Tonight will be my third night without olanzapine. Last night I didn’t get to sleep until about 6am, but I expected that to happen. I still don’t completely understand what happened to me last night, crying out of the blue when I haven’t cried in months. I cried a lot near the end of my last relationship but that’s because the depression had taken hold so deeply, so intensely, that I felt helpless and scared. I was scared I had no future, scared I would end up lonely, scared of what I might do to myself given the right circumstances. You may think I’m being overly-candid but this is how I need to make sense of things, to write them down.
Being on antipsychotics was like being in a house with all the curtains closed. I didn’t have to care about the world outside and I didn’t have to let it bother me. As a result, coming off these drugs is going to involve a lot of getting back in touch with the world. I’ve accepted that sometimes I will cry, and sometimes I’ll feel anxious, and sometimes I’ll feel elated, but this is what I want. I’m worried that antipsychotics have given me an addiction to not giving a shit.
I went to my Mum’s today and on the way there I felt out of touch with the world, as if I wasn’t fully aware of my surroundings. I also felt sick and run-down, but that could be because I didn’t sleep enough last night. My Mum did warn me of the dangers of coming off my drugs, when she said “you have a psychotic illness. You can’t just stop taking your tablets just like that. It’s stupid and you know it is. You have to wean off them.”. I didn’t mind her saying this because she is probably right, so I’m still going to collect my prescription for olanzapine every fortnight, but I’m going to keep them as a PRN for the time being. I take a low dose of olanzapine during the day as PRN, so I figured this makes sense. I also need to remember that if things get bad and I need to take the pills again, this doesn’t mean I’ve failed. This isn’t some project I’m working on, it’s an overhaul.

Short blog tonight, will post again when I have more to say.

I’m sitting in my room going through my old, familiar routine. Roll a cigarette, smoke it, wrestle with a poem for a little while, go downstairs to get water and then take my psychiatric drugs, and then do some more wrestling but with sleep this time. You’d think  the drugs would be enough to knock me out – I take antipsychotics which are in a class of drugs labelled “major tranquillisers”. The antipsychotic I take (along with lithium, but that’s a different post for a different time) is called olanzapine. I take 20mg most days; by which I mean, I take 15mg at night and then have the option of taking up to 5mg during the day should I start to feel anxious or distressed. I take the drugs I take because I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, though this is in some debate. Psychiatrists and well-meaning care co-ordinators etc in the past have given me lots of names for what is wrong with me. In chronological order, I have been diagnosed with the following: depression, severe depression, treatment-resistant depression, psychotic disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar type 2 disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, bipolar type 1 disorder and, most recently, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. I think it’s clear enough to anyone reading that I have some kind of mental health disorder along with some kind of personality disorder. The most recent diagnosis, schizoaffective, is the hellish mix of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – every mood swing will bring psychosis. But I’m not sure I agree with this. I have experienced psychosis on a grand scale several times in the past, but I don’t struggle with it every day. If people ask me, I say I’m bipolar. Although recently, I’ve been thinking. Maybe the reason I don’t struggle with psychosis for the most part is because I take antipsychotics. I’ve been taking some form of antipsychotic for about six years now, I no longer know what it feels like to have a natural sleep and I can’t remember the last time I made the choice to get out of bed before noon. This is what the drugs do. Psychosis is the result of a flood of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in your brain. Antipsychotics stop too much dopamine from being released. Because of this, I’ve found it harder to enjoy the  things I used to, friends and family have complained that I’m not as “chatty” or as “fun” as I used to be and I tend to agree with them. I sleep all the time, I eat all the time, my weight has crept up from “pleasantly curvy” to “morbidly obese” in the six years I’ve been taking these drugs because another fun side effect of them is MASSIVE WEIGHT GAIN. And worst of all, creativity doesn’t come as easy to me as it used to. It does still come, but it no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night with a flight of brilliant ideas, it doesn’t compel me to visit art galleries and attend poetry readings, it doesn’t shake me and tell me that I have a creative gift to give to the world. Okay, that all sounds grandiose and perhaps it is, but I miss that.

It is for these reasons I have decided to stop taking antipsychotics.

I’m aware of the risks. Maybe I really don’t know my mind as well as the psychiatrists do; maybe I actually do need these drugs in order to stay safe and sane in this world. But do I want to be sane? If this is sanity, I’d rather go back to what I had before. As Amanda Palmer put it: “If wellness is this, what in hell’s name is sickness?”.

I’m going to keep a document of how coming off olanzapine goes for me, and I’m going to do that via this blog. I used to write a lot about mental health on this blog about two and a half years ago, the last time I was in hospital. The thing that changed is I have been heavily sedated since then. That ends now.
I’m sick of feeling so tired and hungry, not being able to do anything, and not being able to write. My vocabulary is dulled. My sense of ambition is absolutely gone. I no longer think I have anything valuable to contribute to society. I feel like a useless member of my family. I have started to truly hate myself. This ends now.

I’ll keep you all updated on my progress, and I’m sorry for this rambling blog post, but I’ve made a decision and I’m sticking to it.

A poem an old friend wrote about me and an ex boyfriend of mine.

Wuthering Heights

Confirmed by Emily Brönte, you would
lie on the moors at Top Withens
cursing the Spring for being calm, and
laying closer, as the rain
bled your colours into eachother, and
onto the purple / green heather.
In dimmer light, his silver cufflinks
would glow, lost in the white of a
folded French-cuff, and hands which
seemed unnaturally soft for a psychopath
as – like radioactive rays – they sank
into your bones.

I’ll never know what those old bricks saw
what kind of antiquity crumbles with the
legend of you both, and I don’t need
to know. The grass on the path up to
Withens is dead in sodden ground,
thistles bursting upward into pregnant,
heavy clouds. For three days in a row,
it was too natural to ignore
that the cool day’s blue air was calling
Cathy, Cathy, Cathy
as one of the king’s thousand faces
would glow behind a Marlboro Red.

All day you held hands, obsessing
how they interlocked and tickled
it just seemed to fit together like a
sister and her brother, and the heath-grass
worried with the  ghosts that peered
beneath you. His speech was fluid
then, and his cold eyes tepefied
upon each of your tender words,
and time would run back into itself for years
as a husband told his wife about his
electroconvulsive therapy, and the
evening’s bitter air was hushing:
Heathcliff, Heathcliff, Heathcliff.

And Heathcliff drove you home the
long way around, keeping his shortcuts
to himself, as he saw your sheer, black
legs swinging in the footwell, your
seatbelt pulled tight against your breast.
As complex as any creation, he wasn’t
yet thirty and you were just twenty one.
Once the eyes behind his glasses, once
the beating heart that flutters behind the
cotton of his shirt, where your head would rest
it is hard to ignore the softness on your cheek
and it was hard to ignore that this beautiful
man was yours to be taken, as you
ate banquets in the heather, as you out-drank
the gods themselves, as even the air
stopped on its own course, to be in awe
of you both.

Top Withens, wuthering through its corners
and I’m sure nobody minded when you
admitted you were too shy to tell him
what you really thought, and he
too stubborn to ask. Meanwhile, the gentle
clip of his Southern vowels would lovingly
mock the Northern measure in each
cadence of your breath and every
argument in that five years was a
shining jewel in the king’s one thousand
crowns that never shone the same way
twice, but every glare would leave you
sleepless. I woke to find him brooding
over coffee in the dead night, and the insistent
air would whisper: Cathy, Cathy, Cathy.

Here you dampen your pillow with
silent heaves, holding one close to your
chest and remember lying on the moors
and the defiance of the Summer would
tease with: Heathcliff, Heathcliff, Heathcliff
but it was only ever love that led you here
flighty, dumb and fair just like the
Yorkshire winds that haunt me when I’m
thinking of you both, and from my bedroom
window I see your playground. And sometimes
I think I see you both lying in the  grass
wrapped up around your Wuthering Heights
and I wonder what Emily Brönte would have done
had she known you two would exist.

The General Election, 2010

I didn’t know I was a poet yet
but I borrowed your words and
made a note of them on my phone.
The streetlight illuminates my
living room. An ice cube melts in
your whisky, which means

it’s watering down. Soon I will
take a cigarette, blow into
the melee of smoke, and drift
into the comfort of your arms,
where there’s always room for me
and where the air is expensive.

Slightly drunk, I watch the coverage
newsreaders and MPs become
frantic and scramble for something
to say. You breathe me in this time
and the moon appears to pulsate

like a jellyfish in the sky. We drink
more and your boyfriend asks where
the bathroom is. When the election
is over we’ll fall asleep on eachother
and wake up now and then to check
we’re all still here, and happy.

I miss you now, my partner in crime
my brother, in a light spring suit.
Everything goes away, eventually.
We think we have control but we don’t
the coverage is ending and we’re
no closer to knowing our fate.

For Stephen

I wrote your name
in the back of a Maths book
under the desk
I found myself falling
for an older man
you texted me between
Biology and Health
I was sixteen.

I told my friends about you
I wondered if they’d worry
and over time, your name
in the back of my book.
My lungs full of smoke
breathed you in
your sallow skin and
cold, green eyes
fixed me whenever I
hopped in your car
I got a detention for
being late, and a C in
Maths. Ten years on
and I’m living with a
handsome, bearded man
not as tall as you
but in some ways
much richer.

Study in Rhyme 

Tonight, I’m left to grieve the empty chair
which gathers dust and holds old secrecies
the views that you espoused whilst sitting there
of masters, wives and common decency

I must not dwell on strangers of the past
their appearances catching me off guard
or question any moves that you’ve amassed
now that you’ve heard I lack in that regard.

I remained vague about your orange light
as beautiful scenes to Impressionists
and when I’m asked to remember or write
it’s true, I won’t recall the times we’ve kissed.
But now, there is no start or end of you.
The empty chair won’t miss you like I do.

Look for the Man

When I mistake the church’s clock face
for a full moon, I am mistaking my love
for a mere theory circling my brain.
In the context of a great love ending,
one may understand the attraction to
a blind hubris with hips.
I had hoped, at the time, that you would
surround yourself with the kind
of genial friends who wouldn’t try to sleep
with you and instead provide you with some
crucial distraction: a cider and then another, and
then a party, laying on their backs on the
lawn with you, pointing out patterns in the
great clouds above. When you left me
I had hoped the same for myself, but
when the Summer mayflies hopped about
me, up my arms and thighs and prickled
I found myself lying next to who might
next replace you, much as you did when
we first ended. I learned, and cannot
forget, with what confidence she imbued
you. We were planning our life together.
A life, in which we would drink ourselves
into a stupor and lie, a life that needed
your revision before embarking upon
and getting that one last fuck out of the way
before working out that this was real.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers