I didn’t just take notes last month: I also tried to write a post about all the drugs I’ve taken. It got to 2000 words before I gave up, nowhere near the end. Perhaps if I hadn’t taken so many drugs then I wouldn’t be having so much trouble trying to write a post about taking so many drugs.
I had compiled a list of every substance I’ve taken – prescribed by a doctor or bought from guys like the dealer who confuses the fuck out of me with all these ridiculous names for different types of weed: ‘This one is Watermelon Kush, this one is Amnesia Haze, this one is…’ blah blah blah, I don’t fucking care, I just want something green that I can smoke – and I worked out that over the course of my life I have tried 7 illegal drugs (some of which I’ve tried repeatedly, multiple times a day) and 14 prescription medicines.
Oh, but wait… that’s just the last ten years for the prescribed stuff. And that’s just what I’ve been prescribed purely for my mental health, I haven’t included things like contraception or antibiotics or painkillers.
And here beckons the crux. On the twenty-second of January, it will have been ten years since my grandad died. Death anniversaries are always going to be hard, but what’s scaring me so fucking much are the days and days and days of anniversaries of watching him die that are going to be starting much sooner. And they ruin everything. Christmas Day is feeding him in bed and wiping his arse. New Year’s Eve is hooked up to machines, holding his hand while the professionals are having a minute of being normal people before switching their faces back to medical-grade coolness.
If I make it to January, let alone the twenty-second, it’ll be a fucking miracle.
But, you see, there’s something in the back of my mind telling me that ten years is quite enough. It can finally ease off. I can – I’m allowed to – get on with my life without the grief and the guilt constantly holding me back and whipping me. I just have to get to that point, but there’s a huge fucking storm between now and then.
I have nothing with which I can defend myself. The problem is in my mind. I’m taking the best drugs I’ve ever been given by a doctor but they still fucking suck. They balance out the mania, but they don’t help me when I’m feeling low. They make it worse. And sodium valproate has lots of side effects. My liver is so fucked that when I first started taking it I’d get sick from drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
So what do I do?
I could go to the doctor and ask for something else. But this probably won’t work, because whenever I see a GP they just want to refer me to a counsellor – the same counsellor I’ve seen four or five times now, who sees me for a couple of months and then tells me there’s nothing she can do for me. They don’t want to prescribe me drugs. And I understand that, I really do. But it’s not because I’m flagged up as a drug addict – my medical record only notes idiotic things I’ve done with the drugs they’ve given me – it’s because they see the diagnosis and don’t know what to do with it. You can’t cure a personality disorder with drugs.
To get put on the valproate in the first place, I had to dig out the evaluation from the psychiatrist that recommended it – I had to prove myself. Every mental health professional I’ve seen since it was prescribed has nodded and told me to stay on it (one even made me take a stronger dose) but every time I go to the GP and ask for help they tell me that drugs aren’t the answer. I feel as though I’m fortunate that one of the side effects of the valproate is that I no longer get migraines, because otherwise they’d probably make me stop taking it completely.
Around this time last year I asked to be switched from valproate to something called topiramate. Topiramate isn’t really used much as a mood stabiliser but, like valproate, it’s an anticonvulsant and it prevents migraines. I thought maybe if I was going to be crazy with or without drugs, I might as well save my liver the damage. The doctor said it was fine, I left with my new prescription.
The psychiatrist diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia. When I go to the doctor about this, I get sent away with nothing. I’m meant to manage things on my own, sitting on endless waiting lists while my own mind tries to destroy me. In contrast, I have never been professionally diagnosed as a migraine sufferer. I’ve never been offered an appointment with a neurologist. I think they’re hormone-related, because they only started when I received the contraceptive injection, but not one doctor has ever questioned it. They just take my word for it and give me drugs.
Topiramate turned out to be worse than valproate. Much, much worse. Instead of the much-lauded side-effect of weight loss, I started putting on weight. This might have been because I suddenly had chronic knee pain that kept me awake at night and stopped me being able to bend my legs without screaming. And then I went deaf in one ear. I felt as though people were talking to me through water. I went back to the doctor and begged for my valproate.
This was in January. My hearing is still a little bit fucked.
But this is what I’m scared of. If I go to the doctor and say they’re not working, then they might take them away and I’ll have nothing at all.
I’ve decided to stop taking them. I’m seeing how it goes. So far I’ve made someone cry, trashed a friendship and pushed away someone special. It’s been a week.
I have an appointment with a GP on Friday morning at 9.20. I’m going to take the psychiatric evaluation with me, and I’m going to beg for another. What good is a diagnosis without a treatment plan? I want fixing before this fucking kills me.
The last time I saw the counsellor, I burst into tears and asked her if it would be okay if I just went to the hospital if I ever felt suicidal again. Would they send me away, like the hospital in Norwich, where they didn’t have any psychiatric beds and could only offer me a seat in the waiting room and where the nurse made the decision not to stitch my arm because she said I didn’t need it but now there’s a wide hole filled with shiny skin where there was once a row of freckles? But would they look after me here?
The look of surprise and pity she gave me made me cry even harder.
I can’t live like this.
But I don’t want to die.
I want to breathe new life.
And the bird,
Drowning in flames of renewal,
Chose as her last thought:
‘What if I’m merely a kite?’