There was a big food festival in Reading this past weekend and this was the truck right outside my office. Really chuffed it was there and I just had to share a pic! Great exposure for mental health awareness which runs throughout the month of May.
I've finally had my porch door replaced from when the police had to break the glass to get in back in February. Covid might be quieting down a bit, but the lingering effects for getting enough workers and supplies to do the jobs continues. Pretty crazy.
I started my new medication last night. I've got one day left of my anti depressant so I'm cautiously seeing what the overlap does to my mind and body, whilst I've got two days off. I definitely feel a little odd, but I am so keen to get back on Aripiprazole and pick up from when I left hospital in March. I think I've run the course with Escitalopram. Even this low dose I'm using to taper off was making me feel hyper again and I was beginning not to sleep. I mean don't get me wrong, I love the hyperness and energy I feel, but I don't like how quickly it gets out of control.
I am really enjoying being part of the consultation group for the new mental health hospital build in Surrey. I feel a part of something meaningful and that makes me feel super good inside and this is why it's one of my recovery pillars. Just connecting with people who also have mental illness and have the same experience of the hospitals around here where we've all stayed as inpatients, makes me feel a bond I can't explain, but it's comforting. At the next meeting, we get to see each other in person and it's going to be a sensory session. I can't wait.
It's been a good week. I'm tapering off Escitalopram ready to start Aripiprazole, I took part in the second of three workshops about the new mental health hospital being built in Surrey and that made me feel a part of something positive, and finally, I had a good chat with my Dr and I feel more supported and hopeful.
Amidst all of this, I listened to an interview with Ozzie comedian Hannah Gadsby who I discovered on Netflix at the end of last year with her two shows Nanette and Douglas. I'm interested to hear her talking about being diagnosed so late in life with ASD, as I'm still awaiting assessment. Much of what she says completely resonates with me and I can't tell you how comforting it is. She describes being profoundly lonely in childhood and adolescence because she intended to be social, but she didn't know how. How do you make that jump from being friendly to being a friend? The constant analysing her peers, working out social structures, sensory overload. The lifelong exercise of masking symptoms and learning coping mechanisms to cover up deficiencies. It all makes so much sense to me. I really understand the pain, but it's wonderful to discover that I'm not nearly as alone as I thought I was. Being seen and heard is so important and being given time to process it all because there's so damn much to process!
So my referral back to the Community Mental Health team has finally been accepted after more knock backs than I can count. After the way things were left at my discharge from Services in December, it was assumed I wouldn't engage with them again. Anyway, that's all by the by now and I saw my psychiatrist and care co-ordinator on Friday. It was an intense hour discussing the last few months with regards to my mental health highs and lows, being detained in hospital again, and piecing together what a period of stability looks like so that I can try with the fertility clinic again. We settled on tapering off Escitalopram in order to start Aripiprazole - and I was really happy with this outcome especially as I've been waiting so long to get back on it after hospital - however, I took it Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon I'm having a panic attack at work. My nerves were jangling, I didn't know what to do with myself and I felt like somebody was sitting on my chest. I tried to ride it out at work but in the end I went home and eventually had a virtual chat with my local safe haven. By this time, I feel so alien to myself and I'm in tears. It was god awful. What followed was a night of hallucinations and I slept most of Sunday. By yesterday morning, I was almost feeling normal again but it really knocked my confidence at work. My psychiatrist thinks I'm one of the rare ones where the mood stabiliser interacts negatively with the anti depressant. When I started Aripiprazole in hospital, I'd been detoxed of medication for about 3 weeks, so it had nothing to react with. I'm not going to be put off, but it's definitely frightened me with how it quickly changed me in a terrible, uncontrollable way. I want to say it's all the medication, but I have been feeling very low and exhausted since coming back from India and Nepal. The world feels very loud at the moment and I feel really fragile.
I've been on this amazing holiday of a lifetime and family pilgrimage and now I'm feeling hopeless - but I feel like I have no right to feel this way. I know something is wrong because, after a trip like this I would usually be buzzing, and that buzz would carry me for months. But I'm not feeling any such buzz. Work is difficult and relentless and I feel like I'm drowning. In the last week, out of sheer desperation, I've restarted my anti depressant. It was sitting in my medication drawer and I just made the decision that if I've got something there to help me, use it! In the absence of any external help from my GP and the Community Mental Health team and feeling completely and utterly ignored and forgotten about regarding the new mood stabiliser I was supposed to be taking after coming out of hospital, I thought it was time to try and help myself, rather than sabotage myself as I'm so accustomed to doing. I can't say it's working yet, but the knowledge I'm regaining some control just by taking it is helping.
I forced myself to go out in the garden on Friday and Saturday because the sun was shining and I badly need distractions. I finished pruning and cleared all of the leaves and that was immensely satisfying. I also mowed the lawn and started building the path to the shed - a project from last summer that I put on hold as the flowers were still blooming. Sadly, I have lost all of my fish again. These ones only survived a year! So I've ordered a stronger netting and a plastic heron to try and keep the real life heron out of my pond in the future!
Back to work today boo! I just cannot believe that this time last week, Mum and I were taking the scenic flight to see Everest. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. The weather was perfect as you can see from the photo and it was so worth the extremely early start. It surprised me that we had to check in like a regular flight. It's all taken very seriously. I guess considering where we are and how quickly the flight could go wrong, that's a good thing. Our landing into Kathmandu was pretty rocky and that's the first time I've ever really worried about being on an aircraft - and I've been on some dodgy flights!
The rest of Nepal - Pokhara and Chitwan - was a whirlwind of enjoyment and lovely hospitality at stunning accommodations (Pavillions - The Farm and Tiger Tops), long drives on bumpy and broken roads (it's so wonderful to be travelling again!), mooching around Pokhara the much more chilled out sister to Kathmandu, temples, pagodas and boat rides, getting lost trying to find Tiger Tops, just missing a male tiger bathing, sweating on safari (again, so fab to be back travelling!) and ending our stay in Nepal with a walk with the mahouts and their elephants down to the river for them to bathe, whilst we enjoy a perfect sundowner to celebrate 3 weeks of amazing adventures on the road. I mean, what could be better than that!
wonderful to get away from the town and noisiness and watch the tea pickers in the sunshine though.
We then had a short pitstop in Gangtok in Sikkim just because and nearly got stuck when heavy rain flooded the river and broke some of the bridges! It was lovely to be welcomed as the first British tourists they have seen for two years.
After Gangtok, we arrived in Kalimpong and met up with new found family. That was really special. We visited Dr Grahams famous school where my Nanna went 100 years ago and St Joseph's Convent where my Grandpop's sisters went. We found my Great Grandfather's estate - which called into question whether he did live in Darjeeling - and my Great Great Grandmother's grave along with her boyfriend's! The villagers who remember my Great Grandfather, were able to give us bits and pieces of information, but there is so much more to discover. It's rumoured it takes two days to ride around the estate on horseback. Unfortunately the Indian government claimed the land from my Grandpop's sister who remained in India and now use it for farming. The villagers don't hesitate to ask us why we never claimed the land and sadly because my Great Aunt has now passed, we don't have answers for them. I was gutted we ran out of time and the mist was descending rapidly. We did learn that most of the bungalows from the estate were burned to the ground in the 1986 riots when the local people wanted independence from West Bengal. This was another piece of devastating news, along with the fact that nobody seems to know where my Great Grandfather's grave is. I think I have more questions than answers from this trip!
Staying in the Mayfair Himalayan hotel which my relatives used to own and run was some consolation. I tried to soak up as much of the history as I could despite the hotel being full of conference types. I definitely would have liked to have seen it pre Mayfair ownership.
Leading up to this trip, I've been convinced that until we actually land in Calcutta, I won't believe we are finally able to do this. Covid aside, it was already a mammoth trip to plan.. building in rest days, trying to get the time off work, making sure we visited the essential destinations to trace our family history and meet family we've never met before, but also to throw in some sightseeing as well. Logistics have been more complicated thanks to the pandemic and the shortage of flight options have meant more days travelling. It's been a mission, that's for sure! But here we are, finally!
Amidst the struggles trying to keep myself well without medication post my latest hospital admission and trying to advocate for myself and feeling very vulnerable and alone, I've been researching the Cresswell's in the book you see in the picture. This is my mum's father's family line and the one we are focusing on whilst on our trip. I've also been catching up with stuff I had to postpone due to hospital - dinner with friends, getting a quote to replace my porch door that was smashed to smitherines, getting my car MOTd, test driving a new SUV in preparation for being a mum (if that is ever going to happen - trying to keep the faith), pamper session with a haircut and colour, contacting a cat sitter, building a new bookcase for my bedroom, getting the back garden up to scratch, sorting out my typhoid booster which I've left to the last minute and filling out the numerous forms for our travels... you know, just a few things to keep me occupied.
I've been out of hospital for a week and went back to work on Friday. Maybe it is all a little too soon, but I am keen to get on track again and determined to have a good holiday on this trip of a lifetime with mum.
I've fast tracked through the home treatment team and the community mental health team straight back to my GP. Time will tell if this was the right decision. I'm taking Aripiprazole now, having detoxed off of Quetiapine and Escitalopram in hospital. So far so good. I did lose my appetite and I couldn't sleep earlier on in the week, but both things seem to have settled down now.
I'm desperately fighting my corner with the pregnancy stuff. This is stressing me out a lot. It's a rollercoaster ride mentally and emotionally. I know I should take a breath, but until I have answers as to whether I can start treatment, I can't rest. I know this latest hospital admission does not help my situation and I know I need a good, solid period of stability, but what hurts the most is the way the clinic closes ranks as soon as they know you have mental health problems. It makes me feel like a sub standard human being.
I feel as if I'm in one long battle at the moment, even concentrating on this jigsaw puzzle was difficult. It's been a week of still not feeling 100% physically, going round and round with the pregnancy stuff, fighting to become an informal patient after being promised it would happen a week ago Monday, fighting to get time off the ward unescorted and fighting for some home leave unescorted. Everything is SO SLOW and a real struggle in hospital and I am trying to speed up my discharge. I just get immensely frustrated and when you have to pin down staff to take you to the gym so you can let off steam, well, I've only got so much energy and it tends to manifest quickly into a meltdown or a kicking off session.
Last night I finally started my new medication Aripiprazole. It is such a relief! It's been a week of frustration, not knowing what's going on, not feeling heard and not finding anyone to talk to about any of this. Last Tuesday I had my ward round and there were so many people in that room, it was completely overwhelming. Apparently I don't have bi-polar, I have internal anxieties. This does not make any sense to me, but whatever. It was great to talk to one of the Independent MH advocates on the ward and lay out my thoughts. The Dr said he would speak to me on Wednesday and never did so I appealed my section that evening. On Thursday I lay in bed all day feeling really defeated and then I planned to escape. Speaking to a solicitor that evening made me feel more in control again. I finally spoke to the Dr on Friday and we made a plan of action - but I have no faith in them. I've agreed to drop my appeal and work towards being an informal patient. I had one hours escorted leave on Saturday and Sunday to make use of and see how I did, but it was difficult enough trying to get someone to take me to the gym, let alone try for the escorted leave. And on top of all that, I've also got a stomach bug. Honestly, Katherine Ryan's funny Lockdown podcast is the only thing getting me through at the moment and the fact I need to get out of here in order to travel with my mum at the end of the month.
Time to try and relax and do an exercise on the CALM app...
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.