feeling level but still a-triggering

I feel like I’m a slingshot right now. Like I’m level headed, logic prevails, yet I am walking a fine line. The line I am walking on is challenging me, and I need to stay strong. For me. And of course, for my family.

I am snappy. Have limited patience yet time passes slowly. I am wondering if this latest concoction is the right mix, as general triggers aren’t *as* detrimental to my mental state as usual but they are there.

I feel contented though, and I know that I have to keep on trucking. I just feel more like I am an annoyance right now. Like I should just be better already. The thing I have yet to acknowledge is the fact that recovery from an episode takes time. A long time. I am annoying myself.

What I am doing a lot more of is spending time with the kids, with my partner, even my dog and cat. I’ve totally eradicated alcohol from my life and love it. It triggers me like nothing else, and I know I just can’t go there. So I won’t. And can’t.

The appetite. Ravenous. Eating all the time. I need to exercise. I don’t. So I’m annoying myself about that too.

I touched a little on how I usually end up worse off after episodes, and this usually has a lot to do with other people. The fallout from this one wasn’t as bad as the last time. Whatever happened was totally warranted and fair (called out someone who was not exactly as they should have been) but I still could have gone about it all with more class. I don’t have regrets about the endgame, but that shit put me in hospital and it sucked. I will never let anyone have that kind of effect on me again. So it means I don’t let people in as close. So it means a part of me that has trust and faith in people has died a little. I’ve grown up and realised that ultimately, humans can be incredibly selfish beings and I have not one bit of control over that. Nor do I want to have control over that.

One thing I do when I’ve done something wrong is say sorry. Those who know me personally know that. I own my shit. The inability to own it when one has done something terribly wrong is not my problem. So I’m letting it go. As the sun sets tonight, all of my feelings on this problem and person will lay to rest with it. I do believe in forgiveness, but I don’t forgive without apologies so this is not an act of forgiveness. This is me being a mirror and deflecting all the pain and hurt right where it belongs – and that is not with me.

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little and big pills

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This is my lifeline. These tablets represent my stability and help me function in a way that society deems acceptable. These tablets save my life. They slow me down. They can dull down the colour and contrast in my world. They stop me from sinking to depths of sorrow. They remind me that every day, just like any other illness, I have a lot to be grateful for because I am a survivor.

The concoction changes all the time. It’s confusing. It’s really confusing. But necessary.

I’ve spoken about how with some meds, weight gain is a side effect. With one of the meds I take, birth defects are a real and high risk. These tablets effect every aspect of my life and that risk terrifies me so so much. We aren’t having any more babies anyway, but even the thought of a possibility causes me so much worry. That’s about all I’m going to share on that, though it does lead me into what I’m getting at with this post.

When/if you are diagnosed with many mental illness, make sure you ask your Psychiatrist about side effects. You need to be armed with this information otherwise you could unwittingly end up in a situation that you never wanted to be in (weight gain/pregnancy/etc). It is just better to know straight up what the risks are. Develop a trusting relationship with your psych and if you have doubts – ask questions. I have had my current psych for close on 2.5yrs now and it has taken me up until my last trip to hospital to stop faking that I was ok.

Ask questions, don’t disregard your own worries and be informed. And then fill up your pillbox and get someone to double check – if you make one mistake on one day, you will make the same mistake for each so if you can, make sure you double check!

So, this is what controls my bipolar. All in a box. Funny thing is that it is how I remember what day it is ;). There’s always a perk, hey?

political correctness and bipolar

There are many words nowadays that are not used due to that thing we call political correctness. Words that were once common slang terms that were deemed derogatory toward the group of people they were aimed at. I’m not going to mention those words now, I’m going to assume that you already know what I’m getting at. Get the gist?

Those words have been becoming more obscure in our vocabularies generation by generation. These things don’t happen overnight. We roll our eyes when we hear someone from an older generation day something racist, for example, because of their ‘vintage’. We excuse it because ‘they don’t know any better’ and because ‘things were different in their day’. That’s ok, because in all honesty, it shows me that things are changing. People are learning. People are evolving into a race of humans. Slowly. Global citizens. There is far to go yet, far far to go.

So that being the most extreme on the scale of things, I would like to bring about a couple of terms that people with bipolar might roll their eyes about.

One of the Kardashian girls was just torn apart recently for claiming that she was ‘so bipolar’ because she changed her hair colour. So fucking what? People change their hair colour ALL THE TIME. I should know, I’m a hairdresser. Regular, ‘sane’, neuro typical people change their hair – some more often than others. Doesn’t mean they are bipolar. Honestly. If changing your hair colour all the time was a criteria for diagnosing bipolar there would be many more of us out there let me tell you.

So the terms that we roll our eyes at? Let’s start with ‘manic’. Mania ISN’T what you think it is. Imagine having limitless energy, but high anxiety. Imagine having delusional thoughts. Imagine having no regard for money. Imagine feeling invincible, like you are able to change the world. Imagine feeling bold, so impulsive yet insecure. Imagine, if you can, having such high levels if anxiety that you may actually see things that aren’t there.

Mania is a high. Better than any drug. Most of us love it – we create amazing things, can write amazing stories, have no limits. Then there is the insomnia, fast thinking, lack of vocal filter and whatever else other individuals experience.

Manic is not a term that can describe someone who is behaving the way you don’t want them to. It isn’t a term that should be thrown around. Especially if it is in direct opposition to what actual mania really is.

How about ‘psycho’? This one is pretty much universally acceptable everywhere. Being in the state of psychosis is not fun people. This is usually one step up from mania – where one might have delusional thoughts that you believe are true. When the things you are seeing (that aren’t really there) are real. For me, I see demons and tree branches smacking me in the face. I mentioned Vikings and carpet wavering. There are other things, usually sinister and terrifying. When I am not medicated correctly, these things are real to me.. ‘Going psycho’ isn’t getting mad at someone and yelling at them. No. Just NO.

Psychosis is scary. I damage myself and others when I am in this state. It has happened a couple of times now, and I tend to come off much worse afterward than you might think.

So, please, the next time you think about using those words, think about what they mean to the people that experience those states. Please, next time you hear someone use those words frivolously, consider this post and let it remind you that 99% of the English speaking world are using the incorrect words to describe what they are trying to convey. Expand your mind and vocabulary. So those of us with bipolar can stop rolling our eyes at you.

Week 1 post hospital

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So, our beautiful Uppymama Primary has come home and my little guy actually squealed when he saw what was in the post bag. In our babywearing community, many of us have ‘legacy wraps’ – special wraps that mean a lot to us, that we keep for when our babies have babies. It is pretty plain to see that this is our legacy wrap. We are unbelievably lucky.

I’ve been discharged now for a week. My mother in law came from 600kms or so to help with my transition to what is my new life. I’m feeling really good. Like, really really good. So good that I believe that with proper management of my bipolar, I can live a full, interesting, exuberant and colourful life. I deserve that. And now I’m going to remind my self that I deserve it as much as I can. Not by buying things, or using inanimate things dictate my feelings. Those things sure do make me feel good but the high I get is so fleeting. What I am focused on now is having a life full of average ups and downs. Everyone has good days. Everyone has bad days. I’m looking forward to coasting along. Levelling out.

I do feel a bit nervous about the reality of my MIL going home and me being the captain of the ship again. I’m going to write lists. Lots of them. Tick them off as I go and pat myself on the back when I’ve accomplished something. I have sewing work to catch up on and I am excited about that. Really inspired and excited.

My life is changing. Who knows where it will go next? I don’t know that’s for sure. But it is all good, I am happy to just go along for the ride.

How I told my 8yo about hospital

So, I had a convo with my 8 year old daughter as we were driving to hospital. She couldn’t understand why I was going again. I looked fine, she said. I didn’t look sick at all, she said.

I had to think fast. I couldn’t possibly explain it ALL in the same way I would an adult. I had to ‘kidify’ my response, and I had to do it carefully.

So I said ‘you know the part of you that makes you happy or sad? My part that does that is broken’.

Silence.

More silence.

This is a smart kid, I’m dreading the further questioning. I’m dreading the fact that I might have to ‘un-kidify’ my explanation. After a time, she asks

‘Is that your heart, mum? Is your heart broken?’

‘No honey, these feelings come from your brain and my brain is very confused right now, and that’s why I’m going to hospital’

She just said ‘ok’. And left it at that. And has done so since. She asked maybe two or three times when I was in hospital if my brain was working yet. I would just say ‘it’s getting better every day’

Trying to explain mental illness in an age appropriate fashion is not easy. She doesn’t know what bipolar is. I didn’t want to scare her in any way. I know that over time, she will learn more. She will understand more. But for now, this is enough.

the power that baby wearing had on my mood

So they say that home is where the heart is. I am back home now, trying to adjust after spending three days shy of a month in hospital. I now realize that home isn’t where the heart is. The heart is inside me, and where I am happy. As I make the transition I learn more about my self. I ask my self, if we didn’t live physically where we did, would I still feel like I’m at home? Would my heart be there? The answer is so simple. It is yes. The other four humans that make my family is what keeps my heart beating and happy.

I’ve spoken once about baby wearing already and the profound and amazing souls that make our community a real community. I want to talk now about how I believe babywearing saved my life pre-diagnosis. It is a scientific fact that wearing your baby can reduce the severity of post natal depression. People with bipolar spend time in different moods – depression through to mania. I believe that the simple act of having my baby on me, as often as possible, not only helped regulate them but they helped regulate me. I distinctly remember times where I would be feeling particularly at odds with my self and would put my baby in a carrier and would feel soothed. I felt like it eased my mood. It leveled me. I guess what I’m getting at is that babywearing is a form of therapy.

One of my children has Autism, and he attends many many appointments in relation to his early intervention.  Through these appointments I have learned a lot too – both with his speech therapy and his occupational therapy.  One thing I would like to talk a bit about it something called ‘proprioceptive’ therapy.  The Proprioceptive System is something we all have, and in laymans terms, it is part of the central nervous system and helps to regulate ourselves internally by using our muscles to overcome our nervous system being overloaded by external forces (stimulation).  Basically it is varied exercises that you can do to enable your body and mind to avoid the ‘fight or flight’ reflex (aka ‘over-stimulation’), which is very common with people who are on the spectrum.

I have discovered that personally, certain proprioceptive activities can have a calming effect on me too – and you would have to agree with me that swinging on a hammock is pretty relaxing, and you can feel pretty amazing afterward.  There is jumping too – this can remove the excess energy built up and help your body regulate again.  It is a range of simple (or not so simple – the ‘therabrush’ being a not-so-simple example) activities we can all do to calm ourselves, bring us back to ‘earth’ and  ground us.  Some activities have a longer lasting effect on your nervous system, some are shorter.

Our OT is a great woman, and she believes that my son is so well regulated because I wore him so much as an infant.  His first ride in a pram was on his 2nd birthday and he thought it was hilarious!  As mentioned, I wore him for up to 8hrs a day, and this was way before we had an inkling (other than my intuition) that he was on the spectrum.  She mentioned that the simple act of wearing your baby could be counted as a proprioceptive activity.  She has a baby herself, and is checking this out for herself because it is well worth investigating, that is for sure.

I feel like I need to add here that I am NOT a qualified Occupational Therapist or Speech Therapist.  This is my observation as a parent.

So anyway, there have been ‘connections’ made in certain circles of people that believe that bipolar and ASD are somehow connected (when talking about a bipolar mother and ASD child).  So why wouldn’t proprioceptive activities work for us?  I know they work for me.

One thing I do know, and I know a lot of the people that use slings, wraps or buckle carrier for their babies, for whatever reason they choose, will agree.  It does ‘something’ for you.  Take away the fact that you have two hands free, you can go different places that a pram doesn’t allow… take all that away.  Next time you put your baby into a carrier, think about how it makes you FEEL.  Think about how it makes you connect with something that doesn’t have a name.  Think about how it makes you feel level.  Calm.  Think about it, really think about it.

My youngest is nearly 4 now, and my babywearing days are nearing an end.  I think about this all the time.  I know for sure that babywearing my babies helped regulate my mood.  Now I have to figure out a way, somehow, something, that can offer me the same regulation that wearing my babies did.

the puzzle

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All of the puzzle pieces were put in place. Most of the patients in hospital sat at that very puzzle, slowly but surely putting it together. It was finished today, the day I got to go home. I find that alone was such a bizarre coincidence.

I’ve been back home for a couple of hours now and I’m tired. So so tired. I baked muffins for my three gorgeous kids and just about cried when I went with my partner to pick them all up from school and Kindy. It feels strange to be on the ‘outside’ after nearly a month of being in hospital.

I feel like I stayed in hospital *just* long enough to get my medications stabilised and to learn what I could from the daily group therapy. Being admitted into a psych ward isn’t what most people think – it is hard work. Our therapy sessions basically went from 8:30 through til 3, with lunch and morning tea thrown in there. Add being medicated (often on new meds, weaning off old ones etc), to that also you have got to appreciate that trying to use a brain that wants to basically shut down at least for 1/2hr when the meds kick in, it’s challenging.

I can’t and will not complain though. I learned a lot. When I say that I learned a lot, I mean ALOT.

I made some amazing friends. I feel like we have such a deep connection. I know for sure that these connections and friendships will continue to grow on the ‘outside’.

I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can cut myself some slack sometimes but having bipolar isn’t a hinderance. It also is not an excuse. It won’t stop me from fulfilling my every dream and desire. So long as I keep it real, so long as I keep checking my self, I can conquer anything. Just like the puzzle, piece by piece, step by step, I can achieve anything. Anything at all.