Lately I keep saying to my boyfriend: “I don’t like it in the Rabbit Hole. It’s cold and dark in the rabbit hole.”
When I am hypomanic or manic and I’m feeling and acting imaginative and creative, I decided to call the place in my mind that I go to my ‘Mind Palace’ (which I stole from Sherlock Holmes). When I crash into a deep depression I call this ‘The Rabbit Hole.’ In both of these states I hear various voices; in my mind palace they tell me I am a genius and in the rabbit hole they tell me I am the worst person on earth.
I have been switching rapidly between these two states, multiple times daily, for a couple of weeks now. At some points I have lost my mind completely, in a more extreme and frightening way than I ever have before. This is all because I made the terrible decision to first of all come off of a high dose of Lithium in one day, followed by coming off of the maximum dose of Quetiapine in a fortnight, as opposed to the safer and more sensible way of doing it over a period of months. This is what I was advised to do by my doctor but it was clear that my anxiety attacks recently (which I never experienced in the past) were linked to when I took the Quetiapine and it raised my heart rate. I was too frightened that I’d end up having a heart attack so I just wanted to stop this medication as soon as possible. Looking back at what I have gone through and put others through over the period of withdrawal, I do regret my decision to do this so quickly, however I am finally out of the other side and onto a much more fitting anti-psychotic which I have more faith in to control my mood swings.
My first serious ‘attack’ as a result of the withdrawals came just over one week ago, here in Greece. My boyfriend and I went out for a drink with a couple of his friends late at night; maybe around 1am (Athens is a city that never sleeps, for the record). I felt fine and happy that night, however I had my suspicions that my boyfriend was hiding something from me, so I suppose I was a little on edge. With his friends in front of us, but not paying that much attention, I asked him a question three times and he looked me straight in the eye each time and failed to tell the truth, until, on my fourth attempt, he admitted what I had been thinking. I am not going to go into the issue on a public blog but I can tell you that the news destroyed me at the time and triggered me to go off on one of my mad rants, in public. Although in one way I had a just cause to be upset by the news, and to be upset that I was lied to by someone very close to me, I am still ashamed and cringing now that I behaved this way in front of other people, and in the street.
Initially I was quite calm, and just went very quiet. Then I got irritable and then suddenly very, very angry. I did not shout at this point, with the others still sat in front of us, but I was told later that my behaviour was ‘aggressive.’ In the end I just wanted to leave, and so on the way back to the apartment I screamed and shouted and swore in the street, without a care in the world that the entire city could probably hear me.
Half an hour later I was sticking my fingers down my throat, choking myself as much as possible- just to suffer and punish myself- and throwing up over and over again. After that I went back in the lounge where my boyfriend was and went down the Rabbit Hole. I cried until 9am, desperately. I sat on the toilet with my razor in my hands. I tried to fight the voices in my head telling me to kill myself because I was a worthless person and because a life with this kind of misery and unpredictability was not one worth living. I sat with my head in my hands, in floods of tears, until it was light and I just kept repeating that I wanted to be dead. They say ‘suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems,’ so I tried my best to keep this in mind and I also visualized the look on my friend’s family’s faces at his funeral after he had taken his life at 21, and I knew somewhere deep inside that I would eventually change my mind about wanting to die.
My boyfriend was in a strange state too, having perhaps absorbed my horrible mood; running around cleaning the house while his eyes were not even open due to exhaustion. At some point I stopped crying and began to laugh at him. I launched into a giggle fit and laughed uncontrollably for half an hour without even knowing what was so funny. And then, as if someone flipped a switch inside my brain, in a split second the crazy laughter turned to tears again. As my boyfriend held my head in his lap and stroked my hair and told me I was safe with him, I believed someone was going to climb the balcony and murder me. I looked at some food near me with cheese in it and started to see baby cows being shot in the head after birth so that human beings can eat their mother’s products. Every time I closed my eyes I visualized absolutely everything that is wrong and bad about the world.
It took me an hour or so to start stabilizing a little and come out of the rabbit hole and back to reality. I felt beyond exhausted and I would continuously begin to fall asleep, but after a second or two I would feel my heart race and I would jump out of my skin and wake up again. I was too afraid of danger and death to rest.
Unfortunately, the withdrawals only became more extreme after that day. Not only did I lose touch with reality entirely, but on top of my mental instability I have been horribly unwell, physically. I think if I had been at home in England, then I would have been in a hospital bed. I spent the majority of the last week and a half in bed shivering with fever, vomiting, not wanting to eat and in agony all over my body, all of the time. I stayed on a low dose of Quetiapine for a few days and I was too afraid to stop entirely. I called my doctor in England and he said I would have to go without any for one night/day before I could start the new one. So I chose to do this one night when I knew my boyfriend could stay up with me and be with me all of the following day.
I have never felt as physically ill in my life as I did during that 24 hours, and I have experienced a lot of illness in my life. I felt close to death and it was like being dragged through hell backwards. I cried a lot. I hallucinated. I got angry. I saw my reflection in a full length mirror and thought it was another person coming towards me to kill me, twice in a row.
But through my madness and my tears and my fear, I had someone to hold me and tell me I was and am safe in his presence. For the first time in my life, I felt unconditional love from another person. I don’t know how on earth he put up with all of that (and still does now when I have a mood swing and act like an asshole), but I was able to believe, eventually, he was not going to leave me or send me away on a plane because I am just a total train wreck at the moment.
I have talked before in this blog about ‘The Light.’ The light that I see mostly when I am manic, but also the light I see when I begin to recover from mad or depressing episodes. Recently I have started to call this ‘The Light Bulb.’ When I am not in my right mind I will say that the light bulb has gone out, and sometimes it is just flickering and trying to come back on. I now call my boyfriend my own, personal ‘electrician’ because when he holds me and wipes my tears, showers me and feeds me, he fixes the light bulb and the light comes back on.
I am definitely through the worst of the withdrawals now, and so relieved to be off of that nasty drug, away from Lithium which steals my personality and naturally vivid imagination, and I feel a lot more well in myself, physically, today.
It has probably been the hardest and most challenging two weeks of my life.
But I am in Greece; such a beautiful and inspiring place and I feel loved by another person in a way I never have been blessed with before.
<Featured image is of the stunning beach on a Greek island which brought me so much peace a couple of days ago.>