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.

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.

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?!?!?!

 

 

 

 

Why is depression so hard to share on Facebook?

Social media. Social MediaLove it or hate it, it is a great way to interact with friends, family and distant friends from highschool over a decade ago. It is also a platform for keyboard warriors to tear you down when you are vulnerable, even if it is for taking your child out in the middle of autumn in just a singlet and mismatched thongs. Who is to argue with a not-so-stylish toddler that throws a na-na when you want to put a coat on them? Us mums must pick our battles carefully.

Twitter seems to be my preferred platform for sharing a blog. Isn’t it strange how we are prepared to share our innermost thoughts and opinions with an unknown world, but are scared to announce our online presence to our closest friends on Facebook?

Opening up to friends and family is HARD. Everyone that has gone through depression knows this. Branded attention seekers, having our feelings dismissed (such as being told ‘you just need to have a big cry, you’ll be over it soon) and in some cases, attracting sympathy (yes, shock horror, those compliments you are receiving on your amazing ability to keep children alive and complete your studies are actually genuine!!) are all reasons we shy away from showing our real selves.

I made the choice 2 years ago when I moved to the city that I wanted to be happier. I had lived in the same town for over 15 years. Highschool drama was still floating around me, and I had as many toxic friends as I did good ones. So when I moved I was shocked when it didn’t happen straight away. I got a job in hospitality, and for the first two months I hated it. I finished every shift wanting to quit. Then one day I asked Kylie to go have coffee with me. From then on it was great- I started fitting in to most of the little ‘cliques’ that form in a large work environment and was invited out to afternoon coffees and nightly drinking sessions. I put out a bubbly, happy and aloof front, and therefore became the personality that I wanted to be. I get along with everyone and am quite happy to put myself out there and make a dick of myself. I don’t get cranky or angry, I’m calm and cool. Not many people have seen me lose my shit or yell. And I have no shame- I am quite ok with being the girl that licks spilt beer off the bar table and dancing with a plastic bag on my head.  I’m happy.

At home though…

Things got hard a few months in, as hubby was starting to tire of me working split shifts and leaving at dinner time. I started to feel the dreaded Mummy Guilt. I was still studying at this time, spending one day at Uni, another studying, and most of the rest of my time working and doing housework. Mr B was struggling at school and we were asked to spend more time with him on homeowrk and reading with him. He wanted me to do classroom help. Mr Z wanted to start swimming lessons, Miss E wanted to do gymnastics with Mummy. Hubby wanted to spend ‘more time together’ but had no idea to what that actually involved doing. (We ended up sitting on the couch watching the block on my nights off, even though I was thinking about all the cleaning I had to do before work the next day.) My inlaws were staying over a lot, and I wanted to go back to visit my parents.

It became too much, and I knew it. I knew it was coming, and I got on top of it before it became too overwhelming and I plunged back into depression. I went to the doctor and got a referral to a psychologist. But the thing that helped most was TELLING SOMEONE. In this case, I went to my boss. I cried in her office saying I couldn’t do split shifts anymore. I couldn’t handle being pulled in so many directions. Like anyone that is a bit of a perfectionist, I hated knowing I would be letting work down. But you know what? I didn’t. They moved me to a job where I was working a few days a week, 9:30 till 5pm. No more struggling! That ONE person I told, happened to change everything. It gave me time to do school help with Mr B, I was home to do reading with them and I could start enjoying cooking in the evening again.

This time I wasn’t so clever. I didn’t get on top of it. I let the guilt and the stress get to me and one day, I just broke.

Everything shut down. I ended up in the hospital begging for help. I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t a harm to myself or others. But I just could NOT stop crying! I was crying at work, again feeling like I was letting people down because I couldn’t do my job properly. My brain just didn’t want to work. It had worked so hard for so long that it just went “nope, f**k it, I’m out”. After the hospital visit, the mirtazapine started. I try to avoid anti-depressants, and they are not for everyone, but I could not see my financial and stress mess being over until Mid May. Way too long to do it all on my own.

There is a misconception about anti-depressants. People that are stressed out and suffering anxiety go to doctors and the doctors put them on anti-depressants. But they aren’t depressed so they don’t take them. They struggle through it. Don’t. Anti-depressants are anti-anxiety medications. Take them as a precautionary measure to ensure you don’t become so overwhelmed that you become depressed. Say your mood is a scale of one to ten. It is much easier for drugs to kick in and bring your mood up when you start at three than if you start at a rock-bottom zero.

I took the day off after my hospital visit, and two days later- even though the tears had subsided- I just knew I wasn’t going to be much help to my employers. I went to see one of my managers who told me to take more time off. Please, if you feel like you need a break, TAKE IT. It is more harmful to you if you continue working at a substandard level, because you then add the guilt of that. You know how your friends say “I wish you had have told me, I would have helped!”? Your employers- if they are human- should feel the same.

Let me explain how I felt. I googled, I read and I downloaded. I found so much info and had that good old Oprah “AH!” moments when I read these. Hopefully they will help you know that you are not alone, and your extreme tiredness and lack of care for the house are actual symptoms, and not you just being lazy.

(Taken from the Black Dog website)

SEVERE CONTINUOUS TIREDNESS. This is a very common symptom in depression, so that you feel tired and exhausted all the time.  Even if you sleep, you may wake up feeling as if you have not slept at all. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and rest. School starting term after the Easter break was even more difficult than usual.

INABILITY TO FEEL EMOTION. For many people, this is the most worrying symptom before they realise they are actually suffering from depressive illness.  You may find you cannot feel any of the normal positive emotions in life, so that you do not feel any pleasure or interest in the things you used to like and do. For me, the lack of interest in socialising and the inability to enjoy or be affected by music was a huge giveaway.

SADNESS OR UNHAPPINESS. Many people are very puzzled that they have these feelings, when they can see logically that they have many good things in their life and in their relationships.

TROUBLE THINKING AND REMEMBERING. This is almost an inevitable symptom in everybody with depressive illness.  You may find that you are more absent-minded than usual.people find that they have trouble with their work, as they cannot deal with the information they need to handle at work.  Things may get to the stage where you cannot read magazines or books, as you very quickly lose track of what you have already read.

This one was a huge factor for me. I cannot actually function doing two things at once. If I am concentrating on something, I can NOT process someone talking to me. It throws me off both tasks. I can’t put an order in or read a docket if someone is talking to me. Thankfully, I know- and it is proven- that this disappears once the depression has passed.

REDUCED ABILITY TO COPE. Depression makes everything ten times, or a hundred times, the effort it used to be.  Accordingly, people with depression very quickly find they cannot cope with their previous duties and responsibilities. Depression makes everything too much of an effort, and the exhausted feeling that people have during depression makes this worse. Things can be done, but with almost superhuman effort at times, like trying to function with a broken leg.

INABILITY TO ENJOY THINGS:  depression takes away the enjoyment of the normal activities of life, so that things you used to enjoy or have a great interest in will  no longer appeal to you.  You may find you have given up your previous hobbies or pastimes, and feel that there is absolutely nothing in life you could think of doing which would be enjoyable.

For me, this is running. I MISS running. I am trying to train for a half marathon in July. I was up to 15km, but in the last two weeks I have accumulated an entire 1km in the running shoes.

AVOIDING FRIENDS. Many people with depression find everything such an effort, that they wish to avoid contact even with their friends.  You may find that you do not return telephone calls, emails or SMS messages, or make excuses not to meet your friends. I have a few friends that can attest to the change in my social and phone habits.

ANXIETY AND TENSION. It is almost inevitable that people who are depressed will also be very anxious, nervous or uptight.  This may manifest itself in a whole range of physical aches and pains, as well as a continuously uncomfortable, frightened feeling, as if you were about to do an important exam or have an important interview. Anxiety produces lots of physical symptoms, such as headaches, pains in the face and jaws, chest pains, stomach pains and indigestion, and bowel pains.  Some people with anxiety find they clench their jaws during the day, or grind their teeth at night. My physical symptom is usually a feeling of nervousness- increased heart rate, fuzziness in my ears, prickling and tingling eyes and butterflies in my stomach.

PERSONALITY CHANGE. Many people feel something terrible has happened to their personality, so they are no longer able to be confident, extrovert or friendly.

IRRITABILITY AND ANGER:when feeling terrible, it is almost inevitable that we will snap at other people.  While we may be able to keep up a facade for people who do not know us very well, it is too much of an effort to do this all the time, so depressed people find themselves snapping and being angry at those closest to them, often feeling very guilty afterwards.

MULTIPLE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS. Many people who have depression wish that doctors and others would understand how physically terrible they feel.  It is like having a very bad flu’, so that everything hurts, everything is exhausting, and it does require a huge effort to get out of bed and do the normal things of life.

Again, with running or indoor netball, I just can’t do it. I miss being able to play an entire game of netball as centre and now struggling to play a full game as GK. I ran one kilometer the other night and felt worse than the night I ran 15. I have no energy, and my body aches when I do exercise.

So. Back to social media. I am still in two minds about posting. I am afraid of nobody reading it and knowing how I really feel. I am afraid of people actually reading it and knowing how I really feel. I am afraid that people think I wrote to much, and I am afraid that someone will think that I am a hypochondriac and exaggerating my depression. I am afraid that there are people out there reading the wrong information about depression and not seeking help, choosing to keep struggling. I have friends that know all of this about me already who will not judge, but I am afraid that my workmates will read this and change their opinion of me.

I don’t know what I want from this blog. I don’t read blogs myself. I don’t keep a diary and don’t necessarily find this therapeutic. I don’t know how many people will read this and take something from it.  I think that is why I am afraid to post it on Facebook- lack of control of what other people will do with this information I have poured out for them. But I am going to do it anyway (despite the pit in the depths of my stomach and the fear of my parents reading it) and hope that at least one person reads it and takes something from it.

I still am the girl that dances stupidly around the bar at work. I am still the mum that walks around town with facepaint on and dyes her hair bright, bright red. I am still outgoing and happy.

Just not at the moment.