Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Here we go again...

I know I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. The Christmas and New Year season is always a stressful time. Last week, I broke, and ended up in hospital for four days.

Across Sunday night through Monday morning, I ended up taking an overdose of a mixture of oxazepam, seroquel, lorazepam, and an over-the-counter sedative.

After my morning coffee, I just gave up. My mum had gone to meet my Great Aunt for a coffee. Just after she left, I took the rest of my pills. She came home and found me snoring on the couch. A few hours later, she realised I hadn't moved a muscle in the time she'd been home. She looked closer and could tell it wasn't good. I wouldn't wake up. I only gave the slightest response when she yelled my name.

It would've been a perfect way to go. So peaceful, just falling asleep. No pain, no panic, no regret. I've overdoses on different combinations many times over the past 11 years. They've always kept me awake and have usually been painful, as if I could feel the poison burning through my body. I've always panicked and called for help. But this time, I just drifted away. I took the pills, lay down, and fell asleep nearly immediately. In a morbid sense, there was a certain beauty to it.

I'd meant to write a note detailing what I'd taken and put it on the couch or table somewhere, as I used to do for overdoses, but I didn't get around to it. It was worse than last time. I'm not going to post exactly what I took, but there was over 60 pills in a combination of oxazepam, lorazepam and seroquel, plus 10 over-the-counter sedatives. That's over two weeks' worth of meds that I've slowly stockpiled, plus the sedatives. It was my entire stash, so it was bound to be messy.

I don't remember the paramedics getting here. I don't remember getting into the ambulance. I had to be carried. The clothes I was wearing were cut irreparably as they needed access now.

Just like last time, the first 24 hours are a blur. I remember getting a blood test, but not the IV or urine catheters. I remember slurring my words when I woke up, speaking slowly and having trouble making the correct sounds, and the doctor reassuring my mum that it was just from the anaesthetic.

I don't know how a small breakdown escalated to this. Drinking on the Sunday night probably didn't help by the end of it, but when I first opened the bottle and danced around the kitchen, I felt free.

They kept saying “suicide attempt” in handover, but it wasn't. It was for a break, to ease the pain, to put a pause on the world in the same way drinking and drugs had. It was self-harm. It was getting out of my head.

From A&E, to ICU, then back down to a general ward. My legs were like jelly, and balancing seemed like an impossible task. Even with rails to hold, I wasn't allowed to make the 2-3 meter walk to the toilet by myself. When I tried to get up, the scale on the bed would set off an emergency bell because it was too dangerous for me to stand.

It was Tuesday morning they moved me to a general ward. In the middle of the night, I asked a nurse why I'd gotten none of my regular medication. When told I had nothing written up, they sent a medical doctor down to see me. He said I wouldn't be given any of my medication, which was very upsetting.

He asked “Have you been seeing or hearing things that aren't really there?”
I told him no. The thing is, you don't necessarily know when you're hallucinating. You don't know if something's not really there, until someone tells you.

After he left, I started running through things in my head. By the morning, I realised I had been hallucinating, which continued for a day or two. I remember thinking there was maggots in my dinner the first night, and stopped eating after two bites. They were so vivid, I was sure they were there. In retrospect, I should've called for a nurse, and then I would've realised they weren't actually there.

The adhesives on the dressings were making me itch (and one arm still has a rash, a week later). For the first time ever, I took out the IV cannula myself. I peeled away the dressing, and one it was loose, started gently pulling it out. I only had one hand, but still managed to get it out and put pressure on.

The next day, more doctors came to see me. The first thing they did was listen to my chest and mention follow-ups of an x-ray I'd had done, which I thought was odd given why I was there. I guess it's coming to that time of year when my lungs flare up, and I had been getting a hoarse cough and sore chest. They told me I'd had IV antibiotics while I was in ICU after the x-ray. They also said my blood pressure was higher than expected, but gave no number.

Medically, I was okay, just very slow and shaky on my feet, and nauseated. I just needed my head to stop being so fuzzy and making stuff up. Most of the time, I couldn't answer the “what's your name, where are you, what year is it, what day of the week it is” questions.

The new psychiatrist at the hospital is brilliant though – so much better than the Horrible Psychiatrist. He came to see me later in the day. I asked him about my meds, and he said I should've been given them. That there was no point in punishing my by taking them away. I told him about the hallucinations.

He asked what triggered it, and I said I didn't know. Then I thought. I was meant to be catching up with a friend the day before, and they bailed on me. Looking at my record, he noted that my last overdose in November was after being discharged from the Clinic, then trying to get back in, but the psychiatrist refusing. He thinks one of my big triggers in abandonment and feeling like people don't care. I hadn't put it together like that before, but it makes a lot of sense.

I told him I didn't feel safe going home, that I'd just overdose again once I had more meds. He said we could look at an inpatient admission somewhere. He was supposed to come around the next morning before I was discharged, but he never did.

I ended up waiting longer to be discharged as the staff tried to find a bed at the Clinic for me. I spent three hours with my mind constantly changing as to whether or not I wanted to go there. In the afternoon, after multiple phone calls, they called back to say that they had no private beds, and couldn't take me anyway as I posed a risk to myself. They said they'd see what the mental health system could offer me, but they never called back.

Today I tried to make an appointment to see my GP, but she's away for the week. I regretted putting off doing it last week. The earliest I could see her is next Tuesday, but since I already have a double appointment on Thursday, it didn't seem worth changing it. The only problem is that, when the pharmacy delivered my twice-weekly meds yesterday, they gave me no PRNs. I have some left from the last one, but it's going to be a week without. I'll figure it out, somehow.

Outside having a smoke

The rooms had mini fridges in them! Perfect for keeping extra yoghurts, jelly, etc
 leftover from meals as back-up for future meals
(And, of course, a Coke Zero stash)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

2017 Resolutions, and 2016 in Review

A week into the New Year, and everyone is reflecting and making their resolutions and goals for the next year. New Years doesn't really make a huge mark in my life. Still, I do usually like to set a few goals. I'm not a huge believer in January 1st being the only time to make standing goals – I set new goals every month, every week, every day. But for the longer term ones, it does seem appropriate to take advantage of the whole New Years Resolutions thing.

1. Engage in some form of online study – either VCE, TAFE (either IT or Sewing), German, or Auslan
Okay, so VCE is completion of high school. TAFE is tertiary study. I never made it through Year 10 in high school, and although I started a certificate in Information Technology, my mental health made it impossible to complete it. These are big goals though, so if not, I'd even just like to continue my German studies or Auslan (Australian Sign Language).

2. Start tightrope walking (either at home or circus classes)
This is probably a more random one. I dabbled in poi and staff twirling/spinning some years ago, when I'd go to Melbourne every Sunday to meet a group of twirlers and practice into the evening. But recently, I've started getting the urge to learn how to tightrope walk, something that fascinated me as a child. They would set up a tightrope at twirling, but I never tried it. I hope to change this soon, either with professional classes, or as the 'going out and socialising' part is a challenge, by investigating how to make a basic home setup.

3. Learn to dance
Again, this is something I've always wanted to do, but my skills are limited to drunkenly bouncing around the kitchen as I cook dinner. I've done some belly dance in the past, and I'd either like to get back to that and/or start ballroom dancing. I might be able to continue belly dance at home, although ballroom would be a bigger challenge as I'd have to go out.

4. Get my P plates (probationary license)
I've been learning how to drive recently, which will hopefully allow me to regain the safe place of the car. Up until early in the year, mum would take me on drives most days when I needed to calm down or needed a distraction, and the car was like an extension on the house. I could go anywhere, but still feel safe. After the drives stopped, I started fearing going more than a few kilometers away from home, which is something I'm trying to work on by doing longer drives as I'm learning.

5. Work on getting back to my monthly outings
This was a huge part of challenging my agoraphobia, a resolution that I set for the first time three years ago, but only suceeded in the first year. Usually I'd go out for bush walks, dinner, or occasionally shopping or new piercings. All in all, this past year I had 9 outings.

6. Reach one year off synthetics (June 27th)
This will probably be one of my most important goals for the year, and the one I'm most likely to suceed at.

I have also set goals relating to restriction and weight loss, more because I felt like I had to than anything else, but I think I'll keep those to myself for now.

After looking back through some of my posts from this year, there's a scary amount of incidents that I have no memory of, and wouldn't have remembered where it not for this blog. I had a rough year with my health. I've rarely needed ambulances before, but this year, I lost count.

In March, I had a nasty case of pneumonia and spent a couple of weeks in hospital. Due to having COPD and Bronchiolitis Obliterans, I've ended up in hospital once a year since I was diagnosed in 2013. Usually, it just involves IV antibiotics, oxygen, and constant OBs. The Lung Doctor Man sugarcoats nothing, and this time he told me I'm on the path to an early death with a consistent downward trajectory.

I was in ICU twice this year – once in February and once in December – both from overdosing on my meds. There have been many overdoses, but these were the two worst.

There have also been multiple laxative overdoses. I've abused them in the past, but I'd never overdosed like I have this past year. The first time, I went in an ambulance to A&E, where they didn't even know what senna was, but they still saw fit to give me oxycontin. The other times, I decided they didn't know what they were doing, and I was just as well off at home and seeing my GP the next day.

I had many, many ambulance call-outs due to synthetics, both in 2016 and 2015. The main culprit was that they'd started to cause seizures, which in years of smoking them, I hadn't experienced until my last 18 months on them. For that time though, they happened multiple times a week. I guess that's the joy of constantly changing chemicals and never knowing what's in it.

The final straw was in June. Over three days, there were two calls to 000, resulting in not only an ambulance, but police coming as I was actively self-harming. Not just self-harming, but violently attacking myself. I was out of my head like I'd never been before. There were times that I didn't know where I was or what I was doing. Then, before I knew it, there'd be seven strangers – three paramedics and four police – standing over me.

After six years on-and-off them, I never thought something would happen that was severe and shocking enough to make me give them up. They'd always had a negative effect on my health, but after that weekend, I stopped cold turkey. Now, it's been over six months since I've smoked them, and three months since I've even used the natural stuff. I knew I had to break the pattern of 'all day every day' that I'd been in for seven years with the natural stuff, otherwise when there was a glitch in the supply chain, I'd run back to synthetics.

Since then, I've been drinking more, but it keeps the smoking at bay, as well as being an alternative to self-harm or abusing my medication.

In August, I finally met the psychologist who I'd been putting off meeting all year. I've only seen her a few times so far, but it's the most support for my mental health that I've had in years. For some time now, it's mostly been bouncing around to various mental health nurses, who most of the time have done more harm than good.

I was inpatient at the Clinic in November, which all in all was a total bust. Childhood trauma had recently bubbled to the surface, and each day was a struggle, constantly breaking down and finding no answers. Unfortunately, they didn't do much to help. I initially asked for the referral so I could start talking about it in a safe environment, where I wouldn't be able to self-harm or overdose, but after I got there, they psychiatrist told me it was more to have a break, and that they wouldn't be dealing with the PTSD, and I'd have to do that after discharge with my psychologist.

The admission revolved around getting me out of my room, going to groups and being around people. In nearly three weeks there, I never had a conversation with another patient. I only went to a handful of groups. All in all, I was worse when I was discharged than when I put the referral through.

I had actually tried to go there earlier in the year. Only a few days into 2016, I had my first ambulance call-out. At the time, I was actually at the Clinic doing an interview for an admission. I'd not even made it past the waiting room, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor. I didn't know what day it was. I was threatened with being sectioned if I didn't go with the paramedics to A&E. But when I got home later in the day, I had another seizure and another call to 000.

After I was discharged this time, I broke down as soon as I got home, wanting to go back. Mum called the Clinic to see if there was any chance of readmission. They spoke to the psychiatrist, and said no. Distraught, I took the meds that had piled up at home during the admission. I don't remember much of the rest of the day, but I was taken by ambulance and was unconscious in the ICU for nearly 24 hours before I woke up, not sure where I was or what had happened.

As far as agoraphobia goes; as I mentioned above, a few years back I set a resolution to break my isolation, to get out of the house and go somewhere once a month. I continued this goal for each year since, although this year (and last year), I've fallen short. I had nine outings this year.

One of my favourite things to do was going out for meals, funnily enough. It wasn't even so much the food part of it. To me, going to dinner and having a bottle of wine, sitting around a table and chatting and laughing, was my alternative to going out for drinks at a pub or club. Prior to their breakup earlier this year, we often went out for dinner – my brother, his girlfriend, my mum and I.

We only went out once this year and I haven't been out for dinner since. I was hoping to go out to celebrate the six month mark off synthetics, but as it was two days after Christmas, I figured it would be too busy. I'm now planning to go out for a special dinner to celebrate the one year mark, and will finally open the fancy bottle of wine my brother gave me a couple of years ago.

I also got out for a bush walk in April, which is another one of my favourite things to do when I go out, but not something I get the opportunity to do often.

There was even a shopping trip with my Great Aunt, plus another time we went to a cafe. They often go out for coffee together, but I haven't tagged along. After losing my Great Uncle, and the immense guilt for not being able to go to his funeral, I felt it necessary to see her as much as I could.

He passed away when I had pneumonia. They are basically grandparents to me, and the only real family left apart from my mum and brother. I was so desperate to make it to the funeral, I put off going to hospital in hopes of making it. The morning of the funeral, I woke up in terrible pain, unable to move. I couldn't walk, and my breathing was too bad to safely stay at home any longer. I visited his grave when I was inpatient at the Clinic, and that was when the reality and grief really hit me.

In the real world, I have only two friends who I ever see, A and R. Going to their houses has always seemed safer and less threatening than going out in public, so I sort of count them separately to the real 'outings'. There were 5 times this year that I managed to be social, usually with the aid of alcohol.

There are also seemingly smaller accomplishments with the agoraphobia. I can go for a walk in the You Yangs, but I can't remember the last time I went for a walk around the block – something I've wished I could do since I developed AN and started exercising.

I've made some progress with getting further away from the house itself, but still on the property. I can now walk out the front door when the car's parked on the street, instead of needing to go out through the garage into the lane way. Going further down the backyard is still a huge challenge though. I can walk about a quarter of the way down the yard, but to get to the garage, I still need someone with me.

Let's hope 2017 will be better than 2016...