I awoke to the sounds of a patient singing the Titanic soundtrack at the top of her lungs. I sat up and swung my legs off the bed and put my feet on the floor I paused for just a few seconds. I didn’t know what the time was but I guessed from the general hustle and bustle of the ward it was around 8 or 9am. From observing for the past 3 days, Mornings seemed to be the busiest on the ward; there’s ‘handover’ that’s where night staff and day staff discuss the previous night’s events to give them a heads up. The Jolly Trolly, named so by a patient called Duncan, opens for patients to receive their morning meds. People tended to be a lot more needy in the morning too, as they wanted to get on with their day but were restricted to the ward, so there is a lot of tension and frustration in the air. Staff were constantly trying to appease all 21 patients to avoid people kicking off. I tried to keep a low profile to avoid getting caught in the whirlwind of activity, as I knew it would only irritate me. It’s hard to plan your day in here and let ideas grow organically because a lot of the activities are prescribed and planned for you. It’s a synthetic existence, but for many it’s their reality and their semi permanent lives.
The doctors have a theory about how I managed to get myself admitted to Wedgewood hospital. They believe I have never found a healthy coping mechanism to deal with the issues that have arisen in my life. When I was eleven I started cutting and I did so until I was 14 when work took over, I got my first job working on a market stall every Wednesday before and after school plus I needed to study for my GCSE’s too. Work gave me a rush that the cutting couldn’t, with cuts you could only go deeper but with work you could go higher, it was a sensible trade off. Work gave me a sense of self worth and purpose. I still didn’t feel I had a place in the world, but that didn’t matter because work became my world now. Friends didn’t matter neither did taking time off to relax. I’m in Wedgewood unit to ‘have a rest’ and try and ‘find new, healthier coping mechanisms’ The doctors feel because of the way I am programmed trying to help find new coping mechanisms outside the hospital would be counter productive. I’m still trying to search for what I am coping with All I know is that for my entire life I have been in survival mode, limping through life but recently I’ve been barely crawling by each day. I cant seem to exist in society, I’m uncomfortable with people and basic human activity, for some reason it frightens me and makes me feel ill. I normally manage to survive by using work as a distraction from everything around me, but now not even that is working properly. As I am unable to enjoy the world, or live in the present, I’m always in the future. I am hyper sensitive to everything around me and I cannot switch it off. I’m never content and have constant running commentary taking over my head and censoring everything I do and say. Trying to face up to this feels like part of me is being killed off.
About My Bipolar:
My Bipolar is about a 23 year old musician called Afrika Green who in early January 2014 was diagnosed with Bipolar. My Bipolar documents her 2 month stint in Wedgewood Psychiatric hospital and her ups and downs since leaving the unit and as she comes to terms with her condition.
These weekly articles aim to:
1. Make someone, somewhere, laugh;
2. Say something useful.
3. Connect with others with Mental Health difficulties
Each post can be read on it’s own, but there’s a thread to the pieces.
Chronic Fatigue is what i’m currently experiencing. I’m on a seriously high dose of Olanzapine which the doctor is saying is causing my tiredness. I sleep between 10-12 hours a night, when I wake up I am just as tired as when I went to bed. My concentration is shot and daily tasks that I used to do make me tired now. I asked my care co-ordinator to pass on a message to my doctor that I want to come off my medication but apparently I have to wait until my appointment with him in March. In the mean time they have halved my Olanzopine which really isn’t doing much if anything its making me depressed as I’m not getting as nearly as much stuff done and for someone who keeps busy its crippling to see the work suffer.
Finally managed to find a new place to live, it’s a 2 bedroomed terraced just on the outskirts of town. We were going to move to cambridge but the properties were shoddy for the money plus we would have to commute for work. Its surprising how we lived out of one room for 3 years, now we have the headspace to take things forward.
Going back to work has been really hard for so many reasons:
The meds I’m currently on are on such a high does I have to work ten times as hard just to function efficiently at just a fraction of what I am used to.
There is no worse feeling then asking for your job back again and have people think you may be incapable of doing your job. It feels like everyone looking at me differently.
When you’re in hospital time feels irrelevant the whole purpose of your stay is to recover, however long that takes. Everyone else on the outside world continues as normal. When I returned to work it felt like I was the new person again starting on the bottom rung trying to earn my stripes by helping people with the odd job. I’ve chosen just to keep my head down and do what I need to do.
I think part of the reason I got admitted to hospital was from the stress of work, having to help people on their own life journeys, I chose not to have any supervision as part of work because I thought I was strong enough to carry other peoples worries and issues on my shoulders but I was wrong….. to not go back to that I need to separate myself from the work I do and remember that it is just a job remember to leave all the shit at the door at 5 o clock.
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find support outside of hospital. I have a care coordinator associated with G block and a few sessions left with my psychologist from the hospital until I’m hopefully transferred to a psychologist in the community. Apart from that i’m pretty much left to my own devices. Its just the polar opposite from hospital where you are cared for 24/7 all wrapped up in cotton wool. I find just talking about my day with the C.C a bit of a waste of time. I think I may need CBT or DBT to help me break the cycle of trying to fit as much as I possibly can into my day to stop my thoughts racing.
Today whilst I waited for my care coordinator I spotted a poster, it read ‘Bury Bipolar Group’ I made a note of the date in my phone. Monday evening I made my way to the venue. I was early and met with the organisers Mary and Stuart. The reception was warm and welcoming, we sat and waited for people to arrive. The group opened with introduction, we went round the circle and said our names and when we were diagnosed. Some people were diagnosed over 30 years ago some only a few months for me only a week. Im still coming to terms with the diagnosis. I hadn’t heard of type 1 and type 2 bipolar. I still don’t know what type I am or if i’m even a type at all. What the difference is between the types? What strikes me was how different everyones bipolar is. Everyone has different meds and different highs and lows, it’s more like a spectrum. I was given a laminated mood scale card which outlined possible manic, depressive and balanced behaviours
It really helped me to see when things are becoming any of the two extremes. I also borrowed some books.
Today I got my freedom back. I was discharged from hospital. I sat in the ward round with 2 nurses, a Psychiatrist, my boyfriend and care coordinator. “You look so much more relaxed” said the psychiatrist. To be honest I don’t think I have any option the medication I’m on knocks me for six. It was such a short ward round a simple question do you feel ready to leave? I diagnosis of bipolar and then you can leave the hospital today.
I don’t know when I developed OCD I can always remember having quirky mannerisms from the age of seven; I thought I needed a pee every few minutes and repeated phrases in groups of four. At age 10 I wasn’t able to walk on the cracks in between the pavement and stopped every three paces for four seconds, which meant that going anywhere took me ages but I grew out of these. None of them inhibited me until I was fifteen when it was like a super form of obsessive compulsion hit me all at once. There were no events that triggered it. My main concern was about losing things. I constantly checked all my stuff to make sure it was there. I would call friends and ask them whether I had left items at their house sometimes as a genuine concern, sometimes blatantly knowing that they were in my possession. It would feel like a force was controlling me touch and stare at the object just to make sure I had it. Everything had its place, and would need to be lined up accordingly; this could minutes at a time and was very draining physically and mentally. I also hoarded because I had fears of losing important things in rubbish or that I may need something that I threw away literally at (some point) in my life. I kept wrappers, old bits of food, empty containers, and scraps of paper, just so I could avoid the feeling of loss or even worse regret. I would also need to wash my hands constantly until the backs of my hands were smooth and sore. I would switch the light off in groups of four until I was satisfied, which was never. I did the same to the bathroom taps because I didn’t like to waste water so I would tighten the taps until no one could turn them on, I was trying to avoid them dripping at all. I had a routine when leaving the house for school; I would lock the door then stand there for five minutes trying to get back in my pushing on the handle and actual door itself until I was satisfied it was actually locked. I also couldn’t have anything that wasn’t new; I couldn’t have the top magazine out of a pile because it would be dog eared and scuffed, I would search through the entire pile for the most near perfect one. Indulging in these routines was killing me, and little did I know that people reassuring me was pacifying my compulsions which was part of the reoccurring problem.
My friends Heather and Barbara paid for me to have sessions with Nicola Ridgeway a local Psychologist. I had what was known as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and normal talking therapy. I had to work hard to suppress the compulsions by challenging the thought and doing the complete opposite of what mind was telling me to do. I would have to throw half eaten bags of crisps away, midway through eating them.
Everything was going okay, I was writing in my journal. I went and had my meds around 9am. I asked if I could have my razor from my property box. Marie handed it to me I said I would return it in 10 minutes after my shower. Afterwards, I returned the shaver to a member of staff and went back to my room to continue jotting thoughts and feelings in my journal. Suddenly I had the greatest impulse to cut. I dropped everything and asked Marie for the my razor. “you need it back again?” I nodded and smiled unconvincingly as she handed it over to me, I hastily made my was back to my room and wasted no time searching for a pointy instrument to prise the blade out of the protective plastic. The adrenaline was now pumping and I had my hand firmly on the self destruction button, all I needed now was that instrument to get it out amidst my rushing around I failed to hear Marie buzz herself into my room. “Why do you need the razor?” she asked. I knew she knew what my motives were so I spared her the bullshit “I’m not giving it back” “ come on Affy I must have the razor back, come on lets talk about it” I moved back away from her whilst shaking my head, I was so scared I didn’t know what the repercussions for having a razor was but I sure as hell didn’t want to lose the one outlet for my pent up rage and emotions I had to hand. I kept the razor down by my side and made my way around the perimeter of my bed to the other side. “Affy please lets just talk, I don’t want to have to call for backup” as her thumb hovered across the grey panic fob attached to her belt loop. I frowned and continued to shake my head. Before I had a chance say anything more, the alarm was sounded and I could hear the thundering footsteps of concerned nurses coming towards my door. There Stood Mikey, Luke, Joram, Ian and Corinne. I was so scared I couldn’t think straight; I’m pretty sure that’s what people must feel like when they are trying to commit suicide. “Back off!” I shouted as Luke inched closer, the tears were starting to well up now as I was being herded into a corner. “Come on do the right thing my love” Luke said. I shook my head and pressed the neck of the razor handle against the wardrobe and snapped it off. Without using words I was telling them aggressively that there was only one bit of razor I wanted, the rest can be discarded. With the razor still in the plastic covering in one hand and a pen in the other I jabbed the pen in between the blade and the plastic covering and used a leaver motion to snap the plastic off. I must have let my guard slip because moments later I was facedown on my bed being restrained by Luke and Mikey and Marie on my feet. Corinne moved the cylindrical poofe around the other side of the bed sat down and said “you need to relax and we’ll let you up” I struggled and shouted “Let me go!”. I continued to be restrained until I wore myself out and gave in. I sat up with both Luke and the Ian either side of me. The consultant doctor who saw me in the my ward round came in and said “we’d like to offer you some medication?” I said “NO!” and struggled further to try and get out of Luke’s grip
“well if you refuse we will have to give you an injection” I pleaded no to both. “the injection it will be then” the doctor said as he left. I was finally allowed out of the restraints and I began pacing wall-to-wall knowing what was about to happen. Marie returned with a cardboard bed pan filled with blue latex gloves and a pair of syringes, before I had a chance to struggle again, Luke and the Ian had me bent back over the bed again whilst Marie gave me two shots of Rapid Tranq in my ass. Then I was let back up and Marie said it would work much quicker than oral tablet form.