Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mental Health, Stigma, and Useless Stories

I haven't written a post here for quite some time.

It's not that I'd suddenly found a 'cure' or some other helpful method of coping with my Bipolar, it's just that, well, life is life, and I have four young children, and a million other things to do, and you know, sometimes, just sometimes, I simply don't feel like writing about the arguments in my head.

People that know me in real life, and know me well, know when I'm coping and when I'm not. Recently, it's been a whole lot more of the latter, rather than the former.

I like to read as much as I can about my condition, it helps me to try to understand what I am going through, from an 'outside' perspective. Almost like I'm looking in to my head and not actually experiencing the confusion, which, of course, I am. This is also why I love reading about other people's experiences of Bipolar II disorder. It helps me feel safe, and reassured, if you know what I mean? It's like someone out there in the big wide world is reaching out to me and saying,
"It's OK, it happens to me too"
There is an online community called Black Dog Tribe (BDT), spearheaded by Ruby Wax, which is trying it's hardest to reduce the stigma around all types of mental health issues, which is long overdue.

I have gained a wealth of knowledge from Black Dog Tribe, this past year, and have read many heart wrenching real life stories from featured bloggers, who, like me, suffer daily with depression and mood disorders.

However, today, while perusing Facebook, I came across BDT's feed, which gave various links to articles on their website, the one that grabbed my attention straight away read:
        "Catherine Zeta-Jones Speaks out about her          battle with Bipolar"

I am not a celeb fan, I don't have any favourites, or read up on anyone, unless there is a particular story in the news that is of interest to me, like the one in question, which you can read here.

Zeta-Jones talks about being a role model and hopes that this article will help with the stigma surrounding mental health, yet I read nothing in this particular article that doesn't almost seem to glamorise the condition.

The article is also not completely relevant, as it talks about her home life with her husband and two children and her hobbies, like knitting and gardening, and the fact that  "I love clothes and, yes, we go out, but it’s not like I’m walking around all day in a negligee with fluffy mules.”

At the "height of her illness"  her 'battle' was, according to this report, with Googling her name to find negative comments, so to remedy this, she simply went "cold turkey" and didn't go online, claiming she felt "liberated"

This is all well and good, but this is sending out absolutely no help whatsoever for the people she is supposed to be a role model for. She is merely stating a medical fact that the press had already found out about her.

Now, please don't get me wrong, I am not condemning the woman, but this article is poorly written, and is of no use to anyone suffering from manic depression. It does nothing to help with the stigma around mental health. In fact, I find it almost insulting.

I have often been told to "snap out of it" or "look on the bright side" or "take a happy pill and smile" if I could switch off the struggle in my head and go cold turkey, like Zeta-Jones did with Google, then a large proportion of my illness would be cured!

It is news stories like these that encourage the people who have little or no understanding of mental heath issues to continue to be ignorant and flippant. Surely this is exactly what Black Dog Tribe is trying to overcome, not promote..?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Useless waste of space

I'm low on petrol and I'm a long way from home. The night is dark. The days are dark too.
It doesn't matter how much I try, I always and will always fail.
I am not meant to win. I realise that now. It's only taken 30 years to figure that out.

Oncoming headlights blur into each other, like the days of the week, leaving me momentarily blinded.

The space around me is empty and bleak. The loneliness and self loathing of my depression settles itself down into the the surrounding darkness. It's hear for the long haul.

The fact is, I deserve nothing better. The more I fight it, the more I fail. The more I ignore it the more I hurt those around me. It's a lose, lose situation.  So I'm not going to fight it or ignore it any longer.
This is who I am. A useless waste of space. A tiny insignificant shadow of a person, who has no right being here, living on borrowed time. Time someone else, someone much better than me could, and should be using. Every single breath I take hurts someone.

The worst thing about this is that I think I'm too much of a coward to put things right. I don't want to leave, despite the pain I cause, not just to myself, but to others as well.
I don't want to leave my husband to explain to our children why Mummy isn't around anymore. I don't want any of them to feel guilty about that, because despite my best efforts to fuck up their lives, they are beautiful people.

I also don't want to burden them with all the shit that goes on in my head, so my heart says leave and my head says stay. And they battle it out. Daily. Each day, one convincing the other that it is right. But my heart isn't strong enough. It can't carry out it's duty. It's duty is to put my family before me. It's duty is to end their suffering.

I can't even get that right.

Coming from my family, it's a wonder why I thought that I could have a normal life. A happier ending then the rest. Why the fuck did I think I was so special? Why would I ever think that I was any better or deserved more or was any different to the rest? What a joke.

I'm a joke. The biggest one there is. So laugh. I'm not going to fight it anymore. I'm going to embrace the darkness and the emptiness and maybe one day I will finally be strong enough to put my family first and end my burden on them.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Religion, Karma and Mental Health

I envy those people that have found religion.
I am jealous of the way that they have complete and utter blind faith in something, or someone.
It must feel quite liberating, I would imagine. To be able to shrug and say something like "It's all in God's plan" and believe it.

This is a concept I struggle with. I'm no Atheist, but I'm not a believer either.  Not in God anyway.
I believe that there is something, I don't know what. I believe that miracles can happen. I believe that it is possible to be watched over by loved ones passed. I believe that death isn't necessarily the end.

I don't believe in prayer. I don't believe that there is a 'God' sitting up there in a cloud listening to us all. I don't believe that he or she can 'save' us simply because we ask.

Karma is another one. I'm not entirely sure that it exists. The logic of it is solid, but in practise, it seems to let somethings slip through the net.

I have tried to believe. Tried to believe that my thoughts and actions are just. That this is how it was meant to be or else something, somewhere in the world would be off balance. Fate and all that.

But then I have moments of clarity. Admittedly, they are few and far between. I realise that it is all just a load of bullshit. How can you think that consequences don't exist? Or that there is a white knight on his steed just waiting around the corner ready to catch you when you fall?

No one can save you but yourself. We came into this world alone and we die alone. There is no hand holding. No reinforcement.

Sometimes I think that maybe, subconsciously, I like falling. I try so very hard to make things OK and right and normal, just for my brain to blur the lines and jump the walls that I have taken months, painstakingly building around me. And yet, I am powerless to stop it.

The inevitable crash that will happen. Each, and every time I hope that it will not be as bad or last as long as the previous one. I hope that my landing will be softer, not for me, but for those around me.

I can't believe that a 'God', a 'higher power' would think that this is a way of life. Created with so many flaws. Not equal. Not in the least. Each and every single day, a struggle.

So I do envy those who can ignore Science and ignore the things that I see. I am jealous of their inner peace and strength and knowledge, that someone out there has their back and will break their fall.

Mental Health Awareness Week 21-27 May 2012.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Timely Reminders

Photo Credit

After posting yesterday, I got asked about my book of reminders.

If you used to follow me on Twitter, then you may well have seen me reference my post -its and reminders for those days, well, every day really,  when my brain just doesn't quite function properly.

I have an entire notebook dedicated to notes and reminders of things that I should and shouldn't do when going about my daily business. Bipolar has messed me up completely.

Some of my notes are just written on the pages of my notebook for me to read through, some are stuck in on brightly coloured post-it notes, which I transfer to my laptop screen, or stick on my front door or in my car.

These notes are extremely important to me, and help me a lot to not make the same mistakes, but I have to also take steps to ensure that these work correctly.

I have to set alarmed reminders at various intervals during the day on my iPhone to remind me to look at the notes. I also have to constantly change, or add to my notes. Making sure the wording is just right is crucial. If it's not, it doesn't work, and things fall apart.

For example, one of my original notes was: 'Don't buy stupid stuff!'
This was adapted to 'Don't waste money' and then it was added to 'Don't waste money on things you don't need' then 'Don't spend money we don't have' and finally 'Don't waste money, save money, have fun with D and the kids'.

It takes a while for me to figure out the correct wording that works for me to not do the thing that it is reminding me of.

Others are more encouraging like 'Take Che to toddler group today, you CAN leave the house'
and 'The school run is NOT scary, it is essencial' and 'Getting out of bed today makes you a better person' and 'Don't forget to eat and drink today'

Silly little things for most people, but its the basic things that my brain blanks over. My spending when I'm manic is almost non-existent now, and my savings account is looking a lot healthier. We have even booked four mini trips for this year and I am happily saving for them. IT WORKS FOR ME!

The days when I don't eat or drink a single thing are fewer. The days when I can't force myself out of bed are less, and Che is going to toddler groups (mostly) twice a week.

It's not a perfect system. It's certainly not flawless. But, it is slowly starting to make a difference to me and some of my behaviour. It is a work in progress and it is trial and error.

For me it is a life line, of sorts. I need to focus on it more to help make me a better person. I am determined to be that better person and hopefully, somewhere down the line, I can show my husband and  my children, that I am better than this. That I am stronger than this. That I am a person that they deserve to have in their lives.

If you have anything that works for you, please do share them in the comments below, I would love to hear from people that have developed strategies and coping mechanisms.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

One Day at a Time

Yesterday was a bit of a break through for me, in that I managed to write a post that seemed to convey the message I wanted it to. This made me happy.

This has also compelled me to write again today. I don't know how long this will last, so if you do read my ramblings, make the most of it!

Writing a blog post every day is not my usual thing. I know a lot do it and some even do more than one on any given day, but, for me, that is a very unreal expectation.

My mood swings with Bipolar are so fraught that the extra pressure of trying to write everyday is just too much for me to cope with.

Last week, I once again removed myself from Twitter and Google +.
If truth be told, despite feeling incredibly lonely and isolated, the interaction of social media networks such at Twitter is overwhelming. I am just not good at keeping up with such a large 'audience'.

I also develop relationships all too easily and then end up either upsetting people or am left feeling devastated when my trust and friendship are not returned. The problem is that if I click with someone, I invest everything I have into that. (I guess that's the loneliness thing) It makes me feel safe and happy to have a close friend that I can confide in. Yet, despite this genuinely positive impact this kind of relationship has on me, I must learn not to do it.

I have added yet another note in my ever increasing book of things to remember when my brain goes super squiffy.

When manic, I find it difficult to not blur lines, no matter how innocent or funny I think I'm being, it doesn't always come across that way to others involved. But mania has no filter, so I must constantly remind myself of this.

I have officially been Bipolar for 2 years now, and I am still on a very steep learning curve. It sucks. Big time.

I have to learn to be patient (not one of my strong points) and to just take one day at a time.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Help Through the Dark Days

A couple of weeks ago, I told a fellow blogger that I was going to write a post in response to one he'd written. I have struggled to write it. I have written 12 different drafts of this post and none of them really convey the message that I would like to put across. I don't think this one will either, so I'm just going to write and see what happens.

Actually, it's not really a message. More a feeling. Yet, I can't quite get that feeling into words.

I want him to know that I understand. That I know exactly what he means. That I feel it too.
I want him to know that he is an inspiration to me, and I'm sure, many others. That he is doing an amazing job raising his two children, despite the obstacles he faces. I want him to know that I have come to almost idolise him. The way he deals with his problems in such an open and honest manor. The way he shares his experiences with not just the online world, but with his children too. The way he carries on and doesn't let it define him.

I want him to know all of those things. And I want you to know him.

The person I am talking about is Spencer and he writes at SAHD and Proud.
The blog post that provoked me to write about Spencer is titled 'Oh Just Fuck Off' and you can read it here.

I have read 'Oh Just Fuck Off' many times now. The first 3 times, it made me cry.
Firstly, because I felt enormous sympathy, and empathy. Secondly, because I have, and still do feel the same. And lastly, because I had just heard the news that a good friend of mine had taken his own life. That week was rough on me.

My Bipolar and my thoughts and feelings aren't really talked about. I struggle a lot on my own.
I hate not knowing how I will wake up. I hate even more when I have rapid cycles and can switch from manic to depressed part way through a day, without a hint of a warning.

My husband tries his best. And I am fully aware that I wear him out. I try hard not to. But it is simply out of my control. I don't speak to family about things, they don't understand. I am ridiculed at every possible moment and having a 'made up' illness is just a big joke to them. "Snap out of it" and "Get a grip" and "You're a mother now, stop being so dramatic" are things I hear often.

I cry and cry and cry, until no tears can come. I contemplate suicide. I have even tried on 2 occasions to end my own life. But, to those around me, that is the easy part.

Then the manic episodes hit. I become a totally different person. Gone are the tears and the deep, dark thoughts. Gone is the inability to get out of bed or leave the safety of my home. It is replaced with overwhelming confidence, and focus. I can do anything and everything. There are no consequences. I am invincible.
Only.. I'm not.

I'm not indestructible, neither is my family. And I'm not made of money. And I'm not really, deep down this overly confident, go-getter who can do and have it all.

Then the cycle continues and I crumble in a heap on the floor, sobbing like a child.

My brain doesn't function right, in either state. I mess up all too often and I genuinely never see it coming. I try to learn from things. I leave myself notes to remind me not to do things, or indeed to do them. The trouble is that I very rarely seem to be in a 'normal' state of mind. I am either severely depressed, or crazy manic. On my few and far between good days, at best, I feel numb.
Bipolar really is an accurate name for my condition.

I always tell myself that I should write more here, and I always intend to, but putting my feelings into words isn't easy. I'm used to putting the fake smile on my face and getting on with it. Talking is hard to do, but I know it helps. When I do write I am as honest and open as possible, but even this sometimes causes problems, so I write sparingly, and don't do the things I want to or say the things I need to say, because others seem to have such a problem with seeing glimpses of the inside of my head.

To Spencer,
I salute you. You do what I could never do. You live how I could never live. You amaze and inspire me to be a better person.
Keep doing what you are doing, because, although you don't see it, you are doing it well.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Untimely Endings

Yesterday came the sad news that a friend had taken the decision to end his life.

For obvious reasons, I will not mention his name or the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

This is a difficult post to write, but I feel that it should be written. I know that he used to read my Blog, and would often talk to me about it, so it feels only right to honour his memory here.

This man had so much to live for, and had done so much with his life.

He travelled the world. He had many, many friends. He held down some amazing jobs. He had some lovely girlfriends. He was the life and soul of every party. He was a manic depressive.

Many people won't understand his decision to end his life. Some will say that he took the 'easy way out'. The rumour mill has already started doing the rounds on certain social media sites, despite the families wish to keep details quiet.

The fact is that many didn't 'know' or 'understand' him as well as they think they did.

Many can not comprehend feeling so lonely and isolated, despite being surrounded by friends and family. Or indeed, the feeling of being 'invinsible' during a manic episode..

The thought of help, from anyone, no matter how well intentioned, is embarrassing for most, but for those with Bipolar or other mental health conditions, it's terrifying. People finding out the thing that you have been desperately trying to hide from them, is simply horrifying.

We will never know the exact reasons that this man, this friend, chose to end his life. However, it was not a 'cry for help'. It was not a 'bid for attention'. It was the action of an incredibly brave soul, who simply got too tired to fight.

This wasn't a selfish act. It wasn't to hurt those he left behind, or those he loved and whom loved him back. It was a choice. HIS choice. Those that really knew him and really love him will completely understand that choice. I am in no way condoning his actions, I am merely stating that I understand them.

He will no longer suffer with the demons in his head. He will no longer have to play the 'happy man' when inside he felt like crying.

 I will no longer receive the drunken, crying, ramblings of a friend who was desperately searching for peace at 4am..

It has been less than 48 hours since you've been gone. You are already deeply missed.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The drugs don't work..

Some days are easier than others.

These past couple of weeks have been ridiculously difficult. There are several reasons for this, that I'm not sure that I should go into in such a public way, so I will condense and edit.

I had a problem with a good friend of mine, which resulted in a situation which I have been struggling to come to terms with. However, the end result is that my friend is much happier, so I shouldn't be disappointed. It's not that the matter didn't go my way, it's just that it was a compromise that I never thought I'd have to make, but knowing that she is happier now is making my struggle easier to deal with.

Things at home haven't been terribly easy of late either.
Problems with medication have been the underlying cause of these issues. Side effects, and simple lack of treating the issue they were prescribed for, doesn't help.

Tempers have been short, mainly due to the mistreatment and the house has felt a bit like a no mans land. 'Egg-shell' walking has been happening a lot recently.

Yet another visit to the GP is required and I have everything crossed that today is the day that she will prescribe some new meds that actually work and in turn will start to ease the tensions.

I am trying my best to keep busy and to be accommodating of the issues surrounding us at the moment, but I am at breaking point. I need new strategies and new ways of coping with this unfamiliar territory, because what I'm doing clearly isn't working.

I also have to be careful about how much I take on. Keeping busy for me is good, but it's fine line between busy and unmanageable. My fragile state of mind can't handle too much. The problem is, that I don't seem to be able to gauge how much is too much until I have already taken it on, which of course poses huge problems.

I have removed myself from some social media again and the ones I am still active on, I use sparingly. Knowing the difference between real life and online life is very important. I can't allow myself to become all-encompassing with it again.

So there you have it, a very quick update into my deranged world. See you again next time.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Black Sheep

Photo Credit: Telegraph

Its been a while since I posted here.

There are some good reasons for this. Equally, there has been laziness, on my part.

So exactly what has compelled me to update with this post?
Well, a few things actually.

I have recently returned to the land of the living and have rejoined Facebook and Twitter. After a 6/7 month absence from social media, I have to say that I've found the adjustment of talking to people again quite challenging.

I made a mistake too. Something that I found difficult to accept. But it was a mistake. MY mistake.

I followed a whole group of people that I used to be very chatty with. A group of people that I thought of as friends. But when you've spent half a year being completely out of sight and mind, you can't just walk back in and be welcomed with open arms.
I learnt this the hard way.

I'm not sure what I expected of these people. Some were great, some were cagey, and one or two were just not liking my presence there at all. So I left the group.
I didn't want confrontation. I didn't want sympathy. I didn't want empathy. I just wanted the space to be 'me' while being able to chat with some of the loveliest people I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

All good things come to an end, right?
And this is my end. The end of me worrying about this. The end of me wishing I could be someone else to fit in. The end of being part of this group of friends.