Had I been the sort of person to be able to accept things as they are the first 2 parts of the story might reasonably have been where matters stopped. Indeed when I visited the Dr in 2017 it was not because I was feeling especially bad or in need of assistance, the commentary I gave to the Dr at that point was that given the relative stability of my life I was aware that whilst things in the world around me were fine things inside my head were not exactly how I wanted them to be and that this might be a good time to look at what the options were, principally because to do so when in a state of flux would be folly.

I had been on medication which was ok, and I use that term very specifically, they raised me up above rock bottom, at least that is certainly how it felt, whilst never quite elevating me to feeling what I might presume was ‘fine’, it was better than being consistently crap that much was certainly true. I had fluctuations that seemed cyclical, where my perception of things would suddenly change for no discernible reason and I would have a period of a couple of days when I really was not at all ‘on it’ before returning to my baseline state. In wider life I was comparatively comfortable where I was living, I liked the area, it felt like home and reminded me of where I was born. I had a stable job that didn’t pay well but was enough to just about get by on the whole, the key advantage of it was I felt I was worth something there and that I was valued. I was also able to cycle to work, which I was doing every day, so the fitness angle was certainly a major help. I was in a relationship which, whilst neither conventional nor easy was nevertheless rewarding and with someone I loved, all things considered therefore it was as good a basis to look at what changes to the internal me might be enacted as any.

I could not have known the nature of the year that was about to unfold and therefore had no method of determining what the impact of it would have been. None of the elements of stability were ones I presumed temporary. To an extent I was taking a chance on things but I was also, I felt, leaving myself in the hands of the medical profession at a point when perhaps there might be some ways of accessing further help and defining the nature of me and how to live long-term with that. There is a phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and this might well be levelled at me at this point but I wasn’t feeling unbroken as such, I just didn’t feel the breaking process was worsening and therefore it might be a time to look at fixing. I felt there was more to things, that I was running at about 50% capacity and that if I were able to harness the rest of things that I might then be a better parent, partner, colleague etc. It is easy to look back with hindsight to determine things but I know that give the factors I had at the time and the way I was feeling I felt ready to try to push ahead and be just a better version of the me I felt I was. Never being happy or satisfied with myself is in part I suspect to do with the nature of my mental health but a small amount of such introspection is not a bad thing as I believe it does give you a little drive to be better. Conversely too much self-analysis if it involves constant critique robs you of any drive entirely and this has been my lot on and off for much of my life and the last couple of years in particular.

On the advice of my Dr I went for the first time in my life into the Secondary Care sector. Here I was given information about the Lithium trial, a common enough drug used to treat types of cyclical depression but the high-end one so to speak. I thought it worth a go as I had heard someone of late eulogising about it and how it had been a game changer – when what you are looking for is a game changer of your own such words are seductive. The nature of clinical trials is that you are first assigned a test group during which you are given either a placebo or the live drug, you are not aware of which until after the trial period. Having come off my normal medication without major incident I felt no real tangible difference, though some others said I seemed to be more myself, whatever that meant. I did feel though that I was not really engaging properly in ways I should have been, matters that needed attending to that might be important but not imminent were consistently pushed back and this felt like a problem. Which in itself is interesting as I have been a perennial procrastinator much of my life so for me to notice it suggests it may have worsened. The first part of the year the weather was pleasant and things were ok so there wasn’t a great deal to really test either hypothesis. That was to change.

Had a single sphere alone changed it would perhaps have been difficult to tell whether or not things were in hand, by which I mean one out of the home, work, love, family side of things but flux in all areas made for a great deal more upheaval both physically and emotionally with little chance of the respite of one area going well to retreat to. It is easier to focus on an area when the others are stable, not necessarily easy as it depends on the nature of change but watching one plate spinning and attending to it is less of a challenge than watching and attending to multiples. Looking back the changes within that space of time were significant and would have represented enough to keep one occupied on their own, altogether they were more than a significant hurdle and I don’t feel I managed any of them well. I was forced to move house, I changed jobs on the basis of a promise of something full-time that turned out not to come to fruition and my relationship came to an end in a way I hadn’t wanted but left me speculating over whether or not I would have allowed it to happen had my head been in the right place.

Some of the turmoil that ensued was not entirely my fault, on the house front I was let down by several people who had said they would do things which they then reneged on, I was left with a great deal to do to find someone to move anywhere at all but I did manage it, just. The person turned out to be a disaster for a variety of reasons and made the place utterly uncomfortable to live in whilst I was tied into a 1 year lease.

On the work front the finances of my workplace were in fluctuation but there should not have been much reason to change things around however my boss hadn’t been in the best of health and had decided to undertake a restructure without consultation and in a way which left me feeling far less valued than I had been and looking at the fact that it was one thing to be earning the money I was on at 30 but to be doing it at 45 was becoming a problem and without prospect of change. I found another job, it was long-term sickness cover, I was assured that the likelihood was that it would be made full-time. It wasn’t. I took it in the knowledge that it was a risk and weighing the career benefits of the job against where I was but I traded security at a time I felt I was ok and it bit me in the backside at a time I definitely was not.

On the relationship front I stopped fighting, I certainly never stopped caring, far from it, but the circumstances were somewhat enigmatic and at times difficult and I imagine my partner may, quite understandably have confused my detachment as being something to do with her whereas it was the first signs of a process that resulted in detachment from everything from which I am yet to really recover. The nature of the breakup though left many questions unanswered and didn’t feel right. We split and I fell into the arms of another quite by chance without planning or forethought, but feelings do not just dissipate and the memory is at times like the tail of a comet from the heart, it is long until the light subsides if indeed it ever does.

How much of all this was because of, in spite of or conjunction with the fact that it transpired I had been on the placebo to begin with followed by having been put on the live medication without any discernible effect during the transition or thereafter is impossible to determine, what I can state with certainty was that the lithium did nothing at all for me. I didn’t notice an effect going on it, neither did I notice an effect coming off it which I did after about 18 months. The timings were awful, the consequences far-reaching and whilst having rebuilt certain things out of logistical necessity such as having found another job and somewhere to live it has been a long time since I have felt either stability or joy within it.

The single biggest betrayal for me was that of the medical establishment which having been happy to take me on whilst I fit a potentially lucrative research profile was quick to shoo me out of the door when it was clear I was not the easy option they were looking for. When you are at your wit’s end having explained especially dark thoughts to a medical professional you do not expect to be dismissed and told that there isn’t really anything they can do because you won’t take the medication they put you on despite it being clear it doesn’t work. It remains an open wound that I went for help and was denied it, a scenario I am sadly not alone in experiencing and one where the profession takes advantage of the fact that individuals are at a point of sufficient vulnerability that the prospect of them having the energy and lucidity to complain is as low as their mood. Such things if occurring in the physical world would be seen as scandalous but those struggling with their mental health are the silently oppressed.

Song Of The Day ~ Orla Gartland – Heavy