Frustration

Does anyone else feel that the universe has a sick sense of humor?

For example: I FINALLY begin to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks and can go out into the world and enjoy my life again. BAM. Social distancing and self isolation. So much for that.

Also: After three years of trying to get pregnant we have a minor miracle and conceive a child. BAM. A pandemic strikes putting me and the fetus at risk every time we attend MANDATORY appointments. I live in constant fear of getting sick and having adverse effects on baby.

I know we are all dealing with the same problems, and that we need to get through this as a team, but can I just for a second feel frustrated?

Okay, second over. Put on your fucking big girl pants and get through this shitty situation. Just think of all those little projects you’ve been putting off. Now is the time! OR you could knit to Star Trek the Next Generation re-runs… yay knitting!

The Visitors

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

Has anyone else experienced this? I feel quite right in my headspace. I’m not having unusual thoughts or impulses like I normally would at this stage, but I am still seeing and hearing things all the time. It is bizarre. I am sane enough to know they aren’t real- but it doesn’t help get rid of them.

‘The visitors’, as I call them, walk across my vision regularly. Small creatures and people without faces. They hide around corners and give me a jump, and then vanish. I see cars drive across the road in front of me and then vanish into the trees.

I hear little tunes in the silence of the house, so I keep the radio on all the time to cover it up. I have to go check the appliances in the house regularly. Over and over I swear I can hear them running (laundry, dishwasher) without having turned them on.

Sometimes I see pictures moving. Or the walls look like they are melting. This is the worst. It feels like they are closing in on me and I start to panic.

There are a lot of days I don’t feel safe driving because of these phenomenon. Luckily, I still have good days to in which I get stuff done but often not when I had originally planned.

So what do I do about this? My meds have been adjusted over and over with no relief. Is this just what the rest of my life will be like? I’m not a fan… I would like my brain back please!

A Person First

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Pre-natal appointment #2, aka one of the worst cases of stigma I have ever encountered.

It started out great. My doctor had a resident on staff who I chose to see instead. The resident was lovely and recognized right away I was very nervous about the swabs. I mean who LIKES have stuff going on down there right? She got them over quick and we got on the with the reams of prenatal questions. She was nice and respectful.

I told her I have been having increased trouble breathing. I know being pregnant isn’t the best for lung capacity but I’m only 12 weeks! I’m not even showing. Also, I have a significant history of asthma. Doing the proper thing she listened to all the lobes of my lungs- UNDER my shirt. She was concerned about air entry at the BASE of my lungs. Her training is to get a chest x-ray, but alas I am pregnant. So she goes to consult the doctor.

The doctor decides to come in and check. She listens to the TOP of my lungs (only two stethoscope placements) OVER my shirt and declares “her air entry is just fine. Use the O2 meter.” Which, of course, reads okay since I had been doing deep breaths for the last 5 minutes. Then she turns to me and in a patronizing voice says “its just your anxiety don’t you think? You are anxious about being pregnant? Could that be it?” And she smiles at me in this sticky sweet gag fest.

Now, I have encountered this so many times I’ve built up an armor. I almost laughed at her. But I looked her right in the eye and said “guess it’s all in my head”. She smiled again and left the room like she had discovered world peace.

This shortness of breath is NOT in my head. I exercise regularly yet I get winded going up the stairs in my house. IN MY HOUSE- where I am never anxious. The problem is pervasive, in all situation and locations. It would have been pretty impressive of my brain to have created something so elaborate.

But the problem is what do I do? She is technically my doctor now. I know from experience seeing someone else comes off as ‘manipulative’ or ‘gaming the system’ and the new person just sends you back to your GP. Also, as soon as you have that psychiatric diagnosis EVERYTHING IS IN YOUR HEAD. Because everyone knows you can’t have TWO problems right? If your mind has failed before it must be the culprit again, right?

Grr.

A little investigation would have gone a long fucking way. Maybe it is in my head, or just the pregnancy! But would it kill you to check it out a little? What if there is some disease process happening and you have now delayed diagnosis another 4 weeks (when my next appointment is)?? How am I to deliver a baby if I can’t go up stairs? Doesn’t that seem weird for an otherwise healthy 31-year-old?

Come on people! Take people with mental illness seriously! It’s not that hard to look at us as a PERSON FIRST and a diagnosis second. If she had bothered to ask a few questions and had done a proper physical exam her assessment may have been greeted more openly. But as it stands she had made the diagnosis before she even saw me, and that’s not only wrong but dangerous.

Spilling the Beans

Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

I am always totally terrified to disclose the specifics of my life with people I care about. Usually their reactions are upsetting. I’ve received a plethora of different reactions. From- ‘oh THAT’S what’s wrong with you’ to ‘meh, everyone has their thing’. Some people are afraid. Some people tell me about their bipolar aunt/mother/boyfriend. But I’ve found in general most people don’t really give a shit.

I think everyone is dealing with their own pile of crap and do not have a lot of energy to deal with someone else’s as well. As hurtful as this feels when we do allow ourselves to be vulnerable and disclose our issues, we all must understand that yeah; ‘everyone has their thing’. Some people are not ready or are unable to be helpful. They are not good at temporarily leaving their own life to give advice on yours. We have to respect that.

I think the hardest reaction to deal with is one of fear. In the last few years there have been great strides in portraying those with mental illness more accurately and less scandalously. TV and movies are starting to include characters struggling with diagnosable problems. While almost everyone can relate to characters with depression or anxiety, they stumble with mania and psychosis. It’s just not part of their experience so they can’t really understand it. Unfortunately lack of understanding is the crux of most fears. On TV people still see crazed killers blowing up buses or killing children randomly. It’s horrible. And inaccurate.

If I could give any advice to someone who has just been told that a good friend or relative is Bipolar, or Schizophrenic, or anything- is this:

Regardless of what your initial reaction was if you go back and do it right you can fix the damage you’ve done. I had people with overwhelmingly negative reactions change their tune and now we are close friends again.

Most importantly- ask questions. You may know ten people with Bipolar but your friend may be going through a completely different experience. It will help you understand the intricacies of their journey instead of lumping them in with ‘the mentally ill’.

On the same vein, ask what YOU can do. They may say that just listening is enough. Or, they may ask you to help them pick out signs they are entering a cycle. Of course don’t volunteer for something too stressful or overwhelming, you need your own boundaries as well. But, sometimes just being an impartial sounding board can save a life.

Finally- check in. Even if you are more of an acquaintance just a texted ‘hello hows it going?’ makes us feel less alone and could come at a critical time. Usually if you stop hearing from an ill friend there is a good reason and being the one to reach out proves that people still care.

So if someone you love has spilled their secret please be kind and gentle. It was probably one of the hardest things they have ever done.

Who Am I?

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

I think one of the hardest parts of mental illness is not really knowing who you are without the disease. In periods of wellness you look back and wonder if the choices you made, or the things you did were ‘you’ or ‘illness’. When you have a really good, high energy day the worries a mania is starting creep in. And alternately, when you have a shit day you begin panicking that you are at the very top of a long down hill slide.

So what is ‘you’ underneath all the drugs and self-care? Do you really need two hours to wake up- or is that Seroquil? Do you enjoy yoga- or has everyone and their dog forced you into it because ‘it will help’? How many colouring pages can you fill? How many journal entries can you write before you know who you are?

And then there’s the actual disease. Do you really like biking- or is that your manic obsession of the month? Did you sleep with that guy because you liked him- or because you made a gut decision while flying? Did you bail on all your plans because you’re not really a people person- or because you were hella depressed? Do you really want to die- or is your brain a liar?

My brain convinces me of something new everyday. Some days I’m thrilled and stoked about life. Others I could care less about getting off the couch. I have filled my journal with lists of goals and plans. Each list different then the last. I contact people and make plans- to hangout, to volunteer- and then I feel like shit and bail.

Some days my brain convinces me of less logical things. Like being watched, or that people are living in the basement. This is all fine and dandy when husband is home and can set me straight, but when I’m alone I can’t even phone someone because I’m terrified my calls are monitored and that they will take me away.

Its like my whole mental world is made of water. I try desperately to grab on to something only to have it slip away. Then a tsunami crashes into me from behind. Faltering in the onslaught of the waves I lose sight of the horizon and just float, buffeted this way and that, until the water calms again.

Because of this I’m 31 and I don’t know who I am. I know this isn’t unusual in this day and age, but that doesn’t make things any easier. I’m at a point where I am not working toward anything. I feel un-moored. Drifting aimlessly in the waters.

Luckily, it’s deep winter here and the waters are frozen. I can reach out and hold something firm, use it to boost myself up into the weak winter sunshine. And maybe, I will find my purpose once I can see the horizon again.

Therapy

Today I stood up for myself.

I was at a counselling appointment and my (well meaning) counsellor was really pushing me on my anxiety issues and ways I could work on them. I am well aware of WHAT I need to do. It’s the DOING that is hard. I provided her with some examples of my success (uh Costco people!). I got a quick congratulation and then she wanted me to make a plan for what I would work on this week.

I kind of snapped.

I never feel more mentally ill and broken as I do after appointments. The constant fixation on what is  WRONG, what’s not NORMAL behaviour makes me feel like shit about myself. So I told her that. And that I was done with the whole system. I wanted to work at my own pace, doing things for myself not because I needed something positive to report.

Lately some health issues have me in appointments, tests, bloodwork or counselling almost every other day. It is EXHAUSTING. I feel so poked and prodded. I’m just done with it- for now at least. I was reassured by my counsellor that I could come back when I felt ready. Maybe it’s just me putting my head in the sand and not dealing with things, but I am excited for 2020 and I feel ready to fly on my own. I think over the last 8ish years of mental health therapy, hospitalizations and medication trials we have finally hit on something that works. I have the foundation now. It is up to me to build on it the life that I want. And, I feel like that is something I need to do alone.

I need to spend the year figuring out what MY goals are. How I want my life to look. I want to work on my fitness and find something out of the house to do regularly (that is not a bloody appointment!). That’s all I know so far. I have a long way to go but I am happier right now than I have been in awhile. I suddenly feel very free to explore at my own pace- not be pushed and dragged through things I’m not ready for.

I spoke up- and it was worth it.

Life is too big

***Trigger Warning***

**I wrote this at a very low point. I have gotten help and we are working on things. Please do not act on this message, I am safe.**

Do you ever have those moments when you realize you have to do this for another 60 years and it just crushes your soul? The idea that I have to get up every morning for this inconceivably long period of time makes me feel exhausted. My life is just a frustrating series of failures, and I can only see that going on and on and on…

I just don’t want to deal with it. It’s too much. Life is too big.

I’m reading a book right now where the characters are all fighting tooth and nail to survive. Even when their futures might not be the best. I just can’t get my head around it. Why? What’s so scary about dying?

All my doctors have forced me to live. They interrupt my plans. They isolate and medicate me. For some reason they think their opinion on my continued existence is more important than my own. Like I don’t factor in at all. For some reason keeping this flesh prison walking and talking is critical.

I just don’t get it.

I can’t wait to go to sleep for the last time.

I know that sounds completely fatalistic but if you’re not being honest what’s the point? I also know that giving up at this stage of the game would be an utter waste. Who knows what my future holds? I just wish I had a crystal ball- to know if the fight was going to be worth it.

I keep trying to find a reason. I am combing my life for a purpose. What am I doing for the world? I’ve attempted and failed spectacularly at many possible paths. Now I can’t even dream up a goal. People say go big, challenge yourself, be your best self. Well my best self is making it through a whole day without crying. Or a whole day without terrifying hallucinations. A whole day where I don’t throw something across the room in frustration. My life is very small, but any attempt to widen it is met with increased symptoms.

I was hoping this blog would be my purpose. That I could help people with my own experiences and create a place where people could discuss and get support. But that’s a big fat fail too.

I’d love to go back to work. To get out of the house, to make some money. But no one wants to hire a med school drop out. Also going to the grocery store is hard, how am I going to be a work for 40 hours a week?

I’m honestly asking you readers- what do I do? How can I find something to keep me going, keep me moving forward? I need something, and I need it soon.

Trapped

What do you do when your trapped in your own life? When there is no glimmer on the horizon? How do you keep living the same few days over and over knowing there is no mystical future out there to save you?

Between anxiety and psychosis I can only leave the house occasionally. With the CBD lately I have been able to do things not previously imagined, but I pay the price the next day with fatigue and re-bound anxiety.

I have no career aspirations. I am not working toward a degree or certificate. We are seemingly unable to have children. Our house is in a place that I am satisfied with it.

So what am I doing? The same shit Every. Damn. Day.

I try to write (which often fails), I cook meals, I clean, I walk the dog (if I can), I read, I knit. That’s it. Oh, some days I throw a workout in there.

On big days I will go get bloodwork done, or have a doctors appointment, or pick up my grocery order. Yes, all these things involve hours of psyching myself up and panicking.

I could handle this if I knew it was going to end. If I was just working toward some sort of chronic illness graduation and then I could go out and take on life.

But that is not the case.

There is no end date. Just an interminable string of similar days with no progress.

I am trapped by my own mind, locked in my own head. I am doing everything and anything to break free. But its starting to get to me, starting to wear me down. I am losing hope.

The Zombie Effect

My doctor has increased my antipsychotic to help with the hallucinations and delusions I am barely coping with. It is a relief that I am finally being taken seriously. But it is also a huge hassle. Everyone who has been on these meds can attest that the first few weeks at a higher dose are terrible. You are tired all the time and your mind quite foggy. Many use the word ‘zombie’ and it certainly is a good descriptor.

Since I wasn’t manic but depressed I welcome this feeling. It’s the feeling of the road to recovery. Also not questioning if everything I see and hear is real is a relief. I still have moments where I get really lost in my own mind but I can be coached out of it now.

I wonder if I will ever get to a place where these symptoms don’t plague me everyday. If its not psychosis its anxiety, or depression, or mania, or some horrible cocktail of them all.

Every morning I wake up I crack an eyelid to look at the time. Too early = bad, too late = bad. A whole bunch of too early in a row = batten down the hatches, this ship is going manic.

If I am around the right time I hop out of bed and start my day. Things tick along until I need to go out to get something. Cue the dragon. Can I slay this anxious monster and get my shit done? Or will I be burned up and return home in shame.

I make it my mission to be productive everyday. Cooking dinner counts- though I much prefer accomplishing something real and tangible as proof that the day wasn’t a waste. I don’t know. It just makes me feel better. When I can crawl into bed knowing the house is clean, I’ve eaten well, and I’ve exercised a bit it makes much easier to fall asleep. Mostly because I am not berating myself for being useless all night.

I think that’s why I’ve taken to making socks. They only take a few days and you get something beautiful- and something people appreciate. They also can travel anywhere so those anxious fidgets can be harnessed.

The Christmas knitting has begun!

I am learning how to cope with the way my mind is now. I have all sorts of tricks that I’ve developed to get things done. I hate that it’s come to this, constantly modifying my life just to get the minimum done. But I refuse to let it stop me. I am not Bipolar. I am a writer, crafter and wife diagnosed Bipolar.

Husband Material

When I first arrived at Universtity I was so wrapped up in my social life in dorms that I only descended from the hill (where the Uni was) when I needed groceries, or let’s be honest- booze. Our floor was a particularly active one and you were always welcome to walk into any pod playing loud music. There were 4 boys in the pod next to us who taught me to play Soul Caliber and with my superior button mashing skills I won often.

I made really good friends. Rumors circulated that I was sleeping with several of them, but they were all false but one. I guess I took advantage of no curfew and stayed a little too late in boy’s rooms. When I met my husband in the second semester he was warned that my reputation was terrible and he should cut an run. But him and I had deep, soulful conversations deep into the night. He new I wasn’t the girl I was showing everyone else. I had never been so open and honest with anyone, but something about him made me feel safe. I think we both knew we had met a soulmate.

Two weeks into our dating he got me a pair of earrings. I had lost mine and he knew I missed them. I cried happy tears. He listened, he cared, he was everything. My friends thought this was nuts and that he was going to kidnap me and keep me in his basement. But a few months later when I still had all my skin they had to admit he was an okay guy.

The introduction to my parents was a rocky one, since he is 8 years older than me, but we didn’t let it phase us. Over years of Christmas visits and hasty drop in’s over the summer while he worked all over the province, he earned their respect. They could see he truly loved me and accepted him in.

We finally decided we should get married. We had been living together and calling ourselves Mrs and Mr Curtis in secret for a while, and we wanted to make it official. It was the most beautiful day. We were married in a garden, my baseball coach catered and my sister DJed. Tons of our family and friends came. In my manic mind it was a technicolor dream that was absolutely perfect. Others agree, although maybe not about the technicolor.

We decided to go to the cabin for our honeymoon but by that point I was so depressed I couldn’t function. So we came home to my first hospitalization.

Can you imagine? Newlywed and you find out your wife’s nuts. I was so embarrassed to even visit with him. I felt I had ruined his life. But he assures me everyday that he loves me too much to let me go.

The two of us have been through hell and highwater but we are still strong. Sure we argue- what couple doesn’t? But 99% of the time we are blissfully in love. I need him, and he needs me. He keeps me in this world when I start to drift, I keep him organized and with clean underwear.

Love is an incredibly powerful force. It has kept me on this plane several times. When my mind is a terrifying jungle a tight hug is an anchor. When you read this: I love you babe.