LOOKING BACK OVER MY LAST FEW POSTS, how miserable was I?! Misery and suicidal ideation left, right and centre. Yes I have been very unhappy of late. I basically feel ill all the time. And yet I don't feel I'm depressed. I feel like nothing is wrong with me, that I'm a time-waster, a malingerer and a fraud and I don't deserve help. Yet looking at my life I'm in desperate need of something. Most people would call it "help". But how can I accept it?
I question why on earth I ran to a doctor in my "elevated mood" of yore.
But that isn't true. I didn't run to any doctor while manic. What happened was I went manic-depressed ~ BOTH in the same week. The walls started talking to me LOUD. I had the most severely mislaid lost weekend of my life. My sense of hearing suddenly went ten times more acute than normal. It was like living in a house without walls. Everything anyone said or did in any room I heard full-on, like the bizarrest radio play. Everybody on the street. My next door neighbours even. I heard conversations, chatter, sex and a sawing noise like somebody constantly going at a piece of wood. When cars rushed down the street they whooshed echoing into a cyberdelic vortex of sound. And I was hallucinating auditorily vividly. At one point I heard voices speaking Spanish and Chinese. At another it was as if somebody had strewn fifty or so radios all on different channels spewing music, spouting speech all babbling and jangling at once. My mood zoomed and soared and I saw visual spectaculars: the northern lights in full colour in my own living room. This is the most floridly psychotic I have ever been. Although I'd woken up feeling so dire I lay on the floor for four hours before eventually mustering energy to get out of bed, have a cursory shower and heave myself up the road to collect methadone.
I couldn't sleep all weekend. Neither could I eat. I remember drinking tomato soup straight from the tin, cold. Something that looked like a cross between fur and grass was growing out of the top. I knew it wasn't actually there, but that didn't help it go away.
Up and down, twisting in and out my moods dipped and soared. I was cycling in what psychiatrists call a type of mixed bipolar state. And I wasn't on drugs. I was NOT on drugs, this is how my brain reacted to "normality". This is what kept me using for so many years. Untoward mental symptoms, only now they'd gone truly spectacular.
The next few days I felt not only down but injured. I curled up in a chair by day seeing visions of myself in prison, full of guilt, imprisoned for the rest of my life. I didn't want to die: my life was over already.
One day I was perfectly blank. Another day I was depressed. Some friends came round wanting to score. I was totally averse to drugs by this time. They used my dealer and I partook nothing. But I got into their car and experienced a rush like suddenly coming up on Ecstasy full-on. I couldn't stop babbling.The more stressed I got ~ and I got very stressed indeed ~ the higher my mood soared. Nothing this intense had ever happened to me before.
I knew that first weekend that something had gone drastically wrong. I phoned my Mum who was already shocked, having seen me bombed out of my head on dodgy benzoated heroin. She had phoned my druggieworker in horror so they had a dialogue going. I told my Mum to tell my Worker I had been hearing voices. The worker called me on Monday morning. I got a psychiatrist's appointment that Thursday. Seeing a psychiatrist is always stressful. I was particularly stressed. On the ride down a black girl was very obviously talking about me and insulting me repeatedly. I was very angry and kept my hands to myself though I felt like throwing her downstairs. I paced back and forth in the medical building, knowing it would hype me up but destroy anxiety. By the time the doctor saw me I was more hyper than I realized. If you want to see the state I was in watch the video on my sidebar "manic episode: Trisch goes nuts" ~ I was in that type of state. A markedly elevated mood, racing thoughts, rapid speech. Knowing the doctor wanted to know what happened, how much, how long, how intense, what it felt like, how I felt, I told him all this in one uninterrupted stream of consciousness. He only asked three questions in the entire session. To my ranting banging "you can't say I'm manic; I've only been like this six days and the diagnostic criteria say seven" he replied "what do you know about schizophrenia?" I answered "it's not caused by a mood and it's a psychosis"... At home his question came back to haunt me and I wondered whether I did have schizophrenia. And I cried.
I stayed off heroin, went down into a depression. Went back on heroin for a week. Wasn't impressed. Back to methadone. My mood was still cycling. One Sunday I was depressed, hearing voices and wandering aimlessly on the streets, too unhappy to enter my own front door. I went home, slept and woke up the next day in a markedly elevated mood. I remember queueing for my money in the post office. By the till they have shiny bags covered in rainbow holograms. One had acid-smiley faces. I was transfixed by the bright colours and depth of texture. I felt wonderful and sensual, the way I used to on Ecstasy. Though I would never in a million years have dropped an E in order to appreciate goods in the post office!
I'm not sure I slept that night. Next morning my hearing had gone hyper-acute again. A man turned up on our garden path jabbering into a mobile phone about having moved my bed around. I lay there thinking WHAT??! All day, I felt irritable, angry. As I was about to leave for NA I heard two voices. In one ear "nervous breakdown"; in the other "schizophrenia". Schizophrenia again. This put me on a real downer. I stomped down the road, caught the bus and endured loud conversations about my background, my reputation, my school records from other passengers. At this time I was getting well meaning but off-beam comments telling me to go to NA or AA every single day. I don't think anyone realized what I was actually going through. One person even said "I used to hear voices too on my way to meetings" this same person criticized me for sitting in a meeting for five minutes then upping and leaving. Maybe their mental condition was markedly different from mine. But hallucinating floridly and poor attentionspan tend to go hand in hand. We were cooped together in this meeting. Everyone smelled of periods and semen. I thought the man next to me was going to pick my pocket. The man giving the chair kept staring at me. And the meeting was so packed there was a chair in the way of the door. I couldn't stuck this out for nearly 20 minutes and eventually left, causing marked disturbance. But I didn't care. I just needed fresh air.
I didn't sleep at all that night. My mood soared higher and higher. My house was a mess and I was supposed to be cleaning it but I couldn't focus myself enough to clean anything. There used to be a dual-diagnosis meeting I always referred to as Nutter Club. It took place once a week. Naomi, the lady who runs it is expert at dealing with people with severe mental health issues. Most people there seemed to be bipolar. A couple of schizophrenics turned up, but they say far less. Naomi had met me and we'd spoken in depth a few times over the previous couple of years. She knew that I believed I had something bipolar going on. Not necessarily bipolar disorder. But I was definitely on the so-called "bipolar spectrum" as it's very trendily known nowadays.
I remember her saying one time between the florid stage of my condition and my actually getting a diagnosis "you know and I know that it's not drug-related but you've got to stay away from everything so the doctor knows that too". This particular comment came back to haunt me. On the one hand I didn't want to be thought of as a druggie timewaster, going nuts because I'd used too much. On the other I was terrified of the term "bipolar disorder" I didn't want the label slapped across my forehead. I didn't even consider that it could have been something else, something worse...
I was in such a state this day I went to the nutter club. I had been dancing about my kitchen in a state of disarray. My clothes were dirty, my hair unwashed; I was thoroughly unkempt. I had great difficulty getting myself and my keys and my Oyster card (for the bus) and a little bit of money and my phone all in my pockets with my brain flying all over the place at several thousand miles per hour, on no sleep (which I didn't really need, though it felt strange to someone used to sleeping sixteen hours or more a day in my depressions...) I arrived at the nutter club thinking my mood was fairly normal, that I was just a bit hyped up. In a group with three other nutters I was unable to contain myself from laughing hysterically. People tried to talk and I kept stopping them saying WHAT??! They might as well have been talking backwards: gibberish. Naomi said "look I think you need to be seen by a doctor" so the meeting closed early and she took me to the mental hospital which was just down the road. I kept asking "do I have to speak as slowly as possible and not wave my arms about?" (ie not act manic) she said "oh no they're so full you don't have to worry about being sectioned" (involuntarily committed). The only thing that could have got me sectioned, as I understand it, would be direct, focused threats of violence or active suicidal behaviour with a specific plan. I was seeing this doctor because I had known for years that something was wrong, that I'd had bipolar symptoms and nobody listened. Nobody took me seriously. i got the distinct impression they thought I was lying. Trying to make myself seem more interesting.
In the mental reception my mood soared higher than ever before. Naomi introduced me to a colleague who looked just like a woman off the television. I peed in a cup and sure enough: no speed, no crack, no cannabis. Nothing except
Naomi and TV Girl said goodbye and I was left with a depressed middle aged man and a depressed black girl who kept phoning someone and screaming her boring personal problems down the phone.
Meanwhile my head was going more manic than it had ever gone before. I went through double doors to a corridor where the walls and doors and ceiling were echoing with scores of conversations. My head went from racing into complete overdrive. The words in my head broke off. So that "I'm going too fast" might stop with "going", the "-ing" broke off: ing-ing-ing-ing-in-in-in-INININININ" whooshing round with spectacular speed.I was losing my mind and the only way I could keep a grip was by yelling these syllables as my head disintegrated into random noise.
I calmed myself down by running through the alphabet out loud ABCDEFGHIJKLMNO.... over and over again. Pacing back and forth avoiding the bad letters. A is for acid, that's bad. B is for brown ~ heroin. That's bad. C is like the sea. It's brilliant in the sun; it's calm. That's good. I flew through them quickly and the black girl was staring at me. I didn't care. And I knew the nurses wouldn't be observing me.
Eventually I saw a kindly man who introduced himself as a psychiatric social worker. He pointed out, very patiently, that we had 45 minutes to take my entire psychiatric history. This was quite some challenge. When was I first depressed? In childhood. In my teens. It first became a major problem at university. Suicide? Yes twice. This got me raging about tetracyclic antidepressants. I took 8 pills and a bottle of vodka. Then I thought "fuck it" and downed a bottle of sixty heavy strength lofepramine. I puked them up almost straight away. The coating was still on the pills in the vomit which was everywhere. All over the floor. On my clothing. Down my hair.
If only I'd gone for Prothiaden/dothiepin I might be dead now. Merely touching on this subject sent me crazy with pent up anger, self-hatred, frustration and rage. I had to enumerate every upsetting, depressing experience. Being yelled at on railway station platforms by people who thought I was going to jump. Being waved at BY THE DRIVER of a high speed train. I've mentioned this before but it gets me to this day. How did he see me? How did he know at close to one hundred miles per hour that I, acting as normally as anybody in such a situation could, wanted to kill myself under a train?
When my depression reached one of its all-time lows I had a persistent idea that the train would hit me and I wouldn't really die. I'd just lie on the trackside in the cold, in the rain, in agony forever, trains rushing past and nobody ever healing me.
Having to dredge through this psychiatric history in the highly impressionable manic state was traumatic beyond words. Now that I FINALLY have a psychiatrist and proper notes and a diagnosis etc etc etc I should never ever have to go through this again. If I ever had to do it in an emergency situation I think I would walk out rather than seek treatment. It's just not worth recalling all that. People seem to assume that I dwell on my past. But I don't. I only dwell as I write. Then I'm in another zone.
Mild thought echo: age 23. Mild antidepressant-induced hypomania: age 23. Natural hypomania: age 27. First heard voices: early 30s.
A long, slow, slide downwards.
The psychiatrist looked stunningly beautiful. Her legs were shiny. The lights outside looked amazing. She asked more questions; this time about the present: how fast was I? How high? How irritated? How many voices? What did they say? How little sleep? She prescribed zopiclone 7.5mg ~ the best sleeping pill I've ever tried.
I walked for two hours then took the bus home. This night I slept for all of five hours. I hadn't slept this long in days. Next day I was even more euphoric. I felt grandiose and grand. I was out of this world. The world was left behind. I hate this world in both phases of my "illness" I never want to be in it.
The mania intensified until I felt like a tiger roaring. I swaggered up and down the streets. When people crossed me, as they often did, it was sufficient merely to glare at them. They seemed to spring backwards. People seemed to make way, clear paths, back off. Yes they looked terrified, but that was a new thing and it felt fantastic. A confirmation of my higher power.
I was obsessed by energy and power. My willingness to drop drugs turned into an aversion for drugs of all kinds. Taking crack or E or speed was the saddest thing you could do. By this time I'd gone higher than I'd ever been on any drug. The drugs seemed a pale imitation of reality. I tried heroin towards the end of the mania and it did little except make me sleepy and racy at the same time.
Over the weeks my mood went through a roughly seven day cycle. Seven days flying high; seven days lower. Sometimes hypomanic, sometimes vaguely depressed. Then up again. I thought this would never end.
My first few days of mania were by far the most intense. My psychiatrist prescribed the antipsychotic risperidone. As I came down gradually over the weeks it began to eat away at me that I didn't even know the name of this very obvious mental condition. I thought it was bipolar. I could see that I was high sometimes; low at other times. Surely that was bipolar disorder? No. The S-word returned to haunt me. SCHIZOAFFECTIVE. That's what my doctor, a consultant psychiatrist, thinks I am. Meaning I matched the full diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia and mania simultaneously. He said my psychosis was more florid than most manic psychosis. I think he also recognized my longstanding issues of self-care. People have long been deceived because I'm articulate, that because I'm able to talk and to touch type that it somehow follows that my house will be in order, my life will be in order that all will be perfect. it's not perfect; it's a mess. During the worst of my illness I couldn't even handle money. I just lost it. Keeping track of my housekeys was a major hassle.
Most people who go manic feel sociable and sexy. I felt neither. I was just as reclusive manic as depressed. I tried to use my hyperosity and energy to clear up my scruffy house, but I couldn't stick with it. Unsociability and avolition are key characteristics of schizophrenia. If you can be manic and still have these things going on they're extremely deep seated. Realizing this has done nothing to help my recent depression. I know I can't choose my illness from a psychiatric Chinese takeaway menu. Though I cried because I had schizophrenia, there are still a thousand physical illnesses I'd less rather have. By itself schizophrenia isn't necessarily a horrible condition. It makes me feel dissociated, unreal, bizarre and poetic. Occasionally I feel paranoid, but nearly always in public places. When I'm on my own I'm OK. It's a big reason why I keep myself to myself. Other people only bring me down.
I've been feeling depressed for several weeks now; it's not the worst depression in the world but it will not shift. It won't go away. It's eroding my self-esteem, making me feel worthless and guilty. Making me want to be dead. I've spent years in this state, so it's like Welcome Home.
This is the state that kept me using heroin for so long. I used every day I could afford to last week. Which puts me into desperation. Addicted and stuck, not coping, back on heroin a drug that I gave up for weeks on end during mania... back in the morass. I can't cope. I don't want to go on. I really can't cope, I'm not coping at all. I'm thoroughly dirty, living in a mess that the council send a sterm lady once a month to complain about. I'm waiting to be housed in a mental health hostel because my coping skills are so bad. I'm 39 years old yet life is reelling backwards. I've done the exact opposite of scrounging. None of the help that was meant to be out there for me came until I had a full-blown psychotic break. I know of people who have faked schizophrenia and psychosis to get housed, to get sick benefit and DLA and they make me so angry because even getting to my appointments feels like a major stress, yet these people are acting, they're quite capable. That's why I feel like I should be dead, I'm only a drain on society. If they cut off my money I couldn't work because there's no job you can do at your own pace. No job that accommodates someone who sleeps more than sixteen hours and NEEDS that sleep, every single day when the depression intensifies. I'd have to keep myself clean and tidy and get there on time. I can't handle looking people in the eye. I deceive people on the phone because I modulate my voice, but I can't do face to face when Im sick.
The jobs I'd most like to do are writer of novels which I'd be able to do even when quite sick. Even when I can't focus to follow a book by another person, I'm able to write ~ as you see from my blog. I don't believe I'm the greatest but I do have a uniqueness and that's what I'd aim to harness.
In more down-to-earth jobs painter-decorator is one I'd like to do. Many years ago I had an intuition that whatever career I went for, it'd have to be low stress. This coincides with all the advice I've read about schizoaffective disorder. Stress makes my condition very much worse. In mania I literally feel something like an accelerator, foot to the floor and a WHOOOSH!! In a normal mood, which I'm hardly ever in, I get horrible anxiety. And I still can have psychotic experiences when I'm in a normal mood. This is how my condition differs from bipolar disorder, where the psychosis occurs only at the polar extremes of mood. In depression everything feels like too much and I can't take it on.
Anna Grace and I have a lot in common. Anna has several years' history of intravenous opiate abuse. Tar heroin, white heroin and Dilaudid (prescription hydromorphone) being her favourite drugs. Her mental diagnosis is bipolar disorder but she's like me. Nearly always noticably up or down. Hardly ever "normal".
Most people with bipolar have episodes, which last weeks. But they end and the mood between episodes is neither low nor high: it's totally normal. But Anna and I are always depressed and when we're not depressed we're manic or at least hyper. We've both had psychosis. Neither of us function very well off opiates. Only problem is, Anna lives 3851 miles away in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We would like to live together in New York City, but short of a massive lottery win, whats going to make that happen?
Anna is my cyberwife. She's cheating on me with some guy called Jess who does bootycalls, as she calls them. Of course this isn't unfaithfulness, there can be no chastity or commitment over 3851 miles' distance. Still, if I meet Jess in a manic episode I will punch his lights out.
Now you've read some of the story of my mental health. I'm not always sure I'm ill. When guilt gets me bad I can feel like I deserve unhappiness. When I really get severely depressed, which is rare for me, I believe I'm in spiritual crisis rather than depression as such. In the lowest of the lows life is over; there is no life. My highs took me higher than drugs. A feeling of connectedness, of spirituality as my thoughts exploded in starbursts. Impervious to weariness, my body seemed to be turning from physical flesh into spirit. That's what I wanted most of all: to be out of this world. As I say, I hate this world at all times. I don't want to be in it, I want to be out of it. It's the only way of coping I know of.
MANIC EPISODE: "TRISCH GOES NUTS"
Knowing she was going to spend all day cooped up in a car, she was letting off steam before a road trip... The comments at Youtube contain a lot of doubters but this is the only film I've seen captures true manic behaviour:~
FUN WITH BIRDS ON THE BEACH
... and here's the sane Trisch with some very entertaining birds
PS: I've found a new blog by Jane, the mother of a freshly detoxed addict who's troubled by anxiety, depression and insomnia. He's opiate-clean but in a very vulnerable situation. Check out her blog and give Jane some moral support: http://janeinsearchofsanity.blogspot.com.