I’ve been a mad person in psychiatric services for 15 years and have spent 12 years on Lithium, which means I’m in the lost causes league.

Heather‘s #MadCovidDiaries 27.5.2020 

Moonstruck.

I’m showing my fellow volunteers how Zoom works. We click through the menu above our faces and I explain that you can rename yourself. ‘You could have a nickname, or choose your pronouns, or make up a whole other name, if you like.’ I spend the rest of the session teaching Cher and Princess Bananas how to use Zoom as they cackle and morph into the Brooklyn Bridge virtual background. In this virtual existence, a person can Turn Back Time, or break out in hitherto undiscovered royalty. It’s a chance to have a do over – a new identity with the kind of ‘Bowie in Space’ virtual background that would make an excellent pop album cover.

I get a letter to inform me that this next psychiatrists appointment will be conducted via a phone call. I get two appintments a year because I take Lithium. National monitoring rules mandate that a psychiatrist oversees this Lithium, lest I pickle myself by accidentally taking too much. My GP helpfully supports this by calling me in every 3 months when my blood test shows my lithium level is wonky – only to sigh that he feels frustrated that, as a GP, he can’t override the psychiatrists decision. Frustration? Tell me about it, I say. You and me both.

I’ve been a mad person in psychiatric services for 15 years and have spent 12 years on Lithium, which means I’m in the lost causes league. Always on the caseload, never an emergency. The pharmaceutical science experiment that was my care plan has lost it’s appeal, there are no more meds to try unless I could consent to give up cheese for an MAOI. No way. So I am simply ‘monitored.’

The last appointment I had was disheartening; in that my psychiatrist – who has been treating me since 2016 and did the Trust’s Fire Safety training sat alongside me, where we introduced ourselves using FIRST names- completely forgot who I was. That wasn’t the disheartening bit. The disheartening bit was when he remembered who I was and the disappointment of it was writ large on his face.

It got silly, in the end. He asked me what I hoped to achieve by asking for this appointment I pointed out he’d generated this appointment six months earlier than normal with no explanation as to why I needed to come in. It was then we both knew the only way to save face was to politely pretend it was the other persons fault and seethe quietly.

I’ve nothing new to report. Still mad. Lithium is a rough medication to take in the summer, staying hydrated is hard enough the rest of the year, so in hot months I lurch around sloshing full of water, puffy ankles, seasick. I imagine my dear psychiatrist sat in his office readying himself for the phone call. He still writes immaculate notes with his dip pen and ink bottle. There he’ll be, glossy Windsor and Newton cursive looping along the page as he tries his best to figure out who the hell I am and I pretend the entire call isn’t making me feel awful and doomed to fail.

Secretly, I have a plan though. While we talk, I’ll pretend we’re on Zoom. I’ll imagine I’m an intergalactic Cher, bouyant with star-speckled Lithium in my veins. I’ll float, orbiting the planet with a big, bloated, buffering face as lunatick looking as the Moon herself, gazing down on the good doctor. This pandemic is, after all, a chance for a do over. Or maybe just a greatest hits compliation.

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