Monday, 29 January 2007

In the last post I mentioned that I have never felt very patriotic. The truth is, I have never really felt part of anything. This is not a complaint but simply a matter of fact statement, similar to “I have never been to Antarctica”.
My parents had children soon after they married. Years later, my mother went to the doctor to inform him she had reached the menopause. He informed her she was pregnant. Some months later I was dragged kicking and screaming into a world where my siblings were almost grown up. They were “the boys” and I was “the wean” (for the purpose of this tale, I’ll conveniently forget my sister who bridged the gap between us). By this stage in his life, my poor dad was forever at the doctors. I later discovered The Doctors was a pub just outside his work. Apparently he used our house almost as a wet hostel; I only remember seeing him on a few occasions before he died when I was nine.

My mother was a bizarre lady who lived her life in books. Her adopted family consisted of Lady Macbeth, Mr Darcy, Father Brown and Captain Bolitho. She had little interest in her real family who were merely a burden on her crazy ambitions to write, perform and sail the seas (boy, she would have loved the internet). Despite being raised in the slums and living in abject poverty, she spoke perfect English, extremely poshly and extremely loudly! She was an out and out snob who looked down her nose at the proletariat that surrounded her. With regard to our hard working neighbours, “Any fool can scrub a floor!” she would declaim loudly on a daily basis as she lay around smoking, drinking and reading in a filthy, unkempt flat. You won’t be much surprised to learn that we never really integrated with our community in Glasgow.

Having a reading age beyond my years was misinterpreted as intelligence when I went to school so I was always streamed in with the brainy class. After dad died we moved 100 miles away to a rural town. Things at home went steadily downhill and it was best just to stay out of the house. So I hung out on the streets at night with older kids and would always be the last to go home. Inevitably my night time pals were the bad boys. As I entered my teens I started playing the guitar, all my musical friends were hippies. In short I never belonged to any group. The bovver boys hated the hippies and everybody sneered at the brainboxes. My mates were all three. As I got older I spent more time playing in bands but never really understood my hippy friends.

These folks who refused to conform to society’s norm were the most conformist group of people I ever met. You could spot their “uniform” a mile away and if you didn’t live in a communal flat, listen to Neil Young, read the Egyptian Book of the Dead and smoke dope, you weren’t in! Don’t get me wrong, these were my best pals but I just didn’t subscribe to that ideal. Worst of all I had to keep secret the fact that I didn’t just love the Floyd, I loved all sorts of music, including some of the cheesiest novelty pop songs ever written.

Ha ha you think. Surely you must have felt a sense of affiliation with men in general. Err... well… no. I’ve never been interested in sport and most guys are virtually obsessed with sport. Scottish sport = football = religion = sectarianism = FIGHT! Sport (and the national hatred of “the English”) is largely what gives Scots a sense of patriotism. That’s probably why I don’t feel particularly Scottish.

Anyway, I’ll try and (eventually) cut to the chase here. When I was diagnosed bipolar, I thought I had finally found a group to affiliate with. I was sure I would find kindred spirits, people who were gentle, creative, dreamers, artists, tolerant, broad minded, sensitive and liberal in their politics. The sort of folk who, had they been adults in the Summer of Love, would have donned flowers and made haste for San Francisco. So I merrily started to surf through the links in Bipolar Planet. Shock Horror! Some of these people seemed to be aggressive in their manner. A few described themselves as radical feminists. Now, living in a cultural backwater I had never heard of a radical feminist but from what I can gather it seems to be an angry woman who feels she has been abused/marginalised by men in general (perhaps at this stage I should warn Blogger to increase my bandwidth for a huge volume of incoming hate mail). Anyway, I was intrigued to learn from this blog that even this marginalised group marginalised it’s own sub groups, such as “women who were not born women” and “women who do not have sex with other women”. At this point I do my best Columbo impersonation and say “now that’s very interesting” (I really should get out more). It’s fairly safe to say that I’m unlikely to ever be affiliated with this group. I was also surprised at the FOAD folks, some of whom are my internet friends (God, that sounds as cheesy as “some of my best friends are gay” or even better, Todd Rundgren’s classic, “some folks is even whiter than me”… maybe I should now increase my bandwidth further for the next lot of complaints… step down Jade Goody).

Even more surprising, is that according to this article a lot of folks in the bipolar community aren't even bipolar. Apparently people with borderline personality disorder are often drawn into bipolar circles as they encounter many similar difficulties such as emotional volatility, impulsivity, depressions and mood swings.

What I’m trying to say (albeit very badly) is, that it was very naive of me to presume that just because someone has the same disorder as me that they will share the same personal characteristics. It’s as daft as me thinking that every other guy who takes a size 16” shirt collar will play the guitar. People with bipolar are just that. Bipolar. All different people, just like people with diabetes are all different. Why shouldn’t they be? So if you’re new to bipolar stuff and think that I am some kind of a template, think again. I’m not, and neither are any of the other bipolar bloggers. We all have different character traits and we all have different experiences of this rollercoaster illness.
However… ahem… I may have overlooked a discrepancy regarding the artistic stuff… I write songs, Marlena does her cartoons, Cie has just written a book, Bryan draws, PJ plays guitar… I’m gonna stop there.
According to a recent post by PJ, there’s also the annoying fact that many of us are Pisces.
But there’s no way I’m gonna backtrack and edit/destroy this post. It’s the longest I’ve ever written.

Hmmm… sleeping too little, writing too much… I seem to remember that was supposed to be some kind of warning for me. Och, never mind, no time for that now, I’ve got to get back to inventing my perpetual motion machine and saving the human race.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Yesterday Mrs Mo phoned the CMHT and told them I didn’t want to see any doctors at the present time. They said that was fine but that I should get in touch at any time in the future should things change. I’m free!

Yesterday was also Burns’ Day and around the country folks celebrated the birthday of our national poet with copious amounts of haggis and whisky. I’ve never been very patriotic nor a fan of Burns but I’ve always liked his "Braes o' Killiecrankie", as sung here by the Corries. Had this prehistoric pop video been made today it would have only been about 3 seconds long as things have changed a bit since 1966. Attempting to walk up the A9 amid today’s traffic would prove instantly fatal.

The pass of Killiecrankie is also my favourite place on Earth. I love walking from the Linn of Tummel, through the old woodlands, alongside the gorge to the Soldiers Leap.

Today I’m a bit embarrassed as last night I left a comment on Rosey’s blog scoffing at some peoples so called withdrawal symptoms. I’m ashamed to admit that since stopping my medication I have been unable to get to sleep. Usually I’m snoring within two minutes of getting into bed. The past two nights I have lain awake until 4am. Probably just coincidence… hmmm.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from the NMC asking me to renew my registration. I decided not to and today my registration has lapsed. As from today I am no longer a registered nurse. Another chapter in my life has closed. I’m just mentioning it for the record, I feel totally indifferent about it.

I’m actually feeling OK at the moment. I’m enjoying being able to read again and am ploughing my way through Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. It’s the first book I’ve looked at in a couple of years. I’m managing to listen to music OK as well. I look forward to hearing things but quickly feel detached, not really enjoying it. It’s a bit like looking at the menu in a nice restaurant then being served porridge. It fills a gap but is hardly exciting. I hope that doesn’t sound glum because all in all it’s been a good week.

Monday, despite being rated the most depressing day of the year, was fine for me.
Tuesday, the pirate walked the plank. I’ve now heard he has gone on a sabbatical.
Wednesday, I stopped taking medication and was accepted for the OU
Thursday, I was kind of officially released from psychiatric care.
Friday, I am no longer a nurse.

Friday is a good day. For most people (except the poor shift workers over at Mental Nurse) it’s the end of the working week and the start of the weekend. For me it means alcohol tonight… hooray!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Last night I overheard Mrs Mo speaking to her mother on the phone “I phoned them twice then I went across on Monday morning”. Afterwards I asked her what it was about. Apparently she chased up the Jobcentre about confirming my eligibility for OU funding. After a couple of calls they agreed to sign the form. She managed to get time off work to go over to the offices. When she got there, they stamped and signed the form BUT refused to give it back to her. Despite her explaining my circumstances and the shortage of time, the jobsworths insisted that the rules said the form could only be handed personally to the applicant. What a bunch of bureaucratic twats.

Eventually she got to speak to a manger who saw sense and agreed to hand over the form to her. Tonight I checked my OU account online and they have received my registration. What a star my baby is!

Today I got a letter from the pirate saying that if I am discontinuing my medicines that this should be done under medical supervision. He suggests I contact my GP or CMHT to discuss this and other treatment options. There seems little point in this now that I am off medicines. I presume the letter is an exercise in removing responsibility in case I develop any withdrawal complications.

I’d love to say I have seen immediate improvements since stopping the pills but I’m afraid not. Still spending most of my time in bed. Got up at 3pm today and haven’t washed.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Mutiny! The pirate has jumped ship!

He phoned Mrs Mo at work today to ask how I’d been. He then asked if there was any chance I’d agree to see him again. No, she replied, she didn’t think I would. He then explained that he was going to be off for a couple of months and was there any other doctor I would be willing to see? Mrs Mo suggested our own GP (family doctor). My GP is a big, arrogant, SOB who has the same bedside manner as Sir Lancelot Spratt and bears a striking resemblance to Michael Portillo. He does not tolerate fools or timewasters i.e. anyone who is not terminally ill. In his spare time he is a renowned Lothario.

Despite all this he is an excellent doctor and he and I get on extremely well. The pirate suggested I might also agree to see my previous psychiatrist, who is a Ben Elton look alike.

Ben is a very nice guy. Good communicator, kind and sensitive although a bit cautious when it comes to doing anything, like prescribing. Unfortunately, Ben is twenty odd miles away. There is also apparently “another” doctor in our local CMHT who is willing to see me but the missus forgot his/her name.

I knew there was something amiss with the pirate. As I said previously, it’s unusual for Consultants to go off sick. I have a dreadful feeling it may be his wife that is ill. I feel really bad for him but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m happy that I’m not having to see him again.

I’ve just taken my last Lithium and Imipramine tablets. As from now I am clean. No pirate, no pills.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

At the start of the week I phoned the Open Univeristy to ask about my eligibility for a funding award. After ringing the number I was greeted by a tired and very dour voice telling me that all the operators were busy and that I was in a queue. I soon hung up, tried again later, same thing. Later in the afternoon, determined to get through, I stayed on hold. The only nice thing about the recorded voice is that you can shout and swear at it and nobody hears you… well I hope they don’t. I suddenly imagined a huge room full of bored operators all sitting idly, listening on their headsets to my call and all laughing every time I sighed or swore. Anyway, eventually my persistence pays off and after some time I am put through to Funding and Enrolment. I can’t believe it… it’s a bloody answering machine! I do as I’m told and leave all my details and the answering machine promises to call me back within 48 hours.

The next afternoon a nice lady calls and tells me to download and fill in the 15 page form. She assures me I’m eligible for full funding. All I need to do is fill in the form and enclose a bank statement showing I am receiving Incapacity Benefit. She reminds me to do it immediately as the closing date is Thursday. I fill in the form, enclose the bank statement and Mrs Mo posts it off. A couple of days later a big envelope arrives from the OU. That’ll be my welcome pack I thinks. No, my application form has been returned to me.

A bank statement is not acceptable, I have to take my form to my local benefits agency office and get them to stamp page 7. Unfortunately my local benefits agency office has long since closed down in order to give us “an improved service”. The nearest office is twenty odd miles away. Apart from my telephone line, I am virtually divorced from society, this is a non starter for me. I respond in a mature adult fashion, go upstairs and crawl into bed, resigned to spending the rest of my life just waiting on the guy with the scythe.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Last Wednesday, when I decided to come off my pills, I reduced the doses by one third. Tonight I’ll cut back another third and this time next week I’ll be off meds altogether. I know this is a kind of right of passage that all bipolar folk seem to go through but as I have said, I have serious doubts about my diagnosis. I have these strange episodes that could be psychosis and yet I have insight. I suppose it could be some form of dissociative thing, intuition tells me I’m toxic. One thing is for sure, Lithium and Imipramine aren’t helping me. If Lithium truly is a mood stabiliser then it has stabilised me in a low state, preventing me from returning to equilibrium. I have to agree with Richard Ashcroft and The Verve… “The Drugs Don’t Work”…

Not only do the drugs not work but the pirate doesn’t either. It’s partly my fault, I’ve never been able or wanted to engage in any type of talking therapy but agreed to be monitored fortnightly to see how things are going. Unfortunately I dread going, hate it when I’m there and feel much worse afterwards. In some ways the pirate is like a particle physicist who cannot observe his subject without exerting an influence on it. The only reason I see him is to ensure I continue to receive my benefits. So I’m basically prostituting myself. But if I don’t see him, I run the risk of losing benefits and having to get off my fat, lazy arse and go dig ditches. Unfortunately digging ditches isn’t an option here, here it’s the fish factory.

I’ll finish on a lighter note and give you some insight into our Scottish mentality. Over recent years sportsmen have become much fitter, much more like professional athletes. This is probably most noticeable in football (that’s soccer for our ‘merican friends) where instead of having a pie (a bit like a cookie) and a fag (not a homosexual but a cigarette) at half time, they’re now more likely to have an isotonic drink. Nowadays when a goal (a bit like a touchdown) is scored the scorer often celebrates by performing amazing acrobatics. Have a look at how our Scottish athletes measure up to their European competitors…..

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Well, I waited anxiously for the pirate to arrive with the section papers and the police (obviously I don’t mean with Sting, Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland) all Friday afternoon. My doors and windows were locked, I was lying tensed in bed, listening for a car approaching. Guess what happened…. yup, bugger all. When five o’clock arrived it was like a huge anticlimax and after letting out a big sigh I began to feel like a twat (no I don’t mean I became aroused, I mean I felt like an idiot). I got up, bathed (earlier Mrs Mo had sensitively pointed out that I should consider freshening up… “You are minging” were the actual words she used) and got dressed.

By the time I was organised the missus arrived back home from work with pizzas and beer. Wow! Now I couldn’t stay depressed while being pampered like that, what a honey bun she is. Despite working full time, my wife has waited on me hand and foot for the past couple of years while I’ve lain around doing nothing but presenting a miserable face. I feel heart sorry for people who are on their own, how do they cope? I couldn’t.

I think I’m back on track now but I again have doubts about my diagnosis. I shouldn’t be having psychotic episodes where I think my brain has been tampered with. I can understand why I was paranoid when I had major depression but I think my mood is OK just now. Maybe it’s some kind of pseudopsychosis if there is such a thing. I suppose my premorbid personality was histrionic, it was certainly melodramatic. In fact if I had a penny for every time someone said “You should be on the stage” I’d have £16.23.

I’m just starting to catch up with other folks’ blogs and have read in Puddlejumper’s that you get Open university courses for free if you are receiving Incapacity Benefit. I didn’t know that and shall be phoning them tomorrow to see if I’m eligible and if I’m in time for the February start date I’ll be applying to do the astronomy course.

PS. Oops I nearly forgot… how dare you bastards take the piss out of my hallucinations! Did you not “feel my pain” (as they say on Jerry Springer and programmes of a similar high calibre). Yes, you reply, pain in the arse! God, I’m laughing out loud here now… what was I thinking of…ffs… BUSES! … no wonder you’re scratching your head Bryan, I haven’t got a clue either. I’m sure there is no Freudian reference to the significance of motor transport in the psyche. I prefer Trish’s idea, if you have the choice of hallucinations, opt for naked women.

Oh well… here’s one for the road….

Friday, 12 January 2007

I went “off” on Monday night. Back when I worked in the bin we used to comment that someone was “going off” when we observed some minor changes in their behaviour which we knew indicated that they were about to become profoundly psychotic or extremely disturbed. I became convinced my parietal lobes had been removed. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep as whenever I closed my eyes my head was filled with images of Leyland PD2 buses…

...and I became increasingly confused and distressed. Eventually I found a stash of Temazepam which helped me to sleep. Tuesday I stayed in bed, flat and disinterested. Wednesday stayed in bed and (yet again) decided to stop my taking my pills as they are obviously not helping me. Thursday remained in bed, my wife phoned the pirate and he arranged an appointment for today. I’ve told her I don’t want to see him and to cancel the appointment today. I’m up just now to make a brief record of this weeks events as I don’t know what will happen this afternoon. Anyway, I’m feeling a bit more animated today. I had something to eat last night. I see my inbox is full of mail and there are comments on my blog. I’m sorry for not responding to folks but I’m just going back to bed now. Hopefully I’ll feel better this evening or over the weekend and get back to you all.

Monday, 8 January 2007

We were out for a walk yesterday and found the the town bridge closed off by police and fire engines. Apparently a young man had jumped. My wife decided to phone family members in case they thought it was me. Although they had heard about the incident, it never occurred to them it could be me. I suppose that’s partly because I always play the superficial clown and don’t reveal anything about myself and partly because things like madness are never discussed in the family. They have probably convinced themselves that I spent October in hospital not because I was having ECT but that I was having my appendix removed.

An internet friend of mine died just after Christmas. I’d known Lily for about 5 years. We played regularly in a general knowledge chat room quiz. She had a great sense of humour and a very kind nature. It’s very hard to explain to people who don’t use the internet how you become so close to someone who just appears as text on a screen. It may be because (well in my case anyway) you reveal much more of yourself to the faceless stranger than you do to your own family and friends. Anyway, there were lots of messages of condolence on the forum. Quite a few said things like “Goodnight, sleep well my friend”, “A new star is shining in the sky tonight” or “Lily and Irene will make a formidable team up there”. I know they are very kind words and folks mean well but I can’t begin to understand that mentality. It all sounds so lovely and cosy, it sounds like congratulations when in fact death is horrific. I mean, to try and imagine just not being, not existing ever again just blows my mind. Just to appear briefly as a life form on a remote planet and then kaput, zilch, never to reappear. It’s hard for me to believe that there are periods in my life when I long for it all to end. You will have guessed by now I am a confirmed atheist and grossly envious of people who truly believe in an afterlife.

Although raised as a Catholic, I can’t remember a time when I ever believed in God. One of my early teachers, Miss Coogan, told me I would burn in the fires of hell for all eternity if I didn’t go to church every Sunday. I’d already missed a few so I knew my case was hopeless. The next minute we were singing “Jesus Loves Me”. It just didn’t add up in my mind and I encountered similar hypocrisy in most adults. I’m really sorry it panned out that way, I would love to have faith. I’ve always been obsessed with death and it’s preyed on my mind since childhood, probably since I was about 8 and became very aware I didn’t believe in God. I hope some day I become a born again Christian or I’ll have to get a hypnotist to convince me of the afterlife and then when I go folks can write “Goodnight my friend, sleep well”.

Speaking of death, there was a programme on TV last night about pop stars in the 1970s. Gilbert O’Sullivan was on singing what some think is a pleasant little ditty but happens to be one of the most powerful songs written about suicide and death…

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top will throw myself off…

Friday, 5 January 2007

I woke this morning to hear the phone ringing. No problem, I don't answer the phone, the answer machine will kick in after 5 rings and take care of it. The phone continues to ring... eh? Eventually it stops but then I hear it starting again. Shit, it's my mobile, only my family have that number. I dash downstairs and grab my mobile... "hello?".

Surprise surprise! "It's the midshipman from the Black Pearl here"...

...well almost... "It's the secretary from the CMHT" to tell me that my 4 o'clock appointment has been cancelled. The lady sounds really nice and warm, not the usual dreary robotic voice from Little Britain saying "computer says no"...

Anyway the nice lady tells me that the pirate is off sick and they will schedule an appointment for another time. This is not good. Unlike us workshy layabouts, it is very unusual for a Consultant to be off sick. It's not because they have iron cast constitutions... but they seem to have some inbuilt immunity to everyday bugs and illnesses. Worse than that, this is the second time the pirate has been sick in the past two months. I hope I'm way off the mark but I can't help but be concerned for him. Fancy me worrying about my arch enemy, the pirate.

Meanwhile back in the superficial world of the manic depressives, Puddlejumper and I are getting ourselves worked up into a frenzy about a blog competition we have been nominated for. Apparently we are the rank outsiders in a blog war reminiscent of Father Ted and the Golden Cleric Award.

You may be wondering what great prize we stand to win... is it a car, a holiday or a huge sum of money. Well err... no. Surprisingly we haven't got a bloody clue what it is or what you would do with it. It is apparently a medical book of some sort...

...and we shall be devastated if we don't win. Hopefully next year they shall be offering a case of wine as the prize. Then we would have a true and dirty blog war on our hands.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Unlike many Scots, we never bother with Hogmanay. I don’t really understand the significance of resetting the calendar to January the first. Nor do I enjoy being surrounded by drunken strangers who all want to hug and kiss you. I always think it must be particularly dreadful for women having all sorts of creeps and weirdos drooling over them… but that’s enough of my family.
We were looking after the neighbour's Labrador so ended up spending most of the evening out walking the dog. We saw the New Year in having a drink in front of the telly, trying to avoid any channels that might be showing tartan clad people having a ceilidh.

One of my old mates popped in to see us on New Years day. It was really nice of him as I have lived like a hermit and shunned everyone I know for the past two years. A couple of pals have persisted despite my cold shoulder and for that I am really grateful. Anyway, this guy… lets call him Dave… has known me since we were kids. We played in various bands together, first when were at school and later in our 20s and 30s. Dave still plays in a band and also has a recording studio. He was encouraging me to come down and do something, telling me some of our old friends were keen to get together and make some noise. I said I really wasn’t up to anything like that just yet… but in my mind I’m starting to think about it. Probably the first really positive thought I’ve had in a long time. I think I’m nearly ready to start being creative again.

On Tuesday we went for a long walk up the Ettrick water near Selkirk. The river was high in flood… and so was Mrs Mo… bursting on a pee in the middle of nowhere as usual! She went back to work on Wednesday and I have spent the last two days mostly lying in bed. Not down but just kind of at a loose end and a bit thoughtful about what lies ahead for me this year (so much for not bothering about New Year… bloody hypocrite!). No, as far as I can tell my mood thing is OK. I still feel unable to judge my mood or even know what it is. All I can tell is whether I’m active or not and at the moment I think I’m about midway between active and inactive.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been avoiding the important stuff and leaving it till the end. My two weeks are now up and I’m due to see the pirate (my shrink) tomorrow afternoon. My plan is to try and look as normal as possible, smile and tell him everything is fine and hopefully he won’t ask to see me as often. Oh well, I’ll let you know how it goes.