My most recent relapse trundled on for what felt like an age. External circumstances also made things more tricky, which I'll explain. But in terms of recovery, for me things seemed to take much longer to click into place, and wellness was illusive for many months.
I'd started a new job in October 2014 which I thought was going to be my dream job. Community work, based in a Church environment, reaching out in a pastoral context and working with mixed faith communities and those of none. It was 30 hours a week, but seemed manageable as if I needed to be at an evening meeting I could reduce daytime hours to balance it out.
In hindsight, even after the first 3 weeks I should have run for the hills. I wanted to make the job work, I wanted to succeed. I was invited to a service to meet everyone and I met the archdeacon whilst having coffee afterwards. He asked me if I lived near the church, and when I said I didn't he looked at me like something he'd stepped in something. 3 weeks later I sat in his office during an induction meeting where he showed how clearly disappointed he was that I wasn't an Anglican and said, "Oh, Baptists have a funny way of doing things." My boss, a vicar, was also hostile and unhelpful, the key congregation members were suspicious and the local population were clearly not interested in working with the Church as they were quite happy doing their own thing.
Roll on 3 months and the daily onslaught of chauvinism and misogyny began to take its toll. I was working too many hours as they didn't let me juggle my hours to stick within my contracted 30, and I was totally isolated as a worker and saw nobody for days on end. I can self nurture, reach out for help and rest, I can generally self manage well but the prolonged confusion around work tasks, lack of management and insidious toxic behaviour pretty much finished me off. By the end of January 2015 I was feeling overwhelmed and by April 2015 my head had gone completely. As a bi-polar person, I need to manage my external circumstances in order to feel well. I need regular sleep, decent stress management, companionship to ward off isolation, and a supportive/emotionally understanding group of people to be around. I'm not fragile like porcelain, but building resilience is critical in maintaining wellness. With depression, you spend quite a bit of time trying not to be ill, pretending that you are OK in the hope that it's just a dip, withholding the truth of how ill you feel as you don't want to disappoint or frighten your family by being ill again, and running on hope that you are just having a difficult week.
In may 2015 I was signed off as sick from work and surrendered to the truth of the situation. I was having a relapse for the first time in 2 or more years. In July 2015 I started obsessing about hanging myself. Whats odd about suicidal ideation is that it's like a video tape running in your head on full volume whilst you smile on the outside hoping the noone can see inside your head. It doesn't turn off and pretty much gets louder and more vibrant. Also, with each severe relapse I have experienced, my suicidal ideation has been different.
So people ask you how you are on the school drive whilst picking up the kids and you want to say, 1) Fine thanks, please don't ask me anything else or I'll cry, 2) OK, 3) Suicidal, and you? 4) Don't talk to anyone. I try as much as possible to keep things normal when things are awful. So doing the school run it's incredibly important but massively difficult. Even leaving the house is traumatic but I know that if I manage it, I am inching towards wellness by overcoming the desire to give up. I have a really strong memory of being on all fours on my living room carpet one evening, crippled by my thoughts, trying to decided whether or not to carry out my dark intentions or pick the boys up from cricket. It's the small normal things that keep you holding on.
I see my psychiatrist who asks me about my current mind set. The intricacy of my scenario including location, time of day, logistics and desire to learn more about knots helps Dr. Pingili to call the crisis team. This is when I end up in respite talking about eye removal by spoon, having my photo taking in case I run off, counting out my meds. to go in a secure box and wondering why I can still have my Bic razor in my room?
From July 2015 to November 2015 I see 4 different psychiatrists, not because I am so sick that noone can help, but because they are all leaving and have no replacement. They try and sort out my medication but it is only in November 2015 I finally begin the lithium treatment journey. So I've been feeling ill for a year pretty much, and at this point I am crying out for a solution.
So when I wake up one morning, and the mental rebirth into normality has occurred, I feel like running up and down the street in joy, announcing to the community that I have rejoined the land of the living! On the outside not much has changed. I look a little less grey faced, less haunted maybe, but generally it is my internal world that is in chaos. I have cast off my hair shirt and ashes and can finally start genuinely engaging with the world around me. It is definitely cause for celebration as my inner light switch has been flicked back on. I am no longer dormant and stifled. Am am no longer faking it to make it. Hello life!!!!!!