Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The fog is lifting.

Last two days have seen a vast improvement in my state of mind. I am getting back in touch with possibilities, with hope, with the idea of a future. The self-recriminations have all but gone from my head. That stale, repetitious drone of self-loathing has subsided into silence. I am already picturing a new life, making fresh footsteps into the virgin snow of the future. Shedding the weight of this inevitable and maybe unavoidable depression.

I have some useful new directions for the route, that are, if you like, a gift of this breakdown. I know I need to prioritise relationships and friendships. They are the hardest thing for me, and yet the most important. I cannot continue to avoid dealing with my intimacy issues.

Before I felt horribly trapped. Physically free but mentally and emotionally in a stifling, suffocating dungeon. I felt that my relationship with R is hellish but that I will never be able to make another, so I am trapped in hell. Now the fear is gone. I know once again that I have choices.

Take care all. Lots of love, Zoe.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Should I wipe this blog?

That's what I was thinking yesterday. The idea had appeal then...I was very depressed and tired all day...but I slept well last night and am rethinking now. What appeals is the idea of making a completely fresh start. But perhaps what I also wanted to do is symbolically expunge the last three months, when everything I had so carefully and effortfully built up seemed to come crashing down.

Removing the blog cannot remove this chunk of my life and the unwelcome realities that it has brought to bear on me.

However, it's no longer appropriate to call this the blog of my withdrawal, as I have had to return to taking psych meds. It is the end of an experiment, an episode of my life from which I learned a lot and which was tremendously hopeful and exciting. I guess with all the benefits of hindsight I had too much invested in an idea. From the loneliness I feel in this depression I need to invest more in close relationships and less in ideas.

It's undeniably a blow to my pride not to mention my self-esteem. It's hard to distinguish the feelings of loss and mourning for my 'failure' from the biological imperative of depression following mania, but I know they are there.

Acceptance is calling me now. Calling me on because I know that there is a future for me and a life. I do not expend much energy contemplating suicide: I have been through this routine so many times before. I have been worse than this, a lot worse, and much more suicidal, but I demonstrated to myself that I could absolutely come back from that place relatively intact and live a good life. All the better for having been to hell, because there is that sense of benediction you get in a resurrection of sorts.

I have not really begun to sum up this experiment and what I have learned from it. I can't do it justice right now. I am grateful for the record I have kept of it here, and as thoughts and reflections on it occur to me I can write them down.

There is no guarantee that I won't have a relapse on meds, any more than there was off meds. I have had breakdowns on them, off them, and in the past they were often precipitated by stressful events. However I have been burned by this experience. For the time being I am on meds. I want to get into some therapy that is a good fit for what I need now, and I will continue to review, monitor and explore my feelings about being on meds as well as how the meds seem to make me feel.

Non. Je ne regrette rien! Zoe.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A prolonged whine.

Well I will try not to just give vent to one of those, but can't promise anything. I'm not Ms Stoical, stiff upper lip. When it hurts I cry and prefer to have someone there to hear me!

This week, I have to say, the depression got worse. It's become angry and agitated. My thoughts are my enemy. Even in my sleep there is little peace, because the poison sneaks into my dreams. I couldn't go to work yesterday. I have redoubled my efforts to get into the crisis unit, and it seems the GP has finally sent the risk assessment over, I'm hoping I will hear from them soon, and that they will call me in for an assessment.

However. I have been eating sensibly, healthily and moderately, and enjoying my food. I sleep well. I have been reading Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, which is a memoir in cartoon form. I listen to Radio 4 and get quite absorbed by that sometimes. I even watched a documentary on TV about the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, North London. In other words I do get little windows in between the self-recrimination and harsh judgment of my own thoughts.

I went to my Dual Recovery meeting yesterday which was really good. We went for a coffee afterwards. It's the social contact that I need which at the same time feels safe, because everyone there has experienced mental illness. And I had a chance to share about how I'm feeling in the meeting. Openly and honestly and not having to hold stuff back.

Later today I'm meeting two friends at the cafe. Apart from that there's nothing that urgently needs doing. Good. Take care all. Love, Zoe.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Powered by WebRing.

A dreaded sunny day...

...So let's go where we're happy and I'll meet you at the cemetery gates...

Well, the work day is nearly done, I've spent most of it tying myself in painful mental knots but at least I'm still here.

Spent quite a lot of time yesterday scanning various people's handy tips and hints for getting more comments on your blog. Also, reading other people's more successful blogs than mine. When I can get over the painful feeling of envy and inferiority that that engenders at the moment (because I am depressed and basically constantly looking for reasons to feel worse) I begin to understand ways that I can tweak what I'm doing here to make it more reader-friendly and more comment-friendly.

One thing I plead guilty to is not always having answered comments. Apologies to anyone I did that to. I just had not really mastered this aspect of netiquette. Secondly I need to make a point of visiting other blogs, finding some favourites, and commenting. When I comment it's best to have something pertinent to add.

I also need to add more links to my blogroll, and get into the habit of using links in my posts. Asking open questions and inviting comments explicitly is also a good idea. Up till now I've been using this blog mainly as a personal diary, with the aim of monitoring myself, but actually I really value the interactive side of things and want to get more involved in the online communities. As mental patient calls it 'the madosphere'. Hey I did my first link! Hope I got the url right. I'm still a novice at this game! No, stop the press, the correct link is I think!

I'll get there. Love, Zoe

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lonely, sad, needy.

Another sad, Sunday afternoon. R has gone which is probably a blessing for both of us, since I am convinced I am annoying hell out of anyone I'm with and at least I can be miserable on my own with no one to account to for it.

The tendency to compare myself and my lot constantly with others is still there, playng havoc with my head. This week at least I am less inclined to blame R and project my stuff on to him, and instead am directing my ire at myself.

The self-obsession does not make me exactly riveting company no doubt, and the amount of comments on my blogs has dwindled from few to nil accordingly which feeds right into my sense of loneliness.

Overwhelmed by losses. Exhausted, and after a night's sleep wake up more exhausted still. It's almost two calendar months since I became ill. I guess I've just got to give it time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some 'me' time...

...Pottering, baking bread, doing chores. Enjoying the house and some peace and quiet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Only connect...

Another better day today. Although I awoke feeling like crap I went to the AGM of a charity I am a member of and have done voluntary work for, called MATCH (Mothers Apart from their Children). It was a great tonic, it always is (I've been to the last two). It was down by Westminster Bridge, in the heart of Touristland. It did me a power of good seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and hearing the talk by a wonderful lady called Sarah Hart ( about letting go of guilt, caring for ourselves, doing our grieving and keeping the love (for our children) alive, and so on. She was a real inspiration.

Maybe I am getting better. If so, that is short for a depressive episode. I'm probably not out of the woods just yet, anyway we'll see. My referral to the crisis house is being processed but maybe by the time they call me for an assessment I might not need it any more. The panic and anxiety, the intense neediness and loneliness is subsiding. I'm focusing better. I'm taking pleasure in reading, eating and talking. I'm laughing more. It's all good.

People at the AGM who know me all commented on how well I looked, so I guess my year of living dangerously healthily has paid off. All those supplements I'm still shoving down my neck each morning.

Back to the gym this week. No more excuses! Apart from anything else it's money down the drain if I don't go.

Lots of love. Zoe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Whither my self-esteem?

Shattered and in bits. That's what a manic breakdown does to you. You have to start over. It all takes time, and the depression that follows mania isn't pretty. I've known worse. I've been suicidal, making plans. This time I don't even go there. I know this will pass. All the same, it is hideous.

The worst thing for me is the empty feeling of absolute neediness and dependence. I have nothing inside myself, no resources to buoy myself up. It is a horrible blow to my hard-won pride and self-respect to feel like this again.

HOWEVER. I went to work today. I've lasted the whole day, unlike the other day when I went home in the afternoon. I've completed a few routine, fairly simple tasks and been busy most of the day. Yesterday, likewise, I went to Learn Direct at the library and did two and a half hours worth of my course on Presentations. That was also an improvement on what I managed last time. I guess my concentration is improving, despite myself.

And I'm going to my Dual Recovery Anonymous group this evening. I missed it last week, couldn't face the trip across London. This week, despite myself, despite the pain, I am stronger.

I remember feeling OK and more than OK. I remember I had some rapid cycling mood swings but an underlying sense of well-being. I remember a sense of hope and excitement about this new phase of my life. I remember the delight I felt at being able to take my health into my own hands.

I can get all of that back. I repeat. I CAN GET ALL OF THAT BACK. Maybe I will have to take the blasted meds as well. But all those great things I was doing for myself are still just as important.

And I've got my CBT sessions to begin working on the relationship issues, the difficulties with intimacy. I've identified that as a priority area, if not THE priority area.

Love, Zoe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Struggling with envy and odious comparisons.

My friend has a new man. She has also lost a shedload of weight. She has tons of close friends. She is going to try for a baby. It's all quite difficult and painful for me, in the sorry state I'm in. She seems to have all that I feel I lack. She even gets along well with her mother and speaks to her on the phone most days.

She also has a serious mood disorder (unipolar depression) and is a recovering alcoholic. She has well and truly been through the mill over the last four years, and certainly deserves a break. But I can't really find it in my heart to be happy for her at the moment. I feel too sad for myself, as if her happiness somehow takes away from mine. Ridiculous I know.

This is a confession. I'm not proud of it. I have talked to her about it. She was understanding. She seems a far more accepting, tolerant person than I am. But there I go again. Feeling 'less than', perceiving her as 'more than'.

This too will pass. At least I bloody hope so. It's horrible to feel like this. Zoe.

Sad and serious post.

I am alive. And while there's life there's hope. For God's sake, I've got my physical health and strength. I will survive this. In time I will get up from this corpse of my shattered self-esteem like Plath's Lady Lazarus and walk on. I'm beginning to remember that others survive far worse challenges. This, at least, is all in my mind. No-one died! I wasn't tortured or raped (thank you BBC World Service) and I haven't just survived a car crash in which both my sons died.

I look back at my life before this breakdown with longing. I have lost the innocence of my belief that I could cure this thing with a lot of hard work and just wanting it badly enough. It just doesn't work that way. My friends at Moodgarden don't want this disorder any more than I do. They have probably done their share of denial. After all, that is a part of the grieving process.

Even the lack of understanding and dismissive attitude of relatives is not uncommon. That is denial too. They don't want to take on board that one so near and dear can be a prey to this illness. It is too threatening to all they think they know. They probably have no idea how hurtful it can be to the person with the illness, who is then burdened further by the assumption that the illness is basically their moral weakness, almost a choice.

I have not been blessed with the backing and support of a strong and united family. And in my relationship I have tended to repeat that pattern, choosing someone who is only ever supportive up to a point and who, when the chips are down, I often feel abandoned by. That just means that I need to find and forge strong bonds with my own family of friends. That is not easy for me. My comfort zone is to be alone...until it becomes painful and distressing.

But it is OK to be where I'm at. Even if that's pretty much rock bottom right now. The dance of life is progress, and it really doesn't matter where you start from, the point is to be on the move, growing, developing, moving nearer the light, reaching out more and more to others, breaking down fear.

This is all quite sad and serious. Heck, I'm depressed. But I will rise again. Watch me!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


It's two and a half years since I last had serious depression. It's a hideous condition. Depression that follows mania is even worse than the usual sort in my experience, because you have to deal with all the fall-out from what you did and said when you were manic. The embarrassment and shame alone could kill you.

I also have to accept that I cannot even carry on with the original raison d'etre of this blog, which was monitoring my life in withdrawal from and free of meds. I am now back on 1000mg Sodium Valproate, an anti-convulsant mood stabilizer.

Not sure whether this means I will have to change the blurb at the beginning of the blog. I think I will have to update it in some way. Otherwise people may come here and then feel short-changed when they find out I am not the dazzling success story that they were looking to read about.

I will have to find some other niche, or just create my own, Zoe-shaped niche, I suppose.

I'm really glad that I did write this blog, though. It's a very useful record and reminder of what life was like off meds. It was by no means all roses. The rapid cycling, milder moodswings were quite disruptive and unsettling. Though they didn't stop me functioning, they made things difficult. I think the Sodium Valproate does dampen those down. It dampens me down overall. This is a trade-off. It's always a trade-off...the side effects for more stability. I do need more stability than I had, even before this episode.

I still have few readers, but this is still early days. Blogging is not a skill that you just learn overnight. How to build an active blog, with comments and discussion, is a whole other thing than just keeping a diary, which has been kind of my mindset up till now. Maybe it's as well. By the time I do develop a readership, there will be an interesting (hopefully!) archive to look back at. On Wordpress, they do that thing 'Posts that I want you to read'. If/when I make it over to Wordpress that would be a useful tool, and encourage me to make more of a conscious effort over some entries.

Depression is awful, excoriating, soul-killing. But I'm already starting to look forward. Optimism and hope will return. I am good at that. Maybe I even have a talent for it, but it's one I've had to use to the fullest, in this life. Even depression, it doesn't actually kill your soul. It just feels like it does. It can't hurt you. Maybe it even has a weird kind of function, one which eludes most of us. It's part of the rich tapestry.

Take care all. More very soon. I'm blogging a lot just now, also over at Moodgarden. People there are great at times like this, so supportive, and it feels safe and protected. Love, Zoe.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Oh dear.

Depression. It's been a long time since I renewed my acquaintance with this old enemy. Where were you all that time? You peeped in the window and a few times chased me around my living room but were usually gone within a few hours. This is the real thing. The real deal, when you know what you are in for when you go to bed. You know you will awake with dread in your heart at the thought of the day ahead. Sleep is the only release, and it is almost too comforting. The contrast with reality is all the more stark and horrible.

Self-confidence is a distant dream. I feel permanently guilty and worthless. I am overwhelmingly needy and dependent but I spend most of the time alone because I can't face social interaction.

I will have to, when this is over, start over. Find new hope and life. I've always been so good at making fresh starts. Just as well, because how many have I already had to make?

I'm just glad I don't have to do anything and that no-one is depending on me. Crying over my keyboard. Have been down on my knees praying to a silent God. My faith is shattered to tiny bits. With all the effort I made I thought I must surely stay well. That isn't how it works.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Struck down by the Big D.

Have sunk into Depression Proper since the weekend. The contact, with all it's emotional content, triggered a lot of stuff, but in any case, I was going that way. Am labouring under a ton of grief, well actually, I've keeled over under the weight of it. Even more or less took to my bed today. Cancelled one meeting which was going to be too challenging (with J's social worker and manager) and now only... only! have to go for a dental check-up. Pretty much every task I have to accomplish is a source of dread, especially social engagements.

But it's hardly a surprise. It is the nature of the beast. The hard part is accepting that, yes, I am still ill, that despite all my efforts to keep a healthy mind, body and spirit, I still had a breakdown. Am now back on 1000mg Sodium Valproate (Epilim). Have not entirely gone full circle to this time last year. But am still absolutely gutted.

I did, however, manage to do one and a half days back at my voluntary work. That really helped, though obviously it wasn't easy going back. Routine tasks and working for a concern bigger than myself, as part of a team, is one of the most therapeutic things I can do. Also managed some yoga. Gave up smoking early last week. Am eating healthily and not too much. But the sadness feels bottomless and overwhelming. All the losses. Because of this illness.

Take care all.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Contact with my Boy...

Yesterday had our afternoon with J. It went really well. However I was a bit hypersensitive because I am recovering from an episode, and I overreacted (afterwards) to a few things he said (about my weight and my frisbee-throwing!) Kind of exploded at Richard in the evening. He was very restrained really, considering the state I was getting in. I was just emotionally overwrought and found the whole thing...the contact, my Mum's presence in my house, the depression, all too much.

However as I say it was a good contact. Enjoyable, quite relaxed, and for once we didn't have to drive for miles. It was nice to take J back to a place that he remembers well from his younger years, with us.

But I am having to readjust to life on earth. When I feel low I think, oh this is it, I'm in for months of this now. When I feel OK I am half waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don't entirely know what to expect. This episode hasn't been typical so far, so I don't know how much I will be affected by the depression. Some, though, is pretty much inevitable. I'm also grieving for my good mental and physical health, for the feeling of well-being, optimism and self-belief that I had when I was completely on the programme.

I can get back to it, but I have to face the fact that even with the yoga, the meditation, the careful nutritious sugar and caffeine-free diet, all the supplements and all the exercise at the gym...oh and the 12-Step Fellowships...I STILL got ill.

Despite this being the Blog of my Withdrawal from the Dread Meds, I now find myself back on Depakote. I'm seeing the doc tomorrow and will negotiate for a lower dose but I think I will stay on it for the time being and observe how it seems to affect me. Whether, for instance, it sorts out the rapid-cycling but mild moodswings that were routine before the psychotic episode.

Am supposed to be back to my voluntary work tomorrow. I know that will not feel easy. I will find it hard to face them. But once I've overcome that initial barrier it should get better.

Take care all! Love, Zoe.