Monday, 31 March 2008

I've not being doing much other than continuing to worry about work and benefits. As well as writing comprehensively about this (much better than I ever could), Tony Nunn has kindly provided some very informative links on this issue on his site.

I wonder if the DWP have ever considered how detrimental a mental health assessment can be on mental health? I think it's probably similar to particle physics in that you cannot observe the sub-atomic particle without exerting an influence on it. Unfortunately this is unlikely to ever be a positive influence in the case of mental health assessment. Interrogation by government officials is unlikely to prove helpful in people who may be anxious or feel worthless and particularly in those who suffer paranoia. It would surely be much more helpful, sensitive and effective if the DWP could contact health professionals directly wherever possible?

Could anyone who knows of anyone current movement to prevent people with mental health problems undergoing such interrogation give me a shout. Thanks.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

I've been troubled by a recurring dream. Well, I think I have. How can I know if it really has been recurring? I may have simply dreamt that I have dreamt it several times before. How can I know? I wonder if I've told my wife about it, I must ask her when she gets home. Anyway, a couple of years ago I was seen by an independent doctor from the national pensions agency and was given ill health retirement. In the dream however, I have continued to work at local level and forgot to inform people about my pension. I suddenly realise that I have defrauded both my employer and the pensions agency and am due them vast sums of money as well as lots of unpaid income tax and insurance.

I have been unable to get this scenario out of my mind today. I've even been out for a walk to try and distract myself but it keeps forcing itself into my mind and because my memory is so bad I can't work out if there actually was an overlap of the two things. Did I actually go back to work for a while? Have I screwed up my pension? Am I in debt? I still have doubts and concerns, I feel perplexed.

My anxiety is further compounded by the government's impending benefits review to weed out the so called scroungers. The system is due to be reformed later this year when claimants will be expected to take part in programmes aimed at getting them back into work. What if I am really down when I'm called up and I lie in bed refusing to attend, will they stop my benefits? Or worse still what if I'm really elated and waltz in, claiming that I'm ready to take on any job offered, eagerly signing every piece of paper put in front of me. What happens a short time later when my facade collapses, will they have any idea what they are dealing with? I don't have a social worker or anything like that, nor do I want one but I think I may need to renege and agree to see a doctor soon, just to record that I have been seen and get some evidence for future reference. Fuck.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Wow, what a coincidence! No sooner do I mention my ambivalence about my diagnosis and the next day I discover that a bipolar home testing kit has just been launched on the market. Why it's a miracle, thanks be to God!

According to Psynomics, the kit is invaluable if you have had problems with depression, mania or irritability and want to know if you have a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder and whether you should seek treatment. Now let me think... frequent episodes of mania... should I seek treatment?... hey, no way, I am ecstatic, I am in touch with God, why would I want a test... but wait, maybe there are people who have suffered some episodes of irritability, who will be desperate to know if they have a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder. I think they are called the "wealthy worried well", yes maybe they will be the target group and provide Psynomics with a good source of income.

For only $399 a package will be mailed to you containing a "spit kit". You will mail your sample back to Psynomics in a return-postage paid envelope. Only a code number will be used to identify you on the mailer, assuring complete confidentiality (the lab will never know it's you Elton).

A news article reveals however that there are a couple of minor problems with the test....

1) The test is valid only for whites of Northern European ancestry who show some behavioral symptoms and have at least one other bipolar family member.

2) Among hundreds of families studied, one of the gene variations in the Psynomics test showed up in 1 percent of those unaffected by the disorder versus 3 percent who are affected.Hmmm. The other variation appeared in 7 percent of those without bipolar compared to 15 percent who have the disease.

Now I'm no brainbox but doesn't this mean that test 1 shows false for 97% of bipolars and test 2 false for 85% of bipolars? Hardly a conclusive test then. Psynomics put forward a very scientific justification of their inconclusive tests... The research isn't finished yet... "Why are we starting before it's finished? You've got to start somewhere" Kelsoe said, "Even if we knew everything about the genes, which we certainly don't, it's never going to be 100 percent predictive".

Aw shucks, now I'm even more confused. What should I do?... accept my diagnosis or refute it or pay $399 to take the test. Who can help me here? Who can give me objective psychiatric advice...

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Another big sleep last night...

Mrs Mo was off today so we had a long lie and then after getting up she actually persuaded me to consider going out in the afternoon... fek... leaving my sanctuary and crossing the threshold...EEEeeeeeek!

Anyway, later, she drove us out into the country and we walked across a field then along the river for a wee while. But despite some glimpses of sunshine, there was a bitterly cold arctic wind blowing flurries of snow in our faces, so quickly we made our way back home. Still, it was nice to get out of the house for half an hour (although it was even nicer to get back home).

Once snuggled back in our crib (wow.. crib.. how cool is that for a middle aged grumpy.. ha ha) the missus sat in front of the TV laughing at the loveable Carol McGiffin on Loose Women while once again I attempted to get to grips with the basics of Photoshop. As you may have noticed, I eventually came up with a new banner for the blog.

I fell asleep again after tea but only for about half an hour. Mrs Mo has gone out to the opera tonight put on by our local am-drams. I am, as ever, surfing aimlessly through the internet. I'll type up this and do my daily trivia quizzes then probably have a few beers until the missus gets home. I wish I had something witty or clever to say but I haven't.

I'm still thinking back over the past couple of posts I did, I feel such an idiot. Who the fuck did I think I was? Pontificating about a disorder that I don't even think I have.

Apart from everything else, my so called bipolar experience doesn't seem to tally with anyone else's and unlike other folks I have absolutely no desire for therapy or support groups.

Sometimes doctors have almost persuaded me that I am bipolar but they have screwed me around so much that I never trust anything they say. On top of that I'm always ambivalent about everything, I've sat on the fence so long, there is a post permanently embedded up my arse. No, I am basically an inadequate whinger, a twat with a huge chip on his shoulder. The issue gets confused because back when I was part of society, my gregarious, larger than life personality came across as a bit bizarre in my sober, rural community. I'm sure people like me are ten a penny in the city. On the other hand, would the doctors really risk and get away with electrocuting me just out of mischief and spite? Also, when the rest of the world tells you that you are wrong, you have to at consider it may be a possibility albeit remote. But there I go again.. on the fence.. ambivalence.. on the fence.. ambivalence.. on the fence.. ambivalence.. on the fence.. ambivalence..

Friday, 21 March 2008

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..

Well actually I didn't...

Last night I dreamt I was walking along the beach with our ex-neighbour's dog. The dream was nice but my sleep pattern is becoming screwed up again.

I've been troubled with back pain over the past week and that's kept me awake at times. But although that's much better now I'm still not doing my good old recent 2am-9am. Yesterday evening I felt a bit lethargic and went to bed at 7pm. Apparently I was snoring at 2 minutes past and slept until 10pm. I then slept another 8 hours overnight. Eleven hours is too much sleep for me.

Why am I mentioning this? Sleep is generally an objective indicator of how I am. I sense a change coming. My thoughts are more muddied, my memory even worse than usual. I feel kinda befuddled, my head full of mattress stuffing, no clarity. I feel puzzled, distracted, trying to solve a riddle before I even receive the clues. I don't know how to describe it but it's like some sort of a foreboding.

Woe, woe and thrice woe...

Monday, 17 March 2008

Carrying on from Thursday's rant...

So what is Bipolar Disorder and who's got it? The Royal College of Psychiatrists have produced a helpful leaflet but like with any illness, many people look at a list of signs and gasp.. "oh I've got that!". This leaflet is no different and under "Depression" you'll find familiar things like; loss of interest, feeling tired, loss of confidence... hmmm... sounds like every Monday morning.

Under "Mania", the list includes feeling very happy, very active, making odd decisions on the spur of the moment... isn't this every Saturday night for the under 25s?

The SIGN Guideline is perhaps more descriptive, including the ICD 10 and DSM IV definitions. SIGN 82 also outlines standards for treatment, issues in pregnancy and me old pal substance abuse.

However, it may be much more helpful to look at a graphic account of someone else's experience of an illness and consider if this reflects your own experience... have I ever been like that?

The most moving and graphic account of bipolar disorder I have came across is that of Jessica Dolin. Jessica's life is presented here in a photo essay by her brother Boris. It is a tragic and profoundly moving story. I found the images and captions extremely powerful, as was the obvious love and support she received from her family. I've been unable so far to get permission to show any of the photos here but would recommend you visit the website. Below is a quote from Jessica in a newspaper article saying..

"Manic Depression is Powerful! It confuses and no one can rest from ITS energy! Fear, Mania, Run from me, and run from God!!... Manic Depression is like shootin up speed, the only problem is I don't have much say in when it happens."

Fortunately, the tragic end to Jessica's life is not a template for us all (although sadly between 10 and 20% of individuals with bipolar disorder do take their own lives). Although we may share similar signs and symptoms while very ill, our experience of bipolar disorder is as unique to each of us as our own personality.

Much closer to my experience of bipolar disorder is that of Lorelei. I love her video parody "Franny's Bipolar", not least because this lady is uncannily identical to my late bipolar mother in her mannerisms, expressions and humour.

She has the same same style of making up little alternative lyrics for songs and over dramatising them. I also love her account of being hospitalized and selling her meds for ciggies before being brutalized by "the nurse named Gail who they called the white whale". My mother had nicknames for everyone... as did I when I was working. I think it was a kinda passive aggressive way of undermining authority figures. Anyway, Lorelei's general demeanour and her tale of hospitalization is the bipolar disorder I am familiar with.

I don't know if any of this has been of any help or interest to anyone, maybe it's just muddied the waters even more. But if nothing else I hope it's offered a window into the lives of two remarkable people.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

When posting my last pile of crap, I forgot that I could include John Breeding’s video on the page. So for anyone who wants a look here it is…

John is openly sceptical about bipolar disorder and highlights the recent trend towards medicalising normal behaviours in children, such as them being “devastated” at not getting an ice cream and being “elated” at being tickled. With regard to labels, he reminds us that no one wants a mental illness like schizophrenia and suggests that it is a diagnosis primarily “reserved for the lower classes”. Bipolar Disorder however, he suggests is now a very trendy diagnosis and is commonly associated with important people such as Abe Lincoln. I initially found myself much in agreement with John until it became apparent that he was not just alarmed at the over diagnosing in children but was rather dismissive of the condition altogether. The final recommendations for bipolar disorder from the “Professor” were “drink lots o’ water” and have “lots a luvvin”. This therapy reeked of “good ole southern boy becomes scientologist”.

There is however no doubt that bipolar disorder has become increasingly trendy and his comparison with schizophrenia is a good one. I think Joe Public does associate schizophrenia as some sort of cerebral cancer that utterly devastates the talents of the likes of Peter Green and Syd Barret. Some kind of horrible leprosy that blights lives and that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. On the other hand many people view bipolar disorder as a rare gift that bestows almost magical talents. As Breeding says there are huge lists of famous bipolars (even if some are a bit dubious) that people are in awe of, from Newton and Beethoven through to Van Gogh and Cobain (I’ll omit Gascoigne and O’Connor). Little wonder then that many folks view bipolar as a blessing rather than a curse. Unfortunately there is little awareness of how devastating the condition can be on those affected and their families.

Bipolar is a word that gets bandied about all over the place nowadays. According to the tabloids it seems to affect just about every celebrity we read about, from Amy Winehose to Britney Spears.

Last night I saw an interview with the UK’s most famous bipolar, Stephen Fry. During the interview Stephen remarked that he was currently on pills to help him stop smoking. These pills made him a bit giggly and sometimes laugh for no apparent reason. He said this was something he had never experienced before in his life. How queer I thought, that’s something I d…..chortle chortle… in fact I’m actually laughing out loud at this very minute…. I also seem to remember that in his documentary “The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive” he said something like “I get down for for about 7 days every year”. Well… err... isn’t that normal? He doesn’t fancy taking medicine nor has he ever been admitted to hospital. This doesn’t sound at all like the manic depression I know.

Now I’m a huge fan of Stephen’s work and he genuinely seems a very kind and profoundly sensitive man but I’m not entirely convinced of his diagnosis (thank fuck he won’t be reading this). Perhaps I would be if he gave all his money away and danced through the streets naked proclaiming himself the most brilliant man in the world… err… just one problem with that though, it couldn’t be proved a delusion as he probably is the most brilliant man in the world.

I am aware that there is a large continuum of the bipolar spectrum and after working in acute mental health care and also being in hospital as a patient I must confess to having only seen folks at the most extreme end of the spectrum and not the vast majority elsewhere along the line. The reason I’m giving poor Stephen such a hard time is because he holds Britain’s bipolar torch. More than anyone else, he defines the public perception of manic depression. My concern is that people look at him and see a successful, wealthy, charismatic, man who has a huge of catalogue work, fair enough, he gets a bit down now and again but picks himself up and carries on because he’s got the right frame of mind. He doesn’t need pills, he’s got the strength and positive attitude to brush off this mild annoyance. They then look at me and say, well you’ve got the same thing as him, why can’t you do that? Why don’t you go to work any more you lazy, benefit-scrounging, good for nothing layabout?

It’s great that a much loved national figure like Stephen has spoken openly about his traumas and depression. I’m sure it’s helped reduce a lot of the stigma around mental health issues but I’m not so sure that it has really improved the public awareness and understanding of bipolar disorder.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Today I passed another milestone on the drudge towards death…. well I guess that’s how I’d put it at other times but fortunately my upbeat mood continues and the outlook at the moment seems quite rosy.

Yes, I’m 48 today (probably in stones as well as years, thank you depakote).

I’m still busy producing music, here’s one of my recent songs, it’s a kinda bipolar blues (I ripped the vocal sample from an interesting video by psychologist Professor John Breeding, in which he talks about a new and very trendy illness called "bipolar disorder") anyway here's my little tune….

Once again I’ve launched myself on Bebo and MySpace in the hope of finding a musical niche for myself…. so far there has been only one response.

But just in case there us a sudden demand for my musical talents I have prepared for performance and bought a kick ass valve amp that will blow your head off at 40 paces.

Apart from making music and wandering through cyberspace, I’m basically still staying indoors and avoiding the real world. But hopefully I will be enticed out of my solitary confinement in the near future by musical opportunities.