**TW: suicide, including methods**
“How are you doing?” people have been asking. My husband. My friends. My parents. My therapist. The Home Treatment Team nurses.
“Good!” I’ve been replying. “I’m doing well. I feel much better than I have done in a long time. I feel more like… me.” And I meant every word.
I was exercising, and feeling good about it. I was whipping through books, something I haven’t been able to do for maybe a year, if not longer. I was even thinking about trying to come off benefits and get back into work, although as Tom pointed out trying to do that whilst still under HTT might have been running just a bit before I could walk.
I did keep adding a caveat, however. I felt that I was doing well only as long as I kept to a very strict routine, involving regular bedtimes, plenty of sleep, getting out of the house every day, taking at least half an hour of exercise – could be walking or an exercise DVD or whatever – plus some yoga.
(The funny thing about all this is that when my diagnosis was first changed back to bipolar I read a lot of self-help books on the topic and they all stressed the importance of routine. I was unimpressed. It sounded very boring. I did not ever want to be like that.)
I was, I explained, like an egg. I looked smooth, together, strong, like things could bounce off me. And that was true, but only up until the forces were great enough, and then I would be proven quite fragile after all. I would crack.
Normally I like to be right; on this occasion, not so much. I was discharged from HTT (again) on Thursday – four days ago – with many big smiles, many expressions of pride in my progress, many genuinely fond wishes for the future (again). And I felt fine, really I did. As long as my shell stayed intact.
But that evening we went to a comedy gig with a friend. It was a great idea of Tom’s. I laughed until my lungs hurt. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed so much (the material greatly bolstered by Brexit – there had even been time to squeeze Boris’ appointment to the Cabinet into the mix). It made me feel good. Only we got back late. I wasn’t asleep until after 1am, so that was the first rule broken.
The idea had been that my friend would come and stay for a couple of days before the gig, but it had been difficult for her to get away from work, so the only time we really had together was Friday and as Tom was working from home we decided we’d better go out. By then I was already feeling physically and mentally under par but went out anyway and I did have fun shopping. But as I was doing it I knew that what I should have been doing was resting up.
On Saturday we kept a longstanding arrangement to have lunch at the house of Tom’s old friend and her husband. I hadn’t met them before and I was very anxious leading up to the date, although Tom had briefed her on my bipolar, which was helpful. Lunch was very nice, out in an amazing garden that leads down to a little river with that lovely river smell, lots of ducks, and people on little boats. But I found it a very draining to be with strangers for over five hours.
On Sunday I didn’t do any of the things I meant to do that would have been good for my mental health. I did not go to Quaker Meeting. I skipped yoga class. I felt that I had had a precipitous drop in mood and I did not think that Tom understood how serious it was because it had been so few days since I’d been doing well.
Yesterday I met with my Community Mental Health Team consultant Dr X and a CMHT senior Social Worker to talk about whether a care co-ordinator or community psychiatric nurse could help me stop bouncing back and forth between Dr X and HTT. Quite why this was even a question I’m not sure, since as far as I know the ward, CMHT and HTT consultants have all agreed this would be a good idea and the HTT nurses have repeatedly been told that allocation of a worker was imminent.
I explained that my shell had cracked. That I was on a downward slope and simply couldn’t face going through yet another round of rapid cycling and/or deep depression, another round of HTT and maybe hospital, that I felt I needed to take drastic action pre-emptively to step in and stop that.
They looked alarmed. Dr X asked if I had any immediate plans. I said no, because I needed to either obtain more means or do some reconnaissance (That Station is now a no-go for jumpers as they have put up a huge fence). I could see that Dr X was just itching to suggest I start on another antipsychotic, but if you get a chance to read my last post you’ll why I didn’t want that – or not at present.
They were clearly anxious, so I left with the plan that I would go to therapy tomorrow, and that as the therapist is part of the CMHT she will alert colleagues if she thinks I am at imminent risk. Part of me is really pissed off that with only 12/24 sessions left we will have to waste another of them exploring my active suicidality, but there it is. Thursday or Friday someone will call me the plan re: CC/CPN but if I am in difficulties in between I should email Dr X or ring the duty worker. In the interim I am using PRN diazepam again.
On the way home, I thought, Oh. I am actually in a lot of difficulties already. I was sliding into “the sneakies“, the zone whereby I don’t lie to people directly, but I lie by omission, making plans, taking steps. I could feel myself ebbing away from Tom, ebbing away from services, retreating into myself and my planning. The obvious things to do to progress my plans were to stop taking my lithium and stockpile it, then… go for it; check out one or two other stations along the line through which the fast trains also pass; check out which buildings might be tall enough to serve my purpose.
And then I remembered the loneliness of that position. That it was the loneliness in the end, more than the fear of death, that has always made me tell. When you can’t tell your husband or your care team or your real life friends, and you can’t tell you Twitter friends because you don’t want to put them in the position of feeling they have to seek help on your behalf, well then you are all alone. Out on a limb. On your own.
Last night, I vacillated and vacillated over whether to take my lithium. In the end I didn’t take it, but I didn’t hide it, either. I just… left it in the box. Kept my options open, knowing that I only need save them for a week and half more then let Tom pick up the new boxes, and then I would have enough.
We were in bed and I realised I had reached a fork in the road. I could speak up, or I could shut up. It’s not true I suppose but I felt like shutting up was a commitment, that there would be no going back. But I also I knew that shutting up could likely lead to hospital again. Maybe police involvement.
Any every time I pull that shit I worry that Tom will leave me.
In the end I skirted around the topic, saying that I had been struggling with some really terrible thoughts. He instantly asked if I’d been taking my lithium. Yup, until tonight. And tonight? Mmm… No. Had I hidden it? No, just… not taken it. OK, go and get it. I’ll go and hide all the other drugs.
Now I want to see you take it.
So I ate the bread at 11.30pm and I ate the cheese and I washed the three chalky pills down with fizzy water.
This morning there is a strip of cardboard dossette box on the table – two days’ worth of pregabilin, lithium and lamotrigine. There are three diazepam. That’s it. It’s humiliating. I’d only just won back enough trust to have the whole box again.
This morning after Tom kissed me goodbye as he left for work I lay in bed with my phone, Googling fatal falls from multi-storey car parks.
Keep writing! There are many familiar issues beautifully and succinctly expressed. I’ve been (mostly) well for about 10 years now but the depths of depression and anxiety I used to experience feel always as if they could be right around the next corner. Your writing, I’m sure, helps many people just by being there. Best wishes.
Routine: the fear of establishing it and the fear of losing it is a potent drive for me too. I’m not there yet, but I imagine self-acceptance of my ill periods (past and future), my strengths, and my limitations will help me react and adapt to these irrational fears of living well. I have felt similar to you, which is why I think I can say sincerely I am proud of what you are doing to survive. It’s okay to not feel good or just ok. You have many reasons within you and around you to keep riding the tide. <3, a "Twitter Friend"
please keep talking <3.