What goes up must come down.

We had sausages on bread for dinner tonight. Again. I think our family has gone through twelve kilos of sausages in the past three weeks. Its cheap, the kids actually eat it and it doesn’t take too much effort to cook after I have been at work. My husband though, sees this as an entree and gets frustrated at the lack of the home-cooked meals like lasagne, steak and veges and chicken parmi that he had grown accustomed to. So the guilt of not ‘providing’ our family with a decent healthy, filling and effort-filled meal is starting to eat away at me. I just keep reminding myself that it is all we can afford at the moment, its all the effort I can put in and at least they are getting fed. (To be fair, I did manage a pork roast and Lemon chicken through the week on days that I didn’t work.)

So there’s food guilt.

I had a follow up appointment with my psych on monday to discuss the progress I am having on my increased medication. I didn’t feel any different, and still felt the frustration of not ‘getting better’ after being sick for a few months. Surely I should feel a little better? The guilt of not being able to sit with my son to do his homework without becoming irritated or only being able to handle being out in the park with them for half an hour before I desperately need to go home and rest is getting to me.

So there’s mummy guilt.

My psych asked how my husband is coping. He’s not. He is stepping up and doing dad duties where I am failing my mummy duties- reading books, cooking dinners and doing homework with the boys. He lets me go and sit on my friends couch at 8pm when I just need to get out of the house (even more impressive when my ‘get away from it all’ friend is a male) without question and lets me go to sleep at 8:30pm while he plays Xbox. We don’t have much time together these days, but I need him more than ever. Many times I have cried to him “I’m so sorry that I’m so broken, please don’t leave me, i’m trying to get better.”

So there is wife guilt.

I had an ‘up’ day on Wednesday. I woke up with energy and went to work feeling more myself than I had in months. I finally felt like my meds were doing something productive. That night I went shopping with feral kids and although I yelled at them in the car during an argument with Mr 7, I didn’t feel any form of rage or irritation build up in my chest like I have for the past few months. I went and sat on my mates couch again for a few hours while my husband had a friend over to watch the Origin. I got home at 9pm and went to bed as not to disturb my sleep pattern.

On Thursday I woke up and knew something wasn’t right. I told my husband before he went to work that I wasn’t feeling great- I felt exhausted. I texted a workmate and said that I needed her to be my buffer at work today, so that I didn’t end up a blubbering mess. I told another friend that I desperately wanted to call in sick. He encouraged me to, but I felt as though I would be pissing off my duty manager if I did so simply due to a broken head. So I spent my post-school-run morning sitting on the mattress on the floor until I had to leave and go to work. It was hard. I got to work and my brain physically hurt. I was spaced out and felt ‘trapped’ in my own head. I moved slowly, I couldn’t engage in conversation and I wanted to cry at the thought of having a busy lunch shift.

I told my bosses that I wasn’t’ feeling great and may need a few time outs through the day. They have been absolutely outstanding through this whole thing. Although many people don’t understand how mental illness can affect your work, thankfully my bosses know first hand and have made me feel very safe in admitting I am not coping. But at 11am I felt the need to sit down. And I couldn’t get up. The only movement I could do was to sob. I felt so physically fatigued it was a struggle to find my boss and tell him I needed to leave. I was so tired. I came home and didn’t even make it to the bed, I walked inside, took my uniform off and plonked down on the mattress in the floor. Where I stayed for four and a half hours- in the same position. When the babysitter bought the kids home at 4pm she awoke me from a two hour nap. I felt bad for asking her to work when it wasn’t necessary- but in a way I was glad she did- it enabled me to rest and sleep. That afternoon I wrote a text to my boss apologising for being so flaky and unreliable. He said to not even apologise, to just get better. But the guilt of feeling like I am letting people down and burning bridges is difficult to live with.

So there is work guilt.

I have started to shift my friendship dynamics, not feeling like texting certain people, not knowing what to say to others, oversharing or overtexting with other friends, bailing on plans and turning up on peoples doorsteps just to sit silently on their couch. I am an unreliable and moody friend, worried that I am pushing people away while I feel like an unsociable bitch. But honestly, I have barely enough energy to care about my own life, it takes effort to care about other peoples. My desire to be included in gossip circles and know what’s going on around me is diminished- I just don’t care.

So there’s friend guilt.

Today was a good day. I got through work with no major hiccups and did my job well. I got home and had a conversation with my husband. But the whole week has been constant waves of ups and downs. More downs, by far, but I am hopeful that one day I will have a steady stream of ‘ups’. I am not my bipolar. I am struggling with guilt that is a result of being sick. Thats what I am- I have a mental ‘illness’ and it makes my life difficult in ways that create guilt. But my family is getting fed, the bills are getting paid, my husband hasn’t packed his bag and walked out, my children still love me (my daughter is on my lap cuddling me as I type) I still have friends that check in on me and some are actually closer and my job is still safe.

All the guilt is in my head. Everyone assures me I shouldn’t feel guilty for any of the above things but it isn’t that easy. ‘Harden up’ has been uttered numerous times but it is hard when you live inside your own head, overanalysing everything and thinking that the problem is you. That your boss is in a bad mood because you are taking so many days off, that your partner is tired because you are sleeping through the crying child, that your childrens bad moods are a result of your lack of parenting. I need to remind myself that there are other factors that are at play, that I am not the central problem.

 

I need to stop feeling guilty for having bipolar depression.

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Don’t take this personally, but…

I don’t want to talk to you.

I just don’t.

You aren’t a bad person, you haven’t wronged me, pissed me off or changed my mind about the type of person you are. I haven’t grown sick of you, decided I don’t want to be friends or cut you out of my life. I just don’t want to talk. To anyone.

I spent the last week wanting to punch everyone in the face. I stormed around in irritable moods, pouting my way through shifts at work and cursing at other drivers. My mood swings were out of control, ranging from completely despondent to excitable to absolutely  pissed off. They got so bad I called the mental health on call nurse and asked if it could be a result of my medication- unfortunately, it wasn’t. I have only been on it for a week and a half and it is low dosage, so chances are it just isn’t working. I was moody before I started quetiapine and effexor, but it was getting to the stage where I was resenting my kids for wanting to go outside or wanting to kick my washing machine for making me hang clean clothes out.

It was worse on the days where I was exhausted too. If Miss E woke through the night, I was a right closed off, despondent shit for the rest of the day. My days off seemed great, as I didn’t push myself to do anything I didn’t want to do- I rested, tidied and baked as I wanted. The days I worked though, man they took it out of me. I got home wrecked and just wanting to be left alone in bed to troll the internet. It was a lot of effort to put on the friendly facade at work- to not seem like a grumpy and rude turd infront of the customers was actually harder than the work I do.

Over the weekend I broke. I broke down, and I felt like my body and mind had shattered into a million pieces.

Why aren’t I getting better? Am I not putting in enough effort? Why am I putting my family and husband through all this?

I called the mental health nurse and bawled my eyes out to her for an hour. She thought that based on our previous conversations I was doing well. I was lying. i don’t know why. Even though they are trained to speak to people with mental illness, you don’t want to admit to them that you just want to be left the eff alone for three days straight. Unless you are suicidal, you feel as though you are wasting their time. Well, I do anyway. So when I called and said that I feel like I am back at square one- yet again- she was surprised and thought I had just had a bad day. But two days on, I still don’t want to leave the couch or talk to anyone.

Narelle (the nurse) was lovely- telling me that not driving my ute into oncoming traffic that morning like I wanted to was a strength of mine (I know it won’t accomplish anything), but also said that I would take a very long time to heal. This is not what I wanted to hear. I WANT to get better- I don’t want to come home and have my husband say “Guess you’re going to lay down all night now?” and actually do just that. I want to go for walks with my kids without feeling like I will fall asleep on my feet, and I want to enjoy things again. I miss liking my job. I miss running. I miss my friends.

But I hate talking. Even this is taking effort. I’ve ignored texts, not replied to invitations, cancelled plans…. the lot. I am the most unsociable git out there. I just cry and think about… nothing. I have no interest in your life, I barely have interest in my own. I’m sorry if you think I am being rude- it’s not on purpose. I just cannot even gather enough thought to carry out a conversation. I am getting many offers for help, and while I appreciate the thoughts, I barely know how to help myself let alone how others can help me. Even with my dire financial situation, I don’t think winning the lotto would make a lick of difference at this stage.

I thought I was getting better. I thought that I just needed to tough out the irritability and mood swings for a bit longer till the meds kicked in. But I can’t. So tomorrow I am seeking help yet again. I spent all day today on the couch watching the food channel. Tomorrow I will make an effort to get outside and do something productive. Like change my meds and find a psychologist. And maybe a yoga instructor.

One step forward… two steps back. But I WILL get better.

 

Small jobs and large rewards

Yesterday I watched 5 episodes of “Scandal”. In a row. And while I should be ashamed and feel lazy and guilty for letting the dog lay on my lap on the couch and not put the folding away, or for the fact that I was sending my daughter to daycare for the day, I don’t. I needed to do it.

Why? Cos I had worked hard and was rewarding myself.

5 episodes seems like a rather large reward. I am not a big TV watcher. When I am non-SAD (stressed, anxious or depressed) I watch maybe 3 hours of TV a week. Game of Thrones, Greys Anatomy and Revenge. And thats at night when everyone else is asleep. So yes, I must have worked bloody hard to deserve a reward like that.

I didn’t.

I had managed to do all the washing and fold it. I had baked packet mix cupcakes and anzac biscuits. I had done the dishes from breakfast. And THAT WAS IT. I rewarded myself with four hours on the couch for doing four jobs.

Now usually my Mondays would consist of school run, a run, spending an hour in my sons classroom helping with maths groups, food shopping, filling the car, unpacking groceries, baking, vacuuming and mopping, school run, homework, cooking dinner and netball. Yesterday however, I just couldn’t do it. The thought of having to go to two banks, the post office and Coles after the school run made me beyond anxious and I nearly considered not doing it. But I got through it by breaking it up (go to the banks, get maccas with the kids, go to post office and coles) and rewarding myself.

Depression doesn’t just makes you cry and wanna sleep. It stops you from feeling capable. Like you aren’t good enough anymore because you can’t keep your house tidy or go through a whole shift at work without feeling like you are letting them down. It takes away that feeling that you are a good mum, wife, worker or friend. I struggle to make plans with friends at the moment as I feel very anti-social. I’m just not FEELING myself. And thats fine. I KNOW that I will get better soon. I KNOW that when I get better, my Mondays will be back to hectic.

In the meantime, I am rewarding myself for all the things I am doing today that I couldn’t do yesterday. I’m celebrating the small wins.

The other night I managed to cook a dinner that wasn’t sausages on bread or prepared by my husband. WIN

This morning I got the kids to school before the bell, and I wasn’t wearing my pyjamas. WIN

The past few mornings I have been waking up easier and with more energy. I know this is because of my antidepressants but it’s still a win. I don’t feel like I hate the world because I have school run at 8am. WIN

Yesterday I managed to go to a large shopping centre and not feel complete rage towards my boys, who always seem to have the most amount of crazy energy at 3:30pm. While I still got frustrated and raised my voice, that feeling of anger and increased blood pressure didn’t present itself. I felt like a more patient parent. WIN

 

If you are stuggling with S.A.D (stress, anxiety or depression) and lack the motivation, energy and drive to do even small activities, break it up. Don’t look at the whole picture as it will make you feel like a failure if you don’t achieve it. If its housework, and you have a whole house to do, perform one job at a time and reward yourself. Pick up toys then have a cup of tea. Fold clothes while you watch Ellen. Make beds then have lunch. Break it up. You don’t have to be superwoman. You are NOT capable of handling everything you used to at the moment. But celebrate the little things you are doing and know that one day (whether with the help of tablets or not) it WILL get better.

On a personal note, I have been very happy with how I am coping on my new medication. While I still lack the emotional stability and am prone to crying and laziness, I am glad my energy levels are returning. (even if I do waste them by sitting on the couch watching Scandal…)

 

 

 

Bipolar Bears and Assessment Nazi’s

BipolarPolarBear-40978 Because you have cyclic depression I will put you on this, it helps people like you with Bipolar…”

WAIT! WHAT?!?!?!

Bipolar? As in Manic Depressive? Bat shit crazy and thinking I am Jesus reincarnate?! No. Can’t be. I’m just having a depressive episode.

“Bipolar?” I asked the psychiatrist. “But I don’t get manic? And I generally am not this moody. I am usually pretty constant and happy.”

“Bipolar doesn’t mean you go from excitable and manic to depressive very quickly. You can go through periods over a few weeks then go back to normal for a while before going through another cycle.”

“But I don’t think I have ever had a manic cycle.”

“Depressive cycles are usually diagnosed first. Manic episodes that go undiagnosed are common. Have you gone through a few weeks where you are working on something and can’t switch off. Like a university project or planning a party?”

I thought back to when I was planning a fundraiser for a friend- constantly emailing, planning, buying stuff… the excitement I felt and the lack of sleep due to the ideas in my head.

“Yes..”

“And did you have trouble concentrating, talked fast, were overly excited and were having trouble switching off?

I thought back to when I wanted to open a cafe with a friend in the next few months. Constant talking, jumping into things head on and being so excited with so many ideas.

“Yes…”

“And did you have mood swings when people tried to slow you down or challenge your ideas?”

I thought back to the mood I was in when dad said that a cafe wasn’t a viable business in the current economy. Which I knew, but it still hurt to hear it.

“Yes…”

“And do you present a different version of yourself in public as you do at home?”

I thought of my time at work, where I am constantly happy, excited, dancing, chatting, never angry and full of energy. Then I thought of my time at home where I have a short temper, slip on the housework, cook sausages on bread for dinner and lay in bed facebooking for hours.

“Yes…”

“I need you to look at this questionnaire.”

 

Now I don’t have a copy of the ‘proper’ checklist, but I found one very similar here.

I did the online one this morning. I scored 32. According to the website, a score over 22 could indicate bipolar.

 

I have bipolar. It was a shock at first, but after reading about it, I don’t care.

I have to go on medication for a while. And I don’t care.

I have been eating stupid amounts of food, and my jeans don’t fit. And I don’t care.

I will be sick for a while. And I don’t care.

 

People will judge me for having bipolar.

And I don’t care.

 

Analogies, Assumptions and Placeboes.

I have had quite a few “Wait… what?!” moments this week.

Those moments that catch you off guard you aren’t exactly sure if you heard what you think you heard. They don’t happen to me often, as the little pistons fire in all cylinders non-stop in my brain and I can usually prepare myself mentally for most circumstances and responses. Hence the lack of sleep- imagining every possible scenario, conversation and sequence of events.

Lately though… wow. Holy constant brain fart. I’m running on one cylinder.

A friend at work (as much as he would like me to use that term loosely, I am actually quite fond of him) said to me over the weekend “oh, I read your blog yesterday”.

Wait… hold up. What?!

Panic set in. “Which one did you read? The really long one?” please don’t be the really long one, oh god, he thinks I’m crazy. It was so long, I bet it bored him!

“The one about 20 minute showers.”

Oh. “What did you think?” ohhhh god, he’s gonna think I am making it up. He knows I cry in the shower. Oh god, he knows I’m just another sappy, stupid girl that gets all emotional and stuff! I was trying to be all cool and happy and now I’m just a crying mess that stays in bed eating bacon all day!

“Wasn’t the worst I have ever read.”

What?!

That’s it!? No teasing about my parenting capabilities? (Or lack thereof?) No stinging comments about me being a sook? No? Nothing?

My relationship with this guy is built on non-stop hacking and insults. And I love it. My fear of people knowing what I am actually like at home still affects me, even though I am trying to be open about it. I still don’t know why I am publicising my issues to publicly, especially when it is acknowledged at work. I don’t want sympathy. I certainly don’t want attention from it. I guess I just want people to know why I can’t cope with 12 people lined up at the bar, glass all over the floor and not knowing which one to deal with first. And bursting out in tears while polishing cutlery because someone looked at me funny. I also want people to know that if I can go through it, as happy of a person as I usually am, that anyone is susceptible to it and others should be aware of changes in someones behaviour that may signal a mental illness. I just assume that everyone is going to think I am a hypochondriac with a social media addiction.

My other hold up, what? moment happened today at my follow up psychologist appointment.

For the past three weeks I have been taking 15mg Mirtazapine at night to help my depression and sleeplessness. I was going ok until earlier last week when I had my budget-killing phone call and spent 20 mins in that shower. Since then, I am back at square one. I am crying over everything, I am ALWAYS tired and exhausted. I miss running, but don’t give a rats ass that I am doing NO exercise. I lack motivation for anything, I am exhausted and I am void of emotion. And holy shit, I am ANGRY.

My mood swings had not improved. I want to get better. I want to be able to get out of bed in the morning without my eyes burning from exhaustion, even after 11 hours sleep. I want to take my kids to a birthday party without resenting them for making me get out of bed and turn off Grey’s Anatomy. And I want to enjoy things again and feel emotion. I am relying on logic, as I can’t trust my emotions. I know I love my job. I know I love spending time with my friends. I know I love doing things with my family, and I know I love to bake. But lately, I don’t feel it. I don’t feel joy when my daughter comes in to give me butterfly kisses, or feel a rush of adrenaline when the restaurant gets busy and I absolutely smash my job. I know I am good at my job, yet all I feel when I go to work is anxiety, nerves and uneasiness- like I am letting people down for not being able to remember things properly.

I know that lack of concentration and memory is a symptom of depression, but not being able to remember which steak belongs to Mary and which belongs to John between taking the food from the pass and dropping it off at the table is downright frustrating. It makes me so mad and makes me feel so pathetic and as though I am letting my employers down. But I KNOW I’m not. My feelings are just completely… well, fucked.

Anyway, back to the psychologist. Turns out he was also a psychiatrist. Oh, hallelujiah. I wanted to talk to him about increasing my mirtazapine. It was working for making me go to sleep (oh, it is marvellous stuff!) but I hadn’t noticed a change in my brain chemistry. I felt as though it was my fault for not getting better, because the drugs should be working by now. So when I mentioned that I didn’t feel as though I was getting better, I felt as though I was saying I was relying on drugs to get me better.

“Mirtazapine, especially at 15mg, will do nothing for your depression, it will be like drinking water”.

Wait, what?! I was taking a placebo?! No wonder I felt no different!

We talked for forty minutes, and we discussed my self confidence. Apparently, this is a big issue. I was told to remind myself that I AM good at my job. I AM keeping my family fed and cared for- I AM a good mum. I AM a good wife, and I CAN take care of finances. No matter what I feel at this moment, I have to KNOW that when I get better, I can do all this. Once your confidence starts to waiver, that’s when depression gets serious.

Knowing that I will get better soon, even without feeling it at this moment, is a huge benefit.

He gave me the following analogy, which will help all mums. Mental illness- depression, anxiety, PTSD etc is exactly that- an illness. And it is kind of contagious. My kids are affected by my lack of interest in them and my shortened temper, and therefore try to get my attention in other ways, which in turn makes my mood worse. My husband is affected when he wants to cuddle me and I am indifferent, then suddenly get shitty when he asks me about something. So they take on your stress.

“So imagine you have a broken ankle. The doctor tells you that you that you need to be on complete bedrest for three weeks. How would you feel?

Guilty.

“Why do you feel guilty? For breaking your leg?”

For not being there for my kids. Not being up to looking after them, playing with them, being happy with them. And guilty that my husband has to do everything for me and look after the kids himself. And for work, I would feel like I was letting them down by not being there.

“But your leg needs rest. If you get up and look after your kids too early you would be in pain, and set your recovery back by a few weeks or even months. It would be more painful for longer as it heals as you use it more and more. You would take this pain out on your kids and husband and the frustration would grow within yourself that you aren’t better yet, yes?”

Yes…

“And you would regret not spending three weeks in bed and letting everyone deal without you. If your husband was injured you would look after him and wouldn’t want him feeling guilty, wouldn’t you?”

Yes, probably…

“So imagine your brain is your leg. Would you prefer to do the things that you need to do to get better for a shorter amount of time, or push through and prolong the pain?”

Uhhh…

I think I should spend more Saturdays in bed. And turn down extra shifts. And let my kids play the tablet for hours on end while I go for a drive with my music turned up really loud. For no other reason than I NEED TO. And if you are struggling, figure out what you need to do, and do it. Without guilt.

 

“As for your mirtazapine, because you have cyclic depression I will put you on this, it helps people like you with Bipolar…”

WAIT! WHAT?!?!?!