Saturday, 25 October 2014

To Pimlico, to Pimlico, to Pimlico

I was desperate to get home. I longed for the comfort of my own surroundings and to be able to come and go as I pleased, without constant supervision, a chaperone, and time restrictions. At this stage in my recovery I wasn't sure if that was weeks or months away. I was caught in time. Frozen in my state of "unknowing". All I knew was that the next big step had arrived. I had overnight leave and I was going to make the most of it.

Just to give it some context, by making the most of it I mean enjoying a cosy night in with my family, not downing j├Ągerbombs until dawn. I wouldn't like to see what a medication and shots cocktail would look like. I'm guessing it wouldn't be pretty. One thing that my psychosis taught me, and there were a staggering amount, was to savour and value the mundane, the everyday, even the down right boring. After experiencing hyper-reality, I realised that plain old reality is a beautiful place to be. 

Coming back to Earth after visiting planet Insania is a scary trip. It requires a very slow and steady approach. I had been desperate to get overnight leave and now that I had it, it was a prospect so daunting I was almost prepared to stay on the ward so that I didn't have to face it. It was an existential lurch and it felt deeply unsafe to my fragile psyche. Each of these hurdles to the finish line of normality seemed too high to jump.  I had to coach myself over each one. I had to believe I could, take off, and hope that a lagging back foot wouldn't trip me up. 
"I just need to get to Pimlico. I have to get to Pimlico. Will they give me overnight leave, because I can only use the flat in Pimlico this week" Pimlico dominated my thoughts and feelings. It was my Mecca, my Nirvana, and my Moscow. 

We were very very lucky to have a friend who had a flat there, who said we could stay there anytime in the week, as they were away. We didn't have anywhere else to do an overnight stay in London that could fit me, my husband, my mother-in-law and our baby boy, so it was Pimlico or bust.

I fought so hard for that leave. I knew that, in order for it to be granted, I had to demonstrate that I could take care of Albert overnight, even though I would have the help of my husband on leave. So for the week leading up to ward round I pushed through my very zombie-like state; I forced myself to stand to soothe him in the early hours, even though my legs were numbed, and I prepared bottles while the dressing gown of sedation hung heavy on my shoulders.

The staff could see my struggle. But they could see the effort, the will, and the desire I had to do all of my motherly nigh-time tasks despite the huge obstacles I faced. 

I struggled when I was on leave. How could anything live up to the image I'd created in my head? It was freedom and a step closer to home. But it was a home that wasn't mine, in a bed I didn't know, surrounded by things I didn't recognise. It made me feel further from home than ever. If I found this hard, how would I ever get back to my house, with my bed and my things?

I had to pause. To re-evaluate. To congratulate myself on this monumental and minuscule step. We cooked a meal and sat together in front of the tv. There was no negotiation with other patients about what to watch and it was delightful to have a meal that wasn't cooked in a plastic bag. This was all strangely normal. Here we all were together, and there was no-one calling time on visiting hours. I didn't have to hand Albert over to anyone apart from his dad, and I could be beside my husband tonight, all night, for the first time in weeks. 

We watched Frozen. We laughed, sang and held each other on the sofa. Tears silently fell down my cheeks as Let It Go blasted out of the speakers and I knew that that was what I needed to do.

Love and lovely boring little things,Mutha Courage x

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Drug War

Every day that I was in the ward I was getting better. That meant that I was swimming closer to the surface, regaining consciousness. The better I got the harder I found recovery. I could see what had happened. The evidence was all around me. It was like being the lead detective in the murder case of myself.

I was still on a massive cocktail of drugs, but I was finding out that psychosis was not my ideal holiday destination. I started to hate and resent the medication. I resented how they made me feel, and I hated that I had to be on them. I knew they had bought me back to reality, but it was not the reality I wanted. It was a reality I had to try desperately hard not to fight.

I was in the midst of a drug war and my body was no man's land.

It's 10pm, I've just taken my medication and I can already feel the sedating effect moving down my limbs. I am holding my crying son, trying to soothe him so I know he is calm and happy before I have to leave him to go to bed. It's not going to happen. Again. Again I will have to leave him with staff, agitated and upset, reflecting my emotions as only a baby can. Again I will have to listen to him cry and not be able to go to him, and again I will wake up without him by my side.

I hate these drugs. I hate what they're doing to me and what they are turning me into. I don't care if they are what's helped me and what's helping me, they are ruining me. I can hardly speak, everything's numb and I feel like I'm locked into my body. My mind can't live here. I need them to sort out my levels. I'm not on the right levels. I can't live like this. I can't be this person. I can't be a mother. Not like this.

It would be weeks and weeks of ongoing reviews, level alterations, blood tests and ward rounds before my intake would be reduced to just one drug, rather than 3 or 4 and months of alarms going off every few hours to remind me to take them. 

I can honestly say that I've been miserable only a few times in my life, and this was the single most miserable time of them all. I felt like I was being punished for a crime that I hadn't committed. I was desperately trying to stay positive when everything around me felt soul crushingly bleak. 

I felt like I was walking a tightrope in wellies. I wasn't equipped for this. I knew I needed to get off the medication, but didn't know the full extent of what would happen to me if and when I did. I knew I had to trust the professionals around me, but I was sick of feeling like everyone else was in charge of me. I longed to be the boss of me again. I wanted to get out. Desperately. Painfully. I needed to get out, and although I didn't know it at the time, it was going to happen. Sooner that I knew.

Love and Lithium,

Mutha Courage X

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Temporary Release

I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being held captive, that I was a prisoner on the ward and that I couldn't be the mother I wanted to be while I had all these wardens watching my every move. In actuality I was there completely of my own free will and I was a patient. The staff were doing everything they could to help me learn how to nurture and care for my son in the midst of this shocking disease. Its amazing what time can do to shift you perspective, but at that time I was imprisoned and I had been granted a whole, glorious days release. 

The reason I had negotiated this days leave was because my son was within one day of missing his birth registration and, as his parents, we could face prosecution for failing to register him on time. I was totally oblivious to all of this, which is another indicator of how unwell I had become, because anyone that knows me knows that lists, organisation and deadlines are completely my thing!

Because we were in Hackney he could be registered in London and as my husband was staying with our urban mum in Brixton then Lambeth Town Hall it was. What was beautiful about this chance detail was that it was where my husband and I had registered our marriage just 3 years before. Psychosis had done it again, or we had, it all seemed to make some weird, twisted, crooked sense. 

We sat in the waiting room with all the other babies that were brand new and held our son in his special St. Patricks Day romper suit that was yet another act of generosity for his urban nanna. It was official. He existed. He was named. He was registered.

We took him to all our old haunts, independent coffee shops and markets. It was such normality, so ordinary. I looked like everyone else. No-one knew what was going on in my mind, just like I didn't know what was going on in theirs. We were a family. 

This was a taste of the freedom I was so scared of and yet longed for.

We walked through the park. I really saw my son, for one of the first times in weeks. Outside of the ward, where I was just getting through the day, there was time to look, really look at what was going on around me.

To see him see trees for the first time was incredible. Even his face displayed wonder. He's actually still besotted with trees 7 months on.

Having that day with my family really helped me to get some perspective on my situation. My mindset changed almost in an instant. I was free. I have always been free. Feeling like I'm being held hostage is the illness not the hospital. I was fighting it. Not only that, but was winning.

That feeling lasted until I pressed the security button on the ward doors, to pass security and went back into my home, my cell.

Love and wise old oaks,
Mutha Courage X