Dancing Squirrel illustration by Nicol M.B. Huot via Etsy.com
I created this blog towards the end of 2016 and titled the blog ‘squirrels at a rave’. I felt this embodied the chaos that had taken over my mind, and consequently my life.
As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed with bipolar personality disorder at age 46, two years ago. I had bouts of instability, commotion and deep depression all throughout my life, but because my symptoms and behaviour were atypical, none of the medical practitioner I consulted had been able to make the correct diagnosis.
In January 2015, my life disintegrated for no specific reason; it just fell apart, completely. This time around I had no control over my emotions. I was unable to function. I wept and was overcome with grief, confusion and sadness.
I clearly remember waking up on Friday the 9th of January and battling to breathe. I felt a scary, heavy dark mist closing in on me and I started to panic. My heart was racing (formula one style), I was drenched in perspiration and every little sound I heard seemed to be a volcanic eruption that threatened to burst my ear drums. I wanted to scream, but my voice just didn’t exist.
I attempted to get out of bed and I failed. After my fourth attempt I made it up onto my feet but immediately collapsed into a heap on the floor. And then I began to cry. This wasn’t shedding a few tears or even sobbing; it was an indescribable noise that took its course through my body and made itself heard in an avalanche of sound and emotion. I shook, wailed and lost all sense of sanity. This wasn’t a graceful meltdown, it was full-throttled and undignified.
After much commotion my faithful dog (Benjamin the Cavalier) felt he could no longer console me and alerted my daughter. Fortunately Stephanie Rose was home and able to rush me to our General Practitioner who recognised the seriousness of the situation. I was medicated and referred for psychiatric treatment.
It was then that my journey of discovery and repair began.
I can honestly say that my initial treatment made the situation worse. Together with my therapists I began to delve into my life. We acknowledged and explored experiences, thoughts, emotions and feelings. This was an intensely painful and tumultuous road to travel. I still at times have to make my way down some treacherous rocky cliffs on the route to recovery. I dread this.
After six months I began to feel somewhat sane again, but the therapy had to continue. I had never realised until then how difficult and gut-wrenching treatment could be. I had often wondered why people couldn’t just ‘stick with the programme’. I now know why.
This was the most daunting thing I had ever faced. I hated my first sessions. On so many occasions I would leave my therapists’ consulting rooms and vow to never go back again. On many occasions I arrived for my session, climbed in and out of my car several times before I made it to the appointment. Fortunately I am a persistent person, I don’t easily surrender.
Every week I would say to myself: ‘just one more week and then you can quit’. I have managed to remain steadfast for 121 appointments. I am so proud of my accomplishment. My medical team has held my hand every step of the way and given me incredible tools, insights (and meds) to take ownership of my life again. They have empowered me, liberated me and given me hope. They have also pulled me, shaken me and pushed me when I needed it. They are tenacious and committed. There are no words that could begin to explain the gratitude I feel towards them.
I don’t think that I will ever be completely ‘normal’; I have a personality disorder and that is something I will deal with for the rest of my life, but it no longer owns me.
Finally, after so many years, the raving squirrels have begun to calm down and gain some decorum. The music has changed from crazy, raucous thumping to semi-decent sounds. It has an acceptable rhythm.
I am putting the squirrels through their paces and showing them the steps. I am teaching them to work together and create something beautiful. They are learning to stand tall and move smoothly. The are acquiring new techniques and skills. They no longer drive me crazy.