Really very mentally ill

I’m just awake after another bad night. Dreams of everyone hating me, people leaving me, bombs and bullets, cold, isolation, loneliness and hopelessness. Now I’m awake I feel ill. Really very mentally ill. 

I don’t want to be awake. I don’t want to get up. I feel I shouldn’t as I shouldn’t be part of this world. Acceptance? It is what it is. Maybe this is what I have to accept. Andy has brought me tea. I cried my heart to him. I told him I’m sorry and that I want so much better for him and the children but I’ll keep fighting. He told me he knew today would be like this because I had pushed myself yesterday (going out to a panto – big family outing). I was pleasantly taken aback by his insight. “You’re getting wise to this mental health stuff” I said. “There are patterns” he gently replied. 

My eyes burn from crying. I am exhausted. I feel physically sick. Last night I was planning when (not if) to overdose. I’m going to fight that absolutely 100%. Which means building a bed fort, drinking my tea and waiting for this all to pass.

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White Flag

I want to give in. I surrender. Dear mental illness/disorder/flaw or whatever the fuck you are, I submit. Well, I want to but I’m so goddamn stubborn that I just can’t.

I want to give in and accept the things I believe:

  • I am a flaw in the Universe. As long as I am alive the balance in the world will tip towards bad.
  • To keep my children and family safe I must harm myself to redress the balance.
  • All good things I experience must be punished.
  • At my core an evil side of personality exists. I can only kill this evil by killing myself. The evil is destroying me from the inside.
  • Whenever I think something good then something bad will happen to make sure I stay in my place. I must not get ideas above my station.
  • Everyone leaves. This is because being away from me is the right thing. When people get close things happen to remove those people from my life. Fortunately they are usually good things for the person (they get rewarded for leaving me) but I get so scared that the Universe will take them in a bad way and it is so much safer for people to stay away. It’s my fate and I accept that. I do not blame them.

That’s better. Let it all out. The things I believe that govern my life. My secrets. The beliefs that aren’t delusions because I know they aren’t true except I’m not so sure they aren’t true but I know that saying they are untrue is the correct. It feels glorious to be able to verbalise these feelings. Marvellous. 

And if I really let go I could harm myself with no care for the consequences. How amazing! I could cut, burn, and sand my skin. I could ingest alcohol and pills. On a lesser scale I could just tuck myself up in bed and fluctuate between crying, tearing at my skin and being comatose. Sigh. A girl can dream. I can’t do that though because of ‘The Contradction’.

The Contradiction is that I need to be harmed to keep the kids safe but the behaviour in the paragraph above would actually cause harm to my children so I find myself stuck in this very narrow gap: needing to harm myself in a very contained way. It is exhausting.

So I would dearly love to submit; to wave the white flag; I give up. Let’s just do this illness thing. BUT I am stubborn. Or oppositional. Or wilful. Oppositional and wilful are the preferred terms by the therapists but it all boils down to one thing: Dear illness, I will fight you. 

Why I’ll Try Quetiapine 

A simple analogy.

I am trapped in a cage with a tiger. It can be fearsome and actually, pretty bloody violent! Well, that’s tigers for you! This tiger can take great big swipes at me and if it catches me with it’s claws then ouchie!


When you’re trapped in a cage with a tiger you learn ways to coexist. So sometimes I might just run round and round in  circles with the tiger chasing me. Other times if I play dead and hide in the corner the tiger will come and paw at me but it’s not so bad. Sometimes the tiger goes for a sleep. I never know how long his nap will be. If it’s a really long sleep then I can almost forget he’s there as I go about, y’know, regular cage stuff. 

Apparently though there are better ways to manage a tiger. It’s called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT. I’m learning this tiger taming stuff but, I tell you, it’s hard. Sometimes my tiger just doesn’t do what he’s supposed to – my mother in law would say he hasn’t read the book! Other times I’m so busy trying to stop the tiger from mauling me, like he might have me pinned to the floor, that trying to implement these tiger taming skills is nigh on impossible. Sometimes the coaches pop by and they will shout advice from outside the cage. All very well and good but can’t they see I have a tiger on top of me?! There are occasions when their shouts feel critical and that really hurts. I’m doing my best. Who wants to be bitten and scratched by a tiger? Not me!

So I’m learning all sorts of tricks. Happily I see him behaving every so often. I’m tired though. So, so tired. Learning how to tame a tiger when living with an out of control tiger is utterly exhausting. It’d be much easier if I could just pop in to the cage for a few minutes a day – like learning a musical instrument – instead of being stuck in this cage with him all the time.

A ringmaster suggested a pill I can give to the tiger. This should quiet him a bit which will give me a better chance of learning how to control him. Control is the wrong word actually. It’s not about control: coexisting or managing are better. The DBT coaches are purists. They believe it’s best to tame tigers naturally and that’s what I’ve been trying to do but I really am very injured by him. I’ve been told that this pill could cause all sorts of problems from me and my tiger and I’ve been very reluctant to try it. After all, I wanted to learn to tame him properly, I wanted to please the purists.

Thing is, though, I’m scared. Tigers can actually kill people. Did you know that? Being locked in a cage with a pissed off tiger does increase the chance of that happening. So, I’m going to get that pill and try it. It will make him very sleepy. That could be a bad thing as he might be too sleepy to learn but I think I need to try really. I do feel like a failure for resorting to it and I’m very nervous about how it will go. I’ve asked lots of people and been given a variety of answers but the decision is made. 

Next time I see the ringmaster I will ask him for quetiapine for my tiger. 

One day…this’ll be my tiger and me

Managing an Internal Catastrophe 

I haven’t been able to write. I’m not sure I can now. I’m in the middle of trying to manage an internal catastrophe. That sounds dramatic. I’m going with it though as right now it feels dramatic.

 I’ve been trying my DBT skills to help me, with limited success. Opposite action has been useful. TIP has been useful, particularly the T bit. That’s been a welcome surprise as usually TIP doesn’t do much for me but I’ve had a racing heart a few times and ice has helped. I even went for a swim to really stimulate the dive reflex and it was good.

However, as I said, I’ve had limited success with the DBT strategies. Using DBT can feel like acting and no one can keep up an act 24h a day. So I’ve also tried alcohol, various pills and cutting. These all had both positives and negatives too. After a good few weeks of no self-harm I went to town and cut myself 8 times in one go. Truthfully I wanted to do more but I’m mindful of covering them up. I’m dreading seeing Monica again as, presuming I’m honest, I’m going to be told off for not trying hard enough to use my skills. That makes me very angry. I’m exhausted trying to do the right thing. I feel like I can’t do right for doing wrong. 

I’ve finally decided that I am going to try the quetiapine because I am trying so hard and yet I still dream of train tracks. I am scared. Yet even this decision is wrong. God, I just want to cry. Monica feels I should be med free. That’s the DBT ideal and we argued over it. Nora keeps trying to dissuade me. She tells me how nasty a drug it is (cheers!) and how right now is a particularly difficult time of year. This makes me angry too. It is always a difficult fucking time of the year to me, Christmas is irrelevant. I’m still going to see my parents every time I look in the mirror no matter the season. I guess she thinks I’m being reactive and looking for an easy fix.

*insert your own ironic laugh*

Easy fix? Aye. That’ll be right.

Anyway she’s leaving and I doubt she’ll be replaced so that branch of support will be withdrawn.

I think that I have lost trust and confidence in them: Nora and Monica. When I believe in someone I will follow you to the ends of the earth, I will walk through fire for you, I will take what you say as near gospel truth. But…when I stop believing in a person…it’s near impossible to come back from. It’s not splitting as I don’t flip flop between idealisation and devaluation. In this type of situation it’s just like it’s over – the relationship that is. Everything they say will be treated with suspicion. They are no longer trusted and instead must be tolerated and appeased.

I feel so so sad right now. That’s it. 

So

Trauma: The Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas season 2016 is officially open. The nature of the season is nostalgia: the same songs, the same films, the food, the traditions. Comforting to some but disconcerting to those of us who are haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year I make quite an effort with the whole Christmas thing but it’s not just the weather that chills me. I feel a kind of internal cold. Every year I do opposite action – I pretend to LOVE Christmas! Every year it backfires. My shiny facade at complete odds with the vacant emptiness inside me. The emptiness is preferable to the memories though. 

You know the kind. I’d taken my brothers to Midnight Mass. My parents had remained at home fighting. Mum drunk. Standard. We returned to open presents. I remember her sat on the sofa watching. Wearing a filthy pink dressing gown and a goofy drunken smile. It showed her yellow nicotine teeth. The smell of vodka and cigarettes and urine sticking to her, her own personal perfume. Her eyes closing clumsily. Having to pretend to be happy in such a desperately sad situation; finally being able to escape to bed, to be sad where no one could see and dread the next day. She would either be hungover and hostile or drunk. I can’t remember which it was. My gut says drunk.

Or how about when I accompanied a slightly drunk mum to the late shop? I knew she was going to buy more vodka. For some reason I thought maybe if I was there she mightn’t buy it. Or I could just tell dad when I got home and he’d take it off of her. Yeah, that plan backfired. She bought the vodka. She was served by a girl who had gone to my school. She knew who I was and here was my drunk mum buying more vodka. I felt so pitiful. As we walked home in the dark I was scared, what would I do now? I needn’t have worried. She stopped me in the dark street. I remember the cars driving past. And she said to me “If you tell your dad about this then I will ruin Christmas. I will take everyones’ presents, not just yours, and destroy them. And on Christmas Day when there is nothing I will tell them why: because of you. You will ruin Christmas”. I mean I can’t remember the exact words but that was the gist. Then I was torn as we walked home. What if dad asked if she’d bought vodka? What would I do? I worried in silence the whole way home. The only sound was her raspy smokers breath (it was an uphill walk) and the sound of cars driving past on the damp road. I felt so alone. All these people just driving past. I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I expect I went straight to my room and hid. No one would have checked on me and she would have drunk her vodka. As usual.


So yeah, Christmas memories are shit.

This year I’m trying to do things differently, instead of just pretending. Basically I’ll do Christmas my way. Obviously I don’t know what that is so I’m approaching it open minded. So far it’s working. I asked my 3 year old daughter what her Christmas wish was and she told me “marshmallows”. I smiled. It’s perfect. This year on Christmas Eve I hope that we’ll toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Perhaps it’ll become a tradition. The Ghost of Christmas Past will still be around but perhaps the fairylights everywhere, and the warmth of cuddles and toasted marshmallows will  help warm the dark chill that She brings.

Really I just wanted to say that if you’ve had a difficult past and feel very alone then you’re not. Christmas has far more ghosts than Hallowe’en. Lots of us are haunted by them. 

The Quetiapine Question 

I’m not ok. I keep trying and trying to be ok but I’m failing. I’m not ok. I rang the DBT support line yesterday and spoke to Monica. I told her I was “shit scared” because of urges to cut my own throat, or slit my arm lengthways or, quite bizarrely, to cut a very basic skeleton outline on to my body. I’m not ok. We’re getting that aren’t we? There’s no way round it: those thoughts are distressing. And they persist. All the time. All the time. All. The. Fucking. Time.

Monica was really helpful and by the end of the call I felt that I had the control, not the thoughts. I felt peaceful when I went to sleep last night. I had hoped I had turned a corner.

I hadn’t.

Another night of vivid nightmarish dreams filled with people from my past. I woke up with that dread – you know the dread when you have a full day, filled with minutes, ahead of you? Yeah, that one. I had my daughter today so was really determined to be the best mum I could be (accepting my current limitations).  In truth there were two points in the day when I did think positively about myself and thought hey, you know, I am quite good at parenting. Ugh. Having a positive thought just causes the negatives to pile on and kick me harder. Die positive die. 

So, is it time for the quetiapine I wonder? The quetiapine question. It was first suggested by the psychiatrist back in July; five shitty months ago. Then when I saw him again a couple of months ago we discussed quetiapine and the side effects. Sorry, that should say god-awful side effects. Nora’s mentioned it a few times since, particularly when I see things or have the whole believing I can fly thing. I spoke to the GP, Dr H about it too. Without telling me to go on it he did describe a lot of the potential positives. So why not take it? Why not indeed.

The weight gain. 

That’s it really. Like all psychiatric meds it has a huge list of potential side effects but there is one thing that is universally acknowledged about quetiapine and that is weight gain. Sigh. I’ve lost 10kgs. It’s not been easy and I have more to lose. A magic pill that will put it all back on? I’d have to be mad to take it. I am mad though. Mad enough to be scared of cutting my own throat. What is a girl to do?

The scientist in me knows that the only way to know what quetiapine will do to me is to take it. To experiment. I’m so scared. You know once upon a time when I was a ‘proper’ chemist I worked for the company that discovered quetiapine. I sat in many a meeting where it’s sale projections were presented. Licensed for schizophrenia the drug was having greater success than initially anticipated. As such it was being investigated for other uses. Things like major depressive disorder. People like me. It’s that line again – the line between the normal observer and the mad patient. The them and us line. The line I’ve crossed. Well, that’s depressing but in reality there isn’t a line is there? That’s just my black and white thinking again I suppose.

So the quetiapine question rumbles on. So much to gain; in every sense. I feel defeated that I’m having to consider this med on top of the venlafaxine, the propranolol, the promethazine, and the lorazepam. How the fuck did this happen?! And I’m using DBT skills as best I can. What will it take?! What?! Someone tell me please! 

I just want to give up but I can’t. Can’t. Won’t. There is no question about that. 

Not ok. Shhhh.

Arghhhh! What’s happening?! This feeling. What is it?! Make it stop. 

My skin has been crawling all day, especially my neck. It’s awful. I’ve wrapped a scarf tightly around it to try and help but even that sensation prickles at me. Sometimes I really tighten the scarf to see if a choking feeling helps. It does a bit. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I want to cry; to crumble. Please no. I can’t though. I’ve tried to participate as much as possible with my husband and kids today. I’ve sat on the sofa  but I just wanted to be away. My daughter and the cat have clambered all over me. I’ve wanted to throw up at the feeling of invasion.

Right now I feel like I could die. Panic. My hands are like ice – I think my fingernails are turning blue. I know I can’t trust anything I think because I’m in a bad way right now. I don’t know what to do. It’s ok though because I know why this is happening. I’ve mistakenly been taking half doses of my venlafaxine. I muddled the pills up. I don’t how many times I’ve taken a half dose. At least the last 3 doses I think. I’ve taken the correct dose now having realised my mistake. All this weirdness if probably just chemistry. Fucking chemistry. She’s a cruel mistress to me.

I’ve broken my phone too. Dropped in the toilet it’s currently drying out in rice but I hold out little hope. I didn’t know to switch it off so a short circuit (ie phone death) is likely. This is a problem as my phone is my brain. It’s also my lifeline whether it’s browsing or just being able to make contact with other people, it’s gone now. No wonder I feel panicky.

It’s daughters birthday tomorrow so I’ll have to get up soon and help sort out her presents. I’d better not be like this tomorrow. I have her all day. 

I’ve decided to quit teaching too. Seems so obvious now that I need to do that. Shame cos I loved being a teacher.

And nothing makes any sense. I can’t think about anything except how bad I feel and how I can’t talk to anyone about it. I’m expecting Andy to come and have a go at me any minute about the state of me, am I fit for tomorrow etc etc

I want to talk talk talk talk but I can’t. CAN’T. Contain it. Contain it. Shhhhh it’ll be ok.

Just repeat “ok” until true. (Not ok).

What is ‘Better’?

I’m wondering what ‘getting better’ actually means. I don’t believe that everyone else is walking around not hating themselves. I just can’t. Everyone hates themselves don’t they?

And isn’t everyone depressed? I know loads of people either taking, or have taken, antidepressants. So, with that in mind, isn’t being depressed just normal…to an extent anyway?

I don’t think I’ve met another parent who isn’t tired so that’s not an illness thing either.

Then there’s binge eating as self-harm…well, last time I checked we were heading for an obesity crisis (too dramatic?) so that must mean a lot of people are self-harming with food.

Then there’s the alcohol. Again, getting absolutely hammered seems to be a societal norm. 

Mention insomnia to anyone and they’ll tell you about their insomnia. And it’s probably worse than mine too. Insomnia appears to be as widespread as sneezes in winter. 

All of these things really confuse me because when I’m better how will I know? I could still be a medicated, boozing insomniac and that’d be…ok? I’d still be better? I suppose so because it seems like that’s what’s normal now. 

Then I think: why put myself through all this medication and therapy crap? Why not just accept that what I’m experiencing is just life? It’s tempting. I try it every once in a while – the fake it til you become it thing. I’m just no good at it though. I end up wanting to kill my self and crying and generally not very functioning. So how come? How can everyone else be walking around feeling like shit but I’m not achieving it? I genuinely don’t get it. Is it laziness? Perhaps. 

I’m not sure anyone really wants me much better than I am currently anyway. I mean I’m not causing trouble particularly. I seem to have grasped the whole not-killing-myself thing (although I often get annoyed about the demands of others that I stay alive. Seems a bit selfish to me. Just saying.) I’m doing a fairly passable job at the mothering. House is cleaner than it’s ever been. So what if I never work again? Lots of people don’t work. Obviously there’s the crushing loneliness but that again seems to be a modern epidemic.

So I don’t really know what I’m aiming for. What is getting better? Is it worth it? The thought of the whole thing is decidedly terrifying. I’ll just sit under my duvet cuddling my toy rabbit – just like everyone else.

This is Going to Kill Me

In bed. Crying.

I’m fighting these ‘illnesses’/defects/conditions (whatever) as hard as I can. I promise I am fighting. I have two excellent reasons to keep fighting and they’re asleep in the rooms next to mine.

Sometimes I feel I am gaining ground.

Other times, like now, I only see hopelessness ahead. It frightens me. This is going to kill me. 

I don’t think I can do it. I promise I will keep trying. I won’t go easily. I just don’t see how I can win against this

How could there ever be a future me who doesn’t feel hollow, empty, and wrong? It’s not possible. The DBT is to teach me skills to manage these feelings, not get rid of them. With the best will in the world I just don’t see how I can face feeling like this forever. It’s like trying to push back water. Futile.

So I’m crying because I don’t want to die. And I’m safe now. And I’ll be safe maybe for years…I don’t know. I’m not saying I’m actively suicidal. I’m not. The whole reason I’m so sad is because I want live, not just exist but really live, and I don’t think I’ll ever manage that.

And then this will kill me. 

Fuck.

When I Forgot My Venlafaxine 

I take 37.5mg twice a day. One with breakfast, one with tea/dinner/supper whatever you call it! I’ve only done two weeks on it but so far things are going well. I’ve had some lovely days since starting venlafaxine. I had a progress review with my GP, Dr H, two days ago. He asked what the negatives were about this medication. None! Genuinely.

The first day I took venlafaxine I went a bit funny and had some strange thoughts but it was fine. I’ve lost my mirtazapine weight too since being on it which I’m relieved about. I had been feeling like an inflated sausage! 

So I’m only on day 20 of taking it, which is early days. However on day 18 I forgot to take my evening dose…

I was really agitated in the evening. I couldn’t settle and was jumpy. I went upstairs to watch Cold Feet in bed thinking that I’d begin to relax then. An hour later Cold Feet was finished and I was even more agitated. I tried to go to sleep but I couldn’t. I was wide awake and crying, just ever so slightly. I felt like a flashback might be about to happen; I sort of go numb and tingle all at the same time before it happens. My mind was visualising the old carpet upstairs in the horror house, the smells and how the light fell from the skylight highlighting the dust was at the forefront of my mind and I felt like I was to be thrust back into it. I took evasive action and asked my husband for a hug. I lay my head on his chest and the thud of his heart was deafening. It’s daft but it was a bit like drum sounding out the march of whatever was coming to get me. I’m not trying to be all fancy writer here, that’s what it felt like. I tried breathing mindfully. I tried focusing on a single body part. Nothing worked. The panic got worse. I rolled over and curled up in a ball. Oh no oh no oh no oh no. I felt like ‘people’ (dark demonic shadowy figures) were going to come and get me. It took me back. I was scared of these people when I was teenager too. I didn’t see them, only in my imagination, but I was terrified that any minute they were going to leave my mind and I’d see them. For real. I almost felt breath and hands on me. I say almost because I was reacting as if it was happening but there was no real physical sensation of it. I twisted and turned to escape them. I could hear an eerie voice in my head saying my name, my full name, over and over. Sometimes it sounded a bit like the psychiatrist, sometimes it sounded like my mum. The sensation was akin to being in a waking nightmare. My husband went to the loo. He’s fairly oblivious. I had told him about the feeling of people coming to get me but he just went to sleep (because what could he do?). When Andy went to the loo I took the opportunity to speak to darkness “please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me” I pleaded over and over until I heard the flush. Shhh. Best be quiet. I was replaying the day in my head: why did I feel like this? This had come out of nowhere and it was intense. Then I realised:

I forgot my evening venlafaxine dose!

Oh the relief! That was easily solved! I excitedly explained to Andy who wasn’t in the least bit arsed by my amazing discovery! Then, I went down the stairs to take my tablet. Before going down I stood at the top of the stairs and paused. Everything looked kind of fuzzy – it was dark, I didn’t bother putting any lights on. The idea came to me crystal clear: jump. I knew I could fly downstairs. I’ve always known it. I just needed to have the courage to jump. It’ll be ok. When I was very little I often used to dream that I floated downstairs and over the years it’s never really left me. So there I was, stood at the top of the stairs seriously wanting to jump and fly. How amazing it would be! I put a foot out tentatively but there was only gravity. No magical weightlessness. My rational mind reminded me that I was going downstairs to take my medication because I was having disturbing thoughts…thoughts like you can fly? Oh yeah. Right. Walking it is. 

I gulped down the tablet. Went back upstairs and took two promethazine for good measure. I thought Andy had spoken to me. I asked him what he had said. Nothing, he mumbled. No, but did you make a noise? Any noise? Like a grumble or something? He didn’t understand why it mattered. It mattered because I had heard him. He had spoken or grumbled or something. It mattered because hearing things that aren’t there is disturbing. He swore he didn’t make a noise. I don’t believe him. I heard it.

That was the end of it though. I calmed really quickly and was probably asleep within half an hour. Thank goodness. 

I told Nora (CPN) about this misadventure into forgetting a venlafaxine dose. She was very concerned, said she’d never heard of that sort of reaction before. We looked up the patient info leaflet but there was nothing describing what I’d experienced. However I do know others on venlafaxine have said that missing a dose sends them a bit funny. I tried googling but it was just all the usual discontinuation/withdrawal stuff like brain zaps – not believing you can fly. I explained that I’d had bizarre thoughts the first day I’d taken them too and so it couldn’t just be coincidence that the first day I take them and the night I miss a dose are when I lose a little bit of reality. We’ll keep an eye on it. I’d explained to the psychiatrist when I saw him so I’m in safe hands. Maybe I shouldn’t have told them though. I don’t know. Wise mind says it was the right thing to do.

I’ll admit the experience unnerved me. I was so close to jumping down the stairs. From nowhere. Fortunately, the rational self-aware part of me is still functioning pretty well so that’s good! I like venlafaxine. It’s given me a new hope that there might be a drug to help; that the absolute depths of before may be avoided in the future.

Tell you what though – don’t miss a dose!