Tag Archives: mental illness

Get Nuts, Pay Monkeys

I have just received payment for being mental.
The three main health insurance companies in Ireland fight fiercely for business between each other. They have an odd way of doing this, in that they add an ever expanding range to what they’ll recompense you for, such as dental floss, laxatives and tarot card readings (ok, I was exaggerating there) but then will increase their fees by 45% (I wasn’t exaggerating there, it happened just last week).

Our company pays for health insurance for its employees, and every few months our insurers will send a rep to us so that anyone wishing to make a claim can do so. I’ve never bothered before, since they don’t reimburse you for medication. Since my medication makes up 90% of my annual medical costs it never seems worth filling out the form just to be paid 30 euro for one doctor’s visit.

Just before Christmas he called again, and this time I decided to see him, since I had more than just one doctoral trip, I also had the visit to the clinic near my office to get my ears unblocked (somehow it just seems wrong to be covered for that, it wasn’t exactly life-threatening) and I also had my five physio visits after my mishap last ice-covered January (as I reported at the time, while everyone else was spraining ankles, breaking wrists and banging their heads off the ice, I hurt the lower muscles of my back by coughing while hunched forward over my laptop.)

Plus we’re all a lot more broke than last year, and every mickle makes a muckle (no, haven’t a clue what that means, and neither does Spellcheck), so I went to the drawer in the kitchen where I keep my medical bills (yes, we have one drawer just for my medical stuff) and I sorted this year’s receipts into drugs and others. I put the drug bills back and put the doctor and physio bills into my bag to bring to work. This left me with the four bills at €120 each from my psychiatrist and, on a whim, I put them in too.

I met the rep and showed him everything, then finally produced the shrink’s bills. He looked a bit wary, as anyone might who suddenly realised they were alone in a room with a self-confessed looner. “Er, don’t know about them,” he said,” let’s just submit them and see what the lads back in the office think.”

Yesterday the cheque arrived. The insurance company have paid 50 per cent of the cost of each visit.

Not only that, but the tax office will grant me tax relief at 20 per cent on the balance. This means that each of my four visits have cost just 48 euro.

I will remember this the next time the IRFU ask for 50 quid for a ticket to Ireland v Samoa. As a rugby fan I could of course pay out this sum to stand in the cold to watch a meaningless friendly  international.
OR…  I could spend two euro on a paper to find out who won, and with the remaining money I could sit in a warm room on a comfy sofa and talk about myself for half-an-hour.

There’s no contest, really. I might be mad, but I’m not daft.

In Heart and Mind

By co-incidence I was given appointments for my latest visit to my shrink and my latest pacemaker check on successive days this week. 

Yesterday morning I’d to see my psychiatrist (or nut-doctor as I once referred to him here, before Mwa pointed out that that phrase has more than one meaning) and as my new mode of transport, the 84X, actually passes St John of Gods I opted not to get a lift from Mrs Tin this time and to catch my usual bus instead. I soon realised that I hadn’t fully thought this through.

Unlike the train, a bus is relatively small with a limited number of seats, and one quickly gets to know one’s fellow passengers by sight. For instance, the same two girls stand with me at my stop each morning, and when we get on the same people tend to be sitting in the same seats, so that already I am starting to note when people are missing and obviously on holiday. Not only that, but I have a fair idea of where each person gets off.

And I’m sure they know as much about me, as I’ve got off at the same stop every day since I started getting the bus. Yesterday morning, however, I suddenly stood up six miles short of my usual destination, at a stop just outside St John of Gods. This stop is on a dual carriageway, and St John of Gods is the only possible destination for anyone getting off there. Short of wearing a T-shirt saying “yes, I have a mental problem” it’s hard to see how I could have made it more obvious. It may be just co-incidence, but no-one sat beside me on the bus this morning.

That was pretty much the most interesting part, really. My shrink and I have confirmed that I’m a lot happier, sleep a lot better and am really a whole lot more well than I’ve been for about two years. My only remaining problem is the derealisation, which he has warned me can be notoriously hard to shift. We are trying yet more medication in an effort to break it, so that now by the time I go to bed each evening I am basically a stomach full of pills surrounded by skin.

When the session was over I’d to get another bus the rest of the way to work. Getting on outside St John of Gods is as big a giveaway as getting off there, and things were not helped by the fact that, just as I reached the bus-stop, a fly or something flew into my eye. As a result I got on the bus just outside Ireland’s most famous mental hospital, sat wiping at my eyes the whole way into Dublin, and could almost hear the my fellow passengers thinking “poor fucker, they’ve told him he needs a lobotomy”.  

Then today I went to St Vincent’s Hospital (yes, all our Health Institutions are named after saints. I think the government believe that if the term “saints preserve us” actually works then they won’t have to spend any money on making us better) to get my pacemaker checked. I never have any trouble getting time off for medical tests of any kind, since if you black out often enough and spectacularly enough in an office your employers will practically drive you to the appointments themselves, so I left the office mid-morning, got another bus (different route, unlikely to have been any of the same passengers, thankfully) and arrived again at the scne of so many tests, scans and operations. Once again I was strapped to a bed by a young girl who then twiddled things to make my heart-rate rise and fall (I’m hoping to get a lot of hits out of that last phrase).

And guess what? Since I was last there my heart, according to this young lady, has done one hundred per cent of the beating. In other words, my pacemaker hasn’t had to turn on at any time in the last six months.

And while this means that I’m carrying around a thing inside me that’s doing nothing, like a metal appendix, it’s about the best news I could get.

Back on the Couch, or Sofa

Went back to see my shrink in the Loony Bin again this morning.

As before, I had to wait outside his room and read his magazines. Since I was there last he’s added a Formula 1 mag (perhaps he read what I said about last time), and also a magazine called Psychologies. I had a look at it (well, it had Angelina Jolie on the cover) and found that, while the first few articles were about things to do with the mind, it then had sections about skincare, creams,  relationships, etc. In another words, it’s Woman’s Own for people with mental issues (“Schizophrenic? Crochet these TWO great outfits!”).

They have a poll for their readers, and in the issue I was reading (June 2009 – this is a Doctor’s reception, after all), they gave the result of May’s poll:

“We asked do you think that Blogging is boring or a great way of expressing yourself?

Well, 79% of you think it’s pointless, while 21% of you love it as a way to communicate.”


Anyhow, eventually I went in. I tried not to analyse everything as much this time, though I noticed at one stage that I had my left leg crossed so firmly that the lower half of me was practically facing behind me.

And there probably isn’t anything interesting in the fact that, while he remembered me very well and remembered all my symptoms, he couldn’t actually find the notes he took last time (it’s almost certainly not because he’s sent them to the Freud University of Psychosis in Basel, and I’m about to make him famous).

So, how am I?

Well, when I went last he put me on tablets to stop me waking at 3.30 and staying awake for the rest of the night. When I started these I also made a decision that I would not get up before 6.30 any morning, no matter when I woke. I told the office that I wouldn’t be in at seven any more and wouldn’t be the one opening up (which is going well – I come in at 8.10 some mornings and people are sitting working with just lights on over their own desks, and with the alarm ringing).

And it’s starting to work.  I used to wake at half-three & lie there thinking “oh god, it’s nearly four, and four is nearly five, and then I’ll have to get up”. Now I look at the clock, see it’s 3.30, and think “great, three hours to go”, and nearly always fall asleep again.

And I think I’m starting to get better, because I’m starting to feel worse. When you’re derealised you feel detached from everything, and the one good thing about that is, that while you know your life’s pretty miserable, you can’t really feel all that bad about it.

Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve had odd flashes where I suddenly realise “God, what I’m going through is shit.

I think this is a good sign. I’ve never felt better about feeling crap.

Wrapped In Cotton Wool

I’ve nicked this from Lottie’s blog:


I read it last week and thought, wow, that’s really good, it sums up the way I feel with this depersonalisation thing, and then I pretty well forgot about it.

Until today.

I’m writing this post at home, at ten past three in the afternoon. In other words, I didn’t go to work today. I was awake ontime (in fact, as usual, I was awake at half past four) but I just couldn’t face another day of having everything happening miles away, while I carried on inside my head full of cotton wool. I feel a bit mortified now, I’ve rung in sick when there is nothing physically wrong with me, but just for once I decided to be selfish.

This thing has been going on for two years now, since the time when my blackouts were at their worst, and when we still had no idea what was causing them. One day I realised that I wasn’t really experiencing anything anymore, that I felt permanently numb as if slightly drunk. I realise that this was a defence mechanism, that my brain was shutting down my emotions so that I could continue to function, without sitting transfixed by terror at the fact that I might have something fatal. It’s the same numbing process that gets people through bereavements, and then it passes over time.

But mine hasn’t. I can still work, converse, write brilliant blogs, delude myself about my blogs, entertain and be entertained by the wonderful kids that I’ve been blessed with, but I’m not fully experiencing any of it.

And this morning I just gave up. The idea of another day in the office with noise going on all around me, but slightly muffled, of being asked sometimes why I’m so quiet, of facing two packed train journeys (I’m also now panicky in crowds since the blackouts) just felt like too much so, like a teenager with a hangover, I pulled a sickie.

Still, I’ve spoken to my doctor, and I’m going see someone next week (great, now I’m in therapy). And between that and the one day off, I already feel that I can cope better. I’ll have no problem going to work tomorrow, and having missed today I’ll be so busy tomorrow that it’ll just fly. Then next week I’ll hopefully begin the process of getting rid of this.

I’ve fought heart problems, and depression, and now I’m going to fight this.

Don’t worry, I’m going to win.