This day last year, I signed a care plan that stated “Diagnosis: Manic episode- Bipolar Disorder”. I hoot with laughter and tell the room that this is ridiculous! A joke! The ward sister snaps back, serious as ever, that no, it’s not.
And so begins two months, give or take, in hospital. For three and a half weeks I swallow dixie cups of haloperidol and lorazepam three times a day, and lithium at night. Each time I am called for meds I object that “this is not necessary! Not necessary! I am cool as a cucumber!” One night, a nurse frog marches me down the ward to the clinic room. They spell it out: “you need to s-e-t-t-l-e.” I swallow the pills through fits and protests and pronounce myself sane enough to go on holiday and ask to be discharged, legs still jigging and nurses tutting when the doctor agrees and sends me home.
I tumble down a mountainside in the French Alps, howling with laughter. I go for midnight walks in the snow, lie on my back and look up at the velvet black, the online of the mountain peaks illuminated by the stars. I am alive and free and stuff the tablets! There is magic in my veins and I will not let them steal it away!
Twelve days after I leave, I am back on the ward. Fed more pills to bring me down. The nurses tell me frankly I’ll not make it to uni, that I won’t set foot on the wards. So I set out to prove them wrong. Night after night, I chase the lithium, the zopiclone with water, wincing at the metallic taste.
For months it is fine. I wash down tablets with water and my mood levels out and I smirk to myself as I leave the ward in my uniform and think “I proved them all wrong.”
I jumped from hospital to 40 hour weeks at work to a new city in a new country to start a nursing course, in the space of five months.
I start to think maybe they were wrong, that I wasn’t really bipolar after all.
Day after day, it gets harder and harder to swallow the handful of pills that I don’t recognise as the things keeping me well.
At night, I promise myself, “I’ll take it tomorrow.”
“I’ll definitley take it tomorrow.”
And day after day, my mood inches up, then sidewards, and I can’t take the tablets at all.
I get anxious and irritable and my speech speeds up and my legs start to jig but I am not happy! I am not magic, or transcendent. I am not able to ‘see the light’. So I am fine! See! I’m not bipolar after all!
And things slip and slide and the ice thins and I leave the diazepam, the aripiprazole, the lithium, in their little white boxes at the bottom of my suitcase and insist that I am fine fine fine to my therapist, the consultant, my CPN.
But I am crying, and this time, I don’t want to jump so I can fly, I want to jump to die.
Somehow, I find myself back on the ward I’d vowed only to walk back onto in uniform.
Eight and a half weeks later, I am still here. What took days to begin to unravel is taking months to put back together.
I laughed when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I struggled, and at times refused, to believe it. I spent months swallowing pills because that’s what people told me I needed to do, not because I believed that it was something that I should, or needed to do. So when I upped and left and moved a plane joinery away, the people got left behind and bit by bit, the words they had ringing my ears, dimmed, silenced into nothing.
Last week, my favourite nurse had my parents confiscate the stash of sleeping pills and benzos I had hidden in my room, ready to take. They shout and cry and sigh and tell me they don’t understand. I get up, walk out, I cry. I shuffle into the clinical room, eyes red raw, ready for my nighttime cocktail. My favourite nurse looks at me and grins and says: “you’ll not stop your lithium again in a hurry.”
She is right.