So much has happened to me since I last wrote a personal post that I find it difficult to link this one to the one before. Filling you in by writing it down now will diminish how very terrible things were, but here is the essence of it.
I had a suicide plan that was extremely developed. I had covered every base that I could think of to prevent being discovered until it was too late. I obtained the materials I needed. I set a date. I did not say a word to Tom. I was operating on that sneaky, kind of dissociated level. I did not directly lie to him, because he did not ask whether I was suicidal, but I did lie to him, many times over, by omission. He walked past what was essentially a suicide kit, because I had hidden it in plain view. It was a bit like the bag you’re advised to pack in late pregnancy; everything you need to just pick up and go when the time comes.
Not long before That Date I had a conversation with a wise friend. She was concerned that the dissociated part of me was sleepwalking into a suicide attempt. She reminded me that I might not die and might end up in intensive care. She also reminded me that I might be discovered before that, and that then hospital would become compulsory rather than an option on the table.
So I forced myself to tell. I told Dr X, and he got me quickly back under Home Treatment Team. I told Tom, and he came with me to the first HTT appointment. He explained to the team that he was shocked. He had had not had the slightest inkling of what I was planning, because of the high level of what Dr HTT rightly described as my “deviousness”. It forced us to realise that the idea that Tom could take leave and keep me safe was fantasy. It was sweet, the belief that he could be my protector, and it makes me sad to let go of it, but it is not realistic. So I gave the whole lot of it over. The planning to HTT. The means to Tom.
My lamotrigine was put up, and put up again. Then suddenly I found myself hypomanic, really quite hypomanic, and in an elated way. Everything seemed to fall into place. I deserved this hypomania after such a horrific few weeks and to be honest, I didn’t care if it was risky. I didn’t care if it turned nasty later, I just wanted more of it. All kinds of things amazed me. I lay in bed after the light was turned out and looked into what felt like the infinite darkness and felt pulses of euphoria. Music felt like a drug. People in shops and on the streets seemed incredibly congenial. The proportion of attractive people on the tube seemed to have increased. I danced my way around the flat. I sang and sang until I genuinely damaged my vocal chords, and still I had difficulty not singing on public transport.
I was bubbling over with thoughts. I pitched writing ideas. I had just starting using a colouring book for grownups and was inspired. I suggested some online friends all coloured the same image, just to see the variety and diversity of our interpretations. This became the project #ColourTogether and more and more people asked to be involved. Then I wanted to set up a charitable foundation to get colouring books into inpatient units. I started a crusade against Facebook’s suicide report button. I also felt pulled towards certain things. I almost offered to by a lady’s purple sparkly hat on the bus. Every time I was in my local town centre I felt pulled by the thought of going to the rum bar, which was offering two-for-one cocktails, and could not shake the thought. I frittered away a chunk of the only money I have this month on God knows what.
My brain got faster. Things began to become a little out of kilter. I started to have a fear of banana skins. Not a fear of slipping on one, like a character from the Beano, but a fear of what the represented, although I wasn’t sure what that was. I had (have) a feeling that they have been placed. The problem was mainly on the short walk between the tube and the bus stop on the way to HTT. There seem to me to be an inordinate number of banana skins for such a short walk and I began to get very anxious about them. There were rules: greenish banana skin, not so bad; dried up, old brown banana skins, mainly OK; yellow with or without brown spots, scary. Once on my return journey someone had left a banana skin on a wall at eye level, and I recoiled and gave an audible yelp of fear.
The there were the perceptual changes. I had my first olfactory hallucination for ages, a stink of sulphur that seemed to be wherever I went (and I was pretty damn sure it wasn’t coming from me!). It’s never anything nice. Past experiences have been of dog shit, skunk weed and the inside of butcher’s shops. My hearing and sense of rhythm and pace seemed off. Songs that I chose to listen to because they were fast and I wanted fast appeared much slower than usual, others appeared to lag and get slower and slower, like listening on a Walkman with dying batteries.
It was good, it was all good, until it wasn’t. The banana thing got worse. My sleep began to be disrupted. I was incredibly proud of how #ColourTogether had grown and the lovely feedback and requests to participate I was getting, but it all became a bit much. I felt obliged to keep my eye on the hashtag, reply to queries, give out the link again. It was all too fast and sending me faster.
And then came the day it all went terribly wrong. When I was much younger, and didn’t know what hypomania was, let alone how to manage my symptoms, I would often become obsessive about someone who was not my husband. I would lie awake at night, thinking about this person, or fall briefly asleep only to have erotic or romantic dreams about them. Sometimes I would go so far to genuinely believe that my husband would in fact welcome this third person into our household, that their friendship (because it was almost always one his friends) would in fact be strengthened by sharing me and sharing the care of our child. It would often take someone being almost brutally blunt with me to dispel this belief.
I didn’t think it would happen again, not now I was older and much wiser in the ways of bipolar. I don’t want to say much more except it has, and it’s something I am incredibly disappointed about. It was much the same in the nature and intensity of the erotic obsession and it has cost me the intimacy of a friendship that was incredibly dear to me. Which is why a few days ago I tweeted that while I understood why people who are depressed often say that they wish they were bipolar, because “at least you get the highs” – they shouldn’t. Because the highs are where the damage is done. To people’s friendships. To people’s relationships. To their finances. To their sexual health. At their workplaces. And it sometimes feels that people can be tolerant of, even affectionate towards, the more likeable aspects of hypomania, the wit, the creativity, the confidence. The less attractive elements attract reduced warmth and support, despite the fact that the person is probably more unwell at that stage.
A few days on and I am still struggling with agitation. Last week I told the Registrar that there were three ways my hypomania could go: the bizarre thoughts and perceptions could edge towards true psychosis; my mood could totally crash; or I could move into mixed mood, with all the energy and agitation of a high but panic or despair instead of euphoria (not that he did more than write this down). My hypomania is never benign, it will not peter out into normal mood. So here I am, in mixed mood, as predicted. In the waiting room at the hospital today I paced round and round on the varnished flag stones, round and round and round even though the receptionists were looking at me, not because I felt compelled to but because it gave some respite from the agitation. Moving, walking, feet tapping, hands wringing, knees jiggling all bring a sense of blessed relief.
Sleep was broken last night, but the night before was perhaps the worst I had had in a few years. And now it’s not just banana skins; apple cores are starting to scare me, something I only realised after there had been an apple core in the stairwell. When I had the thought that I had left it there, almost on my own doorstep, oblivious to the danger, I freaked out. I wasn’t due to see the doctor today, but I rang a HTT nurse in a panic and asked to be put on the list to see the consultant. I have to say he is great. He treats my bonkers fears with respect, and the content as being meaningful, for which I am profoundly grateful. So now I am back on daily HTT visits, and I have some lorazepam to try and take the sting out of the agitation. I have done all the “right things” this past month in terms of complying with treatment, turning up for appointments and telling HTT absolutely everything.
But still the damage has been done.