Wide open space

I’ve had the flu. The flu fucking sucks.

I probably caught it while I was at the doctors. Going to the doctors usually fucking sucks too, but this time I was seeing my usual doctor – Dr. Huckle – so at least I wouldn’t have to go through the whole thing where I tell them I’m anxious and they look at the screen and it doesn’t say anxiety on there so they give me a leaflet and tell me to talk to someone at the NHS self-help thing.

So I garble all that at Dr. Huckle, and he agrees with me. I’ve seen more counsellors than I can remember. I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists… I’ve had therapy and psychoanalysis. I’m sure the NHS provide a great service (seriously, no shade) but it’s really not what I need.

So I tell him I want to see a psychiatrist. He says that I need a specific reason to see one otherwise they will probably turn me down. I’m prepared for this. I have brought the letter from the psychiatrist I saw in 2011. The final three sections are titled: Formulation, Primary Diagnosis, and Plan. It’s the Formulation that I’m here for. It says:

… a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Type. Other diagnoses such as Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder, A Past History of Anorexia Nervosa and Harmful Use of Alcohol have to be considered.

I show the letter to Dr. Huckle. He’s seen it three or four times now, but he never remembers. I tell him that I keep seeing doctors and telling them I’m anxious, and they look at the screen and it doesn’t say anxiety – it does, however, say Borderline Personality Disorder in a little warning box. But there’s no drugs for that. They look at me and I look relatively normal so they shrug and show me the door.

‘But look!’ I say. I’ve been diagnosed with agoraphobia with panic disorder, and this isn’t part of the Plan. The Plan was psychoanalysis and sodium valproate. And I’ve done it. I saw the psychologists and I took the drugs – but I’m still fucked up. I need a new Plan, which means talking to a psychiatrist.

This, apparently, is specific enough – but Dr. Huckle warns me that I still might not get seen. I confess that I’ve stopped taking the sodium valproate – they stopped me being manic, but they stabilised my mood a bit too low. A low mood isn’t good. He doesn’t tell me off for not taking them anymore; he trusts me, for some reason.

While I was sat in the waiting room, unwittingly breathing in flu particles, I looked up the treatment of agoraphobia on the NHS website – and I’ve done everything on there already. I guess I could probably do with starting CBT again but I don’t know how much it will help; once the panic kicks in, that’s it: I’m fucked. I can put it down to mind-reading and black-and-white thinking and catastrophising, but never until afterwards and usually when I’m apologising for doing something ’emotionally unstable’.

I’ve tried all the drugs. I’m anxious and prone to mania, so SSRIs and SNRIs just fuck my shit up. That leaves pregabalin, which I immediately disregard, because that did nothing when I took it years ago…

*sound of penny dropping*

…back when I was also on an SNRI. And I was also a raging cokehead who kept popping Chest-Eze to keep me skinny. Somehow the implications of this haven’t occurred to me until now.

I mention this to Dr. Huckle, carefully omitting the substance abuse. I fully expect him to tell me I can’t have it, especially considering pregabalin was made a controlled substance at some point since I tried it last. But he doesn’t. He tells me to take 75mg, twice a day. I figure he thinks the psychiatrist is going to turn me down but I do need help and at least I’m not trying to score benzos or sleeping pills.

It seems to be working. It made me dizzy at first, but now I can actually think more clearly. I’m only worried about the things that I’m in the habit of worrying about, but I’m starting to catch myself when I do that. I’m pleased and annoyed in equal measure. If only I hadn’t been too unhinged to take my brain medication correctly in the first place, back in 2010, then maybe I would be all normal and shit right now. Probably not, but still.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the agoraphobia, especially considering I’m telling a story where I’ve obviously left the house. It’s not something I really talk about – not because I’m embarrassed or anything like that, but because I haven’t noticed it for a while.

I haven’t noticed it, because I barely go out.

Worst of all, I hadn’t even noticed that I had stopped going out.

It’s not that I can’t leave the house at all, it’s that I can’t put myself into situations that require me to socialise. Taking my daughter to school or wherever is okay because I’m going from A to B and then back again – and, as terrible as it sounds, my daughter serves as a kind of human shield. I can talk to her if the panic kicks in and she soothes me. It’s okay if she’s there. It’s only a problem if one of the teachers tries to talk to me – suddenly I’m self-conscious of how terrible I am and how they must think I’m a terrible parent and how they probably think I’m fucking disgusting – but I have to talk to them, so I fight it long enough to get through the conversation and then I scuttle away, back to the safety of my home.

Every social interaction is like this. Every single person I talk to has no thoughts of their own; all their thoughts are reflections of my fears and self-hatred, and I can’t hear myself think over their judgements and loathing. It’s all bullshit, and I know this. I just can’t control it. So I just gave up trying to talk to people unless I have to.

Appointments are a nightmare but I can generally get through them as long as there’s a purpose for the appointment – and as long as I can slink home afterwards, berating myself for being so terrible in the presence of others.

This is Bad. It’s affecting my daughter, because I have no social life and she’s missing out on so many things. It’s affecting my relationship, because I don’t do normal things like a normal person. It’s affecting me, because it’s made my life pretty crappy.

Once you stop doing one thing because you’re scared, it becomes an acceptable behaviour – and then you stop doing more and more things, until one day you realise that no one calls you anymore because you’ll only turn them down so what’s the point? And then it hits you just how much you’re missing out on.

Some days I leave the house and fresh air feels like a completely new experience to me.

Fingers crossed these pills work.

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