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’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.

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…)




20 minute showers and the Adult Time-Out Chair

I’m no expert on depression, anxiety or general parenting. Far from it. But I know what works for me.

Every mum craves it, and rarely gets it. Kids hate it, and dads/partners question it.

Time for YOURSELF.

Today my daughter has watched Colin Buchanan (2 times), Hi 5 (once) and sat on my lap for an hour while I change up my resume, shower and cry on the phone. Now usually I would feel guilty that I haven’t given her any educational toys, taken her outside or done crafts with her. But today, I don’t care. And some days, that’s exactly what you need.

Time for yourself. While we all dream that this could mean a day with no children, walking along the beach drinking wine and gossiping with your best friend and eating a gloriously large and expensive meal for dinner, unfortunately real life sometimes gets in the way. So, we improvise. Over the years I have adjusted exactly what is ‘my time’. Some days it is getting home from work and laying on the bed in uniform and reading through facebook for an hour before starting sausages on bread for dinner. Bugger cooking.

And my kids survive, well fed.

Some days it is sitting on the computer surfing through youtube and recipes while my kids play the xbox. Before they do their homework.

And my kids survive, still educated.

Some days it involves sitting at the park drinking Zarraffas iced tea talking with a friend while my kids get stuck on a swing and throw sticks at the dog, because they are out of my scope of vision.

And they survive, and can play independently.


Today, after a rather horrific morning of budget blowing phone calls, I needed time. I needed my favourite time. And although I only had Miss E at home, happily eating her breakfast and colouring at the table, I needed to be alone.

Helloooo, shower.

Oh, how a shower can change everything. It can help tears flow, it can heat aching and tired muscles and it can drown out the squealing of children chasing their father around the house with a fake gun. Showers are my favourite peace time, made even better by the fact that the door handle is too high for two out of three kids to reach. Even hubby has learnt that a swift “No!” as the door handle turns shouldn’t be taken personally. Its not that I don’t want to talk to him about it. I do. But I need a place to think. Its my adult time-out chair. Everyone needs one. A place to think without interruption.

Supernanny says that children shouldn’t be put in bed as punishment. Bed is for rest. Adults should do the same- choose a place to think. The ensuite floor was my favourite. Even sitting on the closed toilet while I budgeted or wrote out the next days schedule made it so much easier to sleep at night. Bed isn’t for thinking. Get it out of the way elsewhere.

I should feel mummy guilt over hiding from my children. I should feel guilty for taking 20 minute showers while the council enforces water restrictions. But I know my sanity is more important than the gerbera bushes in the main street being watered.

So that is my advice. Find your time out chair, and use it. Daily if you must. Your children will survive (and even if you don’t have kids, everyone needs some silence every now and then) and also find time for yourself.


Where do you spend your time thinking, and do you have a seperate place to relax and spend time on your own thoughts?