“My little empire
I’m sick of being sick
My little empire
I’m tired of being tired”
Life is good. It is also equally bad. It’s strange to feel this way; things have always tended towards the negative, and so far my life has mostly been 95% bad, 5% good… and it hasn’t been rare to be trapped in a cycle of 0% good, unable to see anything positive either in the present or the future. Heck, there’s been a ridiculous number of times when I couldn’t even see a future.
The fibro flare is lifting, and I’ve been able to function pretty well today. Getting up at two pm wasn’t exactly the plan – I wanted to get up with S when he goes to work at eight am – but otherwise I achieved a few minor things. Washed up. Tidied a little. Swept the kitchen floor and emptied the bathroom bin. Had a shower, washed and dried my hair. I’m trying; as much as I find it difficult to see any real hope for the future at the moment, I am making a small effort to do the normal everyday things and occasionally interact with people other than S and my mother. Socialising has… become an issue. I’ve been wobbling with trust issues for months now, and I’m finding it incredibly difficult to allow myself to even speak to other people face-to-face. Every time I open my mouth, or type something online… I’m questioning whether I’ve said too much, given somebody ammunition. Logically, I know that mistrust is pretty unfounded, but since when did logic feature in my mind?
It’s strange. I know my fears are unfounded, yet I can’t help feeling persecuted in some way. My awareness of what’s BPD and what’s me is becoming more clear, and I can see the profound differences between my normal personality and the borderline part of who I am. Although I know these feelings are entirely caused by BPD, there’s still part of my mind which refuses to let me look at the situation rationally and comfort myself. I no longer fly into uncontrollable panics over absolutely nothing, but I know those freak-outs are just sitting under the surface, and sometimes they feel so horribly close that I can’t bear it. I’ve let them creep in lately; convincing myself that S will leave, that I’ll do or say something stupid, that I’m not pretty enough or thin enough to have such a wonderful boyfriend. That people are whispering behind my back. Hating me for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint.
I’m taking my medication, but I’m not convinced it’s working that well; although Cipralex had problems towards the end, Duloxetine just doesn’t seem to have that ability to take away all the nasty things I can’t cope with.
I suppose I just feel frustrated now. I’ve come so far, and there are still hurdles. I was once naive enough to think that life would get easier one day but now I wonder if that’s just a myth; if the whole thing isn’t a lie.
I mean, I’m happy. I am. For the first time in my entire life I can say I’m genuinely happy. I just don’t like knowing the fight never seems to end.
“I’m only going to say this once; will you stick by me?”
Sometimes there’s no controlling it. That outburst; the rush of fear and sadness, the pressure you’ve been keeping safe inside bursting out and smothering everything around you, leaving you breathless, unable to make sense of the words, unable to do the most basic tasks without messing up and descending into a spiral of unnecessary apologies.
You forget to breathe.
This afternoon, I buried myself under the duvet. Breathed in the lavender-and-chamomile linen spray on the pillows and the slight scent of S’s hair where he’d slept earlier. We woke late; by the time S whispered and nudged me into consciousness it was past 3pm. He lay in bed in his pyjama bottoms and blue jumper, reading and chatting to me as I tried to force myself out of an uncommonly deep sleep, wandering from bathroom to kitchen, making coffee and wrapping myself in my still-damp dressing gown. The coffee didn’t help. Encouragement from S achieved nothing. I just wanted to stay curled up, as though I could hibernate right through winter and spring, only surfacing when the world didn’t seem quite so dull.
Sleep didn’t come last night; when I finally crawled into bed next to S and snuggled into his armpit, daylight was coming through the blinds. I’d been thinking, and smoking. And thinking a little more.
For almost a year, I’ve been saying I’m ready for the bad news on my heath. I’ve wanted to know why my body has failed me, and I’ve craved, begged, pleaded for a reason behind it all. In this blog, I’ve gone from “I have fibromyalgia” to “something’s not right”, and now… now things really aren’t right.
Six days ago, the pain in my ankle and foot came back, worse than ever. A stabbing, searing, ripping pain which took up all my energy. I had a mild cold, so that became the culprit for a while; it was easier to blame a virus than accept what the pain returning probably meant. However, the cold is gone now but the pain remains. Co-codamol doesn’t help. Dope only does so much to relax my ankle. There’s no way of distracting myself, no dissociation I can use to find relief; it feels like somebody is twisting a knife in my foot, and each movement, each millimetre my toes twitch, they dig the knife in a little further.
They explained this at my last orthopeadics appointment, that the cortisone injection was a diagnostic as well as a pain reliever (yeah, because that bit worked well), and if the pain returned in around two weeks, there would have to be an operation. Just an outpatient one, to remove the synovial tissue in my ankle. That doesn’t bother me; after the needle from Hell they injected the cortisone with. What bothers me is that the pain returning means that it’s not as simple as a bit of arthritis and a damaged tendon; it means that something’s happening in my body to cause an inflammatory response.
It’s sort of the final nail in the coffin for RA.
This is my foot now. I’m not bragging when I say I used to have beautiful feet; sure, my toes have always been a little too long, but they’ve always been slim and well-shaped. Now… my toes curl under. The effort of keeping them straight is too much now, and too painful. I have bumps on the sides of my toes, and when I’m relaxed they curl together. Sometimes I have to reach down and untangle one toe from behind another, because I can’t straighten them. They’re fat and misshapen.
It’s a strange day when you no longer recognise your own feet. Before moving in with S, I threw out a lot of my heels; I couldn’t comprehend ever wearing them again, and seeing their shiny patent leather and little bows and hearts and pointed toes… it depressed me. I live in knee-length boots now, with a low wedge heel and orthopaedic inserts. If I’m feeling brave, I’ll put trainers on… but I can’t walk far in them.
It’s such a simple thing. Footwear. And I feel cheated by not being able to choose anymore.
We’re nearly there. Empty boxes are beginning to outweigh full ones, and the hallway carpet is finally visible. S spent today sorting tools and electronic bits into drawers, while I painted the underside of some shelves I started yesterday, and a shelf S build from some scrap pieces of wood to attach to the blackboard I made from the backing to an old painting I found in the basement. We’re putting them up in the kitchen; I’ve accepted that my piss-poor memory isn’t going to improve any time soon, and any tools to help me remember the most basic things would come in pretty handy.
We’re finishing off tomorrow, and putting the Christmas tree up. After years of making sure my mother’s collection of decorations was in her will – I’m not kidding, I really love those decorations – she announced a few weeks ago that I could have them. Neither S or I are particularly big on Christmas, or public holidays of any kind, but I sort of want a tree and some sparkly lights for our first Christmas living together. We went to Tesco tonight to pick up some essentials, and ended up getting excited over festive food; something I never thought would happen.
I confess, my first solo-ish Christmas combined with finally unpacking has brought the BPD out a little, and I’ve had a couple of outbursts; panic-driven, tear-stained, get-the-hell-away-from-me-or-I’ll-explode. I’m getting finicky about calories again and standing in front of the full-length mirror, loathing everything about my silhouette. Started wondering, “what’s the point in worrying about all this when i’ll inevitably go wrong anyway?“.
So I was quite surprised when S, who was leaning his head on my arm as I read in bed, said, “you are still enjoying living with me, aren’t you? I know I can be a pain.”
It’s rare for S to show any real vulnerability. Not out of some misguided macho pride; he just doesn’t, and it seems to work for us. It’s always a surprise when he does, and I never quite know how to deal with it. After all, could I really be 100% honest without terrifying him? “Actually, I’ve never been so happy, and just being around you is making me more comfortable than I’ve ever felt in my life. Waking up with you is the best thing ever, and I feel like I could explode when you make me a cup of coffee because it’s so damn awesome to finally be living with you”.
Past relationships – especially those with O and J – have taught me that it’s very easy to say the wrong thing, and sometimes it’s best to just keep my mouth shut if I want things to run smoothly. So I just stroked S’s hair, kissed him on the nose, and said “I wouldn’t be buying plug-in air fresheners if I didn’t want to live with you, would I?”
The past week has been strange to say the least, and I feel guilty for writing posts and not responding to comments. I had planned to get stuck in to this blog a little bit; find the time somehow to sit and relax and really think about everything which has happened and all the little occurrences I should be writing about. I do read every single comment, and it’s not like I simply shrug them off; many of them stay with me while I’m going about my day, and I find myself thinking of certain readers, wondering how they are.
I never really explained in my last post why I had a great big needle stuck into my ankle. In truth, I haven’t really wanted to speak about it much because although it’s wonderful that I’m finally – finally – being taken seriously and tests are now beginning to show results, it’s also scary. Words are being thrown around which I’m not entirely comfortable with. Suggested diagnoses. Referrals back to rheumy. Discovery of a misdiagnosis, and something big which was missed entirely.
Long story short, my ankle/foot pain was never being caused by Achilles tendonitis, despite it being diagnosed by physio, the bio-mechanics clinic, and orthopaedics. I’ve actually damaged a tendon in the side of my foot, meaning that the exercises I was all but bullied into doing despite my protestations of pain were just exacerbating the problem. The ultrasound I had a couple of months ago showed a tear in the tendon, and also a light mass in my ankle joint. Fluid. Lots of fluid.
So I was rushed through X-Ray. Being rushed through any department in my local hospital is a miracle in itself.
Then finally, after almost two years of constant pain, referrals, tests and appointments, it all began to come together.
The damage to my tendon is a symptom, and the reason why I’ve been in so much pain is because my ankle joint is incredibly inflamed, so I’m getting pain from both things, and the tendon can’t heal because the swelling keeps it constantly stretched.
So far, so normal, really. Dr. B did say I have osteoarthritis in my knees and fingers, so why not elsewhere? Only, my othopaedic consultant sat down and asked me a load of questions about my health; when I had pain, where the pain was, how well I slept, my eating habits, the history of my fibromyalgia… read back through my notes, and spoke to another consultant.
“I’m going to send these results to Dr B. With your history and symptoms, we may well be looking at rheumatoid arthritis“.
He’s the third medical professional to say that in the past six months.
Only this time, they have actual pictures. Proof. Proof that I’m not faking it, and that there is something wrong with my body. That ultrasound scan.. just one scan, 15 minutes of my time, and finally things are happening.
Do I want RA? Hell no.
Do I believe I have it? Yes. It all fits. Everything. Almost too well.
Tests are beginning next month.
I’ve been trying to write a post for the past week or so, with no success. Many have been written in my head – as I’m tossing and turning in bed next to S, trying to sleep through another fibro flare – but when it comes to making myself sit down at the little Ikea table in the kitchen and get those thought out onto the screen, I just can’t do it. So much has changed recently, and my mind is in a constant state of bemused flux; after years – decades- of absolutely everything being out of my control it’s near-on impossible to get my head around it all. I expected it to be difficult, but I don’t think this level of confusion was anything predictable. The excitement of finally standing up on my own feet masked it all for a little while, but now that things are settling a little and a routine of sorts is being established, those little niggles and worries are seeping back. Minor issues. Small things. Nothing important, and nothing which can stop the happiness I still feel at finally being free, but enough to remind me that I can make as many changes as I want and fight as hard as I can but it’ll never be easy.
Which is why I’m taking yet another big step and – against every fiber of my being – have made an appointment to see a new psychiatrist, almost two years after my last very brief foray back into the mental health system.
Like everything, I did mean to write something about that decision last week, and it was briefly mentioned in reply to a couple of comments on my last post, but – again, like everything else – I’ve been putting it off. I’ve always been open of my mistrust surrounding the UK mental health system; past experience has taught me nothing to convince me it’s worth feeling otherwise. While going back on the staunchest of decisions and beliefs is a classic symptom of BPD, I’m pretty convinced that isn’t the case this time. I sat on the decision for months, considering the options available and finally coming to the conclusion that if I want this to last – this normality I’ve found – I can’t go it alone, and although S is beyond wonderful and living together has boosted my self-esteem a lot, there’s still only so much I can speak to him about. I trust him implicitly but I’ve spent enough of my life being a burden on others and I’m constantly aware that I can’t spend our relationship putting pressure on S to care for me.
The appointment isn’t just about that, though. It’s about everything. Every last little thing since that day in early puberty when something snapped inside my mind.
Over the years, all the things I’ve experienced have fragmented into a thousand threads of craziness. All match yet… don’t quite fit together. The ends are frayed and loose, tangled around each other in a huge knot of confusion. For a long time it was easy to accept that would never change and I would spend my whole life walking around with voices in my head and the inability to stick with anything worthwhile without sabotaging it. Comfort – even terrifying comfort – can be hard to leave behind. I’ve made so many mistakes; walked away from hundreds of chances to better my life, slept around in the vain hope of finding somebody who took all the pain away, thrown pills down my throat just so I wouldn’t have to feel, denied myself even life’s very simplest pleasures for no discernible reason at all. I’ve walked away from treatment. Fought against everybody who tried to help, convinced they were all part of the problem and could never be the solution.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make; not in the least. I’ve been in and out of the mental health system – more in than out, especially in my teens – more times than I care to count, and so far there’s been very little positive gleaned from the experience. My mother, she calls it damage. She says she sees the damage years of questions and let-downs and tablets and therapy has caused; can see it in my face. In my eyes. In the way I react whenever the system is mentioned.
In truth, it scares me. The thought of sitting on yet another cheap NHS-issue chair opposite a psychiatrist who knows nothing of the more subtle details… it’s terrifying. I’ve come so far, and I’m painfully aware that the slightest thing can bring my world crashing down like it always has before. Despite appearances I’ve never been strong – not in the least – and yet another failure is something I simply can’t afford anymore. Life now… I know I keep saying it, but it’s changed and I confess to being tired of change. As wonderful as everything is living with S, I want to stay here for a while. In this place. Where everything makes sense for once. I don’t want to make big plans, or look too far into the future. I just want this. Now. Here. Safety.
Yet, change has to happen.
I’m stubborn; and I’m still not quite ready to give into the crazy.
- Blog for Mental Health 2013 Badges (acanvasoftheminds.wordpress.com)
- Blog for Mental Health 2013 Badge Voting (sunnywithachanceofarmageddon.wordpress.com)
- Too much of a good thing. (scruffy-duck.net)
- Is There a Sign On My Back? (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- World Mental Health Day 2012 (atthemountainsofmadness.org)
- My Illness (thegreat38.wordpress.com)
- Healthy Boundaries: How to support, but not enable, your BPD friend – Guest Post by Leslie (showard76.wordpress.com)
- Paper I wrote for Abnormal Psych class few years ago on BPD (lkg4btrlife.wordpress.com)
- She thought it was impossible to be happy (theprovince.com)
“You know, we’ve spent every day together for a month now. Are you bored of me yet?”
It was said in jest – I still refuse to be clingy with S – but, as always, there was a nugget of truth in my words; a small fear I covered up with a nervous giggle. Since S and I first discussed the possibility of moving in together over a year ago, I’ve worried that spending so much time in each others pockets will cause some sort of breakdown between us – we’re both so used to our own space – but so far it seems to be working. I don’t want to question why it’s going so well, in case I somehow jinx it, and going well it is. I’m still in some sort of weird denial; I keep expecting to wake up tomorrow in the little white bed in my old bedroom, with the sheets covered in loose tobacco and ash, my head fuzzy from co-codamol overdoses. All that feels so far away now, yet too close for comfort. Life doesn’t work this way for me, it never has. It’s never been so good. I don’t think I can be blamed for worrying, can I?
We’re still living in chaos, but it’s a strange, enjoyable sort of chaos. The large hallway of the flat is filled with boxes, as is the living room and temporary bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom still have no floor coverings. It’s a bit of an awkward situation; we’re renting the flat from a friend’s mother, who lost her father a few months ago. Her mother is in a nursing home with dementia and arthritis. I don’t think she was quite ready for us to move in, or maybe she forgot when we were supposed to be taking over the flat, but the bedroom is still filled with their belongings – paintings, books, old clothes – which is starting to cause a problem. Perhaps I’m overreacting as usual, but it’s frustrating that we can’t move in ‘properly’. I want to unpack, I want to see our belongings together so it all feels real. I want to sleep in the bedroom with the big bay window and built-in wardrobes, instead of a small room which the bed can just about fit in. I want to be able to make this our home. We’ve been here a month, and the bills haven’t even been sorted out yet.
I’m probably the only person in the world who wants to pay bills.
On the whole though, it’s wonderful. I always imagined I’d end up on my own in a cheap bedsit, living off cigarettes and peanut butter from the jar. If I’d stayed in school long enough to have a yearbook – if we even had yearbooks in the UK – under my picture it would have said “most likely to end up alone, eaten by cockroaches”. Honestly, I never believed that life would throw me the lifeline it has. That it would change so dramatically.
On the subject of change, everything has been shaken up on the medical side of things. I saw my GP on the 9th, determined to finally make my point about the way I’ve been treated; or not treated, rather. Moving out has given me the motivation to stand up for myself, if only because I don’t want to burden S with all my problems. Now we live together – I can’t stop repeating that we live together, it’s still so unreal – I can no longer hide all those freak-outs and breakdowns from him, and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like my carer rather than my boyfriend. Living with J taught me just how difficult it is to be constantly bombarded by mental illness, and S doesn’t need my craziness hanging over him. Neither do I.
So I sat, and explained to my GP just how difficult things have been.
“This is probably going to take longer than usual“; and take longer it did. He listened though, and made all the right noises; nodding when I explained how let down I feel by the treatment I’ve received from the specialists I’ve seen recently.
“Physio has been worse than useless, referring me to the Biomechanics Clinic, then when the appointment finally came ’round after being cancelled once and pushed months ahead, they referred me back to physio. Told me to keep doing the exercises on my foot, regardless of how painful it is. Told me there was nothing really wrong except for a bit of tendonitis. I can’t walk. I can’t sleep. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I’ve had gallstones. I don’t think I can take the constant backwards and forwarding anymore. I can’t take the tiredness, the lying awake at night wanting to cut my foot off. I’m sick of it all”.
He looked at me. Put his head to the side, and leaned forwards.
“Has the anxiety and depression become worse?”
So it all came flooding out. How I simply can’t cope anymore; with the pain, with the panic attacks, with the hospital visits and disappointment. I can’t pretend that things have been rosy over the past few months; the combination of medical let-downs and moving house has sent me somewhat over the edge. Not enough to truly worry anybody; just enough for me to know that things aren’t working properly. My brain… it had become tired. Cynical. I think I’d given up in many ways.
And I didn’t want that, not when I have this chance to assert my independence and live the way I’ve always needed to. For the first time since I can remember, I have a little potential. Not much, just enough to reassure myself that I do have a place in the world.
“And the fibromyalgia? Joint pain? We need to deal with that too. I’m going to put you on Cymbalta; it’s an antidepressant and works for anxiety much like Cipralex did, but it’s also licensed for nerve pain. Cipralex just doesn’t seem to be working for you anymore. You need to stop taking it, wait two days, then start the Cymbalta. That way there shouldn’t be too much of a gap where you’re without some form of medication for the depression and panic attacks. I’m also giving you Arcoxia, which should be more effective than Celebrex at controlling the pain. Finally, I know you’re tired of referrals but I think you should see orthopedics. I’d have referred you sooner but with your history I thought rheumatology would be more suitable. We’ll do some blood tests, to check for RA again, and see where we go from there. See me again in a month, and we’ll look at how you’re doing on the new tablets.”
I left the surgery with a prescription, an appointment with orthopedics for the end of the month, and a small sense of hope. Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve felt that hope and been let down, so I refuse to get too excited by the possibility of finally seeing some improvement.
I’ve been taking the new meds for six days now. Yesterday I began to feel the real effects of Cymbalta; fuzzy head, dry mouth, misplaced energy, and bizarre dreams. However, I haven’t panicked, and the dark mood has lifted a little. Taking a new antidepressant after years of Cipralex working perfectly is a little scary – I’ve relied on it for so long – but so far everything seems okay. Nausea, but no vomiting. Stomach pains, but not unbearable. Most importantly, the pain has decreased dramatically, to the point where I can now walk without a stick. I’m still stiff, and I still stumble, but I can walk to the shops; a massive improvement.
Living with S is everything I had hoped for, and more. We cook together. He brings me cups of coffee and rolls cigarettes for me when I’m tired. We have a huge leather sofa with a chaise longue. A low Ikea double bed with new sheets and a king-size duvet. A communal garden – currently waterlogged – and neighbours who say hello when I bump into them. We live in a village now; still in the same town, but nicer somehow. Slower. Less stressful. There’s a grocers. A butcher and a fish shop. Spar. A hairdressers and a shop which sells frozen yoghurt with fruit in.
I know we won’t be here forever. Renting is probably our only option for the rest of our lives – we simply can’t afford a house and probably never will – but for the time being, I’m in my own little paradise. A place I can be myself, without pressure to perform and be ‘normal’. Somewhere I can exist without feeling I should always be doing more to be like everyone else. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that I’m getting on well with my mother. We speak regularly on the phone, and I visit at least once a week. She now agrees that we needed to be apart. That I needed my freedom.
I have freedom.
You don’t know how amazing that feels.
You think that these are only words,
a shameless outpouring you don’t understand,
you thought that this meant nothing to me;
those feelings I offered you in my hands.
The truth should never have been so clear
in black and white, in printed ink,
you should have known what I was saying
but you didn’t see, you didn’t think
that my words could be my only way;
that just perhaps, I’m as confused as you,
you didn’t see that I could also be hurt –
that I could be feeling the same pain as you.
You held the world in your hands,
but they were just words, you just couldn’t see
that those pieces of paper, now thrown away
were everything I had of me.
Once, I showed O some of the poems I had written about all the problems we were going through together. He’d read my poetry before and praised it, and I felt it was my only way of reaching out with any real honesty. When we sat face-to-face, glaring and spitting out cheap insults, I couldn’t speak properly. Couldn’t get the words out, because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing.
I said things I didn’t mean instead. Anything to hide what I was really thinking. I messed up so many times, saying the wrong thing entirely rather than the truth. Things which only made O shout and sulk more.
I showed him my poetry. He knew I was falling apart.
He read it, shrugged, said he didn’t understand it and threw the piece of paper on the floor. It lay there, half under his bed, for months. All I wanted was for him to see the truth. He refused to see.
Posted for dVerse Poets, with the prompt:
It’s not fall yet, but the promise of autumn seems to tease us from around the nearest corner, and offer us something better to anticipate.
The very real but difficult to express level of delight this caused me made me stop for a moment to think about the nature of amorphous concepts like anticipation, hope, despair and so forth, and how, like so much of poetry, they express something enormous that is neither physically measurable nor concrete, that only exists in the mind and spirit.
We have science for facts and process, philosophy, metaphysics and religion for the questions of existence, but for defining and expressing our own most elusive internal constructs of emotion, we only have art, poetry and music.
That’s the coded message behind the most analytic and dry poem as well as the most saccharine pop song, conveyed with varying degrees of skill and effectiveness: that we have only these tools to try to communicate a vast reservoir of fluid intangibles we all experience but have difficulty defining or expressing any other way.
As for me? I’m doing okay. Yesterday afternoon was spent tidying up in preparation for moving; today was supposed to be an exercise in extreme cleaning (my furniture is filthy from hundreds of spilled coffees and months of dust) but yet again, fibro strikes.
Food… I’m trying. I ate a small bowl of chips last night with some bread, and a pack of bread sticks. Nothing eaten so far today, but there’s time. I’m incredibly grateful for the messages of support I’ve received over the past few weeks; I know I haven’t always responded to comments but that doesn’t mean I don’t read them and take the words on board. It’s just difficult to reply when everything is so up in the air.