So the last few days have been strange. It’s gone over two months now I haven’t had a drink; I’ve cut out real cigarettes and am only smoking the e-cig, and have also cut out 90% of the refined sugar of my diet previously. This is a great achievement, and something I’d been trying to do for years- it’s also highly paradoxical that it occurs after a hospital admission that saw me almost lose my kidney and then be put under a section 3 of the mental health act.
I’ve gone from almost needing major surgery, and being on an intensive care unit at my local hospital, to being healthier than I have been for years. It’s been a very bizarre progression over the last five months or so.
I’d let cigarettes creep back into my life this year; slowly but surely they became a weekly and then a daily occurrence as anxiety at work and in my personal life just didn’t stop coming. Prior to leaving work I’d been stressed to the hilt with the pressure of a too high work load, and dealing with a break up which hit me extremely hard. On top of the cigarettes I started using alcohol as a dampener as well.
I suffered one of the worst hangovers of my life on 1st Jan 2019- where I think it must have taken a week for the alcohol to leave my system, and then all the crappy events of this year led to me slowly drinking in the evenings again most nights after about June. When schizophrenia hit me again this time, I started drinking daily after about two weeks, and eventually got to the stage where I was drinking in the morning because the voices were persistent enough to put me on edge quickly after waking.
When I was hospitalised, the doctor told me on the first night that I might need a liver transplant. Bizarrely it wasn’t the alcohol directly that led there but the paracetamol I’d taken. Everyone who spoke to me thought I’d tried to take my own life but it wasn’t the case- I was just so relieved when it occurred to me that I had a physical health issue which I could manage easily (with paracetamol and beechams cough syrup), that I became overzealous and put to much paracetamol into my system in one go.
I’d gone six weeks without eating much, and drinking enough that my fragile system couldn’t handle it. I felt like I was whitey-ing from skunk, and retched and retched over the toilet bowl but didn’t have anything inside me to vomit up. This went on for two days before I was hospitalised, and I ended up falling on the floor in the waiting room because I couldn’t hold my body up in the chair.
I was in East Surrey hospital for a week and a half, and then transferred to Langley Green hospital in Crawley, where I spent another 3 weeks. By the time I left I was able to walk to the local shop without sweating, and it didn’t hurt to get up and lie down any more. At first my body felt as though it had been hit by a train, and my face was bruised purple and red where my liver had stopped functioning properly.
It seems like such a long time ago now, and I feel that I need to keep writing about it because otherwise I start to wonder whether I dreamed the whole thing. My mental health is much better now, I’m no longer caught up in my experiences, but gawd do they leave an imprint. It’s the space and the blankness which is left after intense experiences such as these; my mind seems to echo with the memory of what I went through but can no longer call up the content to justify. Part of my mind is still there, and part is in the now.
I’m trying to get all of me in the now, but I think a part of me has been pushing a little too hard. I need time to process these experiences because their impact isn’t going to let up any time soon. I’m unemployed again, for the first time in two and half years. Prior to that I’d been slowly working towards returning to full time work and so the purpose of my entire last ten years has been radically undermined. Prior to these experiences I hadn’t suffered a relapse for ten years, and was on a fairly clear trajectory of “recovery,” which everyone frequently told me was impressive.
Now I’m recovering again; I don’t necessarily feel as though I’ve gone backwards, more like sideways when I never previously realised it was possible to go that way. I’m in uncharted and unplanned-for territory. I have spent the last five years of my life working on a book which states as it’s central premise that the experiences of schizophrenia are deeply personal to the individual, and hold meaning which it is only possible for them to undercover.
Now I am looking at all that has happened to me, and trying to work it into my previous conceptualisation. I almost feel as though I’m testing the strength of my own ideas, testing the strength of the argument and the idea. In good moments it all makes sense, but less so in bad moments. But then again this was the same before.
Now that I’ve left hospital, it’s harder to hold onto the self-worth which came immediately after the voices and the symptoms faded out. An element of depression has come in which makes sense and happened last time- it’s as if in the wake of such strange intensity the physical and mental systems which are the body and mind mourn the loss of such all encompassing, overriding feelings. The schizophrenia gives you a moment-to-moment focus of such depth and brevity that when that focus is lost the self falters slightly, and lists in the non-current.
In this gap I am working hard on finding new focus, healthy living being the main one. It feels great to eat well again, as a month of hospital food was doing me no benefits, however it’s hard not to reach for the sugary foods to gain instant gratification. I know that all the good food I eat is helping me level out, and so I’ve just got to continue forwards and not try and do it all in a day or a week.
If anything now, I have time.