Acute Mental Crisis – Update 1

Summary

What the doctor said

On a top level as I tweeted through Puffles last night, I’m back up to my ‘civil service’ levels of anti-anxiety medication along with a short term course of additional medication. This is combined with counselling along with regular progress check ups.

Background.

Some of you will have seen my last blogpost that goes into the details of my current crisis. This sort of event for me occurs around once every four years. Looking back historically, part of me felt I was overdue on one anyway. On further mental health issues I’ve placed my related blogposts here.

So, what’s the news?

The new medication knocked me out for the best part of fifteen hours. When my brother took me back home from the GP’s earlier in the evening, I said I was going to go upstairs for a short rest…and woke up to find it was the following morning…fortunately a damn sight calmer.

It also does strange things to my sleeping dreams too. Fortunately these are not nearly as traumatic and frightening as the leaflet warns if last night is anything to go by. Think of being in a cross between living real Tudor history, a Carry On film and a costume drama with muggins over here playing a part similar to that of one of the three musketeers trying to think how we can put a stop to the plans of Phillip II of Spain…and you’ve got an idea.

What did I think was going to happen at the GP?

This is the ‘catastrophising’ mindset often associated with anxiety disorders – and in this case it was thinking I’d be carted off to Addenbrookes (the large regional hospital in Cambridge) for an assessment before finding myself in some ward under close observation for a set number of days and weeks, undergoing various treatments. In a strange way it was as if this course of events would have somehow ‘justified’ the feelings that I was – and still am having.

So why didn’t that happen?

Because treating mental health problems is not an either/or – as was reinforced at MindTech. It’s not a case of “Everyone is OK until they are broken and when they are broken they go to hospital to get repaired.” Ditto with courses of medication. It’s not like having a chest infection where you are prescribed a course of anti-biotics for a couple of weeks in order to rid yourself of it. Recovery takes far longer and involves a series of very personal lifestyle changes.

Why such a big backward step in such a short period of time?

This I don’t know – I hope the counselling will help me tease out some of those answers. In particular ‘same trigger, different reaction’. As mentioned before, this could be anything – from an item in the news, to types of food/drink consumed, to correspondence & conversations with certain people, to events at home…even the smallest thing which consciously barely registers on your radar at the time can be something that ends up plaguing your mind. (One example for me is having to be home at a certain time to feed the cat while parents are away – yes, it can be as routine as that!)

Haven’t you already made lots of ‘lifestyle changes’?

That’s what I thought. Yet since leaving the civil service, one of the biggest lifestyle changes is not seeing a regular group of people on a regular, routine, daily basis. I’m a social creature by disposition. I don’t do isolation or lone working very well – as I sort of hint at here. I need to bounce off & work with people in a team. Hence some huge re-evaluation following the recent workshops I have developed and run. Yes I can do them, yes they were great fun, yes I learnt a great deal from them, but do I want this to become the core of what I do or rather being a part of what I do? At the moment I’m thinking the latter.

So what’s going to happen over the next few weeks?

I’ll probably be a bit of a zombie over this one – but at least it gives my mind a rest from all of the angst and rubbish that has been flying through it. As I said to my older brother, it got to the stage where the CBT techniques ceased to work because I had no energy to engage them anymore. Negative thought-processes are energy-intensive on their own, and trying to fight them even more so. When you lose the will to use the former as a defence (because you are so utterly exhausted) the former take on a force of their own & the only thing you can do is to try and isolate yourself from others so that no one else gets hurt.

There’s also a huge reading list that’s awaiting me too. At the moment I’m darting between a history of Britain between 1815-1914 and Anne Perkins’ biography of Barbara Castle (ex-Labour Cabinet Minister and left-wing firebrand). I’m also planning to keep away from ‘the news’ because so much of it is depressing. In the former book I’m reading, the bit on government and public administration between 1815-30 has a number of similarities to today – which is appalling. In the latter book, at least the politicians of Castle’s era were dealing with genuinely big questions of not just the day, but of the future too. Today, the political world is trying to create a lot of noise about very small issues – leaving people viewing the worlds of politics, media and business in total contempt and complete ridicule. (Granny tax, pastygate jerry cans etc).

What’s going to happen once you’re out of this trough?

A pub lunch for a start! I’m off the alcohol at the moment – for obvious reasons. Secondly, the beautiful waterfall of kind and lovely messages has made me realise that I have an amazing community of people around me – something that I’ve not felt in my heart for many many years. Yesterday’s Twitter waterfall was an incredibly humbling experience for which I don’t have the words to describe – and it’s something that I don’t think will ‘hit home’ completely until I am off of the medication.

My years of soul-searching has teased out the lack of a stable community of people with similar values as being a core cause of both my anxiety and of depression in years gone by. Having realised just how broad and potentially strong this community is, I want to build it further – not just for my own benefit but for all of you who are and/or want to be part of it. (And unlike big corporations who basically say “Be part of it by giving us your money”, I’m definitely not in this for financial gain!)

Let’s strengthen this community

My older brother – and others have said that I’ve put a huge amount of effort into building a community around Puffles. I’ve not really acknowledged it as such because…on the whole it’s been good fun in tweeting and blogging. When you’re doing something enjoyable, you tend not to notice your own efforts, even though other people do. It’s an incredibly diverse community too – have a look at the second-from-last paragraph here to see how so.

What I’m looking to do is to increase the opportunities for face-to-face meetups for those who are interested – essentially going beyond the pub lunches (nice as they are). As well as benefiting me, this I hope will give more of you an opportunity to meet each other – whether for the first time or more regularly. This will mainly be through harnessing of events put on by other organisations, and asking who wants to go along to them. For example for Cambridge-based people, I want the monthly Jesterlarf Comedy Club nights to become a regular feature (because I find standup comedy to be far more edgier than the bland stuff on the telly). Ditto perhaps the monthly Cambridge Skeptics gatherings. If people have suggestions for other ones elsewhere (whether London (such as the Dance AlFresco events in Regents Park) or otherwise – e.g. the Festival of Ideas in Bristol towards the end of April) the more the merrier. I’m also particular interested in the “BBC Question Time Tweetalong” gatherings in Hackney – pondering whether similar gatherings might work elsewhere. I’d be happy to host one locally, or perhaps better, in a pub or cafe somewhere.

I won’t be able to do this on my own. I need to recover from this immediate crisis for a start. In anycase, the resilience of communities and networks are dependent on the input of more than one person. It’s the “what would happen to this organisation/group/network if a key person was run over by a bus tomorrow?” argument. (No, I have no intention of getting run over).

So if you have any thoughts or ideas on the above, feel free to comment below, tweet back  (or for those of you with blogs, write response posts of your own).

And once again, many thanks to all of you who have sent messages of support and goodwill.

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4 Responses to Acute Mental Crisis – Update 1

  1. Sal says:

    Glad that you have support and are getting the treatment you need to be more comfortable again. Well done for going and getting it. Not an easy thing to do.

    I wonder if you are grieving for the Civil Service, its certainties and purpose, the ego-support and the defining role it plays on who we are and where we fit in, as well as the routine, the group of colleagues, the place in a team? If so, and when you feel better (not now, as it is harrowing as well as funny), you might like to read Craig Murray’s ‘Murder in Samarkand’. He cut the umbilical cord and a lot of himself with it, but you do see, from his book, that outside that particular scaly, enclosing skin is the better place to be.

  2. Beatrice Bray says:

    I must tell you an inspiring Barbara Castle story.

    She once rang up a new woman minister and asked her where her nearest toilet was. The new minister said: “It’s downstairs.” Barbara said: “No, it’s upstairs. It is right beside your new office.” And the new minister replied: “No, that’s a gents.” Barbara quickly retorted: “Well from now on it’s a ladies. This is your first act as minister. Decree that this gents toilet is now a convenience for ladies. It’ll make your life much simpler.”

    That’s Barbara all over. A practical politician.

  3. Maxine Moar says:

    Good point Sal. I was only thinking yesterday how many people are struggling with the new world we have had thrust on us with job loses, cuts and uncertainties. After 20 years of knowing where my pay was coming from I have been thrown into a world of singing for my own supper and it is having an effect on me too. I would be interested to know how others are feeling as I have changed so much as a person in the year since my world changed/ i left the public sector. I do feel for you as before that I thought I was a strong person who rarely felt stressed but now there are days I can’t see a positive future- and I get scared. Maybe there should be somewhere for those of us who have been the collateral damage of the cuts to go to and feel better knowing we are all human and need support, security and a future!

    • Beatrice Bray says:

      You’ve had twenty years of knowing where your pay was coming from? You’re lucky. I haven’t. But I’ve survived. That’s why I told that silly tale about Barbara Castle. Distraction can be the better part of valour.

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