Into the system…

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Posts Tagged ‘scalp

Mad Men…

with 7 comments

Again it has been 10 days since I last wrote. I don’t know where the days have gone.

I saw Dr N last Thursday. Just a routine appointment to pick up my scripts, but it was good to talk. He asked the usual questions. Mood, suicidal thoughts, self harm etc. He seemed concerned. More so than in recent appointments.

He pointed out that he could see my scalp was in a bad state. As well as the trich, I also struggle with skin picking or Dermatillomania to give it the technical name. My scalp gets the worst of it. Every day, usually at night, I pick and scratch at my head until it bleeds. It’s covered in terrible wounds, some a few centimetres across. My hair hides the worst of it, but it’s got so bad that it can be seen at the moment. It’s always worst when I’m not sleeping well as I tend to lie awake scratching my head to distract myself from the insomnia.

I have done it for years, longer than the hair pulling even. I think it started when I had chicken pox as a child and I would itch my head. I was maybe 8 or 9? I can’t really remember.

I was shocked that Dr N noticed and mentioned it. I’d confessed it to him a long while ago, but he had never brought it up before. I tried to change the subject pretty quickly and felt uncomfortable that he had seen.

Both the skin picking and hair pulling make the hairdressers a nightmare. My hair is thin in places and there are bits where it is really short where I’ve damaged the scalp so badly it doesn’t grow properly. The scars and cuts are awful and would make most hairdressers flinch. I’ve been asked what has happened so many times and I don’t like making up lies, but I’m too ashamed to tell the truth. One hairdresser even insisted on putting on gloves when she saw the wounds, too afraid to touch them. I last had my hair cut when I was in The Priory, knowing that the hairdresser there would be understanding. I often go over 6 months between a hair cut and it’s been a year before. I try and avoid it as much as possible, even if that means my hair looks rubbish and gets far longer than I’d like. My hair really needs cutting, but I just can’t face it.

Other than the trip to the GP, very little has happened. I’ve spent lots of time watching back to back episodes of Mad Men. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an American TV series about advertising executives during the 1960s. Over here it has been shown on BBC Four, but that doesn’t mean it’s dull and serious! I loved it the first time round, but I watched a lot of it whilst I was in The Priory and ECT has erased most of it from my memory. Watching it again has been a little weird as it brings up memories of those times. I started watching it again because I saw that Series 3 has started in the US now. Will be good to have more to watch. It kills a few hours and takes me away from this world for a little while.

In other news, my bloke may be going back to work a little part time. He left his job to care for me since I came out of The Priory last May. His replacement has quit suddenly, so his old employer have asked if he can do a few hours until they can find someone else. He went in on Tuesday morning, but hasn’t been in again yet.

For me, this is quite exciting. I feel that I am getting a little independance back, being left alone for a few hours. I miss the time I got to myself when he was at work. It is hard being together 24/7.

It is a challenge though. I am still fighting the thoughts and the time alone makes them harder to ignore. It feels like tempting the devil. The monster tells me that “you can do it now, you know you want to”. Over the past few months I’ve had little opportunity to act on my suicidal thoughts. These few hours alone change that and I know there is a risk. My bloke worries about it and I don’t want him to, but I know his worries are justified. I wish I could give him a 100% guarantee that it won’t happen, but I don’t think I can. I am in control to a point and will fight as much as I can, but I can’t guarantee that I will win. The thoughts are intrusive and often impulsive and I know I could act on them before I even think about it. They can spiral out of control and it can be hard to stop yourself when you get to a point. I know I need to hit the panic button before things get that far. I’ve told him I will, but I can’t even guarantee that.

Despite the risk, I still want him to go. I felt bad that he left his job for me as it is. I want him to be able to work again. I can’t be watched 24/7 forever. I am going to have to take this step eventually and it might as well be now. I could be waiting the rest of my life if I waited for the thoughts to go away. I don’t want to let the thoughts win. If he stays at home with me I am doing that. I am letting the thoughts control my life.

Generally I’ve been pretty low over the past few weeks. I’ve been lower, but not much lower than this. I am carrying on, because I don’t know what else to do, but it’s a struggle. Most of the time I just feel so empty and numb. There are still a few better moments, but less than there were a month ago and the average score is down. There are still worse moments too. Fits of rage, agitiation, arguments. There’s this little bubbling pot and occasionally it boils over.

I am disappointed that improvement has stalled. It feels like I am failing. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to get better. Maybe I am just stuck in depression. There had been seeds of hope, but I am not sure they will propagate. I don’t want to give up on the Lamotrigine as it has been far better than anything else I’ve tried, but it’s just not doing enough. It seems I am heading into a long period of mind-numbingly dull depression, with only the occasional painful period of agitiation thrown in to liven things up. I guess I am already there and I don’t see any way out yet. I don’t know what all this means. I guess I will have to talk to Dr G when she’s back from holiday and see what her thoughts are. I suspect she may eventually give in and resort to the Lithium. She’s threatened it often enough.

I don’t have all that much coming up to look forward to.

Like Seaneen, on Monday I have someone turning up to interview me for the Cardiff and Birmingham Universities’ Bipolar Disorder study. I am a little scared about going over everything and hope it won’t make my mood worse. I feel forewarned having read Seaneen’s post, so it may be a little easier, but it’s true that it isn’t fun for anyone reliving your worst moments. I do think it will be interesting though and I definitely want to support research where I can so hopefully it will be okay.

I see the chocolate teapot again on Friday 11th. She’s actually done some stuff at last. I finally got the referral through for the ALERT service (Out of hours telephone support). They haven’t called me to give me the number yet so I can’t use it, but at least she’s contacted them. I also got the dates through for the Creative Remedies groups. I start on 16th September. There’s a performing arts group and a visual arts group, both lasting 2 hours a week, so that will give me something to do.

I’ve also got a wedding to go to on the 12th, my NHS psych appointment on 22nd and an ESA medical on the 24th. I’m really dreading the latter. I am scared they are going to tell me I’m not ill, I’m just making it all up and I should go back to work. I’m scared they will think I’m a fraud. I did the questionnaire really quickly and sloppily as I just wanted it over and I’m worried now that I didn’t say enough. I have read so many horror stories lately that I am quite worried, but I just hope I can get through it. I am claiming under the youth rules as I haven’t paid enough NI and can’t claim income-related due to my bloke’s savings. Unfortunately they didn’t take the youth rules into account at first and rejected me, so I’m having to appeal. Usually you only get a medical after you have been claiming for 3 months and although it is over 3 months since I applied I haven’t been paid a penny yet due to the appeal. I just hope it gets sorted out soon. Benefits are a nightmare. I don’t see how anyone gets away with claiming when they are not entitled. It seems that most people who are entitled can’t even get them.

Anyway, enough for now. If I posted more often they wouldn’t be such mammoth posts. I shall try.

Knowing how it feels…

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As Chouette pointed out, it is no secret that I met up with her, Kate, Colouredmind and Eccedentesiat this weekend. It was good to attach real people to the blogs and stories that I read. I enjoyed the meet, however brief for me, but am conscious I was talking far too much. It is a trait that comes from nervousness and agitation, but one I struggle to keep under control. Thanks though. I hope we can do it again.

It was great to just chat about everything and anything. Although we all know how it feels to suffer at the hands of mental illness, it was good that we could be “normal” and talk about other things too. We all know what it is to be students and to live in the city that we met. We all have a life aside from this. I think it is good for all of us to remember that. My partner thinks that I have become too wrapped up in being ill and that I shouldn’t spend all my time with “depressed friends”, but I think doing just that has helped me to remember the other side of life.

That said, I also appreciated being with people that know how it feels. I agree with both Hannah and Chou that we have all lost much to this illness. I too, have a list of wishes and a collection of regrets. I too, wish I didn’t have to take medication to live and sleep, wish I could find enjoyment in things and wish I could erase many things from my memory. I wish I didn’t have to spend days in therapy. I wish I could drive without being a risk to myself or others. I wish I could spend time alone without someone worrying about me. I wish I could turn off the negative thoughts that infiltrate my mind. I wish I could return to the career that I loved and not head straight for a nervous breakdown. I wish I could get on with life and want to live.

I have all these big wishes, but it was weird. The thing that struck me most from Hannah’s post, was the line:

I want to wear my hair parting on the otherside and not have scars to hide underneath my hair

I too wish for this. Worse, I wish I could part my hair anywhere and not show the scars of a lifetime of destruction. This is something I am so ashamed of, yet I still continue to wreak havoc. I have scratched my scalp to the point of bleeding and picked at every scar, every single night, for as long as I can remember. My hair no longer grows in the worst places. Elsewhere, it grows in tufts, as it tries to recover from the abuse. I cannot get a haircut, for fear of what the hairdresser might say when they see the mess that is my head. I am deeply embarrassed by it. My scalp constantly hurts and itches and I can feel the blood in my hair. I hate it, yet I am unable to stop. It is a compulsive act of nervousness, a compulsive act of self-destruction, a compulsive act of distraction. It is worse than ever at the moment. I lie awake at night and give in to the urge to hurt myself., leaving blood on my pillow. I sit in therapy and find my hands wandering. I hope no one notices, but fear that they do. I stand at the mirror and look at the scars. Most of the time I don’t even realise I am doing it, but I am painfully aware of the consequences. I wish that I could stop. I wish that wish was enough and I’d have the willpower. I know that I don’t. It is another one of those wishes, but I think it’s another one that is hopeless.

Yesterday I saw my consultant. I didn’t know what to say to her. I said that I’ve been frustrated that I feel no better. I said that the insomnia has returned. Her only answer was sleeping pills, Phenergan (Promethazine) again. I tried it on the ward and don’t think it helped, but it’s all I can try. I refuse to take Zopiclone, Promazine had no effect on me and Trazodone gave me all the silliness and uncoordination of drinking five pints, then left me with the hangover to match. Diazepam is off limits outside of the ward, as she doesn’t want to leave me with a nice addiction at the end of it all. She looked through her bible of psychotropic drugs at the sleep disorder pages, but didn’t find any other suggestions. Only Mirtazapine, which she discounted with a shake of the head. She went through the sleep hygiene list with me, but she knew better than to push that one. Admittedly, the fact I only had an hour or two’s sleep at most last night, was probably exacerbated by the diet coke I’d been drinking, but nevermind. Anyway, I have a note to give Dr N on Thursday, so my green slip will have the new one on the end.

Back to Dr G. She wants to put up my venlafaxine, but is scared of the consequences. The constant background agitation of the past few weeks makes that seem like a bad idea. She wants to put up my quetiapine, but is scared of the consequences of that too. My chronic apathy and considerable numbness are the issue here. Instead, she has done neither and left me in limbo-land with meds that don’t seem to help. I am fed up of the medi-go-round. I just want them to work. She is waiting and hoping that they kick in soon, but I’ve been on these for over 7 weeks now. Surely if they were going to work, they would be by now? Maybe I need to have more faith. How is the placebo effect going to work if I don’t believe in them? It’s still frustrating though.

She seems to think the way forward for me is therapy though. She isn’t holding out too much hope on the meds front. I wish I had as much faith as she does that splodging some paint around, talking about my life story, or getting annoyed at CBT will do anything to help me. It may be a short term distraction, help me to be more honest with myself and others about how I feel and give me a chance to think about stuff, but at the end of the day I still feel like crap and still battle day in day out with the intrusive thoughts. I don’t know how much “working through my issues” I can take and where it is going to leave me ending up.

I am chronically frustrated with this chronic depression. When will things change? I keep ending up in the same place. I keep waiting for things to improve. I am fed up. I feel like screaming it.