Back to Me

My mood is stable.  After about a year and a half of ups and downs, my mood has stabilised.  It’s almost impossible for me to believe.  I keep waiting for something to shift, but, for the past week or so, it hasn’t.  I am so grateful.

So what now?  Back to the work of being me.  I wear many hats.  Among them, as anyone who has read this blog will know, is trauma survivor.  My therapist and I haven’t been able to do trauma work in all this time, as we didn’t want to offset any precarious stability I might have found.  I never thought I’d be happy to do trauma work.  It took five years to work through physical trauma, though, and we’ll be starting on sexual trauma next week.  I don’t doubt needing five more years.  But now, I feel confident that we can do the work.

Another hat I wear is family-of-choice.  I have siblings of choice far away, a best friend who’s frequently by my side, and a friend back home who will always have my heart.  I haven’t been able to be present for them nearly as much as I would like.  When your mood is unstable, your mind is unclear.  You can listen and be there to the best of your ability, but you’re never fully present.  Now, I can be with my FOC fully.  I can give them my whole mind and my whole heart without having to worry about whether the situation will spin me out of control.

Self is the last hat I wear.  I am the sum total of what has happened to me in the past and what is in my life at present.  In my belief system, I am already affected by the promise of my future.  I need to reconnect with the essence of who I am again, as that will centre me in the new-found stability.  I’m trying to accept the rough edges of me and understand that my FOC love me for me, no pretence needed.  I’m just a simple girl from the more grisly side of East London who has found herself a world away, surrounded by amazing people on both sides of the ocean.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Better

Tomorrow is a new month.  Maybe I can get it together and do better at work.  Maybe I can manage my diet and exercise routine better.  Yes, it’s a new month.  I will be better.

I have said this to myself at the start of every month for probably six months now, and it never comes true.  At this point, I’m actually frightened about work.  I need to do better there, but depression makes me forget there are real-world consequences to my absence.  I try to work, and racing thoughts drive away my concentration.  Mania causes me to not worry about whether I have a job.  Who wants to worry when they’re manic?

As for diet and exercise, these are closely linked to mood.  Manic Me can count calories and exercise with the best of them.  Depressed Me can sometimes barely get out of bed.  Middle of the Road Me does a decent job of things.  She just isn’t seen often these days.

I’ve had so much trouble with mood symptoms that my psychiatrist is frustrated and considering personality disorders.  He just can’t make me fit in to one of his boxes.  The therapist told him that maybe the problem was him and his medicines.  I wanted to hug her for that.

So here we are.  March.  The end of the year’s first quarter.  Maybe I’ll do better now.

Fawlty Brains

We’re 25 days in to the new year, and I am still dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.  I’m managing.  Work is getting done, bills are getting paid.  But I’m miserable.  I wonder sometimes how long the part of me that wants to live can fight off the part that has decided it’s time to die.  It’s a scary place to be.

The one thing that has been my refuge is Fawlty Towers, the John Cleese/Connie Booth comedy from the 70s.  For some reason, my darkened mind can concentrate on the show.  I can laugh and not feel terrible about it.  I can lose myself in the troubles of Basil, and for 25 minutes or so, I’m in someone else’s life.

My cats save me time and again.  People can understand the concept of suicide, even if they don’t understand the reasons behind it.  Cats will just feel abandoned when one of the people they love stops coming to see them.  This has been my life force of late.  I know that, as long as my cats are alive, I will not follow through with my suicidal thoughts.  I just can’t imagine outliving those cats for long.

Happy Bloody New Year

It’s January.  The start of a new year, full of promise and hope.  So where does this leave me?  Mildly suicidal and horrendously depressed.  It started yesterday and has just continued to get worse over time.

It occurred to me that, whilst I am perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life at the side of my best friend, he might well wish to spend the rest of his life at the side of an actual romantic partner.  My head spun as  I realised that things could change in a major way.  My entire lifestyle could be smashed.  It would be a good thing for my best friend, and I would never begrudge him of that.  I would just miss being centre stage in his life as opposed to an understudy.  I like us as us.  Not a couple, but definitely a unit.

So I recognise that part of this is situational; my big realisation isn’t helping my low mood.  I realise, as well, though, that this is a bipolar depression.  The sun is dimmer.  That’s a sure sign to me that I am falling in to an episode.  The sun looks noticeably dimmer even high in the sky.  In short, I am depressed.

Fortunately, I see my therapist later this week.  We will talk through my realisation, talk through the suicidal feelings, and make a plan for coping with it all.  She’s patient but firm, and I know I can hold on long enough to make this happen.

Current Mood: Unknown

This week has been great.  I have worked many hours, completed student loan repayment applications, kept up with household chores, and generally felt well mentally.  This has all happened for the first time in months, and it leaves me wondering where my mood has been.  I feel good right now.  I can concentrate again, and life doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  I’m grateful for whatever shift has happened.

The one dark spot in this is that I have obviously been having mood issues without being aware of them.  I’m usually good at picking up on mood symptoms and dealing with them before things get bad.  The recent manic episode must have split what has been a months-long depressive episode.  That’s all I can think of.  Depression causes that soul-sucking overwhelm and inability to concentrate.  I didn’t particularly feel depressed, but apparently, my mind was acting in depressed mode.

Whatever it was, I’m just happy it has passed.  Does anyone else out there have mood episodes that you only see in hindsight?

Talking of Bipolar Disorder

Into A Pearl by the esteemed Justin Currie reminds me of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.  It’s not likely the inspiration for his song, but it really struck me.  The aspect of a ‘stranger in your world’ that ‘only you can smother’ speaks to me.  Justin is by far my favourite singer.  The front man of Del Amitri (my favourite band), he has a flawless solo career.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert and would follow him all over the world if I could.  I never tire of hearing him.  Anyway, give the song a listen.  You might just relate to it, as well.

Routine

Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving.  I have loads to be thankful for.  My FOC, my cats, my good health.  All of that.  For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous.  Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats).  Yes, I am thankful.

I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder.  It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week.  I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations.  My work schedule is different.  My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary).  And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.

If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance.  Your mood is stable.  Friends and family arrive.  Your anxiety rises.  Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in.  Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania.  This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.

Self care is so important during these times.  If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate.  Whatever it takes.  I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight.  Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference.  I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  That part of my routine remains intact.  I used to think of this sort of care as selfish.  Now, I see it as necessary.  Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.

So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself.  Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you.  Don’t let your disorder take your place.

Work

Like most adult humans, I have a job.  I’ve  had this job for almost ten years.  And I am burnt out.  My therapist pointed this out to me when I went to her with the problem of actually *doing* my job.  Getting through each shift is torturous.  The problem here is the job is perfect for me as a person with bipolar disorder.  And as a person who rarely likes to leave her house.  I telecommute.

Bipolar disorder dictates alot of things about my life.  I keep a regular sleep/wake routine, I keep appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and I take my meds without fail.  My job allows me the flexibility of setting my own hours and taking days off as needed to cope with mania and depression.  It sounds like a dream job, and it really is a ‘sweet gig’ as they say here.

So why am I struggling with it?  Anybody care to answer that question?

Focus is a problem.  I’m not sure whether that’s a bipolar thing or just me having trouble forcing myself to do something that is causing me problems right now.  There’s a certain lack of confidence in myself in doing a job I’ve done for years now.  No idea where that is coming from.  This has left me financially in a mess, and even that doesn’t seem to be a motivator.  I have no idea what it’s going to take to set me right again.  I’m scaring myself, and that is saying something.  But my bipolar-addled, attention-deficient brain doesn’t care about my fear.  It just wants to stare in to space and think of other things.

What Have We Learnt?

We’re nearing the end of 2017, and the beauty of a grey Autumn day with colourful leaves everywhere set my mind to this blog, which really isn’t much of a blog anymore.  School is done, work is work, and my personal life remains relatively the same as always.  There really isn’t much to say these days.  But, as we are nearing the end of the year, I thought I’d  look back at some positives and negatives.

Politically, the world is a mess.  America has an idiotic prepubescent bully in the White House who would do better to be replaced by one of my cats.  The UK has a deluded Prime Minister who thinks she can keep the UK in the single market after Brexit.  These are our leaders, folks.

I don’t even have to remind everyone of the terrible shootings plaguing America right now.  And according to the ‘President,’ mental illness is to blame.  As someone with a mental illness and no desire to kill anyone, I take offence to that.  I own my disorder, and I work hard to keep myself stable.  I am probably the least violent person you’ll ever meet.  Yet in the eyes of the man who runs the most powerful nation in the Western world, I am the problem.

Times like these, we have to look to the positives in our lives.  I don’t get on with my housemates, but the centre of my existence lies outside my home, buried safely within my family-of-choice.  These people never fail to amaze me with their patience and love.  They deserve the best, but somehow they’ve ended up with me.  Then there are my cats.  Wonderful little beings who enrich my life every day.  Whenever I hear of yet another terrible world event, I just snuggle one of them, and things fade a bit.  It’s hard to be anything other than happy with a cat in your arms.

As this year winds down, I look to a comfortable ending and a bright beginning.  In fact, I wish that for many things.

All Mixed Up

I’ve been cycling.  As a matter of fact, I’m still on the downswing.  It started with hypomania that I didn’t even recognise.  My therapist pointed it out to me.  This went on for roughly two weeks (which is why I haven’t posted).  My thoughts raced madly, and I wanted everyone to shut it so I could keep talking.  *Nothing* moved fast enough.

From there, the mixed state set in.  The latest DSM did away with mixed episodes.  The disorder, on the other hand, did not.  This is the dangerous stage for me.  All the despair and suicidal ideation of depression with all the energy of mania.  I had racing dark thoughts.  I didn’t want to talk anymore because I didn’t want anyone to get in my head.  My paranoia shot up.  *Everything* was dangerous.

Now I’ve fallen in to a light depression.  It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable, but I feel I can cope with it safely.  If not, I’ll definitely phone up my therapist.  This completes my cycle, though. A couple of weeks of mania, followed by a week or so mixed, followed by sometimes months of depression.  Here’s hoping this stage passes as quickly and as easily as possible.