Thursday, 23 October 2008

I was feeling pretty good when I went to meet Moonstone yesterday. I didn't get wound up while waiting at the health centre like I usually do. I feigned anger and scolded her for being late.

She asked if it was OK for a medical student to sit in. I said that was fine. They always sit completely still and mute so you quickly forget they are there. I find it a bit odd as when I was a student nurse I would take every opportunity to talk with patients and try and get some insight into their lives. I found I could always remember a particular patient with a specific condition far more easily than a lecture on that illness. Anyway, although he didn't say a word, this dude was quite a contrast to Moonstone. She was in her usual "tribute to The Mamas and The Papas uniform"...

whereas the silent student was dressed impeccably. Almost as if he was expecting Sir Lancelot Spratt to appear and make an impromptu inspection...

The most stunning part of his outfit was his shoes. I have never seen such shiny shoes in all my life, not even in a shop window. These shoes looked as if they had just been manufactured and polished to extreme in a dust free vacuum.

Dr Woodstock asked how I'd been and when I told her about playing the gig, going to Edinburgh and Glasgow and asking Portillo to refer me to the Lifestyle advisor, well you could have knocked her over with a feather.

I watched the different emotions run across her face, a mixture of smiles, surprise and concern. I could read her mind thinking "oh comes hypomania". To make matters worse I started to get the giggles. It was one of those situations where you know you shouldn't so it just makes it worse.

We then spoke about my medication and she was hesitant about reducing my quetiapine. I accused her of viewing my simple happiness as pathological and reneging on our agreement. She kind of shrugged her shoulders and said "well what do you plan to do with your quetiapine". I said reduce it further to 50mg twice daily with a view to stopping it. She smiled and said OK but would I accept an increase in my Depakote. I accepted this and she asked me to get my valproate levels checked before she increased it. She asked about what I am like when I'm high and what measures were in place for responding to this. I explained that I never get so bad that I'm running through the streets naked but I tend to get busy building websites, buying guitars and jumping into "get rich quick schemes" none of which results in any great damage. As for response, I said my wife usually contacts the GP who then contacts the shrinks.

She also asked if I recognise indicators when I'm getting high. I explained that sleep was my guiding light. Less than 6 hours sleep means I'm up and more than 10 hours sleep means I'm down. That was about it. As I left the trainee doctor moved for the first time and mumbled "Bye". I see her again in three weeks. In the meantime I've started refurbishing a guitar I plan to sell on Ebay.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Appalled by my accelerating weight gain and stinking, sweaty body odour I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and arrange to see the lifestyle advisor. I doubt there'll be any magical treatment but maybe I'll get inspired to do the obvious.

I have to get referred by my GP so on Thursday I went to see Portillo. He asked what I'd been up to and when I told him about the holiday to Spain and then playing at a gig for three hours he was pretty well gobsmacked. In fact he looked totally incredulous.

We chatted for a while and he checked out my blood pressure which was fine and the oedema on my legs which was not. He says he has never seen anyone get oedema like this from antipsychotics. I presume it'll go when I stop my quetapine. Anyway, hopefully it won't be long before I start my "Lose weight you fat bastard" programme.

I took my camera for a walk yesterday. Although it was bright and sunny the wind was howling and in the woods millions of leaves were falling like snowflakes from the heavens. In parts of the wood they carpeted the entire ground...

Salmon are in the river now and fishing is going on in earnest...

It's strange how I always seem to feel better in towards the end of the year. It's almost like I have the opposite of seasonal affective disorder. Perhaps in the summer I should have the opposite of a light box, maybe a black box?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Well after Monday's long lie I was determined to get to Edinburgh so had an early night. I woke spontaneously around 6:30am yesterday which is a real record for me of late. I was out of the house by half seven and off on my merry way to the bus stop.

My biggest fear was how to use my bus pass. Do I just flash it as I board or what? They give you one but don't tell you how to use it. Anyway I stepped up onto the bus, flashed my card and went to get a seat. I was immediately called back by a grumpy driver who told me I had to put it on a scanner and then state my destination. I did this then walked on "Hey! Ticket!" yelled the grouch.

I went back and the old git gave me a ticket. Fine, that's that sorted. After two 2 hours cramped up in a seat designed for a five year old midget I was in Edinburgh, barely able to move I somehow crawled out of the bus and made my way to Princes Street.

I had researched my route and bus numbers online so once in Edinburgh I knew where to go but I still had to suss out their system, I couldn't face another embarrassing faux pas in front of a busload of scowling pensioners. I went to a random bus stop and spent a few minutes watching people boarding buses, there was no sign of a scanner here, folks just seemed to show their pass. So I went and jumped on a number 26 flashed my card and sat down, no questions no ticket. The driver just pressed a button everytime someone showed a pass. Great, no need to speak at all, fab. I went out to Corstorphine and entered guitarguitar.

Staff in music shops are notorious for being snotty, difficult, aloof posers and ..well...basically a bunch of bastards who are loathe to sell you anything never mind let you touch their precious goods. I was so pleased to hear that the worst culprits of all, Sound Control, recently went bust..moooo ha ha haaaa... Instant karma's gonna get ya. Anyway, I found myself entering the usual scenario... me the only customer in the shop and six members of staff mulling around chatting and laughing with each other apparently completely unaware of my presence. I had a quick look round and was about to leave this holy temple of angels lest I soil it with my dirty mortal coil when one of the blokes came up to me and said "can I give you a hand with anything mate?". I asked him if I could try a particular guitar and he immediately said "yeah, no problem" and set everything up for me with an amp in a soundproof booth. "Take as long as you like and let me know if you need any help". I was really impressed, the couldn't have been nicer. After, I'd tried it, I felt a bit embarrassed that I wasn't actually going to buy it there and then.

After that I practiced my bus pass prowess by going down to Ocean Terminal to use their lovely free toilets and then travelled around the city randomly before taking the tortuous long journey home in the coach with the microseats which was akin to being placed in the Iron Maiden.

Now you may be thinking... "well done mo! fancy you taking the bus trip all alone"... praise ye not for more is to come.... I woke early again this morning and thought what the hell... let's go to Glasgow today. I was all cavalier now that I had mastered the kingdom of the buss pass. I was out the house at 7:30 and was soon cramming half a buttock into the tiny piece of cloth covered board they call the seat on the bus. Today the bus was busier and a poor old man had to sit beside me, he couldn't fit in either so he spent the journey riding sidesaddle with half his arse and his legs in the aisle. 2 hours later and we were being surgically removed at Edinburgh bus station. Once again I wasn't sure what to do on the Glasgow coach which was run by yet another company. I held back and it turns out there is no scanner but you must show your card and state your destination to get a ticket. I was getting a bit fraught and didn't quite understand the gruff driver saying "That's a bank card not a bus pass"... oops, wrong card... but never mind soon I was sinking into the relatively plush, soft roomy seats of the CityLink coach. I was needing a pee and noticed there was even a toilet at the back of the bus but I was too scared to use it in case it all went horribly wrong and something happened like the door falling off and me being left exposed. Crazy... but I guess I am, that's why I take the pills.

Once in Glasgow I needed to do another bit of bus stop lurking to check out the system but all the bus stops were empty or had young people waiting at them. Eventually I found a couple of pensioners waiting for a bus so I stood behind them ready to peek over their shoulders like some perv. Ooops.... I probably should have started out this entry by saying that all pensioners and disabled people in Scotland get free bus travel throughout the country. I have a pass as I receive DLA (disability allowance) but I have never really used it before. It's a great idea but all the buses which were previously mostly empty are now jam packed full of old people day tripping around the country. And now it seems I am joining them.

Anyway, the buses in Glasgow had yet another system, no speech required but you do get a ticket. Well that was that, I had discovered all the ways to travel and was now relaxed about it all. That's when the heavens opened. There was a downpour of torrential rain and within minutes I was soaked to the skin. I ran back for the bus, puffing and panting, hot and sweaty. When I was younger I was always very skinny and never used to sweat at all. But like most folks, since going on antipsychotics I have piled on the weight and now sweat terribly. Not too much of a problem when you lie in bed all day or sit watching TV but if I'm up walking about I start to sweat and it's smelly man sweat. I can't use deodourant/antiperspirant as I'm allergic to all the alcoholy thingys, I hate it.

By the time I had rushed through the streets to catch the bus home I smelt like a tramp, reeking of B.O. Just to make things worse, someone I knew got on the bus and came and sat with me on the way home. When some folks had got off and there were free seats she said "I'm gonna go and stretch out a bit" and sat in the empty seat in front. It was nice of her to say that as she was probably about puking with the reek off me. If I smell it myself, what must it be like for other folks?

I headed straight for the bath when I got home... sheer luxury, followed by spag bol and a can of beer. The house is freezing but the electric blanket is on and I'm going off to curl up in it.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Well I did it. I ventured out of the house and cowardly went where most men have gone before. I went to the blues night. My mate wasn't there when I got there, so I walked into the room, looked around at all the faces looking at me and felt completely gormless... PANIC!!!

It was time for fight or flight. I don't know how it happened but I switched onto autopilot to my old crap patter, introducing myself to everyone and making wisecracks (or unwise cracks) to all and sundry. By the time my pal arrived I was all set up and ready to play. By this time I was buzzing, all wound up and pacing around the floor as if I was on whizz, desperate to get a move on.

We had rehearsed 5 songs and I wanted to get them done and out of the way. I was standing behind the mike, centre stage, clutching my guitar, ready to do my songs when I am suddenly told there will be no "sets" as such, just a big jam session. "Great" I think, I can just blend into the background... but nope... no one else has stood up to the plate and all eyes are on me to kick off. So I kick off with some standard 12 bar blues and as soon as I'm singing and playing I feel relaxed. It was really good, I ended up hogging the limelight but there was only one other singer there so that was OK I think. The only thing I did that riled some folks was I did some requests for songs like "American Pie", "Stuck In The Middle With You" and "Brown Eyed Girl". A couple of the purist musos were moaning "that's not the blues" but what the hell, they're great songs and those were the songs that folks sang along with. I ended up playing for three hours! I felt energized and keen to do more music stuff in the future.

This has been a monumental step for me. The next day I slept until 3pm, woke for 10 minutes to have a cup of tea then slept again until 6pm. When I did finally get up I felt completely wracked with guilt, that horrible stomach churning nausea and a feeling of total shame. Why? I don't really know. Maybe I feel like I've somehow betrayed my illness by enjoying myself... how dare I leap out of the sick role for one night of madness. It was a real comedown.

Once again I felt like a fraud, just a chancer pretending to be ill. Fortunately those feelings had mostly eased off by yesterday and I wanted to try and keep motivated. I had planned to go to Edinburgh today but I slept until 12 noon. Even on the reduced dose of Seroquel (quetiapine) I'm still oversedated. Never mind I will try and get there some day this week.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

I met with Moonstone yesterday...

She thought I looked better. We looked over my mood charts and activity charts. I've been more active since discovering I was over 18 stones. Also, the mere fact that I have to chart it, encourages me to do things. My mood remains constant, permanently entrenched in "mild depression without significant impairment". This is partly because I have no sensation of mood but simply assess myself by my behaviour. I guess mild activity equals mild mood so that's what I write. We spoke about the holiday, I had found it easier to engage with people in Majorca because they were complete strangers and had no preconceptions about me. Living in a small town everyone knows me and expects me to be exuberant, loud, friendly and overenthusiastic. Anything less will be interpreted as an insult or at least a cold shoulder. I explained my life would be much simpler if I lived in a city. Moonstone then suggested that I should go to the city and check out some guitar shops where I could wander round anonymously, so I'm thinking about doing that, maybe next week.

She also suggested I think about attending the local bipolar group but I told her I'd tried it out before and didn't feel I'd anything much in common with the other 3 people there apart from a diagnosis. I also explained about my previous difficulty accessing the mental health user group, travelling over 20 miles only to find it closed on a couple of occasions then leaving in the huff.

She then got round to discussing a further reduction in my valproate. I took a deep breath and said I didn't have a problem with the depakote but I really wanted to stop the quetiapine (Seroquel). I explained how I was sleeping too much and was oversedated during the day I was getting more and more oedematous. I expected her to frown and start putting up barriers but she didn't. She simply asked why I had gone on it and I explained that it was supposed to animate me but had done anything but. I was astounded when she smiled and said "OK, lets get rid of it". I told her I was surprised at her decision and she said "Nobody knows you better than you. This is a partnership and we shall try and do what you feel is best for you." I was gobsmacked.

So my quetiapine is now reduced to 100mg twice daily and once I'm off it my valproate will go back up to 2g daily. Dr Woodstock is the best shrink I have had yet, I'm getting more at ease with her and I can feel myself getting happier and more trusting.

Things are in fact going so well that I'm thinking of going out tomorrow night. I have been asked to play at a Blues Night/Open Mike Night and I'm gonna try and go for it. I haven't been in a pub for 3 years never mind played a gig but I feel I have to try and do something before I die or I'm just gonna be looking back at all the wasted years.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Well we headed off to Majorca last weekend and all my fears about our online booking were unfounded. My little A4 printout was accepted at the airport, the transfer point and the hotel. It all went incredibly smoothly.

Cala D'Or was incredibly quiet compared to the last time we went in the midsummer. The tavernas were empty and the shops were starting to close down for the winter. We were lucky with the weather, they had storms in Palma but on the east side of the island we had sun every day with just the odd cloud passing over.

We returned to Scotland on Saturday night to find things much colder here with a touch of ground frost in the early morning. While we were away, the swallows flew south, the salmon returned to spawn and the chestnuts fell from the trees. However, much more significant than these autumnal changes was a change discovered in my bathroom. I stepped on the scales, leant forward to peer past my beer belly (or is it my quetiapine belly?) and gazed at the scales in horror.... 18 stones 3 pounds... FUCK!!!! I can't believe I'm still getting heavier. I had to do something about it immediately. I walked downtown and back up the big hill twice today, gasping and sweating all the way. Old men strode past me with ease. Once home, I even tried to do a 20 minute video work out thing led by an overenthusiastic Stepford Wife who was obviously on amphetamines. She grinned and jumped about squealing "You can do it!!! Come on, just 8 more!!!".... "no I can't you crazy bitch" I grunted and pressed eject on the DVD.

Once rid of the mad woman I half heartedly did some weights. My obesity is now my number one serious problem, madness comes second.

Moonstone thinks my weight and my hypersomnia are due to the Depakote and from today my valproate was reduced again, now down to 750mg twice a day. I don't think it is as I wasn't as bad as this until I went onto quetiapine. I see her again on Wednesday and I'll try and pluck up the courage to ask her to stop the quetiapine. I don't know why I'm apprehensive about asking her. I guess I know she'll put up a strong argument against that idea and my thinking is so slow now that I am totally useless at debating in real time. I'll just get lost for words and submit. I need to spend about a day thinking about things and then write it down.

When I was on holiday I read a book for the first time in ages. I read Russell Brand's autobiography "My Booky Wook". Absolutely excellent read. If you don't know him, he's a flamboyant, eccentric comedian, notorious for his addictions to heroin and sex and well almost everything really.

Anyway, at one point in a rehab clinic he was diagnosed bipolar and put on Abilify (Aripiprazole). He said he had to stop taking it as took away his ability to draw quickly on his vocabulary, he was literally lost for words and instead of just pulling them out of thin air he had to figuratively go upstairs and into the attic and rummage around for the right word. I know that feeling exactly. I used to be able to make up poems and songs on the fly, spontaneously writing a couple of lines ahead of myself as I went and singing fluently as if it was a well rehearsed piece. All that has gone however since going mad and getting intoxicated with pills and fried with ECT. In fact, I suppose to be honest, all that went in my first catatonic period before I got any treatment. I'm now a hollow version of the person I was, blown up on the outside and empty on the inside.