Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Old archway squashed between modern buildings, Limerick, taken Tuesday afternoon, 23/10/07.

Well we got back from Ireland yesterday, and it was all fine.

Better than fine, actually, it was lovely.

Once there, I didn't suffer from nerves or butterflies or dread. On previous visits it has been so bad that I have counted the hours till we could set off back to the airport for home. I'm amazed by the difference this time.

It wasn't plain sailing all the way. I felt so panicked at the airport. I was in tears more than once. Had to take one of my blue pills.... I didn't want to go through check-in. I tried to find ways, in my mind, of getting home again from the airport, and telling my partner to go on without me. Maybe I could call my friend, the one in Enfield, and ask if she can meet me if I can get to her by Tube. Or maybe I could take the Tube to Liverpool Street station and a train home from there. It would take 3, maybe 4 hours, no- on a Sunday, after all, it would be more. But I'd be home. I'd be safe. I could get back into my bed and curl up, coccooned.

But I kept thinking of how awful I would feel about myself afterwards, in the days to follow.

Surely I should push against this, make myself do it..... I hadn't had the strength to do so before. I've never been able to join in. I loathe get-togethers, groups....
Seagulls by Limerick Castle.

I don't know why there was such a difference this time, once I was there. I felt completely comfortable, not scared or fazed by the people or situations at all. Didn't have to think twice about anything. Just went with the flow. Is that what it's like to be "normal"?

So maybe the only answer is that I am a little better, mental-health-wise, than in previous years.

Whether this is true or not, there is still some good news in this. I did it. Horray!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Off for a while....

I'm off to Ireland for a few days. We're staying with my partner's family in the south west. I'm nervous as hell. Took a long time to decide to go. Don't usually, he goes alone - it's not a snub, it's the butterflies in my tummy when I'm around people I don't know well. Already, yesterday, I was running to the loo with nerves.

Wish such family stuff wasn't such a big thing for me. Is it for others? Do you tie yourself up in knots over things like this? Or is the decision to go or not to go really easy, just takes a minute?

Thursday, 18 October 2007


A visit to the astha nurse, once you're over the age of 10, always makes you feel like you're too tall.

Everyone seems to think that asthma is one of the "childhood diseases" that people either get and grow out of, or manage to miss. We had a charity envelope for an asthma charity through the letterbox the other week. You know- one of those you fill with brown coins from down the side of the sofa and then present to the collector at the door whilst trying to make a "honest, I put a pound in" look on your face, whatever that might be. Well, on the front of the envelope was a photo of a particularly peuse looking child, complete with gooey lips and snotty nose. I don't recall having either during an attack myself, but they seem to be compulsory for illustrating illness, especially when the artist is working in black and white.

The thing is, it isn't an illness that only affects children. I didn't have it till I was 23. I've only had one bad attack, and by bad, I mean a stay in hospital. This was December 1996. I lived alone then, and there was no phone in the flat. I had a bad cold, a bad chest infection on top, and had run out of my inhalers. I lived a long way from the doctor's surgery and had no cash for a taxi. Oh, and I had 4 cats. All these little things meant that the bigger things, like chest pain, and wheezing, grew worse.

I remember wrapping a blanket round me and walking to the public phone box. I called for an ambulance, then sat on a wall nearby and just waited. I think it took about 15 minutes. I then spent 4 days in hospital surrounded by victims of the worst flu outbreak this country had seen in years.

The wards were so full, extra beds made out of trolleys were squeezed in between existing patients: privacy was lost, as curtains could no longer be drawn round each bed. The wards were filthy and stank of stale urine. It took them 48 hours to get round to putting me on antibiotics, and by that time it meant having a drip.

After spending my first night in a nightmarish mixed ward- a senile woman on my right, waving soiled underwear around, a senile man farther down the ward trying to get into the wrong bed over and over, an intolerant yob somewhere in between who spent the dark hours shouting abuse at anyone: nurses, doctors, me, shadows.... I was moved to a geriatric ward in the morning as this was the only one with a space.

Because of staff shortages, I was given a chart that measured my breathing and shown how to fill it in. I was also told to note my pulse at the same time. There was a column for blood pressure, but was told not to worry about that one.

When I had originally reached hospital, samples of my blood was taken. These were lost, so a doctor came along for more. "I don't believe this is a chest infection," he said, "I think you have a blood clot on your lung, and it's very, very dangerous." He said he had to take blood from a different place to be sure, and then extracted some, extremely painfully, from my wrist. He left the bloody needle tip on the bedside table. It was still there the next day. I never saw or heard of him again.

Another doctor came the following evening on his rounds. The nurses presented him with "my" x-rays, which turned out to be those of an 85 year old woman. He eventually dismissed mine, as they were now 48 hours old.

The food was tasteless and cold, but at least I ate it. Plates were left on trolleys next to the beds of old ladies I had never seen move. After no staff had been around to help them eat, these were wheeled away when cold, untouched, leaving the patients to grow more skeletal.

One morning, when someone asked for tea, the steward couldn't find a cup on the tea trolley. They hadn't loaded enough. Spotting one on my bedside table, she asked if I had finished with it -which I had- then shook drips out of it into a bucket, filled it with tea, and gave to the other patient. I had been sipping water from that cup all night.

After 4 days I asked to be discharged. By this time I had caught another infection on top of the one I had arrived with: one that gifted me with diarrhoea and vomiting. The head nurse told me I would "be better off at home with that, if you stay here you'll get worse" so off I went, antibiotics and inhalers in bag.

Once home, I started to get better. The next day I called my employer to ask if they wanted me back on Monday, 23rd December, or should I leave it till after the holiday now?

They had given my job to someone else in my absence.

So you see, asthma isn't just a wheezy kid at the back of the class trying to get out of PE. I did put some money in that envelope the other week, but added a note, it isn't just kids, you know.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Toe Tabby

This postcard came from a friend in Rome.

I love the way cats have no respect for things that we hold in any kind of esteem: the hard-worked flowerbed, the basket of clean washing, the best chair, the hand-embroidered bed cover that's been passed down through the family. To them it's all just a place to relax.

And here. Geography? History? Art? Nahhh..... this toe just fits my shape perfectly, thanks, and the stone makes a cool spot for my afternoon nap. Why? Was there something else?

Monday, 8 October 2007

5 minute sketch

Fluffy is actually a black cat, but it was the expression I was after. To colour it in would have spoiled it. Or put another way, I was just too chicken.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tiny Bit Scary, This One!

OK, peeps! This is one of the pieces I sent in for the final assessment on my writing course. It's 1138 words, and a tiny tiny bit scary- so if you want to skip it till halloween, be my guest!

Otherwise, hope you like it.


A Letter To My Neighbour

Have you any idea what you've done? The enormity of it?

Years, it was, I suffered with the hauntings. From house to house, the ghosts moved with me. Finally, here, just three years ago, I was freed from the terrors. And now you have let them back in.


Unable to sleep within any ‘normal’ kind of pattern for years, now, I have come to follow a routine of sorts, around a nocturnal clock. Mostly, this means I pass my partner, Tony, on the stairs in the morning; he on his way to work, me, to bed. More lately, my night-times have evolved to include peaceful walks in the garden to spot statue-like frogs by torchlight, or check that birdfeeders hold enough for the greenfinches’ breakfast.

Winter nights are spent by the fire, sipping tea and watching old comedies on videotape. Whilst the bright, summer dawns are met in the coolness of my study, where I’ll be exploring emails and listening to the reassuring sameness of the World Service. Unexciting. Unthreatening. Undisturbed, but for the mouse.

I always called it ‘the mouse’, even though I knew that ‘he’ was very probably just one of a fair sized family. Two or three hundred, one edition of BBC Wildlife magazine suggested, although I hid that particular edition from Tony. Any hint at the vastness of the Common Woodmouse’s promiscuity would result in all kinds of pained expressions on Tony’s face. I developed antennae for mentions of such things on wildlife programmes and would intervene with the remote control before the news reached his ears. Such news reaching such ears effected a change in topic of conversation that I did not want to hear: traps.

And so, for nearly two years now, I have cleaned floors more studiously than necessary to the naked eye, pulled out units and machinery from our fitted kitchen to get to the pencil-lead droppings hiding behind, and agreed, enthusiastically, whenever Tony remarked on how we only ever saw one mouse at a time.

Ah, yes. Except there was that one time when - but on second thoughts, the mouse was probably just very speedy. No reason at all why it couldn’t have been the same one behind the sofa and just ducking behind the oven. Just very quick, that’s all. Anyway, no need to say anything. They kept the ghosts away, you see.


Have you ever been haunted? It isn’t like in the films. You don’t see their thin, wispy fingers reaching out from just a hint of desperate, beautiful young face. And you can’t help them. There’s no good thinking you can carry out some unfinished business for them and then deliver them into some brightly lit niche somewhere.

They don’t communicate with you. All that M. Night Shyalaman stuff! That’s just to make you feel important, make you feel you have a role to play. But you have no role. Only fear.

God, the darkness. It has so many shades. You think of it as black, but that’s wrong. I first knew this as an eight year old child, lying, stiffly, with frozen fingers clutching the tips of my blankets to my screwed up face, as some hideous creature emerged from beneath my bed. Transparent, it was, yet perfectly detailed, as though drawn by some pencil artist after Drurer. Different shades of pencil in different shades of darkness. I lay staring into it, too afraid to scream or run or blink, barely able to breathe through the leaden weight of my body.

Over the years, I grew more sensitive to the subtle little changes in the atmosphere when a haunting was about to begin. The clicks in the empty kitchen, the straining floorboards, the groaning stairs. I would turn up the television volume, make a ‘phone call, read a book. But soon it would be there: the Presence.

So many times I turned, expecting to see who had just come into the room, only to find an empty space. A sudden coldness down my neck as I did the washing up. A breath against my face as I sat in the bath. Eyes following, watching, burning into my back. But whose?
And then came the laughter. Nothing could be ominous in the sound of children’s laughter. You think not? Distant, yet just behind you. Faint, yet following you down the stairs. Four or five of them. Chuckling, conspiratorially. Always stopping, just as you turn.

I learned to sleep sitting upright in an armchair, too scared to switch off lights and climb the stairs to bed.


Strange, the way the ghosts followed me from house to house. Whenever I moved, they were there. I was never sure if they followed me or if they went on ahead. But it would never be long before they made their presence known. My heart would race and the curdling cold sweat come back as again, the familiar, watching Presence returned to hover menacingly in the corners of the room.

Then we moved here. A new house, new town, new county, new neighbours, shops and doctors. And it wasn’t long before the mouse popped out to greet us.

My nights were now filled with entertainment as he examined the new furniture brought into his home. I left food in a corner for him, experimenting to find his favourite dish. Pine nut kernels were a firm favourite. As was anything chocolate. Lettuce and cabbage were surprisingly welcomed, as was a bit of cooked aubergine that got dropped and swept into his corner rather than cleared up. Mushrooms were firmly rejected. ‘Quiet as a mouse’ is the saying, but it proved to be as untrue as the one about them liking cheese. And through his noisy little escapades I came to disregard every little sound.

A rustle from the kitchen? Just the mouse. The door creaked? Opened, slightly? Must have been the mouse. No draught boded ill any more. No knock, scrape or shimmy caused a shiver. The only mischief in the vicinity was four-legged, round-eared, long-tailed and benign.


And now. The biscuits and pine nuts I left down for him five nights ago are still there.

You said you’d heard mice in your attic and were going to ‘Phone the man at the council’.

What have you done?

What did he do?

I’ve been sitting here for hours, listening. I did hear some scurrying across the kitchen, even a crunch. I checked the biscuits a few times, I was so sure it was him, but nothing.

I thought Tony was coming downstairs at one point. I was so sure I heard him walking across the landing. The boards creaked, and then the stairs broke into a rhythmic thud....

The pills don’t work without the mice, you see. Not on their own. Not without the mice....

Monday, 1 October 2007

Back to the Old Country

Cherished79 mentions suicide in her latest post. I've a few suicide attempts on my file.

I'm not sure I would try it again. Although, as I have said to someone close to me, I can't even make that a promise to myself, let alone someone else.

Yes, that probably does sound selfish. But the thing is, even when you've been through it, you can't remember the pain. You can remember being in pain, but you can't remember the pain itself, not really, just descriptions of it.


I thought I was doing ok, miles better, this last year. Then, last month, out of nowhere, BAM! And I was at the bottom again.

I had forgotten what that DEADNESS felt like. Like being in a street alone, swamped in a thick smog, sinking in quicksand, all at the same time.

WOW. I had truly forgotten that, even though I'd written about it. Know what I mean?
Luckily it lasted only about 10 days. A few weeks more of being fragile, and now I am almost back to where I was.

What if that were to return one day, and didn't go after just a week or two? What if it were still there after five months?

Hmm. That's funny. I was about to write "six months", but decided mid-type that no, I wouldn't be able to stand that. Wouldn't even let myself imagine it going on for that long.

It did before though. And longer. When I was 13, again when I was 21. Those were the times I tried to end it.

At 28 and 34, again. But no attempts those times. Well, I did, but got myself to a doctor. It was more extreme self-harm than serious attempt. The feelings were there, but not the determination. I was still in touch with people around me. That was the difference. Previously I had felt like I was living under a glass dome. There was no way in or out for other people. It's like being sucked down a vortex. In the end you have no energy to reach up. In the end, you think they'll all be better off without you anyway, so please, let me sleep, let me go. If it is love you have for me, don't make me stay with this pain any longer.


Saw the psychiatrist last week. I see one every 3 months, for 30 minutes. It is never the same doc, a new person each time. I think it's a training thing. Or maybe, just not a permanent post. Or maybe, a post served by several different hospitals. Who knows. I've never been told the reason. Just a new doc every time.

They never read the file. They each want to start again. So last week, instead of being able to check on my progress, or go over the huge dip I was just coming out of, we were going over how many brothers do I have? And sisters? And is there depression in the family? And how old are you again?

One of these times, I swear, I shall call their bluff. Yes, I shall say. My parents are still alive AND together, currently touring Belgium as part of a circus with my 19 siblings- that's 7 boys, 10 girls and 2 hermaphrodites. Hear voices? Oh yes, all the time. My cats, mainly. They speak 4 languages, you know.

This time, the doc suggested mood stabilizers. I'm not so sure. Just as I said August 2006 when they were suggested.

Is there something I could just take when I was very low? Just for then? Just when I needed a wee bit of extra help?

Off she went to consult with someone else. Comes back all gleeful. So proud and pleased that she is going to help me, looking forward to later, no doubt, when she is sipping wine in front of the TV and reflecting on how rewarding her job is.

"We're going to put you on a mood stabilizer!" she announces.

Oh, really?

I took the prescription from her but haven't had it filled out. Knew I wouldn't, at the time. For all the same reasons I said no to mood stabilizers a year ago. I bet those reasons are there, too, in that file. I'm too tired to go over them again with her. This, in itself, is a sign that I'm still not out of the woods.