Had a little bit of an 'episode' on Tuesday, so this morning it was off to the doctors to get it checked out. Having a thorough neurological examination was a sobering experience. The reflexes on my left side were definitely mushy, and I was not able to touch my nose with my left index finger and eyes closed. Doesn't sound much; you'd think everyone could do it, so if you can't then something is out of sync. Suffice it to say I am back on the NHS treadmill again, waiting on the munificence of the nearest neurologist.
And then I had this flash of realisation - or a slap upside the head with the frying pan of enlightenment as Dianne Sylvan puts it. I have been reading Kay Redfield Jamison's shocking memoir of manic depression, 'The Unquiet Mind', which details her war against having to take lithium in order to survive her illness. Like many manic depressives, as soon as she got well, she would stop taking her lithium. Her arguments were several: that she should be able to pull herself together and cope with her illness without medication; that lithium had horrible side effects and dulled both her sense of herself and her experience of the world around her; that it was muffling and subsuming her personality; that she missed the exciting highs of her manias, to which she felt addicted.
And I thought: 'That's me, that is!'
Since I was diagnosed I have been fighting a full-on war with my treatment programme. I have complained that the diet has made me a difficult and unwelcome guest, requires more effort and energy in planning and organising ingredients than I have to spend on it; is inconvenient, embarrassing and boring. I want to be normal. I am addicted to high of normality, of being able to walk into a restaurant and order anything I like off the menu, and I don't want to give it up. I have complained that the medication has stopped me drinking alcohol, and along with the necessarily limited lifestyle, has changed me into a person I no longer recognise, an invalid. I have insisted that I ought to be able to pull myself together and get on with this. In recent months I had even begun to consider giving up my medication, believing I no longer needed it, any more than I believed I needed my restricted diet or rest, not realising that I was better because I had been resting, not in spite of it..
Exactly. Utterly deluded.
Which is how I ended up sitting in an art gallery on Tuesday, unable to move any part of my body, hold my head up properly, focus my eyes or speak. It was half an hour before I managed to attract help. And it has scared me.
Today I realised that I don't have any choice in this, any more than Jamison did in having to take her lithium. The quality of my life depends on following my treatment regimen. I will get ill again if I don't. It is a simple as that. And I don't know why I can't accept it.
I had already resolved to make 2011 my Year of Self Care. Now I realise how important that resolution is. Now I have to make an effort to stay on the wagon for my own good, and for the rest of my life. Looks like Twelve Steps here I come....