There comes a moment in many of my conversations when I have a choice to lie or tell the truth. If I’m meeting a new person I don’t tend to lead with: ‘I have Bipolar Disorder’, unless it’s relevant. However, the longer I know someone, the more likely we are to reach that moment of disclosure. It came up within days of my discharge from a recent hospital stay. I ran into an acquaintance who asked how I was.
And there was a second, where it would have been so easy to answer with the expected: ‘Fine.’ Or ‘Busy’ And leave it at that. If it had been a person I didn’t know asking, I would have. But this was someone I see quite often. So, I gave an honest answer: ‘Ok, but I have just spent a month in hospital. I have Bipolar Disorder, and sometimes it flares up badly.’
The ten-year-old asked me out of nowhere a year or so ago. And I had been well, for a couple of years at that stage. I always find, the longer I am out of hospital, the more of my life I reclaim, the harder it becomes to imagine ever getting that sick again. So, the instant answer that flashed behind my eyes was:
‘No, of course not darling.’
Because after all, the thought of dying is too horrible to bear, let alone articulate. But bitter, repeated experience with the pattern of my illness has taught me that while it’s good to be optimistic when I’m well, I know at some point I will get sick again, and while I am extremely fortunate to have access to excellent care, the nature of the illness means there is a small chance it could kill me.
This lemon coconut cake is a marker. It is incredibly easy to make. You melt the butter and mix it with all the rest of the ingredients and bake it. The icing is also simple enough for a young child to make. And yet, four or five weeks ago – making this cake would have been impossible for me. I would have struggled to concentrate for long enough to read this beginner’s recipe. I’d have gone to the pantry or the fridge unable to remember what I was there to get – not just once, but again and again and again. I would have forgotten to add at least one of the ingredients, or to turn the oven on. And if I’d persisted with the process of trying to make this cake, I would have grown unbelievably frustrated with myself. If I had no experience with the signs that comprise my Bipolar 1 Disorder, I would have beaten myself to a pulp over my inability to perform a simple task. A task I could normally perform while on the phone, and with my eyes almost closed.
Imagine your life is a board game. Part of how well you do is down to skill, part is down to luck. Through sheer bad luck you land on a square that says: Mental illness – severe enough to need hospitalisation. You must exit the game immediately and sit out for an unknown length of time.
So, as of right now you have to stop work, and no you can’t give your boss any idea when you will be back. You have to move out of home and stop looking after your children, and no you can’t tell them when you will be home again. If you have a partner, any jobs you have been doing to run the household or look after the children will be handed to them. Too bad if they already have a full-time job. Everything in your life stops. For everyone else the game continues. Continue reading “The Rebuild”
The manic symptoms have almost all subsided, probably due to pushing the Lithium dose up. And so far, no signs of Lithium toxicity. I am now waking up every 3-4 hours for more medication instead of every 1-2, which is a huge relief.
So where does that leave me? Fixed? All better? If only it were that simple.
In the first instance it leaves me absolutely exhausted. The energy credit card the manic symptoms racked up with insomnia, over-exercising, not being able to sit still or shut up, and thoughts firing for 23 hours a day, is demanding payment.
I didn’t have to wait long at all after I last posted for further symptoms to develop. Manic symptoms. Neurological symptoms. Some might argue with the ‘neurological’ description for a mental illness. But when you develop the short-term memory of an advanced stage Alzheimer’s patient, the attention span of a toddler, and irritability so pathological it hurts (feels like you’ve been coated in oil, rolled in sand, rubbed down with a towel, and then someone sprays lemon juice all over you.) virtually overnight, it feels neurological.
I am in hospital, waiting for this monster to decide. Which way will it go? Mania and worse, or depression and worse. Yes, it gets worse than both of those. Mania can tip into psychosis. Depression can turn catatonic. At least it can for me. We are nowhere near either…yet. But it can happen within hours. I’ve learnt from bitter, repeated experience… and if it does, this will be the last you’ll hear from me for a while.
But right now, I am just caught in deep, deep water.