Turbulence

I walk every day, with Charlie, we go to the memorial park where there’s a great open basin of inky sky and you can see the moon and the stars and it’s so beautiful, all the lights in the distance and the quiet and the rain. The cenotaph is lit up pale blue at night and there’s the poppy wreaths all laid around it. Walking is good for writing. If I take myself out when I feel stuck I usually find that lines come back to me, and I walk around dissecting them and putting them back together in my head.

I’m not going through a great period with my work. I am having a better day today but this week I have been quite unwell. It’s not a patch on an episode but I’m shook up by some highs, and agitation and apathy and racing thoughts, and I can’t sleep without 15mg of zopiclone which I had managed to halve. The medication masks a good deal of it really. And I tell everyone this medication is so good, it helps so much, but I am living with so much in terms of side effects and to think of myself on this stuff for the rest of my life more than depresses me. I feel buried under it. Writing hasn’t been the same. At the moment I can’t concentrate well and I have no patience. If my mood starts to escalate I find it hard to distract and feel too fast and it’s scary. It makes me wonder how the hell I ever coped with so many full blown manias, and depressions. My worker says I’m a manic depressive, I’m going to have moodwings, but right now I feel so fragile and I’m switching rapidly from anger to apathy.

I went to a reading group at the library yesterday. I wanted to go but they were quite a rowdy bunch and I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think straight and I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t breathe. The leader kept asking if I was alright in a concerned way. I wasn’t alright, and I didn’t contribute anything. I decided to avoid all stimulation for a few days, apart from the kids, and see if I can calm myself down and nip it in the bud. So here I am, not working, not writing, and finding it hard to do anything, reading, housework, because my mind keeps taking off.

This is it. This is what it’s like to live with the illness. Even strong major tranquillisers, two types of mood stabiliser and sleeping pills can’t quell all the moods. Some are just simmering inside me, and I can feel the battle I am having with them. I know that everyone has moodswings of some kind and that’s life, but these mixed symptoms are very distressing. To think of how high I used to go, all the hallucinations, it terrifies me to think that could ever happen again, but the likelihood is that it will, at some point. For now, I just have to keep a lid on things, the group has opened me up to feeling vulnerable again, and although I am determined to stick with it I am not entirely sure that it will help or just make me worse.

One very inspiring blog I’ve been reading is Forgetting the Time, Annie Clarkson. Annie is a writer and her blog is very unique and intimate. Her most recent blog on mindfulness is a great introduction to the practice. She writes beautiful prose poems and stories that are bittersweet and sometimes fragile, and always a joy to read. This is a link to her page:

http://forgettingthetime.blogspot.com/ 

Charlie is bugging me for attention. I am going to go and read an anthology of love poems, straighten myself out, get a hot drink and try and work through this.

x

PS You can get hold of a copy of my latest book of poems by Chipmunka Publishing, a mental health publisher by following this link:

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1748

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What’s Hot What’s Not

Hot

chuck berry

neil young

lachlan mackinnon

Time Alone

lovely green apples

being wrong sometimes

the trip

crying real tears

crazy people

talking to oneself

not having to take the train

clearing out clothes

walking at night

reading books with a four year old

time and space to write

lost season six (yes, I actually watched it)

the discovery of lattes

waterstones

hearing Steven laugh until he’s beside himself

John Siddique

being honest

clean notebooks

making people laugh at you and with you and feeling that it’s ok

holding a book of your own work in your hands

Not

epic three hour versions of lady gaga/cbeebies/meatloaf in my head

having no clothes left

being right about insignificant things

fireworks, including the Katy Perry song

pears

spiders spinning down next to you when you’re watching telly

steven’s non-humane approach to removing spiders, personally I prefer the hoover

kale

photographs of myself

having to pose for photographs

having photographs of myself publicly displayed

magazines who don’t tell you your work is in them

used car salesmen

loneliness

caffeine rushes

90’s rock

shopping full stop

being permanently coerced and cajoled into doing things you really would rather not do

mixed moodswings

missing out whole words in sentences, sometimes two, by way of being too Lancashire

buying chocolates because they’re cheap, knowing they’ll never make it to Christmas

hailstone

no new messages

New Book Out!

This week I started group therapy. It’s almost completely user-led so I’m sure it will take some getting used to, but I’m going to stick with it for the next couple of weeks, at least. It’s good to be reminded that there are other people out there suffering the same diagnosis, listening to them, responding, generally feeling like other people can understand. I felt vulnerable at first but it was easy to open up. I sat with my name badge on and as we all took turns introducing ourselves I said, without any idea of what I was about to say, My name’s Melissa and this is the first time I’ve been stable since I was fifteen. And I got so choked up I didn’t think I’d be able to stay in the room. And I haven’t been able to cry for a year, so all of it was like a huge accumulation and it just had to be released. I couldn’t believe what I’d said, and the truth in it was just too much to take. But saying it to people who all nodded their heads and understood. Well it was so much more than what I’m used to, and it was so welcome.

I’ve been writing more fiction, some of which is ok, and have been enjoying working with characters and plots. My new Chipmunka book, Bite Your Tongue When You Give Me My Name came through the post this morning, it looks really good, shiny black paperback cover with a beautiful image by Eli Regan. All the work was written at various times when I have been ill, and I have tried not to censor it. The book is charged £10 plus postage, and will be available to buy from virtually every online bookstore you can think of; Amazon, Tesco, WHSmith, Blackwell’s. I must add, even though it’s twice as much, buy the paperback, the ebook is just for promotion but is nothing like the finished paperback as I had a lot of time to work on it afterward.

I’ve been incredibly happy. Drowsy, sleepy, but happy. I’ve been listening to y la bamba and reading Emily Dickinson, Lachlan MacKinnon and Elaine Feinstein. I’ve been sleeping so well, I’ve been eating well, I’ve been feeling well.  It’s not very interesting is it, stability. I’m joking.

Here are some quick links, take a look if you have five minutes

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1748  Paperback Bite Your Tongue…

http://yesbutisitpoetry.blogspot.com/  Christodoulos Makris muses on the form.

http://www.we7.com/#/music/  Free music streaming, radio, very cool if you’re desperate to listen to that one song you seem to have misplaced.

http://pennedinthemargins.blogspot.com/ Tom Chiver’s blog site for Penned..

http://susannahrickards.blogspot.com/ Susannah Rickards, whose new short fiction collection has just been launched, winner of the Scott Prize..

http://www.theshortreview.com/  With Author interviews and exclusive reviews of short story collections, a comrehensive guide to short fiction collections.

So I’m going to get on with a story I began yesterday…

x

Anti-SkyRockets

I’ve seen a number of articles regarding anti-psychotic drugs, and I feel they don’t give a balanced view. Whenever I read about them it seems it’s a way to get at pharmaceutical companies, and although I agree that they are producing billion dollar industries, it is the medical profession that over-prescribe very potent major tranquillisers and anti-psychotics. The pharmaceutical companies just supply on demand.

Despite all the irresponsibility about how these drugs are prescribed and what for, and stories I’ve read about people having extreme reactions to them, including fatality, outbursts of uncharacteristic violence, severe confusion etc. there simply is a need for these drugs in psychiatry.

I often hear that these drugs are just bad, that they have so many terrible side-effects, that they turn you into zombies, that they make you apathetic. I have a history with these drugs, I have taken them since I was 20, I’m 28 now. It has taken eight years for me to find one that is suitable. I’ve taken respiridone, olanazapine, abilify, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, and others. The fact is, if you really are going to have to take them, you will have to live with side-effects, because they all have side effects and come with the appropriate details of any side effects you might get in the packet. It’s not hidden. There are rarely few side effects with anti-psychotics, it is highly likely or even certain that you will have some form of side effect.

Most people who need to take an anti-psychotic will stop and start them, or refuse them. They are not pleasant medications. There’s a high risk of weight gain (and mostly we’re talking stones, not pounds), restless body movements, bodily tics, agitation, and can become severe enough to have to stop the medication. The other main difficulty is drowsiness, with the exception of Abilify, these drugs will make you tired, to what degree depends on the person and the dose.

I needed to take them.

I take mood stabilisers, lithium and lamotrigine, but without the depixol injection I would be completely tense, rapid cycling moods, usually with mixed symptoms prevailing (the worst manifestation of the disorder), and hallucinations. Depixol is an anti-psychotic depot injection and it has saved my life. I have gained a lot of weight which I find hard to manage, I have drowsiness, restless legs and feet. That is far preferable to this time a year ago when every minute was agony, and there’s no melodrama meant, things simply were that awful.

I have interestingly been able to cope with the older drugs rather than the newer. Abilify (the website for abilify writes in bold ‘A medicine to help you move forward’), had me so wound up and hyperactive and hyper-alert that I wanted to throw myself under a truck. Olanzapine and respiridone were the worse culprits for weight gain and drowsiness, but they did work on the mixed symptoms. Chlorpromazine was always the choice to knock me senseless and put me in bed for the afternoon when I was just too high.

I don’t doubt that these drugs have taken years off my life. I don’t doubt that they’ll account for a worse health problem in later life. I often think, I would be so much happier without depixol, and I wish I could just be crazy and people not interfere but really I was begging them to give me something just to be able to calm down. I remember someone saying to me, they put all this money into the drugs surely they can come up with something that doesn’t fuck you up so much. I hate my body and my appearance, I hate my size, my skin, my lethargy. But I’m far from apathetic. I have all these nasty chemicals in my system but rather that than be dead, as I’m certain would be the case. I couldn’t have held on any longer even for the kids. Put like that, I suppose I’m saying that I can only be pleased that these drugs exist, and that I hope they are getting to the right people, and keeping them well. If you are taking anti-psychotics I can only sympathise with what you must be going through, and have been through, and it shouldn’t be happening, and I’m so sorry that it is.