I’m not tremendously good at admitting when I’m wrong – indeed, my partner would be overwhelmed with amusement at the suggestion I do it at all. But I’m admitting it now: I was wrong, dead wrong, about being in recovery.
For some time now I have believed that I am getting slowly better, while remaining symptomatic, that the symptoms were becoming and would remain with manageable range. Obviously, I would prefer to be symptom free and in remission but I decided some time ago that this wasn’t was realistic, given that I’ve now lived in one abnormal mood state or another now since spring 2010. I also believed I had reached a point whereby I could earn a living despite/within continued fluctuations, that I knew enough about the pattern of my illness to largely manage things myself as long as I kept taking the meds. And so last spring I rejected the offer of further medication to iron out the remaining symptoms, fearing yet more side effects, and agreed to be discharged, confident I could take it from there.
Only that’s not quite how it worked out. Not long after discharge I had my worst ever experience of paranoia, necessitating urgent re-referral and discussion of possible admission. Then a couple of months ago I began to notice depressive thoughts creeping in. These grew and grew; as I write I am lower than I have been since April 2011. The turn of another year, the realisation that I am now entering my 5th year of this ongoing mega episode, has definitely added to my distress and I no longer feel that I am capable of managing things myself.
My confidence in my ability to work, even as a part time freelancer, has also taken a big knock. The idea of a freelance “portfolio career” was that I could work around any fluctuations. As long as I only worked two or three days a week and took care to recuperate afterwards, I thought I would be fine. Undertaking the first three of the seven days training to become a Mental Health First Aid instructor has forced me to accept that’s just not true. The training itself, the early starts on antipsychotics and the commute into central London left me feeling broken and have pushed me close to crisis. In addition, I was forced to face just how many of areas we covered (depression, anxiety, panic attacks, binge eating, mania, delusions) continue to dominate my life.
I haven’t contacted crisis services because I already have a scheduled appointment with my own psychiatrist next week, and I would far rather see someone who knows me. Thankfully my partner has been taking excellent care of me in the interim and will be coming with me to the appointment. Thinking ahead to the appointment I have gained a little relief just from admitting that I was wrong. I can’t do this, can’t carry on and on switching from one mood state to the next, without a break, without euthymia, on and on indefinitely. Many friends have tried to help by urging me to remember that this depressed period of my life will pass. They misunderstand. I am fully cognisant of the fact this depression won’t be with me forever, but that’s actually part of the problem. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it will be replaced with wellness. The ongoing fluctuation between types of hypomania (whether elated, panicky or irritable) and the constant threat of impending depression, dysphoric mania or paranoid beliefs is the actual problem. This depression is just one manifestation of a much more multifaceted problem, so I’m afraid the knowledge that it will go away is little comfort. There are frying pans about, and there are fires.
And so what I will be saying to my Consultant is: I can’t do this. I thought I could, but I was wrong, because I can’t. I cannot go on and on like this after all, I cannot work after all, I cannot parent effectively after all (I have reached a point where I can no longer hide my acute distress at home) and I am deluged by thoughts of taking myself out of the equation. So something has to give, has to change, because right now I see no hope for my future. I am desperately hoping he has some suggestions but I’m slightly terrified as to what I’ll do if he doesn’t.
Watch this space, I guess.