Yesterday I was discharged from hospital, my consultant’s departing words something like, ‘you’re in a good place now, don’t fuck it up’ [read: don’t stop taking your meds].
It’s been crazy. It was two months to the day since I was first admitted for mania. So about 7 weeks in hospital in total, with 12 days between admissions. A lot has happened- a new diagnosis, new meds, a comedown, a holiday, a relapse, a second comedown…and finding a place that feels something like balance.
It’s strange looking back to the day I was admitted- I was so adamant that I was ‘perfectly fine!!!’ Calm, stable, cool as a cucumber. Nothing wrong here! I screamed it at the top of my lungs, face dripping with tears and sweat, bouncing up and down on the chair. The nurses hold back stifled laughter as I pace the small interview room, swinging my tangle toy in the air as I rant about how unfair, how unnecessary it all is. How it was just that fucking doctor, he’s the only reason I got so worked up! I’m not really manic! I promise, please let me go home!
They don’t. So for the next three and a half days I lock myself in the fishbowl. I stand on the chair and sing for literal hours on end, various nurses and HCAs occasionally catching me on the furniture and rapping on the window or yanking open the door and yelling at me to Get Down. I scowl, laugh, climb back up when they leave, or slump down onto the chair and jig jig jig my legs instead. At meds time I scream and shout and cry and swear at the nurses who spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to talk me down, convince me that I am Sick. To hell with them all! I am magic! They are trying to take it away! That’s the only issue here! I refuse some or all of my medication. I’m told I will be detained. The ward sister takes me by the shoulders, pleading, telling me she wouldn’t lie to me. Telling me there’s no point talking to me when I’m Like This. And I scream and shout and cry and swear at the ward sister and swear at the consultant and pace the garden for hours, then pace the ward when I am told to come inside. And at 1am I jig my way into the nurse’s office and cry and say I should be able to control it because it’s my brain! And I am told I can’t because I have a Chemical Imbalance. And I take their pills and then sit up and write write write that they are getting into my brain, they are stealing the magic, they are all conspiring against me because they are jealous! Intimidated! And I jig my legs and I cry, because everyone is wrong wrong wrong and I am right right right.
After three and a half days I find myself standing on a window ledge. I think ‘ok. Maybe I am not, actually, perfectly fine’.
I go back to the ward, drunk, and climb into bed and stay there for the rest of the night. I take my tablets with no complaints. Tears streaming my face, because still, I am high as a kite and finding it very fucking difficult to believe I need them at all. I do what my favourite nurse told me to do: throw them back without thinking about it. The next day, the ward sister tells me she thinks I am starting to realise that I am Unwell.
It is eight more days of my full dose of lithium and various benzodiazepines0-that allow me to sleep a stable 5 hours a night- before I crash from the high. Eight days of constantconstantconstant pacing, leg jigging, bouncing, racing thoughts, talking, singing, grandiosity, zero concentration, restlessness, agitation, irritation. I leap on Dr Zoe every time I see her asking her please can I go for a walk. I am not deemed stable enough to walk the grounds, play snooker, go on leave. I park myself on a chair or lean against the door of the nurses station, leg bouncing, talking a mile a minute about absolutely nothing, occasionally stopping to ask the nurses (who are busy trying to ignore me while they do paperwork) if I’m bothering them (depending who it is, they will politely or sarcastically tell me I’m not). I follow them round the ward like a puppy, asking them to teach me ‘nurse things’, to let me help with all the paperwork, let me practice taking bloods, dispense meds. I sit with them on their break and talk talk talk. One day a nurse interrupts me and asks me to repeat what I just said. ‘But I can’t remember what I just said’. ‘Well then’, she replies, ‘why are you talking?’ Touché. I hound the HCAs, asking them to let me help them make the beds, chart observations, take patient’s vitals. I climb on my bedside locker, the chairs, the sofas, the tables, the benches, the wall out in the garden, the roof of the hospital. I sing Frozen at the top of my lungs, draw a moustache on my face with a marker, come up with nicknames for all the staff, hop in and out of bed, laughing hysterically with another patient. I close my eyes and everything morphs, twists into strange shapes. I sit in front of Dr Zoe and I cry and I tell her I would just like it to stop, I would just like things to be still for five.fucking.minutes.
I’m not sure when I began to ‘accept’ that I was unwell, or if I even have, or when it became easier to swallow the lithium and lorazepam each night. But I’m here. I’m home and I feel ok. I’m still not quite There- my concentration is still off (I have half a dozen posts in my drafts box that I’ve stopped and started since my last post, and it’s taken me well over 24 hours to write this) and my sleep hasn’t been great (the other night I got a grand total of 1hr, with zopiclone!), but for the most part, things are calm- still after six months of chaos. It’s a relief.
So. I am out of hospital. I have my discharge review on Monday, my Lithium is now at a therapeutic dose (turns out when I was readmitted it was only 0.3) and I’m booked in to get my bloods done again in two weeks. I’ve been referred to the Recovery Team, I’ll be getting a new CPN (my old one left the CMHT this time last year and I was never given a new one), recommencing therapy (she told me she couldn’t work with me while I was manic) and seeing a new psychiatrist in the community (incidentally, the one who readmitted me. I slammed the door closed on my way out and told him I never wanted to see him again. The consultant laughed when I told him and said at least I’ve broken the ice. I’d still rather never see him again). So there’s a lot happening treatment wise, and everyone is hopeful that with this new diagnosis things will be easier this time- one of the nurses told me the other day she really thinks I’m going to turn this around.
Today I started back at one of my jobs, and I’ll return to the other on Tuesday- after over two months off. If my mood stays stable, I will get my licence back in early-mid July. If I pass Occupational Health, I’ll be off to university in September to start a nursing course.
The other night one of my favourite nurses came over onto our ward and sat down on the edge of my armchair for a chat. I told her that I was scared of getting well, which was stupid, but I’ve never really been well- not since I first got ‘sick’, so it was scary thinking about normality. She tells me ‘but it’ll be good though’. When she gets up to leave she stops at the door of the ward and says ‘be good, you’ll do well, and…’ and she mimes taking the bloody meds.
I am hopeful. Scared shitless, of course, but hopeful. I am determined that the next time I am on a psychiatric ward, it will be in uniform. So until then I gotta do what the nurse said and ‘take my meds, and move on.’