Lessons Learned

As I stood this morning waiting for the kettle to boil, clapping my hands and reflecting on my late night last night, my desire to go shopping today and my determination to solve the problem of the youngest child invading my bed for good, I realised my mood may be changing.

I can hear my team cheering my insight from here.

Insight has not been my strong point until now, I’ve preferred to kind of roll with it, realising I’m either high or low when it’s really too late to do anything about it. Not that I know what to do about this time either and it’s difficult to find the desire to do anything that might change it. As fellow bipolar explorers will know, the cusp of a mood rise is probably one of the best bits- the ideas are starting to flow, I feel awake, interested, interesting, excited and my (no doubt, slightly irritating) habit of clapping my hands can go unchecked as I’m home alone!

I have to confess to having a bit of a light bulb moment during the night (as the 5 year old kicked me in the head for the 1000th time) and I finally got something I think I was supposed to get some months ago.

The fabulous CPN has always pointed out that stress and the adrenalin that goes with it is my poison. This bit I understood. What I didn’t understand is that good stress or bad stress, it didn’t matter, it could send me either way.

Later this week, my eldest child, the 16 year old is undergoing major surgery and I am stressed about it. I naturally assumed that this situation would depress me, I’m worried, my child is going to be in pain, and we will be away from home for a while away from the other two children. I never thought for a minute that the stress of this situation would have me fizzing with anticipation the way I am now.

I feel guilty I suppose that I am tending toward high rather than low but in there is another lesson for me, I do not choose how I react to situations. I think I can choose how I deal with those reactions to a degree (and that will no doubt involve medication) but that’s my illness.

How Others See Me

I’m still stable, still enjoying the ups and downs of everyday life with only the odd wobble toward emotional extremes.

One such extreme came after my bold attempts to deal with something I had hoped to put off forever- claiming ESA. I can’t elaborate much on this story except to say- the Job Centre were useless, I’m still not sure what ESA is, whether I want it and how I get it. I called the telephone number the Job Centre had given me, got halfway through the recorded message (please have details of your mortgage, pay, blood group, parents occupations etc) and had to take Lorazepam.

Suffice to say, I’ll let that one lie for a bit.

I’ve been advised to go to the CAB, and I will, but not today.

I started taking my new anti-psychotic last week. It’s working in that I am not psychotic but physically I feel awful. As I’ve said before I don’t “do” illness so it was with great reluctance, tinged with fear that I was on the verge of lithium toxicity, that last night I contacted NHS24 (Scottish equivalent of NHS Direct).

My symptoms were purely physical- nausea, severe whole body tremor, headache, dizziness and blurred vision. I went through my symptoms several times, the nurse checked my records then she started talking to me in a tone of voice which would normally be saved for someone perched on a bridge. I was asked what kind of day I’d had (“rubbish, I’m not feeling well”), was I feeling anxious? Was there anything troubling me? Other than the slight fear that if it was lithium toxicity I could be in a coma by the time she’d stopped patronising me- no!

I was left with the instruction to see my own GP tomorrow, “to talk it all through with him”. Now firstly, my wonderful GP is a woman and secondly, I don’t need to talk, I need my bloods done.

So this is the stigma they’re all going on about! I don’t know (and don’t want to know) what my medical records say, but in isolation they clearly paint a picture of someone much less capable and together than me. I know I haven’t been capable and together for very long but long enough to know the difference between nausea and “nerves”. It’s bad enough that everyone one asks “how are you?” or the classic yet nonsensical “how are you, in yourself?” but to discover that any health query I have from now on will immediately be attributed to my mental health is infuriating.

For the record, I didn’t slip into a coma during the night and I still feel rubbish, I’m seeing the wonderful GP tomorrow to get some proper medical advice.

So What Now?

I’m almost frightened to say this out loud but I think I may be stable.

Frightened to say it in case it doesn’t last, frightened to say it in case my new drugs muck it up, frightened to say it because I’ll lose support and frightened because I don’t know what comes now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying stability- I can be happy or sad without either turning into a trip to hospital, I can spend time with my family without the need to slope of to bed after half an hour in fact I’m sure those around me are even more grateful for my stability than I am.

I have yet to venture out much and my days are uneventful, save for the odd trip to the doctor or psychiatrist. Going out induces such crippling anxiety and feelings of exposure that I prefer to avoid it and tend to hide under my duvet until midday. When I am out my anxiety compounds my lithium tremor so much I can feel my head shake, never mind my hands.

I feel fragile and delicate as though the slightest nudge to my mental health will see me careering one way or another. I attempted grocery shopping in a supermarket last week and had to give up after 10 minutes as it was just too much. I passed up the chance to join Labour party colleagues on bonfire night for fear that I would have little to say of any interest, if I could say anything at all. I may be stable, but I’m not quite the woman I was.

So what next? I have no idea if I’m honest; I’m hoping others will provide some answers. I don’t know where I go from here, how to stop living in fear of the next relapse, how to find things to do and find the courage to do the things I have to do.