Daily Archives: January 3, 2016


For me, one of the most poetic – and there are many – sights in any cycling stage race is of the peleton moving together along the flat, in the mountains, across major road intersections, seen in profile, or from the air. Cycling in a group like a flock of starlings, requires a great degree of cooperation between rivals. A slightly misjudged turn of the handlebars, a slowing of the cadence by one rider can bring the group crashing to the ground. The peleton protects riders, too. In the mountains that means sprinters and domestiques shielding each other, helping everyone to conserve energy and finishing together within the time limit, so that they live to turn the pedals for another day.

A beguiling as such a sight is, the peleton is not for me. I am not a member of a cycling club, It is very rare that I wheel out into the countryside with a friend (enjoyable as that can be).

Had there been cycling teams and stage races back in the Middle Ages, John Donne (1572 – 1631), that God – Bothering poet of all things spiritual, would have felt comfortable in the peleton. Here are some of his most famous lines:

‘No man is an Island,

entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the Continent,

a part of the main;’

How wrong can you be? Severe, enduring mental illness cuts us off completely from the mainland. Any sighting of land on the horizon sweeps away hope as the wind drops and we idle on the water depleting our resources hour by hour, day be day, week by week.

Social isolation is perhaps the single most important obstacle to recovery. It has the potential for inflicting so much damage. Withdrawal from personal connections with others, whether they are friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances means that subtle changes in behaviour go unnoticed. A person stops leaving their home, be it a room, a flat or house. The fridge is stocked with wilted vegetables, curdled milk and half finished jars of tuna fish. Over flowing ashtrays replace plates and bowls on the kitchen table. Time is held back by old newsapers slumped across chairs or lying forlorn by the front door. There is no concept of peers who understand. There is no acceptance, no patience, no kindness. There is only the receding horizon, the shimmer and haziness of something out there in the distance getting smaller and smaller.

The narrowing of perceived options is a major factor that  pulls people towards suicide. It is the feeling, the thinking, that there are no other scenarios left to them. Writing in ‘The Suicidal Mind’ Edwin S. Shneidman puts it this way: ‘The single most dangerous word in all of suicidolgy is the four – letter word only … ‘ The only way to make this pain stop; the only way to control what is out of control. A. Alvarez, in the seminal work ‘The Savage God’, described the closing in of the mind of the suicidal thus: ‘Once a man decides to take his own life he enters a shut off, impregnable but wholly convincing world where every detail fits and every incident reinforces his decision. Each of these deaths has its own inner logic and unrepeatable despair.’

This sounds like there is little to be done to reach out to someone on the suicidal ledge. But there is so much we can  do. It starts with a conversation.

Click on this link to hear about this in more detail:


This edition’s poem was written by Yours Truly back in 1982.


Chelsea Suicide

I found out by accident.

I pictured you in his smiling face:

Lean cheeks, evasive eyes, ragged, unbrushed hair,

Sitting over mugs of coffee

In the kitchen, your basement flat.

The picture calendar hanging loose,

The silver kettle on the stove,

The chipped cups and dirty knives,

Last week’s paper lying on the side.





Head Down

I’m here, honest. How many posts am I going to start with that line, ha ha. But it’s sort of the quickest and most important bit of information to impart to the rest of the Bipolaratti — I am alive. I still exist. And in my case, that existence continues to be at home rather than in hospital, the holidays went by pleasantly, and so down.

The problem has been fatigue. My chronic fatigue continues to keep me pretty much buried in my nest. Well. Holidays and birthdays mean that I’ve had to leave my nest more times than I normally do, which in turn means less resources to blog, etc. I can’t complain though — it’s been outings with the family, spending time with the family (no fights! best family ever!), a couple of social outings, and my eldest’s first proper birthday party. But it does mean that the second that I’m free of such, I’m curling up with Skyrim and knitting and doing my best to zone out besides cuddling kiddos and husband-person. And as y’all have probably noticed — if I’m not blogging, I’m not making the comment rounds either… sorry about that. But I think we all know the deal on how self-preservation comes first, and then everything else after.

Tuesday is the return to normalcy. The husband-fellow is back in the office tomorrow, while the eldest is back to school on Tuesday. I’ve not even gotten my head around work-related things yet. I hopefully will get back into the swing of things pretty quickly because this is always a busy time of year for our business. I’m trying to not think about it too much right now because I’m whelmed, and on the verge of overwhelmed. Hopefully the return to routine will do the trick though. Holidays are great and all, but stability is definitely the win. And yanno, hopefully getting back into the swing of things hereabouts. :)

Hope everyone out there is doing well.



Sometimes I just cry. And, like, there’s no-one to talk to about it. No-one there to hold me and help me through it. No-one to stop me crying. And sometimes it lasts.. well, a long time. A really long time.



Dental Health and Mental Health

I still remember one of my earliest episodes of panic, which happened in a dentist’s waiting room. As I said in the uncomfortable chair, surrounded by Highlights for Children magazines that I had already read, I felt dread moving up my body from my toes. It crept up my legs into my hips and on into my abdomen. I was convinced that when the feeling of terror reached my heart, I would die. I was called into the doctor’s office before that happened.

This is a memory I have shared with only one other person before now. Just thinking about it still brings back a visceral body memory of fear.

It really bothers me that some people think that good teeth are a sign of moral superiority. Some other people, like me, are simply born with bad teeth, or at least weak, cavity-prone little tooth buds embedded in our infantile gums. Brush as diligently as we might, we are never going to have pristine white teeth like the people on TV.

While my dental phobia can possibly be attributed to the general pool of my anxiety triggers, there were also some outside factors that contributed to it.

My parents were never good role models for dental health, as my mother had gotten dentures at age 16 and my father chewed tobacco.

There were also bad experiences with blame-and-shame dentists and hygienists, one of whom scraped a bit of tartar off my teeth, stuck it in my face, and asked, “If I put that on a piece of bread, would you eat it?”

I used to loathe the public school practice of making us chew little purple tablets to see how clean our teeth really were. My teeth were – and still are – considerably crooked, so it was difficult for me to brush in a manner that wouldn’t leave glaring purple spots all over my mouth.

My teeth have only gotten crookeder, since my parents were not able to afford orthodontia for me. When and where they grew up, braces were a luxury for the well-to-do; rural children like they were simply did without. By the time my sister and I came along we lived in the suburbs, but braces had never become a priority for my parents compared, say, to eyeglasses, which were deemed essential.

My last and most recent experience with a dentist was a number of years ago. I don’t remember what prompted me to go, but I did tell the dentist about my phobia and he was very considerate. (I always look for a dentist whose advertising says, “We Cater to Cowards.”)

He did my exam and treatment in the kiddy room with the bright, nonthreatening murals of cowboys and western scenes on the walls. Just the x-rays and routine cleaning proved alarming enough to trigger one of my worst stress reactions – diarrhea. When it came time for the actual procedures the dentist brought in a traveling anesthesiologist so that I could be knocked out rather than conscious and terrified. My husband was there for driving, moral support, and decisions that needed to be made while I was out cold.

I have not been back to the dentist since. However, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I need to. My teeth ache. My fillings have fallen out. One tooth is broken. Because of that, my teeth are moving in directions they were never supposed to. And that makes my dental bridge (acquired at the aforementioned last experience) fit poorly. I look like the stereotypical Willie Nelson fan. (I am a Willie Nelson fan, but I don’t care to reinforce the popular image.)

This week I was trying to convince myself to call a dentist just for a consultation. I still haven’t managed to do that. Just saying the word “dentist” gave me a spasm in my chest. Maybe I’ll be able to make the call during this coming week.

The only person in the world who is a worst dental-phobe than I am is my sister. She too had childhood dental issues. Once she even bit a dentist and he slapped her. Needless to say, that experience did not improve her attitude toward dental care.

She is also ultra sensitive to (or afraid of) pain and quite terrified of needles. Even as an adult, she has been known to scream so loudly and lengthily that she has cleared an entire dentist’s waiting room. (She then sent the dentist a Halloween card that screamed when you opened it.)

Still, I am a grown up. I need to do this. I cannot convincingly tell myself that waiting will improve the situation. I just have to pick a day for my appointment when my husband is available to take me and I have had my prescription for Ativan recently refilled. And some Immodium on hand.

Wish me luck.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: anxiety, being overwhelmed, bipolar type 2, childhood depression, dental-phobia, fear of dentists, husband, mental illness, panic attack, physical pain, psychological pain, support systems

Judging Books by Covers, & Why Duvets Are the Blankets of Satan

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The latest addition to the mug family: would you have a cuppa there??

Starting 2016 with two 12 hour days has its stormy and silver sides: up til now, I’ve not written more than a paragraph that wasn’t client notes. On the silver, I’m employed in a job I enjoy. That wasn’t the case for approximately 23 years of my working life.

This year I hope to celebrate 30 years in GreenandPleasantLand. I’m still discovering new British words and phrases: for example, did you know that “Rosy Lee” is Cockney rhyming slang for “cup of tea”?

But, why oh why oh why – new year, same whinging me – can I not get the hang of 1) switches on wall sockets, in particular, the ones which help operate kettles, and 2) the damnation that is duvet covers?

A bed, Castle Howard, Sept 2015. I bet the owners don't piss about with duvets.

A bed, Castle Howard, Sept 2015. I bet the owners don’t piss about with duvets.

Get a blanket, Britain. Better yet, several. It is highly embarrassing that at my relatively advanced age, I cannot successfully negotiate a duvet into a duvet cover. It took me three tries to get a blasted duvet into its benighted cover yesterday, and even then it looked lumpy, and kind of, well, stupid.

As for kettles, I’m fine with ones which are known and loved (1). Faced with a new kettle, particularly in a strange kitchen (2), I inevitably switch on the kettle, but not the wall socket. Result: no tea (the horror, the horror!) Further result, I become convinced I haven’t switched the spocking kettle on properly, so I then switch the thing off. Result: no cup of tea. And on and on, into exhausted, befuddled, uncaffeinated abysses I hurtle, til some clever clogs who lives or works there sorts it it.

As for books and covers, this year I was lucky to receive three books for Christmas, plus two lovely notebooks. I do like a nice notebook, and I’m sufficiently American – that is to say, sentimental – to write on the first page who gave it to me, and when.

The hare one is made for the Woodland Trust; I’m not sure about the butterfly notebook:

Lovely notebooks for Christmas 2015, to be filled - I hope - by or before Crimbo 2016

Lovely notebooks for Christmas 2015, to be filled – I hope – by or before Crimbo 2016

As for the books, they are “The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness”, one of the adult Ladybird books which have recently hit the bookshops; “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler, and “84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff. “84” was originally published in 1971. The version I have is a Virago Press hardback.

It is a gorgeous book, so beautiful that Helene Hanff – a bibiliophile if ever there was one – would be proud to own it, and would have written a letter to Frank Doel of Marks & Co., Booksellers, in a flurry of literate excitement.


A shelfette of lovely books

A shelfette of lovely books

I can already recommend “84 Charing Cross Road”, if like me you enjoy reading lively letters between writers and book lovers. “The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness” is a riot: my favourite section so far is about someone achieving “inner peace – even though he has been kidnapped by swans”. The illustrations remind me of the “Dick, Jane and Sally” books of my childhood, including the hated “Think and Do” series.

Meanwhile, on my Kindle, I have several books, including “Messandrierre” by Angela Wren. It’s a mystery set in France, a country Angela knows extremely well. I had the pleasure of listening to her read out sections of this novel at a local writers’ group we both attend, so I’m looking forward to reading the completed book.

Also in the e-book queue are “Pagan Dreaming” by Nimue Brown. A complete departure from so-called “dream dictionaries”, it instead looks at sleep, dreams and rest from many different, thoughtful angles. Then there’s “The Heart of Life”, a book about health and shamanism by Jez Hughes, and “Heval: A Soldier’s Account of the War on Islamic State” by Jorgen Nicolai, which should be fascinating and informative.

I need to spend more time this year reading on the settee, and in bed, and less time worrying about switches, duvets, and work. Not only is reading good for my mental health, it’s a great excuse to put the kettle on.

Our kettle, which I know how to switch on.


Mug, with strange pencil topper: rhino? with a mane??

Mug, with strange pencil topper: rhino? with a mane??

(1) What, doesn’t everyone love their kettle?
(2) As in, unfamiliar. Our kitchen is frequently strange, mainly because I hang out there a lot.



After I wrote my previous blog entry, I let my service dog Atina out to pee and putter around.

Then I felt the scream building up.

Every once in a while, the pressure inside builds and builds, and the only way I can let it out is to scream.  A lot of screams, until my throat is sore, my head is pounding, and I’m too exhausted to scream any more.

But I can’t scream when Atina is with me, in the van.  She already gets concerned when I laugh, because she thinks I’m crying and tries to cover me with her body, which is her way of comforting me.  I like it.

And if I’m in fact crying, she licks away my tears while suffocating me.  She weighs 71 pounds.

So when she was outside, the screams overcame me like a boiling kettle, again, again, again, I couldn’t stop.

Then I heard her barking and scratching frantically at the door.  I stopped screaming and opened the door.

She rushed in and threw herself on me, almost knocking me down.  We clung to each other and she gave little worried yips, stood up and licked my face, and I had to go lie down with her for a while and cuddle till we both felt better and calmed down.

It was a beautiful day, so I figured the best thing we could do was to go for a walk.  As I closed the door of the van, I looked for the scratch marks.

They were right by the door handle.  She had been trying to get the door open, to get to me!

What a precious carrot.