No anti psychotic medication. Still taking the anti-depressant and mood stabiliser
One of the things I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of days is that rather than coming off the meds, staying on the meds, represents a change for me. Most of the time, since my diagnosis of Bipolar in 2013, I have only taken the meds for the shortest possible time. The introduction of the anti depressant has only taken place since I moved to Wales three years ago. My shrinks in London said I couldn’t have one as they believed one of my episodes had been triggered by that medication.
My consultant in Wales however, really listened to my post manic episode despair, and prescribed one that is okay for people with Bipolar. Because of this it has been only the last two years that I’ve taken one. The mood stabiliser — lamotrigine — is an epileptic drug that has recently been given to my type. It isn’t particularly heavy, I don’t think. But then I’ve never been prescribed any of the more controversial mood stabilisers such as lithium.
Therefore, I think this diary can be more usefully framed as the diary of someone suffering with this illness who has given in to the fact that she needs medication. In the past, not having anything to relieve my depression, I simply couldn’t stand it, and chose a certain amount of mania over the pain of living with depression. This was a risky strategy, because I ended up being regularly hospitalised. I always told myself that it wouldn’t happen again, and had tried to keep meds on the ready in case I spun out. This strategy also failed.
I’ve never found the medical establishment heavy handed. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always been pretty co-operative and my episodes were often pretty short-lived. I didn’t smash up shops or assault people. I would literally have a good sleep, and the next day return to normal. But this was not always the case. It’s truer to say that my episodes might go on for months, but then they would suddenly build, and I’d have a day or so of total madness and get sectioned, usually by the police.
I wasn’t ever violent, mostly I just caused a disturbance and people quickly realised I was out of it. Not on booze or drugs, I have never been sectioned when I was drinking. But I would be acting like a drunk, and I would have total blackouts, or partial blackouts, which was pretty scary. In that sense it was a bit like drinking.
People in AA might call this a “dry-bender.” But I don’t subscribe to this sort of thinking. It isn’t medically ordained. There is no research on the “dry drunk.” Doctors don’t say, “this is a case of someone not working the steps of AA properly. I prescribe a tough love sponsor, not one of those namby pamby therapy types who don’t do things properly.” It’s just not a viable or respectable point of view and is usually professed by people who are basic nutters. That’s my opinion anyway.
That doesn’t mean that working the steps isn’t good or beneficial. I have worked the steps and doing so is certainly a learning experience. I’ve picked up excellent tools for recovery along the way. Some people swear by them, like my closest friend S. for example. And there have been times when I would probably have been one of those quoting the big book and saying the steps were the path to freedom. There is certainly some truth in that point of view. Spirituality is key. But so is recovering from trauma, if that is possible, and I’m not certain that it is. Like I said before, some people do need meds. Just people, not necessarily recovering alcoholics. Those that end up in the Emergency Suite, which is where they take you when the police section you, for assessment. It means: a safe place.
I once wrote a non fiction book called Emergency Suite. But not being all that well at the time, I couldn’t tell is it was non fiction or fiction. I was confused.
I should say, Ruth Sargent is not my real name. It was given to me by a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley, when I became a patient in 2009. The reason was that at that time I was working at the Maudsley as a Healthcare Assistant and he didn’t want people that knew me from my job spying on me.
I later discovered that Hugh Jones had broken protocol in doing this. He was supposed to have gone through all sorts of paperwork. In reality, on our first session, he just sat at his computer and said: “What shall we call you? It has to be something that you can remember.”
I like that he did this and I’m glad that he did. Although it did cause some issues. Because on one particularly bad manic episode I did not remember it and I don’t think I really tried. Consequently it took the doctors and nurses at that Emergency Suite in Victoria ages to find out who I was. Until they worked that out they couldn’t transfer me to a hospital because everyone gets admitted depending where they live.
In adopting a nom de plume I feel free to express myself without worrying too much. Without it I don’t think I could write frankly. It would cause too much anxiety, even if I didn’t have more than one or two readers.
For example, there is a thing in AA called The Tradition of Anonymity. About which I could say quite a bit actually. But in this context it means that at the level of “press, radio and films,” I should remain, as an AA. This is for myriad reasons, but perhaps the most important one is that I don’t come to appear like I am representing AA recovery. This could bring AA into disrepute, be ego-serving, and be against the very spirit of the twelve steps of the fellowship.
I understand all that. I wouldn’t want any drunk to read this and go, “Bloody hell that AA sounds awful,” and consequently die of alcoholism. That is why we aren’t supposed to promote ourselves as the face of AA. Nobody is the face of AA. Celebrities that come out and say, “I’m in AA” are breaking the twelfth tradition, which states that we should be anonymous.
By nature I am a codependent people pleaser type, rather than a narcissist. Received wisdom has it that these types attract each other and are opposite. Therefore the thought of upsetting the bastions of AA recovery really really frightens me. Some people take the twelfth tradition very seriously and I have lost valuable friendships due to this very principle when I have behaved in ways, (not publication issues), that contravened it. But that’s another story.
As a writer and artist I need to be able to speak my truth and not just by sitting in meetings talking about stuff. I need to write, and not just to write for myself. I want to speak and be heard. I have a lot to say and in relationships and real life I have found that very often there simply isn’t the time, and it’s not appropriate, to do that. And in not being able to that I very often don’t feel like I am not getting to the opportunity to speak my truth, to cite a cliche. I want to and I feel that I need to, so here I am.
I never planned to write all this. I was going to talk about how my life in London has come back to haunt me these past three days. This is new as I have rarely thought about that large chapter since I moved away, except to shudder and be grateful I managed to escape. But in reality that my life was simply awful, although true, isn’t the full story. And even if it is, it is still a large part of my story, and I can’t black it out.
It could be true that because I am taking my meds I’m achieving a degree of stability that means memories are starting to surface. Not in a way that’s too much, but simply as a matter of course. I’m remembering people I cared about before, as always happens with me, it all went terribly wrong. Things going terribly wrong seems to have been my “core narrative.”
It’s very sad really. Somehow, writing is a bit of a compensation for me. The fact that I am sitting here today on this overcast morning in Wales writing about life means that I survived. I write about these things ‘mental health’ because these topics have been my life, and I don’t have anything else.
I lived to tell the tale. Perhaps this is enough.