2 years.

 

Tomorrow, I will be 2 years post op from a spinal fusion for scoliosis.

I waited 2 years to have that surgery. It’s quite strange to now be 2 years on from it.

Prior to the surgery, I wore a back brace at ages 13-14. I was only meant to take 2 hours a day out of it. That meant wearing an ugly, heavy, constrictive lump of plastic to school and sleeping in it. I did ok with wearing it to school (thank god for polo shirts and blazers), but I never managed to learn to sleep in it.

It made me terribly unhappy, as it would most 13 year old girls. It’s a difficult age to start with. You’re meant to be forming your self concept, getting interested in looks and boys. Bracing makes that nigh on impossible.

So, oddly enough, that didn’t work out so well. It looked for a long time that I would escape needing surgery though. In fact, when I had just turned 17 I was told it looked like I would only need to be seen once more, as it appeared I was going to be ok.

On that once more appointment, I heard the total opposite. My curve had jumped from 35 degrees, to 45, and now one vertebrae was beginning to slide off of another. I had to have surgery, there was no choice anymore.

In some ways this made things easier. Previously it had been a case of ‘you might have it and wish you hadn’t. You might choose not to, and regret that in your 60’s’. That was a terrifying choice at 14, knowing that even the world experts didn’t know what to do.

In other ways though, it opened up a whole new load of fear. The week prior to finding out, I had been quite manic. The week I found out, I had already plunged into a fairly severe depression. From that point on my moods went totally haywire. It was these events that led to my eventual diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar II.

This all happened in my A2 year. It is thanks to a very wonderful vice principal that I even got my A levels, as she ended up sorting out aggregate grades for me, after I had failed to attend an exam.

In the end however, the surgery got delayed as I had an infection and my surgeon refused to take the risk of it spreading to my spinal implants. This was for the best, as I would have become very, very unwell had I had surgery during 2008.

So, surgery ended up being the 14th September 2010, at 7am. Why anyone wants to get up to perform major surgery that early, I don’t know. I certainly didn’t! Thankfully I was given a nice dose of some benzos and calmed down enough to be literally wheeled down (the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital is built along a slope, with the OR right at the bottom) to surgery. That was the strangest sensation.

Unfortunately I had severe issues with pain control after the surgery. I seem not to respond to natural opiates (nor ketamine) and spent a lot of time in a lot of pain. Normally, they get you walking after 2 or 3 days to prevent blood clots and sores. It took me nearly a week.

However, once I was up, I was up. It started with needing a shower after being quite ill. From that, I sat up for 12 hours straight, as I was so sick of lying in bed. The next day, I was taking my first tentative steps up and down the ward. A few days later, I walked back from my post op x-ray, which was a good 200 metres. After that, I basically spent as much time as I could moving.

The next big step was swimming. Pre-op, I managed to swim a mile in just under an hour. I was given permission to swim again on my month and a half post op appointment, and as soon as was possible, I was back in the pool. I did not however, swim anything like a mile. Instead, I found it difficult to even allow myself to fall back and float on my back. Over time though, I adjusted to the feeling of my new now rather rigid back in the water, and I can swim normally by now.

The restrictions post op were just not fun. No bend, no lift, no twist. It’s not a good moment when all of 3 weeks post op you realise you have just twisted 45 degrees round to pull a top on. I spent 6 months in a back brace. They got me up at 7am to get casted for it (another surreal experience) and then asked me to choose the colour I wanted it to be. Not what you want when you have to wear it for every day for the 6 half a year!

All in all, I am glad now that I did it, despite the way it aggravated my bipolar for a long time. It is really tough at first, but much like they said at the time, my spine is no longer in the front of my mind anymore. I have a slight restriction in my range of movement, but  it’s nothing I can’t work around. I can still dance, and swim, jump up and down (and believe me, I did so as soon as I was allowed on my one year post op date) and be as active as I please.

Images after the cut: Continue reading

BIPOLAR OWL

 

BIPOLAR OWL.

Found this on Tumblr today, and absolutely loving it. Whilst also mildly worried about the amount of times I’m going ‘Oh God yes, so true’. It’ll  come in handy for the next time I’m convinced there’s no way I’m ill, I’m fine now, how could I have ever thought I was so ill, I suppose.

As for why it’s an owl, I’m not sure. I think it’s probably best explained as ‘it’s a Tumblr thing’.

Very much wishing I felt more like the above image right now, it has to be said.

A mildly worrying pattern

2004 – unwell

2005 – mildly better, but not great

2006 – about as ok as I get

2007 – getting ill again

2008 – as ill as I’ve ever been

2009 – slowly recovering

2010 – again, basically ok

2011 – getting ill again

2012 – constant cycling, at least one incapacitating low, more than one high already.

This has been a vague idea floating around in my mind for a while now, but I only just wrote it down tonight. Upon doing so, I think the only words might just be ‘ah. shit.’.

It’s imperative I find the right medication cocktail, and soon. The only problem is that I’m at home now for the next three weeks, and may or may not be back in Cardiff after that. Then there’ll be another stretch at home, and then back in Cardiff. Coordinating appointments around that is not easy, especially not when side effects become just unbearable whilst at home (i.e. right now, with the nausea that lithium causes).

One might argue I should never have gone to a uni so far from home. I could have studied psychology almost anywhere. Should I have to give up on the course and location I actually want just because of illness though? Would that even do me any good, knowing I wasn’t where I really wanted to be?

It’s a little easier this time around. It’s amazing the sheer difference simply knowing ‘this is the bipolar, it does this’ makes. For that reason, I will never disagree with the idea of diagnosis (though, it’s hardly unflawed). I know a little better what helps, that it passes, that other people have the same thing, and simply why today getting out of bed is just not going to happen.

At the same time, this time around, it’s a better knowledge of how it can/will likely pan out. Months of cycling, getting increasingly worse. Potentially making studying impossible. If I’m up, I can make myself feel I will get through it. Obviously, when down, it’s quite the opposite.

I can only hope I am very wrong, and prepare to not to be.

 

Turns out stayi…

Aside

Turns out staying up all day didn’t really work. Hypersomnia just took over and ensured I slept from 12pm till 6pm. Ah well, should be better next week when there’s actually people about during the day.

Apparently, my only option with uni is to return next January. This seems somewhat unnecessary, I should be doing better a long  before 9 months time. I hope so, at least. Right now, the effects of being down, such as this, seem to be only helping me stay this way. I suppose that’s not too unusual.

I’ll do a longer post sometime when my head is less scrambled. Gender is on my mind a lot recently, I just need to find a coherent way of wording it that someone else might understand.

So far, not so good

It seems that taking the end of term off of university to recover from this episode means taking an awful lot longer than I really need at all. This is really rather disheartening.

I’m already 3 years behind my peers. I took an extra year to get through college, and then due to needing surgery for my spine, another 2 years (thanks to MH issues, waiting lists and post-op restrictions).

I am beginning to feel I will be in education for well over 30 years of my life. I just hope I can afford it. Even more than that, I hope I can cope with it. I really want to work as a clinical psychologist, ideally with young people. To do that though, I have to do well at this degree, and then a doctorate. So far, not so good.

So.. right now I feel like

I can’t cope with studying

I’m damn near unemployable 

I can’t sustain meaningful relationships

I generally can’t cope as an adult. 

I know I have the brains for studying. It’s just the lack of stability – which is really not helped by the student lifestyle. One nasty bout of temporary illness and it can have an effect for weeks afterwards, or just add a few more missed lectures. Or take  the one week you might have been able to really put effort into work rather than just ‘getting it done’. One late night out. One night of noise in halls. One bad night with low self esteem leaving it hard to work to a deadline.

One of the most annoying things is the complete lack of option to study part time on this course. I love it here. I love Cardiff. I love the course. I want the placement year. So.. I have to study full time or not at all.

And now I’m taking one out of two breaks I can take, because of one episode, which happened because it is never useful when coughing fits, exhaustion, blocked nose and headaches co-incide with running out of meds. When you have no repeat prescription. And your GP is backlogged with appointments – and you’d have to trek to a pharmacy afterwards as well. When going to the CMHT means maybe waiting hours just for meds. This is ridiculous.. but right now, studying is not something I can do.

As for relationships, I don’t even know what I feel. All I know is I have no interest in feeling like I am being seen as the crazy one who’s opinions don’t need listening to. It’s hard to feel any relationship can work. Maybe one day.

Pushing through

Right now, it’s hard  to feel as though I can do anything of any worth at all. It feels as though it is best not to try anything, because there is simply no point.

Living like this is horrible. Plunging into these low moods over and over is draining and frustrating. It leaves me feeling like I simply don’t want to be alive like this.

I know though, that I absolutely love being in Cardiff. I don’t always love studying (it’s hard when you’re always doubting your own abilities), but I do love being here when well. So, I’ve got to try to get more stable, so I can enjoy being here fully.

Blindsight

As I mentioned before, I’m struggling quite a bit right now. Often when I get like this, I tend to stay up all night, rather than trying to sleep, failing, and just feeling worse.

Tonight, I distracted myself by watching anything remotely interesting I could find on Iplayer. That starts out with whatever half decent comedy is up at the moment, which is fairly mundane.

Eventually though, as it gets to about 3/4am, those run out and then I have to really dig to find something that isn’t Little Britain, Parliamentary updates (I’d probably try sleeping before I watched those), or The One Show.

Which turns up some fairly interesting things. For example, a really lovely documentary about Grizzlies in Alaska – it’s so nice to sit and go awwwww for an hour and a half. Or a documentary about a mum of a 15 year old with Down’s Syndrome and the difficulties they face as she grows up.

The best find of the night was to my mind Blindsight. Unfortunately that link will probably only work in the UK, and even then only for a short while. It’s a film about a group of blind Tibetan children who manage to get to Advanced Base Camp, just under the summit of Everest, at 21,000 feet.

English: Classic view of the Rongbuk Monastery...

Image via Wikipedia

For those of you who can’t see the link, I promise this is not the result of my falling asleep/hallucinating due to sleep deprivation.

It did a damn good job of making me think well if they can achieve that, maybe I can actually overcome everything I need to.

Duldrums

It’s been a difficult few days recently. It seems that on lithium, I am more mood reactive after a break than I ever was on any other medication before now.

Being given only a weeks worth is not useful when they run out just as you come down with a nasty illness. I’ve been back on the lithium for two weeks now, and still feel very low. That said, when I’m this low, having a months worth is not a good idea.

I’m thinking of just retreating back home for a while, until this improves. I’d be much safer.. however, I don’t know what it’d mean for my studies. It also means going 300 miles away from my CMHT (though I do at least have a damn good GP service at home).

I just hate having to worry my parents like this. I always feel like the difficult child, the one that causes all the stress and worry.

 

Lithium

I sort of hate being on lithium.

I hate that I have to be on it, firstly. People often assume that as I’ve been on psychiatric medication for the past three years, I must be a supporter of it’s use unconditionally. It’s not a total untruth either, I definitely do feel that these medications have a role to play. At the same time however, knowing how long I will likely have to take it for is something I really do not like. There’s simply a sense of I do not want to have to take this in order to be able to live ‘normally’.

Additionally, I hate the physical effects. The nausea. The constant thirst. The hand tremor. The long term poisoning of my liver and kidneys.

The only redeeming factor is that I am more stable whilst on it.