What’s it really like to live with mental illness? Drama, danger, misery … or sedation

7 Jun
My photo taken during a riverside walk last week

My photo taken during a dawdling riverside walk

Media coverage – and public perception – of mental illness can focus on drama, danger and misery. Yesterday’s media splash surrounding Stephen Fry was a case in point. What gets lost is any sense of what life can be like managing a mental health condition day to day.
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With that in mind, here are some reflections on a current bugbear of mine – a humdrum hindrance – namely fitting a life around the sedating effects of the psychiatric medication I am currently taking. There’s absolutely no drama, danger or misery in what follows.
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At breakfast

I wrote the following sitting in bed yesterday morning, where I’d returned to eat breakfast:

Being on a medication that has a sedating effect is like being a hostage in your own body: there are restrictions you’ve just got to accept. You can’t go about your life freely. You can’t get up when you want or do what you want. You have to wait patiently.

As well as the lingering sleep which the medication induces, I have to factor in “dawdling time” in the morning – time when I can expect nothing much of my brain and need to move with deliberate slowness so I don’t bump into, trip over or drop things.

I’d like to leap out of bed with the dawn like I used to, but I can’t. I’m forced to sleep longer and then, on waking, move around slowly. I’d like to be able to get on with the tasks of the day, but I can’t. I’m clumsy and my brain isn’t fully working yet. In the morning, I’m slow in body and mind for hours.

I’d like to set the alarm then be out of the house half an hour later – fed, watered, washed and dressed – like I used to, but I can’t. For a morning appointment now, I need to factor in ninety minutes after waking before I’m ready to leave the house.

I’d like to ring the water board to say, “Please don’t cut off the water”, but I can’t coordinate speech yet. So I’ll just have to sit and push the worry aside till the fog clears. I had to answer the door to my nice postman this morning. He’s grown used to my monosyllabic and expressionless morning ways. I’m guessing he thinks I’ve just become rude.

This morning I fell over when I got out of bed, poured an iron supplement onto my cereal rather than into the glass and forgot to shut the fridge door yet again. I’ve broken so many tumblers in the morning, I’m down to my last one. Clumsy brain, clumsy body.

I know there are things I need to be getting on with. But I also know I can’t. I’ve got to be a passenger in my body for a while yet. Because being on a medication with a sedating effect is like being a hostage in your own body. There are restrictions you’ve just got to accept.

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At bedtime

I wrote the following sitting at the kitchen table from 9pm last night:
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When you take medication at night which has a sedating effect, it can mean you’re at your most alert … right around bedtime. Bummer.
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So, with my alert brain, I’m getting organised and have just made a little list of things I really need to do tomorrow morning. Some things I can’t do now because it’s outside office hours (such as calling the water board). Others I don’t want to start just before bedtime because they might be stimulating. I’d like my mind to be nice and relaxed when I hit the sack, for a restful sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is important to everyone and even more so when you’re managing a mental health condition. So I put my little list aside for now, and start my bedtime routine.
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But then I remember the morning drug hangover and how that means it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get anything much done in the morning. Bummer. It’s hard to know how to fit everyday life round the sedating effects of the psychiatric medication I’m taking.
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Web links thumbnail
  •  .My tweets on this topic
  • I came across this video of Kerry Katona from ITV’s This Morning in 2008 when she says her speech is slurred due to having taken 150mg clopromazine (thorazine or largactyl – as in the Largactyl Shuffle). She’s tripping over her tongue in the same way I do in the mornings, but she’s all there in terms of her responses.

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2 Responses to “What’s it really like to live with mental illness? Drama, danger, misery … or sedation”

  1. Will (@ladcalledwill) 7 June 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I take my medication in the evening just before I go to bed. I go to bed about 9 to get enough sleep to get up at around 6.30. I used to have trouble sleeping and don’t so much now. I’m not sure how much medication slows me down in general. I manage to hold down a job but do sometimes worry about the pace at which I work at. I’ve not had too many comments about it. Luckily for me I’m on quite a low dose, so perhaps the sedating effect is not as much as it would be for others. I do worry about how medication effects my speed and cognition though.

    • mrsgemjones 7 June 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Same Will. I manage to work and be a Mum to my 17 month old. My work. Colleagues are really good and appreciate my honesty, especially when I’m poorly. I do make (small) mistakes but they know its not through laziness. I take my low ish dose meds at night as they make me feel sick. Early nights are key as my little one wakess betweek 5:30am and 6:30am :s

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