What the fuck?
Struggle to open eyes.
What the fuck.
Take medication x2
Try to make myself presentable.
What the fuck.
Vaguely amuse child
Hate life a bit.
Roughly tidy house.
Throw together a meal.
Tell child I love it.
Have some great ideas.
Try several random things to distract myself.
Freak the fuck out about getting up again tomorrow.
Tweet a bit.
I’m struggling, really struggling. I’m going to roll out the cliches, but I’m in this whirlpool, spiralling down, surrounded by shit. Eventually the plug will be pulled and I’ll drop out the bottom.
Many of the things I’m struggling with are pretty basic. Running a home, looking after a child, working part time. All challenging, but manageable for most.
Then there are the petty things. The pathetic tasks that I’m almost embarrassed to admit I can’t cope with. Remembering to sort prescriptions for my medication. Ordering the food shop online. Going to the post office. Driving. Opening post. Using the phone. My tax return and child tax credits paperwork was a minefield of anxiety. Every day it wasn’t done I was worrying about it, yet I had no energy to do it. I procrastinate my arse off to avoid facing up to the things that need to be done.
The reasons I struggle with all these things? Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Affective Disorder Type 2. I cannot live with these things and function day to day.
Something’s got to give. I need to make a list of all the things that stress me out, then decide how I can eliminate some of those worries. The parenting can’t go, obviously. Kinda stuck with that one on my own. Some of the small crap can be better organised.
But work? Claiming benefits? It’d be a whole new world. The media is full of stories of unfair cases, complicated processes. If I can’t go anywhere new on my own or talk on the phone, how do I even make a claim? Then the stigma. Yet another person ‘pretending to be mental to sit on her arse all day’. Daily Mail fodder. And then, that’s another thing added to the whirlpool. I’m drowning.
I saw him too. All 20 stone of him, stomach bulging out of his vest, sprawled on the path. Snoring pretty loud, wasn’t he? With just the one shoe on, asleep in public. I get that it was kinda funny. Funny in a way that it was unexpected. Of course you pointed him out to your friends. And you weren’t the only ones looking. It’s not often you see a middle aged man, mouth gaping, having a kip by a church.
First glances, double takes, they’re pretty standard. But you turned back, didn’t you? Hard to resist, wasn’t it? You knew you’d get lots of ‘likes’ for this. Perhaps it’d go viral. You left your friends, you turned back, and you took a photo.
Now, I’m making assumptions here, but I’m pretty sure you’ll share that snap. You and your friends got in your car, you probably laughed about it all the way home. Perhaps it’ll end up on your Facebook. Your mates will think you are the fucking business – good spot.
And while you’re sharing, and commenting, and snap chatting, that vulnerable man continues to sleep. Outdoors. On the ground. He might wake up later (and I’m making assumptions again here) and ask for some spare change. For food, or tobacco, or cider. Or he might not. He might put on his other shoe, tuck his vest into his trousers and stroll off home.
Either way, you laughed at that man. A vulnerable, sleeping man. You thought it appropriate to take a picture of a person as they slept. And not in the spur of the moment, you considered it as you walked away, decided it was the right thing to do and came back.
Did his vulnerability enter your mind? His rights? Did you consider that it might be appropriate to ask a person before you take their photograph? Did you think over the circumstances that led him to be there? Did any fibre of your heart reach out to him, hoping that he was ok? If that was the only place that he had to sleep?
Perhaps we’re living in a society that fundamentally lacks empathy. It’s a world where you’ve got to look out for you, take what the world owes you. As long as you’re ok, everything’s ok, right?
When it comes to people, and human nature, I like to consider myself an optimist. I hope that as you travelled home, you did think some of those things. That you deleted that photograph. That next time you see a vulnerable person in the street, you might wonder what you could do to help.
I wonder if, once my bipolar medication is effective, I’ll be this whole other person. Does a person ‘develop’ bipolar disorder, or are they born with it? I’ve certainly had mental health issues since my teenage years. So perhaps I’ve lived my entire adult life so far under this cloud of disease? Maybe the ‘monster’ has always ruled my thoughts, my actions, and once it’s under control, I’ll finally be ‘me’.
I wonder which bits of me will be left. Will I still have a short temper? A penchant for alternative style? Will I crave coffee and nicotine and need to plan everything in advance? Maybe I’ll be less emotional, or perhaps more so?
I like to think I’ll be able to achieve the things that I’d like to right now. Driving again, answering the phone, the social phobia gone. Less Dermatillomania would be great. A career might be nice. Or travel. But I’d settle for just being content with what I have now, and being a better parent to Moo.
My entire thought processes might be different. Just the way I function day to day altered. What if I don’t like the new me? What if the bits about myself that I do like (surprisingly, I can think of a couple) are also gone? A tick sheet to fill out would be great. If only I could opt out of some of my personality and keep the rest.
Once I’m this new person, will I have deep regrets? Will things that were once blamed on ill mental health suddenly become more rational? Maybe I am just an asshole. Maybe I do just hate being a mother. I won’t have depression and anxiety to hide behind. Maybe I’ll just be a lazy, demanding, high maintenance, ungrateful, snappy, moaning old bitch?
Meh, we’ll see.
Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes all the bullshit and the trauma and the crazy simply fades away and I’m left with this wonderful girl. Just me and her, on a journey together.
Sometimes we just sit, the two of us, reading or watching a film and for those few moments, I forget. I forget that there’s a monster inside of me. He’s quiet for a while, and I can just…live.
Sometimes Moo and I go on adventures. I’ll be brave and we’ll go walking or I’ll get the paints out and I don’t care if she covers herself from head to toe. Sometimes I can just ‘let go’, not care, even enjoy the chaos.
Sometimes the thought of parenting makes me feel excited. I feel like I did before she was born, before I was pregnant. I have ideas, hopes, projects for us. Even folding her clothes can make me happy.
Sometimes I’m just…me. Like right now, while I’m typing this. I can hear her playing with her doll house, the conversations between the sylvanian figures, her chatter. I can hear her feet pattering about. She’s giggling, lost in her world of imagination. It fills me with nostalgia, I once experienced the same, with that very doll house. Sometimes I can look back and feel warmth. Warmth that isn’t anger.
If this ‘sometimes’ could become ‘most of the time’, then I think I could do it. I think I’d be ok.
The general day to day tasks stress me out. Like, really stress me out. I write lists of things to do and get pissed off when I don’t complete them all. I’ll spend hours cleaning the house in preparation for a visitor popping in for a brew. Work often fills me with dread. A trip to the shop takes an hour and two cigarettes to prepare for. An unexpected call or knock at the door has made me hide, crying on the landing. And then there’s parenting on top of that. Am I getting it right? Is she happy, well rounded, secure? The whining, the begging, the constant demand for my attention. It’s relentless, draining and some days I just can’t be arsed with it.
A break away was just what I needed. My husband planned a surprise. The trip was announced on Mother’s Day, the destination revealed on my birthday, and we were to fly out on our fourth wedding anniversary. Gorgeous, historic Venice. Suitcases were borrowed, my passport renewed. I even shaved my legs. A chance to meander through narrow mazes of streets, soak up the culture, eat whatever and whenever we wanted, drink coffee and eat gelato in the sun. No restrictions, no responsibility, bliss.
It could not have been more opposite. Sure, I ate an ice cream. I spent hours looking at architecture, Mirano glass and sickening couples in gondolas. But I spent the majority (or so it felt) of the holiday feeling anxious, tense and too fucking hot.
I’ve had panic attacks before. Stomach knotted, shaking, hyperventilating in tears. But this was in a totally different league. Vomiting, sweating, the skin on my arms felt as though it was on fire. My legs were shaking so uncontrollably that I thought my body was going into shock. I sat, holding my face, hoping to die. I’ve only felt that ill once before, just after giving birth, suffering a haemorrhage. Flash backs to that time made the anxiety spiral further.
Suffering with an illness on holiday is never a good time. I had a bad cough in Athens years ago and was miserable. Communicating with 112 operators and paramedics in Italy made for a fun game. I can recall sitting in some wheelchair type thing in a hallway, next to a woman with a drip in her arm, wishing I was dead. Praying to God to please let me die. I was administered with Benzodiazepine and sat back out in the hall. The fire like skin feeling would come in waves, my head started rolling from side to side as my exhausted body was begging to sleep. Eventually I became calm, we paid our bill and got a taxi back to the hotel. I don’t even remember getting into bed.
We tried to salvage the holiday. We planned a chilled day. I slept in late, we mooched about, got take away food and sat by the water. And then there it was again, the burning feeling, stomach churning, cold sweats. Even typing this makes me start to feel it. I abandoned my gelato and begged my husband to get me home. I had to call time on Venice.
The airline wouldn’t switch our flights, or let me fly at all, without a ‘fit to fly’ letter. There was no way I could go to the hospital or see a doctor. I couldn’t leave the hotel. The holiday insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of a new flight as it was my ‘choice’ to cut the holiday short. We paid the money, packed our bags and left the next morning.
I was so embarrassed, ashamed, that the weird bullshit that goes on in my head had ruined the break that my husband had so lovingly planned. Checking out of the hotel. The expense. How do I respond to ‘how was your holiday? Did you ride on a gondola?’ No, I didn’t. I didn’t get to ride on a fucking gondola because my brain is so wrongly wired that I’m ridiculously sensitive to any change.
So, holidays are out. I’m home, surrounded by my own things. When I venture out I can come home if I need to. Daily life is the same, monotonous. It’s as stressful as it was before, I didn’t get the luxury of a few days relief. It’s confirmed to me how ill I really am. My life is becoming so, so limited. I can’t talk on the phone, I can’t drive, I can’t go many places on my own, I can’t sit in the garden if neighbours are out in theirs, I can’t work full time, I can’t invite people round on a whim, so many things. And now I can’t explore the Earth. I wouldn’t have got to see much of it anyway, unless I received an unexpected windfall. But to not have that freedom, it’s suffocating. I’m so restricted. My world is getting smaller and smaller. Soon I’ll just be a little cocoon, turned completely into myself, a life of nothingness. It’s pathetic, but also wonderfully appealing.
Today could be the last day I’m living a life without Lithium. Feeling apprehensive. I’ve never been a huge fan of popping pills, and now my life has become a whirl of anti depressants and anti anxiety medication and mood stabilisers. My ECG was fine, so if my blood test results are good then I’ll be starting a Lithium trial.
The thought of regular appointments and blood tests is overwhelming. I’ll have to arrange childcare and get myself there. But I guess I’ll have to make it up as I go along.
I hope to be as honest as I can in this journal. Side effects, changes in mood, the impact it has on my life.
See you on the other side.
I start 400mg of Lithium tonight. Thing I’m most worried about? My hands shaking so much that I can’t crochet. I despair at myself sometimes. I’m feeling really agitated today, nobody likes change!
At this point, if they offered me a brain transplant I’d go for it so this is nothing.
It’s funny, now I can say I’ve got bipolar disorder, I somehow feel less of a fraud. Which is wrong. That’s society looking upon depression with a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude.
This one small daily pill feels enormous to me. It really could change my life.
Nothing to report really. No side effects that I’ve noticed, so for now the crochet is safe.
I’ve filled out my ‘Lithium Alert Card’, the ultimate accessory, so now I can really show off my status as a fully fledged nutter.
I’ve never had a condition like this before, with a record book and blood tests and wallet warnings. I’m going to get one of those über trendy pill organisers too, to complete the look. If I’m gonna do this, I may as well go all out.
Still crazy. Mouth tastes like shit.
One week in and a few of the side effects are arriving. My mouth still tastes pretty rancid in the evenings (I hope I don’t have breath to match!) and I’ve noticed my hands being less steady. My fingers like to hit all kinds of letters on the keypad (thanks predictive text – I owe you one) and I no longer get the perfect roll on my cigarettes.
Im also exhausted a lot. I’ve always been a lazy arse anyway, but I could genuinely nod off at any moment, up until about 3pm.
I’ve been a lot more tearful. Whether that’s the lithium or not, I don’t know, but it seems weeks since I last cried. I’ve felt a lot of sadness, sadness about things that I can’t change, things that happened a long time ago. I’m hoping an improvement in my mental health will enable me to ‘let go’.
Blood results were normal. Perhaps a little disturbing, but I was almost hoping I’d have done some irreversible damage to my kidneys and could just die. Ah well. Dose to be increased to 600mg. I can cope with the side effects of dry, foul tasting mouth, shakes and fatigue as long as this shit makes me better. Just got to keep hanging on in there. It ain’t fucking easy.
Taking a drug like Lithium is totally alien to me. It’s the same shit they put into batteries. How freaky is that? I’m ingesting battery filler. I’ve never taken such a ‘hardcore’ medication before. I’ve probably only had antibiotics a handful of times in my life. I used Domperidone long term, but barely noticed I was taking it, besides the lactation. I’ve never suffered from side effects when previously taking anything. This is something else.
The increased thirst is fine; I don’t drink enough usually. And the temperatures at the moment is probably something to do with that anyway. But the fatigue is awful. Being mentally unwell is exhausting anyway, the over analysing, the sobbing. At the moment the days seem far too long, every hour drags by. I’m so tired, I’m willing it to be bedtime by lunchtime. The shakes are becoming an issue. I somehow managed to shatter the handle of a fork by dropping it and walking down steps makes my legs quiver.
The various professionals I’ve been seeing, from the crisis and community mental health teams, are starting to play with the idea that this may not be bipolar disorder type 2, perhaps it’s a personality disorder instead. If this is the case then the lithium will probably go. I don’t know what this is, I just need it gone.
Enveloped in deep, steaming water. Luxurious silky bubbles. The fragrance of lillies and almond oil. The soft, calming tones of Enya. Restful, rejuvenating, pores open, hair swirling like a mermaid…
Then, the sound of doom: footsteps. Stomping, rushing, size 7 bare feet. The door crashes open, extinguishing the Yankee candle, the CD skips. There she is, all ninety centimetres of her. Sticky fingers, painted face and matted hair. Before you can protest, call upon back up in the form of your husband, she’s joined you in the tub.
Naturally, I’m at the plug end, cold taps pressed into my back. We’re also joined by the frogs in various sizes, the duck that squirts and the plastic jug, perfect for saturating the bath mat. The bubbles disintegrate around us as the bar of soap is chased from one end to the other. Teeth must be brushed, unruly hair scrubbed and tamed, the white flannel now a dodgy shade of grey. When at last the toddler is sufficiently cleaned and ready for pajamas, the water is tepid and most likely diluting urine. Grateful there’s not a floater, I shave my legs in record time and call it a day.
There are many ways in which my bathroom could be perfect. An antique roll top bath, with one of those fancy things across for my handmade soap, embroidered flannel and loofa. An economical toilet with a flush on a chain. A shower with a head big enough you’d feel as though you were standing under a waterfall.
But the things that would make a bathroom perfect for me? A toilet that flushed right first time, one without a plastic seat on the top of it. Maybe it could even clean itself? Shower glass that never collected limescale. Perhaps a bath with a plug that didn’t have a raised knob as pointed as a knitting needle. One that filled itself, to the perfect temperature. One that never went cold, even if you had to put your child back into bed twenty times over. The entire room could be encased in a sound proof box. There’s nothing more irritating than hearing a child throwing a hissy fit when you’re trying to look at all the design ideas you wish you’d thought of in Country Living magazine.
In reality, my bathroom is pretty perfect already. It may have a dated cream suite and grubby grout. It’s kind of a garish turquoise and is always littered with wet towels and discarded socks. There are magazines by the toilet circa 2009. But it does what it needs to do. We’ve had some fun times in the bathroom. The bubbles have been so high the child couldn’t be located. Two pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test in that room. We splash and play boats and draw on the tiles. It’s everything a bathroom should be, just how I like it.
Although a poo in peace would be nice.
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It’s kind of a big deal writing this, and I guess that’s our good old friend ‘stigma’ meddling with things. But, it’s better for me to put it out there, I’m a firm believer in honesty being the best policy.
So, my psychiatrist is considering the possibility that I have Bipolar II Disorder, formerly known as manic depression. I have periods of ‘highs’, in which I’m busy, excitable, I take too much on, have a million ideas. And then come the more drawn out ‘lows’. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by all the plans I made, I become stressed and anxious, wanting the world to go away, even wanting to kill myself.
A trial of Lithium has been suggested, a word that immediately brings Nirvana and Evanescence to mind. Nice dark, moody music. Pretty fitting. I’m beginning the process of blood tests and ECGs, to make sure I’m fit enough to even try the stuff. Testing of this kind isn’t stressful for me, but coordinating doctors visits and work and childcare is. I’m not sure how I’ll manage the anxiety.
How do I feel about a mood stabiliser? What if I become void of emotion completely? Sometimes the hypomania is productive, I tidy the house, I’m brave enough to go out. I just wish I could balance it better. Maybe that’s what the Lithium will do. Would I trade those highs to avoid the desperate lows? Hell yes.
What will a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder mean for me? More stigma? A simpler way to explain my mental health issues? Employment difficulties? My abilities as a parent questioned? I guess we’ll see.
Play dates and arts and crafts and bed time stories and dancing in the sunshine. Bollocks. I call bullshit. Whoever told you it’s like that is lying to you. It’s about 5% that. The other 95% is just sheer hard work. Some days the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that children die if you don’t look after them.
You don’t even get piss breaks. They’ll whine and throw themselves onto the floor until you give in and take them with you, just to make the noise stop. You’ll never keep an outfit clean all day again. Your favourite things will probably be the ones that get stains on. You may as well never buy anything new again. Fuck it, just wear pajamas.
If you thought you were tired after a long day at work, think again. You have no concept of the meaning of the word tired until you have kids. Exhausted, drained, fatigued, call it what you will, it will make you want to curl up in a ball and cry. Going to work is the only escape from the actual work. No paid job can be this tough, it’d be inhumane.
All those happy memes spouting tripe about it ‘totally being worth it’, ‘the most precious gift’ and children being ‘my reason for living’ make me queasy. It’s relentless nagging and overwhelming responsibility. I just need to find the perfect photo to fit the caption.
Children drain your bank balance, your health, your mental state. They ruin your home, your sanity, your dignity. My advice? Don’t bother.