It’s not easy to forget the date, as the diagnosis came on the eve of my 42nd birthday.

I was signed off work for 15 days, initially.  But those days stretched into weeks, then months. I finally felt sane and stable enough to make a decision and negotiate my way out of my contract in early January, signing the exit papers in March, a full (*counts on fingers*) 7 months later.

That day remains a bit of a blur, to be honest, but here are the things I do remember.

It was a Monday.

I was a mess but I dragged myself to work because, for the first time in my life, I found myself afraid to be at home alone.

I’ve never come close to contemplating self-harm, but that day my brain was racing around in ever decreasing circles, like the needle on a record, and there were voices (well, my voice or, to be more accurate, a whole cacophony of my voices) echoing in my head.  I couldn’t pick up the phone or write an email. I hadn’t slept. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty. I’d lost about 7 kilos (a stone!) in a single week.

But despite all this, I didn’t want to stay at home, even though a note from my GP, allowing me to do so, was burning a hole in my pocket.

I spent a good deal of time that day in the staff toilets, head firmly wedged between knees, trying to focus on breathing.  I spoke to the nice lady from HR, at length. I went for a long walk at lunchtime (because eating wasn’t an option). I took Lysanxia after Lysanxia, but the drug no longer seemed to be having any discernible effect.

Mostly I waited. For my appointment in the late afternoon with a psychiatrist at the Centre for Stress and Anxiety, conveniently located close to my place of work.

Extract from an email to my Mum, at 00:07 on Sunday: “I had some blood tests today – well actually it’s yesterday now – just in case thyroid or some deficiency could be to blame. In the meantime I have some pills to calm the adrenaline (remember my A-levels) and am seeing the psychiatrist I saw once before on Monday.  I think I’m willing to get some proper medical help with my ups and downs which are getting a bit too extreme for me to cope with.”

I’d seen the same psychiatrist exactly a year previously. September always seems to be a bad month. Back down to earth with a crash after the holidays. Back to work for me. Back to school for the kids.

The last (and also first) time we’d met, I remember her asking me some questions about the highs and lows I’d been describing. Did I spend more money during the highs? Did I engage in any risky sexual behaviour? A colleague of hers had been seeing me on and off for “anxiety issues” for the past three years, but I think this lady put her finger on the problem that very day and, if memory serves correctly, the word “bipolar” was even spoken aloud.

I didn’t return to see her for a whole year. I must have felt better, shortly afterwards. Or perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to face the music just yet.

The day before my birthday, when I returned to see her, I tried to explain how out of control I was feeling, in between the sobs.

Gently, she explained to me that I was experiencing what is referred to by psychiatrists as a “mixed state” – a state combining features unique to both depression and mania. The despair, blended with fatigue, contradicted by the racing thoughts, the flight of ideas, the nervous energy, the depressive ruminating (moo!) … all this madness could be labelled, explained, and even knocked on the head, simply by taking a small, white pill.

As I walked along avenue Marceau, prescription filled, I called my husband, in floods of grateful tears.

There was something wrong with me, but I wasn’t broken.

I could be fixed.

olanzopine 10mg

11 thoughts on “birthday

  1. I’ll have to bring Mancunian Lass out of retirement! Well done on getting back into the writer’s saddle. I’ll enjoy reading you, as I did 13 years ago!


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