Friday, 25 July 2014

The Lost Plot

I normally have quite a clear idea of what to write next. I can see where I am in the story of my experience and I know what follows in the sequence of events. But here is where the narrative fails. The plot is lost and I am free-falling with no idea which way is up, or if I will ever feel my feet on the ground.

Between medical notes and what my family tell me I can piece something together, but most of what they tell me may as well be about another wife, daughter or friend. I can't knit together a comfort blanket from the tattered remnants that are handed to me. My mum told me recently that at this point she feared she'd never see me again; that I was lost. All I could really tell you is that at this point she was right. Everyone could see my body and hear my voice, but I was not there with them.

It would be easier to talk about what everyone has told me happened in these lost days, but it fundamentally avoids one of the biggest traumas of this illness. There are horrible things I said and did that I don't have a clear picture of. These episodes haunt my memory and float in and out of focus, elusive ghosts using my mind as their repossessed stately home. Many of my recollections have strong feeling attached to them, but not the details. I couldn't tell you the sequence of anything that happened. From this point my life becomes a sketch, and I am reduced to a line drawing of my former self.

One of the most devastating blows in the early stages of my treatment was being told that they had to put me on anti-psychotic medication that would mean I could no longer breastfeed my son. This was such a severe knock to my self-esteem. I wasn't fit to feed my own baby. I had failed him and now anyone with a bottle in hand could be his mum. In those terrifying days, feeding him and knowing I was the person he needed was the only thing that truly made me feel like I mattered. Now this was being taken away too. I only found out recently that during my psychosis he lost 40% of his body weight and was now weighing just a few pounds. He was a tiny bird-like creature. He needed sustenance and I couldn't give it to him. My illness meant I was in survival mode, and the stress meant there was nothing in my milk to help him. My body knew it was him or me.

Everything overwhelmed, overstimulated and overpowered me. I couldn't write emails or text messages, I couldn't speak on the phone and could only just deal with seeing people face to face. I think that psychosis can often feel even more distressing as the recovery process begins. When I was so ill, I was just existing, surviving moment to moment, but looking back is to see a reflection of yourself that sends shock waves through your once certain sense of self. The face staring back is unrecognisable.

My days now consisted of visits to the medicine room, having blood tests and observations of my heart rate, temperature and weight. Punctuated by hospital meals for lunch and dinner. As well as these regular commitments, there were frequent visits from, and talks to, health visitors, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. This was not what I would have said I'd imagined for my first couple of weeks as a mum, but here it was. This was my world.

Even thinking back to those days now exhausts and distresses me. I've always been someone who has prided themselves on an ability to organise my life efficiently, communicate clearly and make new friends easily, but here I was completely debilitated by this shocking disease that had been rotting me from the core. I scuttled around the ward avoiding people one moment and shouting my thoughts and feelings the next. Loudly. Very loudly.

I clung desperately to every self-help mantra that I'd ever practised, if there was a time when my self needed help the most, it was now.

All this shall pass.

It is what it is.

Say yes to your universe.

I knew one thing. I couldn't change what had happened to me and I certainly couldn't control what was going to happen, but I was going to fight. Not with anger and frustration and pain, which although I felt in abundance, I knew weren't my best weapons. No, I would use presence, love and positivity. I was going to say yes to what was happening to me and, no matter what, I would find the lining of this cloud, whatever colour it was. Somewhere very deep within, I believed in myself, my family, love and joy and I wasn't going to let psychosis rob me of what I had worked so hard to obtain; a love of life. The Thing's days were numbered, I was ready for this war.

Love and positive affirmations,
Mutha Courage X

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