Pretty Much a Year / by Charlie Francis Cassidy

Trigger Warning: Self Harm, Suicidal Thoughts

Well, as is customary of a visit to hospital, I seem to be making another post. I’ve probably very sparsely posted since my last stay in one, which was, approximately a year ago.

I’d like to say this is some sort of achievement, and I mean it is, but more and more I am less inclined to suggest the amount of time in or out of hospital is as indicative of how much a person is in fact struggling. For me, I guess it being a year means maybe I took better care of myself this year? I’d certainly like to think so, surely I’d be getting better at this sort of thing. I mostly avoided burn out last year, I even managed to do my annual Brisbane game jam without burning myself out, we finished the game and people loved it. Which is more than I had hoped. Maybe I do know how to make games after all, and maybe I do know how to take care of myself.

Theoretically I did take better care of myself, I’m starting to see my limits and know where to ease off, or try to at least. But there were also probably a few not so great decisions in there amongst many good ones. Maybe not good is the wrong way to phrase them, I don’t think there was actually a better choice for me to make. I started last year off with a trip to hospital because I didn’t want to be on lithium anymore. A decision I am still sticking to, but that shaped a lot of this year for me. Especially the news that I had in fact tried all there was to try to combat my bipolar symptoms. In the face of that, I stubbornly refused to try anything again for most of the year. I think that is something I had to do, I had to test living basically unmedicated. I had to know before I resigned myself to something less effective with side effects I didn’t enjoy.

It took moving out on my own and seeing myself struggling to get by each day to acknowledge that I needed to take some steps to get myself back on track. I decided to go back on Seroquel, despite how foggy and sleepy I feel when I wake up the next day. It was quite hard to tell for ages, but I think it was making a difference. I was managing a bit better, and I still felt like me. Granted I brought caffeine back into my life to counter the sedation.

This got me by for awhile, life was still hard but maybe that’s just how it’s gonna be. I kind of kept waiting for a bad spell to pass by, but it didn’t. Interestingly work was going fine, I had purpose and structure there and was managing that fine, I looked forward to going to work. It was outside of work that I was slipping, finding it harder and harder to do anything in my spare time. I probably should have picked up something was wrong here, but I was managing fine most of the time, how could there be a problem. I figured it would pass.

Then, I went on holiday. Which was fine when I had things to do, places to be. But when I found myself alone, I didn’t know what to do. I spiralled, things started getting out of hand again. I started hurting myself again, I couldn’t seem to pull myself back up. It turned out I was basically holding myself together to get through each work day, and without that, I fell apart. I have a need inside me, to appear okay at all points, and sometimes that’s what gets me through a day, I’m trying to break that down because it’s okay to not be okay.

I went back to work, and everything was fine while I was at work, but my life outside of that continued getting worse. I was in a constant mixed state that meant I was impulsive enough that my life was in a lot of danger. I really couldn’t guarantee my own safety. After going to my psych about it, he deemed it necessary for me to come back into hospital for a bit and try a mood stabaliser again.

So here I am on Valproate, again. I’ve been worried it might have a similar effect to lithium, but so far I seem to still be able to feel things so that’s promising. I’m also no longer suicidal and not really at much risk of anything anymore. I am, somewhat optimistic about the medication, and hoping I can maintain this moderate dose in case higher ones bring out the side effects I am avoiding.

I’m hoping to be out in a few days, and then I guess I’ll see how I start coping with life again. I’ll try and ease in with as little stress as possible and go from there.

I don’t think things will ever be particularly easy for me, no matter what medication I have been on, nothing seems to really stop the constant mood shifting, except lithium but let’s not go there. I’m somewhat resigned to that now, and I guess it’s fine. Or, it’s fine for me to not be fine with it but keep going anyway. My life itself is amazing, and I guess I can hope that one day there’ll be something that helps more but till then I’ll carry on.