I haven’t posted in a while. Somehow I find it very hard to blog when I’m doing well, and in fact I have been doing very well since returning from holiday. Four or five weeks of stability!
Until this week. Now I’m scared that things might be unravelling.
Firstly there is the small matter of voices. I say a small matter because their presence is small, although very unusual in I have never experienced anything like it before, and because compared with so many people I know who hear voices my experience is as nothing. Just two voices, each only uttering a single word. It would be easy to write them off as mishearing background noise, but they felt very clear and very definite and feel significant.
I have in the past felt that certain thoughts were not mine, that they’d been dropped into my brain like someone dropping a pebble into a pond, but I did not hear them as being outside of my own head. But now on two occasions a voice I can genuinely hear has felt as if it comes from a particular place outside of my body, a place I can kind of feel with my brain right now although I know that’s silly. It’s about 30cm away from my skull, behind and slightly above it, so almost as if speaking directing into my right ear. If that zone was somehow to be pulled from its place outside to touch my body it would end up at a certain spot on my head. Right now I can feel that spot kind of pulsating and I’m afraid to touch it.
The first voice occurred in Italy, when I was coming out of a mixed episode. I woke up feeling awful and very bipolar irritable, describing my state to Tom as like having a box of bees in my head. “Well,” said Tom, “we could cancel the walking tour we’ve planned. It would be a shame to come here and not see the sights, but it’s up to you.” And so I had to decide whether to push through the bees in the hope of enjoying the planned activity or just go back to our hotel room.
We set off, rather reluctantly in my case, but only got a few metres from the hotel before Tom realised he had forgotten his camera. I stood in the sun alone, wondering if I was doing the right thing, when a male voice said “Sí”. That’s all it said. I experienced it in that zone I’ve mentioned. It spoke clearly and distinctly. I looked around. There was no one near right ear, or indeed near me at all. Ahead was the thick wall of the 18th century hotel building. I looked to the left and the right; nobody was walking up the narrow, cobbled street. I looked behind me but there was nothing except a thick wall the colour of saffron a good two metres away. Tom came back and we went on our excursion and it was wonderful because I made the right choice. I said “Sí” to the opportunity. I don’t really know whether the voice influenced me or not, but I was so glad we went.
I thought nothing of it. OK, I thought something of it but it wasn’t scary and there was no repetition. But then yesterday I was in a shop trying to decide what to buy. I won’t get too detailed here but suffice it to say I was in the family planning section. Anyhow I was vacillating and a voice (of no obvious gender, but possibly female) coming from that same spot above and behind said very distinctly, “Hmm.” Again I looked around. There was nobody else in the aisle. There were people in the aisle behind me but certainly nowhere near close enough to speak so intimately near my ear, and in any case they were engaged in conversations of their own. Initially I thought that “Hmm” represented my indecision, but when I left the store I began to feel it had been critical, that it expressed disapproval at anything to do with sex, that it felt like it thought less of me for having sexual desire. That wasn’t a comfortable thought.
So much for those small voices. I’m more concerned by what happened to me a couple of nights ago. I’d gone to bed ahead of Tom and was lying in the darkness when I heard a rustling. I didn’t know what it could be. My heart started pounding and I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I turned on a little torch I keep on the bedside table and shone it around the room. I immediately saw that there was a large black paper bag with handles on the floor, a relic from our recent trip to get Tom’s wedding suit (for those who don’t follow me on Twitter, yup, we are getting hitched!). I say this because that bag should have been a benign item, something with positive associations, but straightaway I knew it had to be the culprit. I turned off the torch. The rustling resumed. Terrified, I switched the torch on again, only to find stillness and silence. After one final round of the darkness and the rustling and the torch and the silence I couldn’t stand to have that bag in the room so I grabbed it by torchlight, bundling it out of the door and into the hall (where Tom was bemused to find it later) saying to it, “Fuck you! Fuck you!”
There are really only two ways of interpreting these events:
- I am slightly unwell and need to somehow balance the fact that these things really happened to me with the fact that they could not have happened to me. This creates a huge amount of internal conflict but is better than…
- That they are the handiwork of THEM.
So things could be worse. I am lucky that I am in the realms of 1, not 2. The wedding is just days away and being psychotic would be supremely unhelpful – as would the alternative, being high sedated with antipsychotics. I am a bit high, which is disappointing after my period of stability. I’ve been struggling with compulsive hand scratching and wringing, which only happens when I am high (in fact, it’s actually worse than it’s ever been). I can only assume that the wedding planning, as fun as it has been, has been a source of stress, even if that stress is positive. I just keep thinking, “Please, please don’t let it get any worse.” No psychosis. The only break I intend on having is my honeymoon.
Your insight sounds really positive and hopefully a bit of comfort to you- even though the cause is troubling? I think most brides who don’t have Bipolar get pretty high or overwrought before a wedding so do take heart from how well you’re handling yourself right now.
I know it’s possibly trite but just taking each day/hour as it comes is better than worrying too far ahead and you have a track record of coming through difficult stuff so I’m hoping you will enjoy your wedding and the honeymoon too. And yes, I’ve had years of therapy too so some does rub off and is actually helpful!
Looking forward to the Twitter hen party too.
Hi Christine 🙂 Yes, that’s why I’m worried…. Most brides to indeed get a bit high, it would be nearly impossible not to after all the planning, attention, busyness. And I’ve even read articles about post wedding blues. I just hope to sort of contain it so I don’t spend the honeymoon sobbing
‘I can only assume that the wedding planning, as fun as it has been, has been a source of stress, even if that stress is positive.’
I ain’t no doctor but that sure sounds about right. When I got engaged it was a beautiful time but also mad stressful because of family stuff and that’s when my voices/music/smells came back with a fucking vengeance too.
It’s sometimes hard to accept that positive stress is still stress! If I look back across my life a number of my major episodes have come about through good stress like a new job, new baby, etc. I am really worried about what happens after the wedding…
Reblogged this on davesoapbox and commented:
The strength and power that people with bipolar have always amazes me. This lady is one of the greats, I love her for not only speaking out but being so very brave xx
Aw you! *pokes you in the ribs*
Here in my heavily sound-proofed bunker beside the motorway(not saying which),I see and hear the handiwork of THEM 24/7.Another great post,Charlotte.
Hi Rick. Sorry to hear THEY are after you. I know what you mean, you get to see everything at being their ‘handiwork”, that’s a great term for it. I have it a little bit right now. Like yesterday I went to the shop and when I came back the door wasn’t locked properly. Obvious I should have thought, “Oh, I didn’t lock the door properly, how silly” but I instantly thought it was THEM and I was really scared walking though my house feeling watched and sort of toyed with. I am lucky that its not too bad at the moment x
Congratulations! I hope you’ll be very happy together.
Thanks, Nick! If we’ve managed this far I think we’ll be OK 🙂
Gosh, you’re doing incredibly well for a bride-to-be! I’m very glad for you that you have so much insight into your voices and understand them in the context of being “only slightly unwell”. Many people would have needed a hospital admission in your shoes but you’re handling it with style – positively sailing through it all! Likewise how you managed to put Tom’s wishes before your own re: the walking tour. There was a time when you would not have been able to do that. it just goes to show how far you’ve come in your recovery. How wonderful for you that you’re doing so well just before your wedding. Congratulations, you’re a real trooper and an inspiration!
Thank you! I only really seek crisis care if I’m really frightened and I’m not right now… I can kind of contextual things. I think.
I haven’t had the same experience as yourself Charlotte, but I do continually imagine bad and distressing things happening. I have this very colourful clear picture in my mind of what is happening and I can’t stop the pictures unrolling in my mind. Sometimes I just cannot stop one after another. Does anyone else experience this? I have these awful thoughts that keep coming back.
On another level I see different faces everywhere I look. They appear in curtain patterns, trees, wallpaper, carpets etc. They no longer frighten me as I have been seeing them for many years.
However I haven’t heard voices or strange noises that can’t easily be explained.
I have always put these difficult times down to the stress happening in my life which comes in bucket loads. So I have learnt to lie down and be quiet and concentrate on my breathing. This is the only thing that helps me short term but it is better than no relief at all.
It is wonderful that Tom and yourself are getting married. I wish you both all the happiness in the world as you both so deserve it. Have an amazing day. Love and best wishes.
Thank you! It is very exciting. I have the seeing faces everywhere thing a LOT especially if I am edging towards psychosis. Also I have had visions like photographs being played one after another but I can’t stop them – usually awful. extreme and bizarre ways of me harming myself. Again that goes with the general “near psychosis” package. I am sure some of this is stress-related for a lot of people and I am glad you’ve managed to find some coping strategies, even if they are short term x
I’ve said it before, I know, but I’ll say it again. I really think you should gather your posts together and make them into chapters and then present them to a publisher. I think you’d write a great book. I’d read it.
But not now, probably. Wedding first 🙂
Hehe yes, one thing at a time! Although I am working on my memoir so watch this space!
Hi Charlotte, thanks for sharing your experiences, we think that more people should discuss this openly although it’s difficult. We work hard on developing courses and programmes for people struggling with mental health but it’s only down to the brave people like yourself who make it possible.
Thank you so much Liz! Much appreciated 🙂
I’ve had exactly the same kind of voices experience, often when lacking sleep or in times of stress. I have the luxury of being Not Mentally Ill, so it was pretty easy for me to decide not to worry about them. I treat them as a sign that something unusual is happening in my brain in that moment, but nothing more. I think your analysis was spot on. I hope your wedding is/has been utterly wonderful.
Thank you so much! Coming up very fast now!