doin’ the dance of millions

I cannot be the only person feeling this way.  It is not possible.  I am not special nor am I unique.  The feelings I have are not bizarre.  They are not ‘just mine’.  For some reason I feel comfort in that.

It has been awhile since I wrote.  I had been ‘doing well’.  I spent the first nearly 10 weeks post hospital in a great place.  Then as per usual it all swirls about and I am in the middle of some kinda Soda Stream whirlpool.  I have energy.  I don’t.  I want to be there, with those people who are friends and care.  Then I don’t.  I wonder if that is normal.  I fucking hate it.  I am right now overhauling my house.  Again.  For who?  Because I have few visitors.  Because I am paranoid.  Because mess.  Kids.  House.  Crumbs.  Under the lounge is filthy.  Again.  HOW.  Then all of the other things.  The freaking dog pissed on the carpet again.  I am excited that I get to use my carpet shampoo machine.  I have so much going on.  Yet nothing.  I don’t want to die tomorrow  because honestly I know I have not lived nearly the life I need to live.

So my partner went for a partners interview with my psychiatrist.  I now see my doc fortnightly.  Which is good on one hand – I freaking need it.  On the other I feel helpless.  Like I am unable to make confident and just decisions about my mental health.  Ultimately I am grateful that I have my partner looking out for me like this.  I don’t know how he stays with me.  How he puts up with me.  I am hard work.  I know that.  I am even hard work for myself.  If that is even possible.

So, yeah psychiatrist fortnightly.  Dietitian because I have put on 9kg in 12 weeks and cannot stand to look at myself in the mirror.  I might seem confident but I feel like utter shit and look like a fat balloon.  And I feel bad  because once upon a time, when I was thin, I judged people who were well rounded.  I fucking JUDGED THEM.  And now I am ‘well rounded’.  I feel like shit.  I judge myself.  All day.  Then I feel like a selfish bitch.  Usually I just feel like shit.

I am feeling like the blog posts will be coming on hard and strong in the next while.  I just hate, hate, hate myself and feel ridiculous.  And awful.  There is no way to explain it without sounding like a complete fuckhead basically.  I put up a wall and I sit on my fat ass behind it, ignoring what is going on, on the other side.

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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.

because bipolar

Today I feel utterly revolting.  My eyes don’t want to stay open and my brain hurts.  I feel agitated yet unable to move or comprehend much at all.  I feel like a ruin.  A shell.  A spent vessel.  I just do not feel ‘right’.

A friend asked in one of my groups the other day about whether it was her cycling that made her lose what she thought were strong friendships.  I always pondered this too.  I mean, how can it be possible to have had such a deep friendship with someone only for it to literally dissolve overnight.  Literally.  I had to think on that question overnight because I knew there was something more in this than what was obvious.  We blame ourselves.  Anything happens, it is our fault.  Because bipolar.  Then the epiphany happened.  And I simply replied ‘I think it has more to do with the fact that my mood finally shows me what a dick they really always were’.

By my saying that they were always dicks doesn’t mean that everyone anyone has ever had a falling out with are dicks. Sometimes people just act dickish. Doesn’t mean that it is their entire personality.

True friends who know your truth, whatever that truth may be, don’t just come and go.  They stick around.  They may not understand and may withdraw for a while but they do not just disappear.  This is relevant not only with those who have a mental illness – this relates to every single soul. Even those with out a mental condition. Friendships are like rivers – some are deep, some wide, some seem to go on forever, some are winding and meandering with rapids, some are tidal and some are prone to flooding. In any case, like rivers, friendships are our own personal lifelines, just the same as how rivers are to the environments its water feeds.

I don’t mean to put people into categories and people by their very own nature do come and go, they do get busy with their lives, but here is a basic rundown of what I view my interactions with other humans as.

I have ‘satellite’ friends.  They are the ones I may or may not know very well at all – I may not even know their names.  Very cordial interactions.  Little thought given to said relationship. Acquaintances.

Then I have the ‘Orbiters’.  They circulate closer, don’t know too much about me and me about them.  I know their names and probably have their phone number but I never call them.  Still very cordial, however due to my lack of vocal filter, they may see ‘me’ much more often than the ‘Satellites’.

In between the Orbiters and the Core crew I have what I would probably call the ‘Tectonic’ friends.  These are the ones that I have let in enough to cause pain and hurt if they turn on me (or vice versa).  Like the Tectonic plates on our Earth, when they move, when they shift, they can cause massive damage.  The opposite can be relevant too – the changes can change the relationship in such miraculous ways.

Lastly is the ‘Core’.  There are very very few people in this category.  Very few.  These people have either known me for years or have had a very deep and personal friendship with me for whatever amount of time.  These are the people that I may not see for years but when we catch up it feels like it was just yesterday when we saw or talked to each other.

I don’t have a list of who goes where because like water and it’s essence, the nature of friendships ebb and flow.