The unusual activity in my mind…

Yesterday I had one of my more disturbing episodes. This particular kind is always depressive which is a blessing really as if they were manic I just may act on the feelings that I have to fight very hard to suppress. They are unique and my former psychiatrist who has known many hundreds of bipolar people over the years has never seen them in anybody else. He would often tell me of the “unusual picture” that I presented.

I have often tried to describe these episodes and always fail. Bipolar Disorder is notoriously hard to describe to anybody who has never had the experience. People will often say that they understand because of the family member or friend that they know with a diagnosis but, to put it bluntly, they are clueless.

In case you don’t know Bipolar Disorder is an illness characterised by the distortion of moods. People with the disorder move from low to high moods. In some people this is a slow process, in others it happens seldom and in yet others the mood swings happen with a greater frequency. I have ultradian cycles. Put simply an ultradian cycle is one that occurs more than once in a 24 hour period. Infradian cycles are ones that occur over a period of days.

Often people mistake the word moods for emotions. Mood is about feeling happy or sad and bipolar mood is about having those moods to the extreme. Emotions are felt by us all though, for those who have bipolar disorder, when we have periods of illness or instability those moods can be exaggerated. Bipolar Disorder is a lens that magnifies and distorts.

The kind of rare and unusual mood swing that I had yesterday has happened to me more often than I’d like in the past and, even though they happen less often now, they don’t get any easier to cope with. When I first described them to my psychiatrist he thought that I could be describing epilepsy, namely complex partial temporal lobe seizures. Over a period of time backed up with a normal EEG it became obvious that the only link to epilepsy was that it appears to be on the same spectrum as bipolar disorder.

The episodes happen in this way: I have a very sudden drop in mood. On a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 is the lowest possible mood and 10 is the highest I drop to 1. Unlike a cycle of moods where I move from high to low with rapidity these mood drops happen when I’m in the “normal” range which is from 4 – 6. There is no warning, no indicators that anything is about to happen and they are always a shock. I am violently plunged into a depression and I am immediately beset with the urge to commit suicide. These are not suicidal thoughts but a real desire to die. I fight the urge very strongly and, as you can tell, so far I have succeeded. It worries me greatly that one day I may lose the battle and will have been conned out of my life by a conniving and underhand illness.

It takes me a few minutes or longer to understand what is happening because as well as the violent drop in mood a storm happens in my head. It’s a storm of feelings, an onslaught of despair and fear combined with an absolute and utter dread of the future. I want to self harm (and often do) and cannot envisage living the rest of my life having these episodes. It is a period of madness and mayhem over which I have no control. During the episode my forehead becomes very hot. It is as if my brain is generating heat.

As the episode progresses I can text and ring people. I ring the two people who have Lasting Power of Attorney and let them know what is happening. This is really important as they need to know what is happening just in case all goes wrong and they have to make decisions about treatment including sectioning. I can be quite honest and open with them and neither of them blanch at words like suicide. They respond pretty quickly with sound advice and comforting words.

After about an hour all begins to quieten down and I’m left exhausted. Sleeping for 12 hours after one of these episodes is not unusual. The next day I’m tired and quieter but I can go out and do things as long as I don’t have to be too sociable with people. I tread carefully and sleep a lot over the next few days.

These are episodes that I have come to terms with. They’re an experience that I can’t stop and it is literally a case of having to learn to live with them because the only other option is dying because of them. They’re an extremity in an illness of extremities but, as with all other aspects of the illness, I learn from them and have to move on until the next time.

We can choose how we respond to our experiences and I choose to learn and try to arm myself against them. It isn’t always possible but if I give up trying then I give up living and I’m not ready to do that yet.


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I got a letter today…

It wasn’t the letter that I both wanted and dreaded it to be but it was of the brown envelope variety. I get a few of them from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) at this time of year as they say what my state benefits will be from April onwards and the letters are proof of those benefits for the times when I have to jump through hoops to prove that, try as I might, I can’t jump through hoops very much these days.

I’m going through the Employment Support Allowance/Work Capability Assessment (ESA/WCA) process and, difficult as it is, I’m finding the waiting around to get from one part to another most wearing. I’m not a patient person and I’m not good at not being in control so it’s stressful. I’m okay most of the time though, really. I know that worrying and projecting about what may or may not happen isn’t going to help me at all and neither is reading all those dreadful media reports that people are so fond of tweeting and putting on facebook. I know what my illness is capable of doing to me and I don’t need to read about the effects of the process on other people. On the whole I’m good at ignoring media reports but, as I’m human, I do succumb to the temptation from time to time.

What I have become good at is preparing myself without projecting far too much into the future. To put it simply – planning is fine, prophesying isn’t. I am also lucky (though I never thought I would be in a position to admit this) in that all my affairs are under registered Lasting Power of Attorney which means that there are a couple of really good people that I can lean on when I need to. Whilst they can take things out of my hands they’re actually very good at being the guiding hand at the small of my back and are doing so with admirable skill.

I’ve learned that, to protect my mental health, I need to respond to the clues that my mind and body give me. I need to recognise when I need to rest, when I need to do something, the best way to spend my time, what to do with mania, how to tackle depression etc. I have a vicious and incredibly fast changing kind of Bipolar Disorder which spins me round with gay abandon whenever and wherever it feels like it. Being at home gives me the time and space to do this. I’m not so much as not working but keeping on living.

Financially I’ve learned to save as much as I can because no matter how small a nest egg is it’s a cushion should things go wrong. I’ve learned to economise and yet still have the same standard of living that I’ve always had. I suppose I’ve learned that, contrary to popular belief, Bipolar Disorder does not have to mean financial disorder.

As a result of this when I got the letter in the brown envelope this morning I could see it as a positive. It said that I won’t be being assessed for what is now Disability Living Allowance to transfer (hopefully) to Personal Independence Payment until April 2015 at the earliest. This means that I have a guaranteed income for the next 15 months come what may. It means that coupled with my savings, should the worst come to the worst, I will not suffer badly. I’ll still be able to pay my bills and eat properly.

If I believe my peers then I am fighting a series of battles in a war that I will ultimately lose. If I listen to my closest friend then I will undeniably win the war even if I lose a few battles along the way. I hope for the latter and know that pragmatism, common sense and determination have put me in a place where, whatever happens, I am in a position to keep on going.

It’s okay to cope well with the ESA/WCA process. I will not be tricked into guilt by my peers or Atos or DWP for not being frozen by fear by the whole process. There are days when I don’t cope at all, when the fear rises so high I feel that I’m going to drown in my own anxiety but that doesn’t happen everyday. When it does I accept it for what it is and let it happen. I don’t wallow in fear, misery or self pity but I do recognise that they’re all feelings that surface from time to time.

I’m not sailing along without a care in the world – far from it but equally I’m not going to admit to feeling anything other than the way I do. I don’t want to be more scared of my peers and their supporters than I am of DWP, Atos & the Government but, as you can see by my previous post, they seem to want to feel like that.

Support, encouragement & nurturing are giving me the ability to cope. Preparation, planning & friends who are wiser than I am are giving me foundations from which to fight. I am under no illusion that things can go badly wrong in this process but I am also under no illusion that statistics come from somewhere and I just may well be one of the people who actually get the right decision first time. There is always hope.

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Stop scaring me why don’t you?

I’m currently going through the ESA/WCA process. I have found it difficult to get any positive encouragement from anybody. My Twitter timeline screams the misery of those who fail to get the result that they need and rarely do a few hours pass without several tweets and retweets of the same stories of those who die by, it is claimed and denied, the rigours of the process.

I live alone and I’m hundreds of miles from a family who care little about my experience. I have a mother who has illnesses that are more fiction than fact and a sister who resents the fact that she may have to return to work years after deciding she didn’t want to. She too lives alone but she has financial and emotional support from our one remaining parent.

I have a couple of very sensible friends who offer good, solid and practical advice. They recognise that the process both terrifies me and spurs me on to fight my corner and they are invaluable.

From my peers and the charities that claim to act for my good I have had little support but I have had the horror stories force fed to me in the mistaken belief that they can nurture a soul that is hungry for encouragement and stories from the bright side. It seems that we are disallowed the very idea that there is a bright side. There are no stories or words of support from those who have fought and won. If there are then they have been buried under the considerable weight of the misery that is piled sky high.

If the stories that were shared so avidly and gleefully actually changed anything then the constant barrage would be more tolerable but they don’t. They reach only the ears and eyes of the people who are already onside. The people on the other side have no interest in the stories and will never read them.

So, instead of practical help with filling in forms I’m told how difficult it is and how part of my soul will be destroyed in the process. It wasn’t difficult and my soul remains intact. It was stressful recounting what are always bad days tempered with goodness but it was simple. The most difficult part was making my GP act with urgency when it came to the supporting letter and the reading of it before I sent it off with the form.

There have been no suggestions from my peers and their supporters about how to cope financially if the worst comes to the worst and my benefits are cut or stopped. The advice about that came from the two friends I mentioned earlier and they, rather sensibly, suggested that I economise now, save a little, get used to spending less, build a store cupboard, apply for the energy rebates I’m entitled to – advice and support that is meaningful.

I go through hours every day without feeling the need to obsess over what might happen and take each step as it comes. I find that this creates an armour that, though not impenetrable, provides a skin that repels doubts and fears. Then the stories and tweets that people feel obliged to share appear and I get scared. If I am more scared by the people who are supposed to be on my side than by the system that can really harm me what hope do I have? By all mean publicise protests and encourage people to shout and act but at the same time give me the positive stories and let me hope a little.

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It’ll be lonely this Christmas

Too many people wake up in Christmas morning and ache for another person to talk to. For days the only human voice they hear will be in the TV or radio. The continuity announcers turn a sharp knife by the allegedly reassuring comments aimed at those who have to spend the day alone.

The sad fact is that this is pretty much like any day for too many people. Some of you will invite someone over in Xmas day. They’ll be warm and, hopefully, well fed in someone else’s home and then return to another year of endless aloneness.

I’m quite good at being alone, even at Christmas and I have been the extra guest at the table a couple of times. I’ve sat in the awkward silences and seen the sighs of relief when I’ve made the move to go home. Being transported into someone else’s family can increase the loneliness because the only reason you’re there is it’s a holiday. It’s painful.

Invite someone for Christmas by all means but become their friend throughout the year also. Say hello, ask them how they are and listen, tell them about your normal, ordinary life. Be a real link into reality and, if you invite them back for Christmas next year you’ll be reaching out to a friend not assuaging guilt at having much when others have less.

Who knows, you may even empower someone into reaching out themselves to someone within whom they recognise a need. Act kindly by all means but keep acting kindly; change the world for someone. Please.

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On being outwardly competent…

I finished filling in the WCA form earlier this week and had only to sign it once I’d picked the supporting letter from my GP up from his surgery. I’m proud of the way I handled the form filling process. It was stressful, depressing and anxiety inducing but I did it in my own time and at my own pace. It was harder because it proved impossible to get help from an “expert” or charity to do it. Mental health charities couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help, CAB has a turn up and see policy which is destructive for those with mental health problems and the only other people who may, and I stress the word may, have helped were two bus rides away in each direction. So that left me in a position where, had I not already suffered at the hands of the discriminators, I certainly would be feeling that I had now.

The opening paragraph of the letter that my GP wrote spoke of the me 12 years ago. I lived in a world where I planned suicide to the point I had different plans for different seasons. I would not contemplate using a method in the winter if I had deemed it a way to die in the summer and vice versa. I was reminded of how I’d talked about this to my GP and rationalised how one method was a “good one for cold weather” because there would be momentary heat of a kind in the final moments. I have struggled long and hard to leave that part of my life behind but, if I’m totally honest, suicidal thoughts are always a little too close for comfort.

It was hard reading the line that the stability of my moods is as good as it’s going to get. The disruptive and multiple daily cycles are never going to ease. I will wake in the night as I move from depressed to manic for the rest of my life. I will never know how it feels to wake in the morning and have stability through an entire day. Even at my most stable I have never had a day where I didn’t experience at least one change of mood.

It hurts that I am described as being easily stressed, not because I am inadequate but because I am easily overwhelmed. It’s a way of saying that I’m not built for life and that life is certainly not built for me. On the outside I look like any other person but on the inside I’m unimaginable to most people and this is what frightens people so much about poor mental health. It is unimaginable, unfathomable and terrifying. Try living with it and see how scary that lack of understanding really makes it.

He writes that my current state of “relative stability” would be a nightmare for most people but for me it’s a significant achievement. That makes me so sad and I’m in tears just thinking about it. I work so hard to get within the normal range of moods and never get there. I have never had those normal range of moods having experienced my first depressive episode aged 11 and developing diagnosable Bipolar Disorder by the time I was 16. My normality is a huge struggle.

If you’re expecting a line here to say I carry on with my life, my interests and hobbies in spite of Bipolar Disorder then you’re wrong. It is pointless trying to live to spite something or someone as all it does is open a gateway to resentment. Resentment is pointless: everybody recognises what is going on but, like peeing down your leg, you’re the only one that feels it and you’re the one that has to clear up the mess.

What I do is live. I do it as well as I can which is actually quite a low level but I’m happy most of the time. I write, I take photos, I have a small menagerie of animals and all this gives me a structure to my day which is really good for me. I don’t have a “purpose” in my life to pursue because it’s a full time job just being me getting through the days and get through them I do.

I was advised to approach the WCA form carefully and to remind myself that I was talking about my worst times and not my best times. The fact is that I can have my best times and my worst times in the same day. There is little difference and it stings that I can’t describe that with any fluency to anybody. It’s truly a foreign experience.

What has come out of the form filling experience for me is that people mean well but they often miss. They think they understand but if I don’t how can they? I have an incredible GP who has been so patient and considerate with me at times when I would have slapped me. I have a small but wonderful circle of friends who just love me and would even if I wasn’t a basket case.

It’s been difficult seeing where I was, where I am now and knowing that I could find my way back there quickly. Life is uncertain at the moment but I’m doing what I can to make the road a little more walkable and, as my Health & Welfare and Finance LPAs are registered then I know that if I can’t make major decisions should my mind really mess up then someone else is willing to do that for me.

I’m not brave really but I don’t know how not to fight and that is my salvation.

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Discrimination – the ugliest child of humanity is thriving

I talk and write about discrimination a lot. It’s fair to say that, as a result of my poor mental health, I encounter discrimination on a regular basis. Several times a week I hear comments that lack foundation and logic. For example, a racist, sexist, homophobic neighbour likes to tell our other neighbours that I’m a scrounger and that I’ve had handouts all my life. It appears that the huge amount of taxes and national insurance contributions I’ve paid were forgotten once I claimed state benefits.

Recently I was asked to deliver a training session by my local council to their new intake of front line staff. As one of their customers who also has a health problem that is wide open to the judgement of the ill-informed I’m more aware than most of the problems people face and have been at the other end of poor customer service (though not theirs) more than once this month. I’ve also worked in a call centre and I wanted to show them that everyone is vulnerable to stress and mental health problems. There isn’t a single person alive who is guaranteed never to have a mental health problem.

We talked about the way that discrimination began; a bias towards those in your tribe back in the days when there was fewer people in the world than there is in the part of the city that I live in. In order to survive those early humans had a bias towards those in their tribe and developed a bias against those without it. A bias that became prejudicial and then, for some people, racism. The ability to discriminate negatively is embedded within us but we do not have to obey it; we are beings of free will.

Whenever I blog about discrimination I get unfollowed by people on Twitter and unfriended by people on Facebook. People subtweet the nastiness that they lack the courage to say directly. I don’t make an effort to find out because I won’t give anybody an opportunity to indulge in their prejudices. If they don’t want to see people talking about discrimination and mental health that’s up to them. What does anger me is the public reactions in defence of people who have not been named but assume that I’m writing about them. If you thinking I’m talking about you when I write examples of discrimination then please do something about it other than subtweet/unfollow/unfriend. If you recognise yourself in those descriptions then you are guilty of discrimination whether I’m talking about you or not. If you subtweet/unfollow/unfriend because you recognise the behaviour and/or story of someone you suspect I’m talking about ask yourself why you did that. It may not occur to you that they are guilty as you suspect they are charged. It is easy to say that you do not practise discrimination, that you have people with similar problems in your family, that you’ve had a problem once. This does not free you from discriminating negatively and it does not mean that your friends are incapable of discrimination. Having decided that your friends cannot be in the wrong you are therefore deciding that I (and others like me) are wrong, mistaken or lying. This is discrimination.

The reality of our friendships and relationships is different for each person. A group of us may have one friend in common but the way we know that person, the depth of the relationship, the things that they reveal to us aren’t constant. The attributes we believe our friends and family to have aren’t necessarily the ones they have. We can only make judgements about them based on the way they behave towards us. If they always present us with their positive attributes then that is how we feel they are. If they hide their discriminatory feelings and vileness then we will never know about it but it doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Lack of knowledge about discrimination doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or that those who speak out against it are liars it merely means that perhaps we don’t know someone as well as we think we do.

I know a woman who is a racist and she keeps it well hidden. To the world, and some members of her family, she is an upstanding member of the community. Behind closed doors and with her guard down she has some pretty vile opinions. You may denounce someone who denounces her. It doesn’t make them wrong or a liar but it does make them someone with a different experience. Speak as we find by all means but don’t write off someone who has a different experience.

I found out long ago that if I don’t hide the fact that I have Bipolar Disorder then I’m applauded for my honesty but that for those with prejudices I’m handing them the ammunition they need to attack me. Discrimination comes in all sizes from the little minds of those incapable of seeing beyond their fear to the employers who cannot see talents worth nurturing and the mental health charities who cherry pick those they choose to represent and help. For those of us with mental health problems we’re at the bottom of a crushing pile. We are condemned if we don’t speak up and have our honesty used as a weapon if we do. I’m clever, funny and talented but, because I have Bipolar Disorder I’m also, in the eyes or the narrow sighted and narrow minded, a liar.

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I’m feeling abandoned…

The advice for everybody when it comes to filling in the ESA form is to get expert help. This morning I rang the experts to be told that they don’t/won’t/can’t help. So I have to ask myself what are the mental health charities for if they don’t help you fight the things that could kill you? One local branch of a national network has “adjusted” research figures to get the stats they want, had a “manager” who stole from clients when he wasn’t making sexually suggestive comments to them and, as I’ve found out today, doesn’t help people in need. Why are they getting funding exactly?

If there was ever a day I felt the lowest of the low then today is it. Kicked in the teeth whilst lying in the gutter.

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The next step…

The ESA form arrived late last week. I had one of those psychic moments and when I heard the letter box rattle I knew that this was it. I’m wasn’t sure at the time if I was calm about, numb or immersed in planning for some mental health training I was delivering that morning but I out put the envelope to one side unopened and continued with the pressing needs of the day.

I opened the form when I got home. You can only deal with fear if you face it and a quick look at it confirmed that it wasn’t designed for people with mental health problems and I needed to talk to my LPA guys and my GP first. They were supportive and with lots of practical advice: take it slowly, take lots of breaks, drink lots of tea, cuddle the cats. My GP has pledged a letter of supportive evidence from the outset as he believes that I’m unemployable.

Today I start to make the notes that will become my evidence for the form. I’m going to have to confront some big truths about myself and for me that’s the hardest part. It’s not so much about what I have become but about the disinhibition that Bipolar Disorder displays about me. It is exaggerated but it is still a me I don’t care for and neither does anybody else.

So, support team in place, tea bags a plenty and cats close by today is the day I start to do this. If you think of me today please think more kindly of me than I will end up doing of myself.

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Out of the frying pan…

Last week I got the letter that I’d been dreading for a long time. I knew it was coming but it was a case of waiting until it arrived. At first I was able to put the knowledge to one side and not feel any stress about receiving it but lately it has been playing on my mind more than a little. When the letter box rattled and I saw the brown envelope that was on the mat I knew that it was the letter containing the words “We need to assess you for Employment and Support Allowance.” My immediate reaction was to cry and feel a sense of dread that the process had begun.

I haven’t worked for a long time. The bipolar disorder that first took it’s grip of me when I was 14 years old finally overwhelmed me just after I moved into my current home. When I was able to work I loved it. With work mates I could form shallow relationships to supplement the small group of close friends that only work if I keep the people at a physical distance.

I loved work though there were some jobs which held my thrall much more than others. I did everything from cleaning to being a PA/senior secretary in one of the world’s top four accountancy firms. In between them I’d been a barmaid, a pub landlady, a life model, a beekeeper and loved them all in varying amounts. I hated the mundane and the ordinary and if I was stretched to my limits then all the better.

It all began to travel rapidly downhill when I worked for the accountants. It was a high pressured job in corporate finance. It was exacting work, long hours and I had to fight to get time off. There was far more travel involved than I wanted and I missed my cats too much when I was away from them. It all blew up in my head spectacularly when I was sacked shortly after revealing I had bipolar disorder. The excuse that they gave me that my work wasn’t up to standard and that therefore I no longer fitted their mould. I didn’t want to fit their mould as I found them all little more than egos battling to be top dog. The whole situation was very stressful and I had what felt like a huge explosion in my head and had to return to the uncertain world of temping just to keep my overdraft under control. A combination of the bank behaving incredibly cruelly and an unrealistic manager at the temping agency put me into a place that I was convinced I would never claw my way back out of.

My working life was over but with the help of a good GP and a talented psychiatrist I began to slowly recover. I got medical certificates from my GP regularly until one day, and without informing me, the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) told my GP they didn’t require them any more as I’d been submitting them for a long time. This, my GP told me, was standard practice. It meant that since my GP didn’t have to write certificates, in theory at least, I didn’t have to see him to prove that I was sick. I questioned the logic of this at the time. It seemed absurd that people who could have been on the point of returning to work were sucked into a system that dictated they couldn’t be expected to work again. Those who were swinging the lead, and doubtless they were some, were free to never work again because the system took the GP out of the assessment process. How this system wasn’t more widely abused is beyond me and also beyond me is why DWP thought it was ever a good idea to abandon people and write them off without thinking of the consequences. Consequences that we’re now paying for.

Now that the system is being “repaired” those of us who are genuinely unable to work again are being put through an assessment that has so many flaws the long reaching effect on the mental health of people surely cannot be measured.

So I’m waiting for a form to fill in. This is not the start of a battle because when I look backwards at my life I’ve got a history of fights that I’ve lost and won for 40 years. I’m in the middle of a war with my mind and I’ve got a new enemy. I have to look beyond this particular battle into a future where I have a future however long it takes.

Having my affairs under a registered Lasting Power of Attorney helps immeasurably. It means that I have two people looking after my best interests and guiding me in a practical and caring manner so that I can take care of myself should the worst happen.
I’m taking steps to ensure that, should the worst happen and my income suffers, I’ll have a store cupboard of tinned food to fall back on. My finance attorney is looking at my income, projected income and outgoings to see how long my savings will last me. My medical attorney is reminding me that it’s fine to plan for the future but not to project, to expect stress but not to go searching for it.

The plan is to eat, rest, meditate and take it one step at a time. It’s pointless me finding out about appeals and tribunals before I’ve actually received the form or filled it in. That’s a step in the future and even if it is the near future, it’s not now.

I appealed on Twitter for some advice and got the horror stories when what I really wanted was some practical advice. I know that the form will be difficult to fill in, I know that I’m one of the people who are likely to be wrongly assessed and have to appeal but I also know that with the right support and guidance I can get through this.

Forewarned is forearmed but if advice and guidance cause me as great a stress as my passage through the system then it’s at best worthless and at it’s worst puts me at as great as risk as the process itself. I don’t believe that I’ll get through the process unscathed but don’t make it worse for me, make your advice worth having.

I have to go through the events of each day and pick out the positive things in them be it decent food, loving friends, time with the animals or even just getting enough sleep. If I forget to acknowledge the positives that are there I will only recognise the negatives that perhaps do not exist and, even if they do, do not rule my world.

I will fight because I don’t know how not to, I will win because I will fight whether or not the WCA gives me the result that I need and I will not give up or give in – I’m just too tough to die.

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On the comfort of suicidal ideation…

It’s happened to me so many times that it’s almost normal. It’s been part of my life since I was in my teens. I used to plan my suicide in detail. I have preferred methods of dying for winter and summer used to update a suicide note depending on how many animals I had at the time. None of this is normal behaviour but it isn’t unusual in my life. That is why, when I stood on a pontoon near the Balmoral yesterday and thought “How easy it would be to slip into the water now. I’d leave my phone & camera on the side so they’d know who I was”, I was calm enough to turn around away from the danger and back into safety.

I sat in MShed and as hordes of children shouted and ran around I sent texts to a few people. They were quite calm and matter of fact informing them of the suicidal ideation I was experiencing. One rang and, once they were satisfied I was going to be able to cope, told me of their day. An odd response you may think but one of the things I cling on to the most is that if my friends and the people who support me are out there having lives then my life is out there waiting for me to rejoin it.

Another person,  a friend who is a GP, began to send texts asking for details. Were the feelings fleeting or all encompassing? Was I at home? Practical advice followed – “It WILL pass if you can only get to a place of safety etc (like you’re doing) – I think it will be ok. Think of it as a dangerous rock face – move carefully; move one limb at a time (metaphorically); look ahead but also take things one step at a time; look after the basics – feed, water, sleep, “safety”, comfort etc. Stand outside the situation – if you can, as calmly as poss – and think which of these elements are missing now (you’re away from home? Often destabilising); identify what’s missing and carefully replace in the safety of your home. Stay in touch….” (sic)

Neither of them panicked or told me off for being morbid. They accepted fully that the way I was feeling was just that – a feeling. I went home, got into my pyjamas, switched off my social networks and began to edit the photos I’d been taking over the past week.

I know where this began. It’s a delayed reaction to a very stressful series of events and I can do nothing about those events. I have to find a way of moving on as difficult as it may be. I mustn’t give myself a hard time over my inability to clean the flat. If I’m looking after myself and the animals then tidy doesn’t have to be a big consideration – food and rest for all of us come first.

Suicidal thoughts aren’t a runaway train that inevitably lead to a suicide attempt. I’ve been having suicidal thoughts since I was 15 and made only one attempt. I look at them as a coping mechanism; a morbid method that my mind uses to remind me that ending my life is an option which gives me a reminder that moving forward is my preferred option.

On Monday I will talk to my GP and we will plan my recovery. This means, if I’m thought to be ill enough, taking away things that can harm me including sharp knives and even, possibly, my medication. It’s hard work visiting a doctor daily for medication and monitoring but my moods have the potential to change with ferocity and speed and I don’t always see the warning signs.

Feeling like this is almost a comfort. It’s permission to let go of the mundane and stop the pretence of coping: I have the luxury of looking after me and letting everything else go. I have registered Lasting Power of Attorney so my bills will get paid and I will have help in making decisions about how to get better. This is just another episode in a life full of bipolar episodes, it’s not the end of my world.

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