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 allĀ  ‘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.

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 TASTE.com 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?