Through the eyes of a phoenix.

Like many, mental illness compelled my life into chaos. The ever daunting prospect of enduring an existence dominated by uncertainty slowly detached any sense of belonging I had once had, and just like that I was alone. Much to my despair, isolation was no cure and I quickly found myself desperately searching for something else: a reason. A reason behind the chaos and disorder my life had fallen in to. I knew there was only one place that I could turn to in my quest, a place countless others had gone before. I turned to science.

And there, I found my answer. Do forgive me, it might take some explaining.

The voyage of scientific discovery is a spectacular journey. By embracing ever greater abstraction science continues to illuminate the seemingly unfathomable, distilling from reality its very essence and introducing new and wonderful passages of thought that penetrate through the most esteemed academic, philosophical and poetic minds of the age.

One such abstraction that surfaced in the 19th century and ignited furious debate was entropy. Entropy, in its simplest form, is a measure of disorder: the greater the disorder, the greater the entropy. What was particularly fascinating was that upon its understanding and application it revealed a very mysterious quality to the universe; in a natural system entropy will always strive towards a maximum. Order naturally decays into disorder.

Since the beginning of time this fundamental law has applied to every level of measure; from the colossal workings of our solar system to the intricate network of biochemical reactions that orchestrate life itself. That of course is not to say that there is no order or complexity in our cosmos. We experience, create and often yearn for such order in our lives, but it comes at a cost. With order comes inevitable disorder, providing one of the greatest demonstrations of how every atom, quark and sub-atomic particle of this universe is entwined.

The consequences of this interconnected change is the delightful efflorescence of matter that not only facilitate our existence, but surround it in a world bursting with ecological beauty and diversity. Each and every kingdom of creation having been hoisted out of the darkness; erupting, flourishing in the face of eventuality.

For we are but gazing through the eyes of a phoenix; born from the ashes of disorder into an improbable world of spectacular wonder. From chaos comes order, comes life, comes love. And I am reminded of the enchanting words written by Friedrich Nietzsche, “You must carry a chaos inside you to give birth to a dancing star”.

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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I am utterly speechless. I can’t begin to express how humbled I am to have been nominated for this award, especially as the nomination comes from the wonderful Tempest Rose who has been nothing but a huge inspiration to me, and whose fantastic blog “Nonsense and Shenanigans” has never failed to cheer me up when I’ve needed it most. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Since entering the blogisphere I have seen this award go to a number of exceptionally deserving writers, and I never thought for a moment that I may one day be considered for it myself. However, somehow after 6 short weeks of blogging and 8 meagre blog posts I find myself sat here with a big, stupid smile on my face. It’s all rather surreal, and I feel truly honoured.

The rules of the nomination are as follows:

  1. Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  5. Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

 So, moving swiftly on to number 3, here are 7 facts about myself that you may or may not know:

  1. I am a self-confessed Potterhead. For as long as I can remember I have loved the books, and given the chance I could probably recite all the films word for word. A couple of years ago I tackled the Potter marathon with a few of my close friends and fellow Potter lovers, watching all the films back to back, and somehow finding the time to play the Harry Potter Scene-It somewhere in the middle of them all too. It was 30 hours of pure awesomeness, but certainly not something for the faint hearted. I am also the tremendously proud owner of a signed letter from JK Rowling herself, after she responded to a letter I wrote to her back when I was in primary school.
  2. I love to juggle. I could spend hours lost in the rhythm of juggling, and hours more learning a new throw. Juggling balls are where I’m best although I’m hoping to move on to knives eventually, just as soon as I manage to stop hitting myself in the face with juggling clubs…
  3. I can do a standard 3×3 Rubik’s cube in a minute and a half, and can also complete the bigger 4×4 and 5×5 Rubik’s cubes. Sexy, right?
  4. I’m utterly determined to learn all the countries of the world. I managed to get up to naming 140 of the 196 countries, but the last 50 are proving to be a bit of a struggle!
  5. During my travels around Eastern Europe, I was offered a job in Russia as a junior music producer. I was very, very tempted.
  6. I’m extremely interested in lucid dreaming, and continue to spend a lot of time dedicated to understanding and practising it. The rough idea behind it is developing the ability to control every element of dreams, resulting in vivid experiences unlike anything comparable in the real world.
  7. I used to have a crippling phobia of beards.

And finally, my nominations for inspirational and completely amazing bloggers go to the following…

http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/

http://susanirenefox.com/

http://lookingforthelight.me/

http://bipolarcodex.com/about/

http://dogandhydrant.wordpress.com/

http://obscureddreamer.wordpress.com/

http://suddenlybipolar.wordpress.com/

http://kittomalley.com/

http://bipolaronfire.com/

http://purplepersuasion.wordpress.com/

http://mydualities.wordpress.com/

http://bipolarblogging.wordpress.com/

http://aminddivided.com/

http://bipolarforlife.me/

http://amygamble.wordpress.com/

I know many of these blogs have been nominated for this award before but I couldn’t help but acknowledge them again as I love each and every one of them. They’re all wonderful writers and beautiful people, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. I apologise to anyone I may have missed from the list! There are many, many more blogs that I thoroughly enjoy and could easily name another 15 writers that are more than deserving of this award.

Again, a huge thank you to you all for the overwhelming support; you continue to save this particular bipolar bear from the chilly depths of depression 🙂

Quetiapine Diary: 1 Month

May the mindless verbiage resume; I have once again found my voice. The last three weeks have been rather interesting, and have indeed thrown a number of challenges my way. Firstly, for about a week I found myself faced with an illusory barrier that was rendering me linguistically incapable, at least in the written form, to the extent that a simple task such as composing a shopping list became a daunting endeavour. The concept of object association was disregarded as my brain replaced the words ‘potatoes’ and ‘kitchen roll’ with ‘socks’ and ‘cactus’. My envisioned future as a domestic goddess was rightfully put on hold. Such confusion was rather uncharacteristic as I rarely struggle with the difference between kitchen utensils and desert shrubbery, although I’m pleased to say it has proved to be a temporary infliction. I have yet to explain why it was I was having such difficulties when it came to writing anything down, it simply felt as though I was trying to use my entire vocabulary at once in an extremely disjointed and oddly random manner, resulting in pages and pages of notes that make little sense but are rather entertaining.

One significant improvement I have noticed over the past month has been that my mood swings have levelled out to a far more manageable rhythm. The raging waves that I was once at the mercy of have calmed to a far more pleasant ripple. However, amongst the calmer waters I have developed an abnormally short temper which tends to flare up at the most inconvenient of times. Despite this and previous hesitations, I have thankfully been able to return back to work which has been both a blessing and a curse. Being back is great; I love the people I work with and being a waitress can really be great fun, but living and working in a village in which I arguably have such a tainted history with has thrown up its fair share of surprises. Within the past few shifts alone I have served ex-boyfriends, ex-bullies, and even a man who was convicted of assaulting me after he beat me up while I was walking home from school one day. I was 13 at the time. I’ve changed a lot in the last 7 years so naturally he doesn’t recognise me anymore, but unfortunately I can’t say the same about him. Emotionally speaking you could say it’s been a rough week, but I’ve found I have a lot more control over my swings and can overcome even the most painful of circumstances to maintain a relatively level head. The secret seems to be to keep myself busy, active, and focused on the positive, allowing myself to indulge in all the little things that make me happy such as playing my guitar and doodling to my heart’s content. Sometimes life is all about the distractions.

The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 3)

Things had been improving all week. I was out of the strict confines of my bed and back into the perils of civilisation, embracing the ease of socialising once more. I had regained the identity I had so violently lost and eager to get back to the books, making up for the valuable time that had been spent in a fiery fit of rage. The library soon became a second home, as I began to spend the twilight hours sifting through the pages of textbooks with meticulous, and utterly unnecessary, detail. It began, as you would expect, with the books most beneficial to a law degree, but I soon found my thirst for knowledge greatly satisfied by the likes of Schrödinger, Planck, and Bohr in the enticing world of quantum physics, just as I have done since the age of 11. Although entirely useless for my course, it was a temptation I could not resist, and soon I was not only enjoying the scientific greats but the irresistible lure of classic novels too. As the week wore on, I spent longer and longer in the library, and before I knew it I was leaving at 4am or 5am rather than midnight or before as I had so intended. Again, time was becoming an abstract concept which held little meaning in my day to day life. The difference now was that it was the time spent outside of my bed that was passing by at a rather alarming rate, although I cannot say I was unsettled by this. At the time it felt completely natural, and as I was functioning perfectly well on just an hour or so of sleep a night there seemed to be no reason to fight against it.

However, what felt natural at the time certainly wasn’t. Not only was I avoiding sleep, but I also found myself to be physically unable to do so even if I tried, and soon I could only rest peacefully once the sun had already risen, and even then only for an hour or so. Before that time I was kept awake by a powerful compulsion to keep myself occupied at all costs. It’s an extremely difficult sensation to try and describe, but perhaps it can be most likened to an itch you’re being forcibly restrained from scratching; every atom in your body is focused on that itch, and only once it’s been scratched will you feel any form of relief. For me, that itch was the desire to be constantly learning something new. A burning desire that ran through the very blood in my veins, and that unfortunately, no matter how hard I would try, I could never quite satisfy it. It seems a ridiculous notion when articulated in plain English, and one I don’t particularly expect to be well understood, but it was the fuel that I was becoming unnervingly dependant on during this exciting rush of activity, and it was certainly proving to be efficient.

It had now been about 10 days since I had started to recover from the disruptive bout of depression, and I was instead facing the opposite end of the spectrum. At this point ignorance was still serving me well as I continued to hold this new found motivation as no more than a genuine enthusiasm for life. I failed to recognise the extent to which I was being driven, and the increasingly abnormal behaviour I was presenting. My head had become filled with an abundance of racing ideas that made concentrating on anything in particular almost impossible, and I became very conscious of myself shifting between speaking a hundred miles an hour to being uncharacteristically quiet for I found that the endless quarrel of conflicting thoughts severely inhibited my ability to formulate coherent sentences. Even sitting in lectures I would spend the time filling notebooks with mindless scribbles and childlike doodles, tormented by the unrelenting bombardment of redundant thoughts that had now dominated every corner of my mind. I had yet again become unproductive, unsociable, and completely preoccupied for reasons I was utterly unaware of, and as frustration built, and coursework deadlines drew ever closer, something had to be done. 

Quetiapine Diary: Day 6

Depression is doing its utmost to eclipse the happiness I so desperately cling to. Each day feels longer, and the sleepless nights drag on as I am kept awake by disturbing hallucinations. The mood swings have become vicious and more frequent, meaning that within a matter of hours I can hit rock bottom maybe two or three times. During this time I’ve found myself re-living  painful memories that are brought ever closer to the surface in vivid detail, leaving me broken and inconsolable. Going back to work has become unrealistic, and even the comforts of volunteering will have to be avoided until I can maintain some control over the side-effects. It’s exhausting, but rather than push me further away from my eventual ambition of emotional stability, it’s ignited a resistance to the illness that I never knew I had.

There’s a determination now that I’ve never felt before. Every time I’m thrown into the depths of depression I know that I can pull myself back, just as I have done on countless occasions before. This hasn’t stopped me struggling, nor do I expect it will, but rather it keeps the light at the end of the ever growing and increasingly formidable tunnel very much alive. For that I’m grateful. Sometimes I forget just how fortunate I am; there’s a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and I’m surrounded by people I love. Sure I face some hurdles, but they are barely comparable to the challenges faced by many. As I continue my treatment, enduring the pills I have grown to resent, I maintain a motivation to get back to a position where I know I can be relied upon and indeed be able to give back to those who continue to offer nothing but support and kindness. A thank you feels rather insulting due to its complete inadequacy, but for now I have no other way to express my appreciation, for you are the ones who have saved me time and time again.

Quetiapine Diary: Day 2

There is a definite numbness that has swept over since starting the Quetiapine, which has gradually deteriorated from a slight hazy sensation to the feeling that I am becoming disconnected with the rest of the world. The day is spent acting by default as I do nothing more than drift from one meaningless task to the next, all purpose behind them lost to an abyss of insignificance. Other symptoms of depression have been close to follow. In particular I’ve become irritable and short-tempered, making it more and more difficult to socialise with those around me without lashing out in a fit of frustration. I certainly don’t envy those who get caught up in the aggression.

Exhaustion has become an overwhelming presence of each day, but I’m attempting to fight against it. I find it’s helping to build exercise into the foundations of my daily routine, the adrenaline allowing for a momentary window of relief in the suffocating enervation. Yet despite spending the day feeling tired, attempting to sleep without disruption has become quite the challenge. At night I am woken by a tightness in my legs which then spreads to my chest and arms, not in a painful pursuit, but one that is rather uncomfortable and more than enough to keep me from the pleasant virtue of slumber. In the mornings I have been awoken by something quite different. It began yesterday morning, when I usually get to enjoy the peace and quiet of an empty house, but instead I was stirred by the sound of footsteps leading up the stairs and into the bathroom. In my sleep deprived state I thought nothing of it, and as the taps were turned on, the soothing sound of running water quickly sent me back to sleep. It wasn’t long, however, before I was disturbed again by the same sound, this time the footsteps leading across the hallway and into my bedroom. As I lay there, eyes still shut, I listened until the steps could be no more than a metre from my pillow before curiosity got the better of me and I turned over to see who it could possibly be. No one. I was alone, both in my room and in the house. The noise I had been so convinced was real was nothing more than a deceitful, yet utterly fictitious, hallucination.

The combination of side-effects is taking its toll, even on more trivial matters such as my ability to write articulate and coherent sentences; this post taking far longer and omitting a significant amount more than it should, however I maintain a positive attitude. If this is the lengths of what must be endured to get my life back on track then I consider myself a fortunate individual, but unfortunately one that may be of rather unbearable company for a little while longer.

The red pill, the blue pill, or neither.

The box of pills has been sat on my desk, unopened, for about a week now: staring at me, tempting me, pulling me closer. I have no reason to resist; up to this point I haven’t taken any medication to regulate my mood swings despite having more than enough reason to, for I only have to look at the lingering scars to remind myself of that. But still I sit here in two minds about it.

I was given the option of two different drugs: Fluoxetine (otherwise known as Prozac), and Quetiapine. The main difference between the two is that Prozac is an antidepressant whereas Quetiapine is an antipsychotic, one more specifically targeted for such conditions as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For this, and a number of other reasons, I felt that the Quetiapine was far more suitable for what I was experiencing, and as a result, they are the drugs sitting so ominously on my desk.

Why do I keep hesitating then? What is it that I find so frightening?

Probably the most obvious barrier I face is that for a lot of the time I feel relatively normal. I have ups and downs comparable to everyone else, and can get through days without too much difficulty. Admittedly these days are getting fewer and fewer, but it’s so easy to forget how bad things can be when you’re just trying to focus on enjoying the good times. It seems so unnatural to be taking something every day when there are days I can certainly do without it. I understand that’s not how it works, nor do I feel ignorant as to the severity of the matter, I just find it difficult to accept that there’s something so fundamentally wrong with me that this is something I need to take in order to function like an ordinary human being.

There are elements of myself that I’m afraid of losing by starting the Quetiapine; little quirks and characteristics which I fear I will learn were only ever symptoms of a chemically imbalanced brain. There’s even parts of the disorder that I worry I’ll miss; I’ve come to love the spur of creativity and exhilarating spontaneity I become driven by during a manic episode, to the point where I almost yearn after it during long periods of normality. Deep down I know that it must be sacrificed in order to prevent the long episodes of depression that currently dominate my life, but still I’m struggling to let go.

For me, beginning the treatment is indisputable acknowledgement that I am bipolar, and I just don’t feel completely ready to admit that to myself yet. Regardless of this, I’ve decided that I can’t expect to improve without taking steps in the right direction, and this is undoubtedly one of them. I’ll be starting the course of pills shortly after finishing this post, and I will endeavour to keep a diary over the upcoming weeks to document how it affects me. The psychological hurdles are always the most troublesome to overcome, but I only hope that they will also prove to be the most rewarding.

The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 2)

So there I was, drowning under the weight of my own fabricated reality. I willed myself to be rational, but reason was quickly escaping me and it wasn’t long before all that remained was raw, destructive emotion. Fear, anger and depression became one relentless force determined to sever me from my own being, to the point where I no longer recognised who I was. Instinctively I shut myself off from the comforts of everyday life, and locked myself away in my room to suffer the physical torment in a place where I knew I couldn’t hurt anyone else. I lay there, defeated, accompanied only by screams of self-loathing and vicious taunts that echoed in my head for hours on end, until it truly felt as if time itself had become a redundant concept. But then things began to change; the hateful screams became distant whispers and the heavy weight of unhappiness and despair that had so greatly burdened me was ever so slightly lifted. Just as quickly as I had rapidly deteriorated, things were picking up and I soon went from strength to strength.

Within just a few days I was back to feeling as normal as ever, and I quickly dismissed the episode as a one-off occasion. Excuses were made to friends about the complete lack of communication and general absence over the previous days and no more was said on the matter. In all honestly, I could barely remember quite how severe the incident had been and for many reasons it was easier forgotten about than spending time dwelling over what could have possibly caused it. I was happy again and for me that was all that was important, and for something that seemed so very unlikely to ever happen again I thought myself lucky to have only had to endure it for little over a week. Unfortunately for me the period of normality only lasted for a very short amount of time and I was soon faced with another indication that there was something very wrong.  This time, however, the warning signs presented themselves in a way that couldn’t have been further from the initial wave of depression I had become so lost within, and consequently proved to be far more perplexing.

The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 1)

So it all started last October when I found myself hurled in to a depression I’d never felt before. It was now a month in to term and up until that point I couldn’t have felt happier: I was studying what I loved, I had met some wonderful people who were quickly becoming close friends, and I was loving every second of my new found independence. I felt invincible. On reflection this was most probably another symptom I had failed to spot in the moment, but at that point I had no reason to. At the time the elation felt genuine and so very justified by the circumstances that it raised no suspicion whatsoever. Then it hit me. I started to fall in to a place of darkness and isolation at an alarming rate; each day waking up feeling more and more distant from the rest of the world. Friends became strangers, hobbies became burdens, and passion for life itself began to die away. I couldn’t make any sense of it, and amongst it all this was one of the hardest things to come to terms with.

The strange thing was there was a certain familiarity about the situation. It’s no secret that I’ve suffered from depression before, having spent 2 years enduring a crippling condition that left me physically and emotionally fatigued on a daily basis. There were good days and bad, but the simple fact was that the majority of time I didn’t have the energy left in me to be happy. I think perhaps it was the persistent pain that really took the greatest toll on my mental wellbeing, and I was nothing but grateful that I began to recover shortly after finishing my A-levels. There were definite parallels between how I felt then and how I was feeling now, but still I was left with so many questions. What had triggered the depression this time? Why was this all happening so suddenly? It was frightening. I had lost all sense of control and even the memories of how content I had felt only a matter of days ago became fleeting. It was obvious something was wrong, but it would be a little while yet before I could begin to take steps in trying to understand what exactly was going on.

My story.

Everyone has a story. Mine is relatively short, but it has certainly had some interesting chapters, and as I embark on my second year of university I’m taking the time to look back on what it’s been like to try to come to terms with having a mental illness. I will be posting about how I came to be where I am now, and the ongoing recovery I find myself facing in the hopes that maybe just one other person can find comfort in knowing they are not alone when fighting their own battles. There are ups and downs to all of life’s situations, and I’m hoping my posts will do their bit show that, but first I’m afraid it might take a few serious posts to give you a bit of background. So here we go, this is the beginnings of my story.

“Mental health recovery is a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life… while striving to achieve his or her full potential”