Invisible Damage

9.30 pm at the medication station.

I confirm my name and date of birth. A nurse hands me a tiny paper cup. It rattles slightly, this mix of yellow, white, and orange lolly shapes.

‘See if that looks right.’

I never go on looks alone. I recite the contents of the 13 tablets back to the nurse, as though I were the one prescribing and dispensing:

‘750mg Lithium, 50mg agomelatine, 100mg quetiapine XR, 150 mg regular quetiapine, 1mg clonazepam, and 10mg of temazepam (prn)’.

Just before I swallow them, my mouth feels full of loose teeth.

And then I drift down a dimly lit blue carpeted corridor that ends in an opaque glass window covered in giant blown dandelions, until I am back in my room.

I feel so removed from my life I may as well be orbiting it in a spaceship.

I feel the anxious tug deep in my belly, knowing the longer I orbit, the longer and harder my earthling reintegration will be.

Outside of these corridors, this mission to heal my brain, my family pushes and pulls itself into an unnatural, temporary shape. Each member forced to stretch and thin out to cover the hole of my absence.

My family hurts in ways I can barely imagine, while the hurt in my brain lands me in this other world.

It feels as though my family is the only family to contort itself for as long and as often as mine does every time I get sick. It doesn’t matter that they are all resilient and used to it. It doesn’t matter that we manage it as well as anyone possibly could.

I don’t want my illness infiltrating my children’s’ growing years. But it does. Each time a little more.

This frustration doesn’t negate my gratitude for having access to a hospital that allows me whatever time it takes to treat acute episodes of this illness. But at the same time my gratitude sometimes feels like petrol when I attempt to douse the flames of frustration with it.

I know people feel relieved when I announce I am coming home. I don’t share their relief because it is not an easy slotting back into place. It is tearing my way back into a family that has been forced to operate without me. It is blinding and muting myself to all the tiny little things …and the bigger ones that they have had to do differently to survive the lack of me.

And yet, I know that my absence from my family is less damaging to them than my symptomatic presence would be, when I am barely safe in my own company. My distress at having no memory or concentration, at being loaded like a gun with pathological irritability, losing touch with reality – these are not things I want to subject my husband or children to.  It would shred us into irreparable pieces. So, I choose the lesser of the damages.

Even as I hate to think about the scar tissue left behind, I know I can repair the stretching, thinning induced by my absence, given time.

That time starts at discharge.

I will be home to begin work to repair while I work to reintegrate…possibly within days.

PS: The list of medications included in this piece is a snapshot of one evenings’ medications for me in hospital. It should never be used as a comparison to anyone else’s medication. Psychiatric medication regimes are highly individualised and often change over time. A medication combination that works well for one person can be a disaster for someone else, even if they share a diagnosis. Always consult a psychiatrist before taking any psychiatric medications. If that’s not an option, then a GP

You may also like to read:

When Covid-19 And Bipolar Recovery Collide With Unexpected Results

From Holiday To Hospital In Under A Month

Psychiatric Medication And Stigma

Author: anitalinkthoughtfood

Writer, Mental Health Advocate, Veterinarian For more, visit me at Thought Food.

2 thoughts on “Invisible Damage”

  1. Hi Anita,

    Just read your latest post, which I inhaled. Your descriptions, especially about being away from family, hit the nail on the head and reminded me of my own hospital experiences. Despite being in a private hospital (thank god), psychiatric hospitals  have a unique  atmosphere and whilst I knew I needed to be there, I missed and worried about  my husband and kids so so much I cried every day (well, as much as the flatness-inducing meds allowed!). One of my observations of hospital was that time went so eye-wateringly slowly.  

    From your accounts in ‘Abductions FMBL’, your kids sound like they are intelligent and well-adjusted. They have been brought up by parents who love them and care for them,  hold good world-views and who have no-doubt passed on good values. They have experienced your absences and they would regard them as part of life (not a very fun part, but nevertheless) in the same way as if you or your husband were in hospital with cancer or an operation of some sort. Your kids know you will be coming home as you always, and perhaps after settling in, you will just be their Mum again and life will bubble on. I’m not denying Its a total cluster-fuck being in hospital and sometimes you wonder how you’ll battle on, but you will go home at the right time. You are very smart and have such insight into the whole process of coming home, so you’ll know what to do and how things may pan out. It will be ok. Its obvious your family is a close-knit one and loving one, which is a great launching-pad for the kids. Your family, like mine, are probably in their own ways, wonderful advocates for mental health.

    All the very best to you Anita with your home-coming and recovery and I so look forward to reading your next post. Also if you’re ever in Sydney I’ll take you on a bush-walk and a coffee in the Blue Mountains!

    Kind regards

    Judy p.s. Sorry but I can’t wrench myself out of this chair on a Sunday night, to check my E-reader for the names of your hubby and kids!     

    Liked by 1 person

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