How My Dad Died.

Originally written in April 2007

I was asked in comments to write a story about my dad here.

The way my mind is working at the moment, I can only think of negative and horirble stories, doused in alcohol and soaked with sickness.

I have very few specifically positive stories of my dad. Plenty of lovely memories, but they are fleeting, small events like him making us Toasted Toppers or his insistence that Graham Chapman deserved a better looking boyfriend than David Sherlock.

Wedding Day

I’d never been to a wedding as a Grown Up. Nor a reception or any suchlike thing. The first wedding I remember was that of my aunt and uncle, Anne and Brian. Anne is a blonde model who appeared in speeding adverts, I’ve seen her in a bridal gown only once before, and that was on an advert on Ulster Television- “40 miles an hour!” with blood rolling apologetically down her dress. She used to come back from filming in England (“You’ve been to England?” we’d gawk at her) with those fat red dummy rocks in clutches for us. My uncle Brian is a big nosed, fresh-faced lovable man who has raised his three children to have quiet country burrs which is somewhat exotic to me when he brings them begrudgingly to their aunt’s house.

At the time I was nine years old and wasn’t taken to the wedding. My granny Molloy looked after me that day, in the only time she had ever been to our house. I remember her with her red slim face, which always looked like a warning triangle, taking my hand and us walking to the Dairy Farm, a supermarket near my house, where she bought me a pink keyboard. Then we went to the library where I proceeded to be kicked out as I was too fascinated with my first ever musical instrument. I managed to retain my dignity and my Asterix books, whereupon I rechristened myself Cacophonix.

That day I seemed to inherit a new family. At the wedding my mum met some of her family, The Mallons. Edna had a sharp tongue and fast humour, then there were her three daughters- Angela, Ceri and Michelle. Their ages corresponded roughly with the ages of me and my older sister. Michelle was the youngest so we were expected to get on. We were utterly different people so were never close.

So one wedding created a new family. The next was the day after my 18th birthday, the wedding of my uncle Michael to a quite well-to-do middle class girl called Fiona. Her family were much more respectable than our rough West Belfast one.

My uncle Michael looked like Damon Albarn. My sister Paula and I used to boast to our school friends about this. His fiancée was a social worker, tiny, buxom, blonde and beautiful. I first met her at a bedside vigil for my granda. I’d never met her before and remember feeling insulted rather than touched that she had come here while my grandad was so sick. In that respect, I’m quite traditional. For all my running-off-to-London, I believe in the family and find “outsiders” intrusive sometimes.

The wedding was in Bangor, and my dad was determined that we weren’t taking a feckin’ train that day. We got a taxi, god forbid, all of us piled into one black cab. He wanted us to be stylish, just as good as them, he said. But he was brimming over with happiness, as he always did when we were all together.

We found ourselves outside the church with a half an hour to spare and a bit peckish. “There’s a reception on later, Da,” says Michelle. Imagines of vol-au-vents, quiche, delicately decorated salmon en croute filled our minds.

But it would be hours before we had the chance to eat.

In our new clothes, we went to KFC and smeared ourselves with greasy chips and microwaved gravy. We sipped flat coke out of enormous buckets and liberally ate cold chicken.

We went at breakneck speed to the fancy Gothic church, stinking of fast food, gravy on our lips and the odour of old plastic seats sticking to our arses.

Twenty minutes later my other uncle Brendan (sarcastic, amusing vegetarian, much beloved of Paula, much resented by me for wrecking my carefully constructed house of cards) shows up, late and distressed and bangs on the window, Graduate style, to be let in. The priest shook his head and we all froze in horror and laughed as he strained to watch his baby brother getting married through a window, occasionally letting loose a fly of words that made the choirboys blush as he batted unruly twigs away from his face.

I wish

I could end the story there and that it would be Full O’ Larks. But of course with my dad in tow the day turned ugly.

He got drunk, completely pissed, and refused to be told otherwise. He was loud, embarrassing, abusive and disruptive. We ended up having to look after him, pleading, begging and crying.

I don’t think, until that point, his family believed us when we said his alcoholism was severe. But as the evening progressed and his behaviour got worse, I think it finally clicked that for all those years, we had not been exaggerating. Michelle, Paula and me were just exhausted, exhausted, humiliated and depressed, wanting to be a Proper Family out at their uncle’s wedding, instead of three ringmasters in the arena of my dad’s illness.

I have a lot of guilt concerning my dad. Not just that everything we did didn’t stop him from dying. But for childish things.

My mum and dad had prolific and devastating fights almost every night. My dad would eventually stumble upstairs, screaming obsenties. And my sisters and I would huddle in their bedroom and talk about how if we pushed him downstairs, we wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore.

We had many comical scenerios as to how we’d get rid of my parents. And they were comical, we didn’t actually want them to die but craved silence.

My dad rang me up on my 16th birthday. It was one of the periods he wasn’t living at home and I had assumed he was calling to wish me a happy birthday. Instead, he told me he was going to kill himself.

Sometimes I wish he had done. There were times when I violently wished that something, anything would end his and our suffering. I knew always that alcoholism was a disease and an addiction but it’s scant comfort when you’re in the living room with your little brother and sister trying to block out the crockery breaking in the kitchen.

I wanted something quick and painless and it would be over.

I was outside work once. At the time, a friend of mine was suffering from serious depression and they had rang me earlier to tell me they were going to kill themselves. This was sometime during 2005. I took the phone outside and tried to talk them down but I was petrified and shaking.

When Vicky died, I prayed to whatever gods there were that I would never have to go through it again. The stark memory of sitting down on the chair being told she had hung herself, the starker memory of walking down the forest the same night, vision blurring with tears, standing on the roadside we had walked upon destroyed me.

I got off the phone to my friend and lay back against a wall with a cigarette.

Suddenly, the image of someone calling to tell me my dad had killed himself flew into my head and took my breath out. All those times I wished it had happened pulverised me and I felt like the worst person in the world. The reality, the already-grief of his dying laid me on a fold up chair in tears.

I had always believed he’d get better. I held that hope to my chest, to my heart, to every minute of the day. I believed that with our help and willpower, he would recover and live to say, “When I was an alcoholic”…

The Reality of it

When it happened, I didn’t know what to do.

My dad had been in hospital for two weeks or so. It started innocuously enough. I was on the phone to my brother when he made a joke about my dad looking like one of the Simpsons. I asked him what he meant and he said, “He’s bright yellow”.

That night was a Saturday and I was alone in my flat. And for some reason, I got my mum on the phone and said, “I think daddy has liver failure”.

She didn’t really take me seriously so I told her I was going to call NHS direct. I described my dad to the nuse on the phone. Jaundice. Alcoholism and, in the background, his slurred voice.

I rang my mum back and told her I was calling an ambulance. I rang them in London and asked them to transfer me to Belfast. Rang them up and sent them to the house.

I was on the phone when they came. I heard my daddy protesting that he had an appointment with the doctor in June (it was the end of April) and that he was fine. I told my mother to keep trying and spoke to the ambulance staff, telling them I think he’s very ill and please make sure he goes.

He didn’t. He refused the ambulance and my mum called someone else, I can’t remember who, I think it was psychiatrist services. He finally went.

A few weeks passed. Phone calls here and there. I didn’t go home as nothing sounded serious. He was filled with fluid and had acute liver failure. I assumed he would get a transplant.

I had a holiday to Belfast booked on the 18th of May to introduce Rob to my parents. It had been booked for a while. I had spoke to my daddy on the phone and he was looking forward to seeing me and Rob on the 18th. He sounded fine.

On the 16th of May, while I was in work, my sister Michelle sent me a text saying daddy was dying now, right now, and to get home.

I called her, then called my sister Paula who was in the airport on her way back to London. She didn’t want to make a fuss so I called the nurse to make sure Michelle wasn’t being hysterical.

The nurse told me to come home.

Paula turned round and went back to the hospital. I had no money whatsoever and couldn’t change my flights. Jo and my boss at work started printing out train and flight times. I appealed on Livejournal for someone to help me get home. A friend lent me the money, I booked my flight, kissed goodbye to Rob and flew home.

I met my friend Tracie at the airport. She had some ham sandwiches and a bar of chocolate for me. I was filled with dread. I couldn’t, would not think of my dad dying. We sped down the long, dark, 10pm roads. I laid my head against the passenger window and stared at the greyscale countryside.

I met my sisters in hospital. I was not prepared for what I saw.

My dad was so clearly and obviously dying. I burst into tears.

When my grandad died, my drunken, grieving father shouted that the next funeral we would be at would his own.

I had not believed him. And here it was, his dying.

He was so afraid of death and that’s mostly what was on my mind. Did he know? A nurse leant over his bed and told us it wouldn’t be long. I was horrified, what if my dad heard? Was he afraid?

He was yellow and ancient and couldn’t breathe- he couldn’t see or talk and he was so clearly dying. I started crying as soon as I saw him, held his hand and tried to tell him I was here but I don’t know if he knows I was. I thought at least he would be able to talk, there was so much to say. He looked so different and my sister assured me he had only become this bad within the past 24 hours. Before that, he was able to talk and I hate myself for not going home 24 hours earlier.

We stayed the whole night in the room, holding his hand, talking to each other, going to the smoking room and watching his monitors. I’d bought him the issue of Kettering- I had thought he would be conscious enough for me to read him to him, he had wanted to read my Neil Innes interview, because he was a fan and he was proud. He’d gone round telling everyone I was interviewing him. I had been so hopeful he would be conscious. I desperately wanted to speak to him. Wanted to hear him say my name.

Michelle left to sleep and Paula left to smoke and I tried to tell him that I love him, he made no sign he’d heard, just groaned and fiddled with his breathing mask.

He kept trying to take his mask off, and we kept putting it back on. A few times he’d clutch his head, like he had a headache, like something so normal, a headache. He tried to sit himself up a few times. He tried to sleep.

He must have known we were there. He kept holding Paula’s hand while I stood on the other side and stroked his hair. It made him sleep. In his sleep, he said our names. All our names, his five children.

He said. And he did say, although my sister denies it, “I don’t want to die”. It could have been a trick of the ears but I am sure he said it. And my heart cracked in two.

He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but the doctor said he wasn’t in pain. He kept pulling out his wires and tubes- he was so scared of ending up like my granda that Paula told me he’d been pulling them out since the beginning. He always believed he’d be going home and on some level, so did I. I thought this would be a lesson, he would stop drinking and get better. I thought he was brilliant because recently he’d been sober more, and he was going into rehab this month.

Hours passed of him taking off his mask, falling asleep, waking up. The morning came, we hardly knew. About eight am or so we called our mum and asked her to come take our place for an hour while we ate something. We didn’t want to leave, we agonised over it but we needed something to eat. We expected to be there days, we were getting ready for it.

Before we left, Paula stroked his arm and said she’d see him soon. I kissed his forehead and told him we’d be gone an hour but we’d be back.

At about 8am, our mum came and we went home to get some food.

A half an hour later, the nurse phoned and told us to come back. We tried to wake our little brother up but he wouldn’t wake up. After some exhausted, frustrated screaming at him, he got up and smashed the china set my dad had bought for my mum.

We got to the hospital. Liam went to the toilet and we went up to the ward. Tacked on the curtain was, “NO VISITORS”. And my dad had died there, without us at about 9am on 17th May, a day before Rob and I’s visit. Aged forty seven, a month before his 48th birthday.

We howled. I had to go and find Liam and tell him. He was in the corridor and I didn’t know what to do or say. I just had to tell him that his dad died. How do you tell a fifteen year old that?

I remember standing by my brother and sisters and crying, I remember hugging my uncles, his brothers, and his mother, who had lost her sister two weeks ago and her husband seven months ago. It is not fair, I remember thinking that over and over.

A nurse came in and said, “Did he have a wedding ring on?” Nothing else- “NO” and then, “Did he have any gold teeth?” “NO” get out of my sight and she did and I hated her so much.

They took him away and kept hassling us saying they needed to do it now. We said wait because his brother isn’t here yet, my uncle Michael was on his way. Before they took him away we said our separate goodbyes and had our time with him. No-one will ever know what we all said, and I am glad.

They took him and we organised the wake at my grandmother’s. It was best to be there, it was his real home.

I slept after that and the next day Rob got here. We spent the next days at my grandmother’s. He met everyone in my family, except my dad. I wrote the obituary with my little sister and it appeared in the paper with many others, and flowers arrived and two big wreaths, “DAD” and “BROTHER”. I got away with much as a lot of my extended family and friends didn’t realise I was his daughter, so there weren’t many, “I’m sorry”s or tearful hugs. That hurt me slightly because I wanted some hugs but I had Rob, my sisters and uncles and brother and that’s all I needed, all we needed.

The coffin was in the room and they did a good job, he looked like my dad. I couldn’t understand why he was there, none of us could.

The priests came and went and on Friday night, Paula, Brendan my uncle and I stayed with him on his final night. We talked about a lot of things, not really my dad, and didn’t sleep. Everytime the automatic air freshener went off, we jumped.

The funeral was on Saturday and at first I didn’t think I could do it. My sister held my hand as we listened to the priest before they took him away. I couldn’t stop crying. I said goodbye again, I said I’m sorry.

My fifteen year old little brother had to carry his dad’s coffin.

On the way up to the church we noticed one of the men carrying the coffin had something written on his bald head and neck in green marker. He didn’t know he had it.

After the funeral, we went to the PD, a Republican bar my dad and our family went to often, and had a buffet and a drink. Since then, I’ve felt very little. I’d been sleeping in his bed and going through photographs, taking some and not taking others in the knowledge he’d kill me. But he isn’t here now and I can’t really understand how. As time wears on, the truth of it, the real truth of it, is beginning to dawn.

I don’t know what to do now. There’s years ahead without my dad but I still feel as though he’ll be back. I never want to remember him as that man I saw in the coffin. I hate Catholic services. I’m worried about the future for my mum and the kids. I’m worried about my granny. I don’t know what to do without my dad. He’s the one who understood us and helped us. He paid my rent once and bought our Christmas presents. He taught us how to read and ride our bikes and taught us how to write and taught us our history. He got me into comedy and music. I have all his David Bowie vinyls now, as promised.

The last time I saw him was Christmas 2005 and he had stayed sober, it was lovely. There is a photo of him in the bedroom, arms outstretched and smiling and you’d think he didn’t have a trouble in his heart until you notice his wrist, a huge gaping wound. He was not a happy man and that kills us. We tried. We love him so much.

My sisters joked we should put lots of IOUs in his coffin with him because he helped us with money when he got ourselves into scrapes. I wanted to put his comb in there with him. Paula could barely look at him but when she did it was to fix his hair. He would be mad at us if he’d known we didn’t shave his head for him.

The last October snowfall in London was in 1934 so I celebrated with my camera, a cigarette, a can and a complete stranger

Which probably indicates something apocalyptic about climate change but I don’t care.

I’ve just had one of those lovely experiences that makes me grateful for both life and London.  I have a big smile on my face.

Firstly, I should say that thanks to your incredible generosity (see a previous post for what was going on), I paid my bills (two yesterday, two on Friday) and had enough left over to pay half (one half being Rob’s) of a second hand camera.  That felt a bit cheeky but it was £verylittlemoney.  I felt like I’d lost a limb when I lost my camera.  Well, a finger, maybe.  So thank you from the bottom of my granite pebble heart for helping me out. Things are settled and back on an even keel now.  My bills being sorted is such a load off my mind, I had really been panicking over it and eyeing up things to sell (my body, for example.  A packet of crisps and a some cigarettes, in all likelihood.  But I like crisps.  It’s a fair trade).  I was going to post that yesterday but wasn’t sure how to crowbar it in between zombies and Kerry Katona. Thank you too for understanding how uncomfortable it was for me to make that post and being very tactful. And everyone seems to love Dead Set, even amongst my contrary circle of friends I have yet to see a bad word about it.

Secondly, sorry for yet another off topic post.  After an extremely traumatic fortnight, I’ve really needed a break from the intensely analytical mentalist posts.   I have a lot to talk about on Thursday (The Reckoning, oh dear), so it’ll be back to business as usual.  I’m sure that you’ve, er, missed the posts about mental illness?  It must be dull…not reading about it?  Really, what’s the etiquette for mental health blogs?  When people feel better and spend their days flicking through books rather than streaking down the street in their flimsy underwear, do they apologise for it?  It’s a tricky medium.

It’s bitter winter here now, and I’d had my thick drapes shut all day, warming my hands on cigarettes and strong cups of tea.  Then Rob called, telling me it was snowing.  I opened my curtains, and there it was, fat flakes storming to the ground.  When it snows in London, due to the heat of pollution, it’s just farty, feathery little scraps that dissolve as soon as they touch solids.  But this was proper snow.

I threw my coat on, without any socks, pulled my hood up and tore downstairs with my camera swinging around my neck.  I live on the Holloway Road, possibly one of the least picturesque locations in London, but it was beautiful, the snow was swirling around the street lights and I must have looked slightly odd standing in the street, laughing my head off, with my arms outstretched at 10.30pm.  The insurance with actually being mad is that you never mind if someone stares at you, you’re used to it. People were shuffling by clutching umbrellas, and then a man wrapped in a tartan scarf walked past, spotted me and gave this great, big beaming smile, and we looked at each other and laughed with pleasure.  I love the fact that snow brings the child out in some people.  (I know that at twenty three I am technically a foetus.  I find new nubs of flesh every day). Some people sneer at it, but fuck ’em.

While I was snapping and giggling, a blonde girl appeared and commented on the brilliance of the rare London snow.  I’d never seen or met her before, but it turns out that she’s my neighbour and lives next door to me.  We chatted for a minute, introduced ourselves and then made the snap decision that we should go to Highbury Park.

We were both fagless, since we’d just leapt out of our flats in the spur of the moment (and the streets were pretty dead), so she ran indoors and grabbed some cigarettes, then reappeared with gloves for me (my hands looked like cuts of meat) and some cans of booze.  Then off we went, smoking our fags and swigging our beer, looking like tramps.

It was still snowing by the time we got there, and looked beautiful.  Highbury Park runs incognito behind the main road into Finsbury Park.  It’s lined with expensive looking houses that belong in a Richard Curtis film and black Victorian streetlamps.  The snow had settled on the grass and cars and a few footprints muddied the white asphalt.  Our hands were frozen as we clutched our beers but only one other person was around and we were alone the haze, and the park was untouched.  Only the heads of the blades of grass peeked out The snow had started to lessen and sleet, so we would be the only people to see it like this, carpetted and lovely.

I wrote my name on a car windscreen (childhood habits haven’t left me; I also valiantly attempted a three line cock) expecting the alarm to go off and for us to end up sprinting and sliding home.  It was so quiet, and everyone had their curtains shut.

We were freezing so had to turn back onto the main road with cars slooshing by.  It was a drizzle by then, with people hurrying home.  We had a victory cigarette, wiping wet hair out of our eyes.  By the time we reached our doors, it has almost stopped.  We said cheerio and hurried inside.

I’m glad I ran outside and played in the snow before it disappeared. It’ll be gone in an hour, and it might not snow again all winter.  And what a lovely way to meet your neighbours.  It’s made me really happy, even though I’m freezing and I’m using the cats as slippers.

Here’s some blurry, excitable, shaking hand photos.

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Dead Set / Pitchforks out for Kerry Katona

As I write, I’m listening to Gnossienne No. 1 by Erik Satie. I’m very fond of Satie, who is an incredibly imaginative writer, as well as a wonderful composer. However, the room appears to have shrank and, try as I might, I can’t seem to squeak out a crumb of humour as it’s playing, which is a disservice to the man himself.  My mind has been clouded over with Royal Dalton.  There’s something about classical piano pieces that render the listener hypnotically earnest. I couldn’t fathom a having a dinner party while this kind of music was on in the background. I’d imagine that even those not from England would lapse into affected Sloaneyisms. They’d voice opinions that they don’t even have on modern art, and I’d be stood there, out of my depth, wondering if its impolite to chain smoke in my own flat, ashamed of my Northern Irish accent that makes everything I say sound like a threat. I can’t ever say the word “knee” in any context because people stiffen and ask, “Did you say you were going to do my knees?” Jesus, of course not. I have family members to do that for me.

(I couldn’t have a dinner party anyway, unless everyone wanted to sit on the floor picking cat fur off their trousers and drinking warm Londis wine from an ancient cracked mug that was sprouting pale green downy fur).

Ah, Pulp! Much better.  

Yesterday, Rob, myself and my rather fetching facial herpes toddled down to Piccadilly Circus to attend the premiere of Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set. Some people had come dressed as zombies but I had no desire to relive the four days of utter discomfort in which I was so saturated in fake blood that I had to use a jack to prise my legs apart every time I got a spare second for a wee. I hung around in the foyer with my head in a trough of popcorn, occasionally having, “Oh, that’s her” moments when my eyesight wasn’t obscured by hot butter.

Dead Set is a short horror series starting tonight on E4 (watch it or I’ll burn your family) and gorily climaxing on Halloween. I had my reservations about it; the setup consists of the end of the world with what may be the last survivors battling for their lives in the Big Brother house. There’s the plucky runner, the bastard producer and the hapless housemates whom we hate on sight but then eventually grow to care for, or at least not break into rapturous applause when they’re ripped in half.

It could have been a compendium of amusing verb-noun swearing (“You fucknut! You complete shitbasket!”) self consciously signposted with clunky satirical swipes. As it stands, though, I’m surprised that E4- home of American exports like Desperate Housewives and uselessly frothy list shows- agreed to make it. It starts off as sharp commentary on the underbelly of television and then descends into brutal, kinetic gore. It’s relentless, tense, hopeless and genuinely horrible. With the occasional amusing verb-noun swearing. It also featured newsreader Krisnan Guru Murphy, who seems to be my generation’s Patrick Allen.

What always irks me about zombie films is that they never use the word zombie. If you’re setting a zombie film in 2008, then your characters would know what a zombie is. The skipping around it with “the undead”, the “living dead” and, “Oh fuck, it’s THEM!” is lost on me. Likewise, Dead Set followed the 28 Days Later school of shaky camera work, which is distracting and irritating because you can’t actually see what the hell is going on. Maybe that’s the point, but a few times last night I was confused when zombies poured in from nowhere and became a blur of blue skin and bad teeth while I struggled to grasp who, if anyone, they were eviscerating.

I really enjoyed Dead Set, if enjoyed is the right word for leaving the cinema checking the irises of people’s eyes. Oh, and if you want to see me in it, just look for a flash of pink hair at the end.  It was also a testament to the power of television.  I hadn’t had a fried egg sandwich in six years.  I’ve had two today.

After the premiere, we stopped by the aftershow party to sample its free bar. Through the glaze of wine I had more of those, “Oh, it’s her” moments. I haven’t watched a series of Big Brother in five years but I still recognise the housemates as most of them spent a while plastered on the front cover of Heat magazine. I strolled up to a few of them to say hello and they were all obscenely friendly and sweet, even though next to their blonde, designer litheness I felt like a full stop, given that I was dressed particularly badly at the time. I met Andy Nyman, who I admire an awful lot, since I’m a fan of triangle headed modern day witch Derren Brown. He’s about five foot five tall and I was quite grateful to drape myself across his shoulder for a photograph, feeling like I’d stumbled into the land of My People, those without thirty yards of legs separating their oxygen starved heads from the ground. I said hello again to the make up girls, the director and Charlie Brooker, and was quite flattered that they all remembered me, even though it was hard not to since I was sporting a pink mohawk and my breasts had been determinedly wriggling out of my dress all day.  They were also effusive and lovely.  I said hello to Kevin Eldon, too, who I can’t look at without imagining in a nappy (not a weird sexual fetish of mine, just something from The Day Today).  I don’t get star struck and generally speak to everyone in the same way but I was a little by Kevin Eldon.

Saturday was a good evening, too, being the first of two days in which I found myself pleasantly tipsy. I’ve actually been in a good mood throughout the weekend. Yesterday before going out I watched “Boy A”, in which a former child killer tries to rebuild his life, and cried my eyes out. It’s one of those dramas where you find yourself pounding your fists against the screen howling, “WHY? YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ALRIGHT!” and your neighbours ring the bell and ask if everything’s “okay”, and then you fall into their arms mumbling something about bridges. In my actual day to day life, I rarely cry, even if I’m very depressed. I’m one of those depressives who gets the classic “flat affect” rather than bawling. When I’m depressed, I look like this:

and my vocabulary extends to grunting and gesticulating. But sad songs and films make me cry like a twat. Even not sad ones. I cried when I watched Ratatouille. Something about a cartoon rat not being accepted by humans, I don’t know. It’s a METAPHOR isn’t it. Likewise, I laugh when I really shouldn’t. At my grandad’s funeral, the priest was straight out of Father Ted, dully intoning something or other about god. He occasionally hiccuped and kept referring to my grandad as “she” and I burst out laughing. When we were given the body of Christ (a wafer thin mint), it got stuck to the roof of my mouth and I was uselessly trying to prise it off with my tongue. It finally dislodged and fell into my hand with a tiny wet slap, so I had to shove it back in a swallow it. Regurgitating the body of Christ like a mother bird. Then I performed the trick that all Catholics forced to sit through endless masses in their childhoods know about; bow your head as though you’re overwhelmed with piousness and laugh into your lap. If people behind you see your shoulders shaking, they’ll assume that you’re so overcome with love that you can’t control your emotions.

You can’t do that in America, though. When I was there on an exchange trip, rather than pretending to pray on my own, they made me hold their hands in the air and stand up so I felt like we were in the Wicker Man and that the alter was going to split open like Predator’s mouth and reveal a giant wicker Jesus. Aged twelve and precocious, I had written an exasperated note to myself in the bedroom talking about how I didn’t believe in god anyway, and I had told them as much. They found it and subjected me to an angry tearful lecture. Ah, happy memories.

In today’s non-news, Twatty Britain has been dusting off its pitchforks and driving themselves into a judgmental (quite literally, in this case) frenzy over a TV appearance by Kerry Katona. She’s a singer and reality TV star that appeared on a magazine show called “This Morning”. It’s broadcast at about 10.30 after the Jeremy Kyle show so is therefore watched by those who like the sensation of being repeatedly punched in the face.

Kerry has manic depression and is being treated for it. This was the appearance:

To me, it’s immediately clear that she’s still under the influence of medication. She takes an antipsychotic (which are taken at night time) and got to bed late. It’s early in the morning and of course she’s still going to be doped up. I am exactly the same at that time since I also take an antipsychotic. In my past job, they thought I was an alcoholic as I’d arrive at 9am and still be slurring my words. You have to take that type of medication really early if you want to function in the morning.

Kerry even responds to the presenter’s tactless questioning by naming the medication she’s taking. And yet, even with this, she’s being lynched over here, being called a drug addict, alcoholic slut and bad mother. The video is on Youtube in different guises and each one contains a ream of astonishingly ill-informed, abusive crap. Here she tries to speak out and says that people are prejudiced against those with bipolar disorder, which, as we all know, is bloody true (and in every sense; we can’t do jury service and those of us with the severe form of the illness can’t adopt or foster or work within certain places like British defence organisations). And yet the article is still rollseyes. Even the more rational people who accept her explanation are saying that bipolar disorder isn’t an “excuse”.

I don’t have much affection for her given that she’s a vapid, frozen food hawking popstrel with the voice of a haunted five year old but I feel really sorry for her here and angry on her behalf. People are ignorant, and some of the abuse (like calling her a slut and slag over and over- isn’t it great to be a woman?) is like a bad day out in BBC’s Have Your Say (the internet home of, “Get back to work you fucking scroungers!”) and makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

As her protests aren’t really endearing herself to anyone, I’m expecting a sobbing Jade Goody-esque TV appearance sometime soon in which she apologises for somehing she didn’t do.

Well, I feel a bit daft.

(this post has been edited a million times)

Hello chaps.  Feel I owe you all an explanation.  I am, as you can see, alive.  This account isn’t that reliable because I was totally out of it.  Rob has filled me in a lot of it.

Firstly, thanks for all your comments and concern.  Special thanks to Neil and Laura for keeping everyone updated and Cathy for sending an ambulance and Angel, Ed, Miriam, Rob, Dan, Jo, Francesca and Sarah (for hoover lendage, my floor looks class), and my friends have been amazing, though I do expect that some people will be angry at me, an that’s okay and I totally understand.  I’m back home already.  My blood tests came back clear which surprised me as it was a pretty massive dose. That means no lasting damage although I feel like total crap today!  Four hours elapsed before anyone (well, Rob) found me and I was vomiting an awful lot so I think that helped.

So, this is what happened.

I had been depressed for months and suddenly, I got the energy.

I wrote the previous post completely out of my mind, it wasn’t for attention or for help.  Luckily my friend Francesca read it and updated Rob.  Rob had been planning on going to the pub and I often don’t answer my phone so he would have gone to the pub anyway.  Please understand that this wasn’t an attention thing.  Hence pulling the phone out of the wall.

As you know, I have been really battling intrusive thoughts recently, along the lines of killing myself, mostly with the pills I had in my shoebox.  Like I’ve said, it’s an itch you want to scratch, just to make it stop.

I lost it yesterday.  Completely lost it and I couldn’t bear it anymore; couldn’t bear the voice in my head telling me to die, telling me I wouldn’t die if I took the pills, I’d be fine, but die, but take the pills, be fine.

I had handfuls of pills and I took them in quick succession.  I was considering getting some alcohol too but I don’t really like the taste of it and I would have been really out of it.  I didn’t see any of your comments yesterday.

As I said, I took Lamictal.  Most of my Lamictal is 50mg, but there was a lot of 100mg so that was about sixty five pills, or thereabouts, and I took quite a lot more after I wrote the post.  30mg of Risperidone was fifteen, but again I think I took more and the forty Zopiclone was earlier in the day.  To be honest, I’m hazy on the doses because I was in a weird place when I wrote that entry.  The dose was “a lot”. I vomited most of it and am used to Lamictal an Zopiclone so hence my not being dead.  I’ve taken two overdoses in the past but this was the worst.

Pretty much as soon as I wrote the post on my blog I started vomiting, all over the place.  Then I collapsed off my chair, smacked my face on the table and onto the floor, where I vomited some more.  At this point, my eyesight and co-ordination went and I could barely move, and couldn’t see.  I had a few spasms and a mini fit and kept vomiting.  I couldn’t stand up, couldn’t really move at all.  I did try to phone an ambulance (I was really sick and in a lot of pain) but I’ve pulled the phone out of the wall and had turned off my mobile.  My co-ordination was completely gone and I couldn’t see properly, so couldn’t plug the phone in.  I started just hitting numbers, none of which were 999.  I was crawling about but couldn’t stand up.  I started shouting for my mum (who is in Belfast) and I have a slight memory of calling out for my daddy, too, then I think I fell unconscious because it didn’t feel like four hours.

Apparently Neil got through on the phone and I was incoherant and he was shouting at me because I went silent (must have passed out again) and thought I had died.  Then he couldn’t get through so I must have knocked the phone out accidentally.  That must have been traumatic as fuck for him.  I feel awful about it and don’t remember it all (he told me about it).  To be honest, I thought I was dying too.  I hope Brendan’s family don’t find out.

When I came to, I shouted for Rob but he wasn’t here yet.  He had found out from my friend Francesca so he got here quickly after work.  I was curled up on the floor so he thought I was dead and was drifting in and out of awakeness.  I had woken up a few times to vomit and was still vomiting when he got here.  I was out of it so didn’t know what was happening and my clothes and room were covered in sick.

Rob rang an ambulance straight away and was trying to comfort me.  They arrived very quickly but I wasn’t really sure what was going on.  I kept being sick and they took my clothes off (mortifying! they saw me in the buff) and Rob grabbed new clothes for me to wear.  I don’t remember the ambulance journey but I think Rob and the paramedics were jokey to calm me down.  I do remember the blonde woman paramedic asking me why I did it, because I was a “beautiful girl”.  Don’t know why she thought that since I was covered in puke!  I think I was lying down or maybe sitting up so I didn’t choke and I know that they cleaned my face. I remember that she was allergic to cats. When we were going into hospital she said, “This is your fault” (to another paramedic about cats) but I thought that she was referring to me.  They had their sirens on.

I think I was lying down or maybe sitting up so I didn’t choke and I know that they cleaned my face. There were straps on my arm and stomach which I think is why my ribs hurt.  I feel like I’ve been beaten up.  Rob explained to them and the doctors that I had severe manic depression, that I wasn’t thinking straight, that I’d been having intrusive thoughts and that my moods are largely beyond my control.  I’m just sick.  If I wasn’t sick, I wouldn’t have done it. I sometimes don’t take it seriously and make too many jokes and drink when I shouldn’t but I’ve realised it is a life or death thing and I need to get well.  When I’m not experiencing severe mood swings (beyond hypomania, beyond depression) I am not like that, I’m a naturally giggly, enthusiastic person which is why this illness is so devastating to me.  It is the illness, it is not me. Sometimes it takes over and it is terrifying for and for Rob. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do everything I can to get better but I really underestimated how unwell I was.

I don’t remember being admitted but I did get a bed straight away.  I was out of it.  They didn’t pump my stomach because it had been a while since I had taken the pills so they were absorbed by then.  I had a mad craving for a Snickers.  After a few hours they said I could eat but I threw up straight away and had been throwing up since I was admitted.  They took my blood and I was hooked up to a drip thing and blood pressure thing and a heart monitor.

Angel and Ed, two of my friends, came pretty much straight away, but I don’t remember much of Ed being there as I was still out of it.  Angel was brilliant and stayed the whole time, stroking my hair, helping me stand up when I had to (I was very, very dizzy and would have fallen over otherwise) and she stayed with us until two in the morning.

My friends came and visited too.  Again, I’m a bit foggy on the details but was very embarrased, lying in the hospital be feeling like a dick for what I’d done.  I was so grateful, though.  They offered-and did- clean the flat so Rob didn’t have to face it.  It was probably one of the most lovely things anyone has ever done for me, and they did it for Rob, too.  They didn’t go to the pub (kinda ruined their night, there) and they all went as a group, with Sarah lending a hoover.  I guess all my paranoia that people didn’t like me was wrong. Neil and Laura rang too from Belfast.  I’m not sure how people knew I was in the hospital because as far as I know, Rob didn’t tell them.  Today I got a new keyboard and phone because they were a write off from sick.  I’m a bit pissed at the expense!   Could have spent it on new clothes as I ruined my hoodie!  Arf.  Or barf in this case.

The doctors and psychiatrist came.  I am foggy on that, too, but I did bullshit a bit because I was desperate to get out of there.  I had pretty much vomited my body weight but couldn’t keep water down and managed to chuck up outside.

Another psychiatrist had to be called but I saw him much later. I asked Angel to leave the room because I was quite embarrassed.  Rob’s used to my mentals, though.  Again I bullshitted (not really about my mental state. I told him I was seeing someone. I just needed to get out of there) a little bit, especially when it came to food and eating.  I don’t know if you know this but I haven’t been eating properly (lost my appetite due to Effexor) and I have a laxative addiction that replaced vomiting bulimia, which I’m trying to kick (thank god I didn’t, er, evacuate when I was sick). I wasn’t sure what day it was (and wasn’t thinking straight) so I said I was seeing my CPN today when I had actually missed my appointment yesterday).

He said he wasn’t going to admit me to hospital but said that I should be with the Crisis Team and asked Rob to look after me.  I told him that I saw my CPN every week, which is true.

They let me go, although I was unsteady and foggy and also exhausted.  Ed had come back with Rob’s keys and lent us enough money to get a taxi.  We got home, had a fag, had some water and fell asleep.  The place was completely clean, even the bathroom and kitchen.  I nearly cried.  I can’t believe they did for us and put so much effort in, I don’t know how I can repay then.  “Thank you” doesn’t do it justice.

I had a very fitful sleep and Rob didn’t really sleep at all.  I didn’t chuck up again but felt very, very sick and disorientated.  Today I feel a better, have got my balance back and am keeping water and bland food down.  I am still quite foggy, bruised and for some reason, in quite a lot of pain over my body.  Rob is napping on the sofa.

Anyway, this post may sound quite robotic but it’s because I am still a bit out of it.  I’m not sure if I would have survived if I’d drank because I would’ve passed out quickly and probably choked on my vomit.  But vomiting my body weight probably saved me.

Effexor is bad for me.

More than anything, I just feel daft! I feel absolutely fucking awful for what I put them and Rob though.  I’m not sure how to face people but I’ve had overwhelming support and love from my friends and this blog, so really, really thank you so much.  And thank you Anna for dropping fags off! Sorry we weren’t in, had gone get a replacement phone and keyboard.

Anyway, so that’s it.  Hopefully the nausea, dizziness and pain will go away and I’ll be back to my old self again. Rob is with me, so I’m safe.  I have no more extra medication and I’m on weekly prescriptions.

Hilariously, this happened near my two year anniversary of leaving the mental hospital.  I can’t get the bracelet off my wrist, nor find the scissors.  I hope at least posting this on this blog might help people realise the reality of it and not do it themselves.

The crappiest thing about yesterday is that I lost the eBay auction for the camera that broke on me. I miss it so much!  Ah well, I couldn’t afford it anyway.

(rest assured I will be making jokes about this)

My Review of The A-Z Guide To Good Mental Health: You Don’t Have to Be Famous to Have Manic Depression

…and other such delights are available in the new issues of “One in Four” magazine. 

One in Four fights stigma and exclusion by challenging negative images of people with mental health difficulty, dispelling myths and increasing understanding.

Go and look, it’s the Bran Flakes of publishing, full of good stuff!  

For those who cannot be bothered to click the above link (and shame on you), this is what I wrote (the edited version).  

Oh, what I didn’t mention is that it had a foreword by Stephen Fry.  So it has a forward by Stephen Fry.

When I was first diagnosed with manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, my well-meaning psychiatrist adjusted his geography teacher cuffs and penned an extensive reading list that he hoped would help educate me about my condition. I found myself lost in Waterstones, too nervous to ask the shop assistant which book would be most helpful. I skimmed the titles, sidestepping at least five Madnesses ‘, a few Angels and, worst of all, How to Love Someone With Bipolar Disorder , as though people like me were an exotic subspecies who required our cages cleaning out every two days.   There was also the bafflingly titled How to Survive Bipolar Disorder: What You and Your Family Need To Know , a book crying out for a Protect and Survive style television marketing campaign.

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Libido

Cocks and boobs immortalised in tiny soaps.  I have no idea where I got these from.

It’s really embarrassing to admit to this, but…

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The Motherland

Hello.  I’ve returned from the Motherland.  How I wish it were the Fatherland.

Belfast was great.  It was lovely to have us (my siblings, anyway) all together for Orlaigh’s sixteenth, which I still refuse to believe has come to pass.  I spent not as much time as I would have liked to with my siblings since I also wanted to briefly catch up with my three remaining friends there.  On Friday, I nabbed free food at Paula’s work and spent the rest of the day watching rubbish TV with her (which always makes me happy) and playing with her black Tonkinese cat, imaginatively called “Cat”.  Given that my cats are called “Boy Cat” and “Girl Cat” (and Hobbes, who lives with Rob), you can see the poverty of original thought that exists in my family.

My little brother, Liam, was there before donning his rags (not so much “glad”, he’s a crusty punk with a pungent yet not unsettling aroma) and heading out.  I have never met someone who is so confident in his appearance as my little brother is.  He is, naturally, gorgeous, as are all my siblings.  He knows it, though, but it’s disarmingly charming rather than irritating.  He kept me up until five in the morning to show me photos of himself.  An actual quote from him was, “Stay out of that mirror, that mirror is all ME!” It was tongue in cheek, but only just. If I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, my brother has some sort of inverse.

On Saturday I extracted myself from sleepiness in order to be a tourist in a warzone. I took my camera and my friend Stephen onto the Falls Road, my stomping ground when I was growing up, as I went to school there. The Falls Road is a working class, ostensibly left-wing Republican area, full of interesting political murals and daubings. My own politics- unsurprisingly, lie upon the far left, and I do correct those who refer to me as British, as I’m from Nationalist West Belfast and was raised with Republican ideology and the Irish language.

It felt quite strange taking photos of things that I used to see every day and think nothing of, but I always regret not doing so.  Here is an example; it’s one of the murals just past my school.

That mural depicts the Easter Rising (which is what Éirí Amach na Cásca translates to), and that building there is the GPO in Dublin, which was the site of the uprising against the British Army. It was unsuccessful, obviously, or else the “Troubles” would not have been.

For those interested in politics, murals, art, myself, Belfast and etc, I have uploaded a whole set of photographs that I took of murals, my old school grounds and my friend here at Flickr.  I am too tired at the moment but when I’m more awake I will write descriptions so you know what you’re looking at. For the extra nosey, I’ve uploaded two more sets- one of my sister’s birthday and one of photos of my old haunts in Belfast, featuring me holding some scones.  (I have been feeling especially hideous lately, but am putting these up for memory’s sake.  Please don’t poke the soft bits with sticks).

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Inside the Iron Maiden

I don’t like self pity.  Least of all my own.

“Bravery”, in terms of illness, is will. If you don’t challenge your own negative thoughts, you lose.  The trouble with depression is that you tend to keep the thoughts to yourself.  Positive thoughts don’t squeak through.  There is no challenge.  You swallow up whatever your mind is serving you.  You have no allies.

It’s a shock, for a second, in the room, with its large windows spilling light onto a bricked up garden incarcerating spindly, infant trees anorexic from lack of sun.   My head is almost between my knees I am so slumped.  I examine the detail of my shoes, count the hairs on my hands, anything to pull my thoughts elsewhere.  The chair is comfortable, the fabric is blue with scratches upon the arms.  And then there is a human voice slicing through the inhuman one-

“It controls you, but it’s not all of who you are.  You are more than this.”

faraway-

“The voice is wrong”.

Quietness, for a long time.

“I know that depression is difficult and you feel as though you’re a burden on other people.  But that’s not why they stay around…”

It feels almost like a dream-

“It’s because of who you are, all the good things about you, because they love you”-

My head rises, a millimetre.  I feel like I want to cry.

“There are no good things about me.  If you could see their faces.  How disappointed they look. They are so tired of me, and I am tired too.  My family, my friends, Rob.  They don’t know what to do.  I have put them through so much.  I hate myself.  I make their lives worse.  So what is the point? I don’t want to be this way anymore.  I hate talking about this.  I hate it”.

“Has anyone ever told you this?  Has Rob ever told you that you’re too much for him?  Why would he stay with you if he didn’t love you?-”

“He is depressed now, too.  And the others”-

I almost break into sobs as I force this sentence out.

“Are so ashamed of me.  I am so ashamed of me.  I am useless.  I could have been so much more than this.  I fucked up everything.  Everything people hoped for me. This never ends.  It never will end.  For the rest of my life.  I could get better for a few months.  Maybe a few years.  But it will happen again.  It always does and it is so easy. What is the point?  Why don’t people understand that saying, “You’ve got through this before?” is not comforting?  It is damning.  How many more times?  I’m twenty two years old.  How much longer?”

“You have so much to give to the world.  You are more than this.  It’s depression that is telling you that you’re not. It’s not true.  When you get through this-”

I smile, for a second.  But it’s not what she said that made me smile.  It’s what I was about to say.

“There’s a building opposite my flat.  It’s high, higher than the top flat in this building.  And I see it at night, the gates are often open with people coming in and out.  I could get to the roof.  In the night, I could climb up to the roof and jump off.  It wouldn’t work from my window, I’d just break something”.

This in monotone.  We make another appointment, soon.

I told her that I am afraid to die but that I still find the thought of suicide comforting.   I told her that I hated myself for that as Vicky’s suicide, Brendan’s suicide and my dad’s slow suicide are, to me, the most painful experiences of my life.  I am angry at them and for them.  Still, I think about it constantly.  I am under no illusions, I don’t think I am going to arrange myself beautifully on eiderdown with a bottle of pills and a tearstained poetry book.  I don’t go in for that kind of melodrama. It is just an end to something that feels completely unending.

I need to view my illness as a separate entity or else I could not cope.  If it is just me, then there is no fighting it because I will never be my own ally.   So there is “it”.

Sometimes I imagine that my ribs are made of steel and that inside is my heart in a dull metal box.  It is like being locked inside an Iron Maiden.

The placid, public face that gives no indication of what lurks inside.  If you move, it hurts.  If you shout, no-one can hear.  How long for you can withstand it, with your eyes shut, pretending to be somewhere else.  When you open them, blackness.

The thing that almost wrecks me with sadness is that I don’t think I am this person.  It is alright to say that this is not the entirety of who I am but it is the most obvious, most recognisable thing about me simply because it is always there, when many other things are not. Things that other people might say are fundamental to who I am (my sense of humour, for example) are simply not there a lot of the time.  Because the one big thing that chips away at me is.

I think I might be an optimist.  So many bad things have happened to me, in my life.  I have forgiven everybody.  I am angry at people rarely and even then it’s easy for me to stop being angry. When other people are sad, I am there with my freshly baked batch of upside.   I still love people who hurt me, I probably love people who don’t love me back.  But I don’t mind.  Love is always positive.  I am funny, I think.  I think I have interesting things to say.  I see things in a different way than most people.

Am.  Was.  Might not be.  Definitely not at the moment.

I miss the “upside” of my own illness.  At least before it went to rot there would be times, wonderful times, of wallowing in sunlight, intense, glorious joy. But I can’t have one, or the other. If I have one then I will have both. The “happiness” needs to be natural for the depression not to exist.  If I had the choice, none of this would ever have existed.  My basis for comparison would be a happy day, and a sad one.  There would be no illness, there would never have been.  I’d never have met my CPN, never have been in hospital, never have been kicked out of college, never wrecked my exams after being off for six months, never have been so psychotic and sick that people thought I was fictional.  I don’t deal with this with “bravery”.  I want it to never have existed in me.

I am just locked inside. It is difficult to articulate this without melodrama. It is not sepia with my moon-toned face peering from a dusty window. It is just flatline. Dull. Very dull.  Dull voices that float through paper and glass.  Dull lights.  Noticing blonde hair.  And not caring.

The Sane Guide to Living with Mental Illness: Medications

I was watching cigarette advertising from the 1950s onwards on Youtube today. It’s all very aspirational, grand cars billowing Camels smoke from the driver’s window, doctor extolling the virtues of Chesterfields and such like. So I made my own non-aspirational cigarette advert.

Anyway…

Here is another one of my more sensible guides to mental illness, this time, medication, from someone who’s been on most of them and suddenly packed in nearly all of them. (Although I am on 50mg Lamictal with Seroquel now to see if it dents my mixed episode). I guess a lot of you who are already on medications won’t find this helpful, but some other people might.

So!

The Psychiatrist has decided that you’re mental. Well done! By now you’ve probably been told what flavour of mental you have. The flavour favoured by most is bipolar disorder but you may have been told you have schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, a personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or an eating disorder. Or even more than one of those things! That’s good, it means you’re extra special.

What will happen now is that they’ll hold a little conference behind your back to determine whether you’re going to be prescribed medication, going to be referred for therapy or whether you’re going to be kicked out of their office.

Chances are, you’ll be prescribed medication. It’s likely that they’ll be an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anti anxiety drug or mood stabiliser. Or pick and mix from all of the above.

So, here is the guide to medication.

1. You’re taking them because…?

Psychiatrists sometimes have a habit of thinking that their patients won’t understand clinical terms like “psychosis” or, “you’re flipping the fuck out”. So they might use helpful little phrases to explain to you why you’re being prescribed a certain medication, and they try to avoid frightening you by implying that your behaviour is a little…let’s say, off?

“This will calm you down”- “You are vibrating like a badly drawn cartoon”.

“This will help….even you out”- “You have burst into tears six times and then burst out laughing another ten for the thirty minutes you’ve been said here”.

“These should help lift your mood”- “You tried to kill yourself with my stapler”.

“These will help alleviate your compulsive behaviour”- “I’ve noticed that you’ve been counting the vowels I use in my sentences” (That was twenty three).

“These will help with your strange beliefs”- “You’ve referred to yourself as The Queen for the duration of this discussion”.

2. Know your enemy

Occasionally, a doctor will withhold a diagnosis from you or whoever bought you to the psychiatrist in the first place. Generally, you can guess what’s up with you via your medication. Antipsychotics, like Risperidone, Quetiapine, Amisulpride, Haloperidol and Olanzapine are generally used for psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, manic depression, some types of personality disorders, some sleep, anxiety and compulsive disorders and occasionally, depression. Antidepressants like Prozac, Citalopram and Effexor are used for depression, some personality disorders, panic and anxiety. Anti anxiety drugs (the ones that are benzos, not antidepressants like Paxil) like Valium are for anxiety and panic and mood stabilisers, usually anticonvulsants, like Lithium (which is an antimanic), Depakote, Carbamazepine and Lamictal are used for some types of depression, personality disorders and manic depression.

If you have the interweb, and you do, since you’re reading this, research your medication. But be prepared to find out some things you didn’t want to know about…

3. Side Effects

Psychiatric medications are notoriously awful to take for some people and chances are you’ll have side effects. In short:

Get used to drooling. Antipsychotics and anti anxiety drugs can be really sedating and make your body go a little bit floppy, though it probably feels as though your limbs are made of lead. They can also cause you to slur your words, so, a little bit of spit might make a dash for freedom.

You will feel weird for a few weeks. Lots of medications take a while to work on the illness they’ve been prescribed for. In the wilderness of waiting, you might feel weird. You might feel blunted, spaced out, anxious, irritable or you might be having some odd thoughts. Tell your doctor.

You will sleep forever. If you’re taking antipsychotics, anyway.

Avoid the scales. It’s a shitter but psychiatric medication can make you gain weight. Antipsychotics are worst, anticonvulsants like Lithium and Depakote are pretty much wank too, antidepressants can be tricky and anti anxiety drugs, well, the benzo type, aren’t meant to be used for more than a week or two, so you shouldn’t gain weight from them.

Shake, shake, shake. The anticonvulsants will give you the shakes, listed on the PI sheet as “tremors”. It can be a bit embarrassing as people might assume, like they did me, that you’re an alcoholic. Try not to take sugar in your tea as it just causes confetti.

You might not think as clearly as you used to. Most drugs affect how your mind works. Even caffeine does, so psychiatric medications will. Well, they’re designed to. For the first while taking them, your head might be a bit foggy and…

I had a point here, but I don’t remember what it was… because I’m taking antipsychotics.

4. Don’t expect miracles.

Some drugs work on some aspects of illness very quickly. Antipsychotics are good for getting people out of psychotic and manic episodes pretty fast. Antidepressants can lift your mood within a fortnight.

You have to take drugs in order for them to work. If you’re not taking the medication as prescribed, the medication isn’t “not working”. You’re just not taking them.

There is more to mental illness than direct symptoms and medication isn’t a cure for them. The chances of you being suddenly completely better are slim, and because of this, medications will be changed, doses will be adjusted and other treatments will be drafted in alongside them.

You don’t actually have to take medication if you don’t want to. There will be times when you will have to- i.e if you’re under section, but aside from that, you can choose. Of course, if you’re under the care of a psychiatrist or mental health team, you will be strongly advised to take what they’ve prescribed you.

But, you can weigh up the pros and cons of medications. If the side effects are too much, say so, because another medication can be tried. If you hate the way they make you feel, say so, same applies. The decision is ultimately yours, though.

In reality, it’s best if the decision is ultimately yours and someone elses’ because getting ill again- relapsing into mania or psychosis, for example- means that you won’t be in the place to decide if you should be taking them because you might feel that nothing is wrong. It’s always good to have someone else tell you that you’re mental when you don’t believe it yourself.

5. The medication Hissy Fit.

Yeah, chances are you hate your medication, even if it is helping. You’ll want to flush them down the toilet, chuck them into the Thames, strap them to a rocket, etc etc etc. Have your hissy publically with the doctor before you decide to do the above, as they will be only too happy to tell you what a pain in the arse you were when you weren’t taking medication.

6. If you’re going to continue medication, DON’T:

Drink. Alcohol and psychiatric medications are a ridiculous mix. They make you a lightweight and you’ll be drunk a lot quicker, but be less inhibited so you’ll drink more. That way lies making a total dick of yourself in front of your friends, passing out in the street and pissing yourself or ending up in hospital.

It can be dangerous to drink alcohol while on certain medications like Lithium and Depakote.

And alcohol is a CNS depressant and it will generally make any mood unstable. There’s no point in taking an antidepressant to make you feel better, only to get wasted and feel like shit.

Take drugs. Because you’re already pumping powerful chemicals into your body and you don’t need more.

Drive. Don’t even attempt to drive if you’ve just taken an antipsychotic as it will result in a DUI and probably the end of your car. Don’t cycle either, because, like me, you might find that you’ve forgotten how to steer and career into the pavement of the Seven Sisters Road.

and DO:

Get a pill organiser. One of those cheap plasticky things you can get from chemists for the princely sum of £4.99. They sort your pills out by day so you can’t forget or take too many.

Keep tabs on them. By recording how you feel every day. Or ask someone else to do it for you if you don’t trust your own insight.

Drink lots of water. Because they can piss about in your blood stream, liver and kidneys.

7. And if you’re not going to continue taking medication:

Do it slowly. Don’t come off medications suddenly. They are drugs, and like any drug, they might have withdrawal. Do it slowly.

Look into other treatments. Like therapy, for example. For some people therapy works as well as or better than medication.

Tell someone. If you’re in the right frame of mind to. Quitting medication can cause a relapse that you might not notice but other people will. Subtle things, like stripping to your knickers and running into traffic.

Anyway, that’s my Sane Guide to Medication. Anything you want to add?

Labels and language

Bipolar disorder is “just a label”.

Not to me.

I know mental illness is culturally and personally complicated. A faction, a rather large vocal faction, don’t believe in the existence of mental illness. There’s another debate about this over at Mental Nurse. I stayed out of it.

It’s fair enough to hold your own opinion but to me, it’s insulting when people refer to bipolar disorder as a label. The same is true of schizophrenia, some people refer to it as a label, but, more often than not, there’s a little get out clause stating that “oh, but schizophrenia, that’s an illness” because it is more obviously destructive and indiscriminating than bipolar disorder. “Learned” types don’t make this distinction but the laymen do.

One of the problems is that bipolar disorder is seen as a middle-class illness. Its famous sufferers are by and large educated, artistic people. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is an illness that is known for affecting people from working class backgrounds. Its very image is of the mad bag lady, or the unwashed black man gibbering on the bus. This is a stereotype, not from me but from society as a whole. Schizophrenia is the poor man’s disorder, and manic depression is the rich man’s disorder. Because manic depression tends to be publicised as an artistic disease, it’s easy to see it as a label that auguments this image, rather than an illness like schizophrenia.

I can see why some people prefer to see mental illness as a label.

Mental illness, particularly schizophrenia and personality disorders, come with stigma attached to it. The public’s perception of schizophrenia isn’t a sympathetic one. It’s wrongly associated with violence, and people fear those affected by schizophrenia.

Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, it’s better to see it as just a psychiatric label with no real meaning to the individual. Being “a schizophrenic” or being “a manic depressive” says something about you, something that might be seen as negative. Labels you can get rid of. Labels are interchangeable and unreal. The causes of mental illness are unknown, so maybe it isn’t worthy of being called illness at all, and sometimes diagnosis can vary from person to person. There’s no way of proving that somebody has a mental illness. A label that says, “Something is wrong with you” is insulting and unnecessary. Lots of people believe that psychiatric labels are just imposed on someone because society doesn’t know how to cope with them. In my own experiences, some people have considered me to be arrogant because I explained that I had manic depression. Implying that I have a real problem, and am not just a contrary, melodramatic woman.

I see this as real. As real as any other illness.

I think seeing mental illness as being as real as physical illnesses is the way forward in reducing stigma. A lot of people don’t agree with me, though. If mental illness is real, then your diagnosis does mean something. And you can be defined by it. And people are defined by mental illness, far moreso than they are by physical illnesses, because a mental illness lives in your control tower, pulling the switches that make you who you are. But if mental illness is real, then it’s not the fault of the person who has it. They didn’t do anything to make this happen to them.

But if people just dismiss mental illness as a label, it devalues those problems. It implies that any suffering the person is experiencing is not real. It’s all part of a disposable label. If someone kills themselves over a label, well, that’s just stupid. Mental illness can be treated. (Although the actual wanting to be treated for it is another problem altogether). And, although there’s no real scientific evidence of yet that shows that mental illness is hardwired into the brain, there are a lot of physical illness that cause symptoms of mental illness. Dementia, epilepsy, MS. So there is something in the mind that causes hallucinations and mania. People suffering from hallucinations that have been triggered by a physical cause aren’t fashioning coping methods, so why are people with mental illness supposedly doing just that?

I don’t think that I’d be “free” if I thought of manic depression as a label rather than an illness. I don’t think I’d be liberated from all that manic depression implies. This feels like an illness to me. It feels like an infection. It swept through my body eleven years ago, it weighed down my bones and dissolved its sickness through my body and mind. This feels absolutely physical to me. I don’t just become depressed sometimes and manic at others. It’s not an isolated syndrome. It affects everything and it is not a case of “letting it”, no more than a person with cancer can “let” their cancer destroy their body. My energy is affected by it. My perceptions and my abilities are affected by it. Days I can’t sleep, and days I can’t wake, and days I can barely walk more than a few yards, and days when my hands shake so badly that I can’t hold a cigarette, and ash is confetti. It isn’t “all in my head” because it’s not confined to my mind. It’s in my body, too.

There is a theory that people develop mental illness to cope with unbearable stresses in life. There is one illness in which I support this theory: Dissociative Identity Disorder, because, overwhelmingly in those who suffer from it, there has been a massively traumatic event that has happened to them, and I can see and understand why someone would want “alters” in order to escape, in order to cope.

I don’t believe that other mental illnesses are caused by stresses in life. Certainly worsened by them, as any human emotion is affected by the life around them. In my case, I’ve had those traumatic events. A lot of my life was a nightmare. But, in a way, I deal with that well, just like I’m good at dealing with emergencies, I get on with it, and I always have. Nothing “triggered” my first episode, the same way that nothing has triggered all my episodes since. And I did not just “become” manic depressive when I was twelve. I can see its roots stretched back as far as my childhood, which makes me believe even more so that this is just an illness that I was born with.

If mental illness is real, then the people who suffer from it are not just burdens on society who got there on their own volition by being fucked up and reckless. It just happened to them, like cancer happens to other people. Because a lot of people with mental illness drink and do drugs to cope with it, well, the image of mental illness is unfavourable because we’re all alcoholics and druggies, on the bottom rung of society. They didn’t do anything for this to happen to them. It’s not their fault.

If mental illness is real, it can be treated. Maybe one day cured. If I saw this as a label, a label that was destroying my life, not because I let it (believe me, I try, very hard, every single day, to not let it do anything), I’d have no hope. I probably wouldn’t have accepted the diagnosis in the first, probably wouldn’t be treated for it, probably wouldn’t have a CPN, probably would never have spoken to Rob about it, probably never would have started this blog, probably would have killed myself the second I left hospital.

I don’t believe in the “Big Pharma”. All huge businesses are corrupt, and a lot of people shouldn’t be on psychiatric medications. But some people should, and for some people, it does help. Of course, because it’s a label, psychosis, mania, depression, it’s all good, it’s all someone “experiencing” stuff. But those experiences can be so destructive. And sometimes, people need a drug to pull them out of the depths and heights of these experiences. It’s not coercion (although I do agree with detractors that in the past, “inconvenient” people were put into hospitals), there is a need for antipsychotics and hospitals to help stop someone ruining their lives, or taking their lives. Of course people should be allowed to, but it’s unlikely that once you help someone ease back into a more rational frame of mind that they’d want to.

Another thing is that being “ill” grants you a “victim” status that those who espouse the label theory don’t like. I’ve written before about the survivor/victim mentality so I’ll just let you read that instead.

And there is, of course, the language of mental illness. Words that you are not supposed to use, lest you be a “victim”:

  • Mental illness, as opposed to mental disorder/mental distress/fantastic thing that makes me so unique
  • “Suffering”. You’re not allowed to “suffer” from mental illness because if you do, you’re a victim
  • “Medication can be helpful”, no, medication is EVIL.

I understand the reason people refer to mental illness as a label. But it is insulting to me. And it’s insulting to me when people comment here and tell me to take a bit more exercise and eat my greens and do a bit of yoga and I’ll be fine, as if I did this to myself by sitting around, did this to myself by not eating enough leafy vegetables. Over eleven years, I have done all the good stuff, done the exercise, got my vitamins, had a “positive attitude” and it didn’t help. I did not do this to myself. If I did this to myself, I would undo it to myself. Oh, yeah, and if you want to be in my bad books forever, do come here and tell me three things:

1) Pull yourself together, I did, it’s just a label, think positively, your diagnosis doesn’t mean anything, etc etc

2) DIET and EXERCISE? Oh, and YOGA and REIKI and other bollocks? It worked FOR ME. You don’t need ANY OTHER TREATMENT AT ALL. In fact if the above doesn’t work for you, YOU’RE WEAK, AND BEING CONTROLLED BY THE BIG PHARMA!

3) Your illness is an EXCUSE for you not to live a NORMAL LIFE because obviously due to your EXCUSE you must not ever tell anyone that you LOVE them or PLAY WITH YOUR KITTENS or ANYTHING since you spend ALL DAY just being MANIC DEPRESSIVE.

4) How dare you use the words SUFFERING and MENTAL ILLNESS. It is “MENTAL DISTRESS” and saying that people SUFFER from it makes it sound BAD.

For those people, I can use other words, like “fuck” and “off”.

The only thing that my illness is an “excuse” for is for my slurring my words occasionally on medication. I’m not defined by my illness, even if I don’t consider it a label. It’s part of me. Part. It does hold the reigns on my life, but hey, whatcanyoudoaboutit. Not much more than I am doing, really. I think therapeutic exercises like yoga and whatsit are important as supplements to actual medical treatment (indeed, I am getting a prescription to exercise to help my energy), but not the be-all, end-all. I don’t like to be made to feel like a failure just because I’m in psychiatric treatment, and just because, so far, I’m not better yet.

It doesn’t mean that I define myself as “manic depressive”. I don’t. I think of myself as someone with manic depression.

I still don’t feel very well so that may account for the tone of this post, and the fact that it doesn’t make that much sense. Although at least I managed to get out of bed before 4pm today.

Shout Back

For no reason at all, tonight I’ve got suicide on the brain, which is why I’m sat over here typing because my head is screaming angrily at me. When I have a nice, blue skied, life-is-here kind of day when I feel depressed, I get the idea that it’s a good place to “leave it”. A quiet night at the end of a sunny day.

I’m pissed at myself for this and trying to rally other parts of my brain to shout the voices down. How much of a slap in the face to people like Rob are these thoughts? Spending one day with someone, let alone three years, is taking time out of your life. What is the point when that other person would just kill themselves? What’s the point?

Ah, spiral of guilt. I hate myself for thinking like this. I hate my mind for working this way.

I still want to stop taking medication. You’d probably think, “Yeah, don’t”, but sometimes I get stuck thinking that it would somehow be the solution to all my problems. For all my rhetoric and analysis, I still can’t help thinking in this way.

Wah. Anyway. I have something else on my mind that I’ll write about tomorrow.

EDIT:  It’s 4am and I’m still not asleep, but exhausted.  I have a craving for Coco Pops.

The Insane Guide to Living with Mental Illness: Mania

I’ve covered depression in part 1 of the Insane Guide to Living With Mental Illness, so now it’s time to cover nature’s way of telling you that you’re number one.  I find mania harder to write about; it’s side by side with mixed episodes as the most destructive part of my illness.

Mania

You’re manic! Fantastic. “Mania” is Greek for “feeling fantastic”. And I bet you do! Don’t listen to anybody who tells you otherwise. What do they know? They’re just trying to bring you down. You’re better than them, anyway. You’re better than everyone. You’re special, you’re chosen. You’re a genius. The world has been waiting for you. If only you could keep that anger under control!

Becoming manic can be sudden or slow. Sometimes, when people experience mania they also experience “psychosis” (just a diagnostic label to belittle your uniqueness). In this chapter, however, we aren’t going to discuss psychosis because you’re not that mad. In fact, you’re not mad at all! You probably have to battle to keep your thoughts o- hey, are you listening to me?

1. Eating and self-care

2. Social etiquette

3. Hobbies

4. Sleep

5. How to deal with those around you, who may not be so excited about your insanity as you are! Includes lovers, friends and the medical profession.

6. The future

1. Eating and self-care

Who needs food? Food takes time to prepare and eat and time is something that you don’t have. Everything is so slow! Why on earth do people take so long cooking something? If you have a microwave, put everything in there at once. Have you ever wondered if you can iron chicken to make it cook? Now’s the time to find out! It will make it cook faster.

Alternatively, you may be feeling more hungry than usual. In this case, sweets are best, or, even better, go out and eat in a fancy restaurant! Even though you’ve been spending a lot recently, you’re not worried, the money will come from somewhere.

The place is a mess, everything must be perfect. It might be 4am but get that hoover out! Now, what else can you do? Those CD racks are a mess. Maybe you should go for a walk or do some exercise. You have so much energy these days.

And my, you look delicious at the moment. Slap on some extra make up and the less clothes, the better! You’ll turn heads whereever you go! You’re gorgeous and sexy.

2. Social etiquette

You know your friends want to see you, you’re so bountiful and charming. They are fascinated by you- who wouldn’t be? Drink as much as you like, you’re dazzling! You have so many stories to tell, such wisdom to share. They might be looking at you oddly but it’s only because they’re jealous of your wit! And your friends, they seem so sparkling tonight. You feel as if they’re all your soulmates, all you want to do is kiss them.

Every man and woman in the room wants you. You can seduce anybody you want. You can make new friends, everybody loves you. You find yourself on a man’s knee while your boyfriend watches. You know that you look so beautiful and sexy that nobody can resist you. Your boyfriend walks away and you feel a swell of rage rise up in you.

Try not to get impatient when people are set on staying in one place. Coax them to your way of thinking, let’s go, go somewhere, anywhere.

3. Hobbies

You love writing, you’ve been so great at it lately. You have so many ideas, you just wish you could hold on to them for more than a few minutes. You’ve been up all night and are surrounded by pieces of paper with scribbles on them. You decide to use the computer and you write four chapters in half an hour. But there’s loads of things to look at, too- you find yourself fascinated by the extinct creatures of history.

You try to read, but you can’t focus long enough. You pick up book after book, then find yourself obsessed with one passage. It seems to have a special significance for you- almost as if it was written just for you.

Music is poignant, unbearably so- you can only listen to a few bars before the beauty overwhelms you. You put on CD after CD- many of them new. There is plastic wrapping all over the floor, you tear through it to find more music to listen to.

You try to watch a film but you can’t stop talking. Your partner sits next to you, asking you to be quiet. But there’s so many interesting things to be discussed. Eventually, the film is turned off and you’ve been talking nonstop for two hours…

4. Sleep

n/a

5. How to deal with those around you, who may not be so excited about your insanity as you are! Includes lovers, friends and the medical profession.

There is no such thing as “too much”- you wish your doctor would stop asking you to take the medication. It’s a waste of time, all it does it dull you and make you depressed. You’ve flushed all those pills away and you’ve never felt better. Nothing is wrong, nothing was ever wrong.

Your friends are apparently concerned, but they’re just jealous. They say you seem to be reckless and uninhibited, which isn’t “normal” for you. You dismiss them- you’ve just been having fun. Your partner is exhausted, but you know they’ve been having fun too. They just want quietness and sleep but you wake them up time and time again to talk about things. You snake your hands to their chest, trying to seduce them, knowing how gorgeous and sexual you are, but you’re confused and angry when they tell you to leave them alone. Some people are just killjoys.

Your boss has had a word with you after you sent a five page document detailing ideas you had about your company to the director. He said you were overstepping the mark, you’re only an admin assistant and that you’ve been working much too late recently on projects that aren’t even yours. You leave work and hit the shops and bars, meeting people along the way. People- they walk away from you, but you follow them, determined to make them listen.

6. The Future

Achievement, stardom, success, magic- but you’ve started to feel a little bit strange. People are commenting that you seem angry, they say you’re picking fights. Your thoughts- once so fast and furious- start to get confused and jumbled. You have a hard time keeping them straight, you find that you get stuck on one word that skips like a faulty record. You’re starting to feel paranoid; everybody seems so hostile to you now, unappreciative of your specialness. You forget to eat, your stomach burning with anxiety. And nothing, nowhere, feels safe anymore…

Next: Psychosis

The Insane Guide to Living with Mental Illness: Depression

Contrary to part 1 of my “Sane Guide to Living With Mental Illness“, here is part 1 of my “Insane Guide to Living with Mental Illness: Depression”.


Introduction

So you’re mental! Congratulations! Your journey here may have taken you many years or you could simply have fallen off the doorstep of sanity one day and into the garden of madness. Either way, welcome!

Insanity isn’t an exclusive club; we welcome people of all ages, genders, shapes, races and cultural backgrounds.

Now, let’s get started. Being mad, you’ll want to know just how to wear your madness well, what the etiquette is in our club and how to make the most of your insanity. Each category will have five subcategories:

1. Eating and self-care

2. Social etiquette

3. Hobbies

4. Sleep

5. How to deal with those around you, who may not be so excited about your insanity as you are! Includes lovers, friends and the medical profession.

6. The future

So let’s get started with depression.

Depression

You’re depressed! Well done. It might have started one day: you were walking home from work and you felt the bottom of your world fall out. There was a hole in the earth that you could fall through, forever. And you did. I’ll keep this short; after all, you can’t waste valuable staring-at-the-ceiling time reading this. If you can read it at all. It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re depressed. Reading the back of the pill bottle can be a daunting task- those damn letters just won’t stay still! You might find that your vision is a bit blurry- don’t worry, this is caused by the constant trough of tears that have been welling up in your eyes.

Do you remember what you were like before you were depressed? You probably thought you were a pretty good person. Well, you’re not! Say that to yourself every day: “I am a bad and disgusting person”. All you’ve ever done is make mistakes in your life. There you go!

1. Eating and self-care

When you’re depressed, there’s a limited source of food available. After all, you won’t have the energy to cook something, and if you try, you’ll probably forget and burn it. So stick with these staples: cereal, chocolate, wilted old fruit. If you can get to the shops, that is. If not, just order takeout food. It’ll make you happy!

In fact, you may not be feeling hungry at all. This is normal. Don’t worry about eating. It’s too much of an effort anyway. You could drink tea to keep going or, even better, alcohol! Alcohol is well-known to make you feel better. If you feel depressed, hit the bottle and you’ll be right as rain in no time.

If you do feel hungry, overeat! Overeating makes you feel better. It means you won’t have to eat as much next time. This saves valuable energy. Try to get some fish oil in your diet (omega 3), it’s been clinically proven to be more effective at treating depression than anything else in the world!

You might get a lot fatter but that’s unimportant; no-one cares what you look like, anyway! There is no cure for ugliness! You’re fat and useless even if you’re 110lbs!

As for your appearance, you have two choices: either remove all mirrors from your room (who’d want to look at you anyway? ) or stand staring into one for hours on end measuring your every flaw, and let’s face it, you have many!
Since you won’t be leaving the house much, there’s no point in brushing your hair and teeth and absolutely no point in changing or washing your clothes. As you’re depressed, you’re not going anywhere so who cares what you look like! If anybody- lovers, friends, social workers- express concern, lie and say you changed your pants earlier! They’ll soon back off.

2. Social Etiquette

Who needs friends? Not you! Let your friends know that you don’t need them by pulling the phone out of the wall or ignoring your mobile as it rings for the fifth time that day. Try not to panic if that tinny ringtone irritates you; everything is going to irritate you, or, you just might not care at all! It’s great to be free of these social conventions.

Your friends will stop ringing eventually. But if you want to make a half-hearted attempt at sociability, make sure you meet your friends in a pub. That way you can drink! It may be very difficult for you to go outside, after all, the world is a hideous place. Show your friends you care by crying on them, shouting at them or treating them to miserable, stony silence. It’s okay; they don’t really like you anyway.

3. Hobbies

Before you became depressed, there may have been things in your life that you enjoyed doing. You may find that now you have no absolutely no interest in these things; in fact, the thought of doing them fills you with dread or total indifference. This is normal. None of it matters. Nothing matters.

4. Sleep

Sleep is important so you should get as much of it as possible! It’s much better to sleep in the day time because that’s when all those boring things you don’t care about; your job, your family commitments, your friends; are at their most demanding.

Of course, feel free to sleep at night time, too. When you are awake, remember that nothing is as fulfilling as lying there looking at the ceiling- what a fun way to collect your thoughts!

You may be finding it difficult to sleep. Panic and anxiety could be tearing through you, making you feel as though your own skin is infected. You may feel like you’re dying. Never fear, abusing prescription medication (which can be obtained from the doctors, more in part 5) or alcohol can help.

5. How to deal with those around you, who may not be so excited about your insanity as you are! Includes lovers, friends and the medical profession!

So, you’re depressed! Those around you may not be so excited about this as you are. But who cares about them? They don’t care about you.

Your friends and family may plead with you to talk to them. Don’t! They are trying to bring you to their side. Who wants to be there? You’re certainly not good enough for that. They may say they love you and care for you; they don’t! Don’t succumb to guilt. It’s all a ruse!

They may convince you to go a doctor; resist this for as long as possible! Nothing’s wrong with you- you’re wasting their time! Being depressed is all your fault. There’s nothing they can do to help. It’s all up to you! You don’t have depression. You’re depressed. Big difference! Depression is serious. Do you really think you’re that important?

The doctor may prescribe antidepressants. He’s trying to control you! He wants you to be a happy pill popping patient! Can’t he understand that there’s nothing wrong with you? Being happy is overrated- you’ll never be happy again.

However, if you’re finding sleep difficult, just tell the doctor that you’re depressed due to lack of sleep. Bingo! Happy little sleeping pills for you so you can spend all day every day in bed! Score!

Your employers or tutors may be worried about you. You’ve missed a lot of school or work, haven’t you? Tell them that you’re fine. They’ll believe you! If you lose your job or school place because you don’t have the energy, all the better! It wouldn’t have done you any good anyway.

Your lover may lie next to you night after night wondering why you don’t want to touch them.  Or they may have stopped calling.  It doesn’t matter.   They don’t really care.

6. The future

Ha, this is a joke category. What future? You don’t have a future. I mean, look at you, you can barely get out of bed and cook yourself a meal. You spend your whole day abandoned to the horrible thoughts in your mind, you could be shot and you wouldn’t feel it. Everybody hates you and you’re a failure at everything you do. The world isn’t meant for people like you- you should just kill yourself. Why not kill yourself? Then you wouldn’t feel like this anymore. You will never feel like anything else ever again. It’s either death or this is the rest of your life. Can you imagine this being the rest of your life? Then kill yourself. No one will miss you. Nobody cares.

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of the Insane Guide to Mental Illness! Tomorrow: Mania- Nature’s way of telling you that you’re the best.

The Sane Guide to Living with Mental Illness

Wow, this blog has gone right off topic recently. Flippin‘ friends dying, they’re so inconvenient.

I am still nowhere near caught up on e-mails so please excuse me if you haven’t received a reply from me.

I am fairly sane at the moment.

This is somewhat of a revelation; I can’t remember a time in my life when I have been fairly sane. Oh, glimmers of sanity have squeaked through the black tarpaulin of madness but by and large, even my most coherent writings have come from a chaotic planet.

I am not incredibly depressed, nor am I manic. I’m not fantasizing about suicide- it’s been a few months since I’ve white-knuckled safety railings at the riverside.

Anxiety and paranoia, yes, excessive worrying- well, that’s just me- and my ongoing battle with weight and eating continues. A lot of sadness and sorrow and anger at recent events. But mood-wise? Steady, in a mildly depressed kind of way.

How do I judge my own sanity? By not comparing myself to other people. I’m never going to be Completely Sane. The lovely thing about the world is that you’d have to look a long way to find someone who is.

I’m never going to not have manic depression. Even now, with a somewhat clear head, there are “residual symptoms”.

Anxiety and paranoia. An ongoing battle with weight and eating habits (and not-eating habits). Still having trouble sleeping. The reckless nervous energy that is 50% me and 50% manic depression. A mild, niggling, irritating depression that blunts my experiences and emotions. Intrusive thoughts and panic. Narcissistically worrying about being narcissistic.

But this is good.

It was only a few months ago that I was ravingly psychotic, swallowing a huge dose of Lithium and on the verge of utter annihilation. Every little victory- the return from self-destruction- I cherish. To judge my sanity, I compare myself, to myself.

Every time I cast mind back to six months, a year, a year and six months, I’ve been ill. For most of my life, I’ve been ill. I’ve clung on to the merry-go-round of madness and am barely alive because of it.

So, while I’m feeling relatively together, here’s my sane guide to living with mental illness. Bear in mind it’s from the perspective of “been there” rather than “been told”. Feel free to ignore everything, though!

1. In times when you feel better, don’t expect the unexpected.

If you’re like me, this is much easier said than done. I’m a born worrier. I worry about everything. When I click “Publish”, I’ll worry about that, too. Talking about myself all the time? How self-obsessed. And in my self obsessed way? I’ll worry about that. I worry about everything I say, everything I don’t say, and everything I don’t do, and everything I do.

So I find it hard not to worry about the next episode of illness.

I know it’s probably coming, so I find it difficult to enjoy not being mad for a change. Experience has taught me that these lulls in time are the calm before the storm. I’m a rapid-cycler, and pockets of sanity are brief for me.

But, this time, I’m trying to think, “Maybe this will last longer than a few weeks”. You never know. So don’t try to will your next psychotic breakdown or manic episode. Relax, if you can. Take your medication, try to be okay.

2. Keep taking your medication, even if you feel better.

Ah, this old chestnut.

I’ve only been treated for manic depression for the past year and a bit. But every time I’ve felt “alright” and decided to ditch my medication and miss appointments, I’ve become ill again, very, very quickly. It has nearly always resulted in a messy hypomanic or manic episode and has meant that my antipsychotic gets upped to deal with the “crisis”. Or, there are times I’ve quietly skipped my medications and lied about it and become suicidal.

Something I believe, and have emphasized a lot here, is that mental illness is partly biological.

Sure, nature can embellish it, but I strongly agree with the idea that there is a biological basis for most mental illnesses- almost certainly some forms of depression, manic depression, anxiety, schizoaffective disorder, addiction, schizophrenia (their symptomatic similarities to biological illnesses such as epilepsy only strengthens my conviction) and possibly personality disorders, eating disorders and DID.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that mental illnesses are “labels”. Cancer, diabetes, asthma, etc, aren’t labels, they’re illnesses. And so it mental illness. Once I got past that, I found it easier to write with conviction, without worrying about “labelling” myself. I have got manic depression. Whoop.

I’m not on the gravy train of the “medication is evil”. It doesn’t mean I like to take them, though. I hate taking my medications, I always will. I hate the ritual, I hate the weight gain, I hate the exhaustion. I can see the argument- especially in countries where you pay for healthcare, such as the USA, and where medications are advertised like sweets. But if you take something and it makes you feel better, well, I think that’s okay.

And I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is to continue taking medication for mental illness. On one hand, the side effects can be close to unbearable. I do entirely understand the stance that medication can numb you. But if I hadn’t been treated for manic depression- and medications are a huge part of that- I would most likely be dead.

So on the other hand, we come full circle to…

It’s not a cure. It’s to help you cope and live with your illness, to alleviate some of the more frightening and terrible symptoms that you are living with.

So when you feel better, don’t stop taking medication and don’t miss appointments, however tempting it might be. You might be feeling better due to sheer force of will, help from people, or maybe your illness just shifted somewhat, but, if you’ve been taking medications for a while, there is almost certainly something in them that is helping, too.

3. If it’s not working, say so.

Lithium made me physically sick and didn’t help at all with my illness. But because it was the “gold standard” for bipolar 1 disorder, I didn’t speak up, and quietly waited to feel better.

I never did and after the third or so bout of vomiting, shaking and passing out, I told the psychiatrist that I didn’t want to take it anymore.

Likewise, Seroquel helps me sleep, quells psychosis for the most part but it’s “antidepressant properties” are non-existent in my case and it turns me into a zombie. So I am being slowly switched to risperidone instead.

Of course, there may be times you can’t tell your medication or treatment in general isn’t working. So this one’s for those around you who know you- if you can, let someone know. I was manic for a while on Lithium and it was Rob who noticed I was, not me. Insight is an occasional companion sometimes.

4. Get support.

It can be isolating to live with mental illness. And not everything is as culture tells us it should be; lots of people don’t have close friends or family to rely on. And that isolates us further. Sometimes, family and friends don’t understand. Sometimes, you just don’t want to talk to them anyway.

There are support groups around the country that you can speak to and make friends at. The Manic Depressive Fellowship (now the much more PC Bipolar Organisation) holds regular local support groups, and The Support Line has some links and phone numbers for people with depression. Rethink also offer support groups for illnesses such as manic depression, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and personality disorders, amongst others.Other “service user” groups include The Perceptions Forum, run by mad people for mad people, centering around the psychosis experienced by people with psychotic illnesses.

There are also tons of online forums that exist to support people with mental illness. A great one is The Mood Garden, which has forums for depression, self harm, anxiety and panic and substance abuse.

There are other good forums and support groups for problems such as anxiety and eating disorders.

5. It’s good to talk. Therapy is important too, but if you’re not going private, bring a book.

I was diagnosed with manic depression over a year ago and I’m still not in therapy. Medications can be good, but I think therapy is just as important. Having someone to talk to, learning ways to cope with an illness that you might have forever and taking the strain from ear-bashed loved ones is valuable.

I am finally speaking to a therapist soon- about friggin’ time an’ all. As biological as mental illness might be, sometimes, treatment is complicated. For example, I can’t take antidepressants. It’s been done a few times, and each time has been the same- hello mania. Treatment, then, is needed to help me cope with depression. I also have, as you know, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and problems with eating disorders, that pills don’t really help.

And even if you have a tidy mentally interesting diagnosis, life still happens, and it’s hard. Quite aside from regularly lapsing into depression because of my illness, there are life-things I struggle to cope with.

And again, it’s a little-thought line that dealing with the diagnosis itself it very difficult indeed. I still have trouble accepting my illness, however lucid and sage I seem here. Like any life-long illness, coming to terms can be hard.

The fall-out from episodes of illness can often be extremely hard to cope with. The strain it can put on your relationships, jobs, physical well-being, finances and other areas can sometimes be the beginning of a downward spiral. (After bad episodes of illness, I hate myself and feel so guilty and worthless I want to top myself. But there are always people I can’t look in the eye, and I find it very difficult to speak to friends and to manage the practical aspects). Psychotic episodes, in my experience, can be the worst as it’s a side of you people may have never seen before, and may find very hard to understand. It is really good to talk these things through.

So, if you’re being treated, push for therapy. You might have to wait a while, though. If you have specific issues (or your loved ones do), such as bereavement, substance abuse and “youth” related problems, there are many free counselling services around that you won’t have to wait so long for, such as Cruse and the Mind Guide to Counselling.

Also, never forget that if you feel you have no-one to turn to, there are confidential counsellors available by phone and e-mail such as the Samaritans. It’s their job to listen, and they can really help in a crisis.MIND also offer free counselling.

6. Mentalist- know thy services.

It’s not inevitable that you’ll need to go into hospital in an acute episode of illness. Whereas sometimes it may be the only option (such as needing to be sectioned for your own safety, and the safety of others), hospitals can be extremely traumatic. They are boring, above all else, and the surroundings can leave a lot to be desired.

If you, your “team” and those around you think you may need somewhere safe to be for a while, there may be other options. For example, there are crisis centres. I am lucky to have (and to be visiting next week with the CPN) a women’s only crisis centre.But look up mental health services in your council directory and ask questions. There may be a crisis centre near you.

You can also enlist the help of a crisis team if you want to avoid admission to hospital. Most councils have a community mental health crisis team who can give you ongoing support and evaluation at home.

7. If you can’t work, get benefits advice and help claiming them. And get someone to keep an eye on your finances.

I have been too disorganised and unwell to even begin to sort out my benefits. My CPN played a huge part in helping me, as did Islington People’s Rights. Now I’m finally on Income Support, Housing Benefit and DLA.

If you’re able, find out what to claim and how, and try to get independant help and advice from local people’s rights services or from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. If you have family or friends, enlist their help in getting forms for you and helping you fill them out. There are also online services and resources such as the Advice Guide and Rethink.

When you have a mental illness such as manic depression, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, you might be, like I have been, impulsive and reckless with cash. When I’ve been working I’ve gone on many a manic spending spree and completely cocked up my finances. The “oh no” bank statement is not your friend, so, embarrassing as it might be, it can be a good idea to ask a friend or someone close to keep an eye on your spending for you.

8. If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Nice one.

Mental illness can equal terminal illness. It’s true that many people with mental illness will go on to commit suicide. Even with the best of care and support, it is not altogether unavoidable.

But being alive, day after day, is a victory. It’s not a failure, it’s not “being weak”. Whatever help you receive, it’s ultimately you who is responsible for yourself. So if you’re managing to continue living, no matter how horrible things get, even if in the past you’ve tried to commit suicide, you are alive and you should try to have some pride in your self.

Again, this is an “easier said than done” rule but I think it’s worth pointing out.That’s all from me for tonight- jesus, it’s a Saturday night. I’m going whip out the media player and turn on the lights so I can pretend I’m at a club or something.

I’ll be writing more trying-to-be-helpful things about living with mental illness in the future. Please feel free to suggest stuff.

Mental Illness and Mortality

Last night when my brain was car-crashing, I was reading about 10 articles per five minutes. One them was this about serious mental illness and mortality.

That was the article that triggered my panic attack. Here’s another:


 

Clinical & Research News

Death Data Have Researchers Searching for Answers Eve Bender

People with serious mental illness are dying at higher rates and at earlier ages than people in the general population who don’t have mental illness.

Metabolic dysfunction caused by some medications may play a role. People with serious mental illness in one sample of psychiatric inpatients had more than three times the rate of death of those in the general population without mental illness and died an average of 32 years earlier.

The leading causes of death among people in the sample, most of whom were diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, were heart disease, suicide, accidents, and cancer.

The findings call for increased screening and monitoring of patients with serious mental illness for medical comorbidities, according to the authors of the study, published in the October Psychiatric Services.

Researchers collected medical information on 20,018 patients hospitalized on at least one occasion at one of nine hospital sites associated with five behavioral health care organizations in Ohio’s public mental health system between 1998 and 2002.

They matched patients’ hospital records with death records from the Ohio Department of Health and identified 608 patients who died during the four-year period (hospital deaths were included in the sample).

The patients who died had been diagnosed with a number of mental disorders, including schizophrenia (134), schizoaffective disorder (128), alcohol abuse (101), bipolar disorder (87), alcohol dependence (85), major depressive disorder (80), cannibis abuse (59), other mixed or unspecified drug abuse (56), and cocaine abuse (35). The majority of patients in the sample died from heart disease (126), suicides (108), accidents (83), or cancer (44).

Researchers also measured years per life lost for those who died, which is a measure of premature death based on the current mean survival age for a cohort matched by age and gender in the general population. Patients with serious mental illness died an average of 32 years earlier than patients in the general population, according to the findings.

The average age of death for the people in the sample was 47.7 years. When researchers calculated the standard mortality ratio for patients in the sample who died, they found 3.2 times the rate of death as that of the general U.S. population.

The most prevalent comorbid medical conditions for patients in the sample who died included obesity (144), hypertension (136), diabetes (70), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (62), and injuries (39). Among the 126 patients who died of heart disease, leading comorbidities included hypertension, obesity, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and disorders of lipid metabolism.

Previous research has yielded similar results. For example, a report released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April said that patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder lose as much as 20 years off their average life expectancy compared withsimilar individuals in the general population without seriousmental illness and had elevated rates of heart disease (Psychiatric News, July 7).

At a 2004 meeting convened by the American Diabetes Association and attended by several APA members, the organization issued a consensus statement confirming the risk of metabolic changes associated with second-generation anti-psychotics and calling for careful monitoring of patients on these medications.

In the study of hospitalized patients with serious mental illness in Ohio, researchers could not draw conclusions about cause of death. They speculated, however, that underlying factors may have included medication-induced weight gain, poor personal hygiene, reduced physical activity, increased prevalence of smoking and substance use, and inadequate social support, according to C. Bayard Paschall III, Ph.D., chief of the Ohio Department of Mental Health’s Office of Performance Improvement.

“The question is how we tease some of these characteristics away” from others to be able to associate them with cause of death for patients with serious mental illness, Paschall told Psychiatric News.

Study findings indicate a need for closer collaboration between psychiatry and primary care, according to lead author Brian Miller, M.D., M.P.H., a PGY-2 psychiatry resident at the Medical College of Georgia. In ideal circumstances, patients with serious mental illness could walk from their psychiatrist’s office to an office across the hall to see a primary care physician “who might screen them for some of the comorbid medical conditions we observed in our study,” he said.

In addition, he suggested that psychiatrists and other physicians treating patients who take second-generation antipsychotics carefully monitor these patients for side effects associated with metabolic dysfunction and also write orders for tests of fasting blood glucose, lipid profiles, and liver and thyroid function. Miller and Paschall are conducting further research on some of the factors that may be contributing to excess death rates among people with serious mental illness.

 


 

I’m not sure what to draw from that as they don’t mention if the alcohol/drug abuse is co-morbid with mental illnesses. Still, it is sobering and frightening. Especially given just how low on the agenda mental illness is in Britain.

My dad died right on the money- aged 47.11 years.

The Kick Inside

Now, I’m 21 and not planning on getting pregnant anytime soon. Yet, since the day I began treatment, doctors have been protecting my phantom baby. A typical exchange in my psychiatric appointments follows this general structure:

Me, in a whiny voice: “I don’t want to take my Lith-iiiieee-ummmmmm, it makes me feel sick and I have put on tons of weight”. *sad face*


Doctor, in stern, teacherish voice: “If you don’t take your Lithium with your antidepressants then you will have to go to hospital again. And this time for much longer. Months. You will go sky high again”.

Sullen me: “I have already gone sky high even as I was taking Lithium”.

Doctor, exasperated: “Look, Lithium is the safest mood stabiliser for women of your age“.

By “my age” he means of “childbearing age”. Yet apparently Lithium should be avoided during pregnancy as it cause prenatal defects. Which begs the question- just how dangerous are other mood stabilisers to the unborn child?

The Valproate Family

Well, sodium valproate also carries a risk of foetal defects. Read the whole article on valproates, but this in particular is quite sobering:

Of 403 pregnancies in women taking antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), 87.8% resulted in a healthy live birth and 5.2% resulted in a live birth of a child with fetal malformations, ranging from neurologic to genitourinary to skeletal abnormalities. The remaining pregnancies ended in spontaneous abortion or premature death in utero.

The fetal malformation rate was significantly greater in pregnancies exposed to valproate in the first trimester, compared with those exposed to all other AEDs in the first trimester. (16.1% vs. 2.4%). Additionally, the incidence of fetal malformations was significantly higher in women taking valproate than in those taking no AEDs (16.1% vs. 3.1%).

The higher the dosage, the greater the risk according to Diana Mahoney. Reading around, statistics quoted are much the same.

Valproates and Lithium are the two most commonly prescribed true mood stabilisers used to treat Bipolar 1 in the UK.

Lamictal

Bipolar II is often treated using Lamictal. It’s also approved to treat Bipolar 1, but only when stable on other medications. As for Lamictal and pregnancy, there’s little information out there. Best I can find is this from the FDA, which says that babies born during Lamictal treatment are at higher risk of cleft palette.

So, the two “true” mood stabilisers are harmful when pregnant. Information surrounding Lamictal is shady. What can you take during pregnancy, then?


The Talk: The Doctor Will Always Discourage You Ever

Getting Pregnant

I had “The Talk” with my doctor regarding pregnancy. I have always wanted children, loving my little siblings like they were my own, in that freakish big sister way. However, I also have PCOS, meaning my periods come when the damn well want to, which reduces my chance of conceiving and heightens my chance of miscarriage.

When I told my psychiatric doctor this, he was almost relieved. “The Talk” considers the risks of pregnancy to the manic depressive woman.

I’ve been told that if I get pregnant, I can continue Lithium but need to know the risks. Problem is, Lithium is really not that effective for me. It only has a 40% success rate, and Lithium is the first line treatment for mania. So the 60% whose doctors won’t let them switch- where does that leave us?

I’ve also tried Tegretol and Zyprexa, both extremely unsuccessfully. So if I want to reduce the risk to my unborn child (note: not eliminate it), I have to continue taking the ineffective Lithium. Tegretol is also harmful to foetus’.

Another option aside from Lithium is taking an old-school antipsychotic like Haloperidol. Haloperidol is an extremely blunt tool when dealing with complicated mood episodes and carries risks such as tardive dyskinesia. See your neighbourhood schizophrenic who creeps you out because their tongue moves in their mouth like a blind worm? It’s likely they have tardive dyskinesia induced by old school antipsychotics.

Haloperidol and its cousin Thorazine are both pills I have taken and I wouldn’t trust myself on them in pregnancy.

So, that was one part of the talk.

I then got the lowdown on the risks of becoming pregnant. The National Alliance of Mental Illness articulates it pretty starkly:

Because bipolar disorder emerges during young adulthood and persists throughout the lifespan, women of childbearing age are at risk for this illness. Pregnancy and delivery can influence the symptoms of bipolar disorder: pregnant women or new mothers with bipolar disorder have a sevenfold higher risk of hospital admission and a twofold higher risk for a recurrent episode, compared with those who have not recently delivered a child or are not pregnant.

Basically- we might go absolutely nuts.


Tammy

I witnessed this first hand in hospital with a heavily pregnant bipolar woman called Tammy. Tammy was extremely violent and suffering from psychotic delusions. She believed her child was eating her from the inside and would call every day for the nurses to abort it. It was shocking to witness. She was being medicated with Haloperidol and various sedatives and would be quiet every few hours before the halls would rattle with her petrified shrieks.


Shite

Thing is, I have to listen as I know I have a history of psychotic mania and psychotic depression. So it frightens me to know that that most happy of events- carrying a baby- might make me so ill that I could hurt myself or my child.

The doctor was gentle with this information. He’s blunt like that. He wasn’t mean. He was nice but a matter of fact.

I had always feared post-natal depression but I know that in my depressions, save for the bleakest I have experienced, I can always be reached. Some anchor is dropped, some voice is faraway above the well’s mouth, but I can hear it. It’s a whisper, but I can hear it.

Psychosis is not the same. Psychosis is unreachable, unreal, uninhabitable and unimaginable for anyone other than the person locked inside it.

It horrifies me that I might become psychotic while pregnant. That all us manic depressive ladies out there might fear the thing inside them. Or adore it, too much.

If that wasn’t enough to put me off…

Manic depression is hereditary

Mental illness giveth, mental illness taketh away…

While I can see some valuable things I have gained from being a Mentally Interesting Girl diagnosed young-ish, that isn’t something I’d ever want to pass on.

I do have some insight into things I would never have even thought about otherwise. Things like psychosis, mania, depression, suicide and oh, positive things too. Like how people endure and carry on. And how they recognise- by and large- that mental illness sucks, it could be worse. Granted, I only had this sort of self-awareness very recently, but those clear times are quite valuable. My illness is now a part of me. Not the whole of me, but it’s part of my identity because it affects everything at the core of who I am- my moods, my emotions, my energy, my creative abilities.

But, that said, I would never want to pass it on. Manic depression is hereditary. And as well as giving me some insights, it’s taken me on hell-rides, severely truncated what I’m likely to achieve in life and removed a modicum of control from my moods and emotions, on who I could have been.

What we have to ask ourselves then, when we think of getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant- do we want to pass this on?


Crap Poetry Aged 15

When I was 15, I wrote a really shit poem called, “The Heirloom In my Family Is Mental Illness”. Oh woe! I hear you cry. While the rest of the poem was as teenage wankish as you could get, the title did hold truth.

Mental illness runs in my family. There is a vein coursing through us, from my great-grandmother, to her daughter, to my mother, to me. Sadly, it runs thus on the other side too, but that side bred alcoholism, which eventually stole my father from me.

Mental illness can come from nowhere and it can be caused by traumatic life events. But of all the psychiatric illnesses, bipolar disorder seems to have the strongest genetic link.


Sigh

So, I had that merry onslaught chucked at me when my pregnancy questions peeked above the parapet.

Becoming pregnant when you’re manic depressive is tough. It’s not impossible, though. Pregnancy is tough to deal with whatever the circumstances. It’s just that much harder when you suffer from a mental illness. And if we were all afraid of passing on the “faulty gene”, we wouldn’t be here, us Mentally Interesting folks, and that would be a loss.

I’m going to take the advice of Generic Wise Man and wait and see. You never know.

It’s scarcely worth a doo-wop and Do You Smoke?

Greetings from a bed and breakfast in Belfast.  It is very odd yet kind of cool to be in a B and B in my home town.  I guess it says a lot about my relationship with the place.I deleted my last entry as it was far too personal for a blog such as this.  It made me somewhat uncomfortable reading it, nevermind anyone else.  It’s neither your concern nor business if it doesn’t involve the subjects I created this blog for.  Trouble is, subjects such as these are all-encompassing.  The gist was:

Nice to be home, for a change

My relationship with my home town is fraught.  A lot of bad things have happened to me in Belfast, a lot of people are gone now, I had no wish to live with ghosts.  At least since my diagnosis I have understood that I wasn’t a bad person, wasn’t deserving of some of the shit that was thrown at me.So our relationship is more tender now.  I am feeling far more gracious towards the city and its skelatons.  On almost every mission home I have attended wakes, funerals, bedsides, ghosts and this time I am here for no reason.  It’s so lovely.  Last night I sat on the damp steps of a fire escape and looked at the stars.

Yeah, yeah.

Oh, I know you retched at the last sentence but up yours.  Sentimentality is the one thing I didn’t have when looking at the past and now it feels a little more within my grasp.  So to be mawkish and embarassing about it all is happy to me.  I always have such horrible stories to tell.  It is nice to remember the happy ones at last. 

My feet are frozened on hardwood floor.  The room I am in is palacial, it’s ridiculous.  Yet it’s a cheapo B&B for breadliners like ourselves. We stayed here last year when my dad died.  Rob slept while we attended the wake and found a rat in the cupboard.  I daren’t mention this, but when they give me a measly portion of scrambled egg tomorrow morning for breakfast, I might mention it.  Play my trump card and receive an extra slice of toast.

Seroquel strikes again

Seroquel has now ruined two days out of seven for me.  On Saturday it blitzed my chances of becoming a moderately paid extra in a music video and today it obliterated any hope I had of waking up before the sun sneaked behind the clouds.  I did make it for 9am, but then felt absolutely bizarre.  Horrible dissociation (“Are those my hands?” “Is this chair solid?”) and dizziness.  I bravely sucked a shaking cigarette before passing out again until the afternoon. 

Bundle of fun me, I tells you.

A rumination

I am legendarily nosey and have a question. 

As well as often having substance abuse problems, it’s been said that a large number of people suffering from mental illness smoke.

I smoke 20 or so a day. The number of cigarettes I smoke doubled when I was in the mental hospital and now my habit is more severe. I don’t like smoking but am hopelessly addicted and I am also rather furtive with my hands so it keeps them busy.

Do you smoke? Do you ever think about why you do? Whether you suffer from a mental illness or not, vote in the poll and let me know.

I have tried to post a poll here four times but WordPress ain’t having it.  You can vote by clicking this link.  Yes, this link.

Because most of my family smoke, I always assumed it was the done thing. I was shocked when I moved to London. People found it repulsive and socially unacceptable. Not all people, of course, but no-one has ever barked at me to stub it out anywhere else.

Kisses

Today is Valentine’s day so go out and tell that mysterious passerby you love them.  When you find out they’re you’re erotomanic stalker, don’t blame me.

Belly’s gonna get ya

Ooh. Now I have this new toy, I will probably write in it tediously often.

A common complaint from people taking medication for manic depression is the weight gain. I’m on three “Gainer” medications and, for a while, I outran the extra pounds that were chasing me.

In the past month, I’ve been caught. And pizza has been smeared all over my face.

When I was admitted to hospital in October, I was the lightest I had been in years. Pure manic energy had shaken the meat from my bones. I forgot to eat, forgot to sleep and blubber fizzled away.

Since then, I have gained a grand total of 21lbs. That’s one stone and 7lbs of weight.

I started taken Paroxetine in January. I suspect Paroxetine may be the culprit. It’s an SSRI and, as Crazy Meds lovingly informs us, its side effects are:

The usual for SSRIs – headache, nausea, dry mouth, sweating, sleepiness or insomnia, and diarrhea or constipation, weight gain, loss of libido. Everyone I’ve read on the subject of how long side effects last (Dr. Stephen Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology: The Prescriber’s Guide, Dr. Diamond’s Instant Psychopharmacology, Dr. Drummond’s The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs , Preston et al.’s Consumer’s Guide To Psychiatric Drugs) agrees that everything but the weight gain and loss of libido usually goes away within a couple of weeks. Paxil is notorious for having the worst impact on your libido of all SSRIs.

Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it.

It’s been since January that I have gained a ton of weight. Christmas didn’t add a pound to my frame and I came home from Belfast feeling especially smug as people struggled with their belts and picked their teeth with turkey bones.

My smugness has dissolved. I also have PCOS which makes it difficult for me to lose weight in the first place, due to insulin resistance. The most successful weight loss plan I ever followed was The Atkins Diet. It works on people with PCOS as it has a low-carb, no-sugar philosophy.

However, because I now take Lithium, I can’t follow the Atkins diet as I may get kidney failure. Lithium hits your kidneys hard, as does the Atkins Diet.

So, what to do? Technically, I should be exercising my arse off. But you have no idea how hard that is when you take Seroquel. I feel drugged all day. The mists don’t begin to disperse until I’m taking my next dose.

I could go on a diet, but nothing works for me but Atkins. I’ve been eating a lot less recently, but actually gained 4lbs instead of losing them.

I could resort to my old, dear friend, Bulimia. I suffered from bulimia for seven years. It’s only been fairly recently I have got a handle on it. I had a big scare when I choked, went unconscious on the bathroom floor and came to with blood streaming down my nose. It’s fear, rather than sense, that is stifling my vanity.

For the time being, I am trying to be reasonable. It’s more important for me to be stable and used to my medication than it is for me to be thin. And when I feel better, I will start exercising again and hopefully lose weight. I am not dangerously overweight by any means. It’s vanity more than health that makes me sad when I feel the spare tyre around my waist.

I will maintain a sensible outlook for now. It is so very tempting to flush all the medication down the toilet and live like a “Normal Person”. However, I know the consequences of my being untreated. My choices are be fat or be dead.

I’m going to congratulate myself for my logic by ordering a pizza.

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