Now this is a tasty topic in regards to my bipolar and mental health issues as well as being a very contentious one concerning my own opinions, the opinions of psychiatrists, counsellors, professional people and family and friends. Why? Because everyone has their own opinion but, who is right?
Back when I was twenty-one lying strapped to a bed on a ward in Prestwich Psychiatric hospital, with nurses and doctors watching over me as I was on suicide watch. I was asked by a doctor did I want to go on medication with the help of a psychiatrist to try and solve my issues. Medication? Help? Fuck off! All I wanted to do was get out of there and smoke a spliff sat at home because what are they going on about there’s nothing wrong with me. This train of thought was set in stone in my mind until I got clean and sober four years ago always telling myself, I’m ok, I can handle it. Yeah right! A lot of use that did me.
It’s funny because even now I am still trying to convince myself that I am fine (fine is my much used and favoured cover up word) and I don’t need medication. Or is it from that fact that when I succumb to medication I’m telling myself I actually have bipolar, psychosis, anxiety and basically, a fucked up head. Like with any addiction the hardest part is finally admitting with lucid clarity that I have severe mental issues, that I have been told on countless occasions I need medication if I want to have a normal healthy lifestyle. Admitting I have a messed up head is humbling, embarrassing and very liberating too especially as I would class myself as a strong man both mentally and spiritually though I greatly detest that I cannot control my mind rendering me helpless once the other Paul takes over.
As in the movie, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest…”Medication Time!”
My bipolar (the other Paul) is shrewd, cunning, manipulative, intelligent, dark, full of deep sadness, confused and wants me all to myself.
I spent a year and a half travelling around China on my own in 2003/2004 when in Shanghai I met a beautiful Chinese girl who became my girlfriend for a while. We went out for a meal one night and as we were sat eating she started talking about my mental issues telling me I had a very tormented soul and mind. What she said next nearly knocked me off my chair and has stayed with me ever since.
“You like him!”
It was delivered with such chilling simplicity and naivety that when those three words finally sunk in, I realised her diagnosis was brutally right. Fuckin’ av some of that! Sadly my bipolar again got the better of me with that relationship (like he has with many relationships I’ve had) and I ultimately forced her away with cruelty because the other Paul wants me to be alone with him. Where I am safe from the one feeling I cannot cope with and fear the most, hurt.
What is he babbling on about now? You’re probably asking. What is his point?
Well, if you get in a car on a journey to some distant destination that you’ve never been to before you have to read and follow the signs along the way to get to your destination or you’ll get lost. This is what I believe and being a Stoic it’s how I’ve chosen to live my life as I look out for, and follow the signs that get presented to me as I travel on the journey of my life. The Chinese girl from Shanghai showed me one such sign. Getting clean and sober was definitely another one of those huge blue motorway signs that you simply cannot miss.
So as I took heed of that huge blue motorway sign I decided it was for the better that I walked into AA & CA to stop my addictions, to turn my life around and put a smile on my Mums face. AA & CA were the easy bit because I knew the bigger test for me lay ahead lurking in the shadows of my mind waiting patiently for the right time when I would be weak and vulnerable to unleash itself. I knew full well the outcome of my actions to stop all alcohol consumption and drugs. I knew full well that if I wasn’t self medicating anymore I would be leaving myself open to attacks knowing I was now defenseless to the other Paul. I knew he was gonna come, but I didn’t know when. I also knew that he was going to be much stronger than anything I had experienced before.
Six months into being clean and sober, he unleashed himself with such force and venom I was completely overwhelmed and scared shitless by how powerful he was without me self medicating. Fuck! What do I do? So I turned to AA & CA for help.
I remember sharing at an AA meeting when I broke down crying in front of 30 men, most of whom I didn’t know asking for help with my bipolar. I was getting desperate. After I’d finished sharing an old man on the other side of the room shouted out “What’s up with you? Take a couple of Anadins you’ll be ok.” Total apathetic response and sadly, what I have become accustomed to now from people that simply do not understand the ramifications of mental illness upon a human beings life. Funnily enough I didn’t stay for the end of the meeting. Even in the rooms of AA & CA mental illness is a very taboo subject.
Finally with AA & CA’s help I was given the number of a shrink and counsellor associated through the program. By now, after seven months, euphoric with the buzz of being clean and sober I decided I was prepared to do anything to cure my bipolar, and so I did. I took out a $100,000 HKD loan to pay for my treatment because strange though it may seem, mental health is a very lucrative business for shrinks, counsellors, and the huge pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs/medication.
I was so convinced, determined and desperate to get cured that I took out the loan to cover my treatment for the next year. “
“A YEAR! Ah well. Fuck it! I can finally get rid of the other Paul.”
Was what I told myself. I’d be able to live a normal life with a normal head. How wrong I would be.
My analogy for my mental health cure that I tell friends is:
Going to the doctors, sitting down gleefully as the doctor sticks a huge syringe deep into my head sucking out all the badness, the other Paul and my bipolar.
That’s my definition of a cure. Sheer bliss.
For two years I stuck with my shrink as he tried to find a remedy, the magical concoction of different medications that would cure me, and it was all so exciting until one day I was sat in the shrinky dinks office on yet another $3000 an hour bargain session. (I used to leave there with the constant feeling that I’d just had my pants pulled down.). On that day I asked him with a smile on my face, “So when do you think it will all go away?”. There was an interlude of silence before my shrink replied, “Oh no! It will never go away it will always be with you, I’m trying to find the correct balance of medication that will help you control it.” My world crumbled realising that there isn’t a cure, I’m always going to have it and my shrink isn’t a mystical magician who is going to click his heels three times tapping his wand on my shoulder to rid me of my woes. Medication is my savior now.
I always look at people in the streets wondering what it must be like to have a normal head, and so desperately did I want to get rid of the other Paul, I did as my shrink advised.
This is from bipolar-lives.com:
There is no single best medication for bipolar depression.
Over the last 3 years in my bid to get better I have taken the following list of drugs:
- Eplim Chrono
- and more that I can’t remember.
While I was seeing my Chinese shrink in Hong Kong I peaked at taking 5 different drugs daily with a combined total of nearly 2000mg, which I now realise is completely absurd, bonkers and dangerous. I still can’t believe that at my peak level of medication intake I was taking 600mg of Quetiapine and 800 – 1000mg of Eplim Chrono all been taken under the illusion and vain hope that I was going to get better.
As with the text I lifted from bipolar-lives.com, there is no specific medication to treat bipolar and another major fact I soon came to realise is, each medication has differing effects on different people. Some will work for certain bipolar suffers and won’t for others.
Next came the side- effects. This is the naughty part because at no time did my shrink think it appropriate to consult or advise me about the side-effects of swallowing stupid amounts of these drugs down my neck. Thankfully my Mum is a matron at a Hospice that deals with many different forms of mental illness so she knows each and every drug the shrink was prescribing to me. As soon as I left his office I would whatsapp her with the name of the medication and within an hour she would text me back letting me know if they were safe or not. One day he prescribed me with an antidepressant called “Deanxit” that I immediately texted to my Mum. One hour later my Mum called me telling me not to take it due to the tiny fact, it was banned by most countries in the world except South East Asia. WTF! Even Denmark the country that had produced it had banned it, and I’d been prescribed Deanxit to be taken daily along with my 4 other meds. The reason my shrink gave me Deanxit was it was nearing the end of my two years with him and he was becoming ever more desperate because none of the medications or many different combinations he had tried, had worked.
In my three and a half year pursuit to control my bipolar, psychosis and anxiety I had inadvertently done it at great risk to my health taking various medications as well as $150,000 HKD out of pocket.
Here’s a list of health issues I’ve suffered and am still suffering from due to taking the above medication:
- Rapid weight gain of two and a half stone.
- Severe muscle cramps.
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Random bouts of blurred vision that still effects me
- Which feels like an earth quake has just hit and for a few seconds I lose my balance.
- Zombie mode. In the summer of 2015 I was turned into a total zombie where I spent 3 months in bed knocked out unless I had to get up to go work to DJ, which luckily was only 2 nights a week. I couldn’t write music, exercise, work in my studio, practice on my decks, scratch me arse or even a walk to the shops in the village was a mission.
- Scary hallucinations.
- Long bouts of lethargy
- Strong feelings of suicide.
- Self harm
- In 2015 I visited my Mum in Liverpool and slept on the sofa the first night. She woke me in the morning asking did I remember last night, then going onto to tell me that I had walked into her bedroom in the middle of the night stood in the corner swaying backwards and forwards trying to walk through the wall muttering incoherently to myself. It completely freaked her out. I have never suffered from sleep walking and have no recollection of it.
- Skin rashes. I now suffer from Psoriasis on my face that only started in 2015.
- Upset stomach and severe cramps.
Never at anytime was I advised or consulted about any of the above side effects from my shrink, it was all down to my Mum and my own diligent research.
As of January 2017 I am no longer on any medication and though it was rough coming off the medication I feel better than I have done in the past 3 years.
In the end I quit going to my shrink and counselor because I realised that they weren’t concerned about me, they were more concerned about material gains, and I feel bitter and greatly let down by the whole experience. What I find really unbelievable and incredible is that since I told them both I had lost confidence in their ability to help me, I have never once heard back from them. Not even a simple phone call to ask if I’m ok. Obviously the $150,000 I’d spent wasn’t enough.
Medication does work for a lot of people, but if you asked me would I go back on medication to help me with my bipolar my reply would simply be,