I’m hoping this post will be therapeutic, cathartic. I won’t be crafting, or even editing, it much because I just need to get it out. I’ve tried to say bits and pieces of this to friends, and to my partner but I am scared to voice the thoughts that appear to be intruding on my consciousness more and more often.
On paper, things are good right now. I’m not really in remission, but I’m better than I have been. Some wonderful things happened to me during 2013, from having the opportunity to influence MPs’ views of the Work Capability Assessment to winning a Mind Media Award; from completing the fourth draft of my book to sending it out to test readers; from speaking about suicide on Sky News to discussing bipolar parenting on BBC Woman’s Hour. There are lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon for this new year off the back of everything I’ve achieved over the past 12 months.
But I don’t feel excited. I don’t feel hopeful. I feel defeated, that I can’t see the point of any of it. In my younger days episodes lasted between six months and a year; I have now been battling on a daily basis with active bipolar symptoms since around June 2010, despite taking lithium and ever increasing doses of antipsychotic. Sometimes I feel that this is OK, that I can make a life for myself despite not being in clear remission. Over the past few weeks I feel differently, that I just cannot go on week after week, month after month, year after a year. As I said in my last post, I am tired.
I remember at some point – I think it was early last year – having an argument with a friend (who will no doubt recognise herself if she reads this) because she felt that she had come to the end of what she could endure and had made what seemed to her as a very logical, dispassionate decision to take her own life. She was not aware of feeling depressed; she felt that she was quite in her right mind. I saw things differently. My view was that she would not experience that train of thought if she were not depressed. I haven’t mentioned my feelings to her, but right now I think exactly the same way. If this is my life, I don’t feel I want it.
I don’t want to have struggle continually toward remission, knowing that even I achieve it, I will relapse again – maybe not for several years if I am incredibly lucky (my last remission was eight years long) – but I will relapse. It will always be a waiting game. I have also written recently about how much I fear growing old with bipolar. This has been exacerbated by hearing how a friend of a friend who was open with her care home about her bipolar has nevertheless been evicted following an acute episode requiring admission.
When my lovely partner talks to me about the future, about what we will do later in life, when the kids are all grown and we are retired, I feel guilty. I love him intensely, but I don’t know if I can manage to stick around until then. Even when we do something that makes me happy – lying, for example, in a spa tepidarium last week, glowing from the steam room and utterly physically relaxed – I feel that this is good as it is going to get now, that everything from here will be downhill. On stronger days I promise myself that I will stick this life out until the children are older. In ten years, they will be adults, and I will not quite yet be an “older person.” On more painful days, I don’t know that I can stick it out. I am back to feeling resentful that those who look ahead to their life with profound physical disability and be seen to be in their right mind in choosing to fly to Dignitas. There is no Dignitas that will take me, despite the evidence about poor life outcomes and expectancy for people with severe mental illness.
I don’t have a plan. Nobody need dispatch emergency services to break down my door. My partner is here with me and I promise that if I begin actively planning, I will tell him.
I just needed to say the unsayable.