[TW: suicidal thoughts]

I found the early part of this year terrifying. During 2013 I had begun to feel that I had at least some level control over my mood state by using meds (tweaking the dose of my antipsychotic and/or adding in some diazepam) and self-management techniques (applying a structured intervention to take the heat out of developing highs). Switching from being mildly high most of the time to being deeply, deeply depressed was an unforeseen shock. Emerging from this into the most rapid cycling of my life was similarly unforeseen, as was its eventual resolution back into soul-destroying, death-seeking depression. I had no real idea of what was going on other than feeling that my life was, as I told my consultant, “untenable”. I was transformed from a person who had a high degree of confidence in her ability to self-manage to somebody who had no idea why her moods were behaving they were, nor a clue as to how to deal with them.

Then my mood lifted, again without warning, again with no apparent cause. I have hardly dared believe my luck as week after week has passed with my mood set to normal. With a little distance, I have begun to look back at what happened to me between Christmas and mid-April and it appalls me. I have been experiencing bipolar symptoms since early adolescence and have had my share of desperate depressions. But the depression and the rapid cycling of early 2014 were possibly the worst period I have ever endured. I can hardly bear to think back to that emotional pain that had me doubled over the kitchen counter or to the rapid cycling. It felt as if my bipolar were toying with me, holding me down, then batting me back and forth for fun.

Those weeks of my life were so awful that I believe I have been in some sense traumatised by them. Not by my treatment, nor by my behaviour, but by the unexpected intensity and depth of the pain I went through. Merely thinking about it, about the anguish, about how desperately I wanted to die, generates panic. I don’t want to go there again, not even in memory. Even my release from depression was scary in its own way; if I have no idea what made it go, how will I know what might make it come back? The lack of warning, the lack of control, makes me feel like a piece of flotsam, carried along and dashed against the rocks at apparently random junctures.

And so when yesterday my mood dropped – very suddenly, around lunchtime, after a lovely Saturday and a pleasant Sunday morning – I got scared. Scared that it was happening again, that my bipolar was picking me up yet again, for its own amusement. I was scared again this morning, when I woke up and felt low from the outset, again for no discernible cause. By lunchtime, I was feeling mild, but definite, elation. Between 12pm and 5pm I shopped for a special dinner, made a cheesecake and accompanying coulis, did two lots of washing up, cleaned the bathroom, hoovered the flat and cleaned the kitchen. “Oh dear,” said Tom, comparing this burst of energy with my usual aversion to housework, usually a dead give away for hypomania. Yes. Oh dear.

I expect this is just a “blip”. That’s what my friends all tell me, what I keep telling myself. There could be reasons for slight instability: my routine’s been out due to half-term; I have taken Max for his CAMHS assessment; I have possibly crammed a bit too much the past five days or so. But in many ways recent weeks have been less stressful than, say, a month ago, when I felt perfectly stable. There is just no logic to it. I have no way of knowing whether I am getting really ill again, whether I am going to be dashed back against those rocks. Any sense that I could ever try to control this disease, that I could influence its course, now seems like ridiculous hubris. I am nothing but flotsam.

About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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8 Responses to Flotsam

  1. Dear Charlotte,

    I’ve been following every single twist-and-turn of your health situation since mid-March when I received my bipolar diagnosis, and your blog was recommended to me by my psychiatrist.
    I felt deeply saddened by the desperation of your rapid cycling and subsequent suicidal thoughts (I’ve passed “Ten Things NOT to Say to a Suicidal Person” to many a friend, as it also gave the very helpful links to your previous “Ten Things Posts”); on-my-high-horse for you when a certain person was being so relentlessly personal and vindictive towards you; concerned with you about your son, whilst knowing that he is so fortunate to have you as his Mother; and so elated and overjoyed on your behalf when you had your happiness & sparkle back.

    I have never commented though, as the “public open domain” isn’t an arena I’ve ventured much into before, ever. Until just now…

    Having read “Flotsam” just now, I want you to know I’m thinking of you with warm, kind thoughts and that I’m sending huge hugs and good vibes your way.

    • I appreciate you commenting so much, because I know you don’t “do” open discussion spaces. I won’t say too much more as by now you know just how pleased I am if I was able to help you through my blog. Hugs and good vibes back atcha 🙂 x

  2. Deborah says:

    Wow Charlotte I commend you for your amazing accomplishments! and how much you have contributed towards the benefit of our planet by sharing your experiences to help others understand issues surrounding mental health. You are an inspiration to others, thank you!

  3. csh says:

    Hi Charlotte

    I am sorry to hear you are feeling so much out of the ‘driver’s seat’. It’s like always having to be on guard and self-analysing all the time. I do it too. If my mood dips I freak out and expect the worst. I’m always in fear of having another crisis, even when I feel well. This constant state of emotional ‘alertness’ is exhausting and means I never feel like I am disease-free. I can never forget what I carry around with me like a weight around my neck.

    I haven’t exactly found anything that works to counter these feelings. The only thing I keep going back to is that no day is ever exactly the same as one that has passed. Or something.

  4. cass says:

    I can completely relate to this! I have been following your blog for a while as I suffer from an invisible illness that brings on bouts of depression. I will keep following and lots of love to you xx

  5. Maddy Stutz says:

    I totally understand what you are going through. I had a VERY intense rapid-cycling episode the summer of 2012. I was undiagnosed at the time, so I didn’t know what was going on. I think it’s powerful that you recognize that something is wrong. That is the first step that needs to be taken to over come this disorder! I hope you are okay!

  6. Like the commenters before me, I can relate so well to the feeling of fear – that your mood will shift again, that you’ll find yourself at the top of the slippery slope – again. Some days I am so tired of being afraid.

    I don’t have any magic solutions either… but I’m trying to learn to take one day at a time. It’s so hard because I’m all about the long view, but I realize that I can never feel secure with a long view of my depression. Not that I won’t ever get to a point where I’m managing it better, but…I’ll never be able to look around me and say, “Whew! Glad that’s all done! Now on to living!” It will always be with me. So I can only think of how it’s with me today, and not be paralyzed by how it will be with me tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

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