Chill Pill

pexels-photo-271171

In my twenty years of suffering with mental illness, I have had a love-hate relationship with my meds! My illness itself has certainly changed course. After many years in the throes of crippling depressions sprinkled with the odd mania, my depressions are mostly fleeting, and it is the mania which is my mainstay. I have, like many people with a serious mental illness, done the rounds of the psych meds. They have been both the bane of my life and the saviour.

I now take my meds religiously, to ward off the worst effects of my mania and psychosis. After all, who wants to be the Virgin Mary, whilst possessing supernatural powers to heal and at the same time blowing thousands of pounds on frivolities?

Here’s a little poem I wrote about the dreaded pills….

CHILL PILL
Hail! Oh hallowed Saviour
Of society
This crazy epidemic of
Insanity,
Life between the veils
What’s real, what’s fantasy?
Clutching, clawing, grasping
At reality.
Go chill, take a pill, the sane mill,
Travesty,
It’s uncool, madness, such an insane
Malady.
Yet grounding, rooting, back to body
Gravity,
Miracles of modern medics
Clarity.
So take it, just a pill, for total
Equanimity.

© Sarah Drury

That festive feeling?

theme-christmas

So its almost here. Consumerism heaven. Sorry, I mean Christmas. That time of year which can make you or break you.

People fall into three categories at this time of year. The insanely enthusiastic, with their gaudy Christmas jumpers, dazzling cheer and houses bedecked with a million sparkling illuminations. The middle of the road, can’t really be arsed but plodding along as its what people do, or those who really wish it wasn’t Christmas at all, and are having a really hard time coping, without all the festive shenanigans.

I fall into the middle category. Years ago, before I got ill, Christmas was a magical time for me. I was a social butterfly. The holidays were all about the kids’ concerts, the breathtaking carol concerts with the Halle Orchestra and choir (I was a soprano) and the yearly performance of Handel’s Messiah. This would be topped off with a fun-filled, jollity laden Christmas with my good friends in their country home.

Now, life is very different. Friends are few and far between and I do not stand on a stage in the spotlight. The children don’t sing and I do not quaff champagne whilst dining around a table full of frolicsome company. I play along with the festivities for the sake of my son. Santa does come to the house but that magic will soon die as my son is only a half believer this year. The Christmas cards end up in the recycling bin as my son is Autistic and likes to tear them down during meltdowns. The Christmas music, so gaudy and commercial, that so intrusively invades my senses, falls on deaf ears. I have gone through the motions. The cards have all been dutifully written, presents beautifully wrapped. We will have dinner at mum’s with my family.

I have a good friend who is very depressed and struggling at this time of year. She has barely been out of the house in weeks, and is trying to cope with three young children. My heart goes out to her, and all the other people who are coping with mental illness, especially at this supposed festive time of year. I remember being hospitalised for many months due to a severe mania, and feeling very alone at a time when others were together. I truly hope that they have someone to look out for them, to reach out and care. There will be many people who are hurting inside, but putting on a face for the sake of their loved ones.

As I try and recapture some of the lost magic of Christmas by playing some soothing classical Christmas music on the radio, and maybe even listen to the Messiah, I will hold in my thoughts those who are suffering at this time of year. If you can hold them in your hearts, that would be wonderful, and if you can reach out, that would be even more beautiful.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

The challenge of parenthood when you have a mental illness

Shaving

I happen to be a woman who became a mother later in life. A woman with a severe mental illness. A woman who is now, to add to the challenge, a widow. And whose son has Autism.

Although at times I have been terrible at it, motherhood has been the making of me. I spent my ‘prime’ years as a frequent inpatient at the local psychiatric hospitals, mania, depression, psychosis, suicidal ideation making life painful and seemingly impossible. All the medication in the world, and sixteen rounds of ECT didn’t fix me. It took an incredible man called John to do that. Soon after, I conceived my son. Many were horrified, most were incredulous. I could barely care for myself, let alone another tiny, dependent human life. But become a mother I did, and it was my job to prove the world wrong.

Caring for this beautiful bundle of babyhood had a therapeutic effect on me. My moods stabilised, I was calmer and more settled. I didn’t feel suicidal and my manias were minor in comparison to my pre-baby self.

Tragedy struck when my husband passed away, when my son was three years old. I was unable to cope with the loss and the traumatic circumstances, and ended up back in the psychiatric unit for a while.

There was one other occasion where hospitalisation was required, but that was due to a bout of severe mania with psychosis, and due to neglecting my lithium.

Motherhood has been the making of me, in many ways. My life is not easy. My son has Autism, which brings its challenges, and I am here coping all alone, my husband now hopefully watching down on us from his spirit realms!

Medication is my mainstay, I am rigid about taking the correct dose every night. The effects of not taking my medication are mania and psychosis. I minimise stress down to the least possible. In this house we have our routines, mostly due to my son’s Autism.

I made the huge decision to bring forth new life, and I have a great responsibility to remain well enough to care for my son and make sure all his needs are met. After spending many years at the centre of the psychiatric system, fighting against the regime, I am now calmly and willingly surrendering to a quiet, ordered, calmer life.

I have taken myself out of center stage and my son is there at the heart of everything we do. He knows I have a mental illness, and copes well with my fluctuating moods. He has separation anxiety and delayed emotional development as a result of his father’s death and my hospitalisations when he was young. But I have lots of support, my CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse), psychologists from the education authority, his school and my family.

Being a parent with a mental illness can make you vulnerable to judgement and prejudice. I have even had dealings with social services after my last hospitalisation. That was traumatic but strengthened even more my resolve to be a stable parent.

My advice to parents who have a mental illness are this:

  • Take your meds!
  • Destress your life as much as possible
  • try and keep a routine to your day
  • Use all the support networks you can
  • Keep good relationships with school
  • keep a close check on how you are feeling. If you feel a slight shift in mood, or the slightest symptoms, take action as soon as possible.
  • Set aside time to have fun with your child. Laughter makes for happy parenting  and kids.
  • Try not to become isolated. Keep contact with friends and family.
  • If you are feeling unwell, talk to someone. Friends, family, or even a telephone support hotline.
  • Be kind to yourself! You are doing the best job you can!

 

One of those days…

pexels-photo-271897

I’m having one of those days, today. Where my motivation is there, but my body and mind just won’t cooperate! A million and one things to accomplish, yet the smallest hurdle seems like an insurmountable impossibility.

So I am staying huddled in the warmth, my fleecy P.J.’s caressing my weary flesh and bones, until this hazy cocoon of bewilderment releases me from its clutches and my mind has resembled a modicum of clarity and function.

I find myself like this more frequently, of late. Usually after I’ve experienced a mild, fleeting hypermania. Like I am a spent battery with every drop of charge sucked out by my power-hungry mania.

Depleted

Here I sit,
An empty vessel,
Drained,
Like sodden dregs of coffee,
Moulded into
Human form.
Narcoleptic eyes,
In vacuous, dead expression,
Seeing,
Yet in monochrome,
A flat, insipid
Tableau of abjection.
Waiting for
A catalyst,
Sweet impetus,
To animate
This stagnant soul,
To live, again.

© Sarah Drury 2017

 

 

 

Would you push the button?

trigger-button

Have you seen the two-part documentary ‘The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’ by Stephen Fry? If you live with bipolar disorder, or have a friend or family who does, it is highly recommended viewing.

At the end of the final episode, Stephen Fry had asked the people he’d interviewed whether if they had the option of being free from bipolar disorder by pressing a red button, would they press it? Surprisingly, most said they would not. They felt it would take away a fundamental part of themselves that they had come to love and value.

I thought very hard about this.  There are most definitely times where I would most definitely love to be free of the illness…

I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and have suffered immense crippling, suicidal depressions, where I truly have no longer wanted to take another breath. I have fought with the demons inside my tortured mind, prayed for mercy and begged for my fragmented thoughts to cease, as I launched my fragile skull at yet another solid wall and burned away the pain of such torment with a flame,  the sharpness snapping at my consciousness like a welcome intruder. The days and months of indescribable exhaustion, festering in a bottomless pit of dark, forboding thoughts, desperate to escape from a place where every tick of the clock was an eternity in hades.

There are times when I am avoiding the mountain of debtors letters, brought on by yet another manic spree of irresponsible and unfettered spending. And then the years where I am sinking in a sea of debt, struggling to appease my creditors, after the manic season is over.

There was the time I almost lost custody of my son. Its not easy being an unpredictably unstable mother with the label of a serious mental illness hanging over her head. Every battle I have fought to save my son, has fortified my soul a thousand-fold, and my one determined resolution is that I have a duty to stay well for my son’s sake, and the sake of his daddy in Heaven.

But for all the terrifying and disturbing aspects of this illness, there are parts of it which I have grown to love.

I swear I owe my creativity and drive to the manic aspects of my illness. Those flashes of inspiration at 3 in the morning, the pure creative energy surging through my mind, the limitless energy and enthusiasm. The sensation of every atom and cell of your being alive and stimulated and … so hard to describe but just an incredible feeling!

Even the psychoses have been an incredible experience, well the positive ones anyhow. Sitting in the garden, at the dead of night, the stars gleaming in the sky above, being in telepathic communication with other beings from far galaxies in the universe, is an exciting experience. Being the reincarnation of the blessed Virgin Mary is also quite remarkable. The buzz of hearing music that you just know was written for you personally is quite flattering. I know, its not real, but it was fun.

So if you asked me whether I would push the button to free myself of my disorder, I think the answer would have to be no, as I have grown to accept my condition and without it, I would just not be the same Sarah.

What about you? What would you do?

 

Drug Trolley

colorful-pills-on-white-background-1

IMAGE: ‘colorful-pills-on-white-background’ http://www.aol.co.uk

When I think of all the time I have spent gazing desperately at the dirty, putrid walls of psychiatric hospitals, it must run into years! I have festered within their aging, flaking, plastered surfaces, my depressed brain rotting like a decomposing apple, rancid to the core. Within these walls I have journeyed to the realms of the heavenly host, and transformed into the blessed mother Mary herself, relishing in the delightful delusions and the grandeur they afford to one normally so mediocre. I have flirted and flitted like a demented, damaged butterfly, clad in nothing but a faux-fur jacket, crimson-stained lips betraying my incorrigible and licentious, ever-escalating mania.

One of the set-in-stone givens was the ritual of the drug trolley. It was there at the exact same time every night. A lighthouse of medicinal salvation, a beacon of neurological anaesthesia. It was a bringer-together of every flavour in the recipe of psychiatric diagnostics.  A psychological, psychiatrical chicken soup for the soul.

This poem was written during a lengthy stay which spanned most of a year. It is still one of my favourites…

 

DRUG TROLLEY 

Hail! Oh righteous vessel,
Bearer of great gifts to
Those with faith in
This Messiah of psychiatry.

Wondrous drugs
Of plenteous magnitude,
Neurological, psychological,
Sumptuous licorice allsorts.

Plastering, sanding, glossing
Over crumbling foundations,
Psychological invalidity,
Circuitry overload.

Come now,
Swallow those meds,
They’ll send away the voices,
Ease away the pain.

You know you have to cooperate,
For we have needles
Longer than your arm,
Must have complete submission.

Glazed and dazed,
The damaged and cracked,
Assert the tablet hierarchy,
‘Only two tonight dear?’
‘I take fifty a day, you know?’

The climax,
Blessed consumption of the
sacred pills and holy water,
Modern Deistic ceremony,
After the manner of Sigmund Freud.

After the hoards disperse to
Separate dimensions of time and space,
Time and delusion,
Broken, shattered fragments
of a once-whole mirror,

They praise their holy trinity,
In the name of the
Trolley, Drug and Holy Nurse.
AMEN.

©Sarah Drury

 

 

As I sit here this evening, the moon beaming high above the rooftops, its rays’ reflections glinting on the frosty ground, I count my blessings as I treasure the love I have for my child sleeping soundly upstairs. It was not always this way. I was once living a hellish life, shunted between psychiatric hospitals and mental health units, my fragmented mind struggling to cope with the ravages of a severe mental illness that I now know as Schizoaffective disorder.

I had a dazzling life, a successful career as a teacher and part-time musician. I was young, free, single and living the high life. Life was full on, non-stop drama and action. I lived every moment in full, never stopping to breathe or relax. The stress I was under was immense, but I worked through it, thriving on the high-tension schedule, never stopping. I thought I was untouchable, unbreakable. Boy was I wrong!

I was 29 when I had my first episode. Can you remember how old you were?