Not my finest

I fucked up at work today. Ended up in tears at my desk. Actually it was a mistake I made a while back that came to light today, but what’s the difference. My carelessness has affected 30 people’s lives, plus the admin team now trying to fix this. One of the team, who I really respect, said his evening couldn’t have been made any worse.

Bugger.

I didn’t handle it very well. After work my housemate said it doesn’t matter what mistakes we make, it’s how we deal with them – except, my life philosophy is doing everything possible to avoid mistakes in the first place, so I don’t have to deal with them. When I do make a mistake it’s awful, I can’t take it – thus the tears today.

I’m not very proud of myself.

But I’m not going to wallow in self-loathing either.

Repeat after me, MQ. We all make mistakes. Get over it.

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Waking up

The last few days have felt horrendous, but they’ve been worth it. I forced myself to keep reading my old journals, and cringing aside, something stirred inside me. I know who I am. Where my head is. I know I’ve been sleep walking through the last two years, hiding from anything that might cause anxiety. I chose blissful ignorance, the easy life, avoiding problems by not actually doing anything. 

Today I wrote a new journal entry, and it felt like clasping hands with an old friend. 

I told Dr T that I can’t coast through the six months of therapy we have left to work with. I’ve been going to him for five years now and I STILL struggle to be open with him despite the trust we’ve built – I don’t think I’ll ever have that level of trust again, so if I don’t somehow beat my depression now I’m really scared I never will. And he listened. Asked the things I wished he wouldn’t. It’s hard, harder than running 5k, but it’s right. Now the low mood has a twist of hope, and that makes it bearable.

Therapy isn’t the only arena of change – I’ve decided it’s time to lose the lithium. I’m not bipolar – I’m on lithium to boost the fluoxetine – so I don’t think it’s a dangerous move. For now I’ve gone from 700mg to 600 – I don’t know if I have the patience to go this slowly. Surely the withdrawals if I go cold turkey can’t be worse than they were for venlafaxine? 

If anyone reading this has come off lithium, I’d be very interested to hear your experience.

A memory like swiss cheese

The last few days haven’t been easy. My mood has been so low at times it’s practically scraping the floor, although it’s encouraging that I haven’t been driven to self-harm. That’s something.

I’ve been re-reading the journals I’ve kept since my mental illness began, and it scares me how much of it I don’t really remember. I think I dissociated a lot more than I realised. I regret that, but at the same time I suppose it probably helped me to keep functioning.

In particular it’s almost heartbreaking to read over old sessions with Dr T. We used to have such deep, meaningful discussions, whereas for the last two years we’ve been skimming the surface – how are you today level stuff compared to ‘Dr T I’ve been thinking about X that we discussed last time and I have a couple of theories we should explore…’. 

What happened?

It’s my fault. After such a difficult period when the depression and anxiety really took hold, I couldn’t help but crave some stability. Stability came to equal numbness. Forced ignorance. And that doesn’t change anything.

I keep realising what a coward I am. I let this happen. Even now, writing this, I’m still struggling to really make myself do something about it. What a waste of a human being.

‘Despair to Deliverance’ by Sharon DeVinney & Robin Personette

This post is a special one that’s been a couple of years in the making. It’s time to talk about ‘Despair to Deliverance’, a collaboration between Robin and Dr DeVinney. Up until recently this was a series of blog posts released teasingly slowly on Sharon’s website, and now I’ve discovered the book it has become. Discovered, and devoured.

Hey MQ. You read a lot. What’s the big deal over this one?

It had me at the concept. A collaborative work between patient and therapist, describing Robin’s mental health difficulties and the efforts of her therapist to keep her alive, and keep her healthy. Who doesn’t want to know what their therapist is thinking? What motivates them, what lingers with them beyond a session? And at the same time, to read Robin’s take on her experience and her treatment – to actually find an answer to the question of ‘is this normal?’/’is it just my therapy that’s like this…?’

How often are we invited to see inside the therapeutic relationship, from both angles?

The concept had me hooked, and the content kept me there. I could relate to a lot of what Robin describes. Intense depression, anxiety, but then faking normality in front of everyone to try and maintain the life she has at the time. Been there, failed that too. Bipolar symptoms. Impulsive self-destruction. A stubborn refusal to try groups. More medications than you could shake a stick at. Biological depression and psychological depression. I could go on…

I’ve read a fair few first person accounts of mental illness, but not many that I’ve really connected with. I instinctively feel I understand parts of Robin’s journey so well that I trust her to teach me things about the parts that we don’t share – e.g. she makes me question my refusals of ECT. Robin’s descriptions aren’t anything like the scary stories we’re led to believe. In fact, she makes ECT sound less like torture and more like…treatment! I never trusted those assurances coming from my psychiatrist, but I trust it in Robin’s accounts. Her writing comes across as so honest, so thoughtful but still concise…what more can you ask for? On a side note, I think it asked a lot of Robin, and it’s amazing that she’s been able to share her story like this. In consenting to and participating in writing this book, I think it’s fair to say Robin’s inspirational.

As for Dr DeVinney’s part in this…where do I start? I stumbled across Sharon’s blog in the depths of my biological depression, when my issues with Dr T were at their most intense, and I read and re-read Sharon’s posts, desperate for anything that might better help me understand my own situation. Sharon’s writing has reminded me on more than one occasion that Dr T is a person. A revelation, I know! And at times, I can admit that I’ve been jealous of the level of support Sharon gave Robin. I’m getting by at the moment, which is a lot more than I was a couple of years ago so it’s not like there’s a real problem here – more that Sharon really knew Robin; she could join the dots or hear the words going unsaid, she knew what Robin needed, and if she could, she gave it to her. That’s priceless, and I find it comforting to know that it’s possible.

 “Despair to Deliverance” stands out from almost everything I’ve read in another way too – that Robin’s battle with mental illness is messy. She is hospitalised on multiple occasions, sometimes when you were just thinking she was doing better. Her diagnoses change with time. It takes many, many attempts to find the right medications for Robin – and sometimes the mistakes have a dangerous impact on her health. Driven to keep working (and be ‘normal’), she forces herself to take jobs when she isn’t ready, only to crash and burn after a few weeks. This all stands out to me because in other books I’ve read, there seems to be a formula of person gets (correctly) diagnosed, person is given (correct) treatment, person gets better, and I don’t think that’s the typical pathway for a lot of people. The expectation that is it is normal just amps up the pressure. 

This has turned into a bit of an essay, but I think deservedly so. I thoroughly recommend “Despair to Deliverance” for the following:

  • If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, and might find comfort in reading about someone else’s journey.
  • If you want to read first person accounts of psychiatric hospitalisation, ECT and medication regimes.
  • If you’re curious about psychotherapy from the therapist’s perspective.
  • If you live in the UK and want to rediscover some gratitude for the NHS – financial worries play a huge part in Robin’s account, and that’s one stress I was much less exposed to.

Links to the blog posts and book are at the top of the post.

(And no, this isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. I think that when we read something that moves us, we should share it in case it can move others.)

  

 

The ghosts of words unsaid

Oh boy, therapy was difficult. I pride myself on being an emotionless robot, but my body betrays me. I took paperclips to fiddle with (I like to untangle them when I’m anxious), but I had to keep putting them down so I wouldn’t throw them. They wouldn’t have done any damage, but I might have died of embarrassment.

It was the first session since Dr T announced he’s leaving at the end of the year, and I could barely look at him. It was awful. All I could do was say that I was fine, when it was obvious I wasn’t. A personal plea more than anything else. There was this massive elephant in the room that his announcement had managed to upset me, but each time Dr T tried to talk about it I had such a strong mentally-allergic reaction that I shut it right down.

I did manage to tell him about the auditory hallucinations though, which was good because he re-assured me that it wasn’t as big a deal as I’d thought. I think I just need to be vigilant – if it happens again it may need a medication adjustment (*groan*).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bury my head in the sand.

 

Radio silence

I’m not sure what happened last night. After posting here, I went to bed, and that was the end of the phantom noises. I feel a bit silly for panicking, but like I said in that post I know how serious that situation could become. I’m going to have to try really hard to keep trust in my ears. I’m not even 100% sure why I’d find it so mortifying if someone else clocked that I was hallucinating, but the fear is definitely there.

Tomorrow brings my first session with Dr T since he told me he’s leaving. We were meant to meet last week but he had to cancel – to be honest I was such a mess by that point that his message was a relief. I’m apprehensive about tomorrow’s session- there’s just so much on my mind that I don’t think I’m going to be able to share.

Let’s see how this goes.

You are tuned into Imaginary FM

I’m going to try and stick to facts. If I let emotions creep in, I’m scared I’ll freak out.

Short version: I have an uncomfortable suspicion that I’m hearing things.

Longer version: It is probably nothing. I have been feeling kind of ill for the past few days; it’s weird – pain in my abdomen, like a severe stitch in my side that moves and stretches and makes it hurt to breathe.

It comes and it goes. I had to leave work at lunchtime on Friday because the pain was so bad, but it eased off on Saturday and I didn’t think too much of it. It came back today, gradually, until this evening I was having to really concentrate on regular breathing. And then I heard a long conversation that wasn’t actually happening. I apologised to a housemate for the noise another guest was making taking a phone call in their room, and my housemate gave me a long look and said the room has been silent for the last 30 mins. Our guest was asleep.

Okaaaay. Awkward. I went to get ready for bed not long after, and could hear my housemate had the radio on in her bedroom. I was thinking of asking her to turn it down…and stopped myself. I listened really hard by the door, and found silence.
Two or three years ago, I overdosed on all sorts of meds and had a hallucinatory trip. That started with me hearing a radio that wasn’t there, and progressed to loud voices laughing at me in the bathroom, and strangers in my house, while spiders ate the wooden staircase.

I’m not for a moment suggesting I think it’s happening again like that, and I certainly haven’t abused my meds. It just scares me to be hearing these things (and yes, I have verified they’re not real).

I don’t completely trust my senses as it is.