Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A year of false peaks

It is nearly a year to the day that I started this blog in an attempt, so I said at the time, to discover whether 'I am still me'. I will always be me, but I am certainly different. Apart from my grumpy, snappy, anti-depressant withdrawal days, I think I am different for the best.

I have discovered new abilities over this past year. One is the joy of writing. For although I have let this blog drift of late, I am constantly composing in my head. The other is something which has taken me by surprise and that is the ability to act. Not up on stage or in front of a camera but just throughout every day life. I have found the strength to put on a show, to smile and entertain and put on a very convincing act of being alright.

There are only a few who can see through this screen and they are not necessarily those who know me well. But mostly I have them fooled and duped and sometimes I actually enjoy the performance! I know that beneath the smokescreen of withdrawal there is an ‘alright’ me hiding inside. I know I have to sit it out and patiently wait and the horizon will eventually clear. This is not sickness I am dealing with now; the PTSD is something I have learnt to manage. The hell of getting off these pills is not something, I think, that anyone could manage or control. It is something I am learning instead to blag my way through.

But all the while I am learning. Seeing and feeling the world anew. I feel stronger and wiser (and much much wearier) for having weathered this particular storm. It has been a year of false peaks for me. I was there, I was better, I was floating on air and so I came off these pills. Then bang, out of the blue, there was another peak creeping up from behind the first. I wasn’t there at all. So I replenished my supplies, threw on another layer and continued my climb up the rocky slope.

This slope is rockier but more regular than the first. A drop in medication is followed by a gentle hill. 3 weeks of ambling comes to an end as a craggy cliff presents itself ahead. A week is spent climbing this wall, all the while the mania rising inside me. By the end of the week I am ready to explode, I reach the peak and collapse. A heavy sleep is woken with relief at the lack of mania, there is no cliff ahead. A day of rest and revelling in normality as I wander along a flat green plateau. It is a short-lived moment, and now I have learnt, it will always be followed by a fall. A deep and crumbling ravine into which I tumble. Rolling, bouncing and spiralling out of control. It is a canyon whose bottom is never reached, for that would be the end. You get caught on a ledge which holds you from the depths of the abyss. You lie and stare, hypnotically, into the blackness. It holds you and tries to suck you in. You can see no way you can climb off this ledge, you wonder if the only way is down. A month or so after skipping across the plateau, the mist begins to lift. Suddenly you see a way, a route out of the hole, there is an escape after all. So you reach the level play ground of life and marvel that you ever found it again. But you can’t stay long, the job is not done, it’s time to reduce the medication again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Even Green Lanes…

…looks beautiful on a cold and crispy foggy night. The lights glow through the misty haze and the street is filled with christmas romance. The familiar is obscured and the streets are covered with an exotic newness. A translucent white blanket wraps your world, the faults and the cracks are hidden and suddenly it’s a place that you love, a place you know and a place called home.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Was there radiation in my tea?

I have just woken from a 24 hour bout of something which I never want to experience again.

It could be blamed on yesterday's 5am start for an early train to Leeds, coupled with the same on Monday, a heavy week-end in Copenhagen and general December exhaustion. But it was a pretty extreme reaction to exhaustion alone. Perhaps it's something to do with very nearly being off my anti D's or drinking too much red wine to get me through the bad days. I don't know, but there was a moment or two on the 1.05 GNER train from Leeds to Kings Cross yesterday when I thought I wasn't going to make it.

Sipping a cup of Yorkshire Tea at the start of a meeting, the first meeting with a new client, at Leeds Art Gallery, I started to shiver and feel slightly sick. An hour later I was visibly shaking uncontrollably and convinced I was going to chunder imminently. We had a full day of meetings ahead and I wondered how on earth I was going to make it.

As we left the room to change location I muttered to my colleague that I wasn’t feeling too good. I went to the loo & the client followed, I could hardly chuck up in the cubicle next to her! I called time out and went to Browns, had a full fat coke and curled up on a sofa. The sugar might do the trick I thought. But I continued to shake and feel overwhelmed by nausea and I just wanted to be home in my bed.

So I called my colleague and told her I was leaving her to it, headed for the station to get the next train home. It was cancelled. So I waited an hour quivering like a junkie in cold turkey and restraining myself from groaning aloud. I needed more clothes to stop this insufferable chill but there was no-where to buy anything in the station and I was too cold to leave its enclosure. The train was packed with the passengers from the cancelled one and even First Class was hell. I wrapped myself up in my hat and my scarf and tried to go to sleep. This is when the alarm bells started to ring. Every time I drifted into sleep I felt even more nauseous and nearly passed out. So I spent the journey fighting off sleep, terrified of fainting and never waking up, I must have visited the loo over 20 times. People tried to hide their confused looks as this strange shaking woman walked passed again and locked herself in the smelly cubicle. By the time we hit Kings Cross there was nothing left to throw up. It was the longest journey of my life.

I crawled into a cab and finally made it home. I couldn’t get into bed quick enough. As soon as I slipped under my duvet the shivers subsided and were quickly replaced by the sweats. I have spent a fitful night in a drenched bed but this morning it seems to have gone. I’m exhausted and drained and dehydrated but whatever it was has passed.

I feel like I now have a better understanding of what poor Mr Litvinenko went through!


...from Matthew Norman in the Independent yesterday.

"Together they rode off into the sunset...

If the one was a soupcon less blithe and swaggering, and the other a smidgeon less slippery and self-righteous, you could almost have felt a twinge of pity for the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of global statesmanship as they met in Washington yesterday. Almost."

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why don't they see it coming?

Mental health services are failing to spot patients who are homicidal or suicidal, a report warns.

One person, on average a week dies at the hands of a mentally ill patient and 25 a week take their own lives.

29% of patients who committed homicide had seen mental health services in the previous week and 49% of those who killed themselves had done the same.

This is shocking and unforgivable. What will this Government do about this? Legislate I don't doubt. Problem = legislation should be New Labour's new mantra. Well before you try to change the law why don't you have a look at your system and see how it could work better?

The people who know best in situations like this are all too often ignored. How can a doctor, or social worker, or anyone else, who has known the patient only a short time, have more understanding of that person's condition than their friends and family? They can't and they don't.

Just before my friend went completely doolaley I remember calling his social worker, relentlessly. He had only known him for a matter of weeks. I told him he was ill, getting worse and something needed to be done. The social worker went to visit him. My friend is not stupid, even when he is mad he can pull the wool over a novice's eyes. I got a call the next day 'he seems fine to me'. His mother and sister and brother did the same, but still, apparently, the social worker knew better.

Too often in secure wards I have been treated like the enemy. I have ranted and raved and told them so. There is little effort to engage with supportive friends and families who are all desperately trying to help. The staff are there to clock there hours, do their job & earn their cash (there are gems who are invaluable and I don't want to generalise, but the committed staff are few and far between). People like me are just a pain in the arse.

The system needs a mind shift, not a law shift. We may not be qualified but we know the 'patients' better than anyone. It is time they started to listen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wonderful Wonderful

I was looking forward to my (god is it really?) 5th office Christmas party at the same company with a feeling of dread and trepidation. It sounds like a ball, but really; 2 days and a night with the people you spend every day of the week with is a bit over top for me.

A few drinks and a good meal would suffice for me, but we go one step further and have a Christmas mini break! The destination is secret and we are drip fed clues over the proceeding weeks. Sometimes we guess, sometimes we don’t. This year we though we had it narrowed down to two, someone even brought their guide book to Prague. Happily we were way off mark and on Friday morning we boarded a flight to Copenhagen.

The entertainment started early with a celebrity spot. Lily Allen and her band were in the row behind us. Still travelling cattle class, she said she liked to ‘keep it real’.

Well, Copenhagen was a delight and I am utterly smitten. It’s a little bit of Amsterdam without the stag do tourists. It is elegant and classy whilst keeping ‘it real’. And best of all, the men are all tall!

The shops are crammed with objects of practical beauty. I bought an insulated coffee maker, a pastry brush and a spring with which to hold tea towels. I was sucked into Georg Jensen and seduced by a design of no practicality but striking simplicity.

We ate and drank and danced till dawn. They were still queuing outside when we left the club at 5. There were ice rinks and roller coasters and sparkly Christmas fairs; straight backed cyclists and pickled herrings galore.

So the trepidation was in vain and a blast was had by all. I think I have found my spiritual home!

Go see this...

Forget turning a modern art gallery into Alton Towers in an effort to draw in the punters (although I haven’t been so shouldn’t judge), the V&A have installed an experience of meditative beauty into their garden courtyard instead.

This you cannot miss. Go when it's dark and wander through a forest of charcoal grey pillars. Your journey will be illuminated by ripples of changing colour flowing up and down the columns. Your step is the trigger for transforming a coldly inert post into a glowing, throbbing source of light and ambient sound. Written by Robert Del Naja (aka 3D) of Massive Attack and co-writer Neil Davidge the music is haunting. It will suck you in and hold you in it's world compelling you to stop and inhale, then take another step and add another strain to the symphony. Each path is unique, a moment in time never to be repeated but savoured and remembered.

Stand back and watch as others venture in. The rippling lights will dance with their route, converging as two cross, increasing in volume as more people enter. You cannot help those goose bumps from echoing the movement and fluttering up the back of your neck. You might not be able to leave.