Sorry for yesterday’s pathetic rant. I’d initially made it a private post, but then decided to go ahead and publish it; what’s the point of a blog but for people to read it? That said, despite its moderate success (and as I am always harping on), Confessions is still written primarily for my own benefit, so I do still occasionally write private material, if I want to keep track of particularly personal issues. But by and large I like to have things available for others to read and comment on, as it’s a huge source of support and insight. Anyway, thank you for having the kind diplomacy not to tell me what a silly bitch I was being
I’m feeling a good bit better today. The Everythinger is still here and the house is still a tip of epic proportions, but I’m a bit more rested than I was. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I suffer from relatively frequent migraines, and when I got up this morning I felt one coming on. I’m relatively fortunate compared to some thus maligned in that if I act quickly, I can sometimes prevent it developing into a full-blown, lie-in-a-darkened-room-for-three-days attack, so I threw 2,000mg of paracetamol down my throat (yeah, I know, I know) and told the Everythinger that I was going back to bed for a few hours. This I did, and though I still felt rough when I did get up, another dose of paracetamol (yeah, I know, I know x2) and a few minutes to myself seemed to curb the problem. Now the sun is shining, the cats are not being their usual indifferent, offhand selves and the Everythinger is working outside, so I’m feeling relatively OK.
Anyway, this was going to be about Christine, was it not? I saw her a few weeks ago, the day after I went completely doolally thinking that there were secret, governmental cameras all over the house etc etc. Frankly I was petrified of seeing Christine because I know she remains surprised that I’ve never been hospitalised for my psychotic difficulties. To be honest, to be sectioned in Northern Ireland it seems to me that you have to run at a psychiatrist with an axe and 13 AK47s (which is odd because so many of you in the rest of the UK and, indeed, other jurisdictions have written about how a mere idle mention of, say, suicidal ideation can see the quacks telling you to accept an informal admission or be forced into the bin), and since I am hopefully unlikely to ever do such a thing (I have no idea where to get an axe or even one AK47 anyway), I’m hopefully safe. Yet it was still a passing concern because Christine has mentioned it a few times in the past.
Anyway, as you can see from my continued bilging here, on Twitter, etc, I was not put away. In fact, I was very surprised by her reaction to my episode; yes, it was disturbing, she felt, and yes, it must have been very unpleasant for me (no shit), but given all that had been happening (the burglary, Aunt of Evil, not seeing my mother because of the presence of Aunt of Evil, etc), she felt that I was still doing remarkably well. She was of the opinion that because I had managed to retain some insight, however small that had actually been, and because the whole thing had been fairly short-lived, that it was probably a response to the stress I had been under, rather than a mentalist episode per se.
She did ask if I felt it was the start of something more, but I found myself rather inclined to agree with the sentiments she’d already expressed. Nevertheless, when she said that I was to contact her urgently should it develop into anything – even the following week, when she was on leave! – I was most reassured. I laughed lightly and said, “it’s nice to know there’s someone professional I can talk to if this all goes tits up.”
Christine cocked her head, and asked me if that had not always been the case. I wryly recounted a redacted version of a conversation I once had with C, my ex-psychologist (I’ve made reference to it here, though I can’t find the specific post on the session in question):
Pandora: Who am I supposed to contact in a crisis? I mean, no one has given me the number of the crisis team, no one has referred me to a CPN or social worker, my psychiatrist [OldVCB at the time; her successor is completely different] doesn’t want to know. So what am I meant to do when I can’t cope? Who do I contact?
C: The Samaritans.
Someone commenting in the afore-linked post aptly stated that “…The Samaritans comment was particularly wank.”
Christine laughed when I told her about this, as I did in memory of it. I don’t recall what she actually said (I don’t keep the in depth notes on appointments with her and NewVCB the way I do with therapy sessions), but there was a derisive (of C) quality to it which made me feel both dryly amused and smugly vindicated. Since I’ve been discharged from Psychology and have a proper, decent psychiatric team looking out for me, I’ve been surprised and pleased by how many times they’ve either directly criticised NHS mental health services, or delivered loaded, highly implicative statements about same with coy but suggestively raised eyebrows. It delights me no end.
Anyhow, that was the last appointment, and I didn’t go completely batshit in its wake, so didn’t need to contact her urgently. Perhaps this is a case of the stick in the drawer is the biggest stick of all, in the same way that having a stash of Zopiclone and Diazepam is. In other words, having the option there is reassurance in itself; with that very reassurance, one does not need to access the option. So instead of having to arrange an emergency appointment, I instead saw her as normal yesterday.
Those of you that read the nonsense I wrote yesterday will know that I was absolutely fed up, so I just went into the appointment and told her so.
Stress and Routine
“It’s ordinary fed up, having said that,” I added. “About normal life, and the challenges it brings.” Yet again I find myself reminded of Sigmund Freud’s dictum that recovery from “hysterical misery” means an advancement into mere “common unhappiness”. I am finding the vicissitudes of “common unhappiness” more and more starkly present in my life as I find myself to be relatively symptom-free. There’s a small part of me that rejoices in that – she’d rejoice even more if I could be symptom-free (thanks, overpowering anxiety) enough to go back to work, mind you – it’s ordinary, it’s real, it’s a part of a proper life. The larger part of me sneers at this saccharine idealist, and laughs a bitter “fuck away off” in her general direction.
In any event, I moaned and moaned about my stress pertaining to the Everythinger and the state of the house in much the same way as I did here yesterday and in the post before that, citing the unmitigated exhaustion I was feeling pursuant to my defiance of the instructions of my demanding custodian, Seroquel. I left a very important detail out until the end of the appointment, however, which I will leave out until of the end of the review of this appointment, however. However, however, however. It’s a nice word.
We also discussed how I have hardly seen my mother at all over the last few weeks, initially due to the presence of Aunt of Evil and secondarily thanks to my having to be about A’s house so frequently to accommodate the Everythinger. She asked me how I felt about that, and I felt guilty saying that it was a probably a good thing – but, all things considered, it is.
Christine asked if my levels of irritability had gone up, and I admitted that they were at an all-time high. The thing is, little things my Mum does – perhaps unfairly – wind me up to the point where my entire body seizes up in a red-blooded, silent scream. By the same token, she loses it with me quite a bit (and doesn’t try to hide it) for reasons that are rarely clear to me – a tone of voice she has (in my view) misinterpreted, or something inane like that. And at present, I’m not the only one that is stressed and irritable as a result of circumstance; my mother pretty much hated every second of Aunt of Evil’s visit, and is only beginning to recover from the stress of it.
Aunt of Evil Visitations
One of the few times I have seen her in the last few weeks was when Aunt of Evil was still in the country. I met my mother one Friday afternoon and spent about three hours listening to her ranting about what a cunt AoE is (which was a bit of a failed conversion really; she was already preaching to the choir on that one). To cut a very long story short, AoE lashed out at everyone except her offspring, his bitch, and their young offspring. Everything was someone else’s fault; she demanded service and opportunities that should only be available to someone staying in a five star hotel with spa facilities; she complained when something wasn’t up to her perfect USian standards; she patronised anyone that she perceived as being less intelligent or interesting than her and her twats; etc blah yadda. Even her husband, of whom I’m not the biggest fan but whom I also don’t utterly loathe, was apparently not exempt from her fuckery – I was interested to learn that he was even heard to complain about his wife to my mother.
They all fucked off again back to America last Tuesday, to my mother’s, the McFauls’ and even Aunt and Uncle of Boredoms’ evident and expressed relief.
(Aside: in one of her less ranting moments, Mum advised me that despite all the Amazonian-scale water under the biggest bridge in the multiverse between AoE and me, AoE considers me “the daughter she never had.” I responded cruelly: “her attachment to me makes my hatred of her all the more amusing,” or some such. I mentioned this conversation briefly on Twitter, to which @bourach expertly replied, “next time she says that say, ‘well, she’s the aunt I never wanted’.” PLUS ONE, Ms bourach ).
So in short what I’m saying is that, thanks to my aunt’s pavonine exploits, my mother is stressed too. Putting her and I together in such a potentially double-charged situation could lead to a few sparks flying in the heat of an ill-thought-out moment. I don’t like arguing with anyone, and least of all her, so it’s for the best.
Even so, Christine argued, I have an established routine of seeing her regularly, and that’s being broken. I do feel regretful of this, but more from my mother’s point of view than my own; she is getting on in years now, and lives alone. Yes, she has the golf club and the family to visit, but of course it’s not the same as living with someone and having the comfort of coming home to them. So I feel guilty about not seeing more of her, but there’s not a hell of a lot I can reasonably do about it when I have to keep to the schedule of the Everythinger.
I must have seemed down to Christine, because she seemed concerned that my mood had dropped (overall, in her estimation, since the burglary). I think it has, in her defence – not like the body of the condemned dropping suddenly and sharply from the gallows (sounds like fun!), but slowly and insidiously trickling and meandering its way down a mountain. I’d say I’m only a little bit down that particular hill as of yet, but the fact that this is a concern to Christine in turn concerns me. I thought I was Almost Proper Well, Like.
So I responded to her apparent worry by insisting that even if things were slipping, that that was all they were doing. No avalanche, no impending disaster. “Indeed,” I continued, “I think today’s particular frustrations relate to being so overwhelmingly exhausted. I think it’s normal – or at least normal on 600mgs of Seroquel – to feel this bad as a result of this exhaustion and stress.”
“OK,” she said cautiously. “But I want you to call me if this gets any worse, OK?”
I casually nodded my apparent assent whilst averting my eyes from her cross-examining gaze. Despite my witterings earlier about knowing she’s there for me being a reassurance, realistically I have no intention of calling anybody. I don’t do phones. Why the fuck can’t they give out email addresses?! I would, happily, contact her then.
She later commented that she didn’t notice any other deteriorations, and I assume she was referring to hallucinations and delusions. Barring what I’d told her at the previous meeting, there have been none for a long time. This is undoubtedly positive, but it was never psychosis that put me in danger. Well, it was, but not in the chronic, soul-crushing fashion that the true black treacle of depression was, can do and – let’s fucking face it – probably will (though hopefully not any time soon..?). So, if my ‘mood is slipping’, I see that as a greater problem right now than the odd voice or delusion-induced panic, cruel and heavy as those of course are.
Non-Confessions Writing Projects
Bah. This is turning into an introspective examination of my mental health problems, rather than a report of yesterday’s meeting with Christine. What followed the above was a discussion about writing, and I told her that I had completed and submitted my piece on recovery from BPD to Rethink. For those interested, by the way, I’m not sure when it will be appearing in the members’ magazine, Your Voice, but it won’t be the Autumn edition because the editorial committee had something already lined up for that. The Editor – a lovely, helpful and supportive lady called Natasha (Tash) – will advise me of its publication date, and so I’ll keep you apprised. Tash was even nice enough to tell me to keep in touch with her and send her other interesting (as if anything I write could be termed ‘interesting’!) articles, which I thought was a really delightful parting gift
Christine was all smiles about this. In a moment of madness – that, thank God(s)/Nagi/Vishnu/Allah/Morrigun/Xuan Wu/some pantheon combination of the lot of them/common sense, I managed to keep silent – I wondered should I take her in a copy of the magazine so that she can see her little writing protégée in action. This would be what is known in the trade as A Very Bad Idea. The article links to this blog…do I want the professionals reading it? Nope; no matter how much they help me, no matter how much I feel I owe them (and I do have a strong sense of recompense towards her and NewVCB ((and, of course, Paul)), despite the many previous vacillations of the Health Service when it came to my care), I don’t think it a particularly wise idea for them to come across this nonsense.
Anyhow, what Christine didn’t know about – because it had all happened very quickly, and took place after I’d last seen her – was about how it wasn’t just Rethink that contacted me. The evening after I’d previously seen her, I was checking Twitter and found a direct message from @MindCharity, which is the account of that other big UK mental health charity, Mind (incidentally, they and Rethink co-run the Time to Change programme – if you haven’t already done so, you should follow the link and sign their pledge to end discrimination against mental illnesses). The tweet asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing one of the books Mind have short-listed for their 2011 Book of the Year Award. Um…yeah?!!
I wrote back and expressed enthusiasm, which was rewarded with an offer to send out an advance review copy of my choice of one of four (out of a full eight) titles. After a bit of dithering, I elected my tome, and it arrived the following Tuesday. I finished it on Wednesday last week, and sent the review off back to Mind, who will later publish it on their blog. I’m not giving any details away until then, however
This impressed Christine greatly – she seemed genuinely thrilled that I had been contacted in a completely unsolicited fashion by a major organisation about a fairly major event in their calendar. I have to say that I was similarly pleased – not to mention rather stunned. Why do you like this blog? What have I done to garner (potentially influential) people’s respect with my blatherings here? I don’t get it, but it’s flattering, humbling and exhilarating in equal measure. Thank you. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem enough, but it’s all I have.
On a roll of positivity, I then told her something that I’ve not really mentioned to anyone but A yet. I’ve actually decided to pull my finger out and look into a voluntary placement somewhere. I have a position in mind, but I haven’t applied for it yet, so won’t give out any details, suffice to say that it’s in this same general arena – writing about and awareness raising of mental health issues. I’ve no idea at all if I’ll get it, but the two projects detailed above must surely stand me in good stead, as must my current editorship of TWIM (yeah, I don’t know how that happened either!).
However, all those silver linings belong to clouds. They don’t just shiver and shimmer around a perfect blue sky by themselves, much as that would be desirable. The following issue pertains to a friend of mine, so I don’t want to discuss the details here, but I will state that her difficulty is directly affecting me too – and could, in a peripheral but still intrusive sort of way, be contributing to any whisperings of depression on the wind that is my life. However, Christine was extremely supportive and reassuring in relation to this matter, so I mostly feel assured that I can cope with my friend’s problem.
So, all in all, it was (as usual) a good appointment. “But!” I hear the eagle-eyed amongst you mutter. “You said there was a very important detail to share, Pan! Do tell, or we’ll spam your inbox from here to eternity.” I’m very wary of any so-called meat put into cans – a feeling surely shared by anyone else who played GTA III – so I shall, indeed, oblige.
As things were drawing to a close, she said, “so, is there anything else we need to discuss?”
I shrugged ambivalently, and looked away.
Unfortunately for me, I must have looked away in the wrong manner, because she picked up on some sort of vibe of dissent. Examine the following scene from L A Noire:
Observe how our suspects angularly holds his jaw and avoids the gaze of the interrogator. Moreover, observe how he directs his eyes upwards. (This is actually a bad example, because he’s looking up and to the left, whereas I understand that looking up and to the right is more indicative of falsifying statements). Do you press Truth, Doubt or Lie?
I do have a vague recollection of looking up, to the right, whilst sort of biting my upper lip, at which point Christine had licence to hit the figurative ‘Doubt‘ option. (She can’t press ‘Lie‘ unless she has clear and present evidence to back it up, mwhahahaha! Oh, how I wish life were as simple as gaming).
I am absolutely disgusted with myself. I used to be a fucking excellent liar – what the shit has happened to me?! OK, so that’s an admission not to be proud of, but let’s be (ironically?) honest for a minute here: lying does come in useful when dealing with certain individuals and certain circumstances. How many times have you lied to a mental health professional? How many times have you told a so-called white lie to avoid hurting someone? How many times have you lied by default? Yes, just like that time your boss came in and said, “here’s 50,000 pages of turgid fuckwittery to proof-read and edit. Can you do that by yesterday, please?” and you merely smiled in response, leading him or her to believe that that was absolutely hunky-dory.
Right, right, OK, I’ll get to the point. Christine realised that my shrug meant that there was something else I had to bring to the fore, even though I didn’t want to. I screwed up my face in an expression of embarrassed expectation and said, “I’ve decided I’m a consultant. I’ve cut back on the Seroquel.”
I waited for her to wince, or to bollock me, but instead she said, “by how much?”
I bowed my head and looked up at her meekly. “By half,” I admitted.
Then she winced.
In the end, she had mixed feelings about it. She said that it’s not always the worst thing to decrease a dose of something, particularly something that so potently affects one’s ability to do anything, but by the same token she did (reasonably enough) opine that to cut a dose of an anti-psychotic in half is potentially conducting playgroup in an incinerator.
She instructed me to call her “the second anything happens”. In this case, assuming I’m not …told… not to, then I actually will. I asked her should I just start taking the higher dose again if anything happens. Curiously, she said no – again, I was to call her first. I reluctantly agreed to this (reluctantly because it’s the cunting, fucking, shitting, bastarding phone), and also agreed to discuss it in full with NewVCB next month. I’ll see Christine before that though, on 22nd August.
And that was really that. I have to admit that, generally speaking, things have so far been fine since I cut my dose of Seroquel. No voices, paranoia, no significant mood drops other than that which has been already discussed and accounted for. What I’ve noticed, though, is that whilst I’m still stuffing my fat face, I’m slightly less out-of-control on that front than I was, and I’m slightly less lethargic than I was, say, last week. It’s not a huge difference, but (a) it’s a start and (b) it’s very early days.
Anyway, well done to anyone who got this far. It’s after 11.30pm now and I’ve been writing this on and off since about 4pm – in between bouts of reading, examining the crimes of H H Holmes and random mysterious disappearances, plus other silly, mostly self-inflicted intrusions. But I’m still in relatively good form, all things considered, so I’ll depart on that hopefully-non-shit-for-you note. Goodnight x