The Scribbles of a Recovering Bipolar Addict

As you can see I’ve worked out how to change the heading for my site. Sorry but I couldn’t think of anything more catchy or fun.

Things are getting better. I’m feeling quite lively inasmuchas I feel interested in things again. Interested in things enough for these enthusiasms to sustain me through a day. I’m not waking up, having my morning Earl Grey, and thinking: Oh god, another day to get through, what am I going to do?

In a way this is as a result of the bookshop I’m am now volunteering in. Before I started work on Wednesday, I had bought myself a book there: Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life.

Now, I already more or less know that I don’t like Jorden B Peterson. I wasn’t expecting to feel particularly inspired by this text, but as it is a bestseller in the psychological non-fiction genre, as well as relatively recent, I thought I’d give it a go.

I read a bit of it before feeling like I wanted to know a bit more about the author before ploughing on, so I looked him up on YouTube, plumping for his dialogue with Russell Brand. I’m not a huge Brand fan, it has to be said, but as he interviews regularly, and has a recovery perspective, I thought it would be a good start.

It quickly transpired that Peterson had survived some terrifying ordeal, but neither one of them thought to update the viewer as to what had actually occurred. So I googled. As it turned out, Peterson had been a regular user of Diazepam for anxiety, and had taken himself off to Russia (a bit of a strange thing to do, I thought) in order to detox from this drug. This action had precipitated some kind of lapse into a near death experience that was the only thing he really wanted to talk about.

I was a bit surprised by all of this. Firstly, I had no idea Diazepam withdrawal was even a thing. I myself have used diazepam on and off over the past few years — in not especially high doses, and most of the time didn’t really feel any great alteration in consciousness — and have never had any strong symptoms either way.

Diazepam is known to be addictive. My experience with it was that the first few times I ingested it, it did really calm me down. But this was when I had been medication free for prolonged periods of time. After my first (and last) suicide attempt I was given Diazepam. At that time I was in a state of near continual horror of imagination, believing that people were planning to kidnap and torture me. My state of mind was near on the worst it has ever been. In those conditions Diazepam was a like a miracle drug. I honestly never thought I was going to be relieved from my terrors, and to find relief felt like the happiest day of my life. I thought: I can see why this drug would be addictive. But then my terror abated and I had no real need of the drug any more.

The last time I started to come off my meds: four months ago, I started to use the Diazepam the Dr had prescribed for me to use if I needed it. I was knee deep in an academic essay that an Italian sociologist had invited me to contribute to a book about freedom and art, and working from dusk to dawn, I started to experience severe panic due to my inability to sleep properly; even though I was also taking sleeping tablets. This was not a good state of affairs and I landed up being sectioned again. I was then put back on various meds and have been taking most of them ever since.

Back to Peterson. I must admit that I was not especially impressed that a famous psychologist would be taking diazepam to the extent that he felt the need to take himself off to Russia for a detox, and so I decided to stop exploring his work. But this foray into YouTube, into listening to ideas and conversations from thinkers again, produced a new zest to explore this activity further. As Malcolm Gladwell had popped up in the YouTube suggestions for further visits, I started to listen to him talking about the various books he has published.

Here was a speaker who could really talk! I enjoyed what he had to say about society, institutions in the US, about structural racism, education and our inability to detect a liar; we aren’t built to mistrust people apparently.

Gladwell clearly loves thinking. He’s also a brilliant and inspired story-teller. Humble, self-effacing and compassionate to those he dialogues with. He comes across as a very likeable guy, interested in all sorts of things.

Two days ago I spent more or less the whole day listening to his talks. I had completely forgotten, in my ennui, how much I enjoy listening to thinkers online. My last YouTube binge was with another Canadian thinker: Gabor Mate, but that was quite a while ago.

In the bookshop yesterday, still enthused by the world of writers and thought on a variety of topics, I found a couple more titles that aroused my curiosity: The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion, and Psychiatry, A Very Short Introduction by Tom Burns.

I am happy to report that my latest purchases have proved more exciting than Peterson’s rules for living. Who wants rules for living from someone living on the brink of near catastrophe?

Day Twenty-Four

It’s been four days since I’ve attended to this project. Not sure why really. I suppose the main reason is a bit of a lack of focus. I started out with the somewhat ambitious project of coming off all my Bipolar meds and writing about it. But, as my project unfolded, I’ve changed my mind and am now going to stay on my meds. I have come off the Olanzapine — a debilitating anti-psychotic — but I’m sticking with the mood stabiliser and anti-depressant.

I should say that I hate taking medication. For the first half of my life I was virulently opposed to psychiatric meds, viewing it as: dangerous, for the ‘straights’ and liable to induce an alcoholic relapse. But now I know these attitudes were simply based on ignorance and environmental conditioning. My mother wouldn’t even take me to see a GP, if she could possibly avoid it, when I was a child. She died of an illness that could have extended her life indefinitely had she taken the meds, but she refused them, saying positive thinking would save her. In AA, a deep skepticism about psychiatrists and medics abounds, and that too influenced me enormously. Not that I had even seen a shrink, in the early days. Counsellors, yes. Therapists, yes. Psychiatrists were reserved for the proper mad people, of which I was definitely not one.

I resisted meds for a very long time, even after I worked in a psyche ward, and had seen their effectiveness. If I was given a choice I wouldn’t take them. Invariably I was given a choice because I wasn’t prone to prolonged psychotic thinking; or so everyone thought. In reality I was, but I kept quiet about my unusual ideas, because I didn’t think they were unusual. Now I have been on these particular meds for a good few years on and off (mostly on), I see that I really was ill, even when I thought I wasn’t especially bad.

In reality my illness was just gathering momentum for the next florid relapse. Accepting all this has been a long process, a twenty-five year process. And I’m still in it. So, I’ve said this before in other posts, but I’ll repeat myself: my blog is now about how I live well as a person with Bipolar type 2.

I would change the title of my blog from Medication Free to something more descriptive of this new state of affairs, but I’m not especially techie, and am not quite sure how to do it. I’m also not sure how to make the most of my blog in terms of gaining readers, and making the whole page a bit more snazzy, but with most technological process, I’ve taught myself as I go along, and am hoping that this method will work with my blog too.

Today there was an interesting article in the Guardian about a blogger who wrote anonymously about her life as it unfolded, including her work life, and then got read by her colleagues and was told she would have to stop writing about work, before being made redundant a short time later. I really felt for her, of course. I don’t relish the thought of people I know personally reading what I write. A couple of people I know asked for more information when I told them about this space, and after filling them in, and in a couple of cases, telling them my handle on Twitter, I regretted that I did that. I felt that my freedom to speak unselfconsciously was seriously curtailed afterwards. Having said that, I haven’t written about anything I wouldn’t share with people I know. This has surprised me a bit because I thought the cloak of anonymity would really disinhibit me, but it hasn’t really. It’s just a space to talk about things regular life doesn’t really offer the opportunity for in an every day sense.

In writing about my life as it pertains to my psychiatric condition, it comes as a bit of a shock as to how much of my daily life is taken up with this material. There really isn’t very much I could say about myself that is not relevant. My illness is a constant condition which I am forever reminded about. Today, for example, in my first day working at the community bookshop (very enjoyable) I had to keep my cardigan on to cover the scar on my wrist from a suicide attempt three years ago. At first I was wearing a cotton dress with three quarter length sleeves, but I quickly put my cardigan back on because I didn’t want my colleague to see the scar. Then someone I have known all my life walked past the shop. Someone I no longer have a relationship with as a result of my alcoholism and Bipolar illness. It’s a long story, but I haven’t seen them in a while, and when they strolled past the shop once, and then again, walking the other way, I was thrown back into reflections about my past episodes and how they destroyed my relationship with this man who I used to adore like a father. It was a relationship of immense importance to me, never having had a proper father myself. The fact that this person holds me in such a bad light, and was so horrible to me, in ever increasing degrees as the years passed, causes me such pain when I think about it. Such is the cost of this disease, awareness of which may strike at any moment.

Despite this reminder of my difficulties I had a generally good morning in the bookshop. My new colleague knows nothing about me so has no reason to look down on me or treat me with antipathy. The only person who came in the shop that I knew is someone I have met very recently at my local AA meeting, and she too has not had her perception irreversibly altered for the worst. Regrettably this is an exceptional experience. Maybe as the years go by I will accumulate more of these experiences, if I manage to recover from my condition. I suppose that is something to hope for and to work towards.

Day Twenty

Another rainy morning here in South Wales.

I want to write something but I can’t really think of anything to write about. I’ve had a fairly busy couple of days, for me. Yesterday I ran into my ex again. This time I decided to be friendly, as being cold the couple of days previously had left me with such a feeling of melancholy. As a result of my increased warmth, I was invited to join T. for a hot drink outside a local cafe.

For most of our conversation this was a lively and pleasant experience. Another friend walked past and invited me for coffee this morning. We discussed art and T. encouraged me to try sketching on the street. He relayed how this was a sociable and satisfying experience and that perhaps my abstract paintings were somewhat insular, which is true. He talked about his family, who are currently visiting en masse, as they do every summer. I told him how bored I have been and the volunteer work I have signed up for.

In the time it took me to drink the tea he bought for me I noticed that his demeanour suddenly altered and he looked slightly disturbed. Soon after he said that he would have to go shortly. Not long after that he announced that he was leaving, even though he still had quite a bit of coffee in his cup. I realised that he was asking me to leave. So I got up and carried on up the street to peruse the second hand shops, as I had been planning to do when I happened upon him.

Obviously this is a bit of an odd denouement, socially speaking. But I have got used to this sort of behaviour from T. In truth I was just pleased that he had invited me to join him, and we managed to have a nice chat. I realised that in withdrawing my affection I had facilitated him reaching out to me. Where previously he had said he was unable to meet me for coffee, he was now inviting me to join him. As there has been some progress in my mental health — I am planning community activities for myself for the first time since moving here — I was happy to relay my progress to him. I think this came of something of a surprise. Now this morning I have been round to my old friend Liz’s house for a coffee.

I have employed a similar tactic with Liz. I wasn’t convinced that she was really extending herself with enough enthusiasm for me to bother to making a trip around to her place for a drink, even though she has invited me round a few times. Yesterday I noticed a change in her expression of good will — she really did mean it. She wanted to see me, and so I changed my tactic and went around to see her.

What I am trying to say is that I am done with people taking me for granted. I do’t expect miracles from people, no one is perfect, but I do require an acceptable level of respect. I take this to mean that I am improving in my mental health. My standards in relationships are increasing and so these same relationships, even though not perfect, are improving. It is the first time that I have really experienced change for a long time. This is also reflected in my changed relationship to finance. I am protecting and taking care of my resources of money and time. I have limits. I am employing strategies of self-care. These changes have taken a long long time to arise. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to wait forever.

Day Nineteen

The upward trajectory continues.

Yesterday was quite emotional for me because I ran into my ex on the high street. I was going to just walk straight past without saying hello, half pretending I had not seen him, but he caught my eye after calling out my nick-name, so I had to say hello. He gave me a slightly sad, imploring sort of glance at the prospect of missing the opportunity to say hello. This expression re-ignited all my affection for him and haunted me for the rest of the day.

The reason I ignored him, or tried to, is because he has told me he can’t meet me for coffee because he is depressed. “But I’m available on text and phone,” he assured me. What he means is, I can call him, but he won’t call me. Because I am the glue that held our friendship together, we are now drifting apart. I fell sad about that. It has meant that I am processing another layer of grief over the loss of our relationship, which I wasn’t really expecting.

So yesterday I was dealing with that. But by evening — curled up in front of the Walter Presents thriller I have been watching for a couple of days — it had passed. It actually dissipated and I felt thrillingly free. A freedom that I have not experienced since we broke up. So perhaps my efforts to maintain a friendship were not the best idea after all.

Today I have been quite active, taking my walk to the supermarket, which takes a good forty minutes; sitting in a local cafe reading; and I went for a cycle along the nature reserve beside the river. I cleaned and tidied and went through some information about local volunteer jobs, finding one that could lead to work, at a local community mental health organisation.

All of this activity has made me feel more optimistic. That I am embarking on a new chapter, having something to offer this new community I find myself in that sometimes feels like the middle of nowhere. The feelings of being stuck are starting to come undone.

Day Eighteen

It’s a muggy and rainy day here in Wales. I’ve just got back from the community bookshop, where I dropped in to talk to the chairperson about a new voluntary position. His name is Guy, and he was very chatty, communicative and welcoming. He showed me around and discussed how the shop operates in terms of stock, finance and history. They earn enough to pay the £300 rent and give any profits to local charities. It’s entirely staffed by volunteers, and they are quite well staffed, so at the start I’ll just be providing cover for people who need a day off. I was a bit disappointed about that, and it means it will be harder to commit to any other volunteer jobs, as I want to be available to work in the bookshop.

After my discussion with Guy I meandered up the high street and went into a few of the charity shops. This is not something I usually do, but I didn’t want to sit here at home for too long drumming up activities for myself, so I decided to diversify. I didn’t find anything, but it was quite nice to loiter a bit longer on the high street than usual and do something different.

Charity shopping was something my ex really loved. He loved it, but he was also ambivalent about it, as he was always finding bargains, which meant he continually forked out for things he didn’t really need. He was always giving himself a hard time about his charity shopping, and saw it as a bit of an addiction. I was feeling like I was following in his footsteps as I perused the shops.

Between shops I happened to run into him. Funny, when you run into someone who is on your mind. The last three weeks, as I’ve said in earlier blogs, has been the longest time that I’ve barely seen him in. This is because he’s moved out of town, and I haven’t contacted him, which I usually would, just to say hello and ask how he’s doing. But as it’s all one way traffic, I’ve decided to refrain from this habit, and in consequence, I find myself still grieving our relationship. It comes over me in waves, and when it recedes I find myself grateful that the end is in sight. But at other times it feels as though it’s an endless process, and that I will never fully recover.

In general, I’m feeling a bit more upbeat because I went to my local AA meeting last night where I have a job making the tea. People were friendly, I re-connected with friends, and felt energised by the process. It’s good to have that community, and to feel a part of something, when I’m otherwise feeling pretty unmoored. A few of us made an arrangement to go swimming in the sea on Sunday morning, which is another thing to look forward to. I’ve got a new bikini from Toast, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Another positive result I had yesterday was that my therapist got back to me and has room to see me again starting in September. I’m really looking forward to having someone to talk in depth to again, someone that has a lively mind and seems to get me. I’m also getting a call this afternoon from another volunteer co-ordinator to help me look for suitable jobs in the area.

All in all things are looking up. Sometimes it’s important to go through periods of feeling totally lost for new perspectives and activity to emerge. For a long time now I’ve been stuck on this idea that I’m an artist and unable to be able to participate in activities involving other people and community life. I’ve worked alone, stuck in my fantasy of the ideal life for me. Even when I’ve not really had any success beyond encouraging remarks from fellow students and one exhibition of my painting. I’ve finally faced up to the fact that I need to change direction. That being so isolated and stuck out on a limb isn’t working for me. I wished I realised this years ago. But I suppose at least I don’t have to be stuck with a feeling that I ought to have pursued my dreams and not knowing how things might have turned out if I had. From now on I’m going to content myself with ordinary pleasures: going swimming, volunteering and maybe someday being able to hold down a job.

Day Seventeen

Life feels completely empty at the moment. Flat. Redundant. Meaningless. 

I have to think of things to fill up my day. Walk to Tesco. Get a coffee. Today I splashed out and bought the Guardian just to give myself something to do. 

Four or so months ago I didn’t turn up for my therapy session because I was in hospital. I could have let my therapist know a bit earlier, but I left her in the dark not knowing where I was. Eventually I texted her to say I’d been in hospital. As a result of this I lost my space in her practice. When I asked about returning she said she would put me on a waiting list. Four months have passed since that admission to hospital, and I still haven’t heard from her.

For a while now I’ve been waking up with this therapist in my head, feeling angry that she has just left me dangling. My feeling is that she was pissed off, but didn’t want to reject me outright. So instead of being honest about that she decided to just leave me on this ‘waiting list’. This morning I finally emailed her to ask what’s going on. At least I can come off the waiting list if she doesn’t want to be my therapist anymore. I don’t like the feeling of waiting to hear from her, of being in limbo.

I haven’t felt desperate to have someone to talk to, but it probably would help me. I have few people in my life I can talk to. This isn’t killing me, as I would have thought it might, had I known how isolated I would become, but it’s not exactly great either. 

I’m still waiting for the swimming pool to open again so that I will have something else to do. It does feel a bit shocking to me that my life would turn out this way. It feels like drudgery, and I can’t see that it will change anytime soon. The meds flatten me out. I feel nothing apart from completely flat. No joy, no pain, no nothing. 

But it is good not to have that constant swinging in all directions and drama. No great dreams or missions to accomplish. Small projects: saving money, loosing weight, getting some voluntary work. Reading the newspaper, a book, eating something. 

Perhaps I should just be grateful for all the things I don’t have. The pain of a relationship that’s not working. Hangovers. Mania. Maybe being seriously flat is the best I can hope for. It isn’t what I would have planned for myself, but then I didn’t know how my life was going to pan out. 

I’m disappointed in the mistakes I’ve made. Principally, putting so much weight on finding true love. Wasting money on stuff to wear. The stuff I chose to study at university. I would have been better off just working. I did feel that actually when I was about twenty and first stopped drinking, but then I had my place at Chelsea art college and I couldn’t let it go. For a while I had a job as a runner for a post production company in Soho. I wish I’d stuck with that, or got an apprenticeship in film or TV. But back then I never knew how things would turn out, or who I really was. I was too influenced by my parents choices and seeking my mother’s approval. I didn’t realise this at the time, but I can see it now.   

When I went to City Lit in Covent Garden a few years back, I took a screenwriting course. I got on well with the students and really enjoyed the class. Much more so than Writing Fiction. But I got scared and thought: I can’t do this subject. I don’t have the capacity. I’m not quick witted enough. So I dropped out. Looking back, this seems like a mistake, but I couldn’t see it at the time. 

I’ve always loved television. At the moment, there’s no doubt that watching dramas is the highlight of my day. Nothing makes me happier. But I can’t really see how that could equate to being good at writing drama. And now it feels like I’m too old anyway, especially for such a competitive profession. Nevertheless, I’ve signed up for a screenwriting class. It’s at the City Lit again, but online this time. It’s not like I think this is something realistic that I can do, but more that it’s just something to do. Who knows, I might enjoy it. It’s only for two days, but if I can managed it, I might sign up for a longer course. It’s something at least, I suppose. 

I can have these thoughts about alternative paths I could have taken, but even had I known that TV, say, was a good option, I would probably have messed up any breaks or good fortune that came my way. I did try and make something of my life by stopping drinking when I was twenty and going to college, but even so I still seem to have managed to completely screw up my life. To not make a success of things. To piss people off and reject them, if they happened to not be rejecting me. I never seemed to feel comfortable unless things were going wrong. There was a certain sense of rightness when I had nothing and everything was falling apart. Or being engaged in stuff that never made me happy. I think the only time I am happy is when the day is done and I can switch the television on. It must be great to be a part of making films. Just to be a part of it, in however small a way. 

I once fell really really hard for a TV director. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted someone so much. I knew him through AA, not his business in TV, but I’m sure that his profession was part of the reason I liked him so much. It was a part of him. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. He was a real high flyer, and would probably never have considered going out with someone like me. A failure. 

Being a failure is hard work. It’s like walking everywhere in a very heavy coat. It drags you down. Nevertheless, it’s been good to write this today and at least realise a few things about myself. Even if it is too late to do anything about it now. I won’t ever achieve the heights of someone like A: the TV director, but perhaps I’ll manage, if I continue to take my meds, to avoid one more round in the nut ward. Maybe that’s the best I can hope for now.   

Day Fifteen

Now I’ve decided not to come off my medication I’m struggling to find a reason to continue with my blog.

I walked up to Tesco earlier, which is about a forty minute round trip. I don’t listen to the radio and music and instead decided to listen to my own thoughts: I could write a story about everything that happens on my way to Tesco and back, I decided.

I was assailed by a lot of memories. Although I have lived in London most of my life, this part of the world is a place I have returned to again and again since I was a child. My mother first brought me here after she had some work teaching a group of hippies how to sing. There was a woman called Liz, who we stayed with in a farmhouse, who had a daughter called Hannah a year younger than me. With Hannah and Liz, over the years, I found a sort of second home away from mum.

When my mother took off to California, I lived here and attended a secondary school for a while. I passed that school on the way to Tesco. I passed the street that leads down to Liz’s current house. I thought about my ex and all the journey’s that we made, and I looked for his car whenever I saw a car that looked like his black hatchback.

I didn’t have much to buy. I really just went out for the walk. Upon leaving my flat yesterday Sarah, my psychiatric nurse, said: If you do only one thing go out every day.

On the way home I ran into Liz, who is pretty old now, but still has a very full life, with a lot of friends and activities. She told me about an event she was going to tonight with a woman called Jo, an artist. Liz is also an artist. Are you painting? She said. This was the only question she asked me. When I said no, she looked at me questioningly, as though to say, are you okay? But neither of us said anything. Then we said our goodbyes without any pretence that we had a desire to meet up and discuss life further.

After I left her I felt like a failure, and this is perhaps the only real thing this blog has to offer now. It is the work of a woman who has failed in everything she set out to achieve. Well, not quite everything, but most things. The things that were most wanted and of most significance apart from degrees; none of which turned out to be of any use really. Certainly not in getting a job. Therefore I am led to conclude that the only real worth of these thoughts would be for a reader to think; well my life is pretty good by comparison. In that sense perhaps it has a certain ‘feel good’ factor, in the same way that depressing songs can. Sometimes I find that work that is too positive can make me feel gloomy. Even when it is sensitively done, like Matt Haig’s latest book, which lacks the aggression of something like The Power of Positive Thinking, which I would never read.

All of this makes me think of Alain de Botton’s writings on pessimism. About how having no expectations whatsoever beyond how awful everything can be, can have the reverse effect of being uplifting. And he quotes the Stoics in this regard. Actually, for anyone feeling down the School of Life has quite a few uplifting short films on YouTube.

I wrote my dairy when I came home, something I do occasionally, and reflected on the fact that having no more real ambitious projects like finding my soul mate, writing a novel, or making paintings for an exhibition, my life is free of fantasy. I’ve also realised that most of my friendships don’t work. This is because I am always the one doing the footwork to keep it together and friendship must be reciprocal, as Sarah and I agreed yesterday. This leaves me with one close friend, who I haven’t really spoken to all that much lately because he is currently setting up a new home he only moved into last month. But I am visiting him there in a few weeks.

All of this emptiness leaves me pretty much devoid of activity for the first time in my life. So now the only real project I have at the moment is to save as much money as I can so that I have some security and read books. It isn’t what I wanted from life, but it certainly could be worse.

Day Fourteen

I’ve got post healthcare visitor fatigue. Talking about myself for 40 minutes completely wears me out. But I’ve still managed to go for a walk and put my name down for some volunteer work in the community bookshop on the high street. This was a suggestion from my Care Co-Ordinator. I guess listening to my gloom made her come up with solutions. I didn’t like the sound of it when it was mooted, but when I went outside into the sunshine after the appointment, I decided that it wasn’t a bad suggestion. 

I do feel gloomy, like life is pointless and unlikely to change. I can’t imagine ever feeling happy again. Even so, when I look back at times when I was happy, I think my elation was just based on illusions and denial. Everything feels hopeless. Partly, I think this is due to my age. When life is feel of promise of better times to come it is easier to live in hope. To live in the future, even if things never do change, there is always the hope one day it will be better. 

I’ve been reading Matt Haig’s very good and optimistic book: The Comfort Book. Each chapter is very short and contains a story or meditation on hope. Still, I find it hard to suspend disbelief. Even as it is a good read. For one thing he has become so amazingly successful, it’s easy to think: Well it’s alright for you. He has a partner and his own family. His extended family sound supportive. I know depression makes everything bleak, but with all of that in place, and his talent, it’s hard to believe that I will ever find the relief he has. 

Sorry that this is so gloomy, but I can’t lie. It’s a choice of write what’s going on — not a lot — or don’t write. 

I miss my ex, even though the whole thing was a disaster. He says he can’t meet because he too is depressed. So I was texting him, but then he was unfriendly, and we had a disagreement. Since then, although he apologised, I haven’t contacted him. It seems obvious he doesn’t care if we are still friends. It’s always me that reaches out to him. I’m tired of that. We aren’t involved but he still manages to reject me all the time. So I’ve decided not to contact him any more. 

I used to see him often, wandering about in our small town, but he’s moved to a village a couple of miles away, and so I don’t really see him out and about any more. I miss even that small amount of sociability of stopping for a minute or so and passing the time of day. Just to be recognised and greeted by someone. Not to say that never happens otherwise, but there are few people around here that know me who I still talk to. I don’t mean it, but I seem to be someone that falls out with people quite easily. 

Being a Londoner, it’s a big change to live in a small town. There are always a million things you can do in a big city. Tons of AA meetings. Galleries. Bookshop. Swimming pools. I don’t wish I was back there at all, but I do miss the ability to be able to distract myself so easily. 

Luckily, there are books. I’m now reading The End, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, which is a real door stopper. I do like his books, although I have put off this one because I really didn’t fancy the 200 page exposition on Hitler. I’m not there yet, but I’m not looking forward to it. So far it’s pretty good. Amazing the way he manages to make domestic life seems so interesting. Probably because it’s interspersed with stuff about his life as a writer and his relationships. 

Other than that the highlight of my day appears to be getting my coffee in the morning and the AA meeting I attend once a week. Yesterday, I waited all day for a phone call that never arrived, then watched a Walter Present Scandi Noir detective drama on Channel Four. 

I’ve watched so my television in the past year or so, it shocks even me. I’m only now, having watched near on every watchable series available on all the channels, starting to get a bit fed up. It’s the only time I really get to switch off my brain and relax. Thank god for television. I love a good detective drama. 

I like writing this blog, it may not be much cop, but at least I’m able to get the days business off my chest. I used to have such ambition for my writing. It’s hard to imagine it now. I’ve done tons of writing classes. I’m glad I did that, excruciating as it was at times. I think I did learn quite a bit about writing. 

I used to absolutely love writing a diary. This is a bit like a dairy, but not. I should say, as I’ve just remembered my topic — Bipolar and medication issues — that my Care Co-Ordinator thought stopping my meds was a very bad idea. She wasn’t best pleased about the lack of an anti-psychotic. But in the end I had to agree that she was right. I need the meds I take. Things might be great, but do I really fancy another hospital admission? No. 

Day Twelve

I’ve been suffering from a wholly unfamiliar inertia. Today is the first day I have managed to fight off the desire to bury myself in the oblivion of sleep. As a general rule I suffer with the complete inability to do nothing. An agitated, non-psychotic, type of mania, which eventually it spills over into a full blown episode.

That isn’t to say I’ve done nothing. I’ve read Dear NHS, The Guardian online editionand Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race. Tidied up a bit. Got a latte from the deli by the castle and finally roused myself to go for a short walk around town.

I do have a project. It’s to save up some money so that I’m not continually swerving around in the financial emergency zone. But that doesn’t involve doing anything. In fact, it involves not doing something. Not spending money I can’t afford to spend.

The thing is that I have very little in the way of support. The sort of support that makes you feel you have a net in life. In reality, I have never had this support, even when I’ve had a partner, or my family were alive. I just didn’t realise. In fact, when they were about I had the opposite of support — sustained psychological attacks. Yet I was completely unable to get free of them; my mother mainly. I had a childlike attachment to malignant parenting, and I continued to re-enact that trauma in my adult relationships, in one form or another.

At least I am free of that now.

I suppose that in a way, living on that psychological edge, it gave me a sort of manic energy to keep racing about in circles. Doing stuff that didn’t fulfil me or make me happy, to the tune of a constant emptiness. I’ve never really known anything else, and then the battering of alcoholism and hospital admissions.

So, right now my life is relatively peaceful. Maybe it’s quite normal to go through stretches of time where one simply doesn’t know what to do.

Yesterday my Care-Co Ordinator Sarah rang me up and we’ve arranged to meet on Friday. I think I’m going to broach the subject of reducing my anti-depressant to see if that relieves my listlessness and addiction to going to sleep. I’m not sure what she’ll have to say about that.

I wish the swimming pool were open because then I feel I would have something worthwhile to do.

Day Eleven

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my past, as may be apparent. This has been firstly an activity to cause me unhappiness. Sadness and bewilderment.

When I say my past, I mean the years of my sobriety living in London from 2006, to when I moved to this small and quite inaccessible town in South Wales three years ago.

One of the good things about getting older is that I’ve been able to reflect on the things that brought me joy or pain. Reflecting on that is what I’ve been doing because this morning I realised that life hasn’t been as bleak as I’ve been telling myself. I didn’t get the things I wanted: a happy marriage, fulfilling work, my own family. That was my idea of success. Now, at 49, it’s too late for me to achieve these goals. Some would say it’s never too late, but I don’t believe that. I don’t have hope now, which is good as well as odd, for someone that lived in hope for so many years. That was because reality was such a disappointment, and worse.

But this morning I realised that I have experienced happiness, just not pursing ‘my dreams’. Ordinary, smaller things, activities I really overlooked in my pursuit of destiny: waking up and going to bed sober each day, my morning caffeine, going for a walk in nature, eating a nice meal, silence, animals, being alone. A good book or drama. I also found one true friend, something I did want. I have other friends as well, but one really special friendship — which comes with two gorgeous dogs.

There is also swimming, which is something I have to look forward to as the local pool isn’t open at the moment.

Pursing the big things of life brought me a lot of misery and worse. They nearly ended my life, in fact.

Obviously, if I hadn’t pursued the big stuff I wouldn’t have found this out for myself. I didn’t find God, as a lot of people said I ought to. Trying to be a good daughter, sister, granddaughter was an absolute disaster. My family was made up of real cruelty. They made being unloved an every-day normality. I still live with the considerable aftermath of so much neglect and abuse, but at least its in the past now. A lot of the advice people in AA passed on to me was wrong. But not everyone in AA gave me the wrong advice, I was just attracted to the cruel side of life because it was familiar. And I was in denial about my family.

Still, I only learnt these lessons because I made such big mistakes. And now, moving forward, perhaps I can achieve some peace and happiness without the presence of so much misery woven together with it.