Homeland - how I relate
Posted Tuesday 30 October 2012
In the opening episode of the 2nd series we see Carrie picking vegetables in the garden. The viewer is led to believe that she is ‘well’ when in fact I’m more than sure she is fighting inner turmoil on a scale only those who suffer from bipolar can relate to.
Your thoughts race, you feel on top of the world, you feel invincible, you feel you can make a real change in the world, reality doesn’t exist. You have so many ideas you have to write them all down. Your mind is aching because it so active, you try to control it by trying to rest but you can’t sleep because there’s only so much time to capture this wonderful kaleidoscope of ideas. You spend every waking moment trying to be normal, whatever that is. Your mood swings from euphoria to depression several times a day. You really are on a rollercoaster and the only way you will be able to get through it, is to hold on tight and hope you come out the other side.
Carrie’s dad is bipolar and knows exactly what she is going through – he comments that he thinks her lithium levels are too high. Carrie’s sister, on the other hand, goes into protective mode. She tells him to switch the TV off which is reporting on the troubles in Beirut. He quite rightly replies that Carrie’s not stupid, she knows what is going on. People may think you’re ‘not all there’ but you are.
Like it or lump it a real person is still in there amongst all this confusion trying to be ‘normal’. In the few months prior to my sectioning I was so paranoid I really could have done without my family talking behind my back, thinking I couldn’t hear what they were saying.
I realise they were worried about my behaviour and didn’t have a clue how to deal with my outbursts. But it just made me ten times more paranoid, and believe me, that is the worst part of bipolar. You feel like you can’t trust anyone.
The only person I could trust was my new social worker Julia. She is an amazing woman, Scottish and says how it is, no mucking about. She sectioned me in the bath – I wanted to wash my hair and drive myself to hospital, which I did. I also insisted on taking my dog with me convinced I would be back home within a few hours. A culmination of 3 months of paranoia, mania, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts all came to head.
Carrie is taking her medication - as long as she takes her medication she will be ‘maintained’. I worked at a mental health hospital before I was sectioned but by typing audio recordings from inpatient clinics I suspected something was wrong with me.
I also learned that most of the patients came back, only because they thought they were well and had stopped their medication. This is one thing I acknowledge as important. I still have dips and troughs but mostly dips. I think I could have been sectioned again, had it not been for me knowing to take my meds, my management plan and my relationship with my mental heath care team. The psychiatrists are always available for me to discuss any worries and they listen and put me back on track.
When Carrie swallows her meds and looks at herself in the mirror I know what she is thinking, I think it all the time ‘who am I?’. Not only do the meds dampen your emotions and sometimes make you feel like a zombie, you just don’t feel human.
It’s very difficult to explain. You try to tell your image you are OK, you’re doing OK, you’re not a bad person but all you really end up doing is creating yourself more anxiety and panicky feelings. You crave the ability to take ‘flight’ and go and hide in your bed where you feel safe from the outside world. You know damn well that this will just make the situation ten times worse and put off the inevitable of facing the world, but somehow you have to be strong and defy this voice telling you to do this.
Sometimes you can’t face the world, it’s just too big and you are scared what people think of you if you have been off sick, you imagine them judging you, a snowball of emotions and worry envelope you. You struggle to find a way out and to put things into context but you just can’t. You’ve been buried under a circle of emotions, which each time you try to address, you spin round and repeat them only letting them ingrain themselves into your mindset.
Again, each time the thoughts and emotions damage you even more and you literally kick yourself whilst you’re down. Your confidence nosedives and you are rapidly descending into depression and the black hole but you can’t see a way out.
Saul shows how much he trusts Carrie by engaging with her again and asking for her help. He knows that he can rely upon her. She begs him not to make her do this, she’s says she’s put it all away into a ‘compartment’. She makes a final plea: “Today is Thursday, I cook for the family with the vegetables I picked from the garden.” He persuades her by ensuring she can trust him and that he has faith in her.
I don’t have this luxury; I wish I did have that relationship with someone. I’m pretty sure it’s my paranoia but most of the time I feel some work colleagues and friends are forever weighing me up and lose patience with me.
I can understand that because until you have experienced depression yourself you cannot relate to the person. A lot of people still think it is a matter of ‘just pulling yourself together’ but sadly a lot of damage is done emotionally and it is physically draining. I try to be upfront and honest and since the Time to Change campaign I have made sure I don’t hide behind my illness but sometimes I wonder what they really think of me. There is still a stigma and lack of understanding that’s why I feel so strongly about promoting the Time to Change campaign.
When David, the boss of the CIA wants to meet Carrie, she quite rightly feels aggrieved with David and displays her anger by making defensive remarks. David says he hears she’s doing well and she feels patronised. David says, “Can I make it clear this isn’t you getting your job back." Carrie replies, “Can I make it clear I haven’t agreed to go.”
This is a trait I sure wish I had. Although sometimes there is a time and a place! I tend to get upset instead of angry, maybe that’s a good thing, in some circumstances, however I sometimes come out of important meetings and think ‘I wish I had said this and I wish I had said that’ – and the opportunity has passed for me to say how I feel, so ‘I put up and shut up’ which has a knock-on affect on my self-esteem. I just take criticism very badly and personally – it has to be constructive.
When Carrie starts to throw some clothes in a bag, her sister becomes the protector and is rightly anxious about letting her go. She fears re-admission. She reiterates the need for routine, schedules and reduction in stress. Her father lets her go with his full support, this must be a very hard decision but he knows she needs to do this. By giving his support he’s giving her the confidence she needs.
If someone shows faith in you, it really does help. If you are faced with negativity or protectiveness it can only hinder you. But I can understand a relative’s anxiety and their need to cosset you. Sometimes with bipolar, reality can play tricks on you and you need someone impartial to say ‘Hey, take a step back and look from the outside in’.
Carrie is a determined character and I am also to a certain extent. My downfall is my lack of trust in myself, having to ask for reassurance from people who only criticise me – I am constantly looking for approval. I am not good at having the confidence to do things without evaluating the consequences first – Carrie does that in the final scenes of the first episode, she disobeys Saul’s instructions to meet him at a safe-house. She uses her own memory to ascertain the best way to intercept her informant.
Trust in myself is something I need to develop, when I have good ideas and find myself being creative and efficient instead of lazy and sloath-like I really don’t trust myself – its like a ‘new’ me who I don’t recognise. When I discussed this recently with my psychiatrist she said “maybe it’s because you haven’t managed to be happy enough in your life to recognise your happy –self?”. Mmmm ……
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