Bipolar Unplugged: Friday 31st December 2010

This is a journal entry I wrote at the end of 2010 during a mixed episode. I had a much better New Years this year – in fact, the best and most stable I have had since 2007 – but I will get to that.

400mg Quetiapine (I hadn’t started the withdrawal at this point)

New Years Eve and I am alone, on a bus, going home. How many 23 year olds have a mental breakdown on a summer holiday?

I had my reservations about going, and although I gave it a try, it turns out I simply cannot do what others do.

Two nights in, and I am going home. Without The Olympian. I left him there. God, I felt so awful leaving him. He will be fine, he will have fun but I felt shame for having to go and for not being able to explain. I tried to explain and maybe he understood. I don’t really know.

My mood plummeted after the first night there. Or maybe it was already low. The first night I had a little bit to drink and stayed up until 12. That wasn’t so bad. The Olympian and I went to bed and at 5am he got up to go fishing. I slept until 9.

Later, on the way down to the beach I mentioned to The Olympian that I wasn’t happy about the fact he hadn’t worn a lifejacket in the boat. We had an argument about it and I snapped at him, telling him “fuck off then, asshole”. I wish I could take that back. It was a total overreaction. It’s a sign I am unwell when I snap at him.

I went back to the bach, he went down to the beach. Luckily, he couldn’t find the others and came back. I’d had a shower and was crying. We made up, somehow, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach.

That night, there was drinking going on again, and I had a little to drink but was very tired so I went to bed around 11:30pm. It wasn’t so bad to start, when I put in my earplugs I could barely hear anything. But as I waited for the Quetiapine to kick in, the noise became louder, and louder, and louder.

Over the next three hours they became so loud that the earplugs were useless and I was lying in bed sedated, hard balls of wax in my ears, uncomfortable, and my heart beating so loud and so fast I honestly thought I might have a heart attack. That’s that thing I told you about a while back, where my chest shakes (literally), and my heart is so loud I can hear it. Frightening enough without having earplugs in, which, as you probably know, make internal body noises sound louder. So I lay there, for four hours, my heart beating like crazy, the others partying like crazy, and me, stuck in between it all.

Around 2am, the music had been turned up as loud as it would go, they (they being about eight people) were singing and stomping around the entire house. They then came into my room and jumped on me in bed. Sometime after this, they went to bed themselves (probably because I went nuts at them), and I passed out.

I was then woken up around 10am by the music which was turned on almost as loud as it had been the night before. I spent the whole morning crying in my room on the phone with my Mum. We went over and over the same questions, the same concerns and the same conclusions. Worrying about money, and tickets, and buses, and what people would think. I decided to stay.

Half an hour later, lying on the beach, tears streaming down my face, uncontrollable and only partially concealed by my sunglasses, I phoned my Mum again to re-discuss the situation. My mind too confused and too sick to make sense of anything. “Would you feel better if you stayed, or if you went?” she asked me.

So here I am. On the bus, going home. Alone.

It’s hard to explain what happened but I guess it’s a matter of brain chemistry. The Quetiapine stops me from becoming manic (or even hypomanic it seems) but I am more than capable of being depressed, and of having mixed moods.

I don’t know if I can call this depression. It’s not normal depression for me. I haven’t had much appetite and although I was kept awake for hours last night, I didn’t feel deathly tired today, I felt awake, but emotional. I felt confused, and anxious and unable to understand what was going on.

I’m in a strange state. Time does not exist here. I’m sitting on this bus and I couldn’t care less about how long I’ve been on it, or how much longer I have to be. I could spend the rest of my life on this bus, and it would mean nothing to me. I am just here, just being, just relieved of the pressure that was building. Relieved from the explosion and the expulsion and my exit.

My writing is stilted because my mind is heavy. I am not quick thinking, I am not thinking much at all. At least, it doesn’t feel like I am. It hurts to think. A dull ache at the front of my head, slowing me down. The effort of this is too much for me. I almost didn’t write at all because I couldn’t bear the thought of moving my hands.

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4 Years of Christmas: This year, I just want to be me.

275mg (and staying there, for now)

It’s a slippery slope, when I begin waking up at 6am.

It’s what I wanted to do all winter, but struggled to, because even though I wasn’t depressed (mostly), I simply function like an 80 year old woman in the winter time.

6am is good – at first. It’s productive and I find I have more of a day. But as summer heightens, and 6am slips backward, to 5:45, then 5:30 and then 5, and it takes me longer to get to sleep and I wake several times through the night, that is when I find I have a problem.

It might be different this year. This year, I might sail through Christmas and New Year with nothing more than a normal level of excitement and fun. I might sleep 7-8 hours per night of unbroken and satisfying sleep. I might be happy and relaxed, with no signs of anxiety or paranoia in sight. I can only hope – and keep doing what I am doing.

But it’s a little hard to argue with the facts. Past occurrences are often the best predictor of future ones, and the last decade of experience, and particularly the last four years   suggest that it might not be all smooth sailing…

2007

Christmas time was the beginning of my major breakdown, as I like to call it. Actually. That’s not entirely true. November brought with it hypomania and that carried on into Christmas. I was abrasive and blunt, enjoying the sound of my own voice and completely and utterly bored by the conversation of anyone who was, well, not me. Interrupted, I was irritable. Questioned, I was irritable. Disagreed with, even more irritable. All I wanted was action, excitement, loud music, lots of drugs, lots of alcohol and incredibly sexy men to seduce. With those goals in mind, I had the best New Year of my life, not ending my partying until 11am the next day. Phew!

I thought at the time my escapes were indicative of a fantastic year ahead. Instead I became completely manic, cycled rapidly between mania and mixed moods, suffered delusions, the odd hallucination, engaged in a ridiculous amount of sex and failed at university.

2008

Christmas time I was mixed. I was abusive and angry, vicious and vindictive. If anyone ever had the right to call me a super-bitch, then this is the time I deserved it. So volatile, I picked a fight with everyone, including my best friend who I belittled for an insane amount of time for having a bruise on her arm – I have no recollection of this. I got drunk, told everyone they bored the hell out of me and rode my horse feverishly around the countryside to get my adrenalin fix (with my very loyal mother trapsing along behind me to make sure I didn’t hurt myself).

December 31st 2008 at 12am I cried when I watched the fireworks. I cried because my year had been the worst in my life. I cried for all that had been, all the confusion, the loss, and the pain. As if somehow this arbitrary marker of time signalled an end to the cycling of my moods.

2009

Mixed. This time I was fraught with anxiety, completely paranoid, and I was having nightmares within nightmares. Every night I spent apart from The Olympian I would dream of something horrific. Maybe a ghost, or someone murdering me, or some sort of monster. I would wake in my bed thinking I was safe. And then out of nowhere, whatever terrifying entity was after me would materialise and attack me again. The cycle repeated, with my breathing louder and louder trying to wake myself up because I was literally paralyzed. When I finally woke up for real, I thought I was still asleep. Horrible.

New Year I fought with my boyfriend and stayed up until 8am crying.

2010

Christmas was okay, but I got too drunk too often.

New Year I developed a mixed mood (I blame the drinking), and a viral infection when I was on holiday with a large number of people I didn’t know very well. On New Years Eve I had The Olympian tell everyone I was sick, and I put myself on a bus and went home. I was asleep when the New Year rolled in, and I didn’t mind.

This Year?

This year has by far been the best for me. I have not had a major episode of illness. Those I have had have been mild and/or short-lived. A week or so here and there of mild hypomania or depression is okay by me. It beats the rapid cycling and disruptive moods of the past four years.  It beats the long drawn out depressions and hard-to-reconcile “highs” of over a decade. I keep saying to myself:

“You’ve come this far”

“You made it through!”

“The less episodes you have, the less likely you will have more

I tell myself these things, and I want to believe them….

But I can feel it in the pit of my stomach; that tingle of excitement, anticipation and destruction; that lump in my throat. My mind is moving too, and it won’t slow down. It’s not racing, but it’s thinking, constantly thinking, and it just won’t stop.

It’s hard for me to believe that I will get through The Peak (December 31st) without even a glimmer of hypomania. I’d be so lucky. I’m much more likely to suffer a mixed mood.

I’m one for being positive, really I am, but how do I trust that everything will be okay when for the whole part of my life that I can remember, it just hasn’t been?

I’m scared.

So, Santa, if you are reading this: This year for Christmas, I just want to be me.