Before this most recent severe depression (and lesser episodes/cycling in between) I had a manic episode with mixed features which landed me my first acute admission to a psychiatric hospital.
It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I’d never had one before and it came on with no warning like a light switch had been flicked.
This is how it manifested one perfectly normal Sunday evening. Although stressed out in previous months I had been well for some time and it had been a good day…..
Suddenly I started sobbing uncontrollably for no reason, no trigger, just something felt very wrong in my brain. What followed was completely derailing. There was the odd fleeting moment of almost feeling ok but it almost wholly consisted of these fluctuations:
- Any noise was unbearable, as was being touched.
- I couldn’t tune in to the normality of life around me, because I didn’t feel normal. I was overstimulated.
- The above led to extreme irritability, wanting/needing to be on my own, to distract myself in my own world to block out what was going on around me.
- At the same time I felt desperate and was screaming and crying for help – sometimes inside, sometimes vocally.
- Mild psychosis (known as attenuated psychotic symptoms – a grey area before fully blown). Mild because I was still able to mostly reality check that the strange sensations were probably not ‘real’ and I knew I was unwell. Psychiatry refer to this ability to reality check as having ‘insight’. Nonetheless it totally disturbed me. I was hearing and seeing things – faint music, whispers, shadows and everything looked bright, weird and sparkly. I was sensing things close by me but when I looked nothing was there. I felt bugs crawling under my skin throughout my body.
- Intense energy with muddled racing thoughts, unable to capture as there were too many. I couldn’t stop talking yet I was rendered useless with a deep depression, unable to move, sort of trapped in my body with nowhere for the energy to go.
- The above led to intense physical tension. My fingers and toes constantly stretching and curling up. Rocking, wanting to crawl out of my skin, pulling my hair (temporary relief), clenching my teeth, fiddling with my fingers, biting my nails and skin obsessively.
- Food and drinks were put in front of me but it was almost impossible to eat because I was unable to get it together to pick it up and often forgot it was right there.
- Paranoia. Barely made eye contact because I felt so weird, people looked weird and it felt like they could see into me. Were they trying to make me sick? Did they believe me or think I was making it up? Were they laughing at me?
- Brief periods of being super happy, racing everywhere and feeling others weren’t keeping pace leading to feelings of rage.
- Brief periods of dissociation and questioning if I’m actually real. Am I dead? Looking out of my eyes was like looking through a tunnel. Again very paranoid. I could hardly string a sentence together when this happened.
- Anxiety attacks. I just couldn’t seem to find the right words quick enough, lacking imagination in thought, going on automatic talk – small talk but I wouldn’t/couldn’t expand on what I was saying.
- Barely slept.
Basically I was/felt useless and had nothing to give. It was hard enough to just keep going. I couldn’t remember what I did the day before or even earlier that day, hour or even minutes at times.
This variety happened all throughout the day not knowing which symptoms/states were coming next; blurring with each other or in quick succession, every single fucking day.
It was RELENTLESS.
A whole month went by like this. The intensive mental health team visited me after the first week of my GP fighting for urgent care. The remaining 3 weeks consisted of different nurses or support workers visiting and looking at my sympathetically. Some were really good at being with me but any comfort was short lived. No psychiatrist saw me. No medication given. At the end of the 3 weeks, I was discharged to the community team on a Sunday for ‘longer term monitoring’ with the promise of a call from them the next day. No call. They knew I was suicidal.
The suicidal thoughts got stronger until I truly believed everyone was better off without me. Hope was gone. The pain was too much to bear. I couldn’t take anymore. It has reached a delusional intensity….
By the Thursday when I still had no call from the community team who were supposed to be caring for me I took all the pills available to me with a bottle of wine. A massive overdose. Left my kids at home on their own with the plan to walk the 3 miles or so to die at my gran and aunts grave. How I thought I would manage that walk I don’t know. Just goes to show I suppose.
The police caught me. Nearly two hours for an ambulance to arrive. I went into resus, unable to breathe, and into intensive care, intubated, on life support in a coma. When I came to the team told me they thought I wouldn’t make it.
And there I landed my first admission to an acute psychiatric ward for six weeks. FOUR hours away from home.
Yes, I’m bitter. I’m glad to be alive though. I don’t recognise the person I’ve just described.
➡️ 10 days before my overdose, whilst unable to sleep, I tried writing to get things out and make sense of stuff. It all poured out. This piece of writing has been published on social media and can be found here if you’re interested.
****if you’re ever having an episode like this, please please get effective treatment straightaway. As you can see it is very dangerous and my sorry could have had a very tragic needless ending****