CPN Appointment

***Possible Self-Harm Triggers, Blah Blah Blah***

Saw Christine on Thursday afternoon for the first time late December. Explained all that had happened in the first few months of 2012 and how things are very, very shit. She seemed to be of the view that this is a depressive episode more generally, because of the self-harm in which I engaged before Maisie’s death (she views it as serious because I was trying to dig out the veins in my hands, and seeing if I could sever the tendons in my wrists. When I shrugged it off, she said, “you do realise that this isn’t…normal, don’t you?” I said that I didn’t know). All that has happened, of course, has not exactly helped me claw my way back up the slippery slope I’m currently navigating.

She was horrified to hear that, as I spoke, Paedo was sitting in my mother’s living room. I explained that the reason for his presence was my mother and the McFauls’ over-compensatory just because the matriarch is dead doesn’t mean we’re not still family! routine. Christine opined that this must have been very difficult for me. I said that I didn’t care, but I don’t think she believed me.

Complained about either losing her or losing NewVCB; went on a rant (well, insofar as I was able to speak) about how much the health service has failed me in the past, and just as it had started to get things right, it was cunting them up again. I must have looked particularly distressed at some juncture because she appeared to think I was about to burst into tears – “that’s really hit you hard, Pan,” she said, adding that the entire CMHT is furious about the changes – at which point I said that I do not do tears and that even when I’m sitting alone in the house and feel the ‘need’ to cry, I do not permit myself to engage in said activity because someone will be watching me through the clandestine cameras that follow me about.

Naturally, this remark piqued her interest, and she asked if I really believed it, or if it’s just a feeling. I said that I knew it was ridiculous – “maybe they were right when they diagnosed me with a personality disorder, it’s just that they got the specifics wrong; it’s not borderline, it’s narcissistic” – but that I believed it nevertheless. Cue the usual questions about voices and visions, of which I was able to truthfully say there are none.

Either way, she was extremely concerned about my levels of depression. I laughed (if one can call such a hollow, cynical sound ‘laughter’) and said that this was nothing. I know how bad it gets, and this isn’t it – even though it’s heading distinctly in that direction, and has been for weeks. Christine said that in a sense this was good – might I be able to ‘get it in time’, she wondered, if I wasn’t yet at rock bottom?  I shook my head. “By the time it’s got to this stage, it’s still gone too far to prevent it from getting to its worst. It creeps up on you so slowly and insidiously that when you get to ‘now’ – the realisation you’re spirally into the abyss – it’s virtually written in stone that the very worst of depressions will be upon you anon. Like a fixed variable in space-time.”

She kept asking me over and over again if I could “guarantee [my] safety”. I kept trying to make non-committal responses, but she wouldn’t let it drop. Eventually I said something along the lines of expecting to be alive at the time of our next appointment. She accepted that, but added that she wasn’t just concerned about my trying to top myself; she was also worried that I’d engage in more self-harm, and this time actually succeed in doing myself some proper damage. I stated that I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t do anything of that nature, but that I thought it was highly unlikely. As I told her, you need at least some mental vigour to engage in self-injury, and with each passing day I have less and less of such commodities available. Depression sucks out your very soul.

Christine nodded, but kept prattling on that my safety was the most important thing. Meh. Fuck my safety. Don’t fuck my safety. I don’t care either way. I was just glad that she let me leave without a shiteist crisis team assessment.

She wants me back in two weeks rather than the usual month. In the meantime, I am to contact her urgently if things get notably worse or if I’m running helium cannisters through price-comparison websites again. I said, “I know you always say I can contact you, but can I actually do so? Do you mean it?”

She seemed surprised by the question, and emphatically told me without breaking eye contact (which was odd, because I’d spent the entire appointment trying to avoiding looking at her – mental health professionals love it when you don’t engage in eye contact; it’s always splattered over your notes) that of course she meant it, that she wouldn’t have offered it had she not, and indeed that she wanted me to contact her if things get worse. ‘Get worse’ is a stupid phrase in context – of course things will ‘get worse’. But I think she means ‘really bad’.

I might take her up on it, assuming I can get out of bed.

End of terrible post, and of pathetic pity-party. Can’t be bothered to proof-read, for which you have my apologies. Love to all. xxx

The Darker Side of Speaking Up

AWARDHAIR!!!1!!!!11!!!eleven!!!six!My hair has arrived for the awards ceremony. Do you like it?

Initially, I was unsure as to whether I could even go to the ceremony. After all, I would probably be the only person there that writes under a pseudonym, since most of the nominees are from the world of the more traditional media – papers, telly, radio and suchlike. Even amongst the ‘New Media’ short-listees (if that’s a word), as far as I know I’m the only person responsible for a nomination that’s anonymous.

However, I had a quick word on Twitter with some of the lovely folks at Mind – and they, in conjunction with their PR people, are coming up with an anonymity masterplan! I can’t say how delighted this made me, and how very kind of them to accommodate such a bizarre request! So Cinderella will go to the ball after all 🙂 I don’t expect to win anything, don’t get me wrong, but to be short-listed for such a prestigious award is such a big deal to me that simply being there will be amazing. A is coming with me, as is my best friend Daniel and, all being well, a fellow mental health blogger. If there’s enough room, I can even bring two more people 🙂

So, mentalists of the UK. If you’re kicking about in the general area of the Home Counties in late November and fancy a pale ale or three with a sad blatherer with a Pot Noodle fetish, feel free to give me a shout. We’ll be in Laaaaaahhhhaaaandaaaaaahhhhnnnnn from Saturday 26th to Wednesday 30th November. Monday night is out, as it’s the awards ceremony, and on at least one of the other days I’ll be meeting a friend, but there’s flexibility in the latter if anyone is amenable to a Mini Mad-Up.

Anyway, speaking of Mind, I have a guest post over on their blog today entitled Speaking Out is the Only Way to End Stigma (see here). Although the title mirrors what I talked about in my last post, I’ve actually looked at the issue of stigma from the other side of the coin than that which I previously discussed here. I thought I’d quote it here too, for your dubious delectation:

I consider myself a fortunate person, in that there are a wonderful – and rather diverse – range of people that I have the privilege of calling my friends. Generally, I’ve been very open with them and my relatives alike about my mental health difficulties – but there’s one group with whom, until recently, I tended to keep my mouth shut.

My partner is partially sighted, and as such his primary education was delivered in a school specialising in teaching children with visual (VI) and auditory impairments. After being reunited with a number of his schoolmates in his adulthood, I was pleased to also make their acquaintance, and am glad to report that I now consider them my friends too.

One thing that repeatedly surprised me about these otherwise lovely people, though, was their attitudes to my mental illness. They are open about their disabilities around the dinner table and, more formally, they vocally demand reasonable adjustments at work, raise money for related charities, and have been known to campaign politically on VI related issues such as traffic calming and electronic accessibility. I think it’s brilliant.

You can tell there’s a ‘but’ coming, can’t you? Here it is. In my view, if you are pro-disability rights – as every right-thinking person should be – then you should be inclusive about the meaning of the term ‘disability’. Unfortunately, mental health problems can represent potentially very severe disabilities, just as physical ones can.

This is something my friends didn’t seem to realise. I remember one night, over dinner, after they had been talking about VI issues, I shifted the subject subtlety with the intention of talking about the barriers I, also, had faced in terms of my disability. The specifics are lost to the passing of time, but I think I was alluding to the HR problems I’d faced during a depression-fuelled absence from work.

My commentary, delivered in my usual matter-of-fact tone, was met with a stony, almost horrified silence. People started staring at their food or fiddling with their wedding rings. An approaching waiter reversed back into the kitchen, having felt the tension emanating from our group. And all the while I sat there, genuinely mystified, thinking, “what did I say?!” Lest I ruin the rest of the evening, though, I decided to keep schtum thereafter, and eventually someone (quite deliberately) changed the subject, and things moved on.

That was several years ago, but if I’m brutally honest, the episode still cuts me to the core when I let myself think about it. Why is someone else’s disability considered more socially “acceptable” than mine? Why do mental health conditions still exist only in the realm of whispered taboo and under-the-carpet brushing?

This was only my second proper encounter with the stigma that continues to permeate discussions pertaining to mental health (or lack thereof). I don’t blame my friends personally: they are a product of a society and culture that remains scared of and ill-informed about psychiatric disorders, and they’re far from alone.

My first significantly prejudicial experience was in my most recent job (mentioned above), in which I had initially gone off sick with “depression”. This was deemed a common and ordinary complaint by my employers, but when my condition failed to improve and I was eventually diagnosed with, initially, borderline personality disorder and bipolar type II (now changed to complex PTSD and either bipolar I or schizoaffective disorder – go me!), their attitudes mysteriously changed. Oh, we really were in mental territory there, weren’t we? They couldn’t have that, now could they?

(I’m being slightly unfair here, as when I was eventually dismissed, I had been absent over a year – my leaving the organisation was therefore both legal and fair. However, the paradigm shift between their tolerance before and after my diagnoses was very evident).

Rather than incite meekness, however, if anything these two incidents encouraged me to speak out more about my mental health troubles, as I wrote about in my World Mental Health Day post here. It started off by writing – anonymously – on my blog (I still write pseudonymously, incidentally, but that’s because I have no choice but to protect some key personnel discussed therein), but in time I found myself openly discussing mental health in ‘real life’ too. Besides those already discussed, I only remember one particularly negative reaction – when explaining to a friend of my boyfriend’s that I was not working due to “being mental,” he replied, “is that ‘I Can’t Be Bothered With Work-Itis’ then?” Not a pleasant comment by any means – but by and large, people have been accepting, willing to listen and mostly sympathetic. I even revealed the severity of my psychotic and dissociative symptoms to an ignorant and rather set-in-their-old-fashioned-ways aunt and uncle recently; I was quite surprised when they didn’t back away in petrified horror, but instead proffered me their genuine good wishes and a listening ear.

Again, though, there’s a ‘but’. Two, actually. Firstly, it is not easy to be so unabashed about this subject to other people (particularly, I would suggest, acquaintances or strangers – you have no clues to enable you to gauge what their reaction might be). As a general rule, I’m remarkably passive in the arena of ‘real life’, but I am both blessed and cursed in having something of a bolshy streak when I feel I’m being treated unfairly, and I think it’s that force that has driven me to speak up. Secondly, even though I have received a number of pretty positive reactions to my disclosures, stigma still exists. There are still those who demonise us as loons or scroungers who should be locked up in an asylum or get back to work, respectively (though, of course, many people with a mental health problem do work). Admitting to mental health issues in such circumstances can seem like a dangerous thing to do.

I think, though, that there is ultimately good news. As many people familiar with Mind will know, the Time to Change campaign has been granted another four years’ worth of funding, which means that the very meaningful in-roads the initiative has already made can be further built upon.

As Time to Change says, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about mental health. I know it’s easy for me, an anonymous stream of words on a blog post, to say, but I really believe that speaking out is one of the key ways in which we can break down the societal barriers we’re presently forced to face. And although it sounds naïvely simplistic, if people refuse to be educated on the subject, if they make active decisions to remain prejudiced and wilfully ignorant, well – it really is their problem, and not ours. We deserve respect. We don’t deserve to have to hide behind a wall of silence.

Oh, and my visually impaired friends? One got a job in mental health training, and now often shares my material at work. Another recently ran a fund-raising event for a mental health charity. Most importantly to me personally is that, after a lot of determined “I am going to talk about this,” they are now willing to openly discuss my difficulties with me.

Proof, to me, that negative attitudes can change.

And, despite it all, I think that’s true. Feel free to share your experiences, either here or (preferably) on the Mind post itself (since it is likely to have a more diverse audience).

I was supposed to have finished writing about my last stint of therapy with Paul by today, but as you can see I’ve failed. Not that that should surprise you; it certainly doesn’t surprise me. I have no excuse really; I’ve been reading a lot, and doing a bit of my own writing, but that’s about it really. I’ll try to do the two outstanding posts this week, but this time I won’t promise.

My Mum has found out about the awards. It was entirely my fault, so I shouldn’t whinge too much about it. She still doesn’t know the specifics involved, though, and I actually came right out to her and told her I didn’t want her reading my writing because “a lot of it is very personal.”

She said, “to your present life – or your earlier one?”

A curious question, I felt. Why would she even consider the latter. given her lay understanding of mental health difficulties?

I said, feigning a typical nonchalance, “oh, you know. Everything.” Then I changed the subject, and that was that. To be on the safe side, though, I’ve blocked her IP address 😉

Not much else to report. Not seeing NewVCB until 9th November, so no new medication(s) as yet. I can’t remember at all the date of my next appointment with Christine, so will have to bloody ring the CMHT for clarification. In non-mental news, I’m off to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne next weekend for a football (watching, that is) weekend with the lads. I can’t afford it, but I’m going anyway. Cross your fingers for the Toon, please!

Anyway, folks, I’ll catch up properly next week. I hope you’re all well.

Love Pan ❤ x

Change of Diagnosis

I finally saw my CPN, Christine, this morning. I say ‘finally’ as I had been meant to see her about – what? A month ago? Three weeks past? Something like that. I turned up on that occasion, early as usual, and reported to the CMHT/outpatients reception in the normal fashion. The bloke seemed a bit unsettled to see me, which should have been a warning sign that things were afoot, but then he told me to have a seat, as normal, in the waiting room. I dutifully did so.

And thus began the wait for which the term ‘waiting room’ was invented. To be honest, as soon as the allocated appointment time had been and gone, I somehow knew that she wasn’t coming – but rather than approach the reception bloke again and enquire as to Christine’s status on this plane, I just sat there rocking back and forth like the oversized bodybag of insanity that I am. Someone sat opposite me, curled up in her seat in a ball. Someone else sat to my right, shuddering and ‘ticcing’ with a remarkable frequency, as if afflicted by tardive dyskinesia (not such an improbable scenario in this realm, of course). I was struck by the obvious mental illnesses of all three of us: you might think that comes as no surprise in a psychiatric outpatients waiting room, but you’d be wrong.

In my two-plus years of attending the outbin, I’ve always been a little taken aback by how completely sane and normal most of the people looked – and then this makes me feel like a right stigmatising bitch. Mental health problems really aren’t that abnormal, and societal stereotypes on how people with such issues should look (foaming at the mouth, constantly existing in states of 1,000 yard-staring catatonia, running around wielding knives) are dated, inaccurate and sickeningly discriminatory. Madness can affect anyone – any age, any race, any gender, any religion, any sexuality, any class. It does not discriminate, and it can be well disguised. So why would I, someone who should have known better, have assumed that there must be a certain ‘look’ a mental must have, or particular behaviours he or she must present? Why does the the complete ordinariness of most mental health outpatients surprise me so? Because I’m a bigoted bitch, no better than the majority of the supposedly sane community who generally live in a similar ignorance – that’s why.

But I digress, as I am often wont to do. I knew Christine wasn’t going to turn up on this occasion because of the confluence of events in which (a) reception bloke had regarded me with an odd disposition; and (b) there had been a missed call from an unknown number on my phone earlier that day. No one had left a fucking message, though, so I did not consider it important.

Of course, it turned out that it had been the outbin calling me to alert me to the fact that some shit was hitting some fans in Shite Town, one of poor Christine’s unfortunate ‘community’-based stomping grounds, as poor reception bloke was forced to eventually admit to me. Not that I displayed it to him, but I was fucking irritated. Not with Christine – I fully recognise and accept that shit hits fans sometimes (especially in Shite Town…God, I hate that bastardhole with a passion) – but with her colleagues back at the bin for letting me drive all the way there when a simple fucking message could have saved me the petrol.

A secondary issue, of course, was that I was right in the midst of a major depression at the time, but meh. I was completely pissed about by (Old)VCB, but NewVCB and Christine have generally been very good in terms of seeing me, and have even afforded me the opportunity to contact them if I am in a non-crisis-team crisis – which, in de facto terms, means any serious (but sub-A&E) crisis, because it will be over my dead body when I ever deal with the bloody crisis team again.

Anyway, so it came to pass that this morning’s appointment was organised, and subsequently attended by both Christine and me. I was with her for about half an hour, which is relatively short by previous standards, but there wasn’t a huge amount of things to discuss. The poor cat had died since I last saw her, which was obviously rather a rather shit stabbing of fate, and it had come at a time when I was very mentally fragile anyway. Christine expressed what appeared to be sincere apologies for our loss, which I appreciated. Some folks say the words alright, but you can almost see them thinking, “but it’s just an animal..!” Others, of whom I’m guessing she must be one, realise that pets become your friends and family.

The odd thing is, apart from the first weekend after Ms Cat’s death, I think things have been stabilising ever so slightly. Obviously, one might reasonably assume that if one had atypical (AKA reactive) depressive symptoms, that such a horrible and untimely occurrence would have paved the way straight back into the depths of the abyss – yet in my case, it did not. It’s not because I’m cold or some sort of unfeeling droid – truly, I miss Ms Cat horribly and am horrified when I think about her being hit by that fucking car, her dying all alone in the middle of the road – but overall, putting a quite normal reaction to bereavement aside (and if viewed from an entirely pathological perspective), things seem to be ever so slightly moving upwards. This makes me feel smug. Why? Because I’ve been trying to tell the quacks for ages now that my moods are not reactive, and that my major depressions are clearly melancholic. What has happened in the wake of Ms Cat’s death exemplifies that well, to my mind.

Lack of a reactive mood suggests a lack of borderline personality disorder. I’ve discussed the fact that I don’t feel the diagnosis is relevant to me any more both here and here, in the latter case having made brief allusion to the issue with Christine herself. Today, I just came out and asked her: what the fuck actually is my current diagnosis?

The question was borne out of a discussion about mood stabilisers. As I had asked you lovely lot here, I so asked her about the pros and cons of Depakote and Lithium, both of which she actually seemed quite positive about. She must have seen some scepticism in my expression, because she asked me to articulate what it was that I didn’t like about them. I presented a redacted version of some of your responses to the aforelinked post.

“I know that’s a tiny amount of people compared to all of those that take these drugs, but still, I’m dubious,” I admitted. “What about Lamotrigine? I heard from various sources that it’s particularly good for depression.”

“Lithium and Depakote are the ones we most frequently use here,” she told me, “but yeah, Lamotrigine and [some other anti-convulsant-cum-mood-stabiliser whose name I have forgotten] are also used, and yes – Lamotrigine does tend to be good for depression. I know that [NewVCB] does recognise the severity of your depressive features. Would you say that they’re the most troublesome part of your illness?”

I thought about it for a moment, and then said they were certainly the most pervasive, which is undoubtedly correct. I kind of screwed up my face, though, because – although depression is a hell beyond the comprehension of those who have never truly experienced it – other symptoms I’ve experienced have been pretty ghastly too. ‘They‘ (especially on a bad day). The particular anti-delight that is the psychiatric mixed state. Insomnia. Fake Paedo and night-time peccaries. Dissociation. They all suck donkey balls that are bigger than I know how to quantify, but despite it all, I think that depression probably is still the worst of the whole sorry lot. It’s inutterably abominable.

For some reason, though, we ended up talking in some detail about my psychotic symptoms; Christine noted that whilst the psychosis had actually been pretty serious at times, that on most occasions it hadn’t been particularly prolonged (save for my ongoing GCHQ obsession, but then I don’t think that that is delusional. Those nosy pricks honourable men and women watch all of us: it’s simply a fact). This is true – in the past I’ve even suggested that my psychotic symptoms were perhaps transient and/or stress-induced, though as I continue walking this darkened path of lunacy and reflect on times gone by, I’m less and less convinced that any of it was (is) as simple as that. Either way, though, it has been uncommon for me to be verbally persecuted or delusional or whatever for long periods of time, as is traditional in the likes of schizophrenia.

One thing I told her, that I haven’t mentioned here for a long time, was that I missed Tom. Not all hallucinatory voices are malicious, y’know. Christine empathised; she says she has one particular patient that has an extremely settled and successful life now (hope, perchance?), but who really misses her voices which (like Tom) were killed by the anti-psychotics that, all things considered, the woman had little choice but to take.

Anyhow, that’s by the by, apart from my worry about reducing the Seroquel to 300mg and adding a mood stabiliser. This concern, as I observed in the appointment, was that even with a slow titration back down to the half-dose of the stuff, I would become psychotic again. Christine reminded me that when I had tried a self-inflicted hand at living on 300mg, that I had only had one day of psychotic mentalness – that the rest of those few weeks, whilst they appeared to have fucked with my mood, had not rekindled voices, paranoia, thought disorder and so forth. True enough, to be fair to her.

“So, maybe 300mg can work to prevent psychosis for you,” she said. “But yeah – I think the introduction of a mood stabiliser is a good idea to make up for the loss of such properties if you lower your dose of Seroquel.”

I nodded, also expressing my willingness to “just deal with the weight gain” if indeed it turned out, after all, that 600mg of the stuff was what I needed. She said that it was good that I had such a philosophical attitude to the whole thing.

“I suppose so,” I adventured, “but I’m going to be taking 300mg of Venlafaxine, 300mg of Seroquel and God knows what dose of a mood stabiliser. That’s a bit…well, mad.”

She shrugged, but not in a dismissive fashion. “If you had a broken leg you you’d put it in as big a cast as it required…”

“Oh don’t get me wrong,” I said, “I agree. I’m not at all one of those anti-medication apologists; the stuff has saved my life many times. It’s just a lot of medicine to be taking when…well, when supposedly dealing with a disorder for which NICE don’t recommend medication…”

Christine made some remark that seemed derisive of NICE, which left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Then she continued by saying that, if I was referring to BPD, then NewVCB was seriously doubtful about my having it.

Good! (Though let’s be clear: I do believe that I did have borderline personality disorder, though I never met the stereotypes so nefariously associated with same – but then, very few people actually do. So here I am – proof that it can be recovered from). But if BPD is no longer applicable, what are we all dealing with, then?

“[NewVCB] doesn’t like to discuss diagnoses with me,” I complained forlornly. “But I’d like to know.”

Christine nodded and said, “I’d say she’s about 90% going with – predominantly depressive, bear in mind – bipolar affective disorder with psychotic features.”

Of course, bipolar type II was always my differential diagnosis, but it now seems that they’re looking at type I. In a way, it’s curious as I’m pretty sure I’ve never intimately danced with a euphoric mania – indeed, (Old)VCB (who met me about four times and was therefore the consummate expert on the idiosyncratic nature of my personal psycho-neurology) stated that I definitely didn’t have bipolar I. However, if I have had mixed episodes – and I certainly have – then clearly, by very definition under the current editions of the ICD and the DSM, it must be bipolar I. I’d always shrugged that reality off: these things exist on a spectrum. I haven’t changed my view on that, but an elevation from II to I is not exactly a non-issue for me, partly because specific diagnoses may (or may not) affect one’s treatment. In that regard – and it’s as unfair as fuck, because the popular, sensationalised images of it are not accurate – not being seen as having BPD any more is a positive development, even though it’ll obviously never leave my files entirely.

Anyhow, there is a window of doubt in this apparent bipolar diagnosis. It is, to no surprise of mine whatsoever, potentially filled with schizoaffective disorder. Essentially, the difference between it and psychotic bipolar disorder is that the psychosis can occur outside mood episodes in schizoaffective disorder, whereas in bipolar (or psychotic depression), such symptoms are exclusive to either depressed or “manic” states (I use the scare quotes* here ((which I normally loathe loathe LOATHE)) because I feel the term denotes euphoria, whereas clearly in my case – if I do have this – then my “mania” is of the dysphoric variety). Given my inability to properly rise from bed in the mornings, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that trying to keep track of my exact state of mood relative to other symptomatology isn’t entirely easy. My sense is that I have hallucinated when fairly euthymic, but then euthymic by my standards could be a mild to moderate depression by those of another, and thus I feel unqualified to judge this objectively.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that I still have a number of elements of C-PTSD, regardless of whichever one of the other two conditions is predominant.

I rattle when I walk sometimes, what with all the tablets I have to carry about with me. And that’s going to get even worse! And lo, my poor brain must rattle now, with all these diagnoses in place to form description of it. But, although I know the terms aren’t important and that the actual treatment is, I still see value in diagnoses. I read recently – I can’t remember where, sorry – that the point of diagnostic psychiatry is communication. Without at least some guidance – to be taken with a pinch of salt certainly, but which can act as something of a sign post – surely all branches of medicine, even those in which spectra and classification-overlaps predominate, would end up jargonistic free-for-alls.

Diagnoses may not help diagnosees, but I still can’t see how not having them does either.

* On the point of scare quotes, actually. The verb ‘to label’ and its nominal, adjectival and qualifying derivatives are unlikely to be used synonymously with ‘to diagnose’ on this blog – but if they are, they are the only terms I will always put in scare quotes. I cannot express how much I completely abhor this usage of the word ‘label’. I hate it. I despise it. I feel repugnance and disdain and derision and other derogatory d words towards it (though, it must be noted, not those that use it!).

It’s not a rational objection, but please don’t kick me – we all have foibles, do we not, and this, sweet readers, is one of mine 😉

Random real life aside – in the wake of Ms Cat’s death, we decided to get a new kitty quite quickly. This was a pragmatic decision based on Mr Cat’s future wellbeing. It became quickly apparent that he really missed Ms Cat; so did we, obviously, but human mourning takes time – does the same apply to felids? We know not. Had it been about us, we’d have waited at least a few months before getting another female cat, but on balance, we reckoned it would be better for Mr Cat if a new adoptive sisterbling came sooner rather than later.

So here she is! ShHe shall henceforth be known as Señoritao (Srtao) Gatao on this blog 🙂 [EDIT: As you can perhaps deduce from all the strikethroughs, we thought the bloody cat was a female when we got it, but alas it’s a bloke. We never intended to get another male; the possibility of territorial disputes was too unsavoury. But although Srto Gato annoys Mr Cat with his kitten ways, they actually seem to get on reasonably well. Thank Christ.]

Srta Gata

The Secrecy of the Confessional

I don’t like surprises. They intimidate me, and require me to feel like I have to second-guess a person’s motives and intent – and, at the more extreme end of the scale, they can even feel like shocking violations (and apparently it’s not just me and my eccentricity/oddness/paranoia/whatever, so there).

It reasonably follows, therefore, that I don’t like secrets greatly either. I suppose we all have them from each other to a greater or lesser extent, but some can be big, and it is the covering up of those that I find problematic. I write a good bit about sexual abuse on this blog – that remained a perfect secret between me and Paedo for years, and is only known to a small few beyond that dubious duo even now. That’s big, and I hid it. I don’t like that I hid it. People should have known; particularly with other children exposed to the man as potential victims, it wasn’t really my secret to keep.

But before I go on an abuse-related, potentially self-vituperative tangent, let me hark back to where I wanted to go with this. Putting abuse and some of its related issues to one side, I have a pretty big secret. You know about it (yes, you do). A and my closest friend, Daniel, know about it. But my mother, one of the people to whom I’m closest in the world, doesn’t have a clue (if my investigations have been as smart as I think they have). Another close friend, Brian, is similarly oblivious. My wider family, Paedo and friends included, are also in the dark.

I am, of course, talking about this blog.

Now, on the one hand, you might say, “big deal. You throw (a few too many) words on a page once or twice a week, what does it matter whether they know or not?”

However, even though it is not today what it once was (I write less, less people visit – it happens), this blog is a major part of my life. I have an entire identity based on and built around it, and if I’m entirely honest, a lot of the issues I discuss here feed into my ‘real’ identity too. This blog is important to me; it is a life chronicle, a place to vent, a support network and an adjunctive form of psychotherapy all rolled up into one. There must be the best part of a million bloody words written here, and the site ranks highly on Google for many mentalist searches. For whatever reasons – reasons I don’t think I’ll ever entirely understand – some people seem to actually like it. It has won awards (!), for Christ’s sake, and has nearly 300,000 views (which, after two and a half years, is damn all compared to some big blogs – but which isn’t awful for a personal journal, particularly in such a niche interest arena). And how many (wo)man-hours must I have put into getting things to this point? I almost dread to think.

I’m not trying to self-aggrandise or gasconade here (not any more than normal, anyway..!); I’m simply trying to convey that the blog is a big deal in my life.

I chose the suffix ‘confessions of‘ for the site’s title quite deliberately. I know that the term, in the blogosphere at least, has become clichéd almost to the point of vulgarity, but the thing is, it is confessional for me.

Yet the confessional – a place to admit, possibly to seek redemption – is decidedly exclusionary. My mother, and a number of other pivotally important individuals in my life, haven’t the faintest idea that this even exists.

That feels incredibly fucked up to me. All children inevitably hide some things from their parents but they tend, in the grand scheme of things, to be relatively insignificant – that do you remember that night I was at “the cinema” with x and then “staying over at x‘s house” when I was 16? Yeah, I was actually at a club until 6am sort of thing that we all do – not things of key import, or things that have an enduring impact upon one’s psyche. Mum should know about a big issue in my life, and it feels so dirty and wrong and discriminatory that she does not.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell her or anything. There’s no point in ruining whatever years she has left in this world by her finding out about everything that is contained within these pages (my current obsessive mental intrusions – and I mean seriously obsessive, as in feeding into almost anything – is that she will suddenly die soon. I keep telling myself that her life expectancy can be reasonably estimated to be 80-something ((she’s 69)), given her relative health and our familial history, but reason never assuages my neurosis ((something I should well know from past experience)). Perhaps this latest manifestation of anxiety-driven batshitness is the reason for this very post). Yet, although the secrecy is necessary to spare her feelings – perhaps even her very sanity – it feels odd not to share some of the highs and lows with her. I remember when I won my first award for this blog; my first clumsy, elated instinct was to scream it at A, then to anyone on the internet that was willing to listen.

And I didn’t get to share that magical moment, and others like it, with my mother. It almost feels akin to her not seeing me going to school for the first day, or graduating from university, or having my first legal pint at the age of 18. OK, so these comparisons may sound a little bombastic, but I hope you know what I mean. My mother should (have) share(d) with me moments I considere(d) meaningful, yet in this shadowy part of my life, she has been utterly denied that opportunity.

Nevertheless, I know there are others out there that hide or have hidden their blogs and mentalist/internet alter egos from everyone in their real lives. I suppose in writing this entry I’m wondering how we can reconcile the openness and candour with which we speak on these blogs with the cladestineness that, ironically, said blogs represent in relation to certain personnel. What do you think about that? Is it a necessity for you, or do you like having a ‘secret’? And if you have managed to keep your blog private from ‘real life’ people, how have you managed it, logistically speaking? I’ve got myself in a few dangerous pickles in the past that could have revealed all to my Mum, so I know it’s not easy to keep schtum.

Just random thoughts, really.

I was going to write a ‘how things are’ scribble at this juncture of the post, but I can’t be arsed. I might try and do it tomorrow. I might not, however. Suffice to say, life is still shite but my death is unlikely to be imminent (day-long fantasies about long, sharp knives stabbing the living fuck out of my skull notwithstanding).

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How Do You Work Full-Time When You're a Mentally Ill Seroquel-Gobbler?

Seroquel has tended to dictate that I sleep until at least 10.30am each day, and often much later. When I say ‘sleep’, I don’t necessarily mean that literally, because of course Seroquel regrettably loses its soporific effects over time, and I have an apparent predisposition to insomnia anyway; however, one way or another, the hangover effects of the drug leave me in a zombified stupor the whole of each morning.

Seroquel may dictate that I don’t do anything at all in its wake, but unfortunately of late circumstance has demanded the polar opposite. You may recall that A and I were burgled (for the second time) about a month ago. Two requirements arose out of this: one was the need to urgently repair the damage caused by the tossbags responsible (that being the broken back gate and the door between the kitchen and living room) and the second was, in respect of our probable desire to move, to get the house into some sort of cosmetic order. A and I live in perpetual mess and don’t really give a shit what the house looks like ordinarily. Of course maintenance of a house is a general chore to anybody, but I appear to have a specific phobia of it. Not that I’m using that as an excuse to get out of it, mind you, because I wouldn’t fucking do it whether I had said fear or not. (At least I’m honest, yes?).

Anyway, A’s father and step-mother have a mate who’s good around the house. He paints, tiles, joins, does minor structural work, blah blah de blah fucking blah blah. He’s trusted, being a family friend, and he charges reasonable rates. Excellent. Brilliant. Amazing.

Does that sound sarcastic? It is, to an extent, but seriously – we’re very lucky to have this connection, because of course it would be just our luck, were we to seek out a similar sort of individual via classified ads or something, that the person contacted would be an unscrupulous wanker with a criminal record the length of one of my more…um…exploratory posts on this blog (that’s c. 4,000 – 5,000 words, for current readers fortunate enough to be uninitiated). Furthermore, the bloke in question is a nice bloke; he’s fairly easy to chat to and seems to do a good job.

However. Fuck me but I’ll be glad to see the back of him.

I have a routine. An inane and, perhaps paradoxically, fairly un-regimented one, admittedly, but something that suits me nevertheless. I get up when Seroquel allows me to get up. Then I write, read or occasionally watch the pointless but inexplicably addictive rolling *ahem* news (read: sensationalised bullwank) on BBC News 24. I sound like a work-shy fucker, I know, but even in these not-so-heady days of pseudo-“recovery”, this is genuinely all I am capable of. I don’t like lying in half the day, and I don’t do it through choice. I do it because the medication forces me to do it. In turn, the threat of potentially dangerous psychosis forces me to take the medication.

Our builder-joiner-decorater-Everythinger, and his penchant for showing up at eight in the bloody morning, has screwed up this seemingly idle but oddly workable routine on an epic scale. I haven’t felt this chronically and soul-destroyingly fatigued since I was plagued with literally months on end of insomnia. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it takes me back to when I was still at work full-time and plagued with literally months on end of insomnia (God, that’s a vile memory. I would lie in bed, awake, all night – every night, for months. I’d get up at 7am and almost throw coffee beans down my throat. Then I’d go to work for 8am, stay there to 6pm in a futile effort to wear myself out, come home, stare blindly at the TV for a few hours, then repeat the whole hideous cycle for another day, and another day, and another day. And this was before my 2008 breakdown came a-callin’. How the fuck did I do that every day?).

It’s the Seroquel’s fault, of course. I would probably be tired if I wasn’t taking it, but I don’t think I’d be so completely devoid of any atom of energy whatsoever. It’s the drug that demands that I rest (if you can call existing in a stupefied Seroquel hangover ‘rest’) so much, and when I don’t do its bidding, it punishes me, like some embittered monarch lashing out at a traitor.

Anyway, whilst I’m on the themes of Seroquel and working both, herein lies a huge issue. Last month, Differently left the following comment on my rant about knobend MP Philip Davies (who, incidentally, was one of the ones to question the Murdochs and Rebecca Rebecka Rebeckah Rebekah Wade Grant-Mitchell Brooks over the News of the Screws phone-hacking allegations – how the hell did Parliament let him on that committee?):

…realistically I’m unsure that I’ll ever be able to work full time, since a combination of my experiences and the meds I take mean that managing 2 weeks at 10-4 left me looking physically unwell, pale and tired and feeling horrendous, thereby meaning that I hope to work part-time…

Seaneen, who is presently working full-time, has also alluded recently to how much Seroquel has inhibited her at work in the mornings (and she has, as a consequence, withdrawn from it).

I had been thinking, much to my chagrin, that part-time employment was becoming my own only realistic option as far as future return to work goes, but I kept trying to tell myself that eventually that wouldn’t be the case, that eventually I could back to working full-time. But this exhaustion-debacle with the Everythinger has left me seriously questioning that feigned optimism.

I cannot function without devoting most of the morning to a complete state of bleugh. I just can’t. Not whilst 600 daily milligrams of Quetiapine addles my entire system. So, if I continue to take the stuff – certainly at this dosage – there is no way in hell that I could work full-time. It is simply impossible.

I keep looking at other people (especially, to my personal feminist frustration, other women) – randoms in the pub, the street, whatever – and I silently ask them, how – how?! – can you possibly work eight hours a day, five days a week? How is that even remotely physically feasible? And then I remember that I too did this – for years, some of it whilst doing a sodding postgraduate degree – and I shake my head in stunned disbelief. How did I do that? How was that even approaching possible? Was I an imposter in my own body? (I do love a bit of ((self-directed)) Capgras). I am certainly not that person now. Was I ever that person, really? Who was I then? Who am I now? How did it all change? (And, you might ask, who fucking cares, Pan?).

Those that are masochistic enough to regularly read this blog may be remember that, at my last psychiatric review, I asked NewVCB if I could consider reducing my dosage of Quetiapine. You may also recall that she was potentially amenable to this, citing a maintenance dose of 300mg.

This could help, and I might notice the difference more markedly after coming down from such a high dose, but my recollection of taking 300mg in the past was that it was still very – if not quite, as currently, absolutely and unequivocally – debilitating the next morning. Besides, I’m not convinced that 300mg adequately functioned on the psychotic features of my illness. It sated some of the voices a little I suppose, but it was only when I started ingesting a daily whack of 400mg upwards that they actually shut the fuck up (and random, probably stress-related delusions are notwithstanding).

So, herein lies my dilemma. You all know I don’t buy into anti-psychiatry ideals and (conspiracy?) theories. Seroquel works. I know I whinge about weight gain and have launched a virtual diatribe against the stuff in this post, but it has truly made my life better. As long as I have my get-over-the-hangover routine, I am fine. Venlafaxine at a high dose has worked wonders – well, quasi-wonders, anyway – in terms of my mood; Quetiapine has probably aided in that too, but the key issue with it is that I am almost entirely without psychosis at the minute, and have been (bar that one episode the other week, as linked to in the previous paragraph) for aaaaaaaaaaages.

But, much as I don’t want to be normal in what seems to be the standard, societally accepted version of the word, I want to be able to do the things I always wanted to do. In other words, I want to work. A career – not a job, a career – was all I ever really wanted. Thus far, mentalism has denied me a career, but has periodically at least allowed me to have jobs, which may have – in another place and time – led to careers. Is being mental now going to rob me of both possibilities? Will I be a dolescum forever? Are part-time workers actually commonly sought by employers? Besides which, why is it fair that A works full-time (fuck knows how he does it) and I don’t?

Bah. I don’t know. It looks to me like I have a choice between relative sanity and full-time work. Please don’t tell me to kick the Seroquel, by the way. It isn’t going to happen, at least not in the short to medium term. I’d rather not live with a bunch of nefarious fucktards telling me to kill myself (or, worse, others); I’d rather not live with Paedo following me about the place; I’d rather not have to make sense of contemptuously vicious peccaries and stupid fucking gnomes randomly harassing me; I’d rather not live convinced that cameras are watching my every bloody move. Waaah waah waah, whinge whinge whinge, ad infinitum.

We could argue the toss about the true roots of psychosis all we might like – Paul of course held (and, presumably, holds) that psychosis is an entirely logical response to severe trauma, and he may well have a point – but I don’t think I’m ever going to go all R D Laing/Robert Whitaker on this. At the risk of being infuriatingly repetitive, Seroquel, for me at least, works. It does exactly what it’s indicated to do. (Or, as I mistyped, tindicated to do. Geddit?!!!?1?!!!?11????!!eleven?!?! It does exactly what it says on the tin? Tindicate? No? Meh. Sorry. Humour ain’t my strong point).

So, sanity or full-time work. Full-time work or sanity. Why is nothing ever simple or easy in this enforced existence that the fabled they (not my ‘They’ ;)) smugly refer to as ‘life’? Why do we always have to make choices, to compromise, to ‘make do’?

Am I an immature little brat for being irate that mutual exclusivity exists in this context? (Actually, don’t answer that).

Anyway, enough.

(And yeah, by the way, I have sold out and stuck PayPal begging buttons on some posts and on the sidebar. What can I say? I’m a slave to a capitalist world, a traitor to my fellow benefit claimants, a betrayer of my lefty principles, a self-serving money-whore of evil, a rabiator of [insert hated multi-national conglomerate of your choice here] proportions, a twat, a dick, a __________, a &%$(“($, a…yeah, you get the idea. A few of you also did ask about it, in my defence ;)).

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Day of Ridiculous Paranoia and Panic

OK. I privatised two posts, but am feeling a little calmer – and therefore less paranoid – so have decided to post them here in summary, and with a brief update.

Post One: Night Terror

Published c. 1.30pm. Hidden c. 2pm.

I’m going to publish this utter rubbish, but don’t be surprised if it quickly disappears or gains a password…

  • 11.30pm: Go to bed. After a number of nights of insomnia, for once can’t keep eyes open to concentrate on book. Sleep.
  • 4am: Waken. Completely. Dick around with phone for a minute or two. Become bored. Pick up Kindle and see that this morning’s Guardian has already been delivered. Read it.
  • 4.30am: In an effort not to wake A, keep trying not to laugh at Rupert Murdoch’s deserved and long-time-coming misfortune. Grauniad has devoted thousands of words and an entire section to this.
  • 4.35am: Complete Rupert Murdoch section of Grauniad. Go to next section. Do not pass ‘go’, do not collect £200.
  • 4.35am and 10 seconds: Freak out. Picture of GCHQ building in Cheltenham is staring back at me from Kindle screen.
  • 4.36am – c. 4.39am: Read GCHQ piece with growing trepidation. Article is actually about whether GCHQ, MIs 5 and 6 should face greater scrutiny from MPs and peers.
  • 4.39am and 30 seconds: Start having heart palpitations. GCHQ is complaining they do not have enough “internet specialists”. Try to rationalise that this means they’re not watching me; according to this article, they simply don’t have the manpower. Fail to thus rationalise. That this is in the media means they’ll soon have more relevant workers to spy on me.
  • 4.41am: Hide under bedclothes, convinced that the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee have kicked this story off as they’ve found out that GCHQ are after me and need more people to keep tabs on me. Further convince self that ISC has put out this story to lull me into a false sense of security.
  • 4.42am – c. 5.00am: Scour bedroom with eyes, trying to find evidence of government (or, indeed, any other) cameras. Do not find any.
  • 5am: Get up and go into bathroom to try to pull self together. Find disgusting and fairly unique-looking spider in the bath. Freak out even more. Scared of spiders anyway, but this is shaped oddly; it has a long, elongated body, rather than a round one. Could spider actually be a tiny hidden camera?
  • 5.01am: Spider doesn’t seem to be a camera because fucker is clearly alive. Surprise myself by having ability to stand there watching it slowly circle towards, and eventually into and down, the plughole – rather than the more common practice of screaming the house down.
  • 5.03am: Return to bed. Spend what must be nearly an hour arguing with myself about GCHQ. I say I’m paranoid and narcissistic. Story about GCHQ is just a normal politics scoop about the funding and accountability of government agencies. Someone, however, laughs scornfully, and tells me I’m doomed. Cannot work out whether this is ‘me’ being irrational and completely self-obsessed, or if it’s someone ‘else’. Not reminiscent of ‘They‘, Tom, peccaries, gnomes or Paedo. Is female. Probably just me countering myself. Not sure.
  • c. 6am: Suddenly don’t care whether GCHQ are watching or not. Stick two fingers up to room around me and without speaking advise GCHQ, if they’re there, that I am just going to go about daily life anyway. Pick up Kindle again, deliberately ignore rest of Grauniad, read book instead.
  • c. 7am: Suddenly pass out into deep sleep.
  • c. 8.20am: Re-awaken. Converse with A, only giving fleeting thought to cameras/GCHQ.
  • c. 8.30am to present: Get up, eat, do some stupid puzzles to wake mind up, wonder why I became so terrified during the night, accuse self of narcissism, don’t believe GCHQ have cameras watching me (at least not to crippling extent of the early hours). Debate whether or not to discuss this with Christine tomorrow. Do not want to change medication or end up in bin.

    Conclude incident in the night was mere paranoia without logical basis precipitated by FuckBitch Aunt of Evil’s presence, and my uncertainty about her intended movements. Decide this is some bizarre, psychotic form of transference. Am transferring AoE’s unpredictability and sheer fucking nosiness about me onto GCHQ, because I know GCHQ technically can (though probably don’t) read/listen to/see me/my stuff. Very unlikely that AoE has the requisite surveillance knowledge or equipment to do so.

    Decide, therefore, that episode was a one-off, mainly caused by AoE but also partly catalysed by sleep deprivation. My sleep patterns – or insomnia patterns – go in cycles. This is period of the latter. Am reminded that I named this blog what I did for a reason. Mood is still OK, so a brief bout of evil/insomnia-induced mentalness can’t be that bad…right?

    Given the above, decide to hide information from Christine. Don’t need bin nor stronger anti-psychotics. Need AoE to go away (which she will on Tuesday, yay!) and Zopiclone (of which I have plenty).

So. Yay. Good. All is fine. I only wrote this for posterity, not because I’m concerned. Sorry for the crap writing, but it’s partly due to (a) the stream of consciousness bullshit that I wrote ‘live’ on my phone as events progressed and (b) I can’t be arsed switching on the laptop or PC, so am still writing this from via the iOS WordPress application.

I’ll try and catch on more therapy reviews next week. For now, it seems this bollocks is my only blogging contribution this week. Probably a good thing if I’m being this narcissistic 😉

Post Two: I Am Actually Going Mad

Written c. 3.30pm. Not published.

This is new. I cannot recall paranoia on this level. I am absolutely petrified, to the point where I’m shaking, hiding in a corner and throwing up.

Worries:

  1. Mother is dead;
  2. Aunt of Evil is going to come here and confront me;
  3. GCHQ;
  4. Burglars, rapists, GBHers and murderers;
  5. Debt – creditors are going to put me in prison;
  6. A will also die on the way home from work;
  7. But I can’t go out in the car to collect him or see if mother is OK because I will have an accident;
  8. Stupid decision to publish last post because if the people discussed therein find it, then they will bin me;
  9. Christine tomorrow in case she bins me because all of a sudden I’m really, really not sane.

Tried trich to calm down. Didn’t work. I don’t want to cut but I’m scared, I need some sort of release. I am going to try Valium, but that won’t stop my current persecution complex; it’ll only numb my response to it. I thought that maybe splurging out shit here would be cathartic but it only fuels my perception that everyone is out to get me.

I keep hearing noises outside and am convinced that it’s someone coming to get me. It’s not. It’s people going about their bloody business. But is it though?

Oh God.

I’ve turned up the TV so as I don’t hear them but my concern there is that then they know that I’m in here and if I don’t let them in by legitimate means then they will get in by other methods.

What has happened? I was so fucking well for a while there and no one was out to get me. Now I’m not and they are (well, I retain some insight that says they’re not, but I can’t believe it). It feels like a psychotic mixed episode. I don’t want this. Why has it happened?

I hope my previous assertion that this has been induced by insomnia was correct but I don’t believe that right now.

My IBS is out of control today so I might not even be able to run away should I need to do so. Not that I do, I know. But yet I might. Fuck, I don’t know.

Don’t know what else to say. This is not good. I’m such a fucking idiot.

Now

  • Mother is not dead. I stupidly advised her that I was mental, but luckily she hasn’t shot over here to see if she can make me saner, because I assured her that A would be home soon.
  • No one has tried to force entry.
  • AoE is staying with my mother, and is therefore not (nor has been) here.
  • A could be dead, but I seriously doubt it.
  • GCHQ have no interest in me. Why do I keep thinking that they do? If they happen to come across any of this, I bet they’re laughing their bollocks off.
  • I am not particularly behind in paying my creditors. A little, but not enough to be of major concern yet. I’ve already considered bankruptcy if it comes to that.
  • I could be murdered, raped, GBHed or burgled, but hopefully the statistics are presently in my favour. I mean, two of those have happened several times already; could I really be that statistically unlucky?
  • There are no voices but my own.
  • IBS continues, but that’s a several-times-daily thing that I should not have taken out of context.
  • I am mortified about all of this but am going to publish this post as a warning to myself.
  • I am very grateful for the support afforded to me on Twitter today. Thank you.
  • I am fine now. Please don’t worry about me 🙂

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