I am low I know after three decades of this that they will be followed by a plateau - a normal period and then another high.
So I have to have another appointment with a medical doctor where we will discuss medication. If it helps me keep my job and keep a roof over my head then I have to do it. Part of me feels still there is some stigma to this. The other part feels kind of proud because of the last thing she said to me. That she was amazed and that I should feel proud because I have managed this long by myself, held down jobs and some relationships of length and that takes strength since many with this illness dont manage to function very well at all.
Thanks if you read this far down., If you didn't, NAUGHTY!
Thank you to everyone who has checked on me, posted little things about me which have brought a smile and a tear more often than you know when I was in my withdrawal phase. I had no idea that my constant withdrawals from society, which began very young and I would maintain a word limit of a 100 a day in public to be perverse, to today where I have to cancel going to social events because I am worried I wont be able to behave and that I will embarass myself and piss off my hosts - all are symptoms of this illness. Special thanks to Hemp Lover for persevering with me, Timbo Hooper for unfailingly checking I am still alive and making me eat and leave the house when I've been just at the very end of all my resources and encouraging me to ask for the help I need, and to Middlechild and hubby for giving me a little project to distract me and setting me an example which really helped me do this.
After my appointment yesterday and after a HR interview about my absences from work and being asked what Bipolar was and not actually knowing I looked it up. I was just startled by how many boxes it ticked. I could have cried that I didnt know any of this before.
During a manic phase, you may feel extremely happy and have lots of ambitious plans and ideas. You may also spend large amounts of money on things that you cannot afford. Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly, and becoming annoyed easily, are also quite common. You may be very creative, and feel that mania is an extremely positive experience. However, during a manic phase, you may also have symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that are not there
The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are mood swings. The mood swings range from extreme happiness (mania) to extreme sadness (depression). The episodes of mania and depression can last several weeks or more. Some people with the condition can swing from highs to lows quickly, without having a normal period in between. This is called rapid cycling.
In the depressive (low) phase symptoms may include:
- feeling sad and hopeless,
- lack of energy,
- finding it difficult to concentrate and remember things,
- loss of interest in everyday activities,
- feelings of emptiness or worthlessness,
- feelings of guilt and despair,
- feeling pessimistic about everything,
- difficulty sleeping and waking up early, and
- suicidal thoughts.
The manic (high) phase usually comes after 2-4 periods of depression and may include:
- feeling extremely happy, elated or euphoric,
- talking very quickly,
- feeling full of energy,
- feeling full of self-importance,
- feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans,
- being easily distracted,
- being easily irritated or agitated,
- not sleeping,
- not eating, and
- doing lots of pleasurable things which often have disastrous consequences e.g. spending a lot of money which you cannot afford.
It you have bipolar disorder, you may be unaware that you are having a manic phase and, after it is over, you may be shocked at your behaviour. However, at the time, you may think others are being very negative or unhelpful.
Some people with bipolar disorder have more frequent and severe episodes than others. Due to the extreme nature of the condition, it may be difficult to hold down a job and relationships may become strained. There is also an increased risk of suicide.
During episodes of mania and depression, you may experience strange sensations, such as seeing, hearing or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations). You may also believe things that seem irrational to other people (delusions). This is known as psychosis or a psychotic episode
So there we go its official. I am a mentalist.