I’ve been quieter about my mental health lately. I’ve certainly blogged less, and I think I’ve been less honest about my feelings on Twitter, reluctant to open up about what’s happening for me. Scared to jinx it, I suppose. Scared that if I say it “aloud” in print, things might change.
Scared to say that I am HAPPY.
2014 year started badly. First depression crept up on me, took me over. Then I went through weeks of unbearable rapid cycling (not helped by the fact that Home Treatment Team doctor refused to believe in my experience) only to settle back into deep despair. At the start of April I was starting to feel panicky and guilty about being unable to enjoy anything, unable to look forward to anything. I could not contemplate the planned day trip for my partner’s birthday with any anticipation. I could not imagine enjoying my our carefully arranged (and very expensive) celebratory mini break for my 40th birthday. And all the time I was thinking about taking my own life, what the best method might be, the best time.
But one day in mid-April I sat down next to Tom on a bench in the sunshine. I had grown used to this kind of experience leading to bitterness and frustration at being unable to enjoy what ought to be a simple pleasure. That day was different. As I sat, sun-warmed and eyes closed, something inside me dissolved. It happened in an instant. It was as if someone had surveyed the knot in my chest, found two loose ends and simply pulled, sending the whole mass tumbling free. The next day I awoke and remembered that my stepdaughter would be joining us for dinner, that I would be cooking something special, and caught myself in the act of looking forward to it. It felt like huge deal. It had been such a very long time since I had been able to look forward to anything.
That was five weeks ago. We went on the birthday trip and I enjoyed every moment. There were a couple of nights when my sleep was disrupted and I feared I might be becoming hypomanic, but after using diazepam once or twice things settled. And since that point I have, as far as I can discern, been completely asymptomatic.
What the past month has underlined for me is that when the HTT Consultant questioned my understanding of my own situation, I was completely right to trust my inner knowledge. He believed me to be mixing up brief glimpses of euthymia with short periods of hypomania. Yet what I am experiencing now has an entirely different quality to the sporadic bursts of elation I experienced during rapid cycling. Depressed, I am less “me”, less able to participate in life, less able to think, less able to experience pleasure. Even if mildly hypo, I am more “me”. Positive character traits such as optimism, extraversion, creativity are enhanced, but so are my less desirable qualities such as irritability, grandiosity, superciliousness. Now, euthymic, I am just me. The real me. A more relaxed me, that is not tugged about by emotions, not constantly on guard for my next mood fluctuation. A person who can just get on with the business of living without despondent, without being ecstatic, just uncomplicatedly happy most of the time.
It’s still very new, and it feels very delicate. I haven’t wanted to make a song and dance about it in case it doesn’t stick around. I shy away from using words like recovery or remission. But I can’t help comparing the person I am now with person I was earlier this year. Tom is currently in States; it’s his younger daughter’s graduation. Two months ago we were worrying how I would cope, whether we would have to find a friend to keep me safe while he was away. Two months ago I was terrified of the idea having to manage my son’s mental health difficulties alongside my own. Two months ago distressing news stories – kidnapped schoolgirls, the horrific, ironic arrest of a group young Iranians for dancing on video to Happy – would have fed into my belief that the world was a terrible place I could no longer bear to inhabit. I still care about things. I still cry at news stories. I still miss Tom. It still hurts when my son suffers. But I now have a far greater reserve of resilience. I can cope with stuff.
Maybe this is just a brief period of respite, a quick breather before my moods go haywire again. I’ve no way of knowing, particularly as I have no sense at all of why the change occurred when it did. But this is the longest period of normal mood I have had since around this time 2010, so I’m incredibly grateful for every happy day of it.