Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What a DEPRESSING Catch 22

"But why now?" 

was the question the mental health specialist asked at least three times. Good question... 

I want to function better day to day. Because I am happy now - but I was happy before and I woke up one day and threw a grenade in to that happiness and destroyed it. Because I know however fine I am now... that it is not permanent. It's not a guarantee - and I have no way of knowing when I will 'not' be ok. It won't be when someone dies or a tragedy strikes, it won't be when I the sun is shining or it's my birthday. It will be a mundane Monday of monotonousness - and kaboom - hopelessness will arrive at my door. Knock, knock. 

Yes ... but why NOW? If you have suffered from depression / bipolar in your opinion - for so many years and not wanted help? 

It's so hard to answer - I want to live a more even life? I want to finally 'solve' this problem. 

Yes - but why now? 

The answer is because I am currently 'well' enough, 'strong' enough to ask for help. 

The problem evidently is that I am 'too well' to be referred for help. I am well enough to ask for help - but in order to receive help - I need to be ... 'sicker'. What a depressing catch 22. 

I explained a huge problem of mine was that when I was 'down' I literally can't go out - try as I might, I can't get out of my house. 

I explained that if it was a 'down' day I wouldn't have come for this appointment as I wouldn't have been able to leave the house - 

and if I was 'high' I wouldn't have come for this appointment as I would not consider myself in need of any help - because I am better than all of you! I am the most 'well' person on the planet and I am having so much fun! 

She understood. She referred me for further help. An appointment the following week. The date rolled around. 

I couldn't go. 
I couldn't leave the house. 
It was a down day. 
Pot unluck. 
A depressing catch 22. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Gambler

So why have you come in today?

Here goes nothing.

"I have suffered from depression my entire adult life but I have never taken any medication. A doctor offered me some anti-depressants in 2009, but I didn't take them. I have recently decided that I would like to give something a try to see if they help. I don't have depression...  I have bipolar because I am either peel me off the ceiling high or cripplingly low."

mmm... could you describe what you mean by high?

"I talk at 100 miles an hour, even my partner notices this now, I feel drunk, or on drugs, I feel overly confident, I can't sleep, I don't need to eat, my mind is in hyper drive and I am incredibly impulsive. I make impulsive decisions. I sometimes can't remember what I have done."

mmm... how long do these periods last? 

"They used to last months, but I noticed them getting shorter - and now I can switch in an instant. With no indication or cause. I can 'feel' it in the middle of the night - suddenly descend on me."

mmm... and do you want to harm yourself?

"No, never, not since I was much younger - I have lived with it for so long that I 'know' what it is and can take myself out of it and know it will pass".

mmm... I will just go and speak to another doctor. 

Moments passed. I am amazed at myself for speaking so calmly and not crying. How sane I must look. 

OK, we do not think you have Bipolar because people with Bipolar make incredibly impulsive decisions like gamble away thousands of pounds. And you don't sound that impulsive. Also the periods are too short, people with Bipolar have highs for months. 
So.. I can give you some anti-depressants if you want me to give you them or if you really want to - you can be assessed by our mental health team. (separate number, separate place, separate time, waiting list). 

From somewhere deep inside I found a surprising amount of courage and insisted I was assessed.

Appointment made.

I didn't realise you 'specifically' had to be a gambler to qualify as Bipolar. I didn't realise I would have to play a game of 'I'm more impulsive than you'. I didn't realise it was a competition. I didn't realise I would have to convince you of how manic I can be.

Perhaps I didn't fit the picture of 'Bipolar' she had in her head. Perhaps I came across too normal, too calm! Perhaps my clothes were too smart or my hair was too styled? Perhaps I didn't look dishevelled enough? Perhaps she thought I just wanted to jump on the bandwagon or my idol was Stephen Fry?

I can honestly say, no - I haven't gambled with money in my life (unless you include credit cards).

But I have gambled
with my own life,
with my own health,
with my heart,
with my career,
with other people,
with my relationships.
I have quit more jobs than I can count - gambling with my career, my future.
I got married on an impulse.
I had an affair on an impulse.

I have made catastrophic choices and spent long periods of time languishing in the ecstatic warmth of a high - before nose diving into a murky hole of utter self hatred and despair.

I am the gambler you were looking for - I was sitting right in front of your nose, and you missed me.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Doctor Dread

For the last four years I have had a, perhaps irrational, fear of doctors. After Christmas one year I had what I suppose the masses might call a 'break down'. I don't consider it a breakdown. I had sat for two weeks staring at the paperwork I had to do for the new year at work - putting it off, not daring to even touch it. The fear about facing the chore and going back to work steadily increased each day, each night, for two long weeks until it was D-day and I found myself vomiting through the night. The morning came and I said to my Mother that I was not going back to work .. that day - or any day in the future - ever again. I barricaded myself in my room, in my bed, in my pyjamas where I decided I would stay until my dying day.

The next thing I knew a very old, very pompous, very 'put out' doctor was in my room, his little briefcase in tow. He took out a slip of paper and a pen.

Can you tell me what the matter is Sylvia*? 
I can't go back to work.
Do you feel hopeless?
Do you have suicidal thoughts?
Do you feel any enjoyment in everyday things?

And other impersonal, pointless, checklist questions. The whole time I was thinking "Say whatever you can so you are not made to go back to work".

In less than five minutes he concluded I was 'depressed' and quick as a flash out came a prescription for some pills.

He was horrid. He was patronising. He was old school. He was unsympathetic. I truly believe he did not believe in 'depression' and just saw a silly young girl who needed to pull herself together.

I did not take the pills. I didn't want to get better - if I got better I would have to go out, I would have to be normal, I would have to go back to work. No, nothing good could come of those pills.

I didn't leave the house for three months.

Since then I have not admitted my depression to any health professionals. Not to my doctor. Not to my midwife. Not to my health visitor. Not to anyone.

Tomorrow I am biting the bipolar bullet and going to the doctors. I don't know what I will find there.

What am I scared of? I am scared of the inane checklist of questions they will ask me. I am worried they will not believe my self diagnosis of Bipolar. I am worried they will think I am not being truthful. I am worried I won't be strong. I am worried they will pity me or dismiss me. I am worried, that if medicated, I will lose my personality, I will lose my highs, my humour, my manic episodes - which are worth having this disorder for.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Who am I?

I am your ‘funny’ friend. I am your ‘crazy’ girlfriend. I am the attention seeker. I am the anecdote teller. I am the clown at the party. I am the centre of the crowd. I am the epitome of panic. Anxiety is my shadow. I am the worrier. I am the over-exaggerator. I am awake at this odd hour. I am the sporadic weeper. I am the best sex you ever had. I am hungry for you. I am the obsessor. I am the starter of a plethora of projects. I am the inventor. I am the creator. I over indulge. I eat everything. I drink too much. I am on a life long trip of guilt. I am your exciting new crush. I am your adventurous new lover. I am the one. I am the risk taker. I am the impulsive spender. I am addicted. I have another idea for a novel. I have another idea for a business. I am the best lunch date you have ever had. I am generous. I am wacky! I am hilarious! I am exceedingly intelligent. I am the boaster. I am unable to come out today. I am unable to see you this week. My curtains are drawn. I am tired. I am shy. I am not answering your calls. I can not write. I can’t do my job today. I need to quit my job. I need to change my career. It is all your fault. You make me feel like shit. If you showed me more attention I wouldn’t have to be like this. I am getting rid of you. Our relationship is boring. I don’t want to have sex with you. I need excitement in my life. Life is dull, dark... desolate. I am not eating anything. I have given up the drink. I didn’t finish that project. I only did one chapter of that novel. The sun is shining but I can not go out. A storm has come that I must stand in. I want a fight. I am your ‘crazy’ girlfriend. I am your absent friend. I saw you looking at her! I do not want your attention. Don’t look at me. I am the muller over-er. I am still thinking about our fight ten years on. Dear employer, I will one day let you down. I am the best employee you have ever had. I am a people pleaser. I would rather quit than have an awkward conversation. I will flee in the night. My eyes will wonder. My head is busy. I chose you on a whim. I booked that holiday without thinking. I left on an impulse. I can’t say no. I speak at 100 miles per hour. I think faster than my fingers can type. I have so many things to say. I am the extreme. I am continually squashed up against the polar opposite sides of utter ecstasy and extreme hopelessness. I am the secret keeper. I have nothing to say. You do not know my insides. No one knows who I am. The truth is hidden. I am internally noisy. This week I have taken up floristry, photography and a man called John*. I am unbelievably excited. I am unbelievably bored. I am calmer. I am coping. I am a catastrophe. I am the perfectionist. I’m on the table in the restaurant you wish you were on. If you knew who I was you would be astounded. I am the last person you would think was depressed. I am anonymous. 

I have Bipolar disorder. I am continually tackling the (bipolar) bear.