No Sex, A Lot of Drugs and a Fair Amount of Rock n Roll

23 09 2016

It is nearly ten years since I started taking psychiatric medication. Ten years of antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills… the list goes on and on.

Right now I am on a lot of medication. I’m popping more pills than an angst teenager at a rave. Shake me and I rattle.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how I feel about being dependent on these medications. On one hand I don’t want them and feel that I should muddle on through without them, especially with my background in Psychology. On the other hand I can see how ill I have become when I have attempted to come off them.

Some say it’s a crutch, but surely that’s a good thing? You wouldn’t want someone with a broken leg walking around on it.

The other problem is that I know too much. Whilst in Munich I did a placement in a neuropharmacology lab and I know a lot of the side effects. For me it’s been predominantly weight gain, sleepiness and lack of concentration. Whereas I used to devour a book a day it now takes me weeks because I can’t stay on topics.

I should probably reduce my Valium. I should probably reduce my sleeping pills. And yet every time I try it turns out to be a disaster. I don’t sleep, I become a nervous wreck and I am more disabled by the illness than the medication.


And that’s the crux of the issue. As long as the benefits outweigh the disadvantages then I need to listen to the doctors. I am not a psychiatrist and I need to trust them. 

I’m coming out of this hospital stay on Wednesday, on more medication than before but hopefully medication that will bring more stability to my life. I’m not expecting miracles but I do have a good feeling about it.

Which brings us to the rock and roll… My three brothers and two of their friends have created a band. They’ve played five or six concerts and have a good local following. Check them out Here . They have unfortunately not found a place for me and my recorder yet…

Obsessively compulsively yours

Bellsie





Thoughts on Self Harm

17 09 2016

TW: contains references to self harm

This is just a list of unconnected thoughts on self harm that I need to get out. Don’t expect anything more.

  1. I am coming to realise that self-harm is badly named. I never understood why my parents would be so cross (and there were times that they screamed and shouted) or upset (my mum would cry for days on end) when I cut myself. Then out of nowhere on a radio show I listen to they played The Magician’s Assistant by Scroobius Pip. And suddenly it became clear to me how much my self harm was hurting those who love me. Listen to it here Magician’s Assistant
  2. My psychologist asked if I was a violent person. I said no because to be honest I would never survive a punch up with my aiming skills and because I have three enormous brothers to do my dirty work for me. Seriously though, she then asked why I found it okay to be violent towards myself. I had never seen the violent side of it, to me it’s just a coping mechanism, a way of releasing intense feelings. So why is it okay for me to be violent towards myself? I would never take a razor blade to anyone else.
  3. I don’t know if I can stop. I am doing all the right things and talking the talk but that’s all very well whilst you’re in hospital. I told my parents where I kept my kit (blades, steristrips and dressings) but it would be easy to make another one. Which leads me to point number 4.
  4. I need a reason to stop cutting myself. See point 1. I have to remember the collateral damage that surrounds self harm. Is that enough? I don’t know. I know that if I self harm then my chances of continuing with further education are greatly reduced. Which leads me to …
  5. I am going back to university here in France on a very part time basis to do some research. I have decided to register as a disabled student which will give me more flexibility with my time and commitments. It means that if I have a bad day and miss a lecture I won’t get kicked off the course. This means returning to the university health centre. They were absolutely brilliant eighteen months ago – the nurses would take out my stitches and do dressings and the few times I cut myself really badly they would wait with me until  the ambulance arrived. They also gave me a safe space if needed. I’m scared about going back there. I’m worried it will trigger me.
  6. Self harm is a taboo topic. Nobody wants to talk about it and even medical personnel skirt around the point. We need to change this.
  7. My psychologist wants me to write when I want to self harm but it’s so difficult to put the feelings into words. I can intellectualise it but catch me in a state and it’s unlikely that I can say more than “I want to cut myself”.
  8. Self harm is really complex. It’s not attention seeking (I have times when all I want to do is cut my arms to ribbons (thank you to the Devil for that suggestion) but I stick to the thighs because that can be hidden away.
  9. You need to learn your triggers. Mine are angry voices in my head, a build up of uncertainty, high levels of anxiety and feelings of failure. Now that I know my triggers I have a better chance of intervening before they become overwhelming.
  10. I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ll never be able to wear a pretty bathing suit without exposing my scars to the world. Some will fade and others won’t. And I need your help. I can’t do this on my own. If I know you then please let me know if you are up for the fight because I need an army around me.

Obsessively compulsively your,

Bellsie





Up Down Turn Around (Please Don’t Let Me Hit the Ground)

8 09 2016

So I stole a Moby lyric for the title of my next post on my adventures with schizoaffective disorder. Today I want to talk to you about my mood.

OCD and depression often go hand in hand. I mean it’s pretty obvious – if your life is being run by a tyrannical illness then it’s not a surprise that depression creeps in. In my case for a long time depression was secondary to OCD, a reaction to the disorder that was ruining my life. Then about two or three years ago, the roles reversed. Rather than OCD leading to depression, it was when my mood was lowest that my OCD would reappear.

Since then I have had many phases of depression. Some so deep that I couldn’t move from my bed or even eat (which would generally lead to a hospital stay) and with them came the periods of self harm.

Depression is no fun. It’s not glamorous, and rather than a black dog I had a galumphing great grey hippopotamus sitting on my chest. 


And then suddenly, out of nowhere came these fantastic periods of elation. I would talk so fast you could barely understand, go for a week on no sleep and ultimately wrote an equation to solve social disadvantages in higher education. What started as ecstasy would get ahead of itself, psychotic symptoms would appear and things would become very scary.

Then I would come crashing back down to discover that not only had I bought half of eBay but that my work was complete gibberish. These were what I now know to be manic episodes. 

Then you have hypomania. You’ve got to love a bit of hypomania. I wrote a bloody good Masters thesis whilst hypomanic, able to concentrate for hours and feeling good about myself. I wear make up, high heels and am confident in my unwavering ability to do whatever I want. Sounds good, right? It is. Buuuut it has its downside – a tendency to switch into a manic phase.

I have recently been using a mood diary app to keep an eye on things. 5 is good. Three or more days at 3 or lower means phoning my doctor and taking emergency meds. Three or more days at 7/8 or more and I make sure I get enough sleep and can take another antipsychotic to bring me down.

Once again, and I feel like I end every post like this, I cannot yet control my moods. I can try bloody hard but I’m still a slave to rapid cycling. But there is hope around the corner – I am currently transitioning onto lithium, a better mood stabiliser than the others I have tried. 

Here’s to some chemically induced stability!

Obsessively compulsively yours,

Bellsie





The Whispering Devil

6 09 2016

TW: includes mentions of self harm

Continuing my series of articles on how I came to have a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, today I plan on talking about the hallucinations I have.

I have always had a very (over?)active imagination. I couldn’t tell you when I first heard voices in my head but it was sometime during childhood. I’ve always had characters wandering in and out of my head, stories weaved around my synapses. 

All these voices were benign. In fact I thought everyone had them. It was only about two and a half years ago that things took a more disturbing turn.

Sometimes all I can hear is whispering, catching a word every now and again but not being able to hear what they are saying about me. And that’s the crux of the matter – they are talking about me and my failings as a human being.

Then there’s the man who tells me to cut myself. He says that slicing myself into ribbons is the only way to evacuate the evil within me. He’s louder than the others and more powerful. He tells me that he is the Devil and that he is only trying to help me. He is terrifying. Sometimes I am literally paralysed by fear when he shows up (mainly in the evenings and at night).

There are various thoughts as to where these voices come from. Some think they are an auditory manifestation of the negative thoughts you hold against yourself. That makes sense to me – mix paranoia with a healthy dose of low self esteem and it’s not a surprise that the voices are negative. As for the Devil, well he is the natural manifestation of evil to a Catholic…

How do I cope with the voices? Well for a long time I have been blocking them out using music or spoken word, my iPod headphones glued to my ears. High levels of old typical antipsychotics got rid of them too but the side effects meant that I also spent my time sleeping and getting fatter and fatter…

So my new psychiatrist here in the hospital had another idea – instead of blocking out the voices and fighting against them, maybe I should just leave them be. By not engaging with them I am putting them back into their place.

It’s not easy. Some nights I manage to fall asleep without plugging myself in but not always. It’s very hard not to listen to someone telling you that the only way to evacuate the tension and anxiety is by cutting yourself.


My psychiatrist talked about A Beautiful Mind and John Nash who lived with visual hallucinations and still went on to win the Nobel Prize by learning to accept their presence without engaging with them.

It’s a work in progress but I feel that it’s much more sustainable than being drugged up to my eyeballs…

Obsessively compulsively yours,

Bellsie 





Paranoid Android

5 09 2016

Now I’ve worked out how to blog from my phone (no wifi here, I think they’re the mad ones) I thought I would write a series of posts about the symptoms that led me to being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Today is all about paranoia…

One of the first symptoms of my illness happened a few years ago now. I was sitting in the library at the university and suddenly realised that everyone was talking about me. I was so scared that I ran out of there and straight back to my room where I stayed for the next few days, too frightened to go out. 

Since then I’ve had multiple episodes of paranoia, from believing that car number plates were predicting the death of my family to a strong feeling I was being followed. I also have had times when I thought I was wanted by the police and every car became a police car and everyone became undercover officers.


The worst thing about paranoia is that you don’t know who to trust. I don’t trust myself anymore but sometimes it feels like everyone around me is in some sort of conspiracy against me.

Luckily I am mostly past the latest episode. During it I was so terrified that I followed my mum around everywhere (that autocorrected to nun. An interesting idea, not sure it would help with the religious delusions…). Even once I had arrived at the hospital I was paranoid that I was being filmed and searched my room for hidden cameras. I’m also pretty sure that the transmitter I saw on the roof was actually a TV aerial…

So there you have it – a beginner’s insight to paranoia from my point of view 

Obsessively compulsively yours,

Bellsie 





Back Inside

4 09 2016

So a badly managed medication change led to me becoming quite poorly again and it was decided that I needed to go into hospital. I was given a choice – make a fuss and be sectioned in my local hospital (where there is currently no permanent psychiatst and therefore no continuity of care) or behave myself and go to a private clinic two and a half hours from home. After the trauma of last time, I accepted the conditions (if I self harm then I will be sent to my local hospital) and my mum, brother and I made the journey up to the border with Brittany.

It’s nice here. I see the psychiatrist every morning and the psychologist once a week. There are sports activities four days a week (I actually have hard muscle for the first time ever), arts and crafts four days a week (I am assuming my stereotype entirely and weaving a basket) and a lovely park where I walk every day.


I’ve been here for ten days and had my first visit today from the wonderful A, my ex-supervisor and lovely friend. Tomorrow my parents are making the epic journey up to see me and I can’t wait!

Medically speaking I’m no longer totally crazy, the paranoia has all but gone and although I am still hearing voices we are taking a different approach – instead of trying to block them out with headphones or whatever, I am just leaving them be. Not engaging with them, however cruel and evil they get. I’m not 100% there, in fact I have a way to go, but I think it works better than fighting them, leaving me exhausted and frightened. Some nights I even manage to sleep without my iPod plugged into my ears.

Medication wise we are trying something that will hopefully be life changing, but that is, to quote my doctor “a pain in the arse” to get settled on.

Hopefully I’ll be home soon, probably a couple of weeks. In the mean time please send care packages of chocolate and tea to Bellsie, Loonsville, France.

As ever, obsessively compulsively to yours,

Bellsie





Exciting Research Project Opportunity!

4 09 2016