It’s been a while…

I had not forgotten about this blog.

It was always in the back of my mind as something that used to help when I was suffering from bad period and wanting to ‘vent’ all my troubles out in to the world. I think I did this so that I didn’t have to keep repeating myself over and over when people asked ‘what’s wrong?’. I used it as a way to communicate easily, saying what I wanted to say to people without having to go through the emotional crap that came with doing it face to face. I just wanted to say it and move on from the comfort of my computer chair.

There is no way in hell this worked. Which is probably why I stopped.

Since late October (the time of my last post) where I had a shocking low, I have had a subsequent ‘lift’ in my mental state. My reputation was smashed, I had disrespected my marriage, my husband and my kids and was pushing my closest friends away when I tried to laugh off my drunken or sober antics. It wasn’t funny. I thought if I made a joke of it people would think… well, I don’t know what I thought. It was a dark place and I am not overly keen on revisiting.

In those few weeks I started understanding the phrase “I can’t live/go on like this”. Its not that you don’t think that the people you love aren’t worth sticking around for, or that you think things won’t get better. It all comes down to the thoughts about yourself in your own head. Knowing how hard it will be for people to trust you again, hating your reputation and knowing that people (and yourself) won’t look at you the same way ever again is a hard thing to move on from.

But where I ended my last blog post, things started looking up. I got a new job, which I needed at the time. Drinking away my money, mental and marital issues was just not cutting it, so full time employment in an area which is NOT hospitality was a welcome relief. The new place is amazing, with fantastic Employee Assistance Programs in place and a very supportive HR and Management team. The hours, pay and career options are all suited to me  and I enjoy the laid back office work. I also changed my medication from Effexor to Pristiq, which made a hell of a difference. I could actually feel like something was making a difference.

Of course I still stressed about going back out into the ‘real world’, seeing people that knew me at my worst and holding my head high. And it took a few months and a good few EAP psychologist sessions before I was able to confidently walk back into certain places and see certain people without worrying too much about what they knew/thought of me/ had heard through the grapevine. I have spent the last month working with my husband through my issues, fixing our financial position and owning up to my mistakes and it has been hard, but the transparency we have now, while not perfect, has stopped me from being ‘in my own head’ all the time, trying to fix everything by myself. There are no more hidden purchases and bank statements, no more inexplainable absences and we have discussed what we both want from my new job. We aren’t good, but we are better.

And better means that I am able to come off my tablets. I have not been confident enough in my environment or myself before this time to be able to come off anything. But last week when I started running out of them I assessed myself and my own ability to cope and I decided that I need to start working through my issues using my own coping strategies, not a tablet. I want to get back into running- my weight gain and lack of energy means I am not getting the endorphin hit I did 12 months ago. To do this I need to stop feeling guilty for going for a run (my husband desperately hates having to cook dinner and get the kids ready for bed on his own, which unfortunately is when I like going for my runs!) and just do it. I know it’s good for me and long term I know he would prefer I be out running and happy than be at home cranky or miserable but cooking dinner. I am still on Quetiapine- I think that one will be long term for me. Anxiety and insomnia from constant brain-tick-over will always annoy me and I would prefer to have a decent nights sleep on tablets for the rest of my life than go through my restless and irregular sleep patterns and anxiety attacks of previous years. But I am ok with that! My atrocious memory over the last few months has already improved- today I was able to remember my grandmothers 4 digit house number to send her Christmas card! Win!!

So this Christmas, I am actively reducing the amount of stress I am putting myself under. While financial strain will always be an issue for me, I can take steps to make sure I don’t take everything so personally. I am not a failure as a mum because the kids don’t get as many gifts. I am not a failure as a daughter because I am only giving them a calendar. I am not a failure as a wife because I go running three times a week. I am not a failure as a friend because I don’t feel social at the moment. I am just not a failure. I need to stop feeling like that, and especially have to ignore people trying to make me feel like that.

I need to ignore the ‘Mummy Guilt’ of spending time on myself getting better, because I WANT to get better.

I AM getting better. There is hope, I guess there always has been.

Merry Christmas.

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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.

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.

 

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.