Where the damage is done

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.

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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 2013. Winner of the World in Mentalists Mood Disorder blog 2012. Regular guest blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/ Expert by Experience working with Mind training department. Working on The Incoming Tide, a bipolar memoir. Find me on Twitter @BipolarBlogger or at my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BipolarBlogger
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24 Responses to Where the damage is done

  1. ‘Past experiences have been of dog shit’

    Whenever I’m in mixed-affective I constantly get this one, along with aggressively badgering my current partner about ‘opening up’ our relationship. It’s so fucking unpleasant. Much love to you x

  2. LisaSaysThis says:

    Charlotte’s, your courage in sharing the impacts of your illness in real time is extraordinary. I have never seen hypomania so well explained. I hope this awful patch abates soon and a purple patch returns. But in the meantime, as you pace, I am metaphorically walking with you, as I know are many others. Never have the words Get Well Soon seemed more inadequate yet more vital xxx

  3. demonicdivas says:

    I am so sorry you have had to go through this yet again and am relieved that you have a consultant you can work with. I have found your honesty and frankness about your bipolar hugely beneficial in helping me, and my family, understand this thing that we have to find a way to co-exist with. Thank you so much and I hope you feel better soon.

  4. Katie says:

    I just want to echo demonicdivas. I have and continue to appreciate your sharing. All I can do is to send you hugs and really hope you will be feeling better soon.

  5. Your insight and description is so clear that I am sure it helps many people. It must have been tough to share all this so I hope it has helped you, even maybe a little, to write it all down and know how far you’ve come through this episode and living with BIpolar.
    Wishing you well as you continue to come through- which you will.

  6. anxietystarr says:

    Just wanted to send you some love and support.

  7. john says:

    Bad thinking and feeling is like a glue that gets stuck– the solvent might be the right words from the right person at the right time– it could even– be a dream– it could be a pill or a herb — or a combination of all three– but either way — you have to give you — the love you deserve– and you do deserve—please believe me– easy to say back off-and chill–but hey, give it a good go– and never forget what goes down — must come up– life’s a ride of up and down– don’t give up– its just scenery– around the bend,and up the mountain—is sunny and lush– don’t fear or get caught up with that– your beautiful. Put the blinkers on.

  8. sue says:

    So sorry you’re having such a lousy time. Good luck in getting through it.

  9. mrsteepot says:

    I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this at the moment. You are so right that a lot of the damage is done during mania in Bipolar, I have lost friends and put relationships at risk during it through risky sexual behaviour, along with getting into financial debt. It sucks, and it sucks that even when you’re doing everything ‘right’ – taking the meds, talking to people, monitoring it, it still isn’t enough to truly control the disorder.
    I really hope that you are feeling more stable soon.

  10. I’m a pacer, figures of eight, eight steps for each bit. I jiggle and foot tap too, but the pacing is the best. So. You’re not the only one up and moving in reception areas 😊

  11. Katherine says:

    As everyone else has said, your openness about your condition is really amazing. I wish I’d found your blog when I was first diagnosed. When I go up, I generally tweet and post to Facebook a lot more, and blog more. My psychiatrist said I should give it a break because it effectively was like getting little hits of dopamine everytime there was a retweet or comment or notification. It works well for me except for the fact that the support I get from Twitter is valuable, so I still go on but fewer times per day which seems to help a little with the franticness. I wonder if it’s the same for you?

  12. carlosjackal says:

    Hiya charlotte,I appreciate your words very much ,its like living ur day over(similar experience s).highs are far more dangerous for all concerned .ive pretty much lost everything ie family,home,wife,successful business,money.now I find myself at 42 starting again….hopefully lithium and htt are going to help me .be good to talk someone else who’s going thru bipolar .thanks for reading

  13. J says:

    I am so sorry to hear how difficult it has been for you lately. I am so thankful that you have such wonderful avenues of support.

  14. Peter Hockley says:

    Words seem so inadequate to palliate what you are going through so I’ll offer you just simple words, love yourself and family, and get well soon.

  15. davidleite says:

    Your candor and clarity are a gift for so many. Keep writing, expressing, and working at it. My highs are well controlled theses days, but I certainly understand where you’re coming from. You’re in my thoughts.

  16. emovoid says:

    Excellent description of hypomania. My Dad was bipolar and this really helps me understand what he must have gone through.

  17. edlear30 says:

    I’m contacting people as I wish to raise awareness about the following issue. I think this is a serious issue since one of the leading causes of death among young people, above war, disease and traffic accidents, is suicide http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health1/leading-causes-of-death/2009/leading-causes-of-death-in-england-and-wales—2009.html

    After reading a section on the MIND website about the charity’s MEAM approach and I decided to write to people. I’d recently seen the Tories’ pledge to commit £8 billion to the NHS which, along with the LibDems policy on mental health, I think is fairly arbitrary, as I’m not sure that these key points address the issues in the report. Nor do I believe talking therapies or Mindfulness therapies make a serious long term improvement to people’s lives, especially since the MQ report clearly shows there’s no research funding into mental illness or treatments for this. I think this is a serious issue since on of the leading causes of death among young people, above war, disease and traffic accidents, is actually suicide http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health1/leading-causes-of-death/2009/leading-causes-of-death-in-england-and-wales—2009.html

    I’m not suggesting that Mindfulness and Talk therapies don’t work and aren’t helpful, but really it’s just talking, which is nothing to do with actual scientific research into mental illness and the drugs used to treat these. Information and a video about the MQ report and the gap in research for mental health can be found on the website
    http://www.joinmq.org/news-opinion/entry/new-analysis-reveals-historic-under-funding-of-uk-mental-health-research

    Labour’s recent manifesto mentions a focus on the NHS and improvement for mental health treatment in pages 20 and 33, primarily the integration and improvement of patient care alongside clinical trials and the implementation of the NICE guidelines, but this doesn’t really mention anything about researching funding for mental as outlined in the MQ report.

    A response I’d received from the conservative Lord Howe about the £8 billion pledge for the NHS was that those funds would be available as and when they’d made ‘efficiency gains’ under the Five Year Forward View, which refers to services, ie talk therapy and drug treatment.

    ‘Dear Mr Learman,

    Many thanks for your email.

    I have asked my colleague in Conservative Central Office to get back to you substantively on your specific query relating to mental health provision. On your query about the £8billion, this figure is not arbitrary. It is the amount of money, expressed in real terms, which, assuming realistic levels of efficiency gains, the NHS will need by 2020/21 if it is going to meet anticipated levels of demand, taking the forecasts set out in the NHS recent Five Year Forward View. The Five Year Forward View has been accepted by my Party (and I believe by Labour and the Lib Dems also) as the right basis on which to plan for healthcare provision in the next Parliament, including mental health. You will however have noted, I am sure, the substantial additional money allocated to mental health in the Chancellor’s recent Budget statement.

    Yours sincerely

    Frederick Howe’

    I realise the parties have discussed mental health and the NHS in their campaigns, and that charity organisations have a duty to remain impartial. However, after reading MQ report about the lack of funding and then doing some research, I did find articles about there’d been a loss for drug manufacturers along with a story on the Health Secretary’s investment deal with JP Morgan and pharmaceutical companies to tackle dementia. Obviously, I understand dementia is a serious illness, but then investing in profit businesses and not investing into research for mental health seems like an imbalance.

    http://www.cityam.com/211839/jp-morgan-joins-forces-pharma-giants-lead-100m-dementia-fund

    http://www.cityam.com/210598/uk-becomes-net-importer-drugs-first-time-century-pharmaceutical-output-drops-and-patents

    Investment and progress with the NHS might lead to better services and improvement to therapies already available to people that suffer from mental illness but the current method for treating and diagnosing mental illness seems like a guessing game for GPs which further scientific research might assist.

    • edlear30 says:

      Hi, that copied from a letter I’d been sending to constituents and charities about this issues, unfortunately there are a few errors and mistakes, (I copied the link to the MQ report twice for some reason). This is nice blog, I hope people find my comment useful.

  18. Linda says:

    I find your honesty and ability to share your feelings refreshing and encouraging. I struggle with depression and I think that many people still don’t understand what it is like to go through the down stages of life.

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