I have just had the most marvellous experience - sound therapy. The man came to my house with all his gear - couch, tuning forks, singing Tibetan bowls, silk scarves and a selection of essences that have amazing aromas, like roses or lavender. Once he had set up, I got on the couch and closed my eyes. He played a CD of low sounds that rumbled around the room and that I actually felt. He took my Chinese pulses and then did a body and chakra scan.
He placed the tuning forks all down my spine, vertebra after vertebra, and they resonated throughout my body, leaving me relaxed and warm. When he reached the small of my back, it went hot - later he asked me about any injury, and I explained that I'd had a disc removed twenty years ago. During the treatment, he placed various vials under my nose so that I had lovely smells in my head.
Afterwards, I felt both relaxed and energised, if that's possible. Hope it helps with the sleep. He's coming again next week.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."
Much has been written about depression. For me, it is the ending of life as I know it. I am devoid of all the things that make me a person with a soul, with hopes and dreams and with any kind of existence. It is vastly increased sounds and a sensitivity to everything – as though I was wearing my nerve endings on the outside. Sometimes it is a terrible silence – it is certainly absence. Nothing, but nothing, gives me any kind of pleasure. I avoid answering the phone and to think of calling someone myself is out of the question. What would I say? Who on earth would want to listen to a miserable nothing, an empty vessel, a walking shroud? I am terrified of everything and nothingness, and the desire to stop the pain is overwhelming. I have to hide tablets from myself and kid myself that it’s all going to get better when I absolutely know it won’t. Depression and the leaving of it is a series of false dawns – every day, the promise of a better one, followed by the immediate realisation that it’s just the same. The voices tell me I’m shit and I believe them. Hospital is a sanctuary, however rough it is.
Mania, now, is on a completely different level. When one is depressed, time stops. When manic, there just isn’t enough time to get everything done – life rushes past and I have no idea why other people can’t keep up or can’t follow my train of thought. It starts seductively, and the colours heighten – particularly natural colours, like those of trees and grass. There are portents everywhere – in the blue sky, in the sounds of birds; things begin to speed up. My mania starts with not sleeping – but is that the first symptom, or is it the cause? No one seems to be able to tell me, and I suppose it doesn’t matter. I stay up later and later, pottering about with tasks of great importance, such as getting a pair of driving gloves in exactly the right shade of green. eBay calls me, with its wonderful website and the chance of nabbing a bargain. Eventually, I’m up all night, with no need for sleep – why waste a moment? Life is SUCH FUN. And as, for me, mania comes after a bad depression, it’s worth waiting for. My friends tell me to take more drugs and I ignore them until it’s too late and the high has its hold on me.
I buy and buy – even the postman knows when I’m not well, as parcel after parcel arrives. I don’t open a lot of them, as the fun is in the chase, not the winning. I make excellent puns and I have flight of ideas. After about a week, I’m trapped in a no-sleep cycle – I start to become irritable and anxious if I don’t do something about it. I constantly hear voices telling me I’m shit and I go from ignoring them to believing them. I’m tired and angry, but I can’t sleep despite masses of tablets. Then comes hospitalisation and three weeks of coming down.
It's 0045 and I can't sleep - again. Despite industrial quantities of sleepers and antipsychs, that is - I think the poor psychiatrist has rather given up, as I seem to eat pills to no effect. She's very nice, the psychiatrist - she works for the Home Treatment team, and I'm under them at the moment. They visit every day; they also phone and I can call them any time. It's 0049 now - doesn't time crawl when you're having fun?
I'm on a weird combination of drugs - quetiapine, aripiprazole, venlafaxine and lorazepam. Oh - and a couple of nitrazepam thrown in for good measure. I've developed an allergic reaction to one of them; my hands and face itch, which is most annoying. The medical answer is to take another drug, not stop the offending one. When I was on olanzapine, my face swelled up and my hair fell out, so you can see why rashes make me anxious.
I'm listening to country blues by a bloke called Jorma Kaukonen - I recommend it.
0609 - dozed for most of the night. Very little quality sleep and it's still bloody dark outside AND I'm still itching. Today, the Home Treatment team will visit and then, as a kind of experiment, I'm having a session with a sound therapist - he uses tuning forks and gongs to balance the chakras. More madness? Not in my view; anything is worth a shot.
I've been planning my funeral; not that I tell people, because they panic. I get satisfaction from choosing the music and the readings and I want those present to enjoy themselves. I've chosen a Code Poem for the Resistance as a reading:
The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have for the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A rest I shall have, some peace I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause;
For the years I shall have in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
I'd also like a piece from the Velveteen Rabbit, about being loved, but I can't find the book.
MEDICATION, MEDICATION, MEDICATION
I must have been on every drug in the psychiatric armoury. It’s taken me 20 years to find the right combination of pills to keep me stable – during that period, I’ve had 24 admissions to various hospitals. To take or not to take? Big question – I’ve been medicated for 25 years now and haven’t quite got the bottle to try without. However, I have suffered from disastrous side effects over the years and now I have to settle for being overweight by three or four stone, and I get the added bonus of arthritis in my knees so I find it difficult to exercise. Bummer.
At least one of the drugs I’ve been prescribed has now been taken off the market as it was too dangerous. On olanzapine, my face swelled up and half my hair fell out, so badly that I had to wear a wig for two months. On haloperidol, I locked up completely and had to take vast quantities of procyclidine to get unlocked again. On sertraline, I had to go to loo all the time, and on lofepramine, I couldn’t go at all. Except at night, of course, when I wanted to sleep. Sleep – now there’s an issue. Ever had chloral hydrate? It is the MOST disgusting syrup – and when you’ve managed to swallow it, you feel as though you’ve had a general anaesthetic. I veered between not sleeping and passing out.
I went to see a psychiatrist who told me that lithium was a drug of last resort and if it didn’t work, there was nothing else he could do for me. It didn’t work, because I completely lost any interest I had in anything, and mislaid my personality along the way. We are nothing without a personality. I was put on sodium valproate, which didn’t work either, so I came off any mood stabilisers. I’d tried a lot of anti-depressants (Prozac sent me manic in 3 days) and ended up on sertraline, with risperidone as an anti psychotic. I also took nitrazepam at night.
Hospital was an eye-opener. It served a purpose, though; I’d been coping on my own, and when I was admitted, I realized that others felt the way I did, suffering extreme mood swings and generally having one’s life constantly upset. I made friends with people who had the same diagnosis and tried to get better. Eventually, I was discharged on sertraline and chlorpromazine.
I had three cats at that stage, and two were run over. The other one died of leukaemia. Admission number two followed. Eventually, I began to get back to a fairly functioning life, interspersed with admission. I had a new psychiatrist who seemed to understand that I wanted my life back, and she offered me the chance to take a new drug – aripiprazole It was an anti psychotic, but was in the process of being licensed as a mood stabilizer. I jumped at the chance – I was also prescribed venlafaxine, at quite a high dose, and chlorpromazine and nitrazepam for when I went high.
It proved to be a robust combination. My hospital admissions decreased and I began to do things again, like fly fishing, which I love. Although I still have episodes, they are more manageable and I haven’t been in hospital for a couple of years. Instead, I’m treated by the Home Treatment team.
I now take aripiprazole, venlafaxine and quetiapine when I’m unwell. It sounds like a lot of medication, and indeed it is, but at last I’ve got my personality back and I’m achieving things in my life. I have to watch out to make sure that I sleep, as lack of sleep is a big trigger for mania.
So – to take or not to take. Me – I take the meds. I suppose that’s mostly because I believe bipolar disorder is a bio chemical illness, precipitated by stressful events. I hate the side effects, particularly the weight gain, but I’m prepared to put up with them in order to stay well. The combination I’m on seems to work – I haven’t plucked up the courage to try without drugs as yet. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I’ll go on taking the tablets
I spent 16 years in the RAF defending the Free World , then got bunged out unceremoniously for being bipolar. I and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Funny old world, isn't it?