The Perils of Positive Progress

For the last few months, I have been having a very difficult time with my mental health.  There were some warning signs such as an erratic sleep pattern and a lack of motivation to do anything from going to gigs to watching films.  But it felt different from previous episodes,  until that moment when I realised it had overpowered me.

This ‘it’ consisted of symptoms including an inability to get out of bed due to crippling anxiety and a spiral of negative thinking.  My moods also fluctuated between symptoms of depression and mania.  It was time to go back to see my GP again.

I am lucky, I have a GP who knows me and my mental health.  We agreed that it was time to review my medication to see if a change of dosages, and some new medication, would help.  As always there wasn’t going to be an overnight result, so I had to go back a few times so that the Dr could further tweak dosages and the timings of when I took the medication.

When I started taking medication for my Bipolar in 2013 I made myself a promise; I would not stop taking any medication without the Psychiatrist or GP’s input.  I have come to appreciate how the medication affects the chemicals in my brain and allows me to lead a ‘normal’ life.

I know some people are opposed to medicational treatments, but I think that everyone has a right to decide which therapies work best for them.  There are side-effects, including a dry mouth of Lawrence of Arabia proportions, and I have to decide whether the side-effects are less than the positive effects, and this is where the main point of this post can be found.

For the past few days, I have started to feel much better, but I am loathe to feel relieved yet.  These feelings are where the perils exist.  I have had times where I have had ‘false’ positive feelings and these have resulted in a detrimental swing in my mood which has further hampered my recovery. In addition, it feeds into negative thoughts of “I’m never going to get over this” and those thoughts have sometimes spiralled out of control.

As you may know, I am a huge fan of Jaws (which can be attested to by various tattoos and the naming of my ‘man-cave’ as Amity Town Hall).  I have often used film-based metaphors to cope with, and vocalise, the symptoms of my mental health from the very beginning of my journey, and this time is no different.  I am using the speech by Quint about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis:

“Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y’know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn.

That last line is, for me, the best description of the anxiety that false recovery engenders.  You have good signs but then have a tense wait in case the positive moods do not last (a perfect Damoclesian situation which does not help me live with an anxiety disorder).  At least I now know not to rely on the first indicators of a positive mood as the sign of total recovery.  I am more likely to recover if I have patience.  Or as Yoda said, ““PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”.