Anxiety

Anxiety has been eating me alive.

I was 21 when I had my breakdown. I was ill for quite some time before then but the breakdown is the thing that took everything from me.

Being in the midst of a breakdown is terrifying. I didn’t know what it was at the time and I’m not sure I’d have cared, all I knew was that the world was suffocating me, darkness was a closer friend than all those before and that I was lost; perhaps forever. I was a towering inferno of agony. I don’t remember great chunks of my life and I’ll never get those memories back; perhaps I don’t want to – I was not in my mind. I was gone, I was a shell and because I was not in my mind I didn’t learn how to function, how to live – I didn’t want to live. I never learnt how to cope with emotions, I only had a two of them and they were desperate misery and seething anger. I didn’t learn how to cope in social situations, how to behave – I isolated myself, I drove people away from me, I was not fun to be around.

I feel, sometimes, devoid of enough tools to cope. I feel uncertain of the accuracy of my actions and that induces crippling anxieties which only serve to make me more socially inept; stumbling over my words and offering a nervous giggle when no giggle is necessary. Saying things that are inappropriate – or not saying anything at all and still spending the rest of eternity living these inane conversations in the vain hope that eventually I will get it right and have cracked the elusive code of conversation.

I have come so far. I don’t strive for isolation any more, yet I still find myself isolated. I do partake in conversation instead of shying away from it – no more the silent mouse in the corner. I speak to people every day now, I laugh and participate and there is seldom a day where I don’t have to talk to someone new or cope in some form of social setting but still anxiety plagues me and it frustrates me that I can’t move past it. Some days I’m not sure I can push through it – but I do, I have and I will likely continue to. Still, what is so difficult about being around people?! What am I afraid of? Why must I seek acceptance in every facet of my life? Does the approval or disapproval matter when coming from a relative stranger?

Sometimes, though less often now, I wish I had let the breakdown have me. It would have been so much simpler, easier and less painful if I had just let it win and embraced the darkness. I would be done now. Free?

There are so many things that I had to learn to do – I had to learn to function, to sleep properly, to wash, to organise, to talk, to share, to live, to breathe… and so many of these things come so naturally to me now – perhaps one day I will be able to interact with others without anxiety and paranoia. But for now, I’ll keep trying, I’ll strive to be more transparent and less defensive and perhaps I’ll just embrace my woeful social ineptitude.

 

Depressed, not depressed.

When will I learn that circumstance does not make for depression?! Exacerbate it, perhaps. It fuels, aids and abets depression but it is not depression – it is not misery and thus when circumstance is gone it does not take misery with it…

I am not within a depressive episode to rival all that have come before; not even close. But I am not happy either. I am lonely, numb and yet morose. I am tired. I know that I don’t need to be happy all the time – that in itself would not be a normal temperament but I would like to find a sense of contentment, I would like to lose this paranoid anxiety that hangs over my head each day. I would like to feel… I would just like to feel.

Mental illness is such an inward thing that it is hard to see when I am truly in need of something and lacking in what I deserve and when the ‘woe is me’ selfish streak of self-pity is rearing its head. I feel unappreciated in so many ways and I give and give and give and feel like there is no two ways to this street. I am giving too much and have less than nothing left, my arms, my heart, my mind are left barren, abused, used, spent… is this real? Or am I simply of the mind-set that the world is against me – it wouldn’t be the first time.

I keep thinking about what my life encompasses. I have good people around me – I am lucky but if you strip my life away I am work and children. If my children were to leave, which they will one day; I am work and nothing more… My life is empty, save the grace of loving and living for my children and eventually I will need to live without the drive that loving and living for them gives me – I can’t imagine I shall even find a reason to leave my bed. Perhaps I should begin to address that sooner rather than later.

I ask myself more and more often why I fight this vicious affliction that is Bipolar disorder. Far simpler to lay down and let it feast upon me.

One day I’ll find a reason for my fight – a reason for me, my soul, my needs and not the world surrounding.

 

2016 and fighting regression

2016 has been an awful year for me, there have been moments of light in the gloom but overall the darkness has pervaded so profusely that it has encompassed most anything it came across. Only now; in October, am I starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and enjoying the race to the end of this year of regression, loss and massive change.

I had taken myself back to my psychiatrist after some of the worst regression since my breakdown this year. People think that I am so strong – they tell me as much, they worry but in the same token they do not… and considering I am still here and fighting I suppose they are right to do so but during this episode I really was concerned, terrified even, about whether I would make it out of the other end and if I was capable of enduring, it was a struggle even to  get home safely on some days after work and how I even continued to go to work every day is beyond me.

I have now been discharged from my psychiatrist again – no doubt I will be back but I hope that it is in the distant future and that now I can begin to rebuild my management structure and find a new sense of contentment. I am pleased that I did not take the offer of medication this time – even though I was in some desperate situations and faced some tough circumstances once the circumstance was removed the depression was not so dire that I can’t fight my way out.. though had my circumstance lasted longer I am certain medication would have been invaluable to my staying mental wellbeing.

Having to move home 4 months ago played a large part in my regression and struggle and since moving it has been hard to follow the management techniques I once used to stay stable. I have realised that moving into a new environment has negated a lot of the methods I used to use to find calm and restore order in the cataclysm of biology that is my brain. I have lost my ‘safe place’ lost my anchor and place to hide. I feel vulnerable here and as though I need to face the world a little more than I did previously. I was angry at first – furious, in fact, that my previous years of work to find the ever elusive balance meant nothing in the face of these new challenges and that I was essentially thrust back to square one, back to being lost.

However, once I had accepted that I needed to start again and build new management techniques and find new ways to cope I began to see a change – it is gradual and I am still woefully depressed, my anxiety is higher than usual but I can feel the control returning to me and logic is beginning to come in to play where it had no power before. Frustratingly it even seems that I may be building a stronger foundation of coping mechanisms than I had hastily constructed before and so it would seem that all things really do happen for a reason and that there is a positive to come out of all that has happened this year.

I now just wish for a little peace in what has been such a riot of storms.

It’s a relapse

There are times when you must accept the painful, unwanted and difficult truth. Though it may be tempting to carry on regardless – for oblivion holds less sorrow – there is no health in ignorance.

I moved house a little over a month ago. Around a year ago the end of another in a long line of troubled relationships gave me plenty of fuel for self pity. Then, just before Christmas, money became an issue and I thought I had hit rock bottom and reached the limit of what I could cope with – apparently not though because soon after that situation was resolved, in February, I was told that I would need to move out of the property that I have been living in for six years. I wrote before about the almost ridiculous sense of grief I felt for the loss of this, the only home I had ever really cared about, my sanctuary. I lived there, as an adult, longer than I have lived anywhere and for once I felt no need to run from it.

I wish I could say that I coped well but I did not. Though I am assured that nobody copes well with such occurrences. I tried to find a new home for myself and my children but it appeared nigh on impossible… I had agencies that would not even let me view homes, some that let me apply only to turn me down in favour of a more suitable person. I had agents just not bother to turn up and all of that on top of the crippling anxiety that plagued me in having to do any of these things. I had, as always, a fantastic support network who fought alongside me with a mass of strength, practicality and understanding. I am more grateful than it is possible to convey.

I got so ill and despairing during this debacle; it is the first time in a long time that I have actually felt concerned for my wellbeing; I was not safe in my own company and with no end of circumstance in sight I felt I had no choice but to seek help in coping. Truly I did not realise how dark and dismal my mind was until I sat in my GP’s office and sobbed about suicide and frustration, anger and terror.

My GP offered medication (what else I expected her to do I don’t know) – I have been medication free for around two years now and though I credit medication for a lot of my health – I did not go and pick up the prescription she gave me. I felt that this blip was due to circumstance, that had I not had to break up a relationship, had less than no money for a while and been in the midst of losing my home and facing the potential of homelessness then I wouldn’t feel so despairing – I would be ok, wouldn’t I?

My GP also referred me straight back to a Psychiatrist and I went along to see him fairly quickly. As luck would have it he was a consultant and very helpful. This time I went in with enough knowledge of mental health to offer my own take on what was wrong with me – he listened, I cried, I poured everything out because painful honesty is the only way to go when you need such help. He recommended medication… Though he accepted my argument for this being a circumstantial relapse he also brought concerns that made sense to me; he said that depression can change our brain chemistry and if you let a depressive episode go past a certain point it is much harder to bring the chemicals back to a neutral point. This appealed to my sense of logic and I said I would consider his advice. I came out of the appointment feeling lighter and better than I had in a while. Then, shortly after, a home was found, we moved and all manner of stressful, but essential, tasks were completed without much of a hitch and I decided I didn’t need to consider his advice because I would be ok now – it was done.

So this is it – I have been in my new home for a little over a month now. It is beautiful, spacious, I am familiar with the area and have friends nearby. It is close to my family and the children love it too. So I should be better now? Shouldn’t I? The dust has settled, our things are unpacked and there are no more difficult circumstances to blame – but I’m not ok. If anything I am more unwell than I was before and only getting worse.

I have Bipolar and I have to manage my illness daily but this is a depressive episode, this is a relapse into oblivion. I don’t like the person that I am at the moment; it isn’t me. I am angry and bitter. I am paranoid and insecure and anxiety tortures me daily. My management techniques don’t work and I don’t have the motivation to try harder – I am sinking.

It’s time to face the truth. What may have been circumstantial is not anymore. I need to accept help and the advice of my doctors – though it feels like a great leap backwards, things will never get better if I embrace oblivion.

 

 

Well if you wanted honesty…

Hello my faithful old friend. It has been a while.

Life changes so quickly and yet progress seems hard to find; these past few months have been nothing short of abysmal and yet, not even close to the worst things have been – I suppose that is what I must remember when feeling as though my life and my progress are sliding backwards into the hungry maw of doom; things have been much worse, much, much worse.

My medication stopped at the end of January and though I can’t blame that for all of this gloom that hangs around me right now – it played its part like a weathered actor, it tore down my every defence; bashed against the walls of my management strategies and spat at the feet of mental health. I have had to learn again and all while my brain does the tango with the ebbing drugs that so soon before had been it’s lifeline and saviour… One might say it has been a rather unpleasant time and one might be understating things by gargantuan proportions.

I, rather naively, thought that the withdrawals would be the worst that I would have to deal with when coming off of my medication and they were dreadful – on the worst day I actually though I was going to die – but the worst of the withdrawals lasted only around a week, after that, though I felt odd, unfocused and generally unwell I could cope with them. It seems obvious now that it would not be the physical but the mental side of things that would bring me such trouble and despair… hasn’t it always been that way oh brain of mine? Haven’t you always made me suffer?

I use an app on my phone to chart my moods – I’ve done it for a while because it can be so difficult, whilst living and functioning, to stay mindful enough to recognise the swinging pendulum of moods that can be my downfall until it’s too late and by then I’m too far into an episode to heal and bring myself back from the brink. Before I leapt into life without medication I had reached a spree of middle ground type moods – my swings were fewer and there were less peaked moods. My charts looked clean and healthy… since stopping my medication the charts have been feverish; great peaks and troughs; spikes of anxiety and paranoia lace the pages and my life grows ever more unstable. Until, this month – or rather these last two weeks… Now, I can start to see my moods calming and though things still feel desperate, dismal and dark I can finally start to see the faint glimmer of hope shining on the horizon… I promised I would be O.K. regardless and I will; because I fight, because I am trying whether you see it or not, whether you believe it or not. My progress may not look like much from the outside but on the inside I wage a war to rival all wars, a battle to end all battles, it is a race for health, a dash for sanity…

And sometimes remarkable things happen when you show what you can do and who you can be and then stumble for a while – the people who you fought so hard to convince the first time round – the ones who were unsure anything was wrong with you, the ones who, though you didn’t see it at the time, fought alongside you – they believe this time and they become the strength at your back, urging you on because they see it now – they understand now that this shell of a human is not you – your potential is much greater. So, though we stumble and regress and end up in the waters of oblivion once again – now, we have a hand to hold, a tether to the real world, a lifeline… mine is my mum – without her, I would not be here; I owe her a lot… and could there be more fitting a day to tell her than this, mother’s day?

So yes, life is not so good right now, decisions must be made and outcomes fought for. I am in a limbo – awaiting the correct paths to take and hoping all of this despair and anguish is happening for a reason. But whether there is light or darkness surrounding me, I see the sparks of hope and where there are sparks, there shall soon be fire.

Lttf

Life. It is never what we feel it ought to be. It does nothing that we ask it to and yet; it always takes us exactly where we’re meant to be.

I have come to the conclusion that tears are good and laughter is better, that instead of ruling my emotions I must allow them to breathe, watch them, learn from them, deal with them, talk about them to people who care. Suppression never made anyone feel whole. What an important lesson to have learned; that emotion is ok, that feeling is ok, that the way I function is ok! I feel as though I know myself inside and out, there are very few stones left unturned and it leaves me feeling secure in my own skin and free to sense who and what I should surround myself with. I feel more love than ever before pouring in from those around me and I can’t decipher if it because they love me more or that I see it now, I feel it now but it doesn’t matter because I feel it and I know that I deserve it.

I am proud, painfully proud, of the me I am today and of the battles I have fought and am yet to fight and yet I am oh so disappointed; but that is good, because that means there is more to come from me, I can do more, I can be more… I have finally come to the place where there is no desperation. no need, just hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought I would reach this place.

I have never felt so free within myself, so in control and terrified of the potential drop from these stable heights…

There will be turmoil. There will be desperate lows and maddening highs; nothing will stop my Bipolar. But I hope that on those days I return to this post and see that it is ok… because the people around me love me regardless, I have lain myself bare and they have accepted me, it is ok because I love me regardless…. It is ok because I am invariably good! It is ok because once the tears have fallen, the money spent, the harsh words said and the darkness banished, I have me and I have them and I will be ok again.

A series of stupidity

I’ve made a mess of things again; my life, my health – this is my cycle. Maybe this is how it will always be for me, gargantuan efforts to reach some form of function and then a spectacular explosion of mess, stress and negativity.

I have been stagnant too long that is my problem and yet in the normal course of the lives of other people I likely haven’t been dormant for a moment but the two weeks that the kids were off for the Christmas holidays threw me into lethargy and I am still trying to pry myself out from under the tinsel.

The kids school holidays are always difficult; I have spoken about it before and so really I should have learnt my lesson by now and had some form of survival plan in place but everything was so busy and manic before the holidays with socialising and working my two week placement, courses and job hunting, family events and all the other productive things I have been thrown into that I was quite looking forward to two weeks of quiet… I should have known that to allow myself a slight reprieve is to allow myself to fall back toward the abyss… it is too comfortable here in my hall of nothingness,  too safe lying close to my lethargy… and now I have made a mess of things again and I’m ignoring it and it is growing; as it always does – the pressure is building and so I’m running further… only this time I’m not talking to anyone because it feels like one fuck up too many and I can’t stand the looks and the obvious advice that I need to face these things that I am running from. Don’t you think I can see the solution? but the solution, however simple, makes me want to vomit; it is filled with that much stress for me. It is no longer just a phone call or a missed commitment or a poor decision, its grown because my mind has been feeding it. It plagues and mocks me for the incompetent slob that I am, it is too much.

I feel physically ill, sick to my stomach and in pain all the time but I know it is just a manifestation of the mental issues I am ignoring and that knowledge only serves to heighten the sickening feeling I have. I am tired, very tired.

I hate my doctor; never a good thing and a first for me. I don’t know if it is her personally that I cannot warm to or the knowledge that she is my 4th psychiatrist in a year and the 4th to have a different plan in which to treat me; perhaps it is nothing to do with her personally but to do with the fact that I cannot bear to work hard to implement yet another project to improve my mental health when soon it will be replaced with something entirely different by the next well-meaning doctor. I want consistency! I want a plan that works and nothing seems to and yet it does but not in the way in which I wish it too – a cure, a miracle, a new me, a new brain… For this to go away and not be me anymore. I crave a touch of normality…

Despite the mess I have made and the despondency of it all, I know, that as soon as life begins to move again and I find my feet in the functioning world once more then I will be fine; I will survive and my mask will hold firm once again… until then its one day at a time; one thing to be thankful for a day, one moment to make it worth the next breath and I will survive to fuck up another day.

On and on and on

I completed my two week work placement, I won an award for ‘most improved’ at a job agency, I have been out of the house every week day and at least once in the weekends for three weeks, I juggled kids and homework and my own work successfully and my self esteem has been given a nice boost.

Its been a tumultuous yet positive few weeks, surprisingly I’m not on my knees with all of the new organisation required though there have been a few hiccups in finding time to pick up my medications (Venlafaxine withdrawals are equivalent to hell!) and fitting in when to see my support worker… but I’m working on getting to grips with this and trying to stop double booking myself.

I think the thing that has surprised me most is that I haven’t stopped and reverted back to nothingness; my placement ended and yet I have spent this past week, that could have been filled with nothingness, moving and being productive (though still ignoring my housework!)

Another surprising revelation is that, when in work, my anxiety was less of an issue and my Bipolar was more of one… Nobody seemed to think I looked like I lacked confidence or had anxiety and after a few days I wasn’t all that anxious at all – partly owing to the kindness of the other workers there and the positive reinforcement they gave me but also because it became a ‘safe place’ for me. However, my Bipolar flared constantly; when I was working I was manic; fast paced and constantly moving – ridiculously over zealous and then when I would get home my mood would plummet into dangerously low levels… I tried to manage this by slowing myself down a little while in work but I think it is probably something that would take a lot of practice to get right and I realise that I don’t really know what is an appropriate level of work – as with the rest of life with Bipolar, it is either all or nothing.

Family and friends have been great lately but I think that has more to do with me than them because after this work placement I have a renewed vigour and belief in a different future that I had given up on previously. I was ready to throw in the towel; it isn’t the first time and likely won’t be the last.

Christmas is coming and though I do love Christmas, I also find it incredibly stressful. I have two children and very little money and so desperately trying to get them the things they would like is difficult; luckily they don’t ask for much but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give them more…

The new people that I have met lately; colleagues in the work placement, job advisors…ect have all described me in the same way; Calm, polite, friendly and approachable… I’m both thrilled and angry that I come across in that way, thrilled because it means I can fake it well and people see me as more than I am and angry for almost the same reasons… I wear my mask too well, people don’t see me and I am hiding… but I suppose that is what management of this illness is; hiding the torment behind your eyes; living inwardly and yet putting on a good show for the world… Is management for the world around us? because all it gives me is work and the knowledge that I can never let go of the tight chains around my soul and really live as me.

Fly high

Things are getting serious.

Tomorrow I start a two week work placement set up by an agency that has been helping me work through the mental barriers keeping me out of work; so far this agency has done nothing but good for my confidence and self esteem, they are helpful, understanding and work with enough force to keep me motivated and eager to please. I am hoping that this placement will serve as an additional boost of confidence but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I am literally sick with anxiety… I’m going to push through it even though there are a million excuses in my head as to why I shouldn’t; is it time to move on to another milestone? Yes, I think it is.

I have been working pretty hard towards this new milestone, harder than I have worked in a while… I had clearly given up trying to be better for a time – not that I realised that whilst I was doing it – but I can’t promise it won’t happen again; a lifetime of this crappy illness and you’re going to have a few patches where you cannot move yourself to care one iota about being a functioning human being. For the past couple of weeks I have been attending a key skills course with this agency that is helping me – for me, the benefit of it is mostly being forced into a group situation with people I don’t know and still participating in the course but another more surprising benefit is the enjoyment I have found in getting out of the house every day, having a purpose and goal to achieve has lifted my spirit to no end. The praise I have been receiving has been like manna to me, so intoxicatingly delicious that I strive further and push harder to do more, be more…

I can see a change coming and though it is scary as all hell right now, it also seems plausible; it is almost tangible in its likelihood; I am employable, that employability will be sustainable – there is a future waiting out there for me.

My mood has been fairly stable throughout all of this anxious turmoil which is comforting to say the least; I wonder if my medication has finally reached a dose that is therapeutic to me or perhaps as my life is settling so my mind is too?

The downside of coming up out the dank regions of selfish depression/low mood is once again caring about how your mood may have impacted those around you; having to listen to what they felt and how they didn’t want be around you at that time. I get that being around a depressed person is hard, I understand that it probably drags them down too but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear and next time I am down it will simply make me distance myself more than I would usually… which is unfair of me but exactly what is going to happen.

I have found that those around me are more prone to belief in my illness now and my mum especially has opened herself completely to the reality of Bipolar disorder; even recently telling friends of the family that I have Bipolar disorder when they questioned my anxiety issues and setting them straight when they tried to blame my illness on circumstantial things within my childhood; as Bipolar disorder is largely thought to be a chemical illness circumstance can only exasperate existing problems. She has never made me feel more respected and understood; it was a special moment.

I doubt I will get much sleep tonight; fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success… but regardless of the barriers, mental or otherwise, that I face I will push through because I am strong, I am a warrior. My brain will never win.

Remember, remember…

Today I remembered that I had forgotten and it was an inspiring moment.

Today I remembered that I am loved; whether in the ways I want to be or not.

Today I remembered that I am blessed with a caring network of people that I trust to support me; whether they help in the ways I want them to or not.

Today I remembered that I have learnt about and studied my illness and that I have the tools to manage this beast; whether I feel capable or not.

Today I remembered that I am not alone; whether lonely or not.

Today I remembered that I have reason to fight!

Today I remembered that I am a warrior!

and today I remembered that I am worth more!

It took a meeting with someone who genuinely understands the illogical logic and experiences of someone with mental illness to remind me of these things. Somewhere along my travels I dropped all of the coping mechanisms that I had learnt in CBT and all of the other management techniques I had put in place to control/lessen/soften/pre-empt my swinging moods. Maybe I lost the will to try, maybe I had given up it wouldn’t be the first time … perhaps it was beyond my capabilities at that time but regardless of the what, where and why I must, from this day forward, make a more concentrated effort to use the things I learnt in CBT and to keep managing this monster of an illness – what am I waiting for exactly when standing stagnant while the epic war of my mind rages around me? I suppose I keep visiting my psychiatrist, guzzling my cocktail of pills and forcing my way through crippling anxieties whilst swinging from the peaks of all extremes in the hope that eventually someone will just take this retched disease off of my hands and out of my mind; still, I have not come to terms with this being a permanent illness, will I ever be able to accept that this is my lot? and truly own my illness…

There are a big couple of weeks coming up for me and I am terrified and sickened at the mere thought of what is to come but I know without a doubt that this will be a positive experience for me but most importantly I am warm from the knowledge that there are a million friendly faces waiting to catch me should I fall and with that in my mind I have no doubt that I will come out the other end fighting as I have so many, many times before.

As a wise person once said ‘I am far from the worst version of my illness and so I have succeeded, I have won.’