Set backs, knock backs and come backs

I am not a fan of cliches. “Life is a rollercoaster” and “life has its ups and downs” always seem to be bandied about in any situation, often failing to have any meaningful impact on the recipient of said quotes. However, my life- and more specifically, my moods, thoughts and emotions- really are a rollercoaster of up and down. Often within a very short time frame.

I have had a tumultuous few weeks. Shortly after my last post, for a period of about four to five days, I felt like my ‘old’ normal self. Stable mood, no tears and didn’t feel depressed or empty. I felt like my tablets were finally taking effect and I may have been lifting from this depressive fog where I couldn’t do anything right and my energy levels were, well, non-existent. This even lasted through coming home to two car registration bills- so for my thought process regarding my finances to not send me into a teary tailspin was a great accomplishment for me.

I also applied for a job I really wanted. My current employers encouraged me to do this and I felt good about where this position could take me. I did well in the interview- I have a feeling my medication helped me in this, as I usually get the nervous bout of verbal diarrhea when in interviews, but in this one I was calm, happy and charming. I even disclosed my current bout of depression and emphasised that I need a job where I can focus all my energy as opposed to working part time, cleaning, budgeting, studying, looking after family and picking up extra shifts. They were happy with that. Although I wasn’t reliant on getting this job (I honestly really wanted it, but am happy enough in my current job that it didn’t matter if I had to stay there) I was still rather disappointed that it went to the other interviewee. She had experience.

My first post-graduate knock back. And it didn’t rattle me as much as I thought. Thankfully they were nice enough to provide me with fantastic feedback and will keep me in mind for future positions.

All of the bipolar and depression books I have read all stress the importance of a set sleep routine- not only getting enough sleep (depression usually requires more than the standard 7-8 hours- most nights I aim for ten) but also going to sleep at the same time every night, and careful not to have sleep ins and get up at the same time every morning. Last week I found out just how important this is.

My grandparents arrived on Tuesday- they were staying at a nearby caravan park and were over specifically to help my family out by cleaning our house (scrubbing it top to toe is more accurate), looking after our children and yet again bailing us out financially. This was especially handy on Wednesday when I had to wake at 4am to pick our English friend up from the airport. After picking her up I went to work all day, and had a late night out at netball. I felt wired. I expected to feel tired and worn out but I didn’t- I was full on energy and happy. Thursday was another work day, and I still wasn’t tired.

I was verging on hypermanic, up cleaning under the fridge at 10pm. I was running on fumes but couldn’t shut off the feelings of guilt- guilty that I needed to be bailed out financially yet again, guilty for buying my daughter a $15 drawing kit, dessert and my mothers birthday present after being bailed out, guilty that someone else was scrubbing my floors and I couldn’t even finish the folding or keep the couch clean, and guilty that I was out most nights and not spending time with my husband and kids. I told hubby that I felt I was headed for a breakdown again, that I was all  ‘in my head’- stressing about future financial problems, feelings of guilt and pushing myself even though I knew I needed to rest.

That night I took two of my quetiapine. Thankfully my psychiatrist had told me how to safely alter my tablets according to my mood elevations and I followed this precisely. However, that night my daughter was sick- in such a way my husband wasn’t comfortable looking after her on his own. Then my son came into bed too, and hubby went to sleep in the spare bed. So I was in bed with my two youngest, dosed out on antipsychotics. I’m not sure if anyone has ever tried staying awake through sleeping tablets, let alone looking after kids while doing it, but it honestly felt like I was the walking dead. I couldn’t open my eyes, and often fell asleep while sitting up cuddling my daughter. Getting out of bed to go to the toilet was just downright painful- every muscle hurt. So Friday morning, when my daughter woke up still upset and in pain, and I was so tired I couldn’t function through brushing my teeth, I knew I should have called in sick. I knew I wasn’t capable of working, and the guilt of sending my daughter to daycare while hot with mild fever was indescribable.

So when I got to work and someone asked what was wrong, I lost it. I cried, and I cried hard. I just needed sleep, and I needed to get my daughter home. But the guilt of turning up to work and then bailing was pretty bad too. So I stuck around to set up my work space until my replacement arrived. I then went home and cried on the couch while my grandmother vacuumed my loungeroom floor before she left at lunchtime. She thought I was getting better, that she was helping. She was. It is important she knows that. But even with my financial stuff sorted out and a clean house, there are days where I am back at the bottom. And I blame not sticking to my sleep routine.

When I have a set back like this, I know it takes a few days to ‘settle’ again. Hubby says he doesn’t know how to help when i’m like this, and I know there is no way he can. He just needs to leave me think things through and be quiet on the couch for a few days. When I know what I need, I tell him. Like getting out of the house for an hour or watching reruns of Will n Grace. It takes a good two or three days to become sociable and talkative again. I just need down time to process.

It is important for people with depression and bipolar to know you are still gonna have bad days. It doesn’t mean you’re not getting better. I could say that my tablets aren’t working. But I can’t just rely on them to get me better. I just remind myself how much worse it could be if I wasn’t on them, or what it would be like to go through another four week waiting period for new ones to kick in. I just need to learn to cope with my down periods, and know that although the road is hard (and longer than I thought possible) I WILL be able to manage myself better. I don’t think I will ever be ‘better’ and my old self, and I am ok with that. I will just await the comeback of a different, calmer and less emotionally-tumultuous Hannah.

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What’s not much to some may mean the world to others…

I have been unbelievably blessed this week.

I try to avoid declaring my precarious financial situation as best as possible- I don’t find it overly gracious to complain too loudly that I can’t afford to pay my electricity bill but still be putting my kids in to private school. Well, without the help of my parents, my kids would most definately be in public school. A lot hides behind the surface of many families- they all have their own financial burdens and are struggling to make ends meet. Therefore I am not overly fond of asking for help, as I see it as a sign that I have, well, fucked up somewhere or am living beyond my means.

However, after talking with my psych and family I have come to the realisation that the fact that we can’t make our loan repayments isn’t my fault. We haven’t splurged on anything in the last 6 months, we still drive our shitbox car with the broken bumper, no aerial and no airconditioning. I have taken up baking to provide our kids with snacks in lieu of having packaged lunchbox treats in the cupboard. We survived on $3 a kilo sausages for weeks. I am trying my best, but it just wasn’t good enough. And that is hard to accept.

Hubby and I moved to the city to increase our job prospects and earning potential. It was great for over a year. But then he lost overtime privileges. And now my hours are dwindling to half of what I was on 6 months ago. Our weekly income has dropped by over $500 through no fault of our own. I need to remind myself that. Its not my fault. I am doing my best.

I am used to being the one that helps. I offer to pick people up and drive them home at stupid oçlock when they have been drinking. I pick people up from the airport at 4am. I take baking and treats to work to share and did a food shop for a friend when she was struggling financially. As much as I love helping and would do anything for anyone (ask my husband, it’s a frustrating trait of mine for him to accept!) I don’t do it for recognition or reward. I do it cos I love it and like helping people. So why is it so hard to ask for and accept help when it is offered?

Over the weekend I was stunned when my visiting parents and grandparents generously provided us financial help to pay our upcoming expenses. It was beyond what we needed and I sobbed when I thanked them. I hate feeling like I am failing and need bailing out, but I knew they were doing it for the same reasons I would do it for anyone else if I was able to do so.

On Monday morning I was left a very, very generous random act of kindness from a very beautiful friend of mine, which was very unexpected and left me sobbing for nearly an hour. I didn’t feel like I deserved it- I don’t do it much tougher than other families. But this gift, although he said it ‘wasn’t much’, changed my whole family’s week.

I had a total of $90 to do the shopping with this week. We had one roll of toilet paper- which between two toilets resulted in “Kids! Bring mummy the toilet paper from the downstairs toilet up here please!!” being yelled quite often. We had four empty tubes of toothpaste that we had squeezed every ounce out of for the past week, and we were blowing our noses with whatever we could get our hands on. We only had apples for fruit and my husband had started eating our kids gluten free baking for lunch as he had no chips or museli bars. It was pretty dire. I hate to admit it and I never would have before to avoid being offered money to help. I wouldn’t have accepted.

However, after these amazing gestures (also one from the MIL, as a ‘treat’ to hubby and I) we were able to completely stock our cupboard, fridge and bathroom again this week. My trolley was so full I looked like I was feeding an army. Words still failed to describe how helpful these beautiful people had been that I had to do it with photos of my bare pantry and overflowing trolley. I still feel like no thanks will ever be enough, and will be forever grateful.

The one issue I am struggling with is that although my depression was in most part due to financial issues, it hurts me that even with our more promising situation now that I feel no different mentally. I still feel like the depressed girl struggling to pay her bills, stressed about how to disperse the money in the best way and keep everything on track in the coming months. However, I know I need to pull back and say “Right, things are ok today, things will be ok this week. That’s good enough for now.” Next weeks worries can wait until next week. I know my head will get better, but for now, one day at a time. And I need to learn how to graciously accept help when it is offered.

We are having roast pork for dinner tonight. I didn’t buy any sausages this week. My heart even skipped a beat as I typed that.