It’s been ten days since I was discharged.
Now that I’m home, things are kind of sinking in. In the space of two and a half-three months, I went from living with a group of people I’d made good friends with, in a new city, in a new country. I went from being a student psychiatric nurse to a psychiatric inpatient. I was advised to give up my place on the course and take a leave of absence. I’ve moved back from the new city in the new country, into my family home. I went from spending my days sitting in lectures, gossiping with my new friends over coffee and lunch, writing essays and filling out biology booklets and reading textbooks and practising clinical skills in a nurses uniform and talking with patients on placement, to sitting on the sofa in my parents house, day in, day out, watching daytime TV.
When I was first admitted to the ward, I jigged in the corridor. The nurses stood with their backs to the radiator and I bounced up and down on the wooden bench and told them all about my course, my placements, the staff, the patients. It didn’t for a second cross my mind that when I left, it would be two months later and I wouldn’t be going back to that.
So I got out, left to deal with the mess I’d made of my life. I am tangled up in a web of student finance, broken tenancy agreements and uncertainty. For a host of reasons, I don’t feel like I could go back to the city I was studying in, and I’m unsure if I could go through the application process again- at the risk of not getting a place at a local uni.
When I confirmed with the university that I would be taking a leave of absence, the nurses and doctors gathered around and nodded enthusiastically and told me I’d made the Right Decision, the Best Decision, one they all Supported. I bit my nails and nodded hesitantly back at them. I tried to Be Positive about it all. I tried to think of all the things not going back meant I could do instead. The Focus, they all said, could now be Recovery. I’d jumped into uni too fast, didn’t get time to breathe after my last admission- I was all GOGOGO! Which was probably true. Yesterday, my CPN said she shouldn’t have allowed me to go to uni at all.
But I am here. And it certainly doesn’t feel like it was the right decision. Back at home, no job (I’m ‘not allowed’ to work for the next month), no uni, no driving license (again, sigh). And the issue is, I’ve always been a GOGOGO kinda person. I’ve always preferred to work or study, finding that it gave me some sort of purpose- some sort of reason to get up and showered and dressed every morning. I’m feeling a little lost, wondering how I’m going to stop my mood from plummeting back down to where it was a few weeks ago, if I am doing absolutely nothing to keep myself busy. And I’m finding that already, when I do go out, when I do do something, it feels very, very big. Very, very effortsome. Very, very anxiety provoking. Doing predominantly nothing means that when I go to do something, I don’t really want to. I’m getting used to spending the day in joggers curled up in front of the TV. It is easy and it is safe.
Since the introduction of an antidepressant a few weeks ago though, the biggest issue is no longer my mood, but anxiety. It is crippling. Unbearable, actually. Each morning I wake up and it is there. A heavy weight on my chest. My lungs feel small and deflated and I cannot breathe deep enough, cannot seem to ever fill them with enough air. My heart is trapped in a vice, someone squeezing it tighttighttighter. It hurts. I am lightheaded, dizzy, faint. And I feel a constant need to throw up. I feel shaky, my heart feels like it might rip through my chest, and yet when I take my pulse, it is ticking along within the confines of a ‘healthy’ heart rate. I feel like I am going to crumble onto the floor.
I am trying not to think. Yesterday I was ‘helpfully’ told that my CPN doesn’t want to hear ‘another word’ about uni. It is March and I do not have to make a decision for another ten months. Which I know is true. It is the same thing I have been telling myself. But I’m not sure if it’s just uni. It feels like too much anxiety for something I don’t need to make a decision about for several more months.
But god do I feel horrific! Frustratingly, I have been speaking about it for weeks now. In hospital, I was waking 3, 4 nights a week after having anxiety attacks in my sleep. At home, it is the last thing I am aware of before bed and the first thing I wake up to in the morning. It is ever present. All day all day all day, I feel the tightness in my chest, feel the stab of my heart and the shortness of my breath. All day, I want to bend over and let out everything inside me until I am empty. And nurse after nurse, doctor after doctor, waves their hand and tells me “it will pass”, asks me if I have “tried meditation”.
So I am home. But I am scared and lonely and lost and very, very anxious. I am struggling actually, to Keep It Together, because all the time, my body feels completely wound up, complexly on edge. On the brink of what feels like a never ever ending panic attack.
I am trying to breathe and my lungs won’t inflate.