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.

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.