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It's Psychological

5 min read

This is a story about it being all in your mind...

Splattered toilet

Uncontrollable shaking, jaw chattering, nausea, insomnia, restlessness, chest pains, elevated body temperature and sweatiness, breathlessness, diarrhoea and stomach cramps - it sounds like I'm physically sick, but I'm not. I genuinely believe that there's no physical reason why I'm experiencing all these symptoms. It's all in my head.

My symptoms are not due to disease, medication, drugs, alcohol, injury or any tangible physical thing. A medical examination - purely physical - would conclude that I'm in good health.

Why do I feel so damn awful then?

It's been months since I stopped taking the addictive sleeping tablets. It's been months since I stopped taking the addictive painkillers. It's been well over 6 months since I stopped taking the addictive sedatives and tranquillisers. It's been about a year since I stopped taking the stimulant I was addicted to. It's been over a year since I stopped taking opiates for the pain in my ankle. I'm completely clean and I recently had 5 days of sobriety, to prove that I hadn't become alcohol dependent and give my liver a break from the booze.

From what we understand of addiction, there are physical addictions, which we treat with substitute prescribing because the physical symptoms are too awful for addicts to withstand, and there are psychological addictions, which are just a lack of willpower and an indication of moral deficiency and bad character. We understand that psychological addictions are easy to deal with - just quit cold turkey and get over it.

It upsets me that I've done all the hard work of getting off at least 8 addictive substances, with 7 of them considered to be physically addictive, but the 8th still has a psychological hold on me, somehow... 1 year later. That's not supposed to happen. In the textbook, once you quit drugs your life becomes amazing and brilliant and perfect and you never look back. Certainly, the textbook will tell you that physical addictions are real addictions, and psychological addictions are not real addictions at all - they're all in the mind.

So why is it that I'm so sick?

If it's all in my head, why do I feel so nauseous?

If it's all in my head, why is my body shaking uncontrollably?

If it's all in my head, why are my symptoms so manifestly physical that other people can notice them?

Addicts are taught to hate themselves. We're told that we're bad people; that our problems are all our own fault. We're told that we have bad character; we're weak; we lack the moral fibre to buck our ideas up and behave properly. We're told that we're worthless scum... worse than worthless, in fact - a menace to society and death's too good for us.

How can it be then, that I've done all the right things and proven my worth to society; I've proven that I can white-knuckle my way through cold turkey and get clean from not just 1 addictive substance but 8. I've done all the right things, but there's still very a real and tangible physical manifestation of my addiction, which isn't supposed to exist because any residual addiction that I still have is psychological apparently.

It upsets me that I've done all the hard work and proven that I've got incredible willpower, yet this psychological problem with physical manifestation still plagues me.

With my bipolar disorder, I have to be very careful to manage my stress levels, make sure I get enough sleep, have a good routine, eat well and generally look after myself, but I still suffer bouts of depression and episodes of mania. I have to be very careful to not get carried away when the early warning signs of mania and the triggers are present. I have to struggle an incredible amount to hide the fact that I regularly have debilitating depression and suicidal thoughts.

With addiction, we're told that there aren't any tablets to treat it, unless it's a physical addiction. My kind of addiction has supposedly been cured, because I've used the only treatment option that's available: willpower. For over a year, I've managed to control my addiction to my substance of choice, by simply willing my addiction to go away.

It seems a little remarkable to me that I've managed to rebuild a lot of my life and I appear to be a very functional fine upstanding member of society, but yet I'm sick enough to cause concern to my nearest and dearest. How can I be so sick when I've been doing all the right things? How can I be so sick when I haven't done anything wrong? I've followed the textbook to the letter, but reality does not correlate with the wishful thinking you find in the textbooks.

In a perfect world, I'd disappear for a month and go lie a beach in a hot country. In a perfect world, my income would be secure. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have Damocles' sword dangling over me all the time. In a perfect world, I'd put my health first and society's expectations and the unbearable pressures on me second.

This is not a perfect world. I'm trying to build a glider while falling off a cliff.