My restless forever

Restlessness…

I had a busy weekend, I did lots of entertaining and activities, keeping both my mind and body blissfully occupied; no time for the usual barrage of destructive thoughts and too many planned activities to fall victim to lethargy. This is both good for me and bad for me, the sheer volume of stimulation is above and beyond my norm and so it both invigorates and exhausts me, not to mention that when the stimuli is removed I am hit with all of the carefully avoided destructive thoughts and lethargy – three days worth in one.

Today I am on the edge of a high mood, my body is buzzing with nervous energy and my mind is racing a mile a minute. I have spent the entire day starting a million and one activities/jobs and completing exactly zero of them. Movement is a good thing isn’t it? In this case, hell no!! Now is time for the lethargy to hit as I look upon a million and one jobs/activities yet to be completed, the mess and destruction the starting of these things has created, pressure mounts as I try to wrap my head around the logistics of the impossible… how will I ever get all these pointless jobs and activities completed or at least cleaned away? What have I done to myself, Ironing board mounted with all the clothes in existence, dishes both clean and unclean in the sink waiting for a wash, cupboards partly emptied with the promise of organisation, windows half washed and soggy floors, a half eaten pancake and half-baked bread, craft projects aplenty, glue peeling from my hands in a pleasantly disgusting way – the glitter climbs the walls, my bed is unmade and my mind is in tatters. No, movement is not always a good thing because now, all I want to do is sleep until the cleaning fairies come and complete all of my forgotten tasks.

The easter holiday plan!

We are three days into the easter holiday plan. It is much the same as the February holiday plan was, only now my aim is to assign an activity that gets me out of the house once every two days instead of every day because in the end the February holiday planned turned out to be far too overwhelming. I hold both less and more faith in this plan than I did in the last. Less because I was so sure the last one was going to help and so crippled when I realised that I had set my expectations too high and more faith because if this doesn’t work then I face the gargantuan summer holidays blind and with no real idea of what I can do to keep myself moving and sane. School holidays are always a difficult time for me, my Bipolar disorder needs rhythm and a strict schedule, a set time to get out of bed is a must and getting out of the house, seeing people and having fun helps to keep the desperation and desolation at bay. Knowing exactly how far too push yourself is not easy; push to far and you crumble, don’t push hard enough and either lethargy or mania will carry you away regardless of your efforts. I am perpetually balanced on the precipice of insanity.

Tomorrow is an activity day; though a visit to the psychiatrist to discuss a possible change to my medication hardly counts. This is another reason for todays restlessness, I am terrified of changing medication because of the inevitable and sickening withdrawals that come with that change but I am also aware that it is necessary and will eventually have to happen. No point musing upon what hasn’t happened yet so I should probably stop fretting about it – though that’s never stopped me before!

Acceptance

I have been learning to be more accepting of who I am and what I need to exist. I’m trying to shed the guilt that seems to rear its ugly head when I reach the point of having to ask for help or for something I really need. It is hard to change beliefs forged through a lifetime but I can feel the changes already, I see myself walking taller and I see myself breaking down more often; to others this gush of emotion may seem like weakness but to me it is power, it is an acknowledgment of my feelings – only my feelings are more exuberant than yours! I love myself now, the person I am, my fight and voice, I love the way I look, I’m finding my style and what is comfortable to me. I know myself better now and I am good, I’m a good person that sometimes does the wrong thing; as we all do. The more acceptance I show myself, the more I notice others opening to me aswell and that is the largest incentive to keep going that there is.

It feels as though it has taken forever to get here and I’m not even half way; but its ok, my brain is the driver and that bitch is insane, she’ll have us there in no time!

 

Selfish me.

Selfishness. I often wonder if I really understand what it means. Sometimes I think its very definition contradicts the things we are taught are right.

In my opinion and my personal experience, depression, Bipolar, and likely reams of other mental illnesses can be very selfish things; mental illness is the very definition of self-absorption in that it is all about you! and nothing but you – though not in a purposeful way, so does that make it something other than selfishness? There is generally such a negative aura around the word selfish, we hear the word and instantly assume it means that those people are also bad, but these things are not synonymous with one another, selfishness does not always equate to badness.

I believe that my mental illness can make me selfish, I don’t believe I have any choice over this matter nor do I believe I can change this but perhaps being aware of it is not such a bad thing, perhaps I can repair the damage caused if I embrace this inevitability. Bipolar disorder is such an all-consuming thing, it can sometimes take all of your mental energy to simply move from bed to the sofa and so of course there is not going to be room to consider others – during a severe low mood you can sometimes be so convinced that everyone hates you or that they would be happier without you that you treat them with the same contempt and disdain you believe they are bestowing upon you with little regard for what they have to say or how you may be making them feel. A high mood can perhaps breed even more selfish behaviour as you are so caught up in the mania that there is little thought of how your reckless actions will impact others.

I wish there was a way to help others to see that my selfish behaviour, if it can be classed as such, is not coming from me personally but from my all-encompassing illness and that the real Cheryl, the one other seldom see, would never treat you that way.

These past few weeks I have been desperately overwhelmed, I am trying to embrace a mother load of new activities at the behest of my OTA and it is proving difficult to maintain. I have been so absorbed in my over-activity woes, therapy, medication, social interaction, money woes, children… ect that I wonder if I am seen as selfish by those around me as a result. The view people might have of you when they do not understand the reasoning behind your actions can often be painful to hear; Do we need to hear these things? Does it help to hear the truth, however painful. A few weeks ago I would have said that honesty was without a doubt the best way to soothe your paranoia and fears of the misconceptions of others but then I received my own dose of painful truth and now I’m not so sure if it is helpful. I was told by someone close to me how they felt when I first sought help for my illness and their subsequent thoughts, feelings and actions since and it was debilitating painful to hear, it sent me into a huge depression and instead of soothing my paranoia it has only served to heighten it around this person. Is this reaction in itself selfish of me? Shouldn’t others be able to express their feelings and how I have made them feel?

Though there seem to be more steps back than steps forward at the moment, I soldier on because anything less would certainly be selfishness.

 

Is this reality or just a fantasy?

For me, learning about Bipolar disorder has been like surfing in a sea of confusion; wave after wave of facts and realisations hitting you in the face but no time to process the information before getting smacked with something new. Things are starting to ease a little now though, the sea of knowledge is calm – It is now time to decipher the information and work out how, where and when to put it to use.

A couple of days ago I noticed a manic episode in time to prevent it and pull it back before it got out of control. I have never been able to do this before, only ever noticing mania after I was too far submerged to come back from it. What I did seems rather insignificant, I was clearing my bedroom in preparation for my, much-needed, new bed which was being delivered that day and all of a sudden I had an urge to buy paint; before I knew it I had decided it was precisely the right time to paint my bedroom – I ran to my computer looking up paints whilst my brain raced furiously ahead planning and scheming… I realised it was a manic episode as soon as I sat at my computer, I had only a small amount of money in my bank account, probably enough for paint but it would wipe me out leaving nothing to keep me going for the rest of the week, I had no time to paint the room either – there was no logic to my planning. As soon as I realised what was happening I moved away from the computer and occupied myself with some housework (mania loves to be busy!)

Some people will read about my little manic episode and understand entirely and some will not. I know that anyone could get a little over-excited and decide to go and buy paint on a whim but I think what makes it differ from mere whim is the lack of control, the lack of ability to think it through logically. Most importantly, the difference between a normal persons whim and my small manic episode is the repercussions, the consequence of allowing myself that reckless moment, it would have facilitated the mania and my small episode would have turned into a big episode meaning the crash when that high inevitably came soaring down would have brought me lower. So, in preventing myself from buying paint on a whim I have also prevented a dangerous high and softened the low that will come later. Go me!!

I am very proud of myself, it finally feels like I can do this but even so, it can be difficult to know what is mania and what is just me finally being productive and functioning well, though if my perception of what is normal were better it probably wouldn’t be so difficult!

I have recently been seeing an occupational therapist assistant or OTA who is taking over my care now that my therapy is coming to an end, his job is essentially to help me integrate with society. It was daunting in the beginning and my mind fought against the help he was offering for a while, not to mention my body that really would rather be sitting on my sofa! We met for a coffee a few times, he is a man and I can sometimes feel intimidated around men but I think this is essentially why my therapist referred me to him and not the countless female OTA’s. He is a nice man and I am finally starting to feel comfortable around him. We have now been swimming a couple of times and last week he took me to a place called The Alma project which is an arts and crafts group specifically for people with mental health problems; It was nerve-wracking going to a new place and I felt sick the entire time but everyone there seemed very nice and I do enjoy arts and crafts so I will be joining them on monday for the first time, by myself. I have also been going to a zumba class the past two Fridays, which has been great fun but exhausting both mentally and physically! This is probably the most activity I have done over the past eight years and so it feels extremely overwhelming which is upsetting and embarrassing but nevertheless, true and so when it came to Thursday and I was supposed to go to my monthly Bipolar support group meeting, I decided to say no and pull things back a little. I initially felt guilty and disappointed in myself for not pushing through and just going to the meeting and then I realised that this in itself is a management of my illness, if I overwhelm myself and do too much to fast I’m essentially pushing my own swinging mood; saying no for one month does not mean I will never go again, just that it was too much this month and that’s ok, that’s normal!

Written down like this it all seems like progress, I never seem to notice how far I am progressing when looking in the harsh light of day. Perhaps if anything, this blog is good for a dose of perspective and a pick me up when things seem beyond hope. I can do this, I can manage this!

Anxiety is a bitch!

Anxiety is something I struggle with in almost every situation I find myself in, I don’t think it will ever leave me but I think I have been coping with it fairly well recently.

The main problem with my anxiety is its tight link to the swinging moods of my Bipolar disorder; If I maintain control over my anxiety and manage to calm myself down there are very little repercussions but if I allow the anxiety to blossom beyond my control it will inevitably breed paranoia which in turn triggers a manic (high) episode. Nobody gives you this information, it isn’t written in any of the books and it will not be this way for all sufferers of Bipolar disorder (some of them are incredibly confident and have no anxiety issues), I had to learn that this is the pattern that my Bipolar takes, these are some of my triggers or early warning signs (that tend not to be very early!!) It takes meticulous monitoring of every change in mood and emotion, every overreaction and illogical thought to start making sense out of these symptoms and when I first decided to monitor my swinging moods it left me feeling precariously close to insanity. I used to think I knew myself so well but it was surprising how little attention I had paid and the things I was missing about myself.

My brain fought against me every step of the way – and still does, the very thought of so many of the things I have always berated myself for or had accepted as part of my nature being symptoms of my illness just felt like a cop-out to me, a very good excuse for being a bad person. The acceptance comes when you see the recurrence of these symptoms and begin to piece the pattern together but even then it is not a tangible thing, there is no solid proof to hold up and inspect or show to others. All you are left with is what works and management in this sense seems to work.

Anxiety can be difficult to overcome, but I try. Deep breathing can help, calming the pounding of my heart and easing the sweats caused by the age-old fight or flight response that my body instills at the feel of my inner turmoil. Sticking to smaller groups of people can also help, crowds are intimidating; there is too much for my anxious brain to analyse and so conversation is beyond me, smaller groups are safer, easier for my mind to process and less daunting. New places always inspire large attacks of anxiety, often accompanied by panic attacks – again deep breathing can help, someone to come along to the new place with me can also help; however, then it feels like a new place the second time I visit too!! Knowing as much information as possible about the new place can help greatly, for example if I was going to a swimming pool for the first time, I would try to find out exactly where the entrance to the building is, how much I need to pay, the hours for swimming, the location of the changing rooms, the way to get to the pool from the changing room, the length of time allowed in the pool, how busy the pool will be… the more information I can garner the less room there is for my brain to create anxious scenarios of things going horribly wrong and the more power I have to quiet my fears with answers brimming with knowledge.

I am currently heading into the paranoid phase of my anxious cycle, I know how to stop it from going this far; I must confront the cause of my anxiety but sometimes that is easier said than done. My brain screams at me not to face this one because I may well be right and we just can’t handle that sort of pain and logic argues that knowing would shut my brain up regardless of whether I am right or not.

I know that allowing my anxiety to get to the stage of paranoia is going to send me into a manic episode but I can’t find the gumption to do anything about it. Mania is perhaps more disturbing that depression in its own way; I am not aware of my mania very often whilst in the throes of it, though I recognise it for what it is afterwards. The self-destruction and disregard for all around me leaves me bitterly ashamed. I have less control over my actions when manic that I do when I am in a low mood, logic is not something I can identify with and no matter who tells me my behaviour is odd or damaging I will not believe them. The people who don’t know me well will just look at me and think I am a happy, confident and carefree person; I often wish that were true.

I hope, in time, I will get better at managing and recognising my moods. It is not easy, it feels like a huge drain on my, already low, energy and burden on my shoulders. I feel utterly despondent. But then, what is less work is not always what is easier.

The sparkling stars and the lonely hearts

Night time, when the stimuli of the day has settled into a gentle slumber and the company has retreated, the kids are in bed and all is quiet except the incessant chattering of your relentless mind.

I love the night, the fresh, crisp feel of the air. There is absolutely nothing I love more than standing outside at night and just taking a deep breath, it awakens the soul; it feels like freedom, pure pleasure. I love the atmosphere of the night, the quiet stillness, I love the stars and the perspective that gazing at them can bring when all hope seems lost.

I am nothing if not a romantic.

There is also a loneliness about the night that my brain strains to fill, endless one-way conversations, arguments and debates circling around and around my mind. I am an obsessive analyser, there is not one event in my day that I will not mentally strip search whilst on my paranoid quest, I analyse every conversation I have had in that day, the ways in which people (both significant and otherwise) have looked at me, the conversations I should/could have had, the potential scenarios of the next day/week/month; the longer my analysis continues the higher my anxiety soars, it is agonising and exhausting.

At one time I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to about my Bipolar disorder or the strange and often frightening symptoms that come with it but now there are so many people around me that I could reach out to and talk things through with (as I often do) still, night-time is the one time that I am completely alone with my insecurities, paranoia and anxiety. I miss the company, I miss the warmth of another body next to mine, I miss the gentle caress of someone who cares that I cannot sleep because my brain won’t let me. I want to be told that it’s all going to be alright by someone who will always be there whether it is alright or not, not just whilst the sun is in the sky, but always. I miss all that I have never had and more.

I am afraid of intimacy. I fear that due to the every changing nature of my illness I will never have the ability to maintain a relationship and that if I do manage by some small miracle to maintain a relationship, I will end up making that other person miserable or dragging them into the crazy pool with me. Can I have Bipolar disorder and be loved? Do I have the ability to make someone else happy? Why would anyone knowingly take on such a burden?

I have only ever wanted to be loved, as a child, teenager and now as a woman; it is all I felt I never had and all I have ever strived to achieve. I just want to be good enough to be loved. I now know that I have been loved by many people, but I never truly believed that they loved me until I learnt to love myself. I am more loved now than I have ever been in my life, I am surrounded by an overwhelming amount of love and compassion and it fills me with joy and a deep sense of self-worth. I know I can survive without a relationship to balance upon, I know my worth, I know that I don’t need a relationship to feel whole but still, the sparkling stars send an ache to my lonely heart.