05.23am is one of the most significant points of my life. It was the time I was admitted to a Psychiatric Ward. So that is why I decided to name this blog it because it changed my whole life, and my family's life completely. They have been my rock throughout all this and would not have coped without them.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

recent events

I cannot believe it has been like a month since I last wrote on here, so for that I am sorry.

A lot has changed over the past month, 2 days ago I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and so I have started a new blog called 'Just as I am' the address is: http://myselfjustasiam.blogspot.co.uk/

Thank you all for reading this blog over its duration but since things have changed I have decided to start a new one at the above address. It just seemed appropriate to start fresh with a new blog for a new diagnosis.

Thanks you all,


Tuesday, 23 October 2012


I have a new found respect for painters and decorators. I haven't blogged for a month or so now because I have had a whirlwind few weeks. Firstly I turned 21, which wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be (but I do still feel pretty old now). Secondly I am the proud renter of my own flat! Something which I thought would happen at some point but I had an interview one week, got the keys the next and now I have literally just put the first lick of paint on the walls. So I apologize but my feet have hardly touched the floor. Hence my new respect for decorators.
So much has changed I have just been riding some sort of high of all the activity I have found myself involved in, and it has been amazing, I feel refreshed and in a really good place. So I don't really want to mar what is a really good period of time with any downheartedness, and for once I don't really have reason too. The only down side to this whole month is that my sleeping is all messed up, I think this might just be left over energy or excitement or whatever but I cannot sleep more than 4 hours in a row, which is starting to take its toll a bit. Being constantly tired is making things a little difficult but I guess at the moment it cannot be helped.
The only negative that has really come of me moving house is that I have to move doctors, as I have moved into a new catchment area and therefore I am being legally forced to move to the nearer practice. My GP has been so amazing to me and has seen me go through so much and can still raise a smile even when times are hard I feel very sad to leave him. He saw me at my very worst so I guess it is sort of fitting he see's me so happy before I leave for a new practice. But still I do not really want to move because I don't really want to have to go through everything with a new doctor, needs must I suppose though. It got me wondering whether this whole catchment area thing is just a British thing because it does seem a little odd that I am being forced to move when I want to stay put. That I don't know the answer too.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Turning 21

So today I turned 21; how do I feel? The answer is I don't feel that different to be honest. At least, not as different as I thought I would feel. Your age changing can sometimes change the way you think and feel, but the content of todays blog would not change if I was turning any age, I just feel it needs to be said.

Dr Bruce Banner turned into the hulk when he got too stressed out in the latest Avengers Assemble film, and  you clearly see the way people pussy foot around him, like he is some sort of runaway train on a broken track or a ticker on bomb that you can't turn back (thank you Mr Loaf for the quote there). This is the way some people look at me, if they know about my mental health history, and I think it is a way that other people with a mental health history are viewed; always with a little distrust. Either that or they see the scars on my arms and this triggers some sort of defense mechanism in their minds where as in reality the correct feeling should be compassion, it would be if they saw a plaster cast on my arm instead.
Don't get me wrong, I sort of understand why people do it, and I am sure most of them don't intentionally do it, but their eyes give them away. That is something I struggle to get over because I don't always think it is necessary but I am caught because at the same time I do get it. I see it everywhere, when people are getting interviewed on TV or whatever.
So much is made about the verbal and physical discrimination we as a section of society receive and rightly so, but I would take if further and say that actually for me it is the unsaid discrimination that people receive is actually worse; when people say they are cool with stuff (and I am sure the majority of them want to be) but their expressions and eyes say something totally different. It is difficult to blame people for what seems to be a gut, defensive, instinct but I guess we should be able to live in a world where we are not seen as a potential Bruce Banners' but as ourselves who may or may not struggle at times.  

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Approval, acceptance and friendship

 This is my 20th blog and I must say I am a bit surprised, surprised because I have actually stuck at something, but I am more surprised that people have actually been reading it- this I did not expect. So thank you! :)
My life has changed so dramatically over the past 2 years or so, even more so in the time I have been doing this blog. So doing this has been very therapeutic for me, it is difficult to examine yourself enough to be able to tell others, and I think I have only even realised 10% of who I am and what makes me tick but I am learning. The journey of self discovery can be very long and at times very painful but I think half the battle though my eyes is knowing yourself. For me knowing why something is happening is just as important as dealing with the problem, and I believe they are both linked.

'If someone lives with approval, they learn to like themselves. If someone lives with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.'

I think this quote sums up the three things a person needs and yearns for when you are living with a mental health condition; Approval, acceptance and friendship. Perhaps the hardest one to find in other people is approval, or certainly it feels that way. It feels that if you don't have that approval from your friends and family you cant even start to be open about how your condition makes you feel. Everyone needs that feeling before they can then get the acceptance we need to live our lives openly and honestly,we need to be honest to both ourselves and to other people to live our lives to the full and the way we need to to make ourselves better. However we still live in a world where we are not understood and we are stigmatized by other peoples snap judgement when we tell them we have mental health problems. It can take weeks and weeks to get people to understand how feel and what we need from other people to help us get better. I have been very lucky, I am very lucky to have a very supportive network of family and friends around me, but it didn't appear over night and it was very hard to open up to them and be truly honest about how I felt and continue to feel. My parents have literally picked me up from the squalor both mentally and physically so it is them that I owe the most to. There is no doubt that friendships save lives, they are often the first port of call when you need to vent. When I look back at my time at uni I realise just how lucky I was to have the friends that I make while I was there.
The most important issue we face is to come to terms with ourselves, and how we have changed due to our illness. This requires so much soul searching and it only comes with time, as our illnesses evolve we too must evolve with it. For while I hated myself and everything I was but I learned that that is who I am now, so there is no point trying to fight it. Finding light and love whilst in such a dark place can be very difficult. Finding or seeing love whilst in this place is very difficult as the darkness is blinding and overwhelming. But I have learned to find it  in the small things, in beautiful places and in the inner beauty of the people around me, but this is a slow process and can be very frustrating. But when you see the light it makes you feel a whole lot better. Trust me.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A change of course

Yesterday I had an appointment at the hospital to get the results that I was due from when I was an inpatient a few weeks ago. I was not due to see the Neurologist untill sept 24th but I got a phone call on tuesday morning to change the day to yesterday and it just so happened that the call came just as I was walking in to see the Consultant Psychiatrist for a review. So me and most people who knew about the changed appointment assumed that because they had brought it forward, there was something neurologically wrong with me. How wrong were we! After 4 days of pannic and lack of sleep I walked in to the consulting room for him to sit me down and tell me that my scans were all clear and that what is causing me psychical pain is actually my mind, not something 'organic' as he put it.
Of course I was over the moon that nothing neurologically is wrong with me, but it was short lived because I started to think about what he had said- my mind is causing me psychical pain. Now I have not intentionally harmed myself since I came home from university. But in my eyes I have just discovered that my mind is harming me, and has been doing it to me without me controlling it for some time now. This worries me on a number of levels because I am seemingly in less control of myself and my mind than I believed I was and had been for a while. If you have read any of my pevious blogs you may well have seen that control for me is very important, control of myself, control of what I do, and control of situations I put myself in.
Forgetting the Neurology stuff for a minute I have become increasingly feeling out of control of stuff (but until now, not of myself), I worry about anything and everything and am anxious of every situation I am in when I am not at home. I am paraniod about pretty much everyone and everything around me as I said in the last blog I wrote. Yet up until yesterday I haven't felt out of control of myself, now it seems subconsciously I am, a thought I really do hate having because apart from this, I do feel in control of myself. Now I ask myself what the hell do I do now then? And the answer is at the moment I have no idea. The two Community Psychiatric Nurses that are in charge of my care and I have been discussing a number of options to explore; firstly I am to undergo a sixteen week course of Cognitive Analytical Therapy, apparently this entails a really close self examination of myself and what makes me tick, this to me sounds like a very positive but quite difficult step as I personally do not like to be so mentally exposed to anyone, like I will have to be for this to work. Secondly we are going to further discuss the idea that I have some sort of personality disorder, although I hate labelling myself or seeing others to it to me or other people, I am of the opinion that if this is caused by different things that stress me out combining together and making me feel this way. I need to know that that is definitely how my mind works (or fails to work properly). I say this because if in the future I see a big change coming in my life, and I know in advance my mind may not deal with it well, I am forewarned about it and can plan accordingly.
I would not wish anything wrong on anyone or myself but there is a part of me that really wishes the Neurologist had said there is something wrong, but that it can be cured with a pill or potion, that way it would have come and gone and life would stay the same. But because it is not and this cannot be treated or cured overnight or in a short period of time, wheels have been set in motion that I didn't expect would happen. One of my CPN's did say that this maybe the case, but I really hoped it wouldn't be that, purely because it means that I have to do so much more than that just take a pill to go back to 'normal'.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

No matter how dark the moment...

Sometimes there are no words. No clever quotes to neatly sum up what has happen over the last week and a half. I haven't found any anything that come close to adequately describe the last week or so. I am getting pretty fed up of juggling anvils now, it feels like I have already fumbled and can feel certain ones slipping away from me. Due to the medication I take I have started to wake up with what feels like the worlds worst hangover. Luckily it passes after a while, but even so it does make me feel pretty rough for a couple of hours.

I have really struggled to find anything of note or anything worth writing about because I just seem to have no real energy and my mind is not working properly at the moment. By this I mean that I am having the most wierdest irrational thoughts and my general thought process is seriously off kilter, I don't mean this in the sense of wanting to hurt myself, or anyone else for that matter. I mean that I am terrified of pretty much anything and everything. When I going outside to take Yoda for a walk I get so jumpy and instead of enjoying it I find myself just getting pretty angry. It feels like I have a constant need to check for incoming or potential threats. Even though, rationally, I know they are not really there. But like I said the irrational side of my thoughts have taken over the rational side, which feels so mentally exhausting, constantly being on guard for incoming and potential threats, that realistically aren't there. For example getting into a car, not only do I get nervous that I am leaving the safety of my house but I have a genuine fear of the car itself. The idea that we could crash or whatever leaves me constantly on edge. At the moment I don't see things as they really are, instead I see everything as a potential danger or threat to me. I also feel a great level of anxiety when I leave what I deem to be a safe place purely because I am leaving the places I feel safest, then I worry about have I shut every window, door etc. And it goes on till I am back in one of my safe places.

This new level of paranoia/anxiousness is coupled with myself becoming increasingly obsessive compulsive about things about things, something which never happened last time really. I keep my keys on a chain to prevent me forgetting them when we go out. Yet before I leave the house, then before I shut the front door I have to feel them in my pocket then get them out to literally see them, then I can shut the door. But I still keep checking I have them, the same goes for my wallet and my phone. It also leaves me with and excessive need to plan things, I often need to plan my day out before it starts, and then if something doesn't go to plan or the plan changes I freak out and get all tense, and sometimes upset and angry. What has brought this on I have no idea. But I see the Psychiatrist on Tuesday so hopefully he will be able to shed some light on this. Also the housing possibilities I have blogged about previously are starting to come to fruition. So it's not all doom and gloom.

However no matter how dark the moment I know things will get better again, maybe not imminently but I know for sure that everything will be alright.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Never a straight path

'Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it's not the end' - Unknown

Suffering with a mental health condition is never a straight and easy path that you have to follow, none of us chose it, none of us wanted it and none of us like it. All we can do is do our best with the hand that we have been dealt, hoping that everything will be alright in the end. Which for most people it will be, whether they have become better, or if they suffer with an incurable condition. I think that quote sums up the attitude that I hope to have (but I know sometimes I do not). I think it is the attitude we should all try and have throughout our own journeys, because in the darkest moments it is hope we cling on to, the hope that our condition will not be the end of who we are as individuals or as collective group. I have learned over time that it does not have to be so. In my case I feel that it has deepened the levels of my friendships with people. I think this is the case because people think that talking about mental health is a really intimate thing. Which I think is both right and wrong, talking about the details is very intimate and creates a deeper understanding between those involved in the conversation. However there can be times when it does not feel intimate or good. Like when I said about ticking the box about mental health on my driving license forms. Wrongly I still felt a little bit ashamed, and like it was my fault that my driving license would most likely be revoked. Which is just wrong but that is what the nature of mental health does, because it is still very stigmatized in society but also because it is very intimate. On the whole I will answer any question anyone asks me about my condition because that is one way I try and deal with it. But not to be asked and to be assumed about is how most people come to the conclusion about me, certainly it was before I started to do this. I do not mean my immediate family or friends, but those on the outskirts, who just hear about it second hand. I do not blame them, I used to do the same I am sure of it. Some of this, I think, comes from the 'pull yourself together' attitudes that a lot of people, especially men I think, often take about it. After all, if it is all in your head then you can control it, or so people think. But being intimate and open with people soon teaches them how it actually is. 

As it goes I don't feel like I have had much luck in terms of my health but then I started to think that actually I am quite lucky in a sort of twisted sort of way, because I am in a position to speak out about this whilst many aren't and many are far more ill than me. So this entry is for those people who can't say, or don't know how to say what it is like living with psychosis and/or depression. It is at best bearable and at worst it is so bad words fail to to describe it. It can take so many different forms and people can be affected by it in different ways but it becomes your life until you get on top of it, but it can come back when you are just getting yourself sorted. You can know it is coming but are powerless to stop it, you can understand the why and how but the when and what can be so unpredictable. Explaining this fear is hard to do unless the person has been through it because words can't really explain how it feels, nothing really can. Getting people to understand that is half the battle, and the other half is down to them- whether they can understand it and still be there for you in the capacity you need them. However once finding out some people never treat you the same again. Some because they are scared, some because they are worried about you, and some because they are ignorant. This is the thing that hurts the most, sharing something so intimate and then seeing it destroy a friendship or a relationship.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

10 Floors Up

I have had a lot of time to think about things over the past few days because I am in hospital due to an unexplained neurological problem that is getting worse as the weeks go by. The weird part is I am on the children's ward. Which is sort of odd since I am nearly 21. But anyway the nurses are lovely and I can have visitors when ever I like so it does have some perks and I have a nice room to myself. So I can't complain really.

Anyway it got me thinking how feeling physically ill and mentally ill at the same time can make you feel. It is difficult because feeling mentally ill can make you feel physically ill and feeling physically ill can definitely have a big impact on your mental state. Thinking about this threw up some very odd and possibly scary thoughts for me. If we look at the two situations separately. Firstly how feeling mentally ill effects you physically. For me I have been affected in a number of ways physically due to my psychosis, firstly when I was on the anti-psychotic called Olanzapine it made me constantly hungry and as such I put on a fair bit of weight, to the extent I felt I need to join the gym to compensate for it. Perhaps a darker and more dangerous side of this coin is that the mind can actually cause you physical pain. So this made me think that the mind can affectively self harm its own body without me doing anything or without me being able to control it. This thought scares me quite a lot, especially given my past issues with these things; people self harm for a lot of reasons but to an extent, no matter how wrong or twisted it may be, your body may be doing it to self medicate in the same what that actually self harming can be a type of self medication no matter how wrong that may be. So I do not know what to think, stuck here in hospital, because I just think I could leave here with no answers to my questions and still no reason for the way I feel physically. Which I know is no ones fault but it just makes me angry and cross with myself, one for getting cross in my head with the Dr's and Nurses and two because I have lost control of yet another situation.

My physical illness makes me pretty much constantly tired and as such I have less energy to fight my psychosis, most days I can handle it but some I can't deal with both and my body and mind sort of just shut down and I cant think straight or get my words out right. Being psychically ill but not knowing what the illness is, and as such not being able to treat it, or even find out what it is, is really stressful. Each week going to the doctors and getting more results that all come back negative, which is good that what ever was tested for is not what is wrong with me but equally I just want to find out now, what ever it is, so it is one less thing I don't know. It goes further than that though, the whole two illnesses thing is just very stressful in itself without even thinking about diagnosis's and whatever. And to be honest I am just a bit fed up with the whole situation I find myself in at the moment, it is just a bit too much for me to happily handle.

The physical illness doesn't even have to be major, in fact I would say that getting the flu can be almost as bad as whatever it is I have because they both leave you drained and tired of fighting. The only difference is the longevity of the illness and the fact I don't know what mine is yet. I just find it is like trying to juggle with anvils, it is bloody hard work.      

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Forward back forward back

I know it has been a few days since my last post but I have struggled to find the words for what I want to say at the moment, my mind feels a bit like scrambled egg and so it is taking a while to get anything done that needs thinking about.

So I just had an interview to get some help with getting myself set up with little flat somewhere local to me. However I thought I was going to an interview for Assisted Housing, rather than Assistance with Housing. So the two pages of questions I had prepared were totally useless and for the first five minutes or so my mind was in total disarray to say the least. And to be fair the lady doing the interview could obviously tell, so kindly let me have a minute to get my head around what she was actually offering support with. With hindsight in some ways the unexpected has turned out to be more useful than what I had been expecting.
To be fair to myself I think I dealt with the unexpected a lot better than I normally do, maybe because it was in a public place or something. I don't know. But my mind sort of compartmentalized my feelings and then they sort of all came to a head when I got back in the car afterwards.
This whole experience is not just alien but also quiet scary, I walked down the step afterwards thinking 'shit, I am actually like an adult.' Which may sound silly but if you do the uni route, from my experience, you don't really have to grow up as soon as you arrive, or at all in the first year. So all of a sudden I have/had a lot of growing up to do in the space of an hour. Which of course, sent my mind into over drive. It automatically gave me a huge sense of freedom and of moving on with my life, but I worry slightly that it will be like how I described my second attempt at uni. Just me brooding in a flat instead of a room. But then I thought that actually, although I had lots of support at uni, there is even more down here, and it is more specialized too. So when it happens it should be fine, but to be honest it isn't something I will be doing in the next month or two at least. Freedom is an awesome and empowering thing but if I get left with too much time I get lost in my own mind and that is when I start to go downhill.
This good and affirmative step did make me feel a lot better, and it still does, just not as much now, because I have found myself slightly worsening in terms of my mental health. It is not bad bad, but as you can imagine, every time I slip up I always imagine what could happen rather than what actually will happen. I have found myself getting so incredibly paranoid of everything and of nearly everyone. To the extent that the paranoia is bringing anger with it, internally I am starting to get so full of rage that it can be hard to control at times, but so far I am managing to cope well with it; using coping mechanisms of my own and ones I have been taught by my CPN's. This anger is not directed at anyone or even myself, it is just a feeling that I get when things start to go backwards rather than the forward steps I am trying to take.
I am not in full blown hallucination mode thankfully but because of everything else I am doubting whether what I hear is real or in my head, unlike last time there is, so far no real anger in what I do think is not real, it is more like hearing in on someone else's convosations. Like whispers in the air. But as it stands I am aware of all this and it is all in hand and no where near the worse levels it hit last year. What I fail to understand is why it is happening, it is seemingly so random which makes it so frustrating. The new style of support I am getting is so action orientated that I feel more of in control of it at the moment. Which can only be a good thing. My general mood is still pretty up beat but the medication I am on is making me feel a bit like a zombie, everyone comments on how red the bags are around my eyes, which I don't like, but if it keeps me sort of well, it is sort of worth it.

Monday, 6 August 2012

just a quick update

Hi to everyone who reads this,

I have set up a new facebook account to give a more day to day insight into my psychosis, as I only ever really blog when something big happens but what I have learnt is that it can be the little things that make the difference. so if you are interested add me on: http://www.facebook.com/sam.ashdown.581



Sunday, 5 August 2012

How it all started

Blogging about Psychosis is one thing, but no where have I told you why it happened, so I want to today, it is a little complicated but bare with me if you will. The doctors have said that I always had it in me to have a psychotic episode, I guess some people are just born with it in them. But my actions or lack of actions over the two years I was at university brought my psychosis out of me, but there is little doubt it would have happened at some point anyway. Indeed my current relapse is proof that it doesn't have to be brought on my something, it can just happen.
In terms of me bringing it out of myself, it literally started on the first day of Uni. When across the hall from me lived a a true gent, who would soon become my best friend, was rolling a joint. Now I have never done or been into drugs before, well nothing illegal and nothing potent. Except for a couple of times at new year's party's. He asked me if I smoked weed and to be honest I don't know what the answer was but from that day onward weed played a big role in my life, at the start if term it was just something we did in the evening or before a night out but soon it became all we did, after the Christmas holiday when we got back to  Uni the routine was get up at about 11am get to my friends by 4pm and we would sit in his room until the early hours smoking weed. Whilst that was happening I began to neglect contact with my family and it was the first year ever I didn't send my dad a birthday card because I was too scared too go out in public to get him a card because of the anxiety and paranioa. Plus I was going through a fairly awful break up. I couldn't attend lectures because I was too paranoid to go to them and to anxious of the people there. I was only comfortable with people inside my circle of friends whom I knew and trusted. Then dad came and rescued me and it was only when I saw him did I realize what a state I was in, I was living in a state of total mental and psychical squalor and that is no exaggeration. I neglected everything; myself, my family, my lectures, totally everything.
So my first psychotic episode was 'stress induced' according to the Dr's which I agree with. But they have all said that the cannabis played a big role on bringing it on so soon and so fast. Whatever people say about weed, it isn't good for you. I am a walking advert for that. I have made mistakes, smoking so much weed was one of them, it was foolish and done partly because it felt good to rebel against the system, and partly because getting high feels good. But all it does really is mask what it is actually doing to your body. Messing it up.
When I left I knew I would have to resit my first year, so I went back and tried to do this, while I was there I didn't go near weed at all. This episode was different, I just entered a deep, deep depression as I did the first year but this year was different because I couldn't go to lectures due to the residual anxiety and paranoia, which still plague me today. I tried numerous times but I just couldn't do it. So I sat in my room brooding. I do not know what brought it all on, but there was a lot of self harming and it is lucky I had the friends I did because they carried me until nothing more could be done and so I came home again. Knowing I couldn't go back. What brought on the depression I am not 100% sure, failure to be able to go out to lectures or socializing was a big part of it, but I don't know what the other causes were. Should I have gone back for the second attempt at my first year? On paper probably not with hindsight, but I thought I owed it to my family and more importantly to myselfto give it another go.

I do not regret the decisions I have made as they have made me a stronger person, do I wish wish i didn't have Psychosis? Of course I do but I've got, it so I want to use it in whatever way I can for the good of myself and of others.

What I take and what it does

This entry will probably be of little interest to some readers but I thought I would tell you what pills and potions I take and how I have found them and what side effects they have had on me. The amounts shown are the daily totals and not necessarily what I take in one go.

It has taken many months to figure out the right quantities of everything and I still don't think we have found exactly the right balance yet. But I am lucky that I have a Psychiatrist who is open and asks what I want, he gives advise to help me form a decision rather than giving orders with no input from me.

Pills and potions only get you so far though, there is far more to any mental illness than throwing some tablets at it, there is a lot of talking and other things that contribute to getting better for example, getting some exercise. Thanks to Yoda I have that covered. Anti psychotics often make you gain weight so keeping on top of that is key. The old Anti psychotic I was on, called Olazapine, made me put on about 2 stone. Hence why, now I am back on anti psychotics, I am not on that one anymore.
So here's the list:

Pregabalin- 600mg
Pregabalin is an anti axiety drug. It works well, it keeps you sort of chilled out,I have found its effects are pretty instant so are good in a crisis or when really panicked 

Aripiprazole- 30mg
Aripiprazole is an anti psychotic and it seems to be working very well. I haven't got much to say about this, it does what it says on the tin. Most of the time, that is why we have introduced a low dose of Risperidone to help its effects. I used to take Olanzapine but did not get on with it, due to its side effects.

Risperidone- 4mg
I have only just started the course of Risperidone so cannot tell you much, it is an anti psychotic and is being used as a top up for the Aripiprazole to see if a combination of the two will be better than one on its own.

Amitriptyline- 150mg

Amitriptyline is an anti depressant. Is is the one that works the best for me, I have tried many different ones, including citalopram, agomelatine and Mirtazapine. Amitriptyline is an old school anti depressant and is not often prescribed anymore so I am told, but it is working well for me, so maybe older is better, as agomelatine is pretty new but no where near as effective.

For other reasons I also take:

Naproxen- 1000mg
Naproxen is a painkiller, think of it as Nurofen's big brother, Naproxen commonly causes stomache ulcers therefore I take 20mg of Mepradec to counteract this.

I do have some other side effects but I think these are due to the combination and quantity of tablets I take. These are dizziness, lack of spacial awareness, memory loss, however there are more but it is hard to differentiate between what is caused by the pills and what is a symptom of my psychosis.

Friday, 3 August 2012

My strange duet

'Sing once again with me, our strange duet' - Phantom of the Opera

 As my mind feels fairly jumbled after starting some new medication you may have to bare with me a little bit.

I don't know why I am finding quotes that I have heard so many times before relevant to my Psychosis, but this one I think is. Generally I am not necessarily a fan of quotes for stuff like this because it feel like I am hijacking someone else's thoughts. But since I am taking this one so out of context I think it's more ok- If that makes any sense.
The quote is EXACTLY how I feel about not only this relapse, but also about how my mind is fighting it. I think it does want to sing the strange duets again (inside my head). This duet is being sung between me and the voices like the ones I heard last time, so far I haven't dueted with him or anyone else this time. But it is a battle with the voices that wants to sing once more. Most days battling them is dead easy but like most things, sometimes on the bad days it is a struggle. It isn't a case of if I give in it will happen for certain; but there are days, which are hard to describe, during which I sort of unravel and they are the days that are harder to keep them at bay. It would take a number of bad days in a row for it to happen so I am hopeful that it won't. At the time of the start of my relapse it came very very close to being in a place where it would happen again. Having said that it isn't a case of everything or nothing; it builds up, like the introduction to the Phantom of the Opera, then he sings.
I find myself in a catch 22 situation, because I am ultra paranoid and therefore aware of all the things around me. So everything I hear I think to myself, is that in my head or actually happening? Which can be very difficult, especially when there is no one else to confirm the noises are psychical. But this vicious cycle can be broken and I think at the moment I am doing this. I think I am doing this in a number of ways, preempting trouble, or difficulties before they arise. Which is great and the people that help me do that are great, but as people with mental health issues know, it can be a bit random, and spontaneous 'unraveling' like I did at the start of my relapse.
At the moment the paranoia is doubled with anxiety for which I have been prescribed a drug called Pregabalin, which works wonders and keeps me calm when I am in somewhere new or with a crowd of people, but it is not a cure to it it is just a treatment and as such I have to learn how to cope in these situations slowly. We went to town today and I did struggle a bit with there being so many people around and about. But as I said the Pregabalin did the job that at the moment  I cannot do.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Is everything ok?

'In some cases an accurate diagnosis may suggest an intervention to limit the damage that bad judgments and choices often cause' - D.Kahneman

I saw this line in the first page of a book I bought now that thanks to the new glasses I can actually read again, and for some reason it struck a cord within me and I couldn't get it out of my head. I think there are two key phrases in the quote that relate to mental health. Firstly 'accurate diagnosis' according to my Psychiatrist I am pretty straight forward in terms of my Psychosis, it is what it is and that is it, so to speak. But if being prone to Psychosis is caused by something like a personality disorder it becomes less straight forward. So it depends if we are looking at the cause or just the diagnosis because personally I don't think you can come to the conclusion on one without talking the other into account. The cause leads to a diagnosis, and the diagnosis is formed on the basis of the cause. So in terms of mental health, finding the root cause seems to be just as important as getting the diagnosis, because without knowing the triggers the fact you know the diagnosis means squat, then it will just happen again and again. I have been lucky this time  because I know what my triggers and first symptoms are so I can try and stop it getting to the point it did last time where I ended up in hospital.
The other phrase is 'limit the damage that bad judgments and choices often cause'. I wonder how many people can sit and say that their mental health issue what ever it is, was not partly caused or made worse by bad choices or judgments. I know mine was, even looking back before the psychosis back to when I was at school there was damage done both to me and by me that still seriously influences the way I act and behave today, and the psychosis just magnifies my faults in my life choices and also the bad choices and actions of others. Looking closer to the present to my first attempt at my first year of uni bad choices after the Christmas holiday played a serious part in causing my Psychosis. I made some bad judgments throughout  both attempts at my first year. During my second attempt I made choices that effected whether or not I could make it through the year, those choices meant I couldn't. Having said that the choices made were based on many factors such as my fear of going out on my own, and not managing to participate in things to the extent I wanted to. They were not just off the cuff choices. I owed it to myself and my parents to go back for a second attempt and I don't count that as a bad judgment, but what I do count as a bad judgment was not attempting to go to more lectures or social events as hard as I found them.
As Kahneman says intervention is key, and on both occasions intervention by my parents and my friends saved me. But there are those who don't get the intervention because they still can't talk openly about their condition, be they bankers, students or teachers. I don't necessarily think that intervention has to be by a health care professional immediately, the first step is, if you are worried about someone, ask them if they are ok. Simple as that. The times people ask me that, and actually sound like they care makes everything seem ok. Maybe like I am sometimes, that person is dying to be asked if they are ok, just for the chance to talk about stuff.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The New

Today I got new glasses, not a big deal for most, but for someone that doesn't do change, to me it is a massive deal. It has got me thinking about how I deal with new things and change generally. To me this is one big hurdle I still struggle to climb but change happens all the time and to an extent you have to just role with it. I cannot really explain why change scares me and makes me nervous, it just does. However I have come to the conclusion that worrying about stuff you cannot chance is pointless. Of course I wish I didn't have Psychosis, but I do, so I have to get on with it and it is my desire to use it to use it in every way I can to help other people and myself at the same time. Mental illness is such that it changes frequently, it evolves from one day to the next. And I think people who don't have it need to understand this. We are not fighting a label. We are fighting an illness that may change in its nature as quickly as over night. So to an extent you have to live with the new, even if like me you cannot stand it. Some change can be good though but even that I struggle with. Change is everywhere and always happening and I think it is important to be mindful of it and to an extent you just have to go with the flow, because fighting it can make it even worse. As my illness evolves and changes I too find my self changing and evolving. For example the first time I became ill I really let myself go, and became all unkempt and the like. So this time I am fighting it by trying to keep on top of all that stuff, by making myself feel better by keeping an eye on how I dress and how I look. Not in a vain way but in some ways, feeling better outwardly can make you feel better both mentally and physically. So I think when change happens you just have to change with it and just keep an eye on yourself and be aware of the changes in you, and around you.

The most important thing I think to do in this situation is just acknowledging the fact that you can't change change. And although I wish I could you cannot control it all of the time. But I have found the trick is to become aware of yourself and of the changes that you will go through.
The changes can be difficult, especially if it is a change for the worse. This is difficult for you, but is also painful for your parents and friends to see, so keep them in the loop. Talk to them about it, because that is the only way the will be able to understand it, as it may be a change they cannot see. And if it is a change that affects them it is important, and it is their right to know about it. This can sometimes not be easy to talk about. So I sometimes try writing it down for them, especially when my brain is so muddled that I am in no position to explain it verbally to them. And I have found this silent communication works well, when talking can be too painful or hard.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Building and Breaking

In my last blog I talked about how hard it can be to tell your family and friends about your condition. But not about how and when and why you will inevitably have to tell strangers about it and what there reactions are like. 
It is everywhere, I filled out a drivers licence application a couple of days ago, and it asks if you suffer with mental health issues. Why ask that in those words? And I can't think of a half sensible answer to that. If it asked more specific questions about hallucinations or the like I could understand why that is important to tell someone, in relation to driving. But why ask about mental health under one overarching stereotype. This I must say I have a slight issue with. As I had to tick the yes box, so any sort of assumption can and probably will be made by the assessor of the application form. My point is is that the term mental health covers so much and so many different illnesses that the question is just wrong, and to an extent redundant. That being said if I get a reply asking me what my mental illness is I would be more than happy because then they are not tarring everyone with a mental illness with the too unstable to drive brush.
In the car this morning I was trying to think of a half decent metaphor for what it is like when you tell a stranger about your illness, for what ever reason that is. The best one I can think of is taken from Harry Potter, in book number two during the dueling club Harry speaks Parseltongue to ward of a snake. Something which is associated with being bad and dangerous but was in fact being used for good. However the reaction of the crowd around was that Harry must be bad and dangerous because he can speak it. In exactly the same way that saying you have Psychosis to a stranger sets alarm bells ringing and triggers instinctual defense mechanisms within them. I don't blame them, I blame the lack of education people receive about mental health. If it was talked about more at a school level people would grow up with an understanding of it so much better.
I am lucky with my boss I have the sort of open friendship so I can tell her everything and she understands it all but I am pretty sure people like her are in the minority. Not just because bosses like her are rare but also people are too scared to go to their bosses and have the conversation for whatever reason, which is totally understandable.

I had a similar problem when I tried to go to the USA with dad on holiday last summer, during my first psychotic episode, on their visa applications it asks about mental illness and was I a danger to myself or others. No I wasn't but they still demanded at least two letters from health care professionals to back it up. Which I had and when I went through security there were no issues and it turns out I didn't need the letters they asked for. But I had to wear a long sleeved shirt to hide old scars on my arms in case they saw and got twitchy about it, and that made me ashamed of myself, and what I was suffering with. Which no one should have to feel, no matter what the circumstance. In this instance I understand for security reasons why they do what they do but it is not helpful and I think could be handled better. because if i had said i was a danger to myself I would had to travel to the American Embassy in London to be assessed to see if I am fit for travel.

I think that when you tell someone who doesn't know about or understand mental health issues they automatically build walls to protect themselves from a threat that is most likely not there. For a while I thought it was my responsibility to break down those walls other people surround themselves with. But I think I have come to believe they can only be truly broken down by the person that builds them. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Finding the words

Here's the big question; How do you tell or talk to your parents and friends about your mental health issues? For most people this is one of the first and hardest of many hurdles to clear. So many things went through my head. How will they respond? Will it change everything? Will they treat me differently? How will it impact my family? And a million other thoughts. Mostly? I worried about their reactions and whether it would change the relationships I have with my family and friends. I must say I have been extraordinarily lucky on the whole, with the reaction of the people around me. My family have all come to terms with it in their own way and our relationships are stronger than ever. But this does not mean that worrying about it was irrational because sometimes it is hard to describe how you feel, or what is happening inside your head without scaring people or making yourself feel worse. In the sense that finally verbalising what is happening can make it seem very real all of a sudden. This can be very scary but is an important step to take but if you stick to the facts and just be honest about it will make you feel better than if you tell half truths or lies. I cannot really say what it is like for a parent whose child develops a mental illness, and I wouldn't even try to second guess what they have gone through with me. But it is clear it can be difficult and scary for them too, so do go easy on them, because the chances are it is just as new and intimidating for them as it is for you .
My friends have been equally great. It seemed to me that they just took it in their stride and when you share something so personal with your friends I have found it creates a very deep bond. Even though I am no longer at university I feel connected to them in a way I cannot explain, they were so good to me. What with my almost weekly trips (for a while) to the hospital and the strange people visiting me in our flat. I would have understood if they had not wanted me to still live with them or be around them, as they saw the damage I could do to myself first hand, which I would think is fairly frightening. But instead it felt like they just held me closer to themselves.  I won't name names but the hugs, the cups of tea and the general being there for me was invaluable and if you do read this you guys know who you are! :)

Starting the conversation can be very tricky and emotional, that is just fact. But how to end the conversation on the right tone can be equally hard. Both for you and the person on the other end of what you are saying. I have found the trick is simple: be honest, to the point, don't try and play it down and constantly watch how the person you are telling is responding; so then you know once it is over how to leave it. Some, in fact most I have had have ended with a hug and a quiet word in my ear. However some people may need time to take it all in, if they do then give it to them because it can be a lot to digest, especially if they have never encountered mental illness before. Some may react badly and there is no skirting around the issue that some people do, and that is their problem and their ignorance. I have found that the people who matter the most, love you however you are and whatever you have.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Feeling the force

Well today dad and I got a new puppy. He was born on May the fourth and as such he has now been named Yoda.  It is great to have a dog back in my life and the force is definitely strong in him :P
Since the car journey home he has done nothing but sleep and chew stuff up.
Talking about sleep, weird things are a happening. I have been going to bed at a reasonable time, sleeping fairly OK and waking up before 8 each day for the past week or so. It is funny how the little things can make a big difference. My day feels so much longer, and as such I have more time to do stuff I really like. I am genuinely amazed how beneficial a sensible sleep routine can be. It may sound silly but it has made a big difference this past few days.
As I said in my last blog, I have been having quite a big problem with panic and anxiety. To combat this I have set myself a few small challenges. Firstly I am trying to organize my thoughts into specific notebooks etc. At a time when I feel my brain isn't firing on all cylinders it is much better for me to write down my thoughts, and plan what I want to say, if it important, before I do it. And it does seem to be working to an extent. The second challenge I have undertaken over the past few days was to go to Cribbs Causeway, which is a big inside shopping centre, which can get quite busy. So it was a test to see if I can cope in crowds and be away from what I would call a 'safe place' for a whole day. Although I found lunch a little tense as the restaurant was pretty busy the day was an overwhelming success which made me feel very good. I think when dealing with mental illness it is important to take baby steps. Slow and steady wins the race. Trying  too much to soon, which is what I have done in the past only makes things worse. Everyone is different but everyone knows what to them are big or little steps. 
Taking these little steps can be vital in regaining control of yourself and not letting the illness control you. Which is the worse thing that can happen but often does for a while. However being mindful of it is half the battle fought. After taking what others may see as baby steps you do get an overwhelming sense of achievement, and it feels GREAT, a buzz most people who aren't ill wouldn't understand but it is amazing.
I saw my GP yesterday, whom I get on very well with and he really got me thinking, we were talking about psychiatric wards and their pro's and con's. but what was interesting was the word he used and the explanation he gave. He said they should go back to being called an asylum, even though this word was abandoned many years ago. He said it because you are seeking help in exactly the same way people claim political asylum. He said it is not unrealistic to at times feel like you need to seek 'mental asylum'. I found that thought quite comforting and reassuring in a strange sort of way. Like it isn't something shameful to consider, but it is in fact, sometimes the best and most rational decision to make. However now is not the right time for me to claim it. But he just made me feel that if I ever do need to, that you shouldn't be ashamed of it. And  people shouldn't you wouldn't be ashamed of having your appendix out so why should you about this?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Fighting on many fronts

Since I have relapsed I have been put on new set of various prescription drugs and at the last count I take up to 16 pills a day, depending on how the day is going and how I am feeling. But there are some I take regardless of how I feel. The 'bread and butter' drugs. These are Aripiprazole, which is an anti-psychotic drug and an anti-depressant called Amitriptyline. I also take pain killers and Diazepam which helps to control my moods and feelings. There is no doubt that all of them are working for me, on a good day or at a good point during a day at least. However during a 'crisis' or and episode of serious panic, I find myself doubting their effectiveness however these episodes are pretty rare. Which is what I will be discussing with my doctor on friday. I am not nor would I ever say taking them is pointless, they do do a lot of good but it is possible to reach a point (even whilst taking medication) where it has little or no effect. At present I do not know what the answer to this problem is, and is causing me a fair bit of worry. The difficult thing is that it takes time to find the right drugs and then the right quantities of that drug. This can be, and is for me, very frustrating. Which then fuels the circle of panic and fear. Of late these 'crises' have a number of effects on me, I get the shakes, my memory goes and I cannot remember basic things. I get dizzy and my spacial awareness fails me. This then makes my head worse and it goes on. The trick is to break the circle, every Dr, Nurse and other Professional has said this. I know it is true, but that is so much easier said than done, it takes time and effort and some days the effort just isn't there to fight it but most days it is. I am not saying I want it to keep happening but some days it just feels like there is no fight left. On the other hand some days I wake up raring to fight it and to an extent this blog is my way of doing so. For each person that reads this in my eyes it is one way of fighting it. 
It is not an understatement to say that medical intervention in terms of medication has pretty much saved me. But I am still not at a place where they work completely and it may well be that this is as good as it gets, as I am well aware it is not possible to cure everything with a pill or potion. They are one side of the coin. The other side is learning my causes and triggers of Psychosis. However this is not easy, both of the times I have had a psychotic episode the situations were totally different, some things are sort of the same but the way in which they manifest themselves are totally different. Which can be difficult to handle because it is like trying to fight a 3 headed beast, focus on one head and the others may strike. Hopefully in time it will be easier to fight on many fronts at the same time, at the moment it is not easy and to be honest I don't think I know how but I will try. What I do know is is that I wouldn't have a fighting chance without my family at my side, as they have been all the way through this.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tired and Inspired

So yesterday I went to my sisters wedding and it was amazing! She looked beautiful and Ian (my now brother-in-law) is a fantastic chap. I don't really go in for all this soppyness but the whole day left me totally inspired. Firstly I was really inspired by the whole notion of love and marriage, to share that sort of bond with someone leaves me hopeful that there is someone out there for everyone. Secondly the venue for the wedding was stunning and sort of made me appreciate just how beautiful, tranquil and peaceful the world can be. Which is especially important to me at a time when I struggle to find peace and tranquility in my own life and in my own head. As I said the whole occasion gave me hope, hope for the here and now but also hope for what is to come. Even if I do not know what that is at the moment. I think hope is just as powerful a emotion as any other. And for me, at this point in my life it is one of the ones I cling on most to. Since I am on somewhat of an emotional ramble today I would like to thank all the people that have been in contact with me or family members since I started this blog. Your continuing support is greatly appreciated.
However I cannot say that the wedding was plain sailing for me. I am beginning to struggle being out in public quite a lot again at the moment, I get very nervous especially with people I do not know, so the post ceremony reception was challenging to say the least. Having said that many of the guests were friends of my extended family who I have not seen for many years which did make it slightly easier. Especially when a few of them told me they were following me on here. We did have to leave the reception early because I started to struggle more as the night drew in and I started to feel totally exhausted. But the amazing thing was that everyone was so understanding, partly this is because they are all such lovely people but also because they understand my 'condition'. That is why I think getting people to understand more about psychosis is so important. Few of the people knew I have it, they understand it and it is easier for everyone. That is why I think talking about it, however hard it can be is sometimes worth it.

It is hard thing to talk about, there is no getting around it. Finding the words can be hard enough, fear of being misunderstood as I blogged before is even worse. However it is also hard for the person you are telling too, because the chances are the subject will be just as alien to them as it is for you to begin with. With time you start to understand it better and then by sharing how you feel, the people around you can start to understand it better too. In the beginning it is understandable not to want to talk about it. I didn't, so I started a diary because for me acknowledging to myself how I feel is important before I can even begin to tell someone else. Even now I sometimes find it easier to talk to cyberspace than any one person. So for me part of the point of this blog, is to talk to people; the people I know and love, just as much as it is for the people I don't know but want to share my experiences with.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Cutthroat and Confusion

Today I set myself a challenge, to go into a proper barbers and have my very first cut throat shave. To most men this is no challenge at all, but it was for me. I have a real thing about people touching my neck, it makes me really nervous and at present my paranoia levels are at a point that I find it very difficult to trust and be comfortable with new people around me. So for a random stranger to be shaving my neck with a cutthroat blade was a big step.
But I did it and walked out of the shop with a real sense of victory Sam 1- Psychosis 0

One thing has struck me recently, and indeed it was backed up by my CPN when I last saw her. When I was diagnosed I was given a whole host of leaflets and information packs on what the symptoms of psychosis are and then the phases which one goes through during the 'episode.' However none of these even begin to prepare you for the emotional struggle which you go through. For example they say you have a heightened sense of anxiousness. Fine. I can live with that and this is the main issue I have at the moment. But what the leaflets do not say is how being extra anxious makes you feel; scared, wary and paranoid about everything. To the extend every time I leave the house my mind goes into overdrive about whether or not I have everything; have I locked the door etc. Even though I know I have. It is different from the 'oh have I got my keys' worry that everyone goes through. It sounds more like 'urkgfvh have orifgdhvrewo I rwiogfj got rrohgj my erougfvhoef keys rgfovhe'. Everything is mixed up my mind gets all fuzzy and confused under pressure at the moment. Which is becoming increasingly annoying as I am messing up even the most basic of tasks. My mind is in a 'what if' mode. All I can think of is what if this happens cause that to happen or if that happens what will happen next. I am finding it hard to live in the here and now at the moment. But that is all I can do because at present the future is so unpredictable and I just don't know what will happen today, tomorrow, next week or next month and I really HATE that.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Scared of the dark

As this second phase has started to develop the primary symptom, and time during which I struggle the most, is as it starts to get dark, it terrifies me. The blackness, the shadows that aren't really there. Also first thing in the morning, before I get up and out of bed I have the same problem. I have started to have what my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) describes as night terrors. It is the most strange feeling I have ever experienced, it is like dreaming when you are awake; flashbacks that are fictional but depict my worst fears and nightmares. Which more often than not leave me questioning what is real and what is just in my mind when I come round the next morning.

The strange this is that in the day time I am able to function almost totally normally. With the exception of a heightened sense of paranoia and anxiousness. This is how it started last time, however I am not resigned to the fact that history will repeat itself because situation I am in now is so very different to how it was then. Most of the factors that contributed to my condition last time are not the same as this time. Today I saw my CPN and she has mentioned the possibility that in fact my psychosis could potentially be a symptom of an undiagnosed 'personality disorder.' Apparently there are many types of these 'disorders' and even more causes for them. But we will have to wait and see what happens. However what ever the cause or reason for this relapse is, doesn't matter at the moment because it is happening for what ever reason, and will happen whether I know the cause of it or not. 

Herein lies the biggest problem I face- knowing it is happening to me. Last time I was in a place where I was not particularly aware of what was happening to me, it just sort of snuck up on me. This time I can see it coming, like some sort of cloud hanging over me and this, in my opinion, makes it scarier than last time, even though it hasn't got to the stage it did last time. 
A second problem I have encountered is that because I have been through it before people assume that the second time will be easier but this it not the case, far from it. In fact it is scarier and far more frightening because I know what is potentially coming. Only someone who has experienced this knows just how scary this prospect is. And when people ask I struggle to put it into words because I don't want to scare people or make them jump to conclusions.
Tomorrow I leave for Kent for my sisters wedding and I cannot wait. Going to something so normal in the midst of everything that is so abnormal and unpredictable really is unbelievably calming. As fate would have it, it could not have come at a better time and I wish Bridget and Ian all the happiness in the world. I will try and keep this up to date when I can while I am away but please excuse me if it remains quiet for a few days.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Well here goes....

Before I discovered this whole world of blogging I thought I was pretty good with technology but all this stuff is totally new to me and proof I am indeed not good with it, so please bare with me.

As I said on my page, at the beginning of last year I was diagnosed as having a psychotic episode which, to some people, can conjure up images of knife wielding murderers and the like. It certainly did for me at least, for a while, before I understood what it really meant and then I soon came to realize that this could not be a more incorrect judgment to make.
Of course I can only talk about my experiences throughout this illness from my own personal experience and what my friends and family have said I was like during my first episode
In reality the fact it is just like loosing who you are for a while, it is like loosing your nature, your essence as a human being and although I can only talk about what happened to me, I felt dead inside and so the notion I could get angry enough to wield a knife or whatever is totally paradoxical as I didn't have enough emotion to feel anything so how could I get angry enough to do that in the first place? And the times when I did feel something it just made me sad, not angry. But I will never shake the thought that my mum especially was, for a while, scared of me. This upset me and then made me scared of me. I knew I never would or could hurt anyone psychically but the fact that the voices in my head were telling me to meant that the people I stayed with, my mum and dad, needed to know what the voices were saying and so they got scared.

The primary emotion I felt last time was fear, pure and simple fear. I have always been the kind of person who likes to be in control and the psychosis meant I wasn't in control of myself and this is terrifying. And it is something that no shrink or nurse can prepare you for because as good as they are or can be, the power of the emotion involved cannot be explained in a book or by a person who has themselves not been through it. It can only be experienced. That is the purpose of this blog to share my fears and thoughts as and when they happen.

However it is bad to dwell on the past and so I will only really use it to help predict what may come next. I will not be explicitly replaying what happened last time on here and I don't like doing it in person either as I find it a scary place to look back to.
What I want to try and to do is put down in text how I feel and how this second episode manifests itself over the coming weeks and months. Last time this happened to me I felt so alone because I didn't have anyone to talk to who had been to the same point I had. Talking bout it helps but knowing you are not alone can help a lot more. Knowing your not the only one having odd or bad thoughts, in my opinion makes it feel less wrong or shameful.