Thursday, September 13, 2007

Progression or Regression?

Sometimes I just can’t tell.

Mr Man keeps a lot of how he feels to himself. Often I have to rely on visible “signs” of symptom fluctuation, such as pacing the floor and looking out of the window a lot, and then I ask him specific questions. Occasionally he makes the statement: “I don’t feel very well” without prompting, but he doesn’t elaborate on what that means without very specific questions. Simply asking “In what way?” produces the response “All ways”. I have to actually ask: “Are the voices worse?” and he’ll nod to confirm that they are.

Mr Man appears to be coping very well at the moment. He’s been keeping himself incredibly busy in his studio, either by composing music, writing computer programs or designing websites. This is obviously a good thing and shows that his level of concentration has improved dramatically.

Also, he actually came to a wedding with me at the weekend, and I was amazed at how well he coped. In the past he would have been throwing up, shaking, sweating, and looking extremely pale, but although I know he was feeling anxious he controlled it very well and showed no visible signs of it. We were both relieved to find that it was a relatively small occasion, but we didn’t stay for the whole evening; the ceremony, the meal, and the speeches were more than enough for Mr Man. Once we stood up to leave Mr Man couldn’t get out of the building quick enough and I found myself chasing after him!

But besides the expected worsening of symptoms since the wedding, there have been other little things that make me wonder if Mr Man is doing as well as it appears.

Recently he’s taken to sitting on the front doorstep. Initially I thought this was a step forwards as he’s usually anxious about being outside where “the voices can see him”. But then I realised this was merely an extension of looking out of the window, which he does because he believes people are watching the house. I asked him one day if he was getting some air, but he told me he was “just keeping an eye on things”.

"The Threshold" by Philippa King

Also, although I’m glad that he has been keeping himself busy and distracted in his studio, this also means that he is neglecting himself more than usual. After sleeping a lot myself the other day, I woke in the evening to find that he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink all day.

I was amazed to find that he had actually washed his own hair last week, and again, this would appear to indicate progress. He said it was because he didn’t want to wake me, but I suspect it was because he was trying to escape the anxiety of being forced to have a bath. He didn’t escape it though; I made him have a bath before the wedding. But there’s something about bathing that makes him revert back to something resembling the man I cared for before his first hospital admission. He suddenly becomes withdrawn and depressed, and he just sits there with his head hanging low, unwilling or unable to wash himself; I can’t tell which. He says he hates getting wet, and having a bath makes him feel “exposed”, but unfortunately it’s one of those necessary things that I have to make him do sometimes.

Generally though, I would still say he’s doing much better than previously. Although his symptoms worsened after the stress of the wedding, it wasn’t as bad as when he went to a committee meeting for his table tennis club a couple of months ago.

Mr Man seems reluctant to admit that he is improving though. I wonder if it is because subconsciously he worries that if others think he is improving then too much will be expected of him, or that he won’t be given the support that he still needs. That must be a very real fear for people recovering from mental illness, especially as so many people only seem to be able to understand “ill” or “well” and nothing in between. “In between” can be very confusing though.


Anonymous Mom said...

i know exactly what you mean by that - i am worrying that i am expecting too much of todd because he usually appears to be doing well. when he is not doing well, it surprises me a little.

Mr Mans Wife said...

Yes, it's confusing isn't it? I think it's a combination of things that add to the confusion;
- the unwell person not wanting to worry others,
- that "in between" stage where the unwell person can cope with some things but not others,
- and misinterpretation of behaviour.
There's probably other things too, but those are the main things I have noticed.

Seaneen said...

Yep, the ill and well thing is exactly right.

Mr Mans Wife said...

I guess you'd know that more than anyone Seaneen; you already have the problem of people expecting too much from you and support being withdrawn.

Catherine said...

Just wanted to say that your post makes sense to me and that I am still reading.

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you Catherine, that's good to know; I appreciate that.