Christmas approaches

It’s been a long time since I posted. I just don’t feel the urge as much these days; I’ve become habituated to things like hospitalisation and crisis care, therapy and medication changes, so although these things continue to play a prominent role in my life, I no longer feel the need to process them through the medium of blogging. But now it’s almost the end of 2018, and time to review where I’m at. Overall, things have been no worse than any other year, and better than some.

I had expected to be more ill than I have been, given the enormity of the move from London to rural Wales. I’ve definitely had more downs than ups although at times my my mood graph has been very “spiky”. A few weeks ago I started on a low dose of duloxetine, in addition to the antipsychotic, mood stabiliser and thyroid augmentation, and I am now less depressed than I have been. I’ve had one episode of mixed mood which resulted in my first contact with the local Crisis Team and a brief (four night) stay in hospital for my own safety.

In terms of the difference in care between London and Wales, I’ve no complaints about community care at all. I see my consultant less often here, but then I get a lot more care co-ordination. It took me years to even get a care co-ordinator at all in London, and when I had them they weren’t very proactive. Here, I can see my CC once a week if needed, less frequently if I am doing OK. Care planning (largely absent in London) has been very thorough and our appointments are always at least an hour. I feel I talk about almost anything with her, and that I am taken seriously. The crisis team were very good, although I wish I had not had occasion to meet them. I wasn’t overly impressed with the inpatient unit; the staff were nice enough but the lack of any therapeutic activity made the stay miserable.

Last week I had yet another assessment for yet more psychological therapies. The aim is to find something that impacts on my high levels of anxiety, which continue to affect my sleep, my ability to try new things and go to new places, and my ability to enjoy life. I’m waiting to hear exactly what will be offered to me, but it’s likely to involve a group work programme aimed at teaching emotional management skills (I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I’m a bit desperate to try anything that isn’t just diazepam) followed by some individual CBT aimed specifically at tackling the anxiety.

Because I’m really tired of it. It’s exhausting to live in constant fear and with highly intrusive thoughts. It was anxiety, not depression or hypomania, that did for me when I tried to work back in the spring. I don’t want to have thoughts of harming others. I want to be able to have a nice cuddle with Tom without thinking that he might die. I would like to be able to go swimming. It seems a small thing to achieve, but the thought of even finding the entrance to the building fills me with panic. It’s ridiculous.

With the festive season approaching, my CC’s current goal is for me to have as good as Christmas as possible. Traditionally, Christmas has been a time of emotional instability for me; the pattern has often been that I get very overexcited in early-mid December, throwing myself into a whirl of shopping and socialising until I am properly hypomanic, then come crashing down before the day itself (sometimes going up again at New Year). For 2018, I am keen to avoid this pattern,

So once again I am having to be sensible, ugh. Tom’s helping with this, pointing out to me when I might be taking on too much – for example, we have been invited to a concert next Saturday night but in the day I am at my little voluntary job, and doing two things in a day is a bad idea for me at the best of times. I had had half an idea to go to London for four nights in early December to try and catch up with as many people there as possible, but I came to the realisation that this is exactly the kind of thing that leads to hypomania.

I’m swinging between hugely looking forward to our big family Christmas and feeling very apprehensive about it. It’s going to be lovely to have our first Christmas in our new house with its wood burning stove and kitchen range. There’s a space in the living room that I’ve earmarked for a bigger tree than we could have had in London. But I live in fear that the anxiety will take over, or I will end up depressed, hiding away upstairs or sitting at the dining table struggling to keep up the mask. I wish it had been possible for me to have had some therapeutic input this year, but the waiting list for assessment was eight months so 2019 it will have to be.

I don’t have any goals or aspirations for the coming year other than keeping things on as even a keel as possible. I want to carry on with my little voluntary job, supporting the arts locally. I’ve met some great people through that. I want to keep working at Master’s degree, which I started eight weeks ago. Right now I am waiting for the results of my first assignment (obviously, being a total perfectionist, I will have to try not to go into a complete decline if I get anything other than an A-). I really want to get back into exercising, something that brought me a lot of pleasure when I lived in London. Going to the swimming pool would help, of course, as would actually turning up to the Zumba class I went to just the once. I need to go back to yoga; it used to do me so much good. So one goal is to have a little routine through the week with swimming (or maybe an aquacise class), Zumba and yoga built in. With choir practice on a Monday that would really give some structure to my week. And lord knows people are always saying how helpful structure and routine are people with bipolar.

I’m trying not to reach for anything big like getting back to work. A small, quiet life needs to do for me. Even when relatively well, I constantly have to live with the threat of spectacular relapse. Any new day could bring instability of one kind or another. My crises, when they come, seem to do so almost out of nowhere. The idea of living within limits used to chafe, but it doesn’t really any more. There’s a gentler pace of life here in the country, and I’m content to drift along with it. Whether that contentment will last, I don’t know. There’s a risk I will get bored, start looking for work, make myself ill, and go through that particular cycle yet again.

Overall, I am happy. I’m still ill, but I am happier being ill and living here and living with Tom than I would be well and living with anyone else. I don’t know if that makes any kind of sense. If not for the bipolar, I would have a great life, and for that I’m profoundly grateful.

Oh, there is just one thing I really want from 2019 – a cat.


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
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