I normally prefer to keep my blog posts short but the subject here does not lend itself to that. You may find some of the contents of this post disturbing so do think carefully before reading it. Also, as I say later, I’m doing really rather well right now. Huzzah!
Mental health is a funny thing. Both ha ha and peculiar. Having someone special in my life with a bad head whilst I battle my demons seems to make for interesting times. That my hot new Indian boyfriend is probably rapid-cycle bipolar (awaiting diagnosis too) and my new friend is autistic is challenging but good. Add an Aspergers husband (whom I left last November), an alcoholic depressive best mate and both my Rottweiler stepmother and natural sister are hypochondriacs. My cup simply runneth over.
As I’ve said previously, I have bipolar (once called manic depression - it’s all the rage now that the sainted Stephen Fry and many other well-known people have it) but it is as yet undiagnosed. Bloody mental health services were crap for me in Newham and all I got was a psychiatrist wanting to titrate drugs without diagnosis and some crap counsellor trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on me. I refused the former and gave up on the latter. But both me and my London GP know. The meds I have are contraindicated for my condition but they work well for my down times.
First realised I was suffered from depression over thirty years ago (following the break up of my relationship with the man I was later to marry) when I read an agony aunt column that complete and rapid loss of sex drive wasn’t ‘normal’. Didn’t occur to me that trying to kill myself, deliberately and with planning, was also another sign.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I now know I’ve been depressed most of my life with apparently to have no choice as the chemicals in my brain conspire against me. It’s only recently I’ve only worked out I also suffer from seasonal affected disorder. This is why I bugger off to the Canaries in winter and partly why I wanted to live there. My reason for heading to warmer climes is frequently misunderstood. It’s the guaranteed sunshine I crave, not the heat. I’m a typical strawberry-blonde fair-skinned type and me and sunbathing don’t get on. Plus I get bored shitless lying on a sun bed regardless of how good my book or my twitter timeline is.
The first time I attempted suicide I was around 18 years of age. It was a combination of a cry for help and ‘oh well if it works all the better’. I didn’t cope at all well with my former boyfriend (I dumped him) flaunting his new girlfriend in front of me. Found some painkillers of my mother’s and added vodka. It was supposed to be as simple as that. However, I have my drama-queen moments and took myself off to the ex-boyfriend’s parents house by foot and bus (I lived in Sherwood, Nottingham and they in Arnold).
Goodness knows how long I spent there, in delirium, bitching to his mother about what I thought of her son. Found out later she had phoned my mum and all my darling mother said was that the pills wouldn’t kill me and not to worry (my mother is a whole new blog post and I’m not yet ready for that). Not sure how I got home but I do remember the throwing up when I got there. Did my mother come to my aid? No. She just let me get on with it. Can’t remember if I was disappointed with being alive or not.
The next time really was a cry for help. I was working away from home and holed up in some awful motel with a work colleague and my boss. We all had separate rooms. Fine unless you are having a full-on affair with your married-with-three-kids boss. I was. I wanted to sleep with him, he refused because of the circumstances and my mood plummeted. If we’d have had mobile phones back then (approximately 25 years ago) I would have been able to text him and communicate my feelings. I couldn’t get hold of him and I was devastated. I knew the Romans used to take their own lives by slitting their wrists in a hot bath. I had a bath in the room and a glass ashtray. Turned out shards of safety glass are not good for opening up the veins. I was not happy.
The last time I tried I was nearly 30 (I’m 49 now). It was New Year’s Eve and I’d fallen out with my boyfriend (the future Mr CJ) because he wouldn’t have sex with me as I was on my period. If you think I’m sex-mad now you should have known me back then - I was convinced I was a nymphomaniac. We were very drunk having consumed a lot of wine, Champagne and cocktails. I was so distraught I finished with him and drove from his flat in Shepherd’s Bush to mine in Southsea. It was the first time I’d ever driven under the influence of alcohol. It was a breeze. The roads were empty (it was well after midnight), I’m a good driver and I knew the roads home like the back of my hand.
I now knew how to get the job done properly. A casual conversation over dinner, in a restaurant where a friend and I shared a table with a pharmacist and his parents, revealed that co-proximal and vodka was the winning formula. I had shit-loads of the stuff. Having chronic Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) with a pain I couldn’t quash meant I could get as much Distalgesic as I wanted. So I was on a mission to consume as many tablets as I could and washed down with vodka. I wrote a note, which I still have somewhere, and sat on the sofa watching Tony Slattery in Who’s Line Is It Anyway. My note even referred to my belief that Tony was surely the male version of kd lang, well physically anyway.
At some point I became drowsy and slumped on the sofa. Then the vomiting started. I rarely vom and I was quite distressed but physically incapable of doing nothing but lie there and let it happen. Given my intention I inexplicably got a copy of the Independent to soak up the worst. I’ve never thrown up so much in all my life. I learned what it was to get to the point of just emitting bile. My body had conspired against me. It was having none of it. Can’t tell you how devastated I was that my plan hadn’t worked. This time it wasn’t a cry for help - I wanted to go and I was completely alone. I didn’t even care about what would happen to my beloved cat Fergie.
As you can imagine I was ill for days. I was self-employed at the time and no-one knew what I’d done. It was tough when, for my birthday at the end of January, my family organised a dinner party to try and cheer me up. I had stopped drinking alcohol as I could no longer face it and I knew if I didn’t partake of the wine they would have been suspicious. Upon reflection I now think they would not have noticed. My family are not good at empathy as I’ve only just realised.
It took me nearly two years, anti-depressants, counselling and friends to get over it. I was suffering a form of bereavement as the boyfriend refused to get back with me and I was mourning my lack of success. It was the longest time I had gone without sex too, well since I was 15. After about 18 months I started to feel better and I was back on the market. However, for the first time in my life I couldn’t pull. That’s when I learned that most straight men, however simple they are, can smell desperation in a woman. Mostly this acts as a repellant and it was only once I stopped being desperate that I gained success.
My youngest step-sister (Sis3) and I had gone out on the pull in Long Eaton. Anyone who knows that part of the world will know that we were not expecting to meet our future life-partners there. However, we did happen to meet a couple of nice blokes and all we did was have a chat and a flirt. I’m a highway maintenance engineer and it turns out some folk are fascinated with a woman doing what is traditionally seen as a man’s job. The bloke misunderstood my sister and was astounded that I earned my living filling potholes. She very proudly corrected him by telling him that my job was to tell people to fill potholes.
Remember I said that some men can smell the desperation in women? Cue the next boyfriend, the guy I refer to as my ex on twitter. However, he didn’t ignore me - quite the opposite. Some folk like their partners needy and broken, they move in like an animal on wounded prey. Don’t misunderstand - he was a gentleman and probably just what I needed at the time. He helped me to recover but as I grew stronger he became unhappy with how I was changing. The relationship broke down when I no longer needed or loved him and so I eventually left.
During our time together I suffered another bout of depression. This time it was classic bereavement. A good friend of mine died from cancer and he was the first person I’d cared for to die on me. I was actually there, in the hospice, when he passed away. My GP prescribed more anti-depressants and arranged for some counselling. It only took one session and the first light-bulb moment was within the the first few minutes of meeting. The counsellor walked into the house I shared with the boyfriend. She complimented me on the house and I straight away replied that it wasn’t mine. The second epiphany came when she helped me realise all I was doing was trying to please the boyfriend and not myself - just how he wanted it. It then lead to understanding that I had a similar problem with my step-mother. Best hour of therapy I’ve ever had.
My plans to leave were delayed by my boyfriend’s brother nearly died after he was pushed off some stairs and had broke his back. The boyfriend was devastated and there was no way I could leave him at such a time. Can’t remember if I’d told him I was going but I know the last six months of living with him was hard work. I helped him through and was there for his family and his brother. Once he had recovered I found a house nearer to work (we lived in Ruislip and both worked in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames).
It’s hard to know what brings on my depression. Factor in being regularly bullied at work and that lead to many periods of being off work sick with stress, anxiety and depression. Not long after I finished with my boyfriend I started the next phase of my life with my now husband. We didn’t live together for a while. I even moved to Stoke-on-Trent for work and I thought we’d be content with a long-distance relationship. Then, out of the blue and following another bullying episode at work, he asked me to move in with him, promising to always look after me and that I never needed to work if I didn’t want to. I was astounded and pleased. I needed to get out of my job as it was clearly toxic for me.
Life in Shepherd’s Bush was great but I soon got bored. It was great being back in London, in domestic bliss and close once again to my beloved Fulham Football Club. A chance meeting with a man I’d worked with when I was self-employed lead to me working again. Sadly my mother died whilst I was working in East London. I was already depressed and that caused my mood to plummet further. My work ended, I had a hysterectomy and we moved to East London. Stressful enough for those of sound body and mind, devastating for me.
Luckily all of those things, other than my mother’s death, were positive. My depression was made worse by the PMS, we needed more space and I got another job - this time in Camden. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve had. But the continuing depression made working full-time difficult and I ended up part-time. Money wasn’t an issue as my partner had a good job. It worked out well, especially when he asked me to marry him and I had a wedding to plan.
Before the six months leading up to my wedding I, and the medical professionals I’d seen, had not considered bipolar as an option. However I went into a high mood phase. Absolutely loved it because it made all the hard work so much easier and enjoyable. I loved my wedding preparations and the day itself. A few months before the ‘big day’ I took myself off to Turkey with Club Med to help me relax. It was my first ever holiday on my own and although it was a struggle as my shyness can be crippling, leading to me being out of my comfort zone. But I did enjoy it.
The chilled out me lasted less than a day after my return to London. Got home to find my fiancé’s brother had come to stay with us. I was livid as I wanted to just be with my man. His brother was suffering from quite extreme bipolar and he was the last thing I needed. During his stay with us he had a pulmonary embolism and we had to cope with his family living with us in the tiny two-up, two-down terraced we were renting in Stratford. My physical and mental health plummeted - I got a cold-sore on one of my eyeballs, the cyst on my neck kept getting infected and exploding and I had to have it removed as well as suffering constant colds.
We moved into what would be our marital home whilst I was dealing with that. But the enthusiasm for nesting carried me through and helped me recover. The depression only set in again after our honeymoon. Our week in the south of France was not exactly a success, not helped by the near-constant heavy rain. I couldn’t understand why, when I had everything I needed (apart from my mum) I was so miserable. That was seven and a half years ago and I’ve been depressed ever since.
I learned to alleviate the symptoms by heading off to the Canaries in the winter and alone. Holidays with my husband were hard work and I ended up not enjoying them because I still had to do everything. I finally got brave and discussed it with my other half. He didn’t really like holidays (he was quite happy to take time off and stay at home) and I got more out of going on my own. This is one of the many clues I missed as to the real state of my marriage.
My job at Camden ended when the Council changed political hue and decided that a council-run consultancy was not what they wanted, despite us making them a lot of money. I was without a job for the first time in my adult life. I missed the work but decided to take a career break and enjoy myself. I was able to arrange a big 40th birthday weekend for my Sis3, did a lot of solo travelling and my mood improved immeasurably. It might be fair to say exponentially to the point I couldn’t cope with my head being off with the fairies.
I am quite self-aware when it comes to my health and realised I needed to do something about it. I couldn’t get to see my usual GP and got, in my opinion, the worst locum ever. He refused to see me for longer than ten minutes despite me requesting a double session. He prescribed Prozac and that was it. I immediately booked another appointment with my regular doctor and the process of being utterly let down by the local mental health services began.
I got assessed, given CBT, more Prozac and lansoprazole to protect my stomach. Sadly the latter drug disagreed with me more than the former. More annoyingly neither my GP not I realised it was the latter that lead to me having unbelievable diarrhoea for weeks. I’ll spare you the details but will just mention TENA Lady, a rectal examination and a lot of embarrassment and anguish. I already have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) although the symptoms had all but disappeared following the hysterectomy. The consequences of my body reacting badly to the Lansoprazole are still with me today - I now have a wheat and possible yeast intolerance. Again I’ll spare you the details.
Fortunately I was blessed with a good GP I was prescribed a different anti-depressant (AD) once it became clear the Prozac wasn’t working. The new AD took my mood to a new and higher level and after a while only left me feeling OK and flat. I can say anything to him and vice versa. I simply said I wanted a new AD as I needed a rocket up my arse and some class As. He once told me that some people pay a lot for drugs to feel like I do when I’m on a ‘high’ so I knew he’d understand.
After some discussion we settled on an AD contraindicated for bioplar as it can make some people high. Sounded perfect to me and I was given the lowest dose. For some inexplicable reason there was no sustained-release version at that dosage and boy did the drugs work. It was just like being at the peak of a bipolar high but without the mania. It’ll come as no surprise, dear reader, that I loved it once I got used to it. A few weeks later I was moved on to the next and sustained-release dosage leading to my mood continuing to improve but without the giddiness. I was finally starting to think straight(er), enjoy life and all that came with it.
Those of you who have been following my antics on twitter (@CattyJacques - thanks for asking) will know what a roller-coaster life I’ve lead for the last two years. I had a whale of a time visiting various bits of Europe following the mighty FFC to the Europa Cup final, heading off to the various Canary Islands, spending a lot of time with my family and friends and pretty much doing just what I wanted. My husband didn’t have a problem with this although I don’t know if he knows I was shagging about. Not on any of the football trips (much to the disappointment of my ex-boyfriend) and not until I went to Gran Canaria in February of last year.
Only once had I had holiday sex and that was before I got married. I have a fuck-buddy (technically as I think the status remains even if the goods are no longer being sampled. I don’t like the term ‘friends with benefits’ although we are still friends and always will be) but stopped sleeping with him for the first few years of being wed. There were various one-night-stands (I chose not to go back for more) and permanent offers from my big boss (I didn’t much to the amusement of our colleagues) and ex-partners. Did occasionally sleep with my ex-boyfriend but the only pleasure I got out of that was showing him what he was missing. I’m going to miss doing that. A LOT!
Sex with my husband, and that’s what it had become, finished when I’d had enough of just being used as a vessel in which for him to ejaculate. As mentioned in previous posts I had problems climaxing except when on my own. I tried to educate Mr CJ in how to pleasure me but to no avail. He simply did not get that the act was not simply to get him to come as fast and thoughtlessly as possible. He was also drinking heavily at the time (not that it affected his performance sadly) and I used to lie awake waiting for him to come to bed. One day I lay there waiting and decided enough was enough. I don’t think we’d been married two years. I simply stopped being available even when pissed and horny and it was never mentioned.
The fuck-buddy was an infrequent pleasure (he knew what to do) and mainly coincided with the home and away fixtures for FFC and Manchester United. Yes - a Mancunian ManUre fan. I know! Sadly he was never available to come on holiday with me as his kids, ex-wife and a new girlfriend plus work conspired against us. Our times together involved a lot of fun, drink, food and lots of love-making. Shame we were never single at the same time as each other. Shall remain wondering to the end of my days whether we would have had a proper, committed relationship *sighs*.
The first of three holidays in GC last year was a turning-point in my life. I became good friends with my holiday rep (Ma as I call her on twitter) , chilled for the first week and ventured out around the island on various trips during the second week. I found I was forever discussing why my husband wasn’t travelling with me. Eventually the penny dropped and I had what the lovely @GaryHills called an epiphany. I had more epiphanies than sex that fortnight. I had more sex in that fortnight than I had since I stopped sharing a bed with the husband. The high end of bipolar was a factor but I thoroughly enjoyed it, even the tears once I realised I mourned our marriage.
The main revelation was that he and our relationship was toxic for me. Aspergers and bipolar were not compatible and although he cared for me he didn’t actually contribute to my well-being except for giving me money. He controlled me with the money (as I later realised) and that’s not enough. The decision to leave was made four and a half years previous to this, at my sister’s 40th birthday weekend. Back then I relented and tried to see if I could make the marriage work as a companions. I gave myself five years - it took just less than that.
Life at home and in my head got harder throughout the following six months and my dosage of Venlafaxine was upped for a while. A plan was hatched with the help of Ma for me to leave everything behind and go start a new life in GC. I’d watched the film Shirley Valentine for the first time during that period. It all made sense, and a lot of tears, to me afterwards. I was doing a Shirley Valentine myself. She became my mentor and with the help of my friends, youngest sister and twitter I got stronger, physically and mentally.
I realised decades ago that I would always suffer from depression and it now looks like I have to live with bipolar. Last year was mostly spent in an alcoholic haze as I struggled to come to terms and cope with the prospect of my new life. I dreaded getting home from my three months in GC as I fully expected to plummet from the high to low mood. Ma, Sis3 and iSpice (formally iSpurs, iShag and iShagNot) helped with my plan to manage the breaking up of my marriage. Best laid plans however…………..
When I left GC I was mentally and physically ill which led to me forgetting to confirm my flight home. My arrival back in the UK was delayed by two days and my first night was spent in Wimbledon to see Mickey Flannagan and a second date with another man I’d picked up on twitter. I headed home very early in the morning and left my husband, home and London that day. Not at all as planned.
I headed to Sis1’s hoping to stay with her and her family. What I didn’t expect was for her to refuse me so I reluctantly turned to Sis3 before living in various hotels for six weeks. The bipolar was swinging randomly between high and low, my head was being messed with by some elements of my family, the men in my life and alcohol. The idiots in my family kept telling me I needed a plan, kept telling me what to do and not listening to me.
With the aid of an actual paper pad, pencil and Sis3 I decided to document the start of my new life. We started with the plan so many were telling me I needed. The first draft was that I hadn’t got one, the second was simply to find somewhere to live. Being holed up in the Travelodge at Fort Dunlop was due to end just before Christmas and we found me the perfect apartment in Birmingham.
As always, moving in wasn’t straight-forward but I coped and my head has mostly continued to improve since. For the first time in decades I was facing the usual winter depression in a positive frame of mind. A happy depressive (and such people exist - see www.alastaircampbell.org) is a peculiar place to be. I’m functioning much better than usual for this time of year but I’m not without the bad times. My recent trip to GC was pretty much a disaster and I missed iSpice more than I could have imagined. He missed me more than he imagined too.
On the odd days when I wake up very depressed I am able to get myself back on track. Over the years I have accumulated several coping strategies and one of them is to just bugger off somewhere nice. I was shocked, when a few weeks ago, I woke up genuinely feeling suicidal - a feeling I haven’t had for over twenty years. Thinking about suicide yes, but not actually contemplating doing it. Got through by sedating myself and later heading out to Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens. The combination of a glorious winter’s day and the beauty, peace and tranquility at my chosen destination was just the ticket. The last time it happened I hired a car and @NemesisUK and I headed to Weston-Super-Mare, eventually.
One of the manifestations of my bipolar is that a bad head means everything else goes wrong. A simple fifteen minute drive to his house took me around two and a half hours. My phone and iPod touch conspired with my head to get me completely lost, made worse by the anger aimed at myself for not being able to complete such a simple journey. My sense of direction is excellent normally but it’s as if depression sends it off kilter like a magnet interferes with a compass. Luckily all was well once I got to Rich’s place and my mood improved very quickly and my good humour was restored the minute I saw the sea.
Part of iSpice’s depression turns him into arsehole mode. Combine my bad days and his and you get him being perfectly horrible to me. Get me shit-faced and I will be perfectly horrible back. That morning he went for me verbally and mentally (NEVER physically I can reassure you) resulting in me feeling even worse. He genuinely can’t stop himself and I’m now so used to it I even find some of it funny sometimes. You know that thing where, as a kid, you’re being told off but it’s like water off a duck’s back and you’re trying desperately not to grin or giggle? That!
The morning session went well for him and I was suitably angry and miserable by the time I drove away from him. What I hadn’t anticipated was the night-time session. Got home from dropping Rich off (and after successfully negotiating the journey) to find iSpice sat on my sofa waiting for me. Normally, when well, he’s an excellent judge of character but he didn’t get that I was so relaxed and happy after my trip. I managed not to get drunk too, in fact I just got a little stoned to make sure I stayed relaxed. I didn’t get angry or stab him (he ACTUALLY tried to get me hold one of my sharp kitchen knives and use it on him), I simply managed the ‘conversation’. It was only when he was nasty about my treatment of my husband did I crack and cry. This is what he needed to calm down, we had make-up sex and all was well.
Yesterday we had a lovely afternoon hanging out at my place, watching movies, drinking and snacking. When he realised Rich was coming round in the evening his mood darkened again. Luckily iSpice was well-behaved even if his behaviour was bizzarre. He finally left before Rich did and I’ve not heard from him since. I’m texting him, he’s reading but not replying. This means he’s feeling really, really bad and I just have to wait for his head to clear. This is the worst bit for me - the waiting and not knowing. I’m learning to cope. I’ll just get on with my life until I hear from him.
Many of the lovely people I follow on twitter have very kindly said that they are worried about me. I hope this post will not worry you dear reader - I really am more than fine and iSpice looks after me when he can. I’m a lot stronger in my head than a year ago (the body less so but hey hum) and those who know me well in real life are pleased with the way I have turned things around.
The plan now needs a third amendment - get a local GP, find a job and get a proper house to live in. Currently contemplating going back into highway maintenance if there are any jobs going and to find a house to rent near iSpice’s family in the Birmingham suburbs. In fact I still want him to move in - he left his marital home a year ago and is currently lodging with friends. Like me he would be a lot better off having a home and someone to come home to.
P.S. Don’t tell the twitter that I’m a soppy sod sometimes. Ta me duck x