All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 25. This endless monotonous repetition of nothingness

Day 25: What state are you in right now, when did it start and what are your goals and hopes about it?

fd5a606c6a0097343cccabaebb79fdd8A little over twelve months ago I attended a camp organised by the mental health organisation I frequent. From beginning to end it was an unmitigated disaster. Shortly before the camp my GP and I decided to change my medication regime, so when I was present at the camp, I wasn’t present, as the new medication I had started to take was unleashing all manner of side effects on my person. My participation at the camp – in part due to my social anxiety – was also lesser than what I’d hoped it would be, with my time spent sitting on my lonesome or helping out in the kitchen prepare each of the meals we were to have. I rarely said anything. I rarely opened up. And I rarely, if ever, participated unless I had to.

The reason I mention the camp now, twelve months after the event, is because it triggered a depressive episode that I am still floundering in. To this day I’ve never been able to work out exactly why the camp triggered such a depressive episode, but trigger it, it did. Ever since I attended that camp my mood has been low, my concentration has evaporated and my ability to function has been questionable at best. To say I’m suffering from an elongated period of anhedonia would be an understatement; nothing, and I mean nothing, gives me pleasure. Not movies. Not TV shows. Not reading. Not photography. Not writing. Nothing. All of the things that I have turned to in the past, all of the things that saw my soul sing and my passion inflame, do nothing for me. They don’t raise a smile. They don’t elicit a giggle. They just produce a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘meh’ sound.

Without question this has been the longest depressive episode of my life. As it enters its fourteenth month, it eclipses even the depressive episodes that permeated my mind during my homelessness, the longest of which was nine months. I have tried mindfulness. I have tried distraction. I have tried medication. I have tried positive thinking. I have tried everything that, in the past, made a dent in my depression. But on this occasion nothing, and I repeat, nothing has worked. I have just continued to be lost to this endless fog of self hatred, monotony and self loathing. Getting out of bed; only occurs because I need to go to the bathroom. Leaving the house; only occurs because I need to purchase food. Cooking this food; only occurs because I should be eating, not because I actually want to. I do nothing for the pure pleasure of doing it. I achieve nothing each day aside from the occasional vomit of words onto my blog. My life is just one endless monotonous repetition. The same actions day-in, day-out. Boredom personified.

Things have got so bad that even hope has left  me. I no longer believe that life will be any better than this. I no longer believe that happiness will find me. I no longer believe that my life will be anything other than this eternal, all consuming, depression. And I hate it. Even when I was homeless. Even when I was living in a park, eking out an existence with the help of soup vans and sheer bloody minded determination, I had hope. I clung to television shows. I clung to my own belief. I clung to anything that helped me get through the next hour, the next day, the next week. I had hope that my future wouldn’t always be this endless battle of survival and starvation. But now? This episode, these fourteen months of despair, desolation and depression, have stolen my hope and replaced it with a black hole of nothingness in the center of my soul. How can I hope for a better future when all I have in the present is pain? How can I hope for something more when all I have is just one endless monotonous repetition of nothingness.

My only goal concerning this episode is for it to end. I want it to end. I want to be able to wave a fond farewell to the pain, desolation and despair and be able to live my life with some semblance of enjoyment and meaning. I want to feel something beyond the agony and torment of depression and isolation. I want to feel the flutter of excitement ignite in my soul as I formulate blog posts; to revel in the act of writing and creation. I want to be able to watch a movie and actually laugh; actually feel something for the characters whose lives are acted out for my own personal enjoyment. I want to be able to read fiction again; to delight at the words as they dance in my mind. I want to be able to do so much more than what I’m currently capable of. Whether it be running barefoot through the grass, dancing under a sprinkler or skipping through the world at large. I want to be able to laugh again. I want to be able to feel again. I want to be able to hope again. That delicious, unquenchable emotion; hope.

Hope_and_Despair_by_yuumei

‘Hope and Despair’

But how do I accomplish this goal? How does one rediscover hope? How does one end an endless monotonous repetition of nothingness? My doctor has been tweaking my medication for months, dutifully striving to find the correct balance for my current ennui. I see my support worker on a weekly basis, each time striving to discover new avenues to approach this episode. I’ve also started to see a psychologist, and I have six appointments with her to try and find ways to combat this all-consuming episode. So it’s not as though I’m doing nothing. It’s not as though I’ve given up completely. I am trying to dig my way out of this depression; it’s just my shovel work doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. Yet.

The only thing I am clinging to is the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, no matter how much it feels like its going to. I’ve been depressed in the past, and bounced back to euthymia or hypomania with barely time to breathe. So it stands to reason that this episode isn’t going to last the remainder of my life, however much it feels like it’s going to. Sooner or later things will shift, my mind will rediscover contentment and everything will be rosy in Addy’s world once again. I just wish it would happen now. Or at the very least, tomorrow.

For I don’t know how much longer I can take this endless monotonous repetition of nothingness.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 24. Personally, I feel like I’m due some euthymia

Day 24: How much of your life has been stable/euthymic, depressed and hypo/manic?

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Over the years it has become noticeable that my baseline mood state is depression, but that doesn’t mean my life is always spent in this most painful and debilitating of states. After all, according to several psychiatrists, I am bipolar, so my moods are going to deviate from time to time.

The only period of true mania that I’ve experienced came in June/July 2007, when I went psychotic in Adelaide. From what little I can actually remember, I spent my days trawling bars and clubs for beautiful women, whilst imbibing vast quantities of alcohol and eating very little. I streaked down Rundle Mall on the promise of playful spanking, I talked incessantly to whomever would listen to me, slapped multiple backsides to announce my presence and generally spent my days (and nights) convinced I was an immortal God. Even hurling myself in front of a moving train wouldn’t have damaged me, such was the extent of my delusional thinking. It was exhausting, it was exhilarating, it was painful, it was pleasurable. It was, without question, one of the most fucked up periods of my life. And if it weren’t for the fact I was raped – which I’ve long believed to be the trigger that ended my mania – God knows how long it would have lasted and what would have become of me. By the time it ended I had barely slept for several weeks and felt both dehydrated and malnourished. In fact, the depressive episode I collapsed into was comforting in its monotony and familiarity.

As for hypomania, I have experienced this state on several occasions, and have long considered it my preference. When I’m hypomanic I am everything that I’ve ever wanted to be. I am charming. I am debonair. I am talkative. I am creative. I am driven. I am committed. I am motivated. When this state is surging through me there is nothing I can’t achieve, and everything I set my mind to is tackled with such panache and energy that it will often result in my best work. I wrote my novel, The Ghosts that Haunt Me, when I was hypomanic. I edited said novel when I was in this state. When my mood turned to hypomania in mid-2008, I was able to find work in a matter of weeks and performed said work to such a high standard that I received praise from every manager above me. When I was hypomanic in 2009, between May and July, I had my written work published twice; once in a national magazine and once in a local newspaper. A feat I’ve never been able to match during my euthymic or depressed, baseline, states.

All in all, my main periods of hypomania (that I’ve been able to identify) have been: September 1997, September – November 1999, April-June 2000, late 2003, August-November 2006, January 2008 (although this could have been more rapid cycling), June-October 2008, May-July 2009 and the last couple of months of 2012. All of which back up my belief I’m at my best when I’m hypomanic, as each of these periods coincides with periods of tremendous productivity and achievement, whether it be traveling to combat my anxiety (1999) or engaging with social activity and building relationships (2006).

hypomania

Personally I feel I’m due another bout of hypomania soon, although, the same could be said for euthymia, which I haven’t felt since 2005! Back then I was working full-time, committed to my relationship with Louise, developing plans for the future and generally living what many people would consider “a life”. I had no major financial issues, stressors in my life were few and far between, and I was engaging in social activity whenever time allowed. I was even making new friends and forging stronger relationships with people in my life.

In fact, things have been so bad for so long, I can barely remember what being in this state actually felt like. I remember it through a haze of memory, as if looking back on that period with rose-tinted glasses. Things were probably not as good as I remember them being, but because things were so normal, so safe, I remember it with tremendous fondness and exaggerated comfort. I was stable, I was “normal”; I was everything I dream of being now.

But alas, things are no longer like that. My life, as with much of it, has become consumed with feelings of hopelessness, pointlessness and depression. Everything is difficult. Everything isn’t awesome. It is a state that I should be used to by now; a state that I should know intimately given how much time we have spent in each others company over the last twenty years. Our dalliance in 2000 brought on feelings of worthlessness and despair. Our tryst in 2006 cemented these feelings. Whilst our flirtation in 2011 brought on multiple suicide attempts in a matter of months. Depression has been such a part of my life that I no longer live in fear of it; we are one, depression and I, a civil union that will see me till death us do part.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 23. Why do you blog about bipolar?

Day 23: Why do you blog about bipolar?

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Hopefully enabling other people who are battling depression to realise they are not alone.
Hopefully enabling people who are prejudiced against mental illness to gain a better understanding of what it is, and the damage it can do.
Hopefully enabling me to have a better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of.

I wrote the above words on the 21 October 2007, the day I began my blogging journey. Back then I was naive to the world of blogging and trod wearily through the maelstrom of syllables, words and sentences that joined together to form the blogosphere. It was the start of a new endeavor; a new chapter in my life that saw me journal for the world to see, rather than hiding it away in the A5 notebooks I’d written in previously. I was opening myself up, sharing things that I had never before shared, and it was difficult, painful at first, but endowed me with a sense of freedom that I never thought possible. I was writing about depression. About self-harm, suicide and, later, bipolar. I was talking about my innermost demons, all the chaos that I had lived with for nearly fifteen years was being shared for the world to read, and comment on, should they so desire. It was an enlightening experience and soon it became my world. The blogging bug had well and truly infected me with its venom.

My reasons for starting to blog were outlined in a short introduction post, and eight years later those reasons haven’t changed. I continue to blog so that other people who are suffering from mental illness realise they’re not alone. I continue to blog so that people who are prejudiced against mental illness gain a better understanding of what it is, and the damage it can do. And I continue to blog so that I can gain a better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of.

I blog because it enables me to do things that I love (write, help other people, share my story) from the safety and security of my own living room.

I blog because if I didn’t, my life would be hollow, empty of point, purpose or direction.

I blog because someone has to.

I blog because I love it. And that’s the only reason I need.


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 21. Manic depression vs bipolar affective disorder

Day 21: Are you content with it being called bipolar affective disorder, or would you rather revert to manic depression, or rename it completely? Why?

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Personally, I’ve never understood why manic depression was renamed to be bipolar affective disorder. Manic depression is a far better description of the illness than bipolar will ever be. Firstly, you have your mania, and secondly, you have your depression; the two major episodes of bipolar covered with the name of the illness. But you also have your manic depression, which covers everything that happens when you’re between the poles; all the chaos and mayhem that occurs when you’re not manic or depressed, but lost somewhere in between.

And what is wrong with calling an illness after what the illness actually does? Bipolar sounds too clinical, too scientific, manic depression is much softer, more relevant. In fact, I relate to manic depression more than I ever have bipolar, and to me personally, this is what the illness will always be called.

What do you think?


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 19. What people need to understand about bipolar

Day 19: What don’t people without bipolar understand about people with it?

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People without bipolar have no understanding – and no way to understand – just how problematic and painful the mood swings can be.

It isn’t like the usual sway of emotions, the ups and downs of regular, hum-drum, normal life. The mood swings of bipolar are epic in nature; the highs extremely high and the lows extremely low. I don’t think anyone who isn’t bipolar can understand this. There is nothing to compare the highs and lows to as nothing comes close to the chaos of emotion that a bipolar person experiences.

The depression is more than unipolar depression; it is all-consuming in nature and leaves you wrecked, exhausted and unable to function. The mania isn’t just feeling a bit happy; it is feeling like you are a God, and nothing you do could ever be conceived as being wrong. Then comes the other states; the hypomania, which is like mania but not as pronounced, or the rapid cycling, which is a brutal state to be in as you don’t know which way is up and you’re being dragged left, right and center on a seemingly endless emotional roller-coaster.

Sure people can claim to understand the mood swings, they can claim to get it, but I really don’t think they do. I really don’t.

I also don’t think people without bipolar understand just how controlling these mood swings can be. It isn’t a case of just “getting over it” or “dealing with it”. It isn’t a case of just “ignoring it” or “pretending it isn’t there”. None of this works when it comes to a bipolar mood. The mood swings of bipolar are all-controlling; there is little you can do once you’re lost to the mayhem other than ride it out and hope to come out the other end relatively unscathed.

Some people think people with bipolar aren’t trying hard enough, and it is these people who need to understand just how severe the mood shifts of bipolar can be. Everyone with bipolar works there arse off every single day of their lives, they have to, otherwise the illness would consume them in an instant.

Bipolar people are strong – incredibly strong – and I think this, more than anything, is what people without bipolar need to understand.

What about you? What do you think people without bipolar don’t understand about people with it?


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31 Days of Bipolar: Day 18. Dear Big Pharma…

Day 18: If big pharma was actually listening, what would you say about bipolar meds?

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Dear Big Pharma,

So, what exactly was going through your minds when you created medication for bipolar? Were you actually trying to create something with so many side effects it would take a novel the length of War and Peace to list them all properly, or was that just a happy little outcome for you callous and heartless individuals?

I mean really, weight gain. You think this is an acceptable side effect for people with mental health issues? You do realise that many people who suffer from mental ill-health have self-esteem issues, don’t you? What do you think weight gain is going to do to their self-esteem? Do you seriously think it’s going to improve it? Of course not! It’s going to make it ten times worse you ridiculous individuals!

And suicidal ideation!? I am so pissed off with this particular side effect you’ve forced me to illustrate it with an exclamation mark and a question mark! At what point did you think it was a wise and noble idea to create a medication for someone suffering from depression that has a side effect that makes them more depressed and potentially suicidal. Do you not see the problem there? Really? Because most people who are forced to take this medication sees the problem quite clearly and these people are considered insane by large (and ignorant) portions of the greater population. So if they can see the problems inherent with your side effects, why can’t you?

As for side effects as serious as pancreatitis, I mean c’mon! No-one wants to spend three weeks of their life in a hospital bed, solely because they were taking medication that you deemed safe for someone to take. How is it safe when they end up in hospital for three weeks?

I refuse to believe there is nothing you can do about this side effect issue. Personally I think it’s a wonderful money-maker for you, forcing people to take medication to counteract the side effects of their initial medication; a situation I myself have been forced into in the past.

And while we’re at it. Does medication really need to be so expensive? Granted I can’t really complain about this as being on the disability pension and the holder of a magical pension card, I get my medication for $6.10 a script, but if I wasn’t, I’d have to remortgage my future house in order to afford one months worth of medication.

They’re tiny, almost insignificantly small, tablets; how much do they really cost to make? A few cents? A dollar? I’m willing to bet it’s nothing close to the price that you slap on these medications, the price that you force sick and needy individuals to pay in order to improve their quality of living.

You see we people afflicted with a mental illness have no choice about taking medication. It’s not something we do for fun, it’s not something we do to warm the cockles of our hearts. We have to take these medications in order to function as a healthy and happy individual. So we’re forced to pay for them. We don’t have a choice. But you know that, don’t you, you know you have a nice little captive audience to keep you merrily in business. Of course you do. But even so, I still believe you could do something about it, just like you could do something about your side effect con.

Okay. Mini rant over. You may return to ripping people off and making their lives a living hell. It is, after all, what you do best.

Regards,
Addy