Friday, November 3, 2017

How Bipolar Hypomania effects me.




Recently a friend asks me what mania was like for me? So I though I would attempt to answer via this post.   Just to clarify, I have Bipolar Disorder and have was diagnosed with Bipolar 2, so technically, I have only experienced hypomania. That can change, as I did used to only have Cyclothymia the lesser form of Bipolar, usually not requiring medication it got way worse in my 40's. I now need to take regular medication.

Whilst not everyone in the world has experience depression, most people can relate to the feelings of flatness and that pole of  and its probably way easier than the mania to control, it basically causes me to lie on the couch and I struggle with just about everything  - I will call it mania for ease of this post,  mostly because it takes too long to type hypomania! So, how it presents to me and how its triggered, I will explain how that journey occurred for me, keeping in mind Bipolar episodes are different for everyone. There are so many variations of how this can present to people.

I am currently in the middles of a hypomanic episode.  It started sliding upwards around about 4-5 weeks ago.  I will often experience mania, with the  day light saving change, with the longer days, with the extra sun, with just all the extra gardening I do and will any altered sleep pattern that gives me less sleep.

I have been through a bit of a tough time with an ended friendship recently, just a little extra stress, this was causing me to stay up later at night, I was struggling to get to sleep before 1.30 in the morning for a few days and add on to that day light savings (many Bipolars seem to get manic with the season change) and then I made the decision to come off one of my medications.

Prior to this my mood was ok, but pretty flat, I was really struggling actually with driving, and sleeping too much and to be honest getting off the couch and with motivation.

I knew I had to change something as my eldest sons final school graduation was coming up. I decided as the anti depressant medication wasn't working to stop taking it all together so I slowly stopped them and slowly I felt better.  I remained on mood stabilisers.

I was able to get outdoors again.  Get back to yoga, walk my dog and best of all cycle on the bike!



So its a slow progression that I find barely noticeable until others start to tell me they are noticing mood changes but basically it progresses to;

Walking faster - kids tell me its a slow jog pace
Talking non stop - very hard for others to get a word in.
Exercise - this picks up dramatically for me, from extra cycling to walking, to swimming laps I will do many laps and not actually be able to count them as I start to think of plans for tomorrow, and extra yoga classes. I start to go to bed later and later.



For about 4 days things are AMAZING, the colours on the trees and flowers are way brighter, sounds are very clear, scents overwhelm me with a deep happiness, nothing can depress me, the world is all spectacular. I will take my shoes of in parks and feeling the grass under my feet is almost the best feeling in the world.



This then starts to pick up into the idea phase, I have amazing ideas, well I think they are, lol, this will also be the phase I take on extra work, many types of volunteer work, and its doable after all at this stage I am exercising for a good 3 hours a day, I wont be eating until about 10pm at night, I go to bed around 2am  and I will be up and good to go by 6 to 7am with no tiredness.

The next phase is not as fun;
I ride faster, really fast on the bike, I have little need for road rules as I rule the road and everyone should know this, round abouts? Give way? Me? Really? I don't think so I got here first!
Train? Boom gates, no sorry I actually need to get to yoga, I can beat those gates - I have done this and when not manic I am mortified by my behavior.
Sex drive of an average woman lets say that's a few times a week wanting sex for the purpose of this post,  clearly we are taking about woman with no toddlers here lets multiply that to 7 times a day, ok I am toning it down a bit for the post it usually worse. That's the drive you deal with as manic. Its obviously not achieveable its embarrassing to admit too, especially when they have that question on those pych forms,  but hey were all adults reading this.

The polite filters, well there all off by now, don't ask me "do I look good in this dress" I will give you an honest answer as they are all turned off I literally will talk to anyone about ANYTHING, there are no limits, and I have cringed when my mania turns to depression again and inevitably it will. Most people around me cringe too, my kids won't come to the shops with me and try to avoid any events.

This comes across as aggression and too much assertiveness and those that know me know when I am flatter in mood I would never be as forward as I am when mania hits. It's hard to plan meals for anyone, in fact its hard to even come indoors from a trip to the supermarket, usually I get out of the car and end up weeding the garden, start cleaning a fishpond, remember the groceries, start doing a gym workout, my thought patterns are totally scattered and should I desire to buy anything at all, usually I will. This will generally be the stage added medication is suggested and I will balk at the idea. Slow down my awesomeness?!! How ridiculous! Clearly they don't realise I have genius idea's!

When I exercise I can go faster on the bike, swim so many more laps than usual, and will attempt trickier poses at Yoga that sensible me would never do. At this stage my focus is so bad all the others I am sure are doing different poses at Yoga and I am doing something completely different! At the end when I am supposed to be relaxing I am ticking off new ideas and working out jobs to do the next day! Normally Savasana is my favorite pose, here am I thinking about my shopping, or sex again!

Then there is the spending, I am usually pretty good with money, I barely notice what is in my account most of the time as long as there is money for the bills I largely ignore the account, until mania sets in, then all the things I would never normally buy is suddenly appealing.  Generally I hate shopping, clothes, shiny new items, unless they are plant or animal related I am not interested. But add mania I will shop all day, until the limit of funds are reached, I used to wonder why my sister would encourage me to always shop for her birthday presents when in the manic phase! Now I know!

I have a good team of health professionals that look out for my depression and mania, but I am not the best at being compliant with the medication that I know with knock this happy awesome energy filled moment out of me. I am worried it will send me back to depression and really, who wants that?

Somehow taking a pill that puts me to sleep for 12 hours straight simple does not fill me with excitement when I have just managed to work in the garden all day, and done a million other tasks, even if in a dreadfully disorganised order.

So being a rapid cycler, how this end is my body eventually wears out after about 4-8 weeks. I crash, I want to sleep for a month and depression sets in.

So this is how Bipolar Hypomania feels for me, throw in a really low tolerance for anything really, so I lose my temper often at this point also. Not so much fun to be around what the fuck seem to be my favorite saying at the moment!

There are in-betweens where I function as somewhat "normal" WTF is that anyway? Well as Normal as you can be with C-PTSD and living with 3 boys a gazillion animals trying to part time run a business and a large permaculture property.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today world suicide prevention day. In Australia every year;

 400,000 Australians experience suicidal thoughts.
65,000 Australians will make an attempt at suicide.
35,000 are admitted to hospital for suicide related injuries

 In 2015 2,500 Australians died.  This isn't entirely accurate though as stats often are not.  If someone was to attempt suicide, injure themselves and then die 4, 6, 12 months later in a related but separate instance it won't be put down as suicide.
For example, you attempt via overdose, your treated but your liver is damaged and 12 months later you pass away, it will be put down as liver failure.

PLEASE DO NOT READ ON IF THE TOPIC OF SUICIDE DISTRESSES.

Suicide is one of those topics we do discuss often enough  In my immediate family we have broken this stigma and smashed it to pieces. It my extended family the stigma is well alive.

I first overdosed at 14. I had been through abuse from at that stage 3 boys at my school, a female adult and then 2 male nurses in a adult acute psych hospital.  I was done. It was a serious attempt I told no one. There as no point. I didn't feel there was anything that could be done to help me at this point and I wanted to die. This was the early 80's.

I woke a week later in ICU in Box Hill hospital, I couldn't talk or walk. it took a few days to manage this and the nurse I had was incredibly awful to me, when I could finally get to a shower I fell, she laughed as I hit the ground. That began my experience with stigma. My mother picked me up in the car when I was well enough to go home she was was rarely angry.
I was told, we would not discuss what I had done and I was made to feel shame for what I had done.

I found other ways to cope and subsequently ended up with an eating disorder.  I do not blame my parents. That was how parenting was done then.

I attempted again in my early 20's this was the beginning  I believe of my Bipolar emerging.
I don't want to make out my entire life was up and down and thoughts of suicide or elevation. It wasn't like that at all. But suicidal ideation is something I fight a lot. I spent most of 2015 struggling with it until I gave in 3 times, on reflection its one of the most embarrassing things you can attempt suicide do it took while for me to see that. In one attempt I had Police and Paramedics find me.  All I could think a few days later is how messy my car was. If you know me and have been in my car during mandarine season you will be cringing right about now.  I only clean it once a month. It was woeful. I was so embarassed.
Another time my husband had to give me mouth to mouth. I didn't get told this until weeks maybe months afterwards because he was so angry with me. I think I was breathing so probably didn't need this and I am so OCD about people's air going in my mouth...

My last attempt after multiple other issues accumulating at once was earlier this year again I had gone into depression, I was physically and mentally done. Only this time for the first time ever I remained awake. I overdosed in the psych ward. I am not laying blame this was 100% my fault. As were all my attempts. As a team of ICU people were called and I ripped my clothes off trying to stop the maddening itching from a full packet of mega strong back pain medication.  I got hot, really hot, then thought my heart would come out my chest.  I kept hearing them say "shes Tachy" as my son has a low heart rate and so do I normally I knew that was probably not great as they asked me "do you have any heart problems normally". I wasn't scared or worried, but ultimately I overdose to sleep, I fear psych, they had put me in to get help and I panic all I heard was I might have to stay a couple of days so a part of me thought ok we overdose sleep a couple of days wake up and leave after a couple of days, lol. Not very rational I know. I wondered when was the sleep coming why was I still awake?

The following day a professor came to the hospital side I was readmitted to the "normal" part of hospital and trust me no one wanted me - I heard the conversations - more stigma and the embarrassing part is at the time and I might add the ICU Doctor was nice he wasn't awful at all but once they had injected me with whatever they did to stabilise me to get me over to normal hospital - located next door the professor said "you might have done tons of liver damage don't know yet". So I had to wait for that test. I don't drink alcohol lucky they told me so when the test returned - I think I was under the assumption when you wake up all is well.  Its not so! The test was fine. Normal hospital eventually found a place for me after many discussions but it was clear mental ill patients who are physically ill are a pain in the butt! More stigma! I spend the entire time apologising over there.

I have also discovered NARCAN which seems to be what they give me for anything I overdose on with codeine in it, makes you chatty. ALL NIGHT. Sadly I don't remember who I have talked too or what conversations I have had online or on Facebook and then I wonder how come a few weeks later everyone knows I have overdosed again! I also seem to end up on some sort of drip that makes me pee all night and I can't walk properly so lucky nurse gets to listen to me all night and take me for 50 toilet trips. I kept apologising...

Its really tricky for me to get help as invariably if I am too depressed I will have a stint in a Psych hospital until medication helps the thoughts settle and my biggest fear in life ever is to be placed in a psych hospital.  It sometimes usually actually triggers me back to when I was abused in there. So I am lucky I do have a case manager right now that does everything to keep me treated on the outside.

I am not a person who will generally ask for assistance when I am suicidal because I always think it stresses people. so I have written plans my self, check lists of what I can do to help myself.
I fully believe I am the only one can change my thoughts.
Some of the things of my plan are to;

Call a friend just to chat.
Deep breathing
Yoga session
Colour in and listen to calming music.
Gratitide list.
Hug my kids.
Pat my pets.
Garden.
Ground myself.

Call Psych team - last resort I always say but I am not coming in, they are great, they usually don't make me public psych is short staffed if they can treat outside they will.

Some facts, we lose more people to suicide in Australia than we do to road traffic accidents although lately in this town we are loosing a lot to accidents!

We need to ask others how we can help, what can we do?

As a community can we do something better?

I would also like to add that woman attempt as many times as men, there is much more focus on men attempting because they use and have access to more violent ways of attempting and are therefore more successful.

We need to focus on suicide as a whole on gender specific help.


Thank you for reading xxx

Please note - I didn't type this for any pity.  I actually have a really blessed life I know that, I am lucky, I have a lot of gratitude, I am not happy with the attempts and I don't need to be told, I have enough people in my life already made me feel shame for each and every attempt.  I know what I nearly lost and I am not proud.  I am speaking on this day to REDUCE STIGMA. If you think I am a bad mother please know kids have a great dad who's never attempted.


Meggsie. My companion xxx.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

One year later - Recovery

It seems 4 seasons have past since I last posted. It feels like a lifetime.


I would love to say I been busy in the garden with the kids and building up my business and enjoying life.  To a certain extent this is true.  I have added to the garden. A garden is always work in progress.
The boys always keep me busy work has taken a bit of  back seat to trying to get my health in order, I do work very part time, I see maybe 2 clients some weeks other weeks if I am good 4.  But never more, I found it too overwhelming to manage any more than that and probably isn't going to change anytime soon.


Over the past year my marriage has dissolved, but I remain amicable and friendly with the kids father, we both still own our home so the kids could remain in stability and go to the same schools, and not have more upheaval as the past two years have been tough on them. So we remain friends. The kids father lives a few hours away now.

I don't normally talk about my mental health, but I would like to now.  It is a part of me and therefore a part of my journey.  It gives myself and my family massive struggles, sometimes often.  I would like to inform and improve awareness in regard to mental health. I would like to reduce the stigma.  I also feel that many of the daily activities I do have helped how I cope and have improved from feeling at my worst to being able to somewhat manage and see some hope day to day.

I was diagnosed formally with Complex PTSD and Bipolar Affective Disorder (Bipolar 2) in 2015.

I had been told by a couple of Psychiatrists prior it was likely I had Bipolar 2 due to the recurrent depressions I had and also the occasional elevations of hypomania.

The PTSD symptoms became really pronounced beginning 2005 and then I would just get occasional  periods of disassociation with triggers and flashbacks  - I am a survivor of multiple childhood sexual abuse, some occurred in institutions.

My Bipolar was pretty sporadic in episodes until I took one of the abusers to court a couple of years back. Then the cycling between depression and hypomania became more rapid, pretty much every 2 weeks I would cycle from hypomania to depression, I never really had many normal periods.  The case went to court twice as after the guilty verdict there was the usual appeal.  I lost 27 kilos in about 8 months, when the second Judge overturned the appeal I had a fairly significant breakdown resulting in 2 attempted overdoses.

The court case was quite public it was a huge strain on my children and permanently changed us as a family.  I would never ever report an abuse again to the Police.  The Police were were very supportive from day one until the court case and after. However, legal process destroyed me, and as a victim, I had to testify with no protective screen and face my abuser, the Judge felt that as I didn't wish to make use of the remote testifying room that I should have to face her. Unfortunetely there is a lack of understanding in how to deal with victim's of childhood sexual abuse in the legal system.  For myself because I disassociate under trauma and being in a room with the person that abused me and being cross examined by a defense Lawyer who I am sure are given lessons on how to have maximum impact on how to upset a victim & I knew I needed a blocking screen. I was given one the first case but not the second and testified badly. This wasn't really something I was aware of until after the process, it was information I became aware of with therapy and time, I knew however it was vital I testify in that room. There were huge ramifications for my health in going through this process, I didn't realise this would happen, hindsight...

My eating disorder is stable, I am at normal weight again if not slightly above. I was 41 kilos in this picture. Now I am 57. I was 67.

With my oldest child, I finally had energy to eat. This is the person who brought me food. xxx

 Soon after court at my lowest weight. Happy because I can stand without passing out!

I am not actually sure I will ever get back to the person I was before. I am struggling to accept this.  I have been on some medications that have done wonderful things for my mental health but unfortunately have not been great for my physical health and in fact have exacerbated my blood pressure to a level where I had to abruptly had stop the one medication in combination with two others that seemed to work really well for me and I am now left with a decision of just accepting that the couple of medications I am on will have to be enough.

I have struggled with difficult mental health issues over the past 30 years, from anxieties, disassociation, flashbacks,  associated with the PTSD, eating disorders, depression and hypomanic episodes with the bipolar and I am convinced that for me medication is going to only play a small role in the recovery or maintenance of my condition so I have made a plan, these are my go to idea's for good mental health for myself, these are the things I have found work for me, there may be some science behind my list of helpful tips for, but these are personal tips of what has been helpful for me over the years and more so what has been helpful over the past 18 months and what I am looking forward to trying next in the near future some I have tried for years and find I get a small effect of lift in mood afterwards, others I feel helps me overall.

Yoga;

I try and do a few classes a week, usually Hatha sometime Hot Yoga and try and practice at home  few times a week too. I have practiced yoga for about 7 years regularly, I am not particularly good, but that's ok. Its taken me about 5 years to focus on the breathing, once I got that, I really was in my yoga zone and the outside world didn't matter anymore. the past 2 years I have been very interested in yogic philosophy, the Yama's and Niyama's and as luck would have it the yoga studio I attend have started to teach these as well as the asanas so I feel very blessed to be learning these.

When I am on the mat, I am in my own work for that time and I calm my mind for a good few hours after the practice.

Yoga saved me during 2015, not sure I would be here without it! It continues to be a blessing.

Exercise;

I have also always exercised but I find I have to change the type of exercise I do being in pace that really have 4 very definite seasons with extremely hot Summers and really cold Winters.
I will cycle on my road bike most places in Summer, Autumn and Spring, for the most part as long as there is no rain. Cycling is fantastic for me, gets me places as often I can find it a bit of a challenge to drive, gets me outdoors - fresh air.
Swimming, I love doing laps, I have times I am really confused and have a lot of trouble with cognitive thinking and for some reason the rhythmic motion of freestyle swimming seems to help with this. I also like to lift weights, having been anorexic 3 times in my life my bone density is not good in places so it will help with this later in life.

 10 kilos heavier finally able to ride 2016.

Walking;

I have a dog so must do this twice a day for his benefit but have found its amazingly good for me also, there is the fitness aspect, this will help me to sleep at night but the chance of interaction with others is a good thing, getting to meet others in my community, if I am elevated its a way to burn off energy if feeling flat then its a way to get me moving each day and motivated.



Social interaction;

For me this can be my craft group or a coffee with a friend, catching a movie, or time out doing something one on one with my kids, its a change to see what others are doing and take all focus off myself and focus on others, have a laugh and just chill for a bit.


Close friends, my friends are like family to me.

Gardening;

This isn't everyone's thing, but its always been mine from a very young age. I LOVE to garden, I love all component's of gardening and will try to get out there and do something every day even if its just 30 minutes in the gardening. Some pruning or weeding or planting, I really do enjoy the beauty of watching plants grow, for me this is again a distraction from the everyday and very much a mindfulness practice. Lately I am dabbling in succulents a bit as a friend is part of the succulent society and some of her beautiful designs in Bonsai pots are enchanting. I am sticking to single plant single pot for now but my interest is certainly there.
Also indoor plants, I am still loosing a few but the more I pot up and surround myself with, the calmer I feel.

 Love these Poppies, they don't do too well in a vase though.


Gratitude Diary/Journaling;

Apparently journaling is good for you. I like to write down my activities and mood for the day as a record to know if I am elevated or depressed to now if I am having a mood change and need to make plans to watch for this, to ensure I don't spend too much or do something irrational, or make too many plans I can't keep if I am getting low.  I have brought many pets during elevated moods and although I would never regret these decisions, I have to say I don't always make to most rational decisions.
Along with each day is a gratitude section and even on the worst day there is always something wonderful to be grateful for.



Limiting Triggering Exposures;

I live in a town where there has been many cases of childhood sexual abuse, we have had a royal commission come here and so that tends to be a trigger for all childhood victims of not only institutional abuse but unfortunately any sexual abuse and so for me that means limiting social media, disabling Facebook, not watching the news, disabling Facebook, and not reading any papers, this can be a bit disconnecting but its also really freeing at the same time.

Using all available supports possible:

In the past when linked in the public Psychiatric system I would do my best to get unlinked as quickly as possible. This would be mainly due to the fact some of my teen sexual abuse occurred in a psych hospital and they are incredibly triggering places for me, but I can see working with a case manager giving them all information I can about my situation and having a Psychiatrist who understands my dual diagnoses it can be helpful. I also have a therapist through CASA  - the Centre against sexual assault, who deals with my trauma past and each communicate with each other so they all on the same page so I think its amazing and I am hugely grateful that these services operate to assist me in my healing.

Bushwalking:

I really like walking and particularly in nature, I have noticed that after doing a bushwalk there is a good residual effect for a good couple of days and I feel really uplifted, perhaps its the connection with the clean fresh environment, the isolation and feeling the silence and bird song. I also like walking along the beach, I feel really tranquil by the beach and could listen to the waves for hours.


Photography;

I have been wanting to get into photography for years but time has prevented this, I really like the idea of experimenting with macro photography shooting flowers. I was going to look into buying another camera but a friend was telling me the iPhone cameras are really good at taking pictures if you earn how to use them properly and there are different macro lenses you can buy fairly cheaply to attach to your iPhone, financially its a way better option as it would have taken ages to save for the camera, this will aid in mindfulness which is a huge benefit in helping with depression for me.

 Found this beauty in the Creswick Forest.


So its a slow journey, I am sad my relationship after 20 years with the father of my children has changed but we both still care for each other, we simply cannot live in the same house and be a couple any further. He now lives 3 hours away and has a job close to home provided by his work so at this stage my home doesn't need to be divided and the kids uprooted or moved from school.
I don't what shall happen after the last child leaves school, I try not to think of this...

Forgot to mention, I have a new pet baby.

Meet Meggsie, she is a joy and sleeps IN my bed! Taps my face gently with a paw when she wants to get in the bed.  She is a pet rescue and has Hypometria according to the Vet. This means she high steps and doesn't land terribly well when she jumps although she certainly can get up in high places, its neurological and likely to stay and a symptom not a disorder.  Trust me to pick the most special of kittens to fit in perfectly with my family.  We ADORE her.


 Fitting in nicely. xxxx