Canberra Day Twelve

I had such a wonderful surprise on Tuesday! I was idly wandering around Facebook when I saw a post from some old friends that I grew up with from about 3 or 4 years old which showed their location as Canberra! I thought, really? So I messaged them and yep we had managed to coincide in a city that neither of us had really been to before! So we organised to catch up for dinner and it was the best night! All the years and events that have passed since I left home 10 years ago haven’t changed a thing and it was a fabulous evening of yummy Thai food and chatting about everything under the sun.

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So the cake, what’s that about? Well, while this family have been on Victorian school holidays visiting Canberra, the youngest girl had her birthday and this was the cake she had. It was huge, tall and sugary with the fakest colours available, a horror to some of the family who wouldn’t choose this kind of thing ordinarily, and only half eaten. They’re moving on Saturday and really can’t take the cake with them. So a condition of our catch up was coming back to the hotel to eat cake! Not the worst thing in the world hey…and the absolute delight of hubby who will eat anything colourful! Fruit loops, smartie smiley face cookies, sprinkles, cakes of exactly this description etc. It was delicious, but I didn’t get through it; turned out it was pretty sweet after all! But what a lovely way to end the day: old friends and familiar faces in an unfamiliar city. Bliss!

Otherwise the day was washing, drying, folding, making phone calls I’ve been putting off for ages, writing emails I’ve been putting off for ages, organising a catch up, trying to decide on accomodation for a long weekend coming up, and watching for rain so I could decide when to do a bike ride. Turns out that I watched for rain all day and it never rained. But then it was the end of the day. And I didn’t get to ride. I wonder where I went wrong? In my defense it poured the entire previous day. So. Also, I realise as I’m writing this down what a social day I had; quite unusual for me generally. I must be going pretty well at the moment. I guess I already knew that, but it’s nice to have proof.

 

A bad day

**Usually I write in a very controlled way. I write on my good days, and although I access sadness and badness and evil, I do it in a way that I can manage easily without things getting out of control. Yesterday things were out of control. I was having a bad day and a bad moment of despair and crying into my pillow and thoughts just exploding all over the room and I thought, you know what? I need to write this down. If I can’t write down the darkness and disorganised-ness what am I really showing you of the “real” diseased me? So this is raw and I apologise if it’s too much of anything. By the time I am writing this, things have been sorted out and we’re back on track. There’s still the diet thing, I’ll get to that another day, but for now here is the thoughts as they spilled out of my head in my crying despair**

Stayingquiet

I’m the Monster. The one under your bed. The one that jumps out and scares small children and large adults alike. The obese monster, morbidly obese by the books. The one who side on, at a glance, could be confused with a large tree trunk or concrete pylon! Who has been asked TWICE this week if she’s too far into her pregnancy to fly! And another two times in that same week if she’s pregnant, once before a massage and once before a dress fitting. Cos that’s relaxing!

I’m the Destroyer. I start with memory foam beds and crush the memory and the foam out of them. I move onto brand new leather couches and triple my husband’s imprint in the first 3 months. Time to change sides! Then I grind the life out of said husband until he doesn’t care, or hurts so much from caring that he leaves. Well that’s my mental image of how this goes, in any case, and I’ve had a couple physical images to assist with the mental image; that’s the extent of his distress.

I break laptops, drop mobile phones, spill anything remotely liquid, trip over power cords ruining plug connections, slip down inclines, fall over pebbles, draw ink on bedspreads, stretch clothes in the wash,  wrench roof racks and bikes off the car roof bending the metal and stripping paint off bikes and car alike!

I’m fat, so fat, so very very fat and it’s ruining everything. I’m told. It’s hard to see from the inside. I’m ruining my marriage by being fat. I lost my job from the consequences of being fat. I’m slow, I’m too slow, I need to lose weight, I need to speed up, I need to change, change, change change, stop being me, be someone else. Someone not fat and not slow who isn’t ruining everything.

My husband is fed up. And why wouldn’t he be? 3 years of me being sick, 16months of being off work before, 9 months in a job and here we are, back at the beginning. And if I just lost weight it would fix everything. I wouldn’t be ruining the couch, wrecking the bed, sitting at home doing nothing. If only I would lose weight. Because it’s difficult for him, me being fat. Every day it’s hard for him, me being fat, he tells me. It’s hard on him. I’m fat and it’s hard. He says we can’t do things, be things because of it. It’s fair for him to ask me to lose weight, because he has to deal with it too. And me not losing weight makes him think I’m not trying, I’m not trying for us. Can’t I do it for him? Can’t I lose weight for him? If I won’t do it for myself. It’s been 6 weeks. 6 weeks since I saw the dietician and starting a food diary. And I haven’t lose any weight. Why? Because I’ve been snacking. Why? Because I eat in emotional situations. So instead I’m meant to be dealing with my emotion. Here you are, here is my emotion. I’m dealing with it.

thunder inside

I hate to cry. Crying is weak. I know, I know; I shouldn’t say that. Especially me, advocating for mental health. But to me it’s weak, I hate it, and I avoid it. But here it comes, crying, because of my diet. If I cry, I don’t store and if I don’t store, I don’t eat because of the store. Apparently. So I’ve cried twice since starting my diet.

I want to see that you’re putting in an effort. But you won’t see it; change is gradual and you don’t see weight loss for a while, a good long while. So what do you want to see? It’s such a lot of pressure, proving something. Proving you did, defending that you didn’t; proof. I’m trying. But I want to see that you’re trying. Well I am trying. Well how can I see that you’re trying? It goes round and round.

And now, one in the bed and the other one said I can’t stand this anymore. Is it cold? How cold? Who cares, I’m storming out. And I’m crying my tears because I have to put in an effort and one can’t bear it and the other can’t wear it, and it’s a mess. Royally a mess. What to a fix? I promise sincerely I will truly really do what I’m told, and I will make the numbers go down, and I will make them keep going down. And then we will live happily ever after because I’ll be able to energetically walk everywhere that I’m asked to walk, and I’ll enjoy physical activity and my fatness won’t slow me down and make me sluggish and I’ll be fixed. And if my condition and cures continue to prevent that from ever being realized? Well at least I’ll be skinny. Life is better when you’re skinny. Time for my daily walk and my diet jelly. Adieu.

Voices

 

I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed

Get along with the voices inside of my head

You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath

And you think I’m crazy, yeah, you think I’m crazy

Well, that’s nothing

-Monsters by Eminem feat. Rihanna

 

I love this song called Monsters by Eminem with Rihanna and always sing along when it comes on the radio while I’m driving. The chorus mainly, I’m not skilled enough to rap along with Eminem! “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed”. To be friends with whatever our own particular monster is; what a great goal to have!

To accept that I have a monster in my life, to accept that it isn’t going away and can’t be gotten rid of, to accept that it will always be right there lurking under the bed is one of the biggest parts of reaching remission with mental health disorders. Acceptance is key.

That’s what I’ve been told by my therapists and I really do think that this is true. I’ve seen enough patients with mental illness, mostly schizophrenia and sometimes bipolar disorder, and every now and then depression, anxiety or panic disorders who do not believe that they are unwell to know that believing the diagnosis and accepting the need for treatment is the biggest advantage you can have on your side. From then on out, having a good relationship with your doctor, having faith in the treatments given and doing what you can for yourself are added bonuses towards successfully managing your condition.

Fighting against the diagnosis, disbelieving the doctors, resisting the label, not wanting to accept the idea of illness takes so much emotional energy, so much mental energy and makes you prey to so much more time exposed to the condition that is ravaging you. It can also make your condition harder to treat once you finally succumb to the idea of needing help as it has had so much more time to get a strong grasp in your mind and the symptoms may be a lot more advanced. You wouldn’t do this to your body if you had diabetes, leave your body exposed to high levels of blood sugar damaging your blood vessels and nerve endings while your organs starve for sugar. So why do it do your mind?

Because at the end of the day, mental illnesses like diabetes or thyroid disorders or heart disease are conditions that are not curable, in the sense that they never go away but can be well managed. Bipolar disorder doesn’t just pop up then vanish away again. But it can be managed away to the extent that it no longer controls your life and so that people around you have no idea about your condition, and maybe you even forget that you have this monster.

Here’s to becoming friends with whatever it is that scares the pants off us! To becoming friends with our monsters.

 

[ I ] Get along with the voices inside of my head”

 

I don’t have voices inside of my head.

That sounds like a statement of denial, but it isn’t. I’m just telling you a fact about me. Trust me; I’ve been thoroughly checked for voices! By my GP, my psychologist, two psychiatrists and a number of nurses. And myself, just to quintuple-check.

I mean that I don’t have voices in the sense that most people expect voices. I don’t have auditory hallucinations such as people can have if they suffer from schizophrenia, psychosis, some forms of bipolar or delirium. I don’t hear people who aren’t physically present telling me things, commanding me to perform certain actions or speaking to me through objects like the radio or TV.

But I’ve come to learn about other types of voices that can be just as damaging. The inner voice. Everyone has one, to whatever extent they allow it to be heard in their own mind. The little voice that chats away in the background carrying along beliefs, ideas, thoughts, judgements, criticism and hopes and dreams. And sometimes not only one voice. There’s my inner voice that carries the weight of history, experience, self esteem and knows me well. There’s the inner voice which is other people’s beliefs projecting as their voice and most importantly, my new inner voice!

One of the things I’ve been trying hard to work on during my recovery is to change my inner voice, or develop a new inner voice. Depression and anxiety can both have a large self critical and other people critical component. When my current voice criticises or judges or makes snide remarks, I try to correct it. Not with judgement, or criticism, or rudeness. If I took that approach, my new voice would be as difficult as my current voice!

So when my old inner voice sparks up a thought train that I don’t want to follow, my attempt is to gently override it with a better thought, or kindly redirect it. When a critical thought comes to mind, I try to tell it, no that’s not how I want to think about people anymore, and then I try to impose a better thought onto that thought to overcome it.

Maybe the idea pops into my head that that girl over there is fat. But that’s not how I want to think about other people, and I have to bear in mind that I myself can be classed as fat, so instead of thinking those thoughts about her and me, I’ll think about her beautiful hair and her lovely smile. Which will make me smile, and enjoy these nicer thoughts 🙂

It is not easy! It takes a lot of hard work to get along with the voices inside of my head! Being friends with the monsters is much easier for me! I don’t know if everyone has the same difficulty, but it’s taken me a lot of work to get to where I am and there’s still a way to go. I know consciously exactly how I want my mind to be, but it doesn’t change just for me wanting it to! It takes practice and repetition and solid thinking!

But at least I’m on the way to getting along with my voices, a little progress is better than no progress!

Unwilling or unable?

Unwilling, or unable?

This is a difficult call to make.

It’s so subjective.

All that we have to go on is my opinion versus your opinion, with whatever evidence each of us has gathered plus whatever balancing knowledge we have at the time the call is made.

It’s something that I’m still battling with, and because I’m battling with it, I assume that there are others out there fighting with themselves over this. I don’t know for sure if there are, but I’m writing this anyway, for me and for anyone else who gets it.

Before I got sick. Such a statement! Also hard to define but I’ll use it anyway.

Before I got sick, I found this line easier to determine.

I’d get home from work, tired out and ready to relax and the thought of having to get together the where withal to get up and going again seemed impossible. Everyone has felt like that at some time.

So it comes down to a battle of the will.

I know I’m tired, will I allow myself to sit down and relax or will I get myself up and going to an exercise class I love and know I will enjoy/the supermarket for groceries to make a better dinner/the week night Bible study meeting which I’ll feel so refreshed after?

Will I, won’t I, will I, won’t I? It was a mental battle. From experience I knew that if I pushed myself I would get through whatever it was that I had planned on doing. It wasn’t physically impossible despite my tiredness. It was a matter of setting my mind to it being a non-negotiable task and doing it! Like work. You don’t wake up in the morning and think will I, won’t I go to work. You just get up, do what you have to to get organised and go!

Well at that stage I did. As the stress of my last job accumulated and compounded I did find myself waking up with a feeling of dread (hello anxiety!) and thinking do I really have to go? What if I just don’t go? What if I say I’m sick? What if I just stay in bed instead?

I guess I should have known that that was something else. That this was more than usual reluctance to get out of bed. I’ve always been a mid-morning person. Getting up has never been easy, but then again it had never been like this. Lying in bed watching the clock tick around to when I should be leaving. Feeling dread and stress and fear with a little smidgen of hope build up until I thought they could physically burst out of my chest.

But in our house growing up, the words “lazy-bones”, “wuss”, “sook” were tossed about like “hello”, “goodbye” and “how are you?”. As a consequence of those terrible words being acceptable to apply to children, I always question my own judgement towards myself, and wonder if indeed I am being a “wuss”, a “sook”, “weak”, “lazy”, lacking in having a backbone or courage or dedication or commitment or appropriate drive?

I think I’m learning these days to give myself more credit. To remember that I am a dedicated, committed professional who knows her responsibility in the workplace and fulfills her duties creditably; who wouldn’t “slack off” or “be lazy” or “not pull her weight” unless there was a solid decent reason. All words that no one else has used against me by the way, except for my old inner voice that I’m slowly chipping away.

I’m learning to know my limits and to communicate these to others. Not with the phrase “sorry to be a wuss but…”! With the phrase, “I have done x and y and z today and I’m pleased that I have accomplished so much. That is all that I can manage today. Thanks for your understanding”.

I think it’s called being assertive. Having been terrified of confrontation all my life I never really got the practice of asserting myself. I knew the theory but that only gets you so far. These days I’m realising that I am a person with valid opinions and thoughts. I’m finding that communicating this directly to others results in a better outcome for everyone. And I’m not so fearful of confrontation anymore. Because now I know that I am an equal part of the conversation/discussion/interview. I’m not the weaker part having to make up to the stronger part anymore. These are truly great days for my personal development!!

But it still comes down to this: what and where are the limits?

When is it enough without being too much? When could I push myself more? When am I taking it too far and risking exhaustion? Do I have more energy than I think I have? Could I maybe do just a little bit more, or should I call it a day?

How can anyone know the answers to these questions?

And then there are the other factors: I just don’t feel like talking to anyone today so I don’t want to go, I feel very anxious about going so I think it’d be better if I stayed home, I just can’t get my head together to go today, I’m too drowsy/sleepy/exhausted/tired.

I’ve been told to push myself, but to be careful not to exhaust myself. I’ve been told to learn to know my own body so it will tell me when enough is enough.

Who teaches these things? How can I learn these things? How can I know the difference between my body being tired and my mind being tired?

My body tricks me all the time. I’m sitting here an hour after a good dinner and my body is telling me it’s hungry. I know its not, but that’s not how it sees the situation! So how can I be sure about my body telling me when it has had enough? It feels like a marathon getting up, showered and dressed some days; my body tells me that it enough but surely that can’t be the limit.

If I can’t tell the limits, how can anyone else? I suppose this is my main point after all. Here’s me: I’ve got these limitations of conditions, medications, recuperation. How, considering all the variables, can any other person tell me what or how much or where or when I should be doing what I’m doing?

Not that many have tried, to give credit where credit is due. Most people have been endlessly helpful, patient with me in my disability, considerate of my limits and thoughtful of me in the middle trying to make me work.

I really do appreciate that!!

I guess it’s always a work in progress. The fact is that I can’t do everything that I would like to do; that’s just how it is right now. I am learning to accept these facts as they are without judging them or myself; that’s huge progress!

With the energy and motivation I do have, I do what I can. I get tired and worn out faster than I’d like. I don’t have the stamina I want. Some days I wake up and it’s just not my day. Then after a nap suddenly I’m firing on all cylinders again. And tomorrow, I might be rearing to go! I just don’t know, and can’t tell. It’s a trying, sometimes frustrating game trying to figure out my agenda for the week, or even the day, not knowing when or how or what I’ll be like with any definite prediction.

Another thing that it is very hard is to differentiate between what the condition causes and what the medication causes. Am I suffering from a side effect, or is this just the part of the condition that we haven’t got under control yet? I think only a trained doctor could answer that with any certainty, and maybe not even then.

So, in the meantime, I hope I’ll do what I can, but not too much, and hopefully figure out just what that is!!