2012 Continues its Shittery, But Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Good evening (or morning, if you prefer). It must have been about three weeks since I last posted, which is pretty much a record absence for me in the almost-three years that I’ve been writing this blog. There are some underlying reasons, I suppose, but primarily my disappearance can be attributed to the usual culprit: that of crippling, fuck you anhedonia. I haven’t been as badly afflicted by the phenomenon since I was a teenager. I mean, depression always carries this demon in its clutches, that much is a given, but it exists in degrees. The depression that has blighted my life so far this year was, initially, relatively free from anhedonia and its cousin, avolition – I blogged quite prolifically around the time of Maisie’s death, after all. I gravitated here when that happened; as it had been, Confessions became my outlet, my place to vent, my catharsis and analysis. In the last few weeks, I haven’t felt that at all.

This apathy and utter dearth of motivation have been compounded by an exhaustion of a magnitude I cannot describe. I’ve been sleeping poorly, and waking early when I do manage to find slumber for a few hours – but it’s more than just that sort of tiredness, for I’ve lived with that for many years. Every step I’ve taken recently has taken the effort that I’d imagine normals would put into a bloody marathon. My head constantly droops somewhere down in my chest – giving the unfortunate impression to the cameras and any other onlookers that I’m orally pleasuring myself – because I have not an ounce of strength to hold it up. My mind is either blank, or thinking repetitive, monotonous, lifeless thoughts. I have, on many days, literally had to tell myself what to do: “move your left foot now, Pan. Good, now move your left. No, no, fuck, sorry! Move your right. Yes, right. Good. Left now. Well done.” And my body aches with this…something. Aches aches aches. And sometimes my mind joins it: it can’t even summon the energy to feel anything with my usual levels of desperation. It currently doesn’t feel raw pain, just like my body doesn’t. It just aches.

[Coincidentally – or not? – the last time I felt tiredness on this scale was back when The Everythinger was here in August. More thrilling musings on that later…]

Perhaps ironically, therefore, I think the depression to which I alluded has abated a little. I’m confident that were I to take any of the usual diagnostic tests that I’d still be deemed ‘severely’ depressed, but, again, it’s about degrees. I do feel a bit better than I did when I last wrote. This could be the normal cyclical run of my supposed manic depression, or it could be down to Lamictal. I mentioned last time that Christine was going to ask NewVCB to increase my dosage of the aforesaid drug; however, NewVCB adamantly refused. Her rationale was something that I didn’t entirely comprehend – something along the lines of not raising the dose when I was planning to cut down on Seroquel, which I think translates as “don’t let her get too used to the stuff just yet, because she’ll need a fuckload more when we start titrating the Seroquel down.”

Why, then, has the drug possibly made a difference? The reason is that effectively the dose has increased. Confused? Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but since I’ve been taking 100mg of Lamictal, that has (theoretically) meant ingestion of one tablet in the morning, and one in the evening. In effect, this has meant one in the evening only – ie. 50mg daily – due to the toxicity that is the infamous Seroquel hangover. Even when I had dezombified five hours later, I simply forgot to take the damn thing. Of late, however, I’ve taken to leaving a strip of the stuff on the bedside table, in order that it is the first thing I see each afternoon morning. With the sun rising earlier, I’m waking (assuming I’ve slept, which is not always the case) earlier anyway, so the morning tablet is taken at a more appropriate time, meaning that the stuff floating around my body is more regulated and less quickly half-lifed away.

So, that’s medication. What else? Ah yes. As reported in the last post, I’d received the brown envelope that all ill or disabled people in the UK fear most: that of a social security assessment form (an ESA50, in this case). I also noted that Christine has said she’d fill it in for me. When I saw her last week, she had indeed done so, the poor, lovely woman. Bless her.

Can you spot the impending ‘but’? To my regret, there is one. To be honest, she’d really written very little about my hallucinations and delusions, referring to ‘hearing voices’ or ‘feeling paranoid’ – and that was qualified by the hideous words of ‘sometimes’ or ‘on occasion’. I hadn’t the nerve to say this to her, but I felt that this wasn’t really an accurate presentation of the issues, so when an brought it home, I modified some of the content, and added stuff in. For example, it asks something like, “are other people frightened by your behaviour?”, and she had ticked ‘no’. I don’t agree with that; I know from experience that people find experiences of those like ‘They‘ deeply disturbing and, yes, frighhtening. Even some cheery ramblings of, “oh, look, that sign’s trying to tell me I’m beautiful!” sees neighbouring eyes widen in horror and concern. And something as ostensibly simple as a panic attack can have people shifting their eyes, crossing the street and then running like the hammers from hell.

By the time I’d modified that which I felt needed alteration, of course the form looked like I was trying to make my condition sound worse simply for the purpose of getting more money, rather than attempting to present reality. I therefore asked my mother to ring the Social Security Agency (SSA) and ask for a new form. “Whilst at it,” I instructed, “ask them why I’m actually being assessed.”

She responded a few hours later advising me that they refused to tell her anything and that I’d have to ring them myself. Cue fucking panic stations galore. Asking me to use the phone, as ever, was like asking me asking me to translate War and sodding Peace or Beowulf into Sanskrit. But needs must, so after perusing the SSA’s website in painstakingly close detail in a futile attempt to obtain an email address for a relevant member of staff, I took a deep breath and called them.

Naturally, this was not a simple process. At first the robotic female who ‘answered’ my call advised me, after talking frustratingly slowly through six years of patronising explanatory shit and in doing so costing me a lot of money, that my call could “not be taken at the minute. We are sorry.” (Read: “we’re on our fag break. Fuck off”). When I called back immediately, after listening to the same initial bollocks, Robot intimated to me that my call was in a queue. How surprising. “Please continue to hold and someone will be with you as soon as possible. Or, if you prefer to call back later, our opening hours are [x, y and z].”

I did not prefer to call back later, so held. Robot repeated the soft and still enragingly slow monologue about 100 times. Why the fuck do they use that voice? Are its lulled t
ones supposed to hypnotise you into compliance? If so, they’ve supremely failed. The only compliance they’ve evoked in me is a willingness to comply with the invoice I’m expecting from the people I sent round to break Robot’s non-existent legs (and yes, GCHQ, that is/was a joke and is not to be taken literally, seriously or as anything other than just a joke. OK?).

The real cunt, though, was fucking Vivaldi. Fuck Vivaldi. To think once I appreciated what I then found to be the majestic chords and melodies for which he was responsible. I swear to fucking God that I nearly rang Matt Smith’s agent to inquire about TARDIS rental. A trip back to 1677 to prevent the birth of the composer seems to be the only solution to this widespread problem; it’s always Vivaldi that is played when you ring any sort of call centre, and so it proved in this case. In between Robot came the first 30 seconds of (I think) Summer. Over and over and over. It would put a sane human being into an asylum.

In the end, the call itself was very straightforward. The girl was friendly, if clueless – when asked why I was being reassessed, she said, “um…well, I think they do this every year, I’m not sure though.”

“Even for people in the support group?” I checked (interruptive spluttering and stammering not included. You can obtain these with my all-singing, all-dancing in-blog purchase function, denoted by a button displaying the word ‘Donate’, at the bottom of this post).

“The support group?” The poor cow sounded genuinely mystified. “Uh…uh, yeah, I think so.”

It was a futile effort, so I told her I’d lost the ESA50 and asked if she’d send another. She cheerfully told me that this was not a problem, that she’d get someone to do it forthwith, and – apart from checking if Mum could ring on my behalf in future (yes; I just need to give details on the form) – that was really that. A simple, inoffensive, unconfrontational discussion that still left me hyperventilating. I wish I could overcome this fucking terror. My only other serious phobia is the old formulaic one of spiders and, as a general rule, that doesn’t interrupt my daily living. Sadly, if I ever want to work again – and I do, I do so much, when I’m well enough – my farcical and excessive anxiety about phones will significantly interfere with my everyday functioning,

Why should it? Why can’t people move into the 21st century and use fucking Twitter or email for their communication needs? Fuck phones.

I can’t believe I just wrote eight paragraphs about a phone call. I become increasingly ridiculous by the day, dearest readers. Moving on, I have now been back under the watchful eyes and perked-up ears of everyone’s favourite psychotherapist, the inimitable Paul, for three sessions. I will actually discuss these in more detail, though to my abject alarm, I’ve lost the notes I kept on sessions two and three. Now, the reason for my apprehension is to do with the fact that they could easily have fallen into the wrong hands, if I am in correct in my assumption that they fell out of my bag or something. However, I will admit to also being irritated for an altogether less ethical reason: I will not be able to record these two appointments here in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed. Fuck’s sake. This blog has taken over my life. Incidentally, that’s something that actually came up with Paul – in session two? – but I’ll leave you veritably on the edge of your seat in anticipation of that. I’m sure you’re on the brink of self-immolation because you simply can’t stand the wait any other way. Burning ‘grounds’ you, to use modern therapeutic parlance.

What else? I suppose before getting to The Big Thing that I should apologise to many people on Twitter. I dip in and out of it erratically; even if I’m sending tweets, I am not necessarily reading others’ messages, or their @s or DMs to me. I often tweet by text message, and now have a quirky little iPhone app that allows me to tweet under this identity whilst being in another account. So it’s not that I’m ignoring you; I just don’t always see you. Every so often, I log in and see a few messages to me, and sometimes reply, but I’m pathetically incapable of catching up on everything. I don’t know whether this is social anxiety, increasing apathy, an identity crisis or just my being a total knob. Whatever the case, I’m sorry.

Right, then. I live in Northern Ireland, as most of you know. People on this island like to drink alcohol – a lot. Once a year, something comes up that seems to grant them complete impunity to engage in this pursuit: St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it wil not shock you to hear that I loathe this occasion with a fucking passion; I have a pretty low tolerance for the obnoxious behaviours that many irregular drinkers display when inebriated out of their skulls, and I can’t cope the busy-ness around the place. This year, the event fell on Saturday past. A and I went out for dinner but had to come straight home, which is not at all common for us on that evening of the week. We’re usually in our local.

Anyway, the silver lining around the cloud of St Patrick (who gives a fuck about him anyway? He sounds like a bellend to me) is that A gets the day off (or gets it off in lieu when, as in this case, it’s at a weekend). Monday was therefore free, so we went out on Sunday to make up for our inability to do so the previous evening.

Exactly 51 minutes after we’d left the house, A’s phone started ringing. When he withdrew it from his pocket, we were both perplexed to observe that the caller was my mother. Thinking she was trying to get hold of me, but that my phone had lost its signal or something, I answered it (yes, yes, phone phobia notwithstanding).

The alarm was going off. If they can’t get hold of A or me, they ring my mother first, as she’s closest to our house, and then A’s mother second. A worked out the purpose of my mother’s call, and got ready to leave. I hung up and told him I’d stay in the pub; I would only hold him back by accompanying him (he’s a much faster walker than I am), and anyway, I reckoned it was a false alarm. That used to happen all the fucking time, to the point where I’ve wondered of late how the company responsible for running the thing had managed to improve their product so vastly. So A went back himself, advising that he’d call if anything untoward had happened. Otherwise, I supposed, he’d just return.

A few minutes passed, during which I caught up on some blogs on my Google Reader. In the middle of this, though, I was interrupted by a phone call incoming from my brother-in-law. Truthfully, at my core, I knew why he was ringing – but I let myself pretend that he was calling about joining us in the bar, especially given that he and A had exchanged a few messages about the outing earlier in the day. I duly ignored him.

When my mother-in-law’s name appeared on the screen of my phone, although I again tried to ignore the ramifications of this telephonic confluence of events, I really knew the game was up. This time I answered. She told me that they’d also called her and that my brother-in-law, who was at her house as it transpired, had called the police. In return, I advised her that A had gone back to the house to check that things were in order.

I’d only just hung up when A phoned. It wouldn’t be the last discussion via this medium that day…God, I wish
I believed in exposure therapy. I got a lot of potential practice with it on Sunday.

I knew as soon as I answered that he was horribly distressed. It doesn’t take a skilled conversationalist to decipher the first intake of breath before a single word is spoken; cheer, shock, thrills, anger – they and many more moods besides can be deconstructed in that split second. I’ve often heard parents say that when their kid reaches a few weeks or months old that they can tell by the ‘type’ of cry it emits that it wants x or y. Maybe this is a similar type of thing.

A’s gasp was one of shock and panic. Jesus Christ, I thought within the nanosecond left to me. Not again. We were burgled last only back in June, for fuck’s sake!

“They’ve taken the TV [42 fucking inches! In a heavily-populated terraced street!], the X-Box, the PS3, the iPad…” he was gasping. “They’ve smashed the door between the kitchen and the living room in…”

“I’m coming now,” I said. I hung up and called a taxi.

I could go into my usual level of detail about this, but it’s late and I’m tired. So…

  • The cops had been when I got home, but had apparently spotted some potential culprits, so legged it after them before talking to us and examining the house.
  • Without touching anything, I managed to piece together what had happened. The burglars – or, rather, a burglar – had crawled through the tiny window we keep open for the cats; I know this because it was completely fucked. Then he (and I use the male pronoun for a reason, which I’ll detail) saw the keys hanging up, opened the back door, and let his companion in.
  • They tried, I assume, to simply open the living room door – but, as we have done since the last burglary, we had locked it before leaving the house. They smashed the poor thing in with the Dyson, which was sitting in a corner of the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, they broke that too.
  • Entering the living room would have set the alarm off, and given all that they took and the bloody mess that they’d made, it was obvious that they knew the layout of the place. They couldn’t have got away with all that they did with the alarm (which itself calls the police) curbing their time had it been any other way.
  • They shoved the smaller items, which now seemed to include my old laptop, in bags, exited through the now-open back door, and onward through the gate at the back to the entry (which they’d also used the keys to unlock).
  • They hadn’t gone upstairs. Thank fuck I’d taken my current laptop up to the office; it was safe there. Curiously, they also hadn’t taken my Kindle. It was behind the door they’d smashed in, so perhaps they didn’t see it, or perhaps they didn’t identify it as a piece of expensive electronics because it was in its case, mimicking (to a point) a normal book.
  • Before we’d left, I’d deliberately moved the Kindle and A’s iPad out of view of the window. I neurotically checked the back door was locked about seven times, as I almost always do since the last break-in. Fat lot of good my caution did us.
  • The peelers returned. We were advised that they had taken two blokes into custody (hence my use of the male pronoun in reference to these criminals), and as I detailed my theory of their entrance to the female officer, her male colleague went to look around the back entry for further clues.
  • ….
  • …..
  • I am writing this post on A’s stolen iPad.
  • …..
  • ….
  • The policeman found everything out the back!
  • It seems that when the wankers were spotted, they unceremoniously dumped everything – or perhaps not quite everything? – and ran like fuck. But they were too late ūüôā
  • The police were here for quite a while. In short, they took statements, got the forensic people in and liaised back and forth with their station colleagues. The girl from forensics was extremely thorough – much more so than any of her colleagues we’ve previously met (bearing in mind that this is the fucking third time we’ve been burgled). Although she didn’t say much, it did appear that she had got some evidence from various things.
  • The male peeler had been around the entries of the surrounding area, and came across a small but slick, and quite evidently new, flat screen TV – in a bin. He reasonably enough supposed that it would be unlikely to have been chucked out by its owners, and thus brought it round here briefly for the forensics woman to dust. He and his colleague also revealed that other burglaries had been reported in the area that day.
  • As the cops were rounding things off, the bloke said, “just to check, you didn’t happen to have any wallets here, did you?” We responded in the negative. He nodded, but added, “any foreign currency, no?” It then occurred to me that yes – we did have a wallet in the house after all. We go to down to the Republic every so often, and there’s always leftover Euros. A has kept them in a wallet in the kitchen for months. I relayed this information to the cop as I went into the kitchen to see if it was there. It was not. The cop asked how much was in it. “At least ‚ā¨50, plus coins,” I told him. “There was a ‚ā¨50 note in it; I’m not sure if there were additional ones, but there was definitely a fifty.”
  • I watched with interest as the police exchanged satisfied glances. The wallet with the Euros had been found on the person of one of the personnel that their colleagues had in custody. A couldn’t contain his delight at this wonderful revelation; he jumped up and down screaming, “YES!!!” with the peelers standing there watching. In later conversation, the man said to me that he’s always thrilled in cases like this – both for the victims of the crime, and for officers themselves. “It’s always really nice when we manage to get a conviction,” he smiled. Indeed it must be. They don’t get very many of them for offences like this.
  • After they’d left, I ran down the street to a lovely lady, the only one in the whole area we’ve ever really spoken to, who’d offered us tea when she first realised what had happened. I wanted to let her know what had transpired, and also to apologise if we’d appeared ignorant in refusing said tea. That was weird, because I have never been in a neighbour’s house since I moved in with A, and have only ever exchanged pleasantries and cat-related anecdotes with this woman before. But I appreciated her kindness, and enjoyed the tea and cake that she was decent enough to serve me.
  • I came back and joined A in the clean-up operation. There was glass everywhere. There were strewn bags, clothes and other assorted pieces of fuck also everywhere.
  • Thankfully, the cats were both safe. Srto Gato was here when A got back, and sat down on the sofa, right in the middle of the carnage, and went to sleep. Mr Cat was, however, nowhere to be seen, and we both worried that, twisted as these fucks clearly are, they’d hurt him. H
    e turned up about about an hour after I got home, which was a relief, though he did seem unsettled all evening. Whether he merely sensed our moods, or whether he’d borne witness to some frightening events, we are of course unable to tell.
  • Another set of cops turned up after 10pm, when things had got vaguely back to normal. They had brought the wallet, the ‚ā¨50s and the various Euro coins in separate evidence bags for us to identify as ours. Needless to say, we confirmed that they indeed were. The bloke said as he was leaving that he had “no doubt” that the case would come to court, though he added drolly, “and then they’ll get their 25p fine and get back to their games.” He stressed, assuming as he erroneously did that we completely lacked any knowledge of legal infrastructure, that things were out of their hands then. People can be imprisoned in Norn Iron for burglary, but it’s rare. Even when it happens, custodial sentences tend to be pretty low.
  • The worst thing in the aftermath of all this was that the house wasn’t secure; a bollocksed window and a cunted internal door require supervision. The upshot of that is that I’ve had to stay here when A’s been at work. I don’t mind that, but it does inhibit our ability to live our normal lives. Determined to buy fags before Gideon’s shite budget whacked the price of the vile things up by 37p per packet, I ran out at lunchtime today. In the half hour or so that I was gone – I dropped into a few food-ish places as well – I was panicking, panicking, panicking that the little cunts were out on bail (as they almost certainly are by now) and would break-in again as revenge for our part in their apprehension.
  • On Monday, A rang an “emergency” glass fitter and then The Everythinger (to whom I alluded millaria above). The glass people came out later that day, removed the window from its frame and stuck a temporary board up in its stead. They said they’d be back on Tuesday to fix the window itself. They weren’t. They weren’t today either. They eventually contacted A to tell him that it’ll be at least tomorrow, as they’re waiting on hinges. What double fucking glazing company runs out of hinges?! “Emergency” my arse. At least The Everythinger, who was horrified to hear we’d been burgled only months after he was here the last time for the same reason, is coming tomorrow (later today, whatever it is).
  • Hilarious incidental. The peelers speculated that the theiving scum were on a drunken bender as they went about the area pilfering what they could. As such, they nicked beer from our kitchen. In fact, the one bottle that was open seemed to have been drunk out of, thus meaning potential evidence. Anyway, the burglars were clearly pissed off, as evidenced by their smashing of a few of the bottles and dumping of other ones. This, we’re all pretty sure, is because they had they discovered that they contained Becks Non-Alcoholic beers ūüėÄ Hahaha!

So, if it isn’t death, cancer scares, missing cats, depression, NHS cuntery (and the destruction of that already flawed system), a potentially impending financial desert (and the macro implications of that too), or other assorted nasties, it’s fucking burglary. Thanks, 2012. You’ve brought me the bleakest start to a new year that I can recall.

Yet, comparitively speaking, I’m OK, and thus must sound a note of optimism. Well, not optimism as such, but perhaps a little faith. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Sunday, and I was very touched that the lady from down the street had offered the basic but important kindness that she did. The hard work of the cops and the generosity of this sweet stranger reminded me that sometimes when you see the worst of humanity, you also see the best too.

Thank you to Mental Healthy, their judges, nominators and sponsors for their very kind short-listing of this blog for the 2011 Mental Health Heroes awards (in the ‘Creative – Writer’ category). It’s a big honour to be featured alongside such people as the wonderful Kayla Kavanagh, her partner and carer Nigel, and the lovely Fiona Art, so thank you again ūüôā

Anyone want to volunteer for TWIM or TNIM? You know you want to. Email me.

I can’t be arsed to proof-read this right now, sorry. It always mortifies me that my narratives could be error-laden, but I’m too tired to care as much as I should.

Thank Christ(ine) for Christine

A lot happened this week, but I have neither the time nor inclination to discuss it in detail. Perhaps next week. In summary: I saw Paul on Tuesday for our first ‘proper’ therapy session of the new stint. A bit of a weird dynamic was present – I babbled relentlessly, flitting from one random tangent to another rather than discussing anything remotely meaningful. Not that he agreed, of course; he opined, as he always does, that anything that runs through my mind (aside, perhaps, from “oh, look, the sun’s out” – though could that be read as an example of avoidance?) is worthy of raising in the therapeutic setting, and can give insights into my psyche. That said, he did admit at the end of the appointment that things had been a bit up in the air (I forget his specific terminology), and said we’d get down to some proper work next week. I await it with interest – but not at all without trepidation.

Last weekend I decided I was going to turn a corner of the kitchen into an office. I don’t think I can do much about it right now, but I think if I have a future, then I ought to have something to aim for – and I’ve decided that this will be professional writing. My dream: to register as a sole trader business, and make at least a part-time income from writing – and no longer have to claim at least some of my welfare benefits (I would like to think I could keep my Disability Living Allowance, on the grounds that the disability remains, but that in having my own workplace I don’t have to engage with general office tradition, which would exacerbate my illnesses). I know I’m capable of professional writing now – or, at least, I know other people think I’m capable, and that matters much more in this arena than my own self-assessments – and I’m building a few contacts. For now, that is all it is – a dream. A few commissions here or there doesn’t really mean much, but I’ve narcissistically (why is that not a word, spellcheck? Incidentally, why is spellcheck not a word when it’s the precise term WordPress uses to refer to this utility?) got it into my head now that I can achieve this if I don’t do myself in any time soon. When I mentioned the proposed office to A, he suggested that instead of setting it up in the kitchen, I actually reconvert our former study – lately, since the advent of The Everythinger, nothing more than a place for dumping stuff we can’t be bothered to sort out.

It seemed more palatable than the kitchen, admittedly: for one, it’s fucking cold in the kitchen no matter how long the heat stays on. Secondly, as I am not wont to be in the former study much, with a bit of re-configuration, it will feel more like an office than part of this house. Currently I do all my work sitting on the sofa with the laptop on my knee – but I do all my fucking about in this fashion too, and ergo it is difficult to associate the environment with work specifically. The study in many ways resembles – or will resemble, when I have it sorted – my office in my last job: small, but with everything necessary to get on with the task at hand. As such, I feel that I can ‘trick’ my brain into thinking that the proposed office will actually be a workspace, rather than a mere spare room.

We ordered a new desk, which arrived on Wednesday. I sat down to it last night and, aside from a few side panels that A had fitted, built the entire thing from scratch. It is (optionally) an ‘L’ shape, and has ample surface area, meaning that aside from the PC and laptop, I’ll have plenty of room to write by hand, consult the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, or study the professional writing course materials I bought several years ago.

All of that, particularly my suggestion about setting my writing projects up as a business, is a long way off – because right now I’m not a professional writer, but a professional mental. I even get paid for it! Though for how much longer?

As you may have gathered from the last couple of posts, things are dreadful. It’s at the point now where people are noticing: when I can no longer maintain a fa√ßade, then I know things are bad. My mother has even realised that the excrement has been liberally sprayed in the general direction of the thermantidote, and that is a tremendously dangerous sign, since I have always attempted to muster every last atom of energy my mind and body possess into convincing her that everything is fine (the reason being that she shouldn’t have to worry about me all the time).

As if things were not bad enough, therefore, when I got up yesterday morning and found an ESA50* form waiting for me, I thought I was literally going to have a heart attack – I hyperventilated so fucking much that I could see no way that my heart could continue to pump blood around my not-insubstantial body.

My ma immediately said, “we’ll take it to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.” Reasonable advice, to be sure, but she’d missed the point; the point was that, re-fucking-gardless of how competent the CAB may have been in the completion of the bloody thing, I would almost certainly still have to attend a medical examination with the fuckwitted social security agency. I know I’ve written in passing about one of my previous exposures to this immense trauma…where?…ah yes, here it is. (*This post also explains a bit about ESA ((which stands for Employment and Support Allowance)) to those of you outside the UK. Basically, it’s a disability/illness benefit – but it has two components that complicate it, which the aforelinked posts discusses). After that experience – and even regardless of it – I genuinely don’t think that I can go through another assessment of this ilk (or of any, come to that). Not any time soon; pipedreams or not, I’m still really ill. I told my mother that if I had to go through such an encounter, that I would end my life.

Fortuitously, I had an appointment with Christine in the early afternoon. Since the hospital in which I see her is close to the CAB, I took the form with me. I went in, sat down, when asked reported that since our last encounter everything was still appalling, uncopably (new word) terrible, and that “the icing on the fucking cake” had just arrived, at which point I pulled the ESA50 out of my handbag.

She shook her head in frustration – “everyone’s getting those bloody things!” – and I repeated my promise that if I was called to a medical I would commit suicide.

Christine said, “I’ll complete it for you. At least that will be a weight off your mind.”

“That would be brilliant, thank you,” I replied, “but won’t they still send for me anyway?”

She told me that she is getting the impression that the Social Securitcunts have been sending out the forms to weed out the few “scroungers” that exist in the system, and also to catch out those with a mild to moderate illness, who they (quite possibly erroneously) perceive as being able to work. She exemplified by telling me about a patient of her’s that has mild, borderline moderate, depression. “She’s been found fit for work,” Christine explained, “but honestly, Pandora, there are things she could do. Not everyone’s in that boat, and in fact most of my patients haven’t even been called to a medical, and these forms have been arriving through their letterboxes since the start of January.”

“Are you saying that you think I won’t have to go to an examination?” I checked.

“I’d make an educated guess that when I’ve finished with this” – she nodded with contempt at the form – “it’s highly unlikely.”

She smiled conspiratorially at me, but I pressed on with my concerns. She wasn’t saying definitively that I’d not have to go to the fucking thing, after all.

Eventually she said, when I had finished yet another monologue of social security-driven angsty misery, that if they did call me to an examination, that she and NewVCB would write to the bastards advising them that I would be unable to attend, as to do so would be “severely and dangerously detrimental to my mental health.”

I stared at my CPN in something akin to wonder. “Really?” I murmured in a small voice laden with disbelief.

“Yes,” she said definitely. “So don’t worry. I’ll deal with this, send it off to them, give you a photocopy at our next appointment – and if an ‘invitation’ letter turns up at your door, contact me, and we’ll make it go away.”

“Thank you,” I almost-sobbed. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

Christine dismissed my gratitude – not in an unappreciative way, just in the sense that she was happy to provide the service and information that she had – as part of her job. Then she said, “you’ll be horrified when you read what I’ve written. Try not to be. They need to hear the very worst aspects of your illness; yeah, some people could accuse me of extending the truth, but I don’t think that’s the case. The case is that all of what I am going to write has happened and even though you’re taking measures to control these things, the unfortunate truth is that they also have the potential to happen again…possibly at any point.”

“Why would I be ‘horrified’ that you accurately explained the most severe symptoms of my illnesses?”

She sighed. “The voices tried to get you to kill yourself. They tried to get you to kill your baby cousin. Cameras follow you wherever you go and GCHQ are obsessed by you. You’re endlessly suspicious of people, and are cripplingly anxious when you’re forced to be in any proximity to them. Some days you can’t get out of bed due to overwhelming depression. You have, at times, to be watched to make sure you don’t harm yourself. There will be occasions on which people have to remind you to take your tablets – or even make you do so.”

She paused, flicking through the form, then added that one of the key parts of the mental health section of the ESA50 was about interaction with other human beings. “Given the aforementioned symptoms, that’s not…er…well, it wouldn’t really work for you, would it?” Ah, the sweet scent of diplomacy.

We talked about other stuff. Paul. Writing. Mum’s cancer scare. Rhona’s operation (with which there were no complications but lots of pain followed by a hook-up to morphine, which was removed five days after the procedure and even then caused quite significant withdrawal symptoms). An increase in Lamictal to help me with this current vault of depression (she’s going to discuss this with NewVCB on Monday). The exact nature of how low I felt, not that I could quantify it in words. I was acutely aware that I was acting very differently around her from my norm; regardless of how I’m feeling, I usually witter on and on and on, engaging with her non-verbally too – often it belies the reality of my mental (ill) health, but it seems to come naturally around her anyway. This was completely different. I steadfastly avoided eye contact, one of their favourite observations, and apart from issues surrounding the ESA50, I didn’t speak much at all. In fact, to my abject horror and disgust, at one point I believed I looked like I was close to tears. I didn’t cry, thank fuck – I can’t imagine the shame that would have been wedded to that – but I suspect that Christine thought I was on the verge of it.

Anyway, she was brilliant. My current episode continues, and no doubt will not abate for quite a while – either more Lamictal will help, or the vileness of the low will end itself in some sort of cyclical fashion, or I’ll off myself before any improvement manifests. But for now, what would have been one of the most serious stressors this year – as if there have not been enough already – has been removed from my responsibility. I didn’t thank her enough, because I can’t thank her enough.

The only downside to her brilliance is that it makes me even more sad and distressed that thanks to non-sensical bureaucratic bullshit I may well lose her. Good mental health professionals like her, ones that actually seem to care about you, are sadly uncommon ūüė¶

I’m in a rush so haven’t proof-read this, for which my apologies are due to you. Please forgive the probable multitude of errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling in the foregoing. Thanks x

Somebody Killed My Cat

Ms Cat is dead. She was run over, apparently right outside this house in which I’ve been all fucking day, some time between A feeding her this morning and a lady from up the street calling at the house to alert me to her death this evening. The driver – I presume it was him or her – had left her in a blood-stained bag at the side of the road. Her neck has been broken, and her poor fur is covered in dirt from the tyre running over her. Her little legs are rigidly sitting curled under her tummy.

So very often the term ‘at peace’ is used to describe corpses. Usually human, admittedly, but not always. I certainly can’t and won’t use it in this case. She doesn’t¬†look at peace. She looks unnatural and broken. She looks dead, because she is fucking dead.

I fucking hate this fucking cunting bastard shithole of a universe. We live in such a safe area, traffic-wise. Cats around here live beyond normal life expectancy; I’ve never even heard of a local cat having got run over before. And yet this poor innocent little thing, poor little baby cat whose only crime was purring too loudly, suffered this cruel, malignant twist of fate and died a twisted mess.

We think it was quick, though, which is something. And she lived a happy life with us, sitting on our knees purring most of the time or sometimes headbutting our feet – even if it was only for three short years.

I just can’t believe this has happened. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset – I am, very much so – but I’m also just stunned. No way, I thought when the woman came to the door. It can’t be our Ms Cat. Even though I know she’s dead, I’m kind of perplexed as to why she’s not sitting on the windowsill, waving at me to get in (one of my favourite of her little quirks). When I awake in the morning (a statement that makes the probably false assumption that I will actually fucking sleep tonight), my first thought will be a query as to why she’s not lying beside me, or on one of her favourite spots near the bed, softly purring away.

Stunned. Number than I would ever have expected to be.

I always knew this day would come, when we’d have to deal with one (and eventually both) of their deaths. I just didn’t realise it would be so soon, and in such sudden circumstances.

Poor Mr Cat. He seems to know something is wrong – and if he doesn’t, he will soon, when he realises his sister has been absent for several days. I remember a former colleague of mine describing how, when one of her cats disappeared, his sister sat at the front door mewing pathetically for him for several weeks. I hope Mr Cat’s grief isn’t as painful as that.

And yeah, I’m sure there will be naysayers reading this post thinking, “but it’s just a fucking cat.” Well, she wasn’t just a fucking cat. She was a friend, a little bundle of comfort, someone who kept me company on days when I couldn’t get out of bed, never mind the house, a loving little thing that cared without condition.

I made a return to Twitter this afternoon, after not having checked it for weeks. Then this happened. So don’t be surprised if you don’t see me there, or here, or anywhere else, for some time.

Take care.

RIP baby girl. x

Any Thoughts on Depakote or Lithium? ***¬°Advice Please!***

Saw NewVCB last Wednesday morning.

Not much to report, really, and even if there was, as you’ll be able to tell from the appalling calibre of the following, I’m still not really in the form needed to competently review it.

She asked how things were and told her everything was fucked, thanks to my idiotic decision to reduce my Seroquel dosage. She checked that I was had gone back up to the 600mg dose, and I confirmed that I had, and had been doing so for about a fortnight.

Long and the short of it is that she claims it’ll take up to six weeks back on the high dose for things to start to improve. Wonderful. Well done, Pandora. It would be less annoying if¬†it wasn’t my own fault. She encouraged me not to berate myself – she says patients do it all¬†the time, and that if nothing else, it demonstrates to me what I do and don’t need. Well, maybe so – but I did this years ago when taking Fluoxetine, and should have learnt from that experience to leave such things to the quacks. But nooooooo. I know better, don’t I? Twat.

Anyhow, naturally she asked why¬†I’d decided I’d half the dose. I explained about the horribleness of the hangover effects and the preposterous weight gain. I said that I’d be willing to tolerate the former for now (and as she noted, if and when I go back to work, I am more likely to get a ((post-hangover)) afternoon part-time job anyway, since most part-timers prefer mornings), but that I hated the weight gain issue because I was down to a size 16ish at one point (I hadn’t been that size since I was¬†16), and that having put most of it back on was pretty soul-destroying.

Her plan, then, is to wait until my mood has re-stabilised on my current medications (which seems unlikely to ever happen to me right now, but she opines to the contrary), and then we can look at how to play this in the long-term. She does, to be fair, acknowledge that even ignoring the physical issues surrounding my gargantuan size, it’s not good for my mental health to see 14 rolls lopping down around my knees, hiding even the briefest glimpse of my toes and their ingrowing nails. What she has suggested is reducing, though not eliminating, the Seroquel – and then adding in a mood stabiliser to make up for the loss of those same properties from said drug.

She specifically named Lithium and Depakote, though she expressed a mild reluctance regarding the latter; she laughed and said that she knew I was filled with abhorrence at the mere mention¬†of breeding, but that nevertheless, she had to be very, very careful about the prescription of the thing to ‘fertile females’ on a ‘just in case’ basis. Apparently it can seriously fuck up a foetus/embryo.

I really don’t give a fuck about that, as – as she rightly noted, though I’m not sure how she figured it out as I don’t recall ever discussing it with her – I fully intend to never become pregnant. However, I think¬†I read somewhere that it can interfere with the mini-pill, which I take as a contraceptive and fuck-off-menstruation-and-related-pain medication. A quick look just now has suggested that it doesn’t stop it working, but could increase levels of hormones in one’s body. Which could be a bit wank as I’m not unconvinced that oestrogen has an effect on mentalism, specifically depression (sometimes of the particularly vile variety known as ‘agitated’).

She did say, though, that she would¬†prescribe it (regardless of my presumed ability to conceive) if she thought it best, on the balance of the foetus issue versus its active psychiatric indications. I was initially quite encouraged by this, because I’m not sure how I feel about Lithium: I’ve heard of others gaining weight on it (and one friend was constantly ill whilst taking it), so what would be the point in cutting the Seroquel (which I know works)? So, I thought, bring on the Depakote. Except that, since then, I’ve read the article on it on Net Doctor¬†and see that it too can cause weight gain!

So, maybe either it or Lithium would mitigate the undeniably shitty hangover effects of Seroquel, but it’s quite possible my main concern would not be assuaged in any way. So what would be the point in modifying my current cocktail which, whilst problematic, has shown itself to work very well in terms of its indicated usages, only to find myself at the mercy of the same cunty side effects I’d hoped to avoid anyway?

All that said, I have known people to take mood stabilisers (Lithium in particular) who’ve found that it completely changed their life. Indeed, the Net Doctor article on it¬†states that it’s a very good medication to take to boost the effects of pre-existing anti-depressants. So if I could get my depression and its related anhedonia/lethargy/etc to sod off (it’s never¬†really gone away – it’s only got a bit less shit), then I might be more willing to leave the house and get some exercise to combat any extra weight anyway. But that’s a bit of a punt, really.

Have any of you any experience of Lithium and/or Depakote, and if so, what’s your view on it/them – both in terms of how they help (or don’t) psychologically, and on what the side effects are? If you take an alternative mood stabiliser (whether a ‘true’ mood stabiliser or an anti-convulsant) and you’ve found it useful and/or lacking in side effects, could you tell me a bit about it too please?

NewVCB also mentioned other anti-psychotics such as Risperidone, which typically have lesser weight issues than Seroquel. However, as a form of anti-compensation for that, you lose the mood stabilisation, so one such medication would again presumably be needed in that circumstance.

Despite my dreadful mood, I managed to crack a joke during the appointment, and was pleased to make her laugh. She asked me about suicidal ideation, and I told her all I could think about was my body flying off the Golden Gate Bridge or the high-rise apartment blocks close to my house.

“But don’t worry,” I added drolly. “I suffer from vertigo*, so…”

(* And it is¬†((usually, though not always, height-triggered))¬†vertigo, as opposed to acrophobia. I don’t really have the latter, bizarrely).

She laughed out loud, caught herself on and apologised, then¬†started laughing (almost hysterically) again. I told her it was meant¬†to be humourous and to laugh away. I like humour in this arena. I remember once ages ago that¬†C cracked a joke¬†(oh look – it was my very first therapy post. How quaint)¬†about how my footballing allegiances were not at all good for my mental health (especially true that fucking season) – a comment made viscerally, for which he then apologised. Fuck that. Don’t apologise! Joke away. I mean, if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to fucking cry.

Anyway, medication issues aside, I handed NewVCB a copy of my last post, and that coupled with her usual questioning determined that I am “very clearly” in the midst of a major depressive episode. However, at least A and Mum are usually about somewhere, and my suicidality is operating “at fantasy level”, so there is unlikely to be any “danger”. I’d say that the lack of danger comes more from avolition and apathy rather than anything else, but there you have it. I shall, most likely, remain alive for the next while.

As I left the appointment (having managed to blag myself a script for Diazepam – which frankly I don’t particularly¬†need, but insurance is always good) she said, for the second time since I first met her, “nice to see you, Pandora.”

Incidentally, the first time she gave me a complimentary goodbye of this nature, I was also similarly mental to last week (and both occasions were caused by fluctuations in medication, rather than being distinct ‘episodes’ in their own right). Why do I find that probably coincidental and innocuous fact so intriguing and revealing?

In other news – I haven’t written anything in the last week…BUT! I’ve had this laptop completely closed – it’s literally not been open once – since…fuck, I don’t know, last weekend? Although I have tweeted some articles and suchlike, I haven’t checked Twitter at all (ditto G+ and the odious Facebook). In this complete abandon of social media, I’ve been working on The Book. I’ve not written anything, as noted, but I have been studying the distance learning¬†writing course I enrolled on when I first went off work a few years ago, and have been especially concentrating on the modules on novel composition. Much of it seems obvious – although this blog is factual and autobiographical, sometimes the narrative of posts takes on a tone similar to fiction, so I feel I have some pre-existing understanding of the idea. However, there has also been a lot of benefit in what I’ve studied to date, and I feel cautiously confident about The Book and its plot at the minute.

Furthermore, in my¬†absence¬†from internet sociability, for some reason I’ve been internally bombarded with quite a number of creative fictional ideas that I think I can turn into short stories, novellas, or perhaps a second The Book. There’s one about which I’m especially hopeful, which was garnered from a disturbed, haunting dream this very morning. At least nightmares have some¬†purpose!

On Thursday, Wendy Perriam, whose excellent book Broken Places¬†I reviewed for Mind, emailed me to thank me for said review. This was a wonderful buoyancy both for my own sake and for that of my writing (which Wendy was kind enough to compliment, which was incredibly flattering coming not just from a published author, but also from a published author who I hold in high regard). I asked her for a few tips, which she kindly gave me, and it’s added to my sense of ‘I can do this and it won’t be completely crap’. I’m not undaunted by any means, but neither am I totally petrified of my own potential incapacity.

The weekend was quite good. I’d been apathetic about going to one of our regularly organised poker nights on Friday because that meant fucking¬†seeing people, but in the end it was fairly good craic – and guess what? Muggins won ūüėÄ It’s my first win in a long time but it sees me atop the leader board. I’m the only woman in the whole group, yet the stats show me as the best player. Suck it up, gents!

On Saturday we met W, A’s best friend who was back in Norn Iron from England for the weekend, and ended up spending all day talking complete and utter bollocks and laughing at puerile nonsense. It was good. In keeping with what’s been occupying my own life lately, I suggested a writing challenge to W and A, an idea that both seemed to embrace for their own reasons of escapism and intellect. As well as just being fun¬†(what even is that?),¬†I think this could be useful in terms of my self-imposed deadlines – if A and W are in competition, I am going to be more driven to compete within this cause myself.

So, all in all, ostensibly things are good – but the reality, of course, is far from as black and white as that. I’m back into a firm agoraphobic, hide-in-the-house-and-brood-with-the-blinds-closed mode. But I’m keeping up with the studying element of my (hopefully) soon-to-be The Book, so there’s a sliver of a silver lining (try saying that after six pints of pale ale).

I’m seeing Christine tomorrow. She asked me, the last time I saw her, to do two things before tomorrow’s appointment: (a) ask Daniel to write me a reference for the voluntary position I was considering applying for and (b) get in touch with Nexus again to organise my second stint of therapy with Paul. Re: (a)…well, I have¬†asked Daniel for the reference, to which he has agreed. However, I’ve not filled in anything of the application form, which therefore renders the request redundant. As for (b)…no chance.

Normally speaking, it seems like an uphill battle (at a bloody 85¬į slant)¬†to acknowledge the mere existence of others, which both of Christine’s challenges require. I simply can’t face any communication without A holding my hand (literally and metaphorically). Beyond reading, I can’t really do anything off my own bat, and even if I could, I wouldn’t enjoy a milisecond of it. I haven’t had a bath in about a month. I keep trying to rewatch Babylon 5, but I can’t concentrate on it.¬†I’m scared, I’m low, and I’m so,¬†so¬†tired. But I have something¬†to cling to, for now at least.

Anyway, any advice you have on Depakote, Lithium or indeed any other mood stabilisers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks folks.

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Futility

Don’t read this if you’re in a bad mood or have an aversion to pointless, inane, self-indulgent whining.

Breathing. Awake – awake almost all the time. Out of bed – somehow. Eating – just. Disillusioned. Hermitting. Ruminating, especially during the wee small hours, swathed as I am in darkness, both literal and figurative, about suicide – spent all last night thinking about the film The [Golden Gate] Bridge, and kept seeing my body flying off it. Too exhausted and fed up to do anything about it, not enough money to buy petrol never mind a flight to California (jumping from GGB causes a horrid death anyhow. There are better ways to go). Avoiding laptop as if it carried Ebola (I haven’t opened it since Thursday or Friday and this is being written on my phone) – I’m positively belligerent towards the poor, innocent thing right now, which is most unusual. Weepy – again, most unlike me. Obsessed with idea that my mother will die – it fills with me with a profoundly horrified dread and deep sorrow that I cannot quantify. Very worried about her on a more rational level due to an arthritis flare-up. Triggered and disturbed by a few things I’ve seen lately. Possibly experiencing tactile hallucinations, but not sure. No other obvious psychotic symptoms. IBS, migraines and knee pain strongly in evidence. Back and neck aren’t good either. Psychosomatic, I suppose. Same nett effect as if issues were organic, though. Intoxicated by the sounds of the wind and the rain – the only positive release and escapism other than reading. Yes, reading! Shockingly I can do this, for which I give my heartfelt and eternal thanks to God(s) in whom I don’t believe. Can’t write, as this spiel of complete shit attests. Lonely but paradoxically desperately desirous of no social interaction at all. Shut down FB – more particularly, not using Twitter or G+, which means things are bad. No idea what’s going on outside my tiny little house and really, honestly, truly don’t care. An aberration for a news and current affairs junkie, surely.

I’ve been at best ambivalent and at worst actively hostile about the future of this blog lately. I go through periods where I loathe it, then others where I remember how truly important to me it is, and how markedly therapeutic it has generally been. I was going to delete the whole thing on Friday night, then again on Saturday, but must have retained some semblance of sanity because I realised (admittedly with some advice from Twitter) that I wasn’t in the correct frame of mind to make a big decision like that.

But I might take a break. Might not. Can’t say. Can’t think straight, don’t care about much, in love with the idea of complete unconsciousness, too fatigued to be angry, useful, or remotely coherent or interesting company.

Odd sense of déjà vu.

Psychiatrist in morning. Logically know this is timely and necessary, realistically dreading the living fuck out of it. Mother’s house afterwards. Unfortunately some McFauls will be there. Cannot avoid them as I need to make sure mother is OK. Hopefully there will be no Paedo though. Christine next week some time. Have so far failed to contact Nexus about renewing therapy as I promised her I would, because I’m avoiding contact with anyone (other that A, in person, and mother, by text message), regardless of reason.

Sorry this is such an unmitigated pile of hot, steaming wankshit. Thought I ought to advise those of you that inexplicably give a damn about me that I do, in fact, still exist. Thanks for comments on recent posts, tweets if you’ve sent them (I haven’t checked, sorry) and whatnot. You do mean a lot to me, I hope you all do know that – I just can’t be part of this world right now.

Much love

Pan ‚̧ xxx

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I Lied – The Mentalism is 'Back'

Didn’t I sound so positive on Friday?

All that positivity about The Book, the proposed voluntary position, blah de blah. Although I seemed like (and am) a work in progress – a person notoriously uncompleted, perhaps – my apparent optimism last week did not seem to represent the words of a person in regression. It didn’t seem to be the commentary of someone whose outward skins of positivity were being painfully sliced off, little by little.

But that’s the truth of the matter.

I didn’t mean to lie. I wasn’t even truly aware at the time that I was lying. I mean, when I wrote “I might be slightly depressed…but given all that has been going on, that’s actually quite good”, I did sort of raise an eye-brow in self-referential suspicion, but I think the crux here is that if I was trying to fool anyone, it was primarily myself.

Things are not continuing to get better, as they had been for some months – and I’ve been very firmly in denial about this. The signs have been very strongly, and at times starkly acutely, in evidence for a couple of weeks now, but until Monday I was in complete denial about them. I ignored them: not consciously, but nevertheless, I believe, deliberately. When they couldn’t be ignored, I attempted to dismiss them as circumstantially appropriate, or nominally sane in some other respect, rather than doing the fucking adult thing and recognising them for what they are – clear, indubitable, glaringly-obvious-with-hindsight signs of an impending serious depression. It isn’t fully that yet, but without action and intervention now, that’s what it will become. I know (and should have known) from bitter experience that that is how this hand plays out.

Why the denial? The short answer is that I don’t really know; in the past, I’ve recognised and accepted going mental when I’ve seen it coming, so it’s hard to determine exactly why I deviated from that pattern this time around. I would hypothesise that, having tasted the pseudo-heady heights of pseudo-recovery, I didn’t want to ‘fail’ myself, to go back on all that I had seemed to have ‘achieved’, by knowing I was slowly becoming ill again. Also, and I know this is hatefully egotistical, but I often feel a sense of responsibility to others, mainly because of the relative success of this blog. I got better – -ish – and wrote about it to the world. It doesn’t look good to suddenly come back one day and say, “sorry, folks, scratch that,” does it?

Also, in this case, the problem is very likely to be attributable to my own stupid decisions. I’ll come back to that later.

I only realised how fucked I was when I spoke to Christine, my CPN, on Monday. I really can’t be bothered going into this in any detail, but essentially I told her I was experiencing the following symptoms:

  • the usual paranoia (still convinced I have schizoaffective disorder, but now also of the view that I have schizoid and/or schizotypal personality disorder, on top of the clinical depression and complex PTSD) – no better nor worse than it was the last time I saw her;
  • agoraphobia – won’t leave the house alone, don’t really want to leave it at all during the day anyway, not always at night, either (though at least then I have A to join me);
  • hideous insomnia;
  • ergo, hideous fatigue – but the levels of it are even greater than I’d expect to correlate with the level of insomnia I’m currently experiencing. I mean, I’m not exactly unused to insomnia;
  • complete and utter apathy and malaise;
  • probably some old other bollocks that I’ve forgotten.

I said to her initially that things hadn’t really changed since our last session together, and I really didn’t think that they had. The above ‘symptoms’ strike me as being part and parcel of everyday existence (to a greater or lesser extent, anyway), and it was not thinking about nor discussing them out loud that made me realise that a major depressive episode is a-callin’. It was Christine’s response to me – to what I detailed, certainly, but mostly towards me specifically.

I seemed different, apparently. I seemed ‘flat’ and disinterested. She said that the absolute confirmation of that assessment came when she asked me about writing; apparently, I spoke of this blog, and even some of my other writing ventures, with complete impassivity and detachment. In the past, she claims, there has always been a ‘spark’ about me when I’ve conversed on these matters, but in this case, I just didn’t care.

I hadn’t realised that I’d previously spoken about the blog with such enthusiasm to Christine, but what I did notice when she asked about it was how much I felt that I just didn’t care. This makes me feel guilty; there are hundreds of thousands (possibly millions?) of words chronicling a huge and important chunk of my life here. There are thousands of (mostly!) supportive and interesting comments. There are dozens of links in the blogroll to the writings of others that I really appreciate. It’s a big deal. I cannot reasonably be apathetic about this, yet I am. That was not the case a few weeks ago.

In talking to her, I also realised how ridiculously irritable I’ve become of late. Don’t worry – I didn’t fly off the handle at her (although when she kept looking at her watch I silently seethed), but she did ask a lot of questions and when I thought about the answers, I realised how narky I have actually been over the last few weeks. I’ve kept that to myself pretty well, but the feeling has certainly been there. I’ve been internally going completely batshit barmy over every single little bloody thing, and though I’ve always been easily irritated to some extent, the sheer intensity and frequency recently experienced is something that is only every present when I’m clinically doolally.

Other things I noticed in the course of the discussion were that I was even more hypervigilant than normal and that I’d behaved really strangely this weekend past. Christine asked me if I was getting out at all, and I said that A and I had gone out on Friday and Saturday night (though of course I advised her that I refuse to go out alone and am still petrified of crowds, and thus spend all day sitting in the house, cowering from the outside world. This concerned her because at points I had been trying to go some places, such as shops, by myself. I haven’t done that for ages). She was pleased that I’d gone out at all, but the weird thing is, on Saturday night when A went to bed, I sat up until 5am watching YouTube videos and smoking.

That might seem like a normal thing to anyone else in the world, but it’s odd behaviour for me. There are occasions when I stay up later than A, but they’re usually to write because in a cruel twist of fate, most of my ‘inspiration’ seems to come around the witching hour. This was different – I don’t know why it’s so odd that I would remain up whilst he went to bed, I don’t know why it’s so odd to listen to music videos whilst alone…but it is. It’s just not me at all.

She asked me if I had even enjoyed my late night pursuit. I laughed, and said that I’d taken no pleasure from it at all, but that I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from it. I said I was taking pleasure from almost nothing (save for writing the first chapter of The Book, not that I told her about that), all over again. A different tact, then; what about motivation for anything? Don’t be daft, Christine love, it simply doesn’t exist. Have I any social contact? Meh, occasionally I check Twitter. No, no, she meant in real life. Of course – A is there. But A is only there in the evenings, is he not? Well…yeah. What about my mother? Yes, my mother is there, I can go up to her house again now that AoE and The Everythinger are gone. Good, right?

But…I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to use my vocal chords at all: it is so much effort. Whilst I can get away with this in A’s company, it’s not possible in Mum’s; A can entertain himself quite easily with computer games or whatever, whereas my mother, at least when I’m with her, seems to need verbal social interaction in order to even breathe. Yet I’m too tired to speak. Speaking a few words seems akin to remastering the theory of relativity right now, so I dread the idea of having an entire conversation.

So, Christine mused, if I don’t want to (or literally can’t, at times) talk to anyone, am I willing to even see anyone? Well, Mum and A, yes – despite the communication problems inherent in seeing anybody. But beyond that, no. I’d rather gouge out my eyeballs with a rusty fork and stick them so far up my anus they come out in next year’s vomit than see anyone right now. I did force myself to have lunch with my oldest friend Brian about a fortnight ago, because I’d essentially ignored his text messages and Facebastard comments and so forth for ages, and knew I was being a shit friend. However, if I could have gotten out of it with any ounce of integrity left intact, I would have done so in a heartbeat. The meeting was awful; Brian is a lovely bloke, and we’ve known each other for so long that there will always be something to say, but I couldn’t feel anything other than selfish frustration that I had to be out of the house (fortunately, as ever, I think I hid it well).

And that brings me to another point. I felt hideously guilty for not enjoying lunch with Brian; I feel hideously guilty for not wanting to speak, especially to Mum because she’s so nice and she’s so lonely oftentimes; I felt guilty for complaining to Christine about not wanting to speak, because in doing so I was speaking, so she probably thought I was angry with her for ‘making’ me engage in that; I felt guilty for being irritable; I felt guilty for not being more respectful and appreciative of this blog; I then felt guilty for being narcissistic enough to think that people actually care about it; I felt guilty for thinking that almost everyone is out to get me; I felt guilty for my general issues of anhedonia and avolition, because when you think about it, life hasn’t really been too cruel to me, and I should be bloody grateful for what I have.

Christine cocked her head, and lifted her eyes to me. “Excessive guilt,” she said simply. An explanation of the term was not necessary. I am well aware that it is a symptom of a major depressive episode. Not that I felt or feel that the guilt is excessive, but she apparently did.

“OK,” she finally continued. “Your mood, your general demeanour, has definitely changed since I saw you last.” As noted, I’m not sure how, but then I can only observe myself from within. “You’re just…” …she searched for the correct terminology… “…not yourself, not the person I’m used to meeting.”

I thought about this for a moment. How can she know what ‘myself’ truly is? I see her for an hour every fortnight or three weeks, for Christ’s sake! But I forced myself to try to see things from her perspective, and realised that if my demeanour had indeed changed, then in fact surely it is her of all people that would notice. A sees me every day, Mum once a week. Any changes to them would be subtle, and only clearly observable retrospectively. An analogy would be when we got our cats as kittens. We didn’t notice them aging day to day, but when my sister-in-law – who was with us the day we took them home – saw them several months later, she very clearly noticed how much they’d grown. I suppose observable shifts in mood are a bit like that.

Indeed, I remember when I got my accursed medical notes (yes, those things that I didn’t bother doing anything useful with – fail fail fail fail fail), the letters from Psychiatry to Lovely GP would detail my mood self-reports and then their ‘objective’ assessments. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t always (or even often) agree with their alleged ‘objectivity’; however, unlike many within this discipline, Christine is a no-bullshitter, and the more we talked about how things were, the more I grew to see that she was right. Things are Heading South.

So, then. What caused it?

I tried to blame it on insomnia. If I can’t sleep, then it’s inevitable that my mood is going to drop. She accepted that, to a point, but asked if I was still feeling so apathetic and (sometimes willfully) disconnected from the world when I had taken Zopiclone and ergo had had at least some sleep. I was forced to admit that I was. In all honesty, sleeping hadn’t really affected that at all.

“Ah well,” I sighed. “These things do go in circles, don’t they? I’ve never been stupid enough to believe that I wouldn’t go through another major depression. It’s always going to be a part of my life in some fashion.”

“Hmm,” she replied, uncertainly. “Maybe. But I’m just wondering…how long has it been since you sliced your Seroquel dosage in half?”

“About five weeks…” I began.

“And how long has this…this downward slide been going on? About three?”

“Um…yes, I suppose so. But it can’t be anything to do with the Seroquel, can it? I mean, I know it’s used as an anti-depressant, but I thought that was at lower doses. [NewVCB] told me that the maintenance dosage of it for depressive features is 300mg.”

“As a general rule, it is,” Christine replied. “But it doesn’t mean that the mood stabilising and anti-depressant properties aren’t applicable in higher doses – and anyhow, you seem to have a high tolerance to medication to begin with. Everyone responds differently to different doses of medication, as you know.”

I had to concede those points to her, and after debating it in my head for a couple of minutes, I was forced to recognise that the timing of my apparent descent back into madness relative to my idiotic decision to reduce my daily intake of Seroquel was highly coincidental.

“And I don’t believe in coincidences,” I added softly.

She nodded. “Neither do I. I don’t know if you know this, but in the XR version of Seroquel [the one I take], the anti-depressant properties are more potent than in the standard version [no, I didn’t know this. I thought extended release was just that – so why does that have an impact on mood more so than getting the hit all at once?], so I think that further evidences the fact that there’s a connection here.”

“But,” I protested, “I have had no hallucinations at all since I reduced the dose, and that day of heightened paranoia last month was when I was still taking 600mg.”

“Even so,” she shrugged. “The depressive and anhedonic symptoms still strike me as being related.”

Maybe the psychosis remits. Maybe it only occurs in times of stress (so maybe I don’t have schizoaffective disorder, as I posited at the beginning of this post. Though I still think I do). Maybe it simply can’t be bothered right now, and will return down the line a bit along with some other nefarious attacks on my psyche, such as the hateful mental prison that is the psychiatric mixed state. Maybe it only comes at all when I’m in the midst of a full-blown mood episode (therefore, again, possibly ruling out schizoaffective disorder, and suggesting psychotic depression or bipolar disorder). I mean, when you’re terrified by hallucinations, it isn’t your first priority to start assessing what your general mood state has been at the time, so I really don’t know.

Who cares. Whatever the case, psychosis or no psychosis, I was forced to agree that it looked very likely that the reduction in Seroquel had dramatically affected my psychological well-being.

“If I were you, I’d very seriously consider going back on to the 600mg,” Christine told me.

“What, tonight?” I checked.

“Yes. And if you find that you still want to reduce it after that, discuss it with [NewVCB] in your appointment on 7th September, and she can maybe consider tapering it down or something. But for now, I really think you should go back on it until you see her. I know it’s only a fortnight, but…”

“…that’s a long time when you’re going mental,” I finished despondently, and she nodded her agreement.

“What do you think about that?” she asked.

“I reduced the Seroquel because I was sick of not being able to get up in the mornings. and then experiencing this repulsive, zombified hangover when I did. But I’d rather both of those than be mental – particularly ‘mental’ in the form of ‘depressed’. I’m just worried about the weight gain. It makes me need chocolate, which is contrary to my nature. I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, but as soon as I started taking 600mg of this stuff, I developed one that is surely unparalleled across space and time.”

“We can discuss that, if it continues,” she said. “If you can get back your interest in things, then maybe you can start taking occasional trips to the swimming pool, for example, and build it up from there. If your mood is better to begin with, things like that will seem less daunting.”

I inhaled deeply. “OK. I’ll increase it again. If this is the start of a black treacle of depression, I want to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. If I can. Maybe it’s already too late?”

“Possibly, but by no means definitely,” Christine replied. “You may well be able to stop this before it becomes significantly worse. And at least you have a psychiatric appointment soon, and that will help guide us from there.”

I have been back on the 600mg of Seroquel for two nights now. Obviously two nights isn’t going to make a difference, but let’s just see where we are with the depression thing. I don’t feel depressed as such – Christine, when I said that to her, once again used the adjective ‘flat’ to describe my disposition – but the curious thing about depressive episodes is that they’re not always characterised by raw despair itself; many other things can mould themselves into that horrible, amorphous shape. So, as I did in February, I’m going to use those amazingly accurate, wonderfully telling and obviously entirely diagnostically valid depression scales to see what the craic is.

Goldberg – 68
Beck – 53
Hamilton – 37
Burns – 89

Look at the fucking score on the Beck Inventory! All the others are slightly better than February, but it is a fuckload worse. By fucking miles! Either I inaccurately recorded my Beck scores when I previously did this test, or things have really fucked up, because I think I’ve been honest in my answers today. Perhaps the thing with it is that it places a lot more emphasis on behaviour and thoughts, rather than depressed feelings alone, than some of the other assessments do. But whatever the case, that isn’t good.

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators that things are not good is the fact that I collapsed on Monday night. I just blanked out – presumably I fainted – and fell, with the next thing I knew being my lying on the floor. Mum, who is trying to buy a new car, kept asking me to stand behind her at the computer as she looked up endless reams of automotive specifications, and I was so fucking exhausted that even that was an effort akin to climbing Mount Kiliman-fucking-jaro. So I apparently responded somatically, and passed out. Don’t worry; I wasn’t hurt or anything. But I do think that all factors, when detailed here together, suggest that until things start to demonstrably improve, I have to be very, very careful.

My concentration isn’t as bad as it normally is when I’m off my head, so maybe I can seek some solace in writing The Book. Yet even that seems like it has to be treated with kid-gloves, because writing can very quickly wear even the sanest person out (I’ve been writing this fucking post on and off since Monday afternoon!). Take it easy, The Eagles once sang. Good advice, that.

Those of you that read TWIM will know that on Saturday I featured, as one of the wildcards, a blog denouncing the inappropriate use of quotation marks. You might very well attempt to protest at my use of said marks in the title of this blog post, but you can’t put me on trial for hypocritical punctuation abuse just yet (at least, not for that. I’m sure there’s a multitude of errors within this post, but I’m typing on my mother’s netbook which makes things difficult and, furthermore, I’m a bit mental and can’t be arsed to proof-read this. So suck it). I put the word ‘back’ in quotes because it isn’t back; it can’t be, because it was never away. It was, and is, always there – just to greater or lesser extents that can or can’t be easily managed. ‘Back’ seemed like the most appropriate word given the apparent change in intensity, however, so there you go.

I’m really, really not a fan of BBC3 in the least, but BBC1 happened to repeat this programme originally broadcast on the former last night. It’s a surprisingly sensitive and interesting look at how caring for a parent with mental illness can affect a young person. If your country allows you access to the BBC iPlayer, do check it out ūüôā

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