New Year’s Eve at the clinic

I thought it would be with my best friends in Cairo like every year. My husband and I would be preparing the night a couple of days earlier. I would order the famous eat-till-you-die sushi platter, a grand cheese platter and a drink-if-you-can bar.

We would party till dawn and dance to songs that we love, songs that are in, songs that are so cliché that no one hears anymore. Laughter still rings in my ears from those nights. We were usually three or four couples maximum.

This year, I had no permission to spend the night out. Who cares? I am in Paris and have about 2 or 3 friends. It wouldn’t have been the same even if I could have gone out.

But this is not the point. I looked at myself in pity.. I need permission to be with my own family even if I were to spend the night in bed and sleep at 10 PM.

The lesson is, time passes and nothing can stop it. Today my eldest turns 9. I would not miss this for the world. So yes, I have a perm to go and see her. Yet, how many important events would come and go while I am locked in here? I hope not many. I am running out of patience…

TBC

A typical day at the clinic

I discovered boredom.. real boredom here at the clinic. They try, they do try to make time fly. It doesn’t. I have recreational classes; painting, relaxation, a sort of gym class that is supposed to be for muscle “awakening”, and even a sewing class. Yet, nothing really fills the time.

I decided to have a routine, boring as it might be, it still makes my days have some meaning. I wake up either by the nurses or by my breakfast tray. Coffee and an apple. I grab my coffee and go down to the terrace to smoke my first and second cigarettes of the day. I go up again shower time. I try to make it as long as possible, to pass time.

I choose my outfit, loose and mostly ugly. I put on my shoes on and go down for another smoke. I socialize. The main question is “did you sleep well”. The answers are the usual. Yes, I took my sleeping pills, or no I woke up at 3 AM, or I have been down here since 6.

I go up again. I decided to write everyday. It keeps me sane. I talk to myself, but also to a different audience – hoping to get read, to get heard. I wait for my notifications, signaling that someone somewhere read me and thought I make sense.

Now the round of psychiatrists begins. I pull the chair away from my desk and put it besides the door. He comes in, silence. I grab my red notebook with the questions of the day. I ask if I should start, and he always says yes. He mostly repeats himself. I am anxious, I am suicidal, I threw up my meals but still gain weight. No, I lie about the throwing up. Someone told me they could lock my bathroom and I have no intention to get this far in my “imprisonment”.

He says little. Let us change this, add that and reduce this. It should work within a few days to a few weeks. I write down everything he says, why I do not know. It gives me the illusion of control; maybe by knowing the names and the dosages of my meds I will be somewhat more lucid.

“N’importe quoi” as the French say – nonsense.  How long do I have to stay here I ask. I get the same response – it depends and we shall take it day by day. I say ok and thank you. He asks if I want a permission to go out. I am always accompanied by a family member – not a friend. I say yes even if I will not go out. It feels good to be in control – illusion again but what can I say? Sometimes I have the luxury of spending the night at home.

Never two days on a row, it is too dangerous he says. I say ok. Whatever, I just want to see my children, sleep in my bed while hugging my husband, holding his hand and seeing him first thing in the morning. I want to hear my baby’s steps running from his room to mine in the middle of the night saying “butterfly”, and asking to sleep in the big bed. I tell him there are no butterflies in the house and resign and happily take him in my arms.

My daughter comes in later about 7 or 8 AM. She stretches her body, still with sleepy eyes and says “good morning mama”. She would then thank me for being here at home. My big baby thinks I could possibly prefer sleeping at the clinic than in her arms. She thinks I am at a medical spa. I do not ask what she imagines or thinks of this place. I would rather not know. She literally jumps over me and look into my eyes. I melt.

My father woke up long ago. He took care of the kids to give me an hour or so in bed. He lovingly makes their hot chocolate. Patience is his virtue, nothing makes him tick. The kids know it and abuse it, but his love does not make him flinch. He has unconditional love for them.

My husband is ordering breakfast online not to make me move a muscle. He is beyond loving – the man of your dreams but just for me. He plans the day, making sure the children stay busy. It is not easy because he tries hard to find not only things that would interest a 2 year old and a 9 year old at the same time. He also tries to make sure I could fit in should I wish to join. He is my rock, my angel.

My stepmother takes over and makes some order in the house. She is trying so hard to follow our old system. She gives love and security to the children – especially to my daughter. She would take her out to eat or to do something girly.

Let me not bring up how I get to say goodbye to them. It is always so painful, just like someone is slashing me in half, someone taking my soul away. I am alive because of them. Meaninglessness slowly but surely starts to settle in again…

Back to reality, back to the clinic. Lunch time is around noon, disgusting tray. I am on a diet and also vegetarian. I get almost everyday some pasta without anything on it, some green beans, and some carrots. If I am lucky some yogurt and some cheese too just to brighten my meal. Disgusting, I pick the edible and leave the rest.

Smoke after lunch and some more small talk. We talk about our illnesses, how we ended up here. Same pain but different stories. Many are bipolar like me, some are addicts, while many more have eating disorders. Ages go from 16 to probably above 65. Groups are formed by age more than illnesses. Although age and illnesses are correlated. I sometime try to nap, specially after my Valium taken at lunch time. It relaxes me and make me lose two more hours of my endless day.

I often get a permission to go out for 2 hours in the afternoon. My father or my husband come around. We run to a place where I can eat. Sometimes my husband takes me on his Vespa. I fly with him to eat out, drink something, or go and enjoy a lovely surprise he prepared. Going back brings back this nauseating feeling, especially when I kiss my visitor goodbye and see the sliding doors closing one after the other…

Dinner at 18:30, meds too. I try to bargain to get them after dinner – I generally throw it all up. This depends on the nurse. Some are real Parasians and some aren’t. Same ugly tray with same food as lunch. Cannot eat it anymore, makes me sick to see the tray despite my huger. I go down for some hot chocolate from the vending machine. Sometimes I bring some food back with me from the supermarket next door. Smoke some more, yes what else to do.

Closing down at 22:00. No more going to the terrace or to the poor common room with it’s useless babyfoot table and meeting chairs. Go up to my room, read on kindle and take the sleeping pill to drift into oblivion till the next day. Nurses check on me like three times at night. Why? No idea, maybe to know that I am still in my room. Maybe to know I am still alive. At 8:00 it starts all over again…

TBC

The real men died in war

I heard about this Asian proverb; that later says the rest are cowards.

I am not making drastic changes, by now you know I am a good old classic chicken. I am all talks and no actions….

No OD planned- partially unachievable given the circumstances. Also, it never works because I am never too serious about it….

I just want to close my eyes and find everything the way it should be. But we cannot have everything… Sacrifices are made. Pricey and painful yet essential. Tears are shed, big hugs, promises that are hard to keep. Burn out; how many can one have? Ho many can the family survive?

A chicken; back to the clinic. Dinner check, medication check, last smoke of the day check. Now waiting for the stuff that sends me to Lalaland, which is unfortunately after a whole 45 minutes. Long time it is when looking for more numbness.

Am supposed to have 24 hours plus out of the clinic tomorrow. Bipolar, I cannot decide… good for me? Bad for them? The opposite? More pressure I am sure on the family. In french they say “on fait aller”; one day at a time.

I miss everyone; but maybe seeing them would do us all no good…

Am off the grid

TBC

When you burn your bridges

Today, now, I do not know where to go… I burned my bridges. Maybe this is not totally true, but quite. I have been interned, hospitalized, enclosed, sheltered, whatever the word you would like to use for almost what, a month?

Who is counting, and what is counting?! I lost the days, they have lost their meaning, repeat, rewind. How are you today? Small talk… You end-up talking about how 25mg of this makes you constipated.. Life boils down to medication, and medication sadly but surely becomes all you know. Days are translated into numbers, 10 drops, 50 mg in case you need it, one suppository; repeat protocol for night time

Lately, I turn out in places which I’d rather thought unlikely. The CAC*, the hospital, the CAC again, hospital again, the clinic for the crazy ones, and so on… I even forget what I say. I forget what I do. It is so powerful, you would not want to be in my place.

Phone-less, here I am looking for an internet access in this big metropolitan was easier than I think. I always wondered when I saw an internet access shop, what the heck? Everyone has internet… Well Nour, no not always. I gave my link to the world to my father before I left. It was more like an offering gesture: “here, take my weapon of knowledge. I surrender.

I might make no sense, but I burned my bridges today. I am angry as it gets. I am fearless. I am afraid. I am wrong, but I know I am right. I know what to do, yet I am clueless. I ran into this place, paid more money than I needed. I need time. I need time to know what to do, where to go, what is safe, what is risky…

I will use public phones I thought. I will calm down and call to check in, but I do not know any number by heart except mine…

I will walk to the clinic then, but I have no GPS – remember? I am in a big city without a map. A girl without a phone, is almost naked…

Yes, I am this little girl, lost in the big city. Again phone-less. No one knows where I am. I took my anti-anxiety pill, which is working now. I am more relaxed, but still very angry. This browser does not support Spotify. I want to listen to music when writing. The stupid tracks get cutoff the second they become interesting. Just like my sentences, they make no sense. I felt shaky from early morning. I smelled it in the air, something was wrong. Now I know everything is wrong…Writing is the only truth….

*Centre D’accueil et de Crises

Hospitalization 2: What to do when you see your children for the first time

So dear friends, a post that it slightly out of date. Yet it took me a wile to have the courage to write it all down at one go. Now I am at the luxurious clinic. Hell in candy shape… what I would do to be in the arms of my children…

I had one of the worst experiences in my life. In the beginning of my stay, my psychiatrist gave me my first permission to go out – accompanied – for a couple of hours. I was euphoric. I was going to see my family, my kids… I would smell their hair, touch their faces, kiss their fingers… I was going to get hugged and I was going to listen to them saying Mama in the real Live version and not on FaceTime.

I would have slept if I could, by the entrance of the reception all dressed up waiting for them to arrive. Instead I forced myself to sleep. I got up, showered, dressed, put on make up, brushed up my hair… I waited. Lunch tray came, I said no sorry I will eat with my family.

Comes 2 pm I was by the door waiting for them. I can see my little ones holding hands… My babies, here they are. I held them tighter than I ever had. They were here finally in my arms. I imagined that moment and it was never as good as reality. We went through what the asylum requires: some admin stuff to make sure who signs me off and takes responsibility to brings me back.

We walked out, hand in hand all the way to the restaurant. Nothing better than an Italian place, loud and large enough to accommodate my big family. I did not want to sit next to my small baby. He is not even 2 and a half yet. I thought it would be better to have my eldest next to me, and my baby in front on a high chair.

I couldn’t look at them. My tears were flowing so fast. Everyone was trying hard to make fun of the situation, to make it lighter. I had my panic attack starting nicely. Not long before desert arrived, I texted my husband saying it was time to hit the road before I get a full fledged episode. He told my father to start taking me back. The problem was that my baby had fallen asleep on his highchair. It could have been an ideal moment to leave. I kissed my eldest goodbye, tears flowing and breath starting to get out of control. As I grabbed my coat, I made noise…

My baby woke up while I was going down the stairs. Screaming he was, mama, mama. I could not look back, I was almost paralyzed. God knows how I went out of the restaurant. My legs felt like noodles. I was mot going to tolerate them seeing me in this state. I held tight to my dad, breathing I don’t know how and crying my eyes out.

We miraculously reached the clinic. I went to my room and sat on my knees while wailing. To cut the story short, the nurse came in, so did the doctor on duty. They forced me up the bed. They were not nice. They wanted to contain this escalating meltdown by discouraging me to continue having a panic attack. They give me something to feel calmer. I held my head close to my knees and cried so much that I felt empty.

So now, from my horrible experience I want to share with you what you should and shouldn’t do when as a bipolar you need to get too see your children for the first time after your hospitalization:

Do not see them in a different habitat: Big mistake. I highly recommend that you do not spend your first visit – or any visit- if you have small toddlers in a place they do not know. Why am I here? Where is this? Why is Mama here? Why does she leave me here? I did not know the exact questions that go through their little minds. Please do not choose if possible a strange place.

Do not go while they are sleeping: It was tempting yes, leave without disrupting my toddler’s sleep. Big mistake. You need to say goodbye. I always say goodbye even if the children do not like it. You are not playing peekaboo. By 2 years of age, they know that people do not disappear out of the face of earth. It is a betrayal, that you should try hard to avoid if possible.

Let them drop you off: If you are seeing them outside and close to the clinic, let them drop you off, just like they picked you up. It makes more sense to leave their parent in a place that is half familiar, or at least where they know their parent is staying at the moment.

Clearly discuss your “in case” medication: I had and I have an extra dose of anxiolytics in case I need one for anxiousness or else. But the mistake that day was the timing and the dosage. I took it too late and too little. I had to have more, and to put it under my tongue to make it act faster. It would have avoided this emotional flooding as well as my panic attack.

That’s all folks. TBC as usual

The hefty price of mental illness

The mind is a labyrinth… A planet that hasn’t been discovered, a room in the dark that you think you know…. The mind, who can claim they understand it? Like going through a new city without a GPS; without speaking its language… The mind is the unknown… what makes us tick? Why me and not you get affected by this and not that?

We have theories. Oh this we have. We have got books and essays, experiments and graphs, longitudinal studies, coefficients, variables, control groups, placebos… We have got neuro-imaging, DNA markers, studies on indigenous people…

But the truth is scientists are only tiptoeing, trying to read this overwhelmingly complex cartography with very limited tools and a heck of variables that are almost infinite.

Zoom in now into you, into the individual. How many zillion variables are there that make you unique? Genes, social upbringing , education, health, and god knows what…

You feel unwell, gather up your courage and seek help. You go to whom you think she or he holds the answer to your despair. You wish for a magical cure, you surely aren’t the only one who feels this way. There must be others who got better, others who were saved. Why can’t you be one of them. But this is the road less travelled my friend.

Your symptoms are interwoven like a beautiful carpet. You recall some, but forget others. You think that talking about this particular subject is important, while it is not really why you are suffering. You are unwell, you cannot focus, you sleep too much or too little. You overeat or starve, you cry or sit like a stone for hours. You hurt yourself, or even others. You still believe somehow that it will pass.

You want to escape but where do you go and leave your mind behind? You dwell on death, on freedom. Stop this pain. Please stop it. I am too weak to end my life, to tired to explain myself. I have lost my patience, I have lost my compass. Nothing feels the same, life became like and old broken TV set. Things are all grey, nothing interests you. Where are those dreams? When you don’t have a favorite color, movie, song, book, meal, place, activity, hobby… When you think you could do anything or be anyone and find that you have absolutely neither interest nor knowledge of what you could be… When you become wart in a beautiful face, a fly in the perfect meal… You seek help.

They drug you up. Three days one pill in the morning, up it to two on the fourth and wait for another three days. Now it is ok. You won’t feel anything but worse. Throw up, yes but preferably not your meds. Cannot get up in the morning? Was it your vivid dreams or your nightmares? Want to stay in bed? Read a book? Oh yes the letters jump off the page? Then try to relax? Now time to increase again your meds. Awful headaches? Is your heart jumping from your chest? Are you staring without blinking? Oh maybe take this other drug to reduce the side effects. Now be patient, you are a patient after all.

People find you even weirder than before? You are not crying now. You are not arguing. You are not laughing. You are doing nothing. A fast train you boarded but there are no windows. You lost track of time, of space, of meaning. At least you knew that you are unwell before. Now you won’t know wether or not you exist.

Oh sorry, wrong treatment. That is fine, what were the stats again on getting the right diagnosis from the first round? No idea. So off you go.

Remember all those amazing side effects you just barely survived? Now it is time to get the withdrawal effects. How long? Oh why do you assume they will know the answer to this question? More nightmares, dreams they call vivid but that are worse than reality, vomiting, dizziness, aches everywhere, now you have cholesterol too, didn’t we tell you to stop eating like a pig? Now what is it you are saying? Electricity in your mouth? Are you sure? Humm, we heard of brain zaps… Well you see they are like this screeching sound just like chalk on a blackboard; a diamond ring on a window, a train that comes to a halt with this sound that makes your cells shrink…

Ok put this all aside. How are we doing with the new meds? Off you go, half a pill for three days, plus one week of 25 mg of this other one, if anxious up to 3 pills of that. Yes? Ok now some more? But be careful, this new drug is the golden cure. Are you itching? Sure? Cause you can die from a skin condition if you increase too quickly. Why a skin disease that could get me blind if my troubles are in my soul. Now, now.. don’t be a spoiled brat.

What till when? Is there like a threshold? A danger zone? Oh how can we know that? We are not sorcerers. Yes yes, you will get your feelings back. When? A month or two? What to do when you are suicidal? Don’t dwell, is it not written that some drugs make you suicidal although you are taking them because you are suicidal?

Just wait and see. Oh look. There there, you got back your focus and your personality is surfacing again. Shit! Isn’t this what you wanted? No actually this is what brought me to you in the first place. My problems have quadrupled, I don’t know what to say. Got to deal with my original burdens, my withdrawal effects, the side effects and above all life that happens in between.

Are you doing your breathing exercises? Are you drinking your herbal tea? Hot showers? Relaxation files and brainwaves? Humm. The daily walks too? Well then things should be in order. Be patient my patient, or get the courage to end it all up somewhere far away where no one will see how ugly you will look when you are finally dead… They forgot they gave you the weapon you were looking for all along…

TBC?

When you have to explain to your child your mental illness…

People with depression have this good tendency to put up a facial mask in social situations. Maybe this is not valid in all situations, but in some it is crucial.

I hadn’t told my eldest daughter who is almost 9 anything about my depression. I brought it up during my last session with my therapist. I told her how my daughter is so smart, how she sees me take medications – totally unusual for me… She never uttered a word. Though she asks me a thousand questions a day about everything and nothing.

She never brought up the medication. I used to try and do this in private, but day in day out, it became obvious that mama has to take her meds

Update: A few weeks have passed since this post was written. None of my above fears can even explain how much the situation has become complicated. Me who shelters her children even from TV, I made them see me taken by ambulance while screaming my guts out to be left alone. I told my daughter to go inside. Poor baby she did. I can never forgive myself this… never…

TBC

Energy

These days I am preserving my energy as if it were some precious diamond that cannot get lost or stolen. I have never done that before.

I think of myself as if I have some sort of battery, just like this iPhone. I use it wisely in case I don’t have access to my charger to avoid running flat and seeing the dreadful 1% left in bright red. 

I don’t want any apps running in the background consuming those precious minutes that could be just all what I need later on during the day.

It is not that am lazy. I am in a way, yes. But not doing much makes me able to be with the children and my husband when they come home. It makes me able to see all those little details in their lives. I can then clearly think of what to say and how to say it. When I preserve my energy I can transfer it to them. 

I then feel it is all worth it when they smile. It is all worth it when a little conflict is resolved without tears. It is all worth it when I can listen to them without feeling guilt or anger. I can give all what I have because I still have some battery left.

My meds are my battery; for now. I don’t want to think of other ways to charge myself. Not now at least. It consumes me too much to think about that. For now my energy is spent on those I want to spend it on. For now, this is all what matters.

More to follow…

Happy birthday 

I would have probably taken you out for lunch, shared a nice wine on a terrace somewhere sunny, chatted with you about your endless projects…

I would have probably bought you shoes, you can never have enough shoes. We would laugh about how a new pair for you would mean a new pair for me since we are the same size…

I would have probably baked you a cake with the kids. We would have made you a card and they would have drawn you and put on heart stickers and glitter.. 

I would have probably decorated the house with ballons and got us all whistles and birthday hats. We would sing you happy birthday and take as many silly pictures as we possibly can…

I would have probably taken you out clubbing. Just the two of us, a girl’s night out. We would dance and laugh our hearts out and come back home so late like two teenagers sneaking so they don’t get caught…

I haven’t seen you for 25 years. You haven’t seen me for 25 years!! Imagine the amount of catching up we have to do… 

I would have probably visited your grave, put on fresh flowers and made a silent prayer that only you could hear… 

I won’t do any of that. Not this year and not the coming one. I have to come to terms that you exist only in my memory and that memory is fading away as I grow older.

I will however still wish you a happy birthday mother. I will secretly wish you still exist in one form or another, with an internet connection and access to this lousy blog reading me. 

How many more 25 years shall we wait till we meet again…

Love