Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I've spent most of the past few days in bed with snots and aches and pains... no they are not three of the seven dwarfs, nor the alternative names for the Rice Krispies... I've still been rotten with the cold/bubonic plague. I thought colds would be much milder since I stopped smoking but they seem to get worse with age. And where the fuck does all that sputum come from? You've no sooner emptied your lungs of a bucket load then you immediately start wheezing and rasping again. How does it synthesize faster than you can cough it out... If only my biceps and beer belly could metabolize as fast as that. I think I've turned the corner now and am finally on the mend but it's making me think about having another three years of virtual isolation and avoiding all germs.

I see in the last comments I've got another request to be some sort of torch bearer for bipolar. Me a "leader"?... err... only of a small anarchist cell to overthrow leaders methinks... "find people in need"... oh gawd... do we need to... there seems to be no shortage of miserable folks on the world wide net. Teetering terabytes packed with blogs of unhappy people longing for a formal diagnosis. Oh I know I'm being a cunt but I feel like shit today and the last thing I needed was to be invited to another group. Groups just aren't my bag baby. Never have been, never will. I have never felt a sense of belonging or affiliation to anything be it a football team or even a country. And like the late and incredibly brave Kirsty MacColl I have no desire to change the world...

I spent 26 years in health care, I don't ever want to go back to it. I gave it 100%, I have no more to give. My days of supporting other folks are done. Finito!

My blog is primarily a personal record for me as my memory has been terrible since they fried my brain. Also, my sense of time is very poor. I can't remember if something happened two months or two years ago. So the blog is basically just my diary and I can easily search it for stuff using the search box.

I also enjoy making the pictures and generally showing off, I always have done.
Finally... and this really is at the bottom of the priority list... I thought it might interest some people to read about my experience as someone with this disorder. In particular, what it is like to see a psychiatrist. I always used to wonder about how they questioned, probed, analysed and therapized you. My experience has not been like this at all. With the exception of my very first appointment where the doc spent an hour gathering background history (which I lied about), the shrinks only asks practical stuff like have you been going out? Instead of spending the day doing nothing is there anything you would like to do? Exactly the same stuff as an ordinary person would, the only big difference is that the shrink also prescribes pills.

Also, my experience is different from other peoples, I don't live in a city, I don't have a crisis team or a day centre. Maybe some day this will be useful to one reader.

I've read a lot of blogs/articles where people write that "THIS IS WHAT ECT IS LIKE", "THIS IS WHAT OLANZAPINE DOES" and they declaim like religious zealots that these are the facts. In the real world however, everyone's experience is different and my experiences provide the reader with just one more viewpoint to add to the many. From all of these they can draw their own conclusions.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The day after meeting with Woodstock and Shiny Shoes I got an email from my muso friend asking me to play with his blues band on the Saturday night. Their singer had gone down with the cold and apparently I had made an impression at the blues night and they thought I could fill the gap. Only two days warning to get ready for a real gig... ZOIKS! Any nerves I had were quickly brushed aside by dreams of being a guitar hero for the night.

(Apologies for the above shocking image, it does not allude to Seaneen's plant).

So I spent two days playing my socks off, sustaining real, live, bleeding fingers and come Saturday I was high as a kite. We rehearsed all Saturday afternoon and played the gig on Saturday night. The band's guitarist did most of the singing while I took over on lead guitar but I got to do a few songs of my own too and really got in the spirit of it throwing myself into the performance compared to the rather sobre stances of the others. So much so that I got to do the two encores. It was also great to get paid for a change, some money to go towards a new guitar.

I took another trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday to see about buying a new guitar but none of the shops had an Epiphone semi acoustic in stock. The bus journeys were, as ever, adventures. Phones ringing, people answering them loudly in strange languages, drunks smoking fags, walkmans blaring out tinny drum sounds and yobs swearing profusely despite all the old people on the bus. Obviously, the driver, me and everyone else pretends they can't hear all this. I'm really taken aback at how many "Fucks'" and "cunts" are roared aggressively to each other and into phones with no thought of how intimidating this is for other folks. It must be great for politicians in ivory towers talking about congestion charges and getting people onto public transport, they obviously never get on a bus in the real world.

Midweek I met with my old P.A. for lunch which was great. It's the first time for ages I've met up with an ex colleague and it was really nice to see her and catch up with all the gossip. As well as being a colleague she was a great friend so I had none of the old paranoia about NHS staff being out to get me.

After all the week's excitement there was a price to be paid. All this new found mingling with the human race did not come without cost. I felt a tingle in my throat on Thursday night and by Friday morning this had developed into the cold. Real bummer as I was supposed to be going to an open mike session last night. Despite all my aches and pains, I have crawled from my death bed today to write these parting words.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

On Sunday we did lunch with the internet people… *cue scary theme music*....”DA DA DA!!!”.

My fears of meeting a group of psychos were unfounded, they were two lovely, normal couples who chatted away fine and it all went well. It was only afterwards I realised the irony of it. It never occurred to me for one second that I was the psycho that they were coming to meet and I had a bloody cheek thinking that they might be the nutters. Isn’t that weird?

My level of insight into my illness/personality is very hard to explain. Certainly at the moment I consider myself completely normal, albeit with one or two minor issues that need resolved. But were I reviewing someone else with all my history and behaviours I might think differently, well I know I would. I just can’t accept or come to terms with the fact that I am mad. I can’t believe how easily I slipped from the other side. I can almost hear David Byrne singing “And you may ask yourself… Well, how did I get here?”

On Monday my winemaking kit arrived and I spent the afternoon busily sterilizing things like an overworked midwife and got on with the serious business of brewing up some merlot. It should be ready to poison me before Christmas.

Last night there was an interesting programme on TV “How mad are you?” in which 10 people go to stay in a country house. 5 normal people and 5 with psychiatric disorders. There is a team of psychiatrist, psychologist and nurse who purely by remote observation have to work out who is who. It’s basically “Spot the loony” or “I’m a nutter get me out of here”. After a couple of days they had to pick one normal person and one mentally ill. Interestingly the person they all agreed was the best adjusted, normal person turned out to have a chronic illness. As I said above, I don’t really think of myself as a nutter, I certainly have no desire to join something like Mad Pride or wave the flag for bipolar folks as I don’t feel any sense of affiliation to any particular group. I just found it an interesting and programme which was akin to the Rosenhan experiment.

This morning I met with Dr Woodstock and Mr Shiny Shoes. I encouraged Shiny to use the opportunity to ask me any questions he liked but he just kinda blushed and mumbled something like “No it’s OK”. He was sat further back from us and I felt sorry for him as he looked such an awkward observer. Once again he never said a word but at least he did have those very shiny shoes on. I kept imagining Moonstone would suddenly jump up and shriek out “I want those ruby slippers!”

But she didn't. Instead she asked the usual stuff about my mood, sleep, level of activity and sociability. I explained it was all good, I was sleeping around 8 hours a night and feeling very positive about everything at the moment. She once again emphasized that I should be looking for indicators of hypomania and planning to manage these promptly rather than letting things escalate out of hand. Unlike my previous shrink who was a real ignorant bastard and refused to offer my wife any guidelines for responding to concerns about my mood, Moonstone was very clear and helpful about this. One of the difficulties accessing care is that there is no out of hours psychiatrist in our region and NHS24 is such an unbelievably crap service which makes you jump through so many hoops and after many hours responds with “computer says no”. Moonstone says don’t hesitate to contact the CMHT between 9 and 5 for any reason, out of hours contact the acute inpatient unit directly where a nurse led service with access to your records will provide a much better response than NHS24. She wrote all this down on a note for my wife which I very much appreciated as my memory is on par with the 1kb of an old Sinclair ZX81…my first computer.

Then came the difficult subject of medication. My valproate levels are perfect at 78 µg/ml. As I am doing well at the moment, she was loathe to change anything, She argued that she didn’t want to risk me going high and having to go into hospital, end up getting sedated and having to suffer a big comedown. I guess she was following the old adage of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I insisted however that “it was broke”. Although I am mentally well, I am still grossly obese, sweating with marked oedema (I still can’t get any proper shoes on) and having palpitations on mild exertion. I would like to feel better physically. She asked what I thought was causing this and I said I was sure it was the quetiapine. She eventually and reluctantly agreed to reduce the quetiapine to 50mg at night.

She asked how I’d got on with the lifestyle advisor and I reminded her that I was not a private patient so did not expect to get an NHS appointment before 2015.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything on here. I've been fine, I just haven't had the compulsion to write anything. Nothing extraordinary has happened and for a change (albeit temporarily) I haven't felt like massaging my ego and showing off.

Last weekend we went for lunch with my sister and her hubby which went well and without disaster. No fish bones were choked on, no wine spilt and no huge family arguments took place.

There was supposed to be another blues night following the one last month but I never got any word about it. I had decided that I had overstepped the mark the last time by hogging centre stage all night and presumed I wouldn't be asked back. However my mate came round this afternoon and asked me to play again on the 21st... but he did ask me not to take centre stage this time and try and stick to the blues rather than drift off onto pop covers. I'd rather play the pop stuff that folks want to listen to than twiddle away playing 20 minute solos, musing on our collective navels but I'm desperate to get any sort of gig so will happily be a phoney and sell out on my ideals.

Speaking of phonies, I've also finished making my fake guitar which now pretends to be a Fender. Looks convincing...

Tomorrow we're going to Edinburgh to have lunch with some people I've never met before. Folks who have been virtual buddies on the internet for a long time in a quiz room I visit. I know, I know, imagine actually meeting people you met online. Potentially very creepy stuff but at least it will add a wee bit excitement to our dull lives.

Speaking of creeps, isn't Chrissie Hynde's version of Creep just so fuckin' special....