The truth is out there…

It has always amazed me at the response I get from people when I ‘out’ myself. Since diagnosis in 2007, I have always vowed to fight stigma and never to deny my illness.  However, having said that I am also aware that confessing to my condition in certain situations is much like signing a ‘witch hunt’ warrant.

I do not wish to sound like a contradiction so allow me to elaborate.

In friendships and new acquaintances, I am fully 100% upfront and forthright about this aspect of my life.  Yes, I have bipolar, no that does not make me someone to fear.  Yes, if this is an issue to you, kindly take a hike now before I grow emotionally attached to you. Close the door on your way out. Simple.

However, in terms of my professional life and my business, to put it ‘out there’ unnecessarily is not a wise move.  I speak from experience. In my previous employment as a professional, I was fully open about my condition as I hoped that this frank approach would help to reduce stigma and fear of mental illness in a relatively small workplace.  Ha.Fucking.Ha.  Welcome to the pinnacle of dumb fucking ideas.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had been a bubbly, well-liked member of staff who got on with everyone whilst refusing to fall into ‘clicks’.  Post-diagnosis – I was ‘frozen out’ by the vast majority of colleagues and became the ‘target’ of all manner of gossip.  It seems that when you are open about having a mental illness certain rules suddenly seem to apply:

1 – Everything you say should be taken with a pinch of salt because “She’s crazy so she must either be full of bullshit, or just downright delusional.”

2 – Someone with bipolar disorder automatically becomes fair-game for all manner of gossip.  Loyalty means nothing anymore and stories are just ‘juicier’ if they involve someone who’s ‘unstable.’

3 – Anyone with a mental illness diagnosis must be kept at arms’ length at all times – you never know when they may just ‘flip out and go on a rampage.’

I wish I was joking. I really do.  So forgive me if keeping a roof over my head stands in the way of ‘coming out’ in my professional life but honesty doesn’t pay the bills. I won’t even go into the employment tribunal against my previous employers who forced me out of the workplace under the guise of maternity issues.  It’s all too common according to the union.

However, the truth IS out there now.  Back at the beginning of the year, a mixed state hit and I was signed off work (a new place of employment) for several weeks.  Upon my return, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.  People who once would sit and eat lunch with me, now will not even make eye contact.  People who I would laugh and banter with, now meet my greetings with, “What do you want?”  Even as I type this, I still find it hard to believe that we are treated with such injustice in 2015.  It seems that political correctness has gone into overdrive but prejudice and stigma against mental illness is fair game.

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My own worst enemy…

It’s that time of year again.  The Easter holidays, oh joy!  This equates to 16 days off from work.  The average person would more than likely whoop it up at the prospect.  I am not the average person.  The thought of 16 days to myself fills me with dread.

16 days off means 16 days of no work.  16 days of no structure.  16 days with myself for company. Fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I quite like my own company but I am, without a doubt, my own worst enemy.  When left to my own devices, I make bad choices.  I don’t mean to, it just happens.  I hate that I make bad choices but I never seem to be able to overrule those bad choices. It would appear that currently, bipolar rules this Queen’s castle.

Take this morning for instance.  Here’s how it should have played out…

I leapt from my bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the prospect of have 16 days of school holidays stretching ahead of me.  So much to do, so little time.  Places to go, people to see.  As I waved off ‘The boy’ to work, I bounded upstairs to get ready for my fun-packed day.  Friends to meet, coffee to drink, gossip to share (I jest, I am a guy’s girl but you get the idea)

Oh wait.  Enter reality…

I swallowed down my medication (a miracle in itself that I remembered to take it) with a cup of tea made by ‘The boy’, waved him off at the door with a false smile pasted onto my face before dragging myself back upstairs and flopping back into bed.  And there I stayed.  The highlight of my productivity?  Reading a few pages of my book ‘The Wishing Game’ before promptly passing out again.

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The most frustrating thing?  I am annoyed with myself for my lack of motivation yet already I am looking forward to doing exactly the same thing tomorrow once I hear his key turn in the lock, effectively shutting me away from the rest of the world.

He is complaining that the ‘Pretty Purple Pills’ have changed me.  Where is the insatiable wife that he had become so accustomed to – I am now zombie-like in my exchanges.  But WE know the alternative don’t we?  You only have to read back several entries to meet ‘The Other Wife.’

And so I paste on a smile and will fake it till I make it.  But it hurts. It really hurts.

Old Boots, New Dirt…

Fuck.  It’s the biggest event of my social calendar today and all I want to do is crawl under the covers and hide there for the foreseeable.  There are 3 reasons that I am attempting to dodge those options:

1) Today is ‘Country 2 Country.’  As a huge , British fan of country music, this is my annual opportunity to see some of my favourite acts.  Trying to see big name country stars in the U.K is like getting your hands on a good cup of tea whilst in the U.S.A – i.e. virtually impossible.  If I can just make it out of the house and get down the M1 to ‘The Big Smoke’ (London)  I will be in the musical presence of Kip Moore, Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean.  When you’re a British country fan, that’s a pretty big fucking deal!

2) My best friend managed to get her hands on a backstage pass for me to see and meet Dierks Bentley at last year’s ‘Country 2 Country’ – whaddya know I was too sick to go!

3) For the last 3 years I have been regularly speaking with a guy from Facebook – what started our friendship was a love of mutual music genres and bands.  For the past 6 years we have struck up a great bond, that involves, in true British fashion, a lot of piss-taking with a HUGE side order of sarcasm.  We have been attempting to meet at various events over the years but it has never happened.  Ok, I may be slightly to blame for that one as he will tell you.  But today, he will be there.  And I will be there… If i can just shrug off this overwhelming wave of anxiety that keeps crashing down upon me.

Damn you bipolar, damn you to hell.

p.s – Oh and my nails have star-spangled banners on them – it’d be rude to waste them after my friend spent an age painstakingly painting them last night.

Pretty, purple pills

And so I have finally relented, in an attempt to do ‘the right thing.’  Alongside the high-dosage anti-depressants I take each morning, I have finally submitted and accepted the pretty, purple pills that are Depakote.

“I am very concerned that you have been existing on just anti-depressants for so long,” says my new Shrink, ‘Dr. Hot’ (ok that’s not really his name but work with me) “without an additional mood stabiliser that puts you at a very high risk of swinging into some severe manic phases, which is a real concern!”

“No shit Sherlock, a bit late for that!” I think nodding and doing the whole concerned face whilst inwardly rolling my eyes… “Just tell him…Tell him…”

I keep quiet and nod solemnly before accepting the prescription and promising to take the pills like a good girl.

But what if these lilac-coloured beauties don’t ‘fix’ me.  What if this is it?  What if this is who I am now? A person I don’t even recognise, a person who I don’t even like?  The lines have become so blurred, I can no longer tell where I end and the bipolar begins…

Mania: The Frienemy

And here we have it; the mixed state.  The giant ‘Fuck You’ of bipolar affective disorder.  The “Think you know how to handle this one Kid, huh? WRONG!”

The thing with mania is it’s SO obvious to everyone around you that you are high, that intervention usually comes.  However, mixed states are tricky – to everyone around me it would appear that I am not quite myself, “You’ve lost your sparkle!” but those slow movements, those forced smiles, those “I’ll be ok, it’s just a blip” mask something much darker underneath. Mania.

The thing with mania is, to the average person it may sound like something quite fun – ‘wouldn’t mind me a piece of that’ kinda episode.  And I’ll admit it, I LOVE it.  When I’m in it. Afterwards? Fuck.

I always refer to mania as a woman.  She is a temptress who is designed to obliterate all feelings of rationality and logic.  She stamps on them and grinds them out like a cast-aside cigarette in her beautiful, pristine stiletto heels.

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Am I me?  Yes.  Am I acting like me? No.  Do I have regret, remorse or guilt for the things that I have done during this episode? Nope, not one.  And this is where the problem lies.  Eventually this episode will come to a grinding halt and I’ll be left with my mind spinning, scratching my head and looking back at the destruction with a detached disbelief and the remorse will hit me like a tidal wave.  If it doesn’t? Then I’m fucked.