Roundabouts Don’t Stop!

By Henrietta Ross

The doors stood open, warm moist air flooding in, dissipating as it mixed with the cool air conditioning. The balcony was empty, except for the white plastic table and chairs where we had taken lunch a few days earlier. I stand looking out across at the pool, now deserted, its water still and shimmering, beneath the deep, navy sky, distant glistening stars punctuating the landscape.

I turned, feeling more contained, calmer as I watched my daughter sleeping on the narrow sofa bed. Velvety dark rich hair fanned out across the starched white pillow, teddy pinned possessively to her chest, its soft fur tickling her smooth cheek.

Sitting opposite her in the quiet apartment, I took in a long slow breath, calmness flooding my system – it felt reassuringly solid, unfettered by other thoughts, emotions or impulses. Warm and constant like those fleeting sought after moments I struggled to find, holding me up, supporting me, and aligning me.

***

Early starts, daughter pulled from cosy covers, breakfast laid out on the circular pine table, uniform warming on the heater. Streets looking desolate, lights slowly snuffing out the darkness, shops shutters crackling in the silence, as my feet pound the concrete.

Leaving my daughter, my friend’s out-stretched arms ready to embrace her, my daughter’s large doleful eyes as she watched me walk away. Catching the bus, a long and meandering journey, listlessly staring out of the window as the world passes me by.

Sitting in a classroom, surrounded by other students, boys and girls, all younger than myself, mischievous, brimming with life, frequently overtook by laughter, eyes bright. We talked, shared jokes, helped each other with work, them loud and raucous, and myself quiet, introverted, awkward.

My mood, suddenly no longer calm, a sense of pressure creeping in, fleetingly to begin with then disconcertingly more aggressive, pushing, shoving, demanding, forcing, synapses beginning to fire, body becoming excitable, mind losing control.

No longer listless, the world offering up an extravagant palette of colour to match my boundless energy and distorted perceptions. People now addictive, interesting, enticing, almost a compulsion as hyper sexuality curses through my veins. Time speeds up, so much to do, but those who do not sleep are not constrained by the universal laws. Impatient, frenzied, spiralling along in mania’s euphoric ecstasy – an obsessive thirst to learn everything the world has to offer – brimming full of bigger and bolder ideas – convinced of my absolute greatness knowing others too see the golden flares emanating from my being.

 

A placement at college is offered, a place for me to learn – normally anxious with new people, new settings, I now have interpersonal skills that once were only the stuff of dreams. I am energetic, charismatic, talkative and open, full of amusing anecdotes and one liner’s to dazzle my willing audience. Until, a thought drifts into my chaotic mind, an attraction to the gentle, soft spoken manager of the organisation. Questions of my own morality or even his not entering my mind, as the delights of physical contact, the communion of flesh; the sight of new unexplored skin, the soft caress of hands, the smell, the touch, the feel combining like an elicit high, pushing me relentlessly forwards. An affair begins, passionate, all-consuming, and obsessive though far from faithful.

On holiday, another presents himself to me and I unabashedly take him too – partying late into the night until I’m bored, new experiences calling in the wind, like a tempting mistress who will not let me be…

Books to read, essays to write, studying to do, provocative outfits to buy, new ideas to explore, fantastic amounts of money to spend, drink to consume, calls to make, friends to find…

***

The whisperings begin; I can hear his perverse voice calling to me. The beast that he is, is now upon me, chasing me through the darkened cobbled streets, alleyways, tunnels, paths lying ahead but I know I won’t make it, not this time. He has grabbed my mind, burdened me with his wrath, until I can no longer lift my head from the pillow. I can’t see out, I can’t see in. My mind feels like a graveyard, desolate, dark, in shadow, my brain is a tomb.

My home is the manifestation of my mind. In the living room, the curtains are pulled shut, wrapping the room in an oppressive darkness, thick grey dust smudges the surfaces, and the odd cobweb hangs from the ceiling. Soiled laundry fills the empty chairs, cascading onto the floor, the idea of using the machine evading me. The floor is littered with my daughter’s toys, as we are no longer putting them away, plastic cars, soft-bodied dolls, teddy bear’s, their eyes watching me, accusing, denigrating and plates with caked on dirt, cups, their milky contents spotted and blue, crisp packets, wrappers and empty cans. In the kitchen, the sink is filled with more dishes to be washed but I don’t have the energy, the surfaces laden with glasses, beakers, food boxes, packets and wrappers, empty pop bottles. The table full of books open on selected pages, notepads with my legendary scrawl, lined paper screwed into balls, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, post-it notes, correction fluid, staplers and to top it off, the putrid, foul smelling bin overflowing in the corner, giving my home its pungent fragrance.

The pregnancy test reads positive as I hold it in my shaky hands, the blue line like an enemy confronting me, ‘Who’s the father?’.

Bipolar

By Tia Belcher

TW: Suicide

The stigma behind mental illness has haunted me since I was about twelve. My mom would not take me to the doctor’s to get diagnosed because she had heard stories about my uncles and their diagnosis and thought I was not like them. I went undiagnosed for about 5 years. The problem was I would appear fine for weeks and then fall off a deep end of either extreme hyperactivity and eagerness to do EVERYTHING or I would literally dive into a depression so deep I was cutting and contemplating suicide, if not attempting.

Well the summer before my senior year of high school (I had literally just turned 17) my sister was going through cancer and I was put on a back burner, so to speak. I admit she needed more care then me, but i went through a bad depression and one night grabbed the pills in my cabnet. I took over a hundred between the aspirin and tylenol and low dose sleeping pills, but it didn’t end up killing me. my dad told me to go to sleep after that and my mom called me an attention seeker, as though there was nothing wrong with me (still throwing up from the OD).

I learned to hide my ways of coping better. Then I fought with my mom and she refused to let me leave the house or call for help after she was verbally abusive so I ran away. I admit I made things worse in the argument but she was still not taking anything I said seriously. She didnt believe me when I said I was depressed and I was told “well so am I.”

I ran away. When I came back it was only to go to therapy. I threatened to kill myself if my therapist didn’t send me to the hospital. She directed my mom to take me straight there, and my mom became the caring mother of dreams as we walked into the emergency room. She was nice to me because she was finally admitting there was something mentally not well with me.

We started to communicate a bit better. We started learning how to work with my mental illness and that I could still function and didn’t need to be treated as a kid. Then she fell into old way when I needed to go back to the hospital. It was back to being called selfish and lazy. I was told that they would no longer help me with college and i have to pick always being independent or always needing help, and that if I acted like a child I would be treated as one. It is not that cut and dry. It is not as simple as I choose to act this way, it is a chemical in my brain. Surely I can help it with medication and therapy and willpower but I guess what I want to say is just because someone is acting differently then you would doesn’t make them bad. Bipolar symptoms do not make me a bad person as so many people would say.

I also truly believe that if we had more support in this world then we would have better ways to cope and better ways to express our feelings. If we were more accepted as a people (if there was less stigma) it would help ten of thousands of people reach an older age and prosper through their lives. It could make the world a better place to live in, because some of the greatest minds are those with other impairments. Honestly mental illness is no different than any other illness except the way it is viewed and treated in society.

Prose/ Writing Piece

by Gen Winters

TW: SUICIDE, SELF-HARM

I lie down. Trying to sleep, trying to calm down my ever swirling, fast-minded thoughts. Four… five… six hours pass my life away. I go downstairs to grab something to drink my pills with in order to soothe my broken, bleeding, throbbing brain. I eventually pass out.

Everyday is a constant struggle to keep on persevering. At least, that seems to be the conclusion I came to in October. I downed a whole pill bottle and chased it with a bottle and a half of Vodka. I then tried cutting my wrists pretty badly; but then by the time the pill/vodka combination hit me, I pretty much just fell into a deep sleep on my friend’s couch. She could not wake me. I remember her telling me that she was worried I wasn’t breathing so she had to check for a pulse (which there was one). She even tried opening my eyelids to get me to wake up, but I was still completely out of it.

When I finally woke up on my own and started coming to my senses, I could barely walk without stumbling around. My friend drove me to the hospital since my behaviour wasn’t seeming to improve for the better.

Today’s sunshine and rainbows and glitter leaking out of my eyes and pores, and tomorrow… is pure emptiness,pain and torment.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

By Tyler Samuels

 

*Using fake names to protect the identities of my friends/other patients

Surprisingly one of my favourite films has to deal with mental illness and it’s no surprise that while getting better I constantly thought about the book/film. For those who don’t know what the movie is about; Jack Nicholson in his youthful day plays a man convicted of statutory rape of his girlfriend who rather than go to prison and be subjected to hard labour goes to a mental ward. Long story short he creates a “revolt” of his fellow patients that results in him getting a lobotomy. Sure it’s sad and depressing but it has a message that I could relate to for the past couple of days. For the last couples of days I had been on a 72 hold in a mental ward, in Canada it’s called a form one which evolves into a form three; we’ll go into depth later on. But I know you’re wondering, what the hell happened!? For the last few days my hypomanic episode continued to get so bad that eventually when I found out that my father got remarried over Christmas break, no call informing me or anything but the joyous occasion I located through Facebook. Let’s just say at my doctor’s appointment I became paranoid and started having hallucinations and said I had a plan to murder my father. Within record time I was in a campus police car and driven to a mental health ward.

Sitting in the back of that cop car was the most exciting thing ever to happen to me in that moment, talkative as ever and asking the names of the cops who were taking me to the “concentration camp” to asking about their entire family history. For awhile my mind was a nice mustang speeding on the highway, constant ideas from writing my famous book about bipolar disorder to singing for the opera in Vienna an idea I didn’t bother to share with my doctor. Took two hours and answered the same questions as before. “Tyler why are you here?”,  “I`m hearing voices, three voices to be  exact”, “You on drugs?” “No nothing at all, .”  The questions continued on of course from physical health to just common questions, and I was simply told to wait. Another two hours I was sent to the holding cell as what I called it; where I was asked another round of questions about everything and it felt so exhilarating to the extent that I felt I was being questioned by cops from the TV show Law and Order. Feeling the rush of power to my head, I felt myself in control while everyone else was beneath me while I was on top. Boy did I get that wrong.

I was forced out of my clothes into hospital clothes that only covered half my body while I was marched up to the elevator by two security guards who I named Jim and Tara up onto the tenth floor. The tenth floor was what I called for the first day, my personal concentration camp and the nurses were the camp guards/Gestapo. My first nurse that I had who I’ll call Nurse Molly was nice to say the least, I lost my will to continue the out brandish approach that I felt so comfortable and that fit me so perfectly. Nurse Molly smiled and asked several questions about why I was sent here of all places and basic questions about my life, but I kept silent for the most part. I was sizing up my supposed enemy; the paranoid manifestations had become the master of my brain.

The first night was chillingly calm which had me on my toes, I had been admitted to the children`s ward years ago when I had a depressive episode and it was an awful experience except for the Filipino nurses the best gift I could ever have. Unfortunately there were no Filipino nurses on the adult ward but plenty of Nurse Ratchets, mean, rude, not understanding and very callous.   During my stay I had several of these Nurse Ratchets on a daily basis however I held my tongue. My friends know me as being very blunt and getting to the point however you couldn`t do it in there. Speak back to a nurse? She writes it down that you`re being uncooperative. Get frustrated and yell at her nurse? She writes it down as aggression. Dare to even hit, throw or expose yourself to a nurse? You`re immediately sent to AWOL, secluded unit where the worst patients are strapped down to their beds. Any little infraction can extend your time, that fear gets to you and it got too me badly. I remember one time when I began to simply sing aloud to myself while in my room. I quickly stopped in fear of a nurse hearing and thinking I was talking to myself.

I made several friends which may shock the average person as how can one make friends in a mental ward? Fairly easy for me I guess it’s a gift for some people but I connected to a lot of people on the word but it eventually came down to five people. Trevor, Digit, Delilah, Mother Hen and  Diana where the inner circle of friends I had who showed me the ropes of “surviving” on the adult ward, all of them had been there for weeks. Trevor and Delilah became close confidents while Mother Hen always gave some kind of advice to help all of us and everyone else, I always find it funny that totally random strangers who barely know each other can know the name, birthday, place of residence and mental illness history all within one day. I had plenty of time to learn though  because within only the second day I was presented with Form 30 of the Mental Health Act of Ontario. It had been deemed that the mental disorder I was suffering from would possibly cause serious physical impairment of myself. Instead of the 72 hold I could be at the mercy of Dr.Useless`s discretion. Only he had the power to terminate the hold and release me, otherwise it would expire by the end of the month.

I essentially had no rights, I could refuse to take my medication but it would written down as uncooperative the once proud hypomanic Tyler was now reduced to a quiet obedient mental patient. It worked to my advantage at times but it didn`t work with little miss sunshine, she had bipolar disorder as well however she made my life intolerable . Her delusions and paranoia made it difficult to hold normal conversations as it would always led to her mood darkening and she screaming that I was a racist. Four days and nights I spent laughing and enjoying myself while not realizing my thoughts weren`t speeding throughout my brain. No longer did I hear voices nor did I hallucinate like that Friday night seeing an orchestra. I know the reason, just like Jack Nicholson`s character Randle McMurphy I had been lobotomized but by meds. The ideas that constantly entered my mind has now stopped and in some aspects it feels better. The saddest thing however is the lost of friends made within only four days, my meds cause me to forget things and sadly I will perhaps forget their names all together. The mental ward took away the old and gave the new.

Guest Post: PTSD

By Cathy Bryant

TW: Self-harm.

 

A slightly puzzled look – then they ask, “Were you in Vietnam?”

That’s the most common response when I explain that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was eight when the Vietnam War ended, incidentally!

The diagnosis ‘bipolar’ didn’t exist when I was first getting processed by the NHS after repeated self-harm and suicide attempts, thirty years ago; instead I got virtually every other diagnosis in a sort of Pick ‘n’ Mix of psychiatry. Endogenous depression is the one that annoys me most now – that means it comes from within for no reason. What an odd and inappropriate diagnosis to give to an abuse survivor.

My new and accurate diagnoses are: PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, Depression with Anxiety, and Premenstrual Syndrome enhanced by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. All the fun of the fair.

My current therapist wasn’t keen to give me a specific diagnosis – she said that she didn’t want to label me; but when the government required specifics, she insisted that when we went through all my previous diagnoses I didn’t feel constricted by them, and that she’d only put her name to ones that I, as well as she, felt were appropriate. Good therapist!

I told her that PTSD had been mooted.

“Well, it makes sense,” she said. “But – er – which trauma in particular?!”

That made me giggle, and thankfully I have the sort of therapist who can join in a giggle properly.

I asked her what PTSD was. She told me the story of a boy doing a paper round on his bike, who was chased by a dog – the big scary slavering sort. This went on for a while, the boy’s legs getting tired, and no one stopping to help. Eventually the dog pulled the boy off his bike and savaged him, doing severe damage to the femoral artery; the boy was rescued and recovered physically in hospital. He’s doing fine now – except that if he sees a dog or has to interact with a dog, he turns into a screaming mess. So he lives round his disorder, and has a life – he just has to keep well away from dogs. It’s not that simple, of course, and he has worked hard in therapy to sort his life out, but he’s still left with that basic wrinkle in his mind and life.

For some years I had what I think of as a bad-soap-opera-cheesy-storyline life, with a ton of traumas, and there are all sorts of triggers. There’s a particular problem with feeling trapped, or having someone with power over me who might hurt me (e.g. a doctor or a boss), but anything can trigger it – certain words, rooms, smells. Then I can’t breathe, and I have a panic attack in public, or a collapse in private. My 3D perceptions are heightened and things seem to jump out at me, be too brightly coloured. I can’t bear being in my body, and long to escape it – I’ll cut my way out if I have to. I’m a newly-caged animal, terrified and in agony. I can’t speak.

Like most people on the BP spectrum I’m fine, great even, until I’m not, and then it’s like falling off a cliff, only speeded up, and the crash at the bottom is not pretty.

I have trained my main carers to hold me silently and stroke my hair if they can – this seems to help; but an attack can last for hours and its effects will linger for days or even weeks. These effects are fear, shame, misery and inability to function.

It used to be worse, in that each attack felt Significant and Meaningful and This Is My Life and There Is No Hope. I’ve worked hard at wellness and I have managed to have rational survival thoughts – This Will Pass – My Life is Really Good And I Just Have To Get Through These Bits. I can feel them emotionally now as well as rationally, so that helps. Thank you, therapy. But I still self harm sometimes – better to cut an arm than my neck, I reckon, and the feeling can be that those are the choices. I am lucky to have excellent support now and so attacks are held to a minimum.

When I got arthritis in my twenties (there’s one of us in my family every generation – just bad luck) and couldn’t walk, suddenly I was met with public and official sympathy. Benefits were offered, criteria met, and people can see what is wrong. I’ve explained over and over again that my mental health problems are far worse, but people often don’t get it, and officials almost never believe it. The arthritis and fibromyalgia are painful, very painful and debilitating, but I’d rather have them than my mental health problems any day. If I could choose, I’d get rid of the mental problems before the physical.

I do understand that it’s hard to understand. But sometimes I get so tired of having to explain and explain and explain, though I know that explaining aids understanding.

Maybe next time I’m asked I’ll light a cigar, let my eyes glaze over and say, “Yeah, I was in ‘Nam…it was pretty bad in ’66…”

Cheadle Royal

TW: SUICIDE

Cheadle Royal has all the dignity of a prisonyard. The air of distrust is tangible. There are CCTV cameras in every hallway, and at nine we’re woken up and made to leave our rooms. The door to our bedroom is locked behind us. This is bad news for the depressed patients, who often simply lie on the floor outside their room, staring at nothing in particular. At meal times, cutlery is monitored strictly and the kitchen doors are locked so no one can leave until every piece of cutlery is accounted for. On my first night I am explicitly told by a nurse that “in here, you have no human rights.”

The treatment plan is terrible. There’s none of the intensive therapy the Priory offered. In fact, in my whole time there I saw a psychologist once, and had one family therapy session. Since my overdose, I haven’t restarted any meds, despite the term ‘bipolar’ being introduced.

Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder (historically known as manic–depressive disorder or manic depression) is a psychiatric diagnosis for a mood disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of a frenzied state known as mania (or hypomania), typically alternating with episodes of depression.”

In the TV room, we’re watching (ironically) Girl, Interrupted. Down the hallway, we can hear Marie screaming because they’re force-feeding her again. She’s only twelve. I’m still only fourteen. I meet Moz, the only other bipolar patient I’ve encountered. We bond over Oasis and spend many an hour just chatting with Definitely, Maybe repeating on the small CD player the ward loans us. Live Forever is his favourite song.

Before the time I leave, Moz will have killed himself.

I never get home leave from Cheadle, and the only time in the two months I was there that I left the ward, I picked up a piece of glass from the floor and didn’t get let out again. Cheadle was the embodiment of utter misery for me, and was only making my mental health worse. I’d become half delirious. Half the time I’m hallucinating. I’m paranoid as fuck about the nurses and doctors and what they’re actually doing when they’re checking my obs. It takes the tiniest thing to send me flying off the handle and for some reason, I’ve become obsessed with my weight. Despite their best efforts, the nurses do not manage to remove everything lethal from my person and I’ve become an expert in turning even a pair of tights into a suicide attempt.

One time they find me in the shower, curled up in a duvet with the tights tied tight around my neck. I’m on the verge of passing out by the time they arrive, and my face is pock-marked with burst blood vessels. When they cut the tights off, the rush of oxygen sends me giddy, and as they carry me into an empty room, I’m laughing. I vomit on the floor. A nurse throws me a cloth and tells me to clean it up myself. I’m becoming more and more out-of-touch.

I don’t know what the fuck is going on, why are there nurses sat on my arms and legs, why are they pulling my pants down, why is there a needle, FUCK OFF, i don’t know what’s going on, am i being attacked? i’m being attacked.

I wake up in an empty room again. They use empty rooms when it’s considered too dangerous to let patient have access to their belongings. What happened? I remember being restrained and sedated but nothing else. I’m told I attacked a member of staff for their glasses. I have no recall and am utterly mortified. It’s been two months so the section is over and Cheadle threatens to prosecute me unless I leave. I leave, ashamed, and no better.

Lemonade

By Bobby Parker

TW: Strong language

My dad walked into my bedroom early one morning, wearing just pants and socks. This is serious. He was trying not to cry, the sobs jumping inside his chest made his voice wobble like a sheet of metal, an astonishing act of nature, like thunder and floods (he never cries, unless he’s drunk, and he wasn’t drunk). ‘What can we do? Is it money?’ People always think it’s money. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know anything, but I couldn’t deal with those pants, so I told him weepy, snotty lies about feeling better and more positive, I promised I wouldn’t top myself, just to make him and his weird pants go away.

That week my factory manager was given strict instructions by my GP. He was NOT supposed to tell anyone at work I had taken time off for depression and ‘‘stress’’. The old shitbag didn’t care, with his Donald Sutherland sex face, he told the worst of them. A horrible, sailor’s tattoo called Karen pushes me into a corner: ‘Stress? What do you know about stress? You’re eighteen for fuck sake! My husband is a useless piss-head, my six kids are little bastards. I’ve got a mortgage, debts up to my tits. MY life is SHIT. You can’t be stressed! What have YOU got to be STRESSED about? Hah, fucking hell…’ she walks away to tell the others.

Life used to disgust me, after those first few periods of absence from work due to ‘‘stress’’ it became nothing worth bothering with. Life was staring into space, you know, that second when you first lean back and stare straight up, confront each other on equal terms, before you realise you’re just a small, drunk, human, blinky thing, standing in someone else’s garden, and they are shouting because you just had a massive lager piss in their dad’s shed. Life was a country I would never visit, ancient cities I couldn’t pronounce. I started taking medication, I mean I was taking the medication seriously. My friend cut his throat and went to jail, smeared the walls with his own mess, screaming my name. They sectioned him for six months. He shaved his head and said niggers stole his shoes. I sternly told him never to use that word, and he asked me if I was God. Begged me to prove I was God.

They read out a list of all the medications I have been given over the years. They might as well be speaking Spanish, counting backwards from a thousand. I ask for a diagnosis. A proper diagnosis. They are vague, the terms they use, the process, a film with a plot I can’t fathom. If I didn’t like David Lynch I would say a David Lynch film. But I love David Lynch, so just imagine a poor imitation, and turn the sound off.

I go to the gym now, drink green tea. I don’t eat junk. Maybe I’m a vegetarian. Fruit makes me feel amazing. I don’t drink alcohol at the moment, or take drugs, apart from the odd slip when there’s a nightmare under my skin, and a friend with eyes that haunt the best of my notebooks takes me away for awhile, and shoots me up with a love we refuse to define. I wake in a ditch, a domestic trench filled with melted snow, a painted gutter, laughing, sweating slapstick cartoons, throwing imaginary knives into the tight sun, wedged between distant buildings like the myth of orange, and red, and feuding tribes we’ll never fully understand.

The head of psychiatry calls me in. ‘I do not like… patients… who are late,’ she says, her brown eyes stabbing the corners of my mouth. I explain I was there on time, sat in the waiting room, anxious, as always, when I felt my insides groan like misshapen bowling balls tumbling down a crooked lane. So I went for a shit. The doctor has never called me in on time before, I had three minutes until my appointment, long enough to use the toilet opposite the waiting room. ‘If you needed…the toilet,’ she said, ‘You should have… told someone,’

Really?

‘Let me try and understand what you are saying. After I signed in downstairs and came up here, I didn’t need the toilet. Honestly, I didn’t. But, since I suffer from extreme anxiety, as you know, haha, well, I needed to have big shit. I mean, it was nasty in here, you know, if I had sneezed or coughed you would have a brown problem out there. Now, instead of attending to this painful emergency in my guts, you’re telling me I should have walked down the corridor, out of this unit, down two flights of

stairs, and told the miserable bag of blank puzzle pieces at the front desk to call your secretary, and tell her Bobby Parker is just going for a shit, so don’t freak out if you step into the waiting room and he isn’t there, he’s not late, he’s shitting a mountain of worry, and he will be out in a few minutes… That’s what I was supposed to do, right?’

She smiles at my sarcasm, a sharp sideways smirk like a painful cat scratch bleeding down a sunburned forearm. She’s supposed to be one of the best. Did I mention that? Anyway, we spend half of my appointment arguing about my little visit to the toilet. Seriously, how does anybody get better in places like this, run by people like her? Ah, they do the best they can I guess. I tell the respected psychiatrist I’m not going to waste my time, or her time, any more. I’ve come this far without her help, and all the psychiatric and psychological help I have been given over twenty five years is negligible, at best. They can’t keep up with me. If that makes me arrogant, so be it. She is sorry to hear that. The gold crucifix on her necklace winks at me at she leans forward to drop something into the metal bin beneath her desk. ‘I don’t know what to say,’ she sighs. ‘Exactly.’ I say, and as I leave she picks up the phone but she doesn’t say anything. She just sits there holding the phone against her small, wrinkled head.

Outside, a text from my drug dealer. I ignore it. Put my phone in my pocket. I turn around in the spitting rain and give the hospital the finger. I give it both fingers. I throw all my fingers at the hospital. A taxi pulls up in front of me. I get in. For a few seconds the taxi driver and I look at each other in the rear view mirror, then we crack up laughing. We don’t know why we are laughing, but it feels good and he drives so fast I don’t bother putting the seatbelt on. I grip the handle above the window and wait for the mania, the beautiful, dangerous, inevitable mania to choose my next adventure. To pick up my life the way the wind carries a piece of litter, up and away, over the rooftops, into the fire.

I know I’m lucky. That it could be worse, that I could be worse. And sometimes that is a comfort, it really is. I open the window and the cold air wraps its hands around my face. I close my eyes and go back in time. There are people back there I miss so bad I could pull out all my fingernails using just my lips.

One day I’ll have a proper diagnosis, but I’m in no hurry. It’s all bullshit, isn’t it? What’s white today will be black tomorrow. Up and down. Inside out. ‘Oh, sorry! It’s not this… it’s THAT.’ The truth is a chronic masturbator, coughing late into the night so no one can actually sleep the way they taught us to sleep. Fuck, you can almost smell it. You can almost give it a cute pet name the way lovers do before they turn to stone.

They’re sending me back to work soon, and rightly so. Back on the dole. Signing on, a normal human being with normal human thoughts inside a normal human machine. Like I said, a lot of people out there are REALLY suffering. God I wish they weren’t, but they are. I wish my manic sparks could fly off and heal their pain instead of whizzing off into the dumb lonely darkness. Oh man, haha, oh yes! Just think of all those bosses out there, waiting to frown at me, waiting to warn me, to wag their lumpy old fingers in my face, sack me, gleefully, one frosty morning when they finally realise they’re dying like the rest of us. And no amount of money will change that. No amount of sick days, holidays, productivity bonuses, blow jobs in the store room. Their bald heads! Their cheap lipstick! Photos of their families on the wall. Grey dirt under their fat fingernails. A fucking landscape print of rainy Wales dominating the room. Isn’t it exciting!

Mixed Episode

By Melissa Lee-Houghton

TW: Self-harm, depression, mania.

It’s an age old thing. This is how you remember it: the ride stops, you want to get off but you can’t. This time, this night, the adrenaline kicks in and you want to, you’re ready and you break a cold sweat and feel the chills all up and down your neck and the hairs on your arms are standing on end. It feels like the end of the world and you’re the only survivor, all of these people swimming around with candy floss lives are not real. No-one is. You brace yourself for the next lurch and fall through the sky. Weightless. Music is playing in your head, LOUD, and you feel like your dilated pupils will explode because the world is now fluorescent and you are in Paradise, and anything that can get you higher is waiting for you to c’mon and take it for your own. You want to fuck and you want pills and you want to talk to someone, anyone, about it all, about everything. You have so much to say your mouth aches for someone to say it to. The ride stops. Suddenly. And the drunk with the oily hands who wants to drag you to his cellar, eyes like fishhooks snagging meat, he tells you to move on. You pay, you feel sick to the stomach. Something has changed. The ride has stopped, no-one else got on and no-one else got off. You can almost taste the metal, the wheels, cogs, parts, engines. The scaffolds, the loose change falling out of your pockets and you don’t care. Things slow. Rapidly. You feel full to the brim of fucking metal. Like boiling water, you cool so quickly, you can’t see where you’re going, you just see the blur of faces going somewhere. Someone says your name, but you don’t care. Nobody knows you, has ever known you. Nobody loves you, how could they even love. Nobody will miss you when you walk into the water in the dark and feel the teeth of despair bite and drag you under. Your heart is like a trapdoor. You try to imagine what other people will say if you tell them. ‘Silly,’ ‘Stupid,’ ‘Crazy,’ ‘Irresponsible,’ ‘Evil.’ And then there’s ‘Bitch’ and ‘Cunt’ and these words reverberate in your brain and you can’t stop them. You feel like you’ve been given a beating, but then had the opportunity to give it back. Only you don’t have the energy and you don’t care if you die. You have visions of you spitting teeth, and if you’ve ever known anything before, you certainly know this: it is Over.

They put you on the lock-up ward after a week (according to them) in a coma, you can’t remember what you’ve said, done and thought for longer than that and now you’re having ‘strange conversations’ with your sister and a man you can’t love. They move you out to the acute ward where you’re medicated, restless, and do nothing but shuffle about, smoke and cry. You fall asleep sat up. You don’t have a single thought of your own. You are so beyond yourself, so beyond a concept of reality that you have to break down and scream from time to time. And still it goes on, and on, and on and on. You repeat words like ‘Help Me’ over and over until your mouth is dry at the thought of saying them. The social worker comes and says you’ve had a poem published in a reputable magazine. You see it, it’s real, she says it’s something to pursue. But you know everything you wrote in that poem was everything you’d ever need to say. You say all the right things and eventually they let you go home.

The fair is round again. You want to get off the ride this time, so badly it hurts in your solar plexus and you can’t breathe, but you know you never will. You never will. You never will. The man with the oily hands pulls you off because you’re screaming, tells you to fuck off. Nothing is as fast as it needs to be. No-one is fast enough, the rides are a blur and your eyes can’t rest on any one thing. You wish someone would come with a sword and take off the top of your head. You haven’t slept, you don’t look after yourself, the cuts on your arms are healing but there’s always fresh ones. You worked hard to get here. Raising two children, a good marriage and a pretty house in a pretty town. You walk at night to the woods and see harpies roosting in the trees. They are always sleeping. You fear they’ll hear your heartbeat. You are afraid of these dark places because of what they could do to your mind. When you go home you talk for hours until your husband gives you your medication. There is nothing more to say anymore, it’s all been said. Nobody expected you to survive. But you did.

Day Eighteen of Me Being Hypomanic

By Tyler Samuels

 

Day 18 of me being hypomanic,

Usually I don`t notice it at all,  I just continue on my day to day stuff but I just feel more excited, more ideas, more energy and of course not wanting to go to asleep at all. The fact is there is so much to do that sleep is a bother, it`s troublesome and it just plain useless. The fact that I`m able to write this and had the creativity to write three new poems just shows me that the hypomanic stage is back with a vengeance. Spoken like someone who is truly hypomanic, it is an episode I truly love. Because when you`re hypomanic it’s such a wonderful experience and you can do whatever you set your mind to. It`s not full blown mania you can still function without causing attention to yourself but that`s not the case with me.  Most of the times when I`m hypomanic I constantly listen to Beethoven to a point of where I actually think I`m conducting alongside with him and I’m of course doing it better. My favourite symphony you may ask? The ninth of course! We all know the wonderful Ode to Joy part but in your case you find it one of the most inspiring and beautiful musical compositions in history, in my case I think it could have been done better if I had made it. I notice the constant mistakes that he made and I improve them to having the idea of I can write the supposed tenth and his last symphony before he died.

Psychiatrists have this fancy term for when this happens, it`s called grandiosity. A big word that simply means I have an unrealistic sense of superiority to all other human beings. I sometimes wonder if people consider me a narcissist, what happens most of the time I treat people horribly and degrade them and swear at them . An example of this so-wonderful side affect was at my nineteenth birthday party in December where I got wasted beyond belief  and apparently started swearing beyond belief and for the rest of the night my abuse was directed at my friends. People who have bipolar disorder are often told not to drink and being me I ignore those warnings completely, it`s only made my hypomanic episode in my opinion get worse. That`s another side of being hypomanic/manic, the scary side of any physical or mental disease is the consequences that go along with the joy and happiness mania brings.  Delusions have plagued me my entire life, sometimes I think friends are talking about me behind my back. Other times I think the world is out to get me or currently I think my friends are trying to poison me. Why may you ask as to why I believe my friends are trying to kill me? I believe that god gave me control over the weather because of how good I am then the rest of people on the planet.

I most likely lost you when you just read that, surprise surprise I also hear voices! To be honest I believe all of those things 100% right now even though there is a chance it maybe just a delusion. It`s come to a point where I`ve only left my house once in the entire week because I fear for my life. That`s the ultimate problem with being bipolar, sure the depression is awful and terrible but the hypomania is suppose to be the outlet of your ideas and the ability to turn on the creative part of your brain. But it just swings to paranoia/delusions everyone in awhile and it literally becomes hell on earth. You become so paranoid that the people you`ve known for years become the enemy, an enemy that you`ll have to defend yourself at any cost.  Sometimes these delusions I have can be positive – I believe that my doctor and I could write an awesome book about my struggles with bipolar disorder and make tons of money and get interviewed with Oprah. And yes I have every intention to tell my doctor about this delusion, the other delusions not so much. I think I`m so hesitant to actually tell my doctor about all these things is the simple fact I don`t like being on meds, I absolutely detest it. In my mind it just kills anything creative and all the joy I have. On the other hand look what being hypomanic with no medication has gotten me, paranoia, delusions, losing a lot of friends in only one year, getting arrested and my friends thinking I`ve become a lunatic.

The thing is I`ve never wanted to be a poster boy for this illness. At first I told a few friends and they just shrugged it off and I was surprised by that. A few actually knew what being bipolar meant, for some reason I know a lot of people in sociology or psychology! And the rest I didn`t bother to tell simply because I did not want to be labeled a crazy person. In high school where I was hypomanic and didn`t even realize people thought I was seeking attention or that I had some mental issues. In other cases like on a class trip to Washington I was overly sexual to someone I know and I`ve realized recently that`s the one of the side effects of being bipolar; hypersexuality. But I was labeled a pervert and a creep because of that and it actually bothered me since that had never happened to me in my entire life. However it`s gotten to a point where everyone I know should know that I suffer from this. Let`s be honest people know I`m depressed but the truth is there is another side of my illness that people just don`t understand.

With mental illness people think either you’re depressed and you want to kill yourself all the time or you hear voices so you must suffer from schizophrenia. Sometimes I feel like ‘why must I educate people about my illness? Shouldn`t they as friends and love ones dedicate time to learn what a hypomanic episode is and learn how to identify it?’ Recently one of my friends sent a message saying that I’m not a nice person because of what happened at my birthday “party.” At first the immediate irritation and rage that is part of hypomania took over and I was thinking of all kinds of insults and things I could comeback at her with. Surprisingly I didn`t respond back to it but I realize that the best thing is to be open with a disease that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

That`s the double edged sword I`ve seen having bipolar disorder in general, I can`t wish it away, can`t pray it out of me and medication won`t make it disappear. I can only manage it to the best of my ability, right now maybe I am managing it well. Others would of course disagree about the benefits of hypomania out way the good, that`s why I`ve always loved Beethoven who yes supposedly suffered bipolar disorder. Most of the work he did was because of a hypomanic/manic episode, his illness essentially made him an amazing person and a great composter but it also made him a secluded lonely man because of the extreme rage.    It`s sad reality but it`s a fact I have to accept.

Mood Chronicles: 10/01/2014

January 10th, 2014 by Jeff Muppet Erson

Once I moved to Rapid City, Michigan. My zip code was 49NUTS.

Rapid cycling gives me some advantages. During a conversation I can draw from pictures and feelings that I can rewind to in order to make sense of the current situation. I take this as experience but learned later that this is fairly uncommon according to people who think things through. The downside is certainly not something I expected either. When I hit the deep depression side of cycling, my memory fails me. it’s as though there is a wall between my manic and dark sides. I don’t see things from where I was in the more hyper and aware state. When I become aware of this my memory comes back to a degree. I usually apologize. I’m usually in a mixed state at this time and the mixed state is painful. I am a mess. The two opposite thoughts and feelings crash but the pictures are trashed. I hope I am not alone in this.

I’ve since moved to San Diego where my zip cope is 92NUTTY. I know I’ll see you in the next city. Don’t be hard on yourself.