Hello! I made my last post about youth work private as I got some hassle via the lovely medium of email and I cannot be arsed to deal with it.
On that note, I seem to be adept at starting hassle unintentionally because of my colourful language and gung-ho ness. For the record, thank you and as lovely as it is that people care enough about me to stand up for me, please don’t feel the need to defend me anywhere, I’m quite capable and it creates needless drama.
EDIT: Whoever you are, you clearly didn’t listen to me. Will you stop, please?
I had an appointment today. We went outside and I chainsmoked my way though it. There was a squirrel family innd I met two cats!
It rained like hell today, which I was grateful for. I like the rain a lot better than the sun. It clapped out when me and Robert were hiding outside Kings Cross after googling Spanish breakfast and ending up eating churros. He’d been on his night shift and wasn’t exhausted yet, and I was wide awake, so it was nice to spend a few hours together before he got his hibernating bear sleep and I did my thing.
My mood is good right now- good enough that my social worker is ringing me to check I’ve not been arrested on Monday. I’ve been having issues with agitation and ARGH! shakiness for a wee while. And some fluttering, constant anxiety that’s been affecting me, ahem, physically, so I need to be within sprinting distance of a bucket or a hole in the ground. I was quite low, but I think a lot of it was to do with the flueyness and feeling awful-ness of shingles. It pissed me off and it hurts! The agitation and a bit of irritation remains while my mood has escalated a little, partly, I imagine, due to lack of sleep. Which was a relief, as my tiny high spikes lately have been rather enjoyable, if not also vaguely silly (Just ask my poor, awful, recently chopped off hair. After spending half my life avoiding looking into mirrors even in a good mood I can’t do it, thus have no fucking clue what the hairdresser is doing. My third haircut since I moved to London and apparently so bad that the stylist didn’t want me to pay for it. It’s growing on me, a bit, unlike my poor hair). She’s not particularly worried and neither am I. It’s a good mood and if it goes tits, well. No point worrying until there’s something to worry about. I’ve been a lot more productive (16000 words in the past week, been writing a lot, although my social worker said, “Did you read over them? They might have been, y’know… manic nonsense…” Nope, never do, but Robert did) and have a lovely clean and tidy bedroom, hurrah. The kitchen still does not exist. And weed helps calm me down.
I think I’m okay without, but it’s a kind of insurance, I guess. There’s little urgency on either side, which is a good thing. It’s all mild suggestion. I told her I knocked my last high mood on the head with a fuckload of Seroquel and Lorezapam, so that was fine. She rightly pointed out how could I knock it on the head now since I have neither of those medications? Ah well, people can duck then, I might meet the new psychiatrist when he starts, and I might not. I still want to be discharged, four years is enough and I don’t think I’m unwell enough for the CMHT.
As for the BPD thing, who knows! If I recovered then I’m skeptical. BPD doesn’t just “get better” on its own without treatment. It’s ingrained, and while it can lessen as you age, usually you need some sort of therapy to recover from it as far as I know. I got nada, and yet I don’t have symptoms of it any more. My own theory is that I had traits-self harm, which, although scarred and I hate those, I often fail to see the problem with, fear of being alone, insecurity, self hatred and etc- to cope with things as a teenager- then I learned to cope better. I don’t have the problems with unstable relationships (I have social anxiety, lessening, but I view that separately, it’s not fear of rejection, it’s embarrassment!), emptiness, etc. I can see why I was diagnosed with it, but not a full-blown disorder. It’s more complicated than that, I know, but in short, I’m no longer concerned. I’m a lot better in a lot of ways so I yay that rather than want to question too much why. Since I stopped throwing up what little I ate and stopped taking laxatives for the rest, I’ve gained 20lbs, but I steel myself, and it’s okay. I eat healthily, my body deserves that and so does my loo, it’s important. It’s all good. I repeat this to myself if I feel panicky. No scuffed knuckles, no blood in my mouth. No self harm, less insecurity. This is good and analysing how I got here isn’t helpful.
If things go tits and I end up in hospital at some point, it’ll likely be quite clear what’s up, whether it’s a manic thing, depression, BPD madness or Other. If not, then even better. I’ve been reassured that if I become really unwell, nobody will consign me to the bin. That is what I was terrified of. I’m not concerned, but I am interested in it. It’s been quite a, “Hmm, that’s interesting” thoughtful time. Well, to me, anyway, probably boring as balls to anyone else. I’ve gone on and on about labels and identity here before in my chin stroking moments, but now I’m curious as to the rather quite visceral way me and others refute things.
We talked a little about blogging today. We’ve never really discussed blogging, even though it’s part of my life. In mentioning the borderline thing (in context of medications), I told her a few other mental health bloggers previously or concurrently diagnosed with BPD had resisted it violently and were distraught about it. One blogger was diagnosed with schizophrenia and then BPD, and the BPD thing threw her most. I think it says a lot about that diagnosis. “Phew, schizophrenia…hang on, BPD?” I was, as you know, massively upset with the BPD diagnosis. I’d finally kind-of-accepted bipolar disorder, and that’s apparently a lifelong disorder that’s mostly controlled with medication that makes you fat, sexless, gassy and bald. But borderline personality disorder, well, that seemed like a giant kick in my beautiful, bipolar balls.
I mused on why some people are so resistant to the label, even though it’s all fluid and will change from person to person, doctor to doctor, and is sometimes quite subjective and only useful as far as treatment. It was the, “instead of” rather than, “the and” that threw me. I was quite obsessed with it for a few weeks in that intensely focused way I’m capable of occasionally. I read absolutely everything about it that I could find (including this article on end of life care with a patient who has BPD. It’s fascinating and it literally never occurred to me that such a situation could exist) and tried to find myself in there. I found little bits. Was he right? Was it all really… and here, I think, is the rub… my fault?
There is stigma at work here- inside and out. I like to think I’m a groovy accepting person, but my annoyance at the borderline comment shows I’m not entirely free of stigmatising attitudes myself, which annoys me because my rational mind understands it. The so called “biological” mental illnesses (that is, Axis I disorders in the DSM-IV) are kind of blameless. They’re still unpleasant and joyously murderous, but nobody really blames you for having manic depression or schizophrenia. They blame your genes. Axis II, well, that’s you. You’re just fucked up. Even the moniker, “personality disorder” is accusatory. It’s oft said, but it’s true- your personality, your fault. You’re fucked up. Piss off. DBT handbook will be in the post! Axis I is real, Axis II is made-up. It’s crap. This is stuff that has been classified in a certain way; they all exist with each other, because they are all descriptions of behaviours, and that’s all the names are. Behaviours that exist and that I believe can be classified, named and treated if needs be, but that’s all. Sociopaths exist like schizophrenics exist.
The cruelty of this perspective cuts me to the quick, even though I know on a deeper level, I fear there’s truth in it and that’s why I run from it. Personality disorders- and the dreaded, hated borderline personality disorder in particular- are often shaped by abuse. There’s the “good” abuse victim (hello, PTSD) and the “bad” abuse victim (hello BPD). And she’s usually a young woman. The pain is too visceral, too visible, and thus terribly frightening and threatening. It makes people want to wince and look away, or to expel your from their presence. But in a sane world, people with things like BPD would be treated more sympathetically, not less. I don’t read many mental health blogs anymore (it starts to get bad for…well, your mental health) and I had to stop reading some BPD blogs because the descriptions of abuse that they’d suffered were agonising for me to read. To read, so imagining how they actually felt every day is horrible. And makes me a wanky little coward.
I somewhat intellectualised my protest- labels, pah! I just want the right treatment, pah! You didn’t read my fecking notes properly, pah! But really, one sentence summed it up- “Please, please do not tell me that I have done this to myself!”
Bollocks, this got long. SNIP!
I’ve written before about my occasional bouts of grief over the things I’ve lost in the past…oh, twelve years. In my (privated) entry I mentioned my teenagehood, which was a terrible, scary and sometimes hilariously idiotic time. It was when I became ill, quite suddenly. I had no fucking clue what was happening to me, and it almost destroyed my family. It did destroy my education, most of my friendships (which, when I’m being the armchair psychologist, because I am insanely (ahaha) interested in mentalism from a non-me perspective, I think was the start of social anxiety; I was fine when I was hyper, if not scary, then withdrawn and scary and paranoid when depressed, then normal, I didn’t know how to speak to people. I’m still mostly a bit of loner, and nervy, but I’m learning), then later, my work history.
I mostly lied to or ranted at doctors (one reason being that at one appointment I thought I was being set up and filmed secretly) because I wanted to be left alone and I’m still glad I escaped my teens with only a social worker who thought I was an attention seeker (protip: never self harm), a counsellor I lied to, a doctor who told me off for swearing, a “mood disorder” diagnosis, a handful of Carbamazepine and then leaving the country as a referral to the outpatient mental hospital plopped onto my doormat. I wanted to skip on my merry way into my twenties and when I finally summoned up the courage (well, when Rob summoned up my courage) to speak to someone, I was petrified I’d be told I did it to myself. I felt like I would dissolve, cease to exist with the guilt and shame and loss of the years, if I’d done this to myself. And I was a baby, only twenty, and had newly lost my dad.
The bipolar diagnosis was actually what bought me back to family because they finally had an explanation for some of my crazier behaviour, and it was the one they had always thought. Making it official and getting treatment was a massive relief for all involved. The CPN even wrote a letter home to my mum explaining what it was, like a teacher. I remember my sister excitedly squeeing down the phone, “You’ll be able to concentrate! Think of how much you’ll write! You’ll be able to read! You can go to sleep! SLEEP!” I resisted it a lot at first and yelled at the crisis team that I had depression at worst and to fuck off and I’m not taking Lithium. When I did accept it, though, I started to deal with it. I call my mentalism a few things: Egbert (he is depression) and Rob called it the Spiky Sea Urchin who lies to me. But bipolar disorder, well, that was what they called it. And nobody blamed me.
Manic depression also didn’t feel like a judgement. Hell, in some (stupid, fucking annoying) circles, it’s a compliment. People (stupid, fucking annoying) want to have bipolar disorder. When I was diagnosed I was told to go read everything I could about it. What did I get? Kay R Jamison, biographies of artists, touching documentaries that seem to forget that there are incapacitated people out there (those not writing these florid blogs).
Who the fuck wants to be borderline, except briefly me when I watched Girl, Interrupted as an impressionable teen? Who wants to be told they’re emotionally unstable, manipulative, empty, destructive, incapable of controlling themselves, someone who can’t see someone as a whole person, or themselves as a person and all the other stereotypes attached to it? What do you get to watch? Fucking Fatal Attraction and Single White Female? There isn’t going to be a polaroid with a cheesy grin and thumbs up sign at that appointment.
For some people, it’s a relief to have that diagnosis, because it fits, and if it’s accurate, you hopefully have access to treatment. But if you feel it doesn’t describe you, or had previously been diagnosed with something clean and shiny and blameless, then it’s like being told, “Sorry, now it’s time for you to piss off”. BPD is notoriously ill-treated in the mental health system and a lot of it is, as Mental Nurse once put it, it’s treated as, “Asshole Personality Disorder”. I’ve only been in hospital once but since coming off medication, my moods have been quite unstable. I’m managing, even quite enjoying the little highness, but the thought of being chucked into hospital and written off as an asshole if I got ill made me want to grab a randomite and throw them into my place. Such is the frightening power of psychiatry. Because doctors are authority figures, it’s difficult not believe what they say.
But it’s all bullshit. It’s no more a judgement and no more someone’s fault than bipolar disorder. Bipolar’s image is cultural, as is borderline’s. Maybe it’ll get its makeover, too. Maybe one day the borderline people of the world will be able to turn around and punch those who sigh, “God, you’re so lucky, I just have boring old depression, I’d love a bit of emotional lability”. Before the Stephen Frys of the world, manic depression was feared and misunderstood, like BPD and schizophrenia (once thought to be related, and now BPD is the incurable yet unsevere illness whereas schizophrenia is the “cancer” of mental illness- go figure) are now. And they are ALL, without exception, names to describe behaviour. That’s it. Framework for possible treatment. Once I got that into my skull, I felt better. People suffer and sometimes they need help. And it takes all the balls in the world to go through it.
Another issue here is therapy versus medication. Therapy’s aimed at the inner workings of a person, the implication is something is being dealt with badly, so we’ll fix it with painful therapy. Whereas most people with manic depression, depression and schizophrenia could benefit from therapy, it’s mostly medication. You take it like you take painkillers. Therapy is different. Therapy says, “This is all you”. And therapy is harder than medication. And if it doesn’t work as well as it should or if it’s too painful, we’re back to, “this is all you”. And if medication for bipolar doesn’t work, then you’re also back to, “this is all you”.
So, no small wonder that me and others like me kick against it. I never thought I’d want to be manic depressive as much as I did when I got slammed with BPD. So stupid to admit to it, and it was only one doctor’s opinion, but I thought, “THEN WHAT THE HELL WAS ALL THAT, EH?” But I felt like crap about it. Why was I ducking it? Why was I being so defensive? What was so wrong? Why did I care? All of the above was the answer.
I may sound like she who protests too much, but I think BPD was a misdiagnosis. I did a bollock load of self examination and came to that conclusion, one that everybody around me agrees with. Frankly, I don’t want any more fucking letters after my name. Seaneen, GCSE, BPAD, AvPD… But if I did… so what? It wouldn’t be my fault, and the mental health services would pull their heads out of their holes if more people realised that. If you were straining it, you could even say that my self examination after the BPD thing was unstable identity thus and ETC!
That’s not to say that if something isn’t your fault you can sit on your arse and blame everyone. I go through my WAAAH FUCK YOU periods but I know nothing gets better unless you do something about it. Things are what they are, and you kind of have to live with them. I’m still in diagnosis limbo so have a valid and delicious excuse to avoid medication and treatment, but if I become ill- either in an emotional storm or with a huge mood swing- then I’ll have to deal with it. I don’t want to have to start from the beginning again. It’s annoying and tiring and I also don’t want to die yet.
We also talked about the very fact that writing a blog might prejudice a doctor. Blogging is narcissistic, let’s admit it. It’s something I’m still uncomfortable with, but fuck it, if I bore my cats with this, they will up and leave and I like them. I am narcissistic to blog. I like getting comments and input. Via the interweb you can be whoever you want to be. I write in quite a similar way to how I talk (Oh yes, I am this long winded in person too) but, I’m probably more HEY! and COHERENT! here, and wittier, and so on, when in real life I’m kind of clumsy and alas, cannot edit what I said so put my foot in my mouth often.
It can make you obsessive and overly focused on mentalism- which I totally agree with and which is why sometimes I take a step back from blogging and reading them.
Blogging about mental health is often dramatic, too. Mental illness is by and large boring but you get the big events like crashes and suicide attempts- popcorn out. Crude, but true. I think there can be a tendency to overstatement sometimes- which is natural, and something I’ve been guilty of. Describing things in GREAT DETAIL lest anyone think I was lying. It’s partly because of writing- it’s a descriptive, reasoned way of communicating- and literal and metaphorical get mixed up. Also, lots of people with mental illness have spent a lot of their lives being told to get over it, so there’s a tendency to kick against it because it gets annoying. Someone commented here before that if I kept this blog going, then I’d feel the need to perform, to not recover, because then why would anyone read this blog? I’d lose my “audience” if I just posted, “I feel okay today” every day. I don’t feel the need to perform and when not much is going on I say so, and I often use this blog for more, “I’m thinking about this, what do you think?” stuff but I can understand that rationale and I think there’s an element of truth in it. It’s something I question often when my finger hovers over the delete button and when I stop finding it personally helpful to bullshit here, I’ll stop bullshitting in here. I don’t think I’d have gotten this far without blogging, pathetically. It’s helped me worked out a lot of my crap, find support and comrades and understanding and often just silliness and someone to talk to. But I do think it can be counterproductive, and I do think that the focus of blogging should be the message, not the medium. (I can be a hypocrite, here)
Because mental health blogging-anonymous or not- is inherently attention seeking, then you have a personality disorder! This is crap, as we know, because there are millions of blogs out there about other topics that are not indicative of a personality disorder. And I think mental blogging is one of the more understandable and valuable forms of blogging. Lots of people with mental illness are isolated, or find it difficult to talk to their loved ones about their problems (hello) or feel plain weird or need somewhere to vent in, without judgement or intervention. I’m sometimes afraid to talk to people close to me in case they worry. I don’t like people worrying about me, because I don’t like people intervening, I prefer to sort my shit out alone. And, y’know, what’s bloody WRONG with attention seeking? We’re human! We’re social animals! I think they can also be mad valuable to outsiders. It’s difficult to understand mentalism unless you live with it. In my own life, my family say my blog has been really helpful in helping them understand where I’m coming from and what I’m feeling. I like reading medical blogs of doctors, nurses and social workers because it helps me understand where I am in the mechanism, what’s happening in the wider picture, and to not fear them.
But… I think it’s a wee bit true, though. Aside from my CPNs and social workers (who aren’t allowed to read this, naughty naughty), everyone I’ve encountered, the doctors, the therapists, have been uniformly negative about me keeping a blog. I understand their concerns; validating bad behaviour or choices, normalising stuff (dude, it is normal), cutting of the real world and so on, but I never really listened to them. Ah well!
Anyway, buggery, this is long. Hello!
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder