The one about the bigger picture. 

Do not overestimate what you can do in one year, and underestimate what you can do in five. 

Something I’ve often told other people but am finding it hard to believe myself. 

I’m struggling to see a way out at the moment and it’s looking like a long way ahead until things start improving health wise for me. I haven’t found any effective medications yet after trying many, I’m off work, have weekly appointments with my GP and my psychiatrist, go to the hospital’s day program twice a week, feel crap a lot of the time and feel amazing the rest of it. Some nights I barely sleep. There seems to be a knock on effect of where my head is to quite a few other physical symptoms. And it’s all totally exhausting. 

Do I see myself still here in a year? Maybe. Unfortunately at the moment my answer is that it’s likely. I’ve already been here 6 months. But do I see myself here in 5 years? No. I am hoping (and expect) to be much better. More level headed, have effective medications, see my doctors a lot less (and hopefully only when I need new prescriptions!) and not have to go to the hospital at all. 

So this is what I’m trying to make my current thinking. The bigger picture is so much more important than what’s happening right now. Almost every acute situation will be a distant memory in a few years time. Even the worst ones.  

 It’s so hard to see where you are, in the moment. And that’s sometimes as far ahead as it’s possible to think about. And realistically, it’s all we have, as the future is never promised. But there is always a bigger picture. It’s not always better but most of the time it is. And in this situation I think it will be. 

The one where life has you by the balls. 

Life totally has me by the balls at the moment. There have certainly been plenty of other times this has happened in the past but the difference has been circumstance. It’s been about things I can, to some degree control. They have mostly been times when I have poured my energy into holding up the rest of the family and holding us all together.
Although those times have absolutely sucked, and I haven’t been able to do anything to prevent them, I have always found the strength to keep going and most of the time the energy to keep a smile on my face as it received one slap after another from a life, which at the time seemed determined to beat us. I kept walking through every storm. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes hour by hour and sometimes even minute by minute. Each one being a victory worthy of a huge celebration. 

But this time is different. My brain is attacking itself. It’s totally fried and confused and doesn’t know what the hell its doing. It’s like it’s forgotten how to function. It’s distorting my thoughts and view of the world it’s making me do things I’m certainly not proud of, it’s taking the ability to keep a smile on my face and it’s gradually eating away at any strength I have left. This time I no longer have the control of holding others up through tough times and being proud of it. Some days I feel I can’t even hold myself up and I wonder how long I can keep hanging on for. Other days I could hold up a million men without getting tired. I could climb Everest without so much as an oxygen tank. But it’s these swings which are totally exhausting me. And they are proving very difficult to wrestle under control.

 I’m taking drugs I despise. Ones labeled poison, drugs for epilepsy which I don’t even have, and some with revolting and embarrassing drug classes like “antipsychotics”. I take drugs that contraindicate the other drugs as the benefits outweigh the risks. And still I suffer. I wait. Until the drugs work. Until I realise they’re not and try something else. All the time never knowing how much longer I have to wait until something works. 

I wish things could go back to the way they were. And I don’t understand how after 36 years of adaptively living with this, without even knowing about it, despite now looking back and seeing it there clear as day, it is now so out of control. And there seems to be very little I can do about it. 

I have bipolar 1. Rated the 2nd worst mental health condition behind only schizophrenia due to being notoriously hard to treat and having a high mortality rate. And I fucking hate it. 

I hate suddenly having a disease like this. I hate being told I have an illness. I hate being told “you don’t realise how sick you are” I hate how it is totally controlling my life at the moment. I hate how I don’t know what I’m going to wake up like the next day. I hate how I’m becoming antisocial, how things I used to find fun I can’t plan for anymore because I don’t know what the next 5 minutes will bring, let alone the next week or two. And I hate how I’ve given up on even wanting to do those things at the moment because it is just easier. I hate how many medical bills we have. I hate that my husband had to leave his job because of this. I hate how many times I have to go to the doctor. I hate the support groups at the hospital. I hate how so many things in my future will no longer be doable.  

And right now, I hate being me. 

So please, I don’t need to be told how strong I am. I don’t want people to say keep smiling. Because right now, those things only annoy me. But I do want you to wait for me. To forgive me if I say no to your event, or cancel plans I made.  If I don’t return your message. If I don’t pick up your call. Please understand why, instead of being offended.

I’m fighting the biggest damn fight of my life and it’s hard. But I’m worth it. 

The one about a new direction

Sometimes in life, it can feel as if you can’t see the way forward. No matter how hard you try, you keep going round in circles, falling deeper and deeper into confusion and hopelessness. Barely treading water, in the roughest of seas, knowing the current could take you at any moment. You try new thing after new thing, bring out all the old tricks that worked in the past and nothing seems to help you find the way. The wheels are turning but you’re not moving. You bravely ask for help and still you get nowhere. At some points you even feel you’re going backwards. It’s exhausting and exasperating. And it goes on for what seems like eternity. 
Then one day you see a flash. Like lightning, illuminating where you are for just a split second. What you thought was there looks different. No wonder you can’t find the way out, the world doesn’t look like you thought it did. But was the flash real or imagined? You don’t care, you have to believe in it. It’s the only thing you have left as you’re not getting anywhere with what you were trying before.
So out of hope and desperation, you begin to move in this different direction. To explore the new ideas presented to you. Foreign in concept initially, spoken in a language you have never heard. Tentatively, as you find it hard to believe things could have been misunderstood for so long. Yet slowly, ever so slowly you start to believe. You start to understand the language and the different ways things are said. The belief becomes stronger. You see in the present moment, how things are different to what anyone has suggested before. But how long have they been like this? Is this new or has this always been there? The more you learn about the present, the more you can see it in there in the past. Until you reach what feels like the point of no return, the point you realise this new information explains everything. Precisely. From long before the struggles seemed to begin. You become a believer. Yet you can’t understand how nobody has noticed it before. And becoming a believer is daunting. 

Because this belief is life long. Managed not cured. No road to recovery only to remission. Yet with the struggles of the past, remission with a reason is an alluringly, attractive option.

I’ve always had my struggles muddied by grief and the stresses of children with special needs. Yet although these things contribute to who I am, and always will do, neither have ever taken me to the depths of despair I’ve been to lately. Perhaps triggers at best, but not the cause, not once have I ever believed them to be the cause. Many “professionals” have seen them on paper and assumed them to be the cause. Often recommending the same thing over and over again sometimes increasing in intensity, (often making me worse not better) to move through them hoping that I may come out the other side and be ok. 

But what I have learnt is that there is no other side to get to. It simply does not exist for me. And none of those suggestions were ever going to take me there. 

And At this point in my life, I can’t keep writing off my experiences to yet another kick in the guts from life. I’m stronger than that. 

So I now find myself coming to terms with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Which, although “worse” than anything I’ve ever been labeled with before, feels like I’ve found my way home.

 A home I know intimately, despite never knowingly being here before. 

Something I know fits me. Something I know I can work with, because I have worked with it for many years already. The current intensity is new, but bipolar is part of who I am. Since at least my mid to late teens, and something I’ll carry every day for the rest of my life. And I look forward to seeing what this next chapter has in store for me with renewed hope that I can cope with it.  

 
Special thanks to Matt Reid for the extraordinary efforts put into the artwork I’ll wear to remind me of this life changing moment x