back to work / teeth (again) / stew

I saw my therapist on Friday, which was pretty cool. So I did get to tell her how well things are going. And tomorrow I go back to work.


My last day at work was just before Christmas, so it’s now been a year an eleven months since I worked. And I’m going back to work tomorrow. How do I feel about it? Quite excited, maybe a little nervous, confident that I can handle it, looking forward to being around people and earning money again. I’ll be able to put money away for the future. This time around work isn’t just about keeping myself alive, it’s part of a much larger plan to get exactly what I want out of life. It’s about being able to work and being able to work towards something.

It’s a week of milestones, actually. I finished my regular dental treatment this week (it was fairly minor work so I did it without anaesthetic) and get my wisdom tooth out on Friday. This should be the last of the dental work, (assuming they don’t make a hole in my sinuses; the root is close to them apparently, so if they do, I’ll need another operation to close it up). The dental stuff means a lot to me as well. Before I decided to find a dentist earlier this year it had been maybe a decade since I’d been. And in the last five years I’d had two teeth removed, and the rest of them weren’t in great condition. Depression makes it hard to remember to brush your teeth, or get dental check-ups.

To be at the point where I can just get regular check-ups every six months is awesome. It’s completely smashed one of the patterns of behaviour that my therapist and I spent so long working out. I’d neglect things until they became overwhelming. And then I’d pretend that it wasn’t happening, which would let me avoid dealing with them. Because to seek help for them would be admitting that I couldn’t cope and admitting that would make me feel intensely ashamed. People might even feel sorry for me, which would make me feel horribly vulnerable. And with the teeth, I broke out of that pattern by seeking help (from the dentist) and dealing with the feelings of shame that this caused (by telling myself that I don’t have to feel ashamed for things that I couldn’t control) and it really worked. It’s important for me to note these things so that I can remember for the next time something seems overwhelming.

(Also, dinner tonight was really, really tasty and I want to remember what I put in it. So here it is: 3 potatoes, 1 small onion, half a swede, 2 big carrots, 3 rashers of bacon, 1 pack stewing steak. Chop everything up; add salt, pepper, pinch of cumin, paprika, splash of olive oil, 3/4 pint vegetable gravy, plenty of tomato puree. 5 hours in slow cooker. makes about 3 servings.)


November 23, 2008 at 11:06 pm 4 comments

Mostly Good Stuff

There’s a lot going on at the moment, most of it good. So this is how life is meant to be? I had no idea.

Over the last few weeks I’ve become more involved with my voluntary work. I volunteer in a Victorian cemetery. It’s not actually used as a cemetery now, though we still have lots of graves. We have a huge amount of data regarding the 80,000-ish people who were buried in the cemetery over its century-and-half of active use, so I’m focusing on leveraging this data in interesting ways and making it much more searchable. This isn’t a purely altruistic thing – it’ll look good on my C.V. in a couple of years when I start applying for IT jobs. But mainly I’m doing it because it’s useful and interesting.

The other side of the volunteer work tends to involve a lot of clambering over gravestones in areas of the cemetery not open to the public because of health-and-safety concerns. By the time it was closed, the cemetery wasn’t exactly well-maintained, so many of the graves and tombstones have collapsed. It’s unexpectedly fun, but I need better shoes.

I keep waking up before my alarm goes off.

On Friday I have a follow-up appointment with the therapy service. I’m hoping it’ll be with the therapist I actually worked with, although it could be her supervisor. It’d be nice to be able to tell my therapist that I’ll be going back to work the following Monday and it’s all part of a bigger plan (a sensible, attainable and well-planned plan at that) that gets my life to where I want it to be. My life is so much better than it’s ever been. It’s so different being part of things, having goals, being able to work towards them, being able to connect with people without needing to be on the defensive constantly. So it’d be nice to be able to tell me therapist all this directly. After all, I owe much of it to her. (The medications help as well. Three weeks and the melatonin is still working.)

Life’s busy. In fact I’m suprisingly busy for someone who isn’t actually in paid work yet. The dental stuff should be finished in a couple of weeks. I’ve saved the best for last and my wisdom tooth is coming out in just under two weeks time. A few days after that I get to go and give a sperm sample to check whether I am, in fact, fertile or not. I’m not really worried about the result – I just want to know one way or the other.

November 18, 2008 at 10:38 pm 3 comments

Melatonin / infertility / cake

So the melatonin is still working. If I’m up late I’ll set my alarm to wake up at a reasonable time, but I find that mostly I wake up before it goes off. I’ve been having vivid dreams this last week, which have turned into mild nightmares these last couple of days – not exactly terrifying, but I don’t think I’ve had any nightmares since I was a kid, so it’s been kind of surprising. I’d tolerate much worse dreams in exchange for proper sleep patterns. They’ll probably go away anyway.

In other news, I’ll be having a sperm test in the near future, which should sort out whether or not I’m infertile. The three blood tests pretty much confirm that I have an isolated FSH deficiency, and since the rest of my pituitary function is absolutely fine, it means that I almost certainly have one of the rare genetic mutations that can cause this. All in all, I think I’d have preferred claws that spring right out of the back of my hands (“snikt”). The ability not to impregnate women you sleep with is just about the lamest super-power ever.

I’m going back to work in just over a week, which is pretty exciting. I made the calls to inform the benefits agency and the council of my change in circumstances, which felt like a big step. I’m looking forward to it. It feels like a fresh start and a second chance.

(Also this is genius. Made mine with cinnamon rather than chocolate and wholemeal flour rather than cake flour, so it was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike cake. But it was pretty damn tasty, especially since I don’t have an oven in which to cook proper cake. )

November 13, 2008 at 10:41 pm 6 comments

Sleep, substances, stuff

Sleepiness feels a lot like getting high. Not so much with the euphoria or itchiness, but there’s that opiate cotton-wool feeling, all wrapped-up, warm and fuzzy. I wonder if that feeling was a big reason for my opiate use. Everything has a function. Sleep is common to pretty much every animal, and the kind of sleep that humans have, with the cycles of R.E.M. is common to pretty much every mammal. It’s important in some deep – though poorly understood – way. Humans sleep about a third of each day and being vulnerable for that long requires a really good reason or it’d have evolved out. But what’s the purpose of the sleepiness before-hand? This state of lowered awareness and reaction? How come this hasn’t evolved out? What makes it so important? What does it provide for me now that the lack of it did not?

I haven’t got high for quite a while now and the last time was to make some dental pain go away. Which doesn’t make it legitimate or terribly sensible, but it’s not the same as getting high to feel better about my life. I didn’t want to mention this at the time, but I tripped three weeks ago. It’s not something I expect anyone to approve of – mentally ill people and hallucinogenic drugs is not typically a good combination – but it’s something I find worthwhile (and enjoyable, but I have strange ideas about what’s enjoyable). Since it’s only once or twice a year, I doubt it could be classed as problematic (and actually I think it’s good for me).

In other news, I shared a reasonable level of personal detail with another person the other day. It’s something my therapist and I talked about under the general topic of making friends. It wasn’t a conscious decision really, just something that happened in the course of conversation. Today I cleaned up my flat, which I hadn’t done for a while. I kind of got off track after I got a bad cold a month or so ago. I think that you probably have to learn how to deal with these things as you go along. But my flat was just untidy and it didn’t take long to clean up. I’d kept up with the important stuff which would have slid by before. And once it got to a point where it was annoying me, I recognised that it needed cleaning and did so, instead of letting it all seem overwhelming. Like I said, it’s a learning process. It took me a while to get back into regular guitar practice, too.

November 7, 2008 at 11:03 pm 2 comments

The Sleep Disorder Vanishes

This is just ridiculous. It’s 11pm and I’m getting tired. I’ll be going to bed after I finish writing this. Nine days ago, it was 11pm and I was getting tired. In between I’ve skipped my melatonin twice – once because I went out drinking for a friend’s birthday and yesterday because I wanted to watch the US election results as they happened. It’s been a crazy busy week. Last Wednesday I did my usual volunteer thing. On Thursday I was at the city archives learning how to do archive searches for people in the cemetery. Saturday was the birthday thing, followed by lunch and the journey home. Monday was more archive stuff. Tuesday I ended up going to the dental hospital because I was able to move my appointment forward (the actual surgey will be taking place in a month). Today I did my usual volunteering. Tomorrow I have a GP appointment and yet more archive stuff. Friday seems to be free.

And despite all of this, my sleep patterns remain stable. I’ve been able to manage the occasional mis-step (I made myself get up at a reasonable time today, despite not getting to bed until after Obama’s victory speech, which was about 5am GMT). Three things to wake up for in a row would have made me feel awful. There’s been a whole week of these things and I’m feeling fine. It’s just ridiculous.

2mg melatonin every night at 8pm and my sleep problems completely disappear. I’m sleeping like a normal person. The only side-effect I’ve noticed is a mild headache if I stay up late after taking my pill. And maybe that’s just how tiredness should feel.

November 5, 2008 at 11:15 pm 4 comments

I’m a what now?

We think is written by a woman.

November 5, 2008 at 1:18 am 9 comments

Glass Sleeper

Day two of the melatonin. Took it at 8 as scheduled. It’s 11 and I should be going to bed soon. I feel sleepy but not exhausted. The Seroquel, the temazepam, they made me feel drugged up. This doesn’t feel like a drug at all. It’s way too early to tell if this is going to work, but ladies and gentlemen, we may have found a winner.

I haven’t felt like this in years. Tired without being tired out. It has to be more than a decade. It’s the kind of thing you don’t realise you’re missing. Then again I don’t catch onto these things quickly – it was a year before I realised that three-and-a-half hours a night wasn’t normal and the realisation was a big part of my spiral down into depression.

I don’t know if I like feeling this way. In some ways I enjoyed my sleep problems. Swapping the crystal clarity of sleeplessness for this fuzzed-out warmth? I’ve been scared for the last couple of years that maybe I was the cause of my sleep problems, that I wasn’t going to sleep because I liked the way it felt and didn’t want to sleep normally. But I think it was both – I kind of liked it, but couldn’t really do it any other way. The drugs I tried didn’t work, but I didn’t really want them to.

I guess the word I’m looking for is ambivalent. I relied on sleep-deprivation as self-medication for the longest time. I keep telling people that sleep-deprivation is like speed and then explaining that I’ve never actually taken speed. Sleep-deprivation never made me feel tired. I’d be exhuasted and I’d ache all over, but once I’d properly woken up I couldn’t get back to sleep for another 18 hours or so. It’s addictive. And it treated my depression. Maybe it only had this effect because I’m bipolar and it induced just enough hypomania to even things out a bit.

So why wouldn’t I use it as a coping mechanism? And therapy taught me that we don’t just discard our coping mechanisms when they’re not useful any more. Why wouldn’t I want to sleep like a normal person? But then normal people don’t cut themselves to feel better and I did that, so maybe I shouldn’t look for rational explanations for it.

I’m going to have to learn how to sleep again. I really think the melatonin is going to work and even though I’m happy about that and it should make my life a whole lot easier, there’s a hint of sadness there too. I’m not my sleep patterns, but it’s sure felt like it at times. And now I have to be just like everyone else?

It’s like when I started taking the lamotrigine and realised that it was making me better. It’s a lot of responsibility to take. It’s not just that I’m responsible for making sensible sleep choices now that I can actually do that, it’s also that I’m responsible for making the most of the way those choices affect my life. I’ve always claimed that the lack of sleep patterns was holding me back – if I don’t use the new sleep pattern to improve my life then I was wrong; it wasn’t the sleep patterns, it was me.

But I should probably think about these things when I’m not so tired.

I hope the melatonin really does work.

October 29, 2008 at 11:41 pm 7 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts

Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?


Self-righteous note about smoking

As of 12th September 2008 it has been forty five weeks since I quit smoking. So in another seven weeks it'll have been a whole year.