Then that happened.

Remember (actually, you probably don’t, but let’s pretend you do, okay?) how I blogged about, well, not blogging basically, and how I was going to sort that out and stuff and then promptly blogged about three times in a year?


See, I have a LiveJournal. I know, how very late-1990s of me (and I think I’ve had my journal for about that long). And it has this wonderful invention called friends-lock, which means I can blab for as long as I want and then shield it from the eyes of the world, excluding a chosen few.

Except I’m not even very good at updating that at the moment, and there’s only so many “so where have you been?! It’s been ages!” conversations/Tweets/emails a person can have. So rather than retreat just behind my little closed-off world of LJ, I thought I’d kick some life into this place and stop being so serious with this blog and use it as an outlet.

Now, before I do that, there’s some rather personal things that make me need an outlet. It can largely be classified as “TMI”. If you follow me on Twitter (and to be reading this, you pretty much have to be, because I ain’t linking to it from anywhere else…), you’ll know I’m usually sick. Medical maladies galore, ya know.

2011 was the year I started to come out of my OCD/health anxiety shell and confront these very-real-and-not-made-up-by-my-mind-even-though-I-thought-they-kind-of-might-have-been issues.

I’ve had blood tests. I’ve had assessments with four (I think) different specialists. I’ve even had some results and diagnoses. I’ve had up days, down days, in between days and days in which I don’t think I could ever possibly drag myself to another fecking medical appointments. Days when, frankly, I could’ve done with a blog. There are still some people I’ve known for a long time online who don’t have access to my LJ, and I’ve not been able to talk to them about what’s been going on at all. People I miss. People who probably deserve to know why I’ve dropped so far off the radar.

Not that I really expect anyone to care. I know how tiresome my ramblings about being unwell can be, but I also know that sometimes I need to talk about what I’m going through to a non-specific audience.

So this blog is back. It’s cut off to search engines, so the major thing I hate about blogging (the general public, basically) is removed, and I’d appreciate it if no one direct links here. I’m still trying to get as much of the “friends lock” as I possibly can on an open blog.

But nevertheless, it’s back. I’m back. And I’ve got quite a few stories to tell…

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Sparkling Lights and Dark Days (Part 2)

Part one is here.

The first opticians we try – Tesco – don’t have any appointment slots. I look at the clock; it is now just past 3pm on a Thursday afternoon, and I begin to doubt any appointment is going to be possible. Somehow, through the fog of fear, a thought pierces through: I am going to need medication to deal with this. The only reason I have been able to calm down at all is the idea I may be able to see an optician pretty much immediately; if that doesn’t happen, I’ll need some help.

Paul calls our doctors, and argues with the receptionist until she agrees to pass on a message to my GP. My GP, thankfully, knows the situation; knows I won’t call unless it’s absolutely necessary; knows just what to prescribe. She calls back quickly and says she has done a prescription for Diazepam, which will be waiting for me at the surgery whenever I can collect it.

Thankfully, it may not be necessary: we have found an opticians appointment, at the Specsavers in the centre of Leicester. Usually I shy away from Leicester city centre; it is predominantly pedestrianised, which may sound wonderful but to someone with a back problem, is actually a nightmare. It means I can’t get a vehicle to drop me right outside any stores; I have to walk, for what seems like miles, from a car to a store. But I don’t care. I’ll deal.

Half an hour later, my husband and I sit in the back of a taxi on the way to the opticians. I am experiencing a sense of calmness and serenity I have only felt once before; two years ago, when I felt a lump in my neck and knew it was a “something”. It seems after the initial blitz, if I am genuinely and absolutely convinced there is a problem, I am able to deal with it much better than I am if I am uncertain there’s a problem. It’s an oddity, but it’s just how it goes. It’s the waiting I cannot abide.

It’s a beautiful day in Leicester, a city I am tremendously fond of. No, it’s not going to win any awards for being pretty, but it’s home; I love the little Indian bakeries along the Melton Road, the sense that the city is alive and pulsing with diversity and life throughout its core. I feel blissfully happy in the back of that taxi.

I have spent the last six years waiting. That is essentially what OCD is: waiting. I’m waiting to finally be diagnosed with something terminal – because I am convinced I will eventually get something terminal – and it’s that that I cannot abide. So while I am afraid, I am also calm, perhaps unnaturally calm.

The opticians is one of the few places in the city centre where you can pull up right outside. We make our way inside, which is busy and bustling with people. My back is already beginning to ache; usually my OCD would hate being in somewhere so busy – but today, I don’t and can’t care. It is almost like euphoria, the relief, it’s so potent. I remember back to how I felt when I was told the lump in my neck was harmless; I was almost disappointed, because it just meant the waiting began again. I wonder how today will play out.

After a brief wait, I am lead into a small examination room. The optician is a tall, young Asian man who at once puts me at ease. Paul comes into the consultation with me, because I know from experience I will need him to repeat any information back to me. Together, we inform the optician as best as is possible of my OCD, warn him he needs to be careful with what he says to me. We’re well used to this now, but for a moment it feels pointless… we informed the “optician” who came to our home too, and look what happened there.

The optician seems to understand; he nods, then gently walks me through an overview of the problem. I answer questions about my health, questions I usually try and shy away from, but the aforementioned euphoria is carrying me through. We hand him a copy of my existing prescription, and then the eye test begins.

At once he tells me my vision has changed; I have not become any more short-sighted, but my astigmatism (where the eyeballs aren’t round, but rather rugby ball shaped) has become a lot more pronounced. I can see the difference immediately in the new prescription; everything is clearer, brighter. I think how the previous at-home optician missed this, I wonder how she missed it. I begin to trust the optician I am with at the moment.

He then conducts a thorough overview of the health of my eyes. Bright light in the eyes; look up, look left (a brief pause and a mutual laugh as I wonder outloud which way is left), look right, look down. First one eye then the other. I note the examination is much longer than the previous optician did; I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

Eventually, he pulls back and tells me my eyes are completely healthy. He says there is probably a microscopic tear in my retina that is causing the flicker, but it’s so small he can’t see it. He patiently answers my questions, merrily goes through every “what if” scenario, single-handedly crushes my OCD thoughts to dust. He tells me he’d like to repeat the field sight test just to check, but by now I am feeling so washed out with passed anxiety and drunken relief, I don’t care.

I repeat the test; this time, I am told to take my glasses off, and as soon as I approach the machine I can see it’s going to be easier than with my glasses on. I click the button when I see the moving lines; I seem to be clicking a lot more than I was on the previous test I had at home. A few moments later, the optician comes and touches me on the arm, tells me it’s fine, it’s all fine, I’m fine, he’s not concerned at all. He tells me to come back if the flicker gets worse, but he doesn’t expect it to as it’s been in residence for so long now, and even if it does it is not serious.

I sit at the back of the opticians, clutching the receipt for my new glasses, and feel weak. I wonder what it was that Paul and I failed to say to the at-home “optician”; why did she ignore us? Why did she tell me things, things full of uncertainty and doubt and therefore OCD-fodder, when she had been directly warned repeatedly? It was her words that brought me here. And why did she ask me to do the sight fields test with my glasses on? It’d made it all a thousand times worse. And, finally, why do the at-home clinic send people who aren’t even opticians to conduct sight tests?

I wonder if I am being too harsh. It is me and my mind that has brought me here, not her. But then… she was warned, repeatedly, by both myself and Paul, that she had to be careful with what she said. We explained to her, just like we did to the Specsavers optician who I now trust without doubt, that any loose ends must be firmly tied up or my mind will fill in the blanks. All I can do is try and warn people as best as possible, and hope they listen and understand. Hope they don’t say anything too damaging before I can cut them off. Hope they do indeed stop talking when I try to cut them off, and don’t keep insisting nonsense in their baby-talk to me. Hope they have the knowledge to explain any fears their words have caused.

She didn’t, but I don’t blame her entirely. There’s nothing I can blame; it’s just OCD, just the way I am, just how I’m wired. I can’t expect everyone to understand with the grace and ease of the Specsavers optician, because I don’t even understand half of it myself.

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Sparkling Lights and Dark Days – Part 1

It began with a flicker. A nothing, really. Not anything tangible, not even something I really knew how to describe. But it was there.

The tiny white light in the corner of my vision suddenly appeared when I was in the bathroom one day. It was April of 2010, and before that moment everything was normal and calm. And then it was there; flickering in the corner of my eye, just out of my direct vision. I blinked a couple of times and it vanished, but its presence had been felt.

To someone with OCD and health anxiety, you see, it’s never “just a flicker”. It’s never a funny little thing that happened and got dismissed. It’s never simple, it’s never harmless (in fact, “harmless” is a word you’ve completed abandoned when it comes to your health). Though the initial flicker lasted for only a few seconds, what it did to me lasted for 10 months.

Somewhere in the mire of OCD, I have reversed how I deal with things. Where I once used to run to the doctor for the slightest problem, I now suppress them. I now flat-out refuse to see a doctor if I can avoid it. I am scared to have tests – any tests – done, and even begin to shake when my GP tries to examine my Godawful ears. I treat medication with fear and trepidation, again only taking it when absolutely necessary.

Of course, none of this does any good. I’m still scared, I still fret, I still give large portions of my life over to wondering what terminal illness I have this time. But that’s just the name of the game.

The flicker does not just visit once.

I begin to notice a pattern; whenever I move from a dim-lighting area to somewhere brightly lit, up pops the flicker. It stays for a few seconds, then vanishes. Over the course of the last 10 months, the flicker has probably been visible for little more than five minutes in total. But the time spent worrying about it? Well, that’s a lot more than five minutes.

In a mind that is able to take the most mundane of symptoms and make it terminal, a flicker in the eye is blatantly either a brain tumour or eye cancer. Possibly both. This was compounded by the fact my maternal Grandmother died of eye cancer, so in a mind that also fails to understand things like that aren’t hereditary, I’m clearly doomed. I’m, at the very least, going blind.

“It’s in the left eye,” I tell my GP.

It is December 2010, three days before Christmas, and I’ve finally snapped. I don’t want to ruin the festivities with this flicker-fear, so I’ve traipsed through the heavy snow and thrown myself at my GP’s mercy.

She shines a bright light in my eye. She tells me everything looks fine, and as I’ve had the problem for so long – eight months and counting – it’s unlikely to be anything serious.

“When is your next eye test due?”

“February.” I reply. I’m so myopic I require check ups every year.

“Just mention it to the optician.”

The countdown begins.

In March 2011, I get the letter I have been terrified of receiving: your eye test is due! We’ll be calling you to book an appointment!

Call they do. The appointment is set.

I’m terrified.

Due to my back problems, I am visited at home by an optician. On March 18th, she arrives, carrying with her a boatload of equipment. It’s the same woman from the last test, which reassures me. She’s aware of my OCD and how she needs to be careful in what she says.

I tell her about the flicker. The bloody flicker; it hasn’t left me alone in 10 months. She doesn’t seem concerned. She does a sight test, declares my vision unchanged and my eyes “completely healthy”. Then she mentions, as if it is just a matter of conversation, she needs to do a second test: a sight field test. I’ll have to click a button when I see a light appear, it’s that easy! It’s meant to be done every two years, and as she didn’t do it last year, I need it this year.

Of course, my mind doesn’t hear “eyes are completely healthy” or “vision unchanged”. My mind just processes “need a second test”, and translates it to: she’s found something. She’s found something. That flicker isn’t just a weird phenomenon of the eye, it isn’t totally harmless, it’s a something and there’s a test for it.

I can’t believe that after five years of worrying; five years of stress and fear and a million and one cancers… it finally looks like I’ve been right all along.

I find no triumph in it. Only fear.

March 24th, one of the hottest days of the year so far. I haven’t slept well all week, and when the call comes saying the second test will be done this afternoon, I feel even worse. I dress slowly, painfully, hopelessly trying to tell myself it’s fine, it’s a routine test, it’s fine. It doesn’t work. It never does.

This time, I don’t recognise the “optician” – and you’ll see the reason for those quotations marks in a moment. She’s young, fairly pretty, wears glasses herself; I’ve always preferred that in an optician. She comes in and talks to me in baby-talk, like I’m an idiot. I don’t take this personally; most of the outside optical tests are done on the elderly, most of whom have dementia. The previous optician warned me of that, and even expressed how nice a surprise it was to have someone young and cognitive to test. I don’t like the baby-talk, and after a moment she drops most of it, but I still feel a mild sting of having been patronised.

She sets up the test. It’s pretty simple; focus on the black dot, click the button when I see something in my peripheral vision. I vaguely recall having had something like this done before. I place my head on the uncomfortable rest, my glasses still on, and look at the little black dot.

As soon as the test starts, I can feel panic beginning to set in. The lines I’m meant to be spotting are much, much smaller than I’d been expecting, and they’re much harder to see. Are they much harder to see because there’s something wrong? I begin to sweat; I slip a little on the head rest. I jam the clicker I’m holding to pause the test; glance over at my husband. He sits up straighter; it’s like he can smell an anxiety attack is in the offing, and I sure as hell can feel it.

Nevertheless, I persevere. I resume the test; first the right eye, then the troublesome left. The machine beeps to signal the end of the tests, and I sit back, my spine aching from having leant forward, my palms sweaty with fear. The “optician” tears off a sheet of paper, consults it, and then tells me I missed several of the little lines. She’d like to run the test again.

I’m even more scared this time. There is definitely something wrong. I stop focusing on the black dot in the centre and scan the white area endlessly, trying to spot the flashes before they happen. I’m not remotely surprised when the test is a bust. The “optician” tells me that I’ve missed some again, and although on the right eye I missed different ones from before, there’s a similarity to those I missed on the left eye in both tests. The left eye. The one with the flicker.

So! She begins folding up the piece of paper. She’ll send this to the optician, and they’ll call me within a week.


She’s not an optician, she explains. She just operates the machinery; she can’t tell what she thinks of the test, only that I did miss some. It’s up to the optician to make the decision. I will have to wait, terrified, knowing there is even more confirmation of a likely problem than there was before… for at least four days.

She’s back to baby-talking me; she can clearly see how scared I am, and she thinks she’s helping. She isn’t; I want her to get out, I want to talk to someone who can tell me what the problem might be. She packs her things and leaves, as cheerful as when she entered, and I burst into tears.

I haven’t cried like this in awhile; great, sobbing roars of tears, my throat tight, my forehead hurting. I am so scared, but mostly I am scared of the waiting. The one thing someone with OCD cannot abide is the waiting. It reminds me of sitting on the stairs, waiting for my father to come home to see what kind of mood he was in. The waiting was always the worst part.

I cannot wait for four days. For four days at least. I cry, and cry, and cry, then I realise: all I need is an optician, someone qualified, someone who can explain what is happening to me. All I need is an optician.

And in a city the size of Leicester, one of those with a late appointment slot available shouldn’t be too hard to find.

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The Story of a Drug, Part 2: The Spark

Part one is here.

So you start to overdose.

It’s remarkably easy – too easy, in fact. At no point do you actually think “I am going to overdose on these pills so I can sleep more”, but when the opportunity arises you seize it with both hands. You discover how to overdose by accident; you order a repeat prescription for your asthma inhaler from your doctor, but they run off a repeat of all your prescriptions, including Quetiapine. Which you don’t need, because your psychiatrist tends to issue those prescriptions separately. You end up with two lots of medication for the same period of time. As your psychiatrist handwrites the prescription, there’s no paper trail. Suddenly, you can double your dosage, and spend your days in an exhausted haze, sleeping up to 20 hours a day.

After a month of this, you have run out of both the Quetiapine issued by your doctor and your psychiatrist. Looking back over the month, you see no panic attacks, no dizzying spells of fear, no nights of terror spent trembling. You think: this is better. Sure, you can’t remember doing very much at all, but surely it’s better to have no memory than terrible memories?

Will it work again, you wonder. If you try to obtain two prescriptions – rather than it happening by accident – will it work? To your surprise, it does. You make an online request from your doctor, and your psychiatrist gives you a handwritten prescription as normal. You’ve found a way to do it. You think you’ve found the way to handle it.

You’re now taking double the prescribed dose of Quetiapine. It means you sleep for 20 hours a day, and move like a zombie for the four you’re awake. But that’s okay. It’s better than before. Surely, anything is better than before.

You don’t care that you’ve gained so much weight that none of your clothes fit anymore. You don’t care that you don’t have the motivation to get medical help for an ever-worsening back problem. You don’t care that you’ve failed with work, with friendships, with family ties. You can’t care; nothing can penetrate the fog you’ve surrounded yourself with. Months, years pass; you and your now-husband move into a new flat, and you can see that it’s nice, and you’re glad, but you’re not really there. You’re never really there anymore; being awake is just the period being sleep, rather than the more natural way around.

You become so used to pretending. You write blog posts, you send emails, you even have conversations. You shut people off from meeting in person, because you know they will notice something is wrong. But that’s their fault. How could they possibly understand what it’s like to be trapped inside your head? No one that hasn’t lived with obsessive thoughts could comprehend how horrific it can be, you justify to yourself. That’s why they’d think it was odd; not because you’re doing something wrong, but because they don’t get it.

You still have the OCD thoughts, of course. They’re always there, but you can shut them up by going to sleep. Except for when you dream. You dream of horrors, of cancer, of death and illness. These serve as a constant reminder of what you are trying to run away from; these are your reason to continue in those lucid moments when you wonder if taking so much Quetiapine isn’t the answer.

Then, slowly at first, you begin to awaken. The Quetiapine doesn’t drug you, doesn’t knock you out, in the same way you used to be able to rely on it to do. You begin to have nightmares while you are awake; depression sits on your chest, pushes itself in and clenches tight. You have never felt anything like this before – you have anxiety, the exact opposite end of the spectrum to depression – and you feel like you’re drowning. You can’t escape. The drug doesn’t help; sleep doesn’t solve anything.

And then you realise that this isn’t better than before.

It’s the wake up call you need. You realise you’ve gone too far; finally, thoughts and comprehension begin to pierce through. You begin to be motivated by fear of what is to come, by the driven force of your friend – the one thing you could rely on – turning against you. You begin to suspect that the Quetiapine is the force of all this.

It is a horrifying revelation. For three years, the Quetiapine has been your shield against life’s ills. Now, it is the torturer, as the depression begins within moments of taking the drug. Your best friend, the thing you manipulated medical professionals to get, is no longer on your side. You are even beginning to wish you could just die; the tiny spark of your survival instinct that survived for so long is finally beginning to fall apart.

So what do you do? Do you talk to your psychiatrist, your doctor? Do you seek help online, run searches, try and find answers?

No. You decide, this time, you will rely on the person who can influence you most of all: you will rely on you. You know you have to do this, that no slow reduction in the drug is going to do it, that this is your chance – and it could very well be your only chance – to bring yourself back from what is beginning to feel like the brink.

So you sit down with the Quetiapine. You hold the box in your hands, the familiar rectangle with its turquoise writing. You take out the blister packets inside; it is half empty, you are due a refill soon. You push down on the pack; the pills tumble forth, landing on the plate you have prepared with decisive clinks. For a moment, you touch them, every Quetiapine pill you have. They are so familiar; you have been taking them for years. You move one around the plate in a circular motion, wondering if you have the strength to do this.

Then you take a glass of water and drown them. Furthermore, you take a CD case, and you crush them. And you swear they will never pass your lips again.

The next few weeks are torturous. You cannot sleep; you toss, turn, restless. Your OCD thoughts begin to shine in bright technicolour, just as big and as bad as before. You begin to remember things you did when you were on the drugs – things you said, things you wrote. You can’t believe that was you; it was all so out-of-character, you did things you can’t even recognise. Reality is stark, and bleak, and terrifying, but not for one moment do you contemplate calling and requesting a repeat prescription.

Because you also feel light. You can’t really explain it, but you do; you feel light when you try and stand up, you seem to weigh less, less even than air. You begin to experience things again, and experience them truly, without a veil separating you from the world. You begin to come back in to focus, like a photograph coming to life in developing fluids.

It isn’t easy. There are days when you wish for that oblivion again, when the OCD drives you to tears and trembling hands, but it’s better than before. It’s better than when you were on that drug, that drug that took so much of you away even before you began to overdose on it. You see now that that before, a drugged and shaded life, was worse than the one you were avoiding in the first place. At least your pounding heart and body shaking with fear is real, and present, and your own.

One day, months after your last Quetiapine, you begin to wonder if it was just you. You decide to Google for the drug, and what you find astonishes you. People have served law suits on the makers of Quetiapine for its side effects; there are clinical papers admonishing its use for anything beyond extreme psychotic disorders (of which you now know OCD is not one). You even read about it being linked to suicides.

You know you have been lucky. Something – and you’re still not entirely sure what – made you stop, made you see what was happening. Something allowed you to realise that the first batch of Quetiapine had damaged your ability to judge, and the overdose had damaged your ability to exist. It wasn’t strength that made you do it, it wasn’t hope, it wasn’t anything you can name or even contemplate – it was just a spark, but it was enough.

You realise you’re glad. You’re glad that you were pulled back, that you didn’t begin to contemplate and perhaps even attempt suicide. You realise you’re glad you’re alive; your existence, flawed and drained and flattened though it is, you want your life. You want to be alive, you want to learn how to fight rather than just quell. One day, you want to overcome.


I decided to write this because I have referenced Quetiapine, and what it did to me, many times in passing. I still don’t know what made me throw water over that tablets that balmy day in August nearly three years ago. I’m not sure how I even began to make the connection between those extreme depressions and the medication.

I can’t lie and say that since coming off the Quetiapine I have managed to recover from OCD. In all probability, that battle is for life. This doesn’t tie up neatly, with the heroine beating the nasty villainous drug and getting everything she ever wanted. I still fight my mind on a daily basis.

However, when I fight now, I am really fighting. Every time I look at cognitive behavioural techniques, or talk to a psychiatrist, or forcibly remove myself from Googling symptoms – I am the one doing it. For so long, I wasn’t really fighting at all; the Quetiapine was just letting me detach, providing a security blanket.

At the time, I think I needed it. I don’t know if I could have survived the first few years of OCD without that fog. Before I triggered, my mental health was stable, I was almost cavalier about my health. To suddenly smack in to the exact opposite broke me apart, and perhaps the Quetiapine gave me time to find enough of a spark of myself again to begin to deal with it alone.

Perhaps. The sad truth is, I don’t think that’s the case. Quetiapine, or any other sedative, is never the answer for those with anxiety disorders. Never. All it does it dull things, take a person’s personality away. Sure, that washes a lot of their disorder away too, but it’s not gone for good. It’s still there, just subdued, buried under a blanket of medicine. When on Quetiapine, I wasn’t awake enough to learn how to manage anxiety. I genuinely believe if I had never been prescribed it, I would have eventually been able to learn and adapt the way I did post-Quetiapine in 2008 a lot sooner.

When I have a good day now, it’s all mine. I can lay claim to it in a way I never could while I was on Quetiapine. That means I have to accept the bad days as mine also, which at first felt damn near impossible but over time has become easier. I learn from every panic, from every attack, in a way I just couldn’t when I was medicated so powerfully.

No drug branded an anti-psychotic, a sedative, should be given to people with anxiety disorders. It especially should not be given to those who have depression – which, according to the research I’ve done online, is happening with frightening regularity. Doctors and psychiatrists need to start taking responsibility for the glut of over-prescription of Quetiapine in the mid-2000s, especially now its side effects are becoming more clear. I genuinely believe the aggressive marketing resulted in Quetiapine being prescribed for disorders it was never intended to be used for. Reading things like this makes me want to cry (scroll down for patient experience of this drug. Be warned, it makes what I wrote look like light-hearted fuzz).

Quetiapine is currently the in-vogue drug. The next time you’re in your GP’s surgery, have a look around. Check out the scales, or perhaps the pens sitting on your doctor’s desk – because chances are, they’ll be branded ‘SEROQUEL’. I’ve seen this merchandise everywhere, from GP’s surgeries to physiotherapist offices. Aggressive marketing has been a big part of the push of Quetiapine, a push which has benefited pretty much everyone – except, of course, the patients.

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The Story of a Drug – Part 1

When you are 18 years old, have hauled your life from your parents home to a small city-centre bedsit to share with your one-day-husband-but-present-day-boyfriend pretty much on a whim, and have suddenly and unexpectedly “triggered” with Health Anxiety / OCD, you’re desperate.

In fact, you’re really desperate. Your life is completely up in the air; although you’ve yanked yourself away from your poisonous parents, you’ve also destabilised your life right when your mind isn’t really capable of dealing with it. You’re lost, and scared, and you think you’re going crazy as night after night is spent waking in a panic, convinced you have cancer. You’re also fairly sure you won’t see Christmas because of these cancers, you and your boyfriend have barely a penny to your name because he’s just graduated from university and doesn’t have a job yet and you’re meant to be at college learning how not to write run-on sentences, but in reality you spend your days huddled up on a futon wishing you could somehow switch your mind off.

Trust me, you’re desperate.

So when your psychiatrist – your pretty, sweet psychiatrist who reminds you of a grown-up version of the kid from Amelie – suggests a drug combination to you, you take it. You trust her, you see. She’s a nice woman; smart, seems to understand, definitely doesn’t think you’re going crazy. So you take the prescription because you’ve long-abandoned your original stance to deal with your OCD without medication – because you’re desperate. You cash the prescription and you pop the tiny pink pills out of their blister packet and you think: maybe this will help. Maybe this will shut these thoughts off long enough for me to get my life in order. And that ‘maybe’ is all you need; it makes you wash the pills down with water, it makes you put powerful medication you know nothing about in to your system.


My former friend.

Even in your muddled state, you have your reservations. The foremost issue is that the drug, Quetiapine (brand name Seroquel), is marketed as an “anti-psychotic”. That worries you a little; don’t you have OCD? Is that a psychotic problem? Have all those worries about being “crazy” been confirmed? After all, you’re still a kid; you don’t know anything about mental illness, you just know you don’t like the world psychotic – particularly not when a drug you are taking is marketed as “anti” it.

However, you know you’re just a kid and you don’t know anything about mental illness, so you make the decision to trust your psychiatrist. Partly because they’re your psychiatrist – surely they won’t lead you wrong? And partly because you’re too young and out of your depth, and if you don’t choose someone to trust then you may as well give up now.

Within a few weeks, you think your trust has been confirmed. Quetiapine is wonderful, you think. No, it doesn’t seem to be quelling the endless, horrific thoughts that your OCD throws at you – but you’ve stopped waking up in the middle of the night, heart pounding and blood roaring in your ears, to worry about them. In fact… you’ve stopped waking up much at all. You sleep, a sleep so deep you don’t even dream, for hours and hours. You sleep during the night; you sleep during the day. Even when you’re awake, your mind is so fuzzy that it can’t really form the OCD thoughts properly; they come half-hearted, little stabbing reminders that are soon pushed away by laying your head on the pillow and drifting off.

Occasionally, on the rare occasion you are awake and functioning correctly, you wonder if this is a good thing. If it’s such a great idea to be sleeping all the time. You wonder if it’s really helping your OCD at all; after all, the thoughts are still there, you’re just not conscious enough to process 80% of them.

But it’s better than before, you decide. Now, you spend your days trying to work for an online blog publishing company while your boyfriend begins his first post-university job. You find yourself at your computer, unable to string a sentence together even though you vaguely remember a time when this writing thing worked for you, but it’s still better than before.

So you agree when your psychiatrist suggests upping the Quetiapine to the maximum dosage.

You begin to lose your grip on reality. You are so muddled, so tired, so permanently exhausted that you forget who you are and what you do. You find yourself skipping days of work so you can collapse back in to bed. You try and keep yourself awake to converse with your boyfriend when he gets in from work, but usually you’re too exhausted to last long. Your friendships begin to fade; your life begins to disintegrate.

But it’s still better than before. Better to be too out of it for the OCD to really form than to be subjected to constant wakefulness with the side order of terror and fear.

Those missed days of work begin to pile up. You know, you can sense, that your superiors are not happy, that you are letting them down. You know they took a chance on you, and you should be meeting your end of the bargain, and you know somewhere inside you should care about that but you don’t. You’re flat; lifeless. You know you should feel guilt when you cancel on another friend, or fall asleep while your boyfriend is talking to you, but you don’t. You can’t feel anything anymore; you can’t even remember that you might be like this because of the drug.

You begin to watch weeks and months fly by with very little to distinguish them from each other. Sometimes, you have moments of clarity, and you resolve to sort things out and get yourself straight – but you’re pulled back under.

And then you start to think – what if I was asleep even more?

You start to think it’d be better, preferable, for you to sleep your life away. In those moments of clarity, you have a brief glimpse of what the OCD can do to you, and you don’t ever want to go back. So maybe, maybe it’d be better if you slept more. After all, you can’t see that the drug is what is steadily destroying the rest of your life and your existence; all you know is that when sleeping, your mind is quiet, and that’s all you want.

So you begin to overdose.

To be continued.

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Word of the Year

(This was originally posted on my LiveJournal, so apologies if you’re seeing it twice!)

I got the idea of a word for the year in lieu of actual resolutions from a LiveJournal friend, and it seems like a great idea. A mission statement, but a nicely ambiguous mission statement that won’t feel a failure the way a load of things uncrossed on a list would do. So my word for 2011 is:


If there’s a problem, or something is bothering me, or there is something I want to change or be different… I intend to be proactive about it. I intend to deal with issues head on rather than letting them stew, to solve long-neglected conflicts, to remove my head firmly from the sand. This applies to every aspect of my life, from big things like dealing with friends and family, to small seemingly inconsequential things. Nothing will be left to wait until later; if it matters, it’s to be dealt with.

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2010 was a year to forget. I didn’t talk about it much here, or in fact anywhere beyond the protected friends lock of my LiveJournal. I didn’t want to be the blogger with yet another story about being ill, or another whinge about how life may be a golden road but seems interspersed with spikes and thorns. I didn’t want to drag other people down; I didn’t want constant reminders of how difficult the year had been stored on a WordPress database.

And you know what it got me? A depressive episode, lasting from Christmas Eve to… well, I’ll get back to you.

On the outside, the year wasn’t really that difficult. After all, I still have a husband I adore, a few friends, a non-nuclear family who are nevertheless supportive. Career-wise things are good, we are financially stable. Outside appearances concealing the difficulties beneath, difficulties I have squashed inside of me and tried to forget exist, but that have nevertheless come bubbling out.

I spent most of this year in pain. This is not a request for sympathy, merely a statement of fact. Some of that pain was physical; my back broke, I broke my ankle, and then I had two ear infections which have left me with a 10% reduction in the overall hearing ability. Some of that pain was emotional; the physical pain made me detach all the more from a social life, because I didn’t want to trouble people with my ever-growing issues. I stopped commenting on blogs, reduced my use of Twitter – and anyone who works from home will tell you how necessary an online support network is. Occasionally, in a fit of remembrance of how things used to be, I’d have a few weeks as a social butterfly and my ramblings would flow in to blog comment boxes and emails, but mostly, I became introspective.

And I became lonely.

It may seem ridiculous to state that. After all, if I want to talk to someone, there are people I can call or email. Or I can just shift my position and talk to my husband, who is sitting at a desk not three feet from me. So how can I be lonely?

Nearly a decade ago, I watched an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where high school Queen bee Cordelia tells Buffy that while she may be surrounded by people, she is still alone. I didn’t get it. Such a statement flew right over my head – after all, I was only in it for the vampires and Buffy kicking ass at that point – but it’s something I’ve thought about in recent days, because it reflects how I feel at the moment.

I’ve lost the ability to confide, to tell people when things are bad, to ask for help. I have been so determined to put on a brave face that I have absolutely forgotten how to be honest. I dress things up, pretend I am fine, give bad news because it’s necessary but sprinkle it with optimistic statements and cheerful banter to disguise what lurks beneath. Only my husband, one man, gets the full extent of it.

In my desperation to hide the truth from others and arguably from myself, I have stopped interacting with people who used to be daily contacts. I have retreated behind the friends locked wall of my LiveJournal, viewable only to 30-odd people and actively read by perhaps less than half that, and even there I have hidden unpleasantness behind a cut with lighter chatter exposed to the open. I’ve lost touch with so many people, even with just occasional acquaintances, because I don’t have the will to be honest or to lie so it’s easier to say nothing.

So here I am.

I am 24 years old. I was physically abused by my father for much of my childhood and I still carry the mental and emotional scars from that with me. I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and the occasional depressive episode. I am introverted, shy, afraid of inflicting my very self on other human beings. I have folded in to my shell, surrounding myself with the excuses of the physical pain I have suffered so as to avoid the emotional issues. I have trapped myself in a fortress of my own building that only one person has the key to.

Something has to change.

As the New Year approaches, many people turn their thoughts to aspirations and goals and the 12 months to come. It’s time for me to do the same, to cast off 2010 and all of its ills, and try to remember who I am and why I am here. I am determined to reconnect with people, to make new connections, to find a way to admit when I am hurting but celebrate when I am not.

The reason I have made this decision to embark on a course of action that is frankly anathema to me is not done through choice, but necessity. You see, I can’t continue like I am, walled in by my own fears, insecurities, doubts and worries. I want to return to the things I was capable of in terms of connecting with people 12 months ago, and then expand beyond that.

Blocking myself in, separating myself from the world… it hasn’t worked. I’m still ill, I’m still riddled with fears and doubts and illness. All my chosen choice has gotten me is separation and its inevitable loneliness. I want to be able to talk to people again, both about light-hearted matters and more serious concerns, I want to feel there are people I can lean on. I have done too good job of convincing people that things are fine, or simply drifting away from people I once interacted with. I want to be able to accept help if it is offered, and stop seeing myself as some kind of blight on other people’s otherwise merry existences. I want to learn how to be a good friend again, to people I knew before and new friends I hope to make. I want the New Year to be new indeed, because the old year and the old me just isn’t cutting it anymore.

I don’t expect everyone to care; I don’t expect people to suddenly say “oh fantastic, you’ve decided to bother with me again!” and welcome me back with open arms. I don’t expect to make new friendships that will somehow tether me and make me feel I am making advances. I don’t expect everything I have to say or the apologies I need to make to be greeted warmly. But I’m going to try, and hope that some give me a fair hearing. I hope that people may be able to believe that, just this once, it really wasn’t them – it was me.

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