Part 3b: Sleepless highs

Following on from my sudden epiphany and further essay writing, I returned home late Thursday night to go to bed. The only issue that night was that I did not sleep. I was still buzzing from the excitement of what I thought was a life changing idea. I also felt incredibly happy because my feelings for my girlfriend were growing stronger and overall I was having a good week. No matter how hard I tried, and no matter how long I shut my eyes for, I simply couldn’t drift off to sleep. I would toss and turn, listen to music, attempt meditation techniques. Nothing helped. It then came to my attention that perhaps sleep was no longer necessary for me. After all, I didn’t feel tired at any point throughout the night. My thoughts were getting faster and faster and I felt good. There was no anxiety either, and so I gave in to the overriding urge to stay awake. Because my thoughts were racing, I would type all of my ideas into my phone for later reading. In hindsight, it’s clear that these ideas and jokes that were coming into my head were nothing significant. The ideas were impractical and the jokes were no more than silly puns.

On Friday morning I made my way back to the library. I had a final meeting with my project tutor, as the proposed essay was due in by the end of the day. However, for one reason or another, he decided to extend the deadline to Monday. Great! This allowed me to finish off my piece of art over the weekend. I went to sit at one of the computers, only this time, my thoughts did eventually begin to slow. I felt my brain caving in from the sheer exhaustion of not sleeping for over 24 hours. It was midday when I decided to return home to eventually rest. On the way home I spoke to my dad on the phone. He was understandably concerned.

Dad: “You need to sleep, Jamie. Please make sure you get some rest!”

Me: “I’ll be fine, dad, honestly. I’m heading home now and I’m going to go straight to bed.”

And so I did. I slept for roughly five to six hours that afternoon and into the evening. Things seemed to return back to normality, more or less. I went training that evening, and following that, I went to one of my friend’s birthday pre-drinks. That night I managed to sleep well also.

However, on the Saturday I started to act a little more unusual. England were playing New Zealand in the Autumn internationals, and my house and I had decided to host a number of guests to watch the match. As always, I put on my England jersey, but then decided to put on a YouTube music playlist titled ‘Patriotic English Songs’. This was very out of character for me. What’s more, was that I became very emotional during the build up to the match, and during the national anthems. The next day was remembrance Sunday, and we were only a couple of days away from Armistice day. For some reason, I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears.

During the match I was incredibly excitable. I was shouting, cheering, and swearing as much as the next rugby fan. However, I was making some strange metaphorical references. I remember hanging up my New Zealand match shirt and referencing the Bible, referring to the crucifixion of Christ, and how England will be ‘exposing and crucifying the All Blacks’. In hindsight, this must have appeared very odd to my friends, and also a bit extreme. By the end of the match, I felt like my mood had risen steadily, and my thoughts were racing again. I felt very good.

Sleeping that night wasn’t an issue for me, and so it seemed reasonable to get back to the library to finish the essay once and for all. I spent the majority of Sunday trying to finalise and reference the essay. This did not happen. Again, I was distracted. I would type 100 words, then look back at my essay plan, then at the fifty different tabs I had up on the internet. This didn’t feel like normal procrastination, though. My mind was racing too fast. I simply couldn’t apply myself to one task without becoming engrossed in many others. Finishing this essay became less and less feasible as the day drew on. I cut my losses towards the start of the evening, and so I made my way home for a chilled Sunday, ready for the start of the next module on Monday.

My brain refused to switch off.

That night I lay awake, thoughts racing, mood as high as ever and with simply no desire to drift off to sleep. Again, I tried music, breathing techniques and different positions. Nothing worked. Morning eventually came and I shot up out of bed. “I’ll get through today like I did last week,” I thought, “and everything will be fine.” It had to be though, I had to accept that this was bound to happen every now and again, and I would simply have to get used to the odd sleepless night. Walking to University that morning was an odd experience. My brain was firing on all cylinders. I was very happy and very energetic, but also felt stressed and anxious at the same time. I was emotional and also quite irritable.

The module we were covering was diabetes. I engaged well in the tutorial, however I remember asking very specific questions about the symptoms of diabetes. “Maybe all of my symptoms were due to diabetes?” I thought. Perhaps all of this energy was due to the fact that my blood sugar was excessively high. I also felt that I had lost weight, and was peeing and drinking lots. I was anxiously relating to every symptom that was listed. Bearing in mind that I am not usually a hypochondriac. It is well known that a good proportion of medics speculate about their own health when they learn about a new disease. I am very much not one of those medics. This was therefore very out of character for me. I suddenly announced to the tutorial group that I must have diabetes. I got some very blank stares, and some chuckles as well. Luckily one of the students had a blood sugar testing kit on him from his project the week earlier. My results were normal. However, I was not satisfied.

After the tutorial, I made my way upstairs to the clinical skills lab and acquired a urine testing kit. It came back normal. So what was wrong with me then? I had just proven to myself that I almost definitely did not have diabetes. Something in my brain was trying to search for an answer that couldn’t be answered. Maybe I just needed to sleep. Maybe if I finished the essay it would all go away. Maybe I was just hungry. Maybe it was the climate.

Later that day we had a lecture giving us an overview of diabetes. Something didn’t seem right. I was picking out particular sentences, phrases, and even single words that the Professor was saying, and relating them back to myself. It was similar to the time in Greece, when I was completely misinterpreting was was being said. I suddenly became very paranoid. What was initially a fleeting thought soon became a strong belief. I started to believe that everything the lecturer was saying was directed towards me. Everyone in the lecture theatre was there because of me. This was somehow a set up. It was a message for me to say something, to ask for help. I remained quiet until the end to avoid any embarrassment, and then approached the Professor.

Me: “I think I have diabetes, Professor.”

Professor: “Oh really? And why do you think that?”

Me: “I’m not sure. I tested myself earlier today and it all came back negative, but something doesn’t feel right.”

Professor: “Okay. So you tested your blood sugar and you dipped your urine, and it all came back fine. Are you sure everything is okay with yourself?”

Me “No. I think something is wrong up here [I tearfully point to my head].”

    The Professor reassured me. He gave me some comfort when I started to cry. Unfortunately he was in a rush and couldn’t stay to talk longer, so he gave me his contact details and off he went. I somewhat felt better, however still felt very isolated and alone. I made my way out of the hospital and to the library and bought a poppy on the way. I sat down, put my poppy on and burst into tears again. I was overwhelmed with emotion. The whole week previous had caught up with me, and I sat there reflecting on all the highs and lows, life in general and also the Armistice that was on Tuesday.

Once I had composed myself, I resumed work on my essay in the library. All of a sudden, I panicked. I had logged into Facebook and it felt as if there were a thousand eyes looking at me, a thousand fingers pointing at me, and jeering at me. I was incredibly paranoid. For some reason, I believed that I had done something so terrible and so awful that everyone I knew on Facebook hated me. They were posting messages on their timelines, and sharing posts that indirectly sent me a message telling me how bad of a person I was. I was petrified, alone and vulnerable. I needed to leave. I quickly logged out of the computer and exited the library. Although this was potentially very unwise, I rang the emergency services. I felt very unsafe; I was afraid that people were out to get me and it was only a matter of time before they succeeded. I needed to be taken to a safe place where I couldn’t do any more harm and where no one could harm me. Undoubtedly, I was experiencing an episode of psychosis. Things escalated in my brain so quickly that I couldn’t make sense of anything. It’s almost like jumping to conclusions about a situation, only it’s much worse, and a lot more scary.

My parents were informed when I was taken to Whitchurch Hospital. My dad jumped straight into his car and drove down to Cardiff that evening as soon as he heard what had happened. It was at Whitchurch Hospital where I went voluntarily for assessing. For several hours I spent shuffling around the room nervously, waiting for the crisis team to arrive. I couldn’t leave, and this was the most frustrating part. I did, and said some very strange things in that room, but my memory is quite hazy of what happened. I can remember believing that my girlfriend was looking at me through the camera situated in the top corner of the room, and that she was being held in a surveillance van outside the hospital. I remember trying to flood the sink in the toilets with my jumper so I could try to drown myself. I was quickly stopped from doing anything stupid.

Once my dad arrived, we were led to another room where I was assessed by a Psychiatrist, a GP, a Psychiatric Nurse and a Social Worker. They quickly figured out that things were not well with me. I was prescribed sleeping tablets and some Valium to help with my symptoms. Again, no diagnosis was reached. However, upon returning back to my house in Cardiff, I finally slept well. The next day my dad drove me back home. Thoughts were no longer racing, yet I was still very delusional. I couldn’t listen to the radio, or read the paper without getting paranoid that people were trying to send me messages, and tell me that I was a bad person.

I ended up being assessed by the crisis team in Warrington. They were friendly and empathic with me. They seemed to understand why I was feeling this type of way. After reading the assessment, ‘Query Bipolar’ was the top differential on the Psychiatrist’s list. They decided that the best thing for me at this point was to start me on a medication called Olanzapine, an anti-psychotic. After two weeks of being home and taking this medication, my thoughts, mood and general functioning became more or less stable. It was as though my old self and mind had made its way back. I was to stay on Olanzapine indefinitely.

Published by Jimmy Pete

I work as a qualified doctor in Wales. I also live with Bipolar Affective Disorder. I love rugby, long walks and drinking coffee! I have a very loving and caring group of friends and family that look out for me in times of need. They have allowed me to progress to a point in my life where I am confident enough to talk about my mental health, which I hope in turn, allows others to open up about their issues.

One thought on “Part 3b: Sleepless highs

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s great to hear you received the support and help ASAP!!! It’s not easy juggling your studies and managing this. I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job. You’re an inspiration. Happy New Year 🎆😀

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