THE DARK SIDE

I watched Inception the other night – one of my all-time favourite films. The concept of ‘limbo’ (described as “an expanse of raw, infinite subconscious”) and everything else about the film fascinates me. Christopher Nolan’s (director) idea is delightfully complex, yet fresh (and brilliant), masterfully executed by top-notch actors and packed with edge-of-your-seat action. If you haven’t seen it, what have you been doing with your life?

Joking apart, my mother and brother sit there going, “What? Why? How?” while I am transfixed! (Don’t necessarily ask me to explainthe plot, though – that’s a job for someone who doesn’t have a muddled, schizophrenic kind of thought process) … 😉

But, cognitive functions aside, I’ve been doing so well lately – so, on Friday, having a bit of a ‘dip’ in my mood (and functioning) came as an unwelcome surprise. Yeah, I felt frustrated, angry and helpless all of a sudden (not a state I like being in) – and it continued into Saturday. It’s only today I’m feeling a bit better.

Let me explain:

90 % of the time, I consider myself pretty darn content with life and able to cope – thanks to the massive support from my family, wonderful network, psychiatric nurse and, of course, the medicine I take to control my symptoms. I don’t see any reason to complain. I’ve never been a ‘mood swing’ kind of person. In fact, all things considered, I’m pretty stable that way – usually in a good mood. So, when my mood DOES drop, it’s freaking terrifying (!), because I don’t know how to ‘get back’ to the good mood – and, suddenly, the 90 % of time that I’m not down in the dumps’ seems like a foreign nation (further exacerbating my panic).

There’s also the thought that I SHOULDN’T feel low. That I can’t ‘afford’ it. I’m in such a good place (so much better than I’ve ever been) and all that I’ve slowly and surely built up … I can’t bear to see it ‘go to waste’. What I mean is: when I’m feeling low, I don’t have energy for all the things I normally do ‘without thinking’ on a daily basis. Ceramics. Seeing friends. Going to family get-togethers. Walking my dog. Coping in general. Looking after myself. It’s scary when you can’t even find the energy to wash your hair. To wash your hair.When you can’t listen to music because it feels like an intrusion rather than a pleasure. Having an inner freak-out moment when walking the dog and just having to grit your teeth and keep walking, even though your legs are shaking and your heart is racing, and you can’t put your finger on why …?

So, of course, when these ‘little’ things seem overwhelming – how on earth would you cope with getting out the door, being around people and behaving normally? You wouldn’t. So maybe you apologetically cancel your plans and skip ceramics for one week. But you can’t continue to do that. Unless you’ve had a full-blown relapse, there’s no excuse to just sit at home all day doing nothing.

Limbo – being ‘in-between’. It’s a difficult state to find yourself in. Not ill enough to be hospitalised, but not healthy enough to be a contributing member of society. Easy enough to answer questions in a conversation already taking place, but too challenging to take initiative yourself. Not so drained that all you can do is sleep, but not enough energy to do your makeup and brush your teeth. I’m beginning to understand why the neglect of personal hygiene can often be one of the warning signs that someone is slipping into psychosis. I should add, at this juncture, that I have healthy, well-cared-for teeth but I do know how easy it could be to ‘forget’ to look after them when you’re in the throes of a ‘slump’. With the double-whammy of antipsychotic medication also affecting your mouth (dry mouth being a common side effect) I really understand how important it is to brush and floss on a daily basis. It’s a harsh reality that appearances mean a lot, no matter how ‘shallow’ that might seem. And, unfortunately, society in general is waaay too focused on and obsessed with looks, but it doesn’t change the (psychological) fact that being polished and presentable does work to one’s advantage.

When I’m in this state of limbo (and, thank goodness, it’s not morphed into a relapse since 2015) I feel helpless, panicky – like I’m losing control. And, to some degree, I am losing control – because I can’t control it. My relapse in 2015 came like a bolt from the blue. So why couldn’t it happen again? When I’m already feeling vulnerable, that thought is very frightening. I really can’t be doing with having to rip six months (at least) ‘out of my calendar’ and start from scratch again – especially not with having come SO far. I have so much to lose. Schizophrenia isn’t known for being well-timed, but I haven’t factored relapse into my ‘recovery journey’ since 2015 (because I’ve felt so much more equipped to cope) and, perhaps naively, believe ‘it won’t happen to me again’.

Some people can express their darkest moments through art. I can’t. I simply don’t have the energy to pick up a paintbrush when I’m feeling that way. For me, ‘limbo’ is utterly useless – I don’t learn anything from it, I cannot produce anything of value and all it does is send me spiralling into a state of panic and agitation. This is often when I feel an urge to talk to someone to get relief – but my mum cannot always be my ‘on-call’ 24/7 psychologist. I have to find a healthier, more practical way of dealing with the chaos inside my head when things go pear-shaped.

Writing, as always, helps me SO much. Which is part of the reason why I get extremely anxious when the words just won’t come to me. I couldn’t have written this blog post on Friday (note: for my Danish followers, “on Friday” (in English) can mean both the previous Friday or the upcoming one (unlike in Danish where “på fredag” only means the upcoming Friday). Just so you know – I’m talking about the previous Friday!).

In Inception, a lot of things have to fall into place simultaneously for the team’s mission to succeed. They are attacked from all sides, run into endless obstacles and have to quickly adapt and ultimately complete the mission a lot faster than anticipated. I guess you could liken it to recovery. Having to deal with voices, cognitive symptoms, stress factors, frustrations, side effects, unexpected incidents, bullying trauma and so on, is no easy task while trying to build and live as normal (or just fulfilling) a life as possible … and life also has a habit of demanding your absolute full attention and best efforts, especially when times get tough.

The fascinating concept of dreams, ideas and the subconscious, the superb acting, the use of impressive practical stunts rather than special effects, the brilliance of coordinating a multi-layer dream and even the film not being a typical clear-cut portrayal of ‘good vs. bad’ (due to the unethical nature of Saito’s motives) make Inception a filmic work of art, in my opinion.

Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is messy and ugly. I do my best to explain my experiences with the disease in as concise and honest a way as possible – and hope it continues to reach and help those who need it. How has my book helped you the most?

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