It is not always a bad thing to be pinned down. Rather like a tent, I need underpinnings in order to be who I want to be, to feel like me. I can’t erect the life I want unless some fundamentals are pinned down.

I don’t feel like me at the minute because most of them aren’t in place. Obviously my relationship with Tom is absolutely critical, but I’m talking about the social things, the things I do in the world outside the home, the things with a regular rhythm. They are things that improve my self-worth, find me friends and keep me mentally, physically or even spiritually fit.

There are, for me, four key pins, all missing.

I can’t go to yoga. I just can’t. I have enough money to go maybe once a week, but I daren’t. I’ve become scared of getting there, scared that I’ll bottle it last minute and have to pay the cancellation fee, scared of… I don’t even known what. There is nothing to be scared of. I used to go to the studio 4 or even 5 or 6 times a week. I have developed a kind of mental block about it now which has now spread to home practice.

Part of it is that I am so bloody tired. From being very sedating in combination with the quetiapine the aripiprazole is now messing with my sleep badly, even though I take it first thing in the morning. But it’s not just that, I have this block to doing even a tiny practice, even ten minute, even five minutes. I can’t/don’t/won’t. I can’t make myself get to the studio so home practice is the obvious thing, but even with online courses or DVDs it just isn’t the same as the studio. I don’t enjoy it as much, there’s no social aspect, and it doesn’t – obviously – get me out of the house. It just doesn’t cut it.

So there’s that. Another pin that has traditionally helped me manage is singing, but it must be over a year now since I sang with my choral society. The problem is this: I have a good voice, but my musicianship, and therefore my sight reading, are crap. If I miss the first three rehearsals of term, and this has happened a lot as I have lurched from crisis to crisis, I am doomed because I am just not competent enough to jump on in to whatever we are rehearsing. Every term I live in hope; there won’t be another chance now until September, although I guess that’s not so very far away.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m a Quaker and really I have tried but there’s no easy way to explain what that means, let alone in a quick blog-friendly version, so if you’re interested do give it a Google. But basically I meet with other Quakers for an hour on Sunday and mostly sit silently together. Yes, I know that’s strange. Anyway, this has been something I have done almost every Sunday for around five years – but I believe I have been just once this year.

Everyone knows about my condition. Everyone is welcoming, friendly, concerned, supportive. So it’s not that. The silence bit is more problematic. Silence is scary and possibly dangerous when you have suicidal thoughts, and an echo chamber for your own brilliant ideas when you are hypomanic, which is not conducive to sitting quietly. Whatever the cause, my feelings about Quaker Meeting have been a bit like yoga: I just can’t. Luckily I have friends who are helping me with suggestions as to easing myself back in because I can’t remain an outsider.

Then there’s work. In a sense I “just can’t” do that either, but it’s a different kind of can’t. There’s no mental block – I’m keen to get back to it – but I don’t have the capacity. Writing this is like pulling teeth. Writing for publication, to a deadline, to a word count is just impossible. I am preparing for a conference (unpaid) but doing the slides was tortuous. My concentration span is gnat-like so I had to do it in dribs and drabs. I can’t read books, and again this jars with my sense of who I thought I was.

Some of this is of course down to the slow healing from the dreadful mental state I’ve been in, but then there’s been sedation and brain fog and horrendous anxiety and agitation, and now insomnia and plain old exhaustion, all from the medication change. At times I have wondered if the treatment is worse than the malady, but actually my mood seems pretty stable so overall I think not.

With all this going on I have been signed off for another month which, although necessary, is depressing. I want to be back in harness. I miss meetings. I miss running training and workshops. I miss interviewing people for research studies. I miss my various colleagues from my various projects and I loathe feeling out of the loop.

I also loathe being on benefits, not because I think there’s anything wrong with that at all, but because I was just beginning to earn a little bit of money and that was very good indeed for my self-esteem. I’ve never, of course, got anywhere near the level of financial contribution I used to make in my long period of remission. But I liked being able to say, “Oh, I’ll take care of that [bill]” even if it wasn’t that often.

Much as I have qualms about talk of “self-esteem” in mental health – especially around work, where it can get quite politicised and dangerous for disabled people – this is my problem right now. Not having my tent pegs hammered in reduces my self-esteem, and reduced self-esteem makes me more prone to apathy and anxiety.

Maybe some apathy and anxiety are understandable while I try and weather this med change. Maybe I’ve become my own worst enemy. I don’t know. I’m very confused about it all, about how to access the things I need and get past the blocks I seem to have created for myself out of my own anxiety.

I think I need little goals. Sit in Quaker Meeting for ten minutes of silence instead of 60, just once or twice during June. Go to one work meeting this month (if I can get the DWP to agree that this is “permitted work” and I won’t be penalised for it – they seem confused by this and have to pass it on to a “decision-maker”. I don’t know why, but this keeps reminding me of “gamemakers” from The Hunger GamesThe Decision Games). Speak at one workshop. Go to two yoga classes by the beginning of July. Practice for ten minutes twice a week.

It’s hard not to judge myself harshly. My tiny goals are a far cry from even the two days’ work a week I was managing, let alone the mammoth number of yoga classes and the regular sitting in silence.

I’m judging myself harshly now, comparing my writing to my usual posts as I fear I am rambling on and on and my ability to proof read is minimal, but that’s how I feel, rambly, flapping about in the wind.








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
This entry was posted in Anxiety, Bipolar, Books and reading, Crisis care, Employment and benefits, exercise, Hypomania, Mental health, Mood disorder, Recovery, Self-management, Side effects, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Unpinned

  1. laylalayla says:

    All I can say is, this illness can change over time. Years ago, I worked for what is now Bipolar UK. I know of many people who’ve been thru’ times when symptoms were very bad, only to slowly but surely get better. I realise that it’s hard to believe, but I can assure you it happens. From experience, those who got better did what you’re doing now – they set themselves small goals, tried to stick to them, forgave themselves when they lapsed, but kept on trying. xxx

    • Yes, but I have been various degrees of ill from “quite” to “acutely and dangerously” for 6 years now. Nothing I do affects that. Nothing I did gave me the 8 years’ remission I enjoyed. Nothing I do affects any of it. I keep trying but none of it really has an effect. Drugs, either.

  2. Maureen Moran says:

    Hello Charlotte,
    First I want to say how amazed at you and the work that you have done. I feel honored to read your struggles and I am in awe that you have had over 895 thousand visits to your blog! Wow. I look at you and the work that you have done and I am speechless. You are an inspiration to me. I am in my quest of reading this week, Dyer, Thoreau, Rumi. Searching for meaning, for truth, for love, for acceptance, maybe for hope. I am going to make it a point to read through your blog too, because in reading about you I believe that will help me find me. You may not have been paid for your writings in monetary form but you are a success in my humble opinion and I hope one day I can be as strong, as honest, as beautiful as you.

    Thanks and blessings,


  3. Anxiety, it’s such a neat, compact sounding little word, with such far reaching effects, turning your own mind into room 101 and trapping you there, keeping you from doing the things you need to do to help yourself. I so wish I had a magic wand to make it go away for you. But I don’t. And I’m sure that with your experience you know all the advice about what to do better than I do.

    If you hadn’t noticed, it does seem from here that you’ve made a small step of being able to write about it, when a few days ago you couldn’t even do that.

    In our Quaker Meeting we sometimes have a small Meeting for Worship at someones home if they’re ill or infirm or just request it. I wonder if there are one or two Friends that could do that with you, just for a few minutes, with you able to stop the silence early if you wanted to? Not that you’re probably up to asking for such a thing at the moment, but maybe someone local to you might read this.

    Sorry, there I go with advice. When really all I wanted to do was to let you know that I’m going to sit here with you for a while.

  4. LucyG says:

    You are not rambling in this blog at all. You have written exactly how it is for you and I empathise enormously. Your writing touched my heart and I so wish you well. I have not changed my medication for 11 years now. I am so much better than I was at the beginning of taking meds but I still have awful suicidal thoughts regularly. I have a very low self esteem and I am easily defeated with what life churns out.
    I used to visit my GP for help with my bipolar but I genuinely have had so little help from her. She is always encouraging me to battle on and reduce my meds. There is no way I would ever consider doing that because I am terrified of the consequences. I have a fear of being sectioned when I am at my worst and I have truly valued your insight into it and your experiences. You write a superb blog and one day I so would like to attend one of your lectures. You will get there again. Be kind to yourself as you are an awesome person who describes bipolar as it really is. A true sufferer and your writings are amazing to read when you consider how poorly you are. Love and hugs.

  5. jazzmanhenry says:

    Those pins are important to me too – music, faith (or collective gathering if you prefer) and the ability to work. Not flexible enough for yoga, but enjoy tennis and running and other physcail activity, so get the same physical benefits of endorphin release and so on, though maybe not the sense of calm that yoga can bring. So frustrating when these are taken away and you start floating off into goodness knows where. Hope you find something to ground you, though as you say, it’s so unpredictable. It’s hard to make plans for activities that promote mental wellbeing when you don’t know how you’ll feel hour by hour, let alone over over the next weeks and months. Hope the storm passes and you get enough time to bang those tent pegs in again ready for the next storm. Big hugs xxx

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