Canberra Day Ten

There’s something about “having” to get going in the morning to take hubby to work that really keeps me going and it’s working well. Actually, until his new workplace provide him with an ID and access to the change rooms (I mean its only been 7 workdays!), he’s been given authority to charge a cab to and from work. But I asked if I could still take him in of a morning, because it’s really working for me. And why tamper with a willing system?

I took my bike AGAIN today, two days in a row, and did the same combination of central loop/eastern loop of the Lake Burley Griffin bike path. I love that lake every time I see it: it’s so scenic, and rich with birds, and history. Not to be caught out with my camera twice, I slung it over my shoulder and headed off. Not the best set up but it worked well enough. It was pretty chilly but I had my camera and my bike and I was excited! Anticipation is so powerful. I guess it’s like hope, in a way. And hope is probably the most powerful counter balance to mental illness.

I got my photos of the NINE ducklings. YAY! Hope fulfilled. Plus unexpectedly another family of ELEVEN ducklings!! And TWO Masked Lapwing (previously Plover) chicks!!! And a baby rabbit! And a baby Golden Whistler that was playfully flitting around the tree above my head. This paragraph hardly does justice to the joy, the bliss, and excitement, and happiness that all of this brings to me! It was a beautiful morning. Not only that but I recorded MORE species of birds this morning; FORTY FOUR up from THIRTY EIGHT yesterday, including a Double Barred Finch which was a LIFER for me; a bird that I’ve never come across before. That’s because it doesn’t occur naturally in Victoria – truly a bird for above the border.

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I had another fun jaunt at Floriade checking out the shopping stalls, trying one some clothes, tasting the honey donuts which were a terrific recommendation from a friend, and checking out the flowers. I can already see some tulips starting to fall apart, and others popping up and starting to unfold. I can see how a week can make for a total change in the gardens. I still haven’t tried the ferris wheel, but I will.

You must check out my website for Spring Babies!

And for some photos of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin check out Bike Ride and Baby Shower and Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive.

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Canberra Day Six

16th September, 2016

Well friends, another day, another adventure. I felt myself getting a bit tired mentally today but tomorrow is going to be bright and sunny, and I’m getting out and about! Just thinking up ideas, and planning what to do gets me up out of my rainy slow mood into a better gear.

So many options for tomorrow!

The spring flower festival Floriade is opening tomorrow; one look at the website and I’m excited! Not so excited about how far I’m going to have to walk to get there…might take my bike. Then there’s the Raiders game…if you’d listened to a quarter of the radio that I’ve heard this week you’d know this is the biggest thing since sliced bread! Something about NRL, I think that’s rugby, and Canberra’s team that lost last week but still have a chance at the grand final because this week they’re gonna win the final, but they already played the final, but they’re playing the final so get behind it…I’m lost!! Whoever these Panthers are that are fighting them, I hope they understand the gist of it all! Tsk, rugby! Bring back AFL!

Then there’s an NRS (national road series) road race which for the uninitiated is a bike race over 3 days for the best in the country who haven’t made it to international pro level, or who have stepped down from pro level. My husband thinks he’s one of them so we’ll probably go check it out at some point; they’re usually a lot of fun with side carnivals. Might even show him a loop of Lake Burley Griffin now that I know it like the back of my hand haha! Then there’s my birding, a loose plan for lunch with hubby at Piallago and the possibilities are endless!

Today rained then was sorted of fine then drizzled and I wasn’t sure when was the best time to go riding so I ended up not going, which is a shame. I think it would have topped off my day in better fashion than a sleep. But too late for that. Tomorrow is another day. On a recommendation I checked out the Red Hill lookout today, another rainy view! Are you seeing any repetition here? There’s a cool restaurant up there that I wouldn’t mind checking out another day. But tomorrow is going to be sunny! Maybe I’ll do Mount Ainslie, Mount Pleasant and Red Hill lookouts all in one! I’m still glad I went the places I did this week in the rain, but I’m excited to go back in the sunshine. So Red Hill lookout, then a random drive around looking for little strips of local shops where I might buy a present for a friend; finally found one in Yarralumla on my second detour. Sadly because I dropped hubby to work at 8am, the shop wasn’t open but at least I found it so I’ll be back.

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Back home, a bit of blogging and website portfolios, then down the street for a couple of jobs. Lunch, games with the cat who is become a good friend of mine and hubby’s, a nap and deluxe nachos and long chats over dinner! Awesome Friday night. And now even a timely bedtime!! I so need it, and can’t wait for tomorrow to dawn for more adventures! What’s your pick of activities? Comment and let me know.

Tired

Tired. Being tired. Feeling tired.

This is still the hardest thing of all for me to deal with. Especially so because I can’t really see that much of an end to it coming up with any haste.

Being or feeling tired, is pretty much the physical equal of being or feeling depressed, mentally. In fact I think they are different ends of the same condition. I’m sure that every depressed person feels tired; I’m not sure if every tired person, who is tired from some other cause that is ongoing and continuous, feels depressed but I’m guessing the percentage that do feel depressed is pretty high.

Most of the stereotypes are exactly the same.

You know, all the old favourites: “you don’t look tired”, “you don’t seem tired”, “I bet if you pushed yourself you would find that you’re not that tired”, “if you just tried a bit harder I’m sure you’d be fine”, “exercise is good for people when they’re feeling tired”, “if you were really tired you’d be sleeping instead of just laying around”, “are you eating properly because if you were I’m sure you’d find you weren’t so tired”, “are you sure you’re not just being lazy”, “are you sure you wouldn’t feel better if you did something for the day instead of sitting/lying there”, “are you sure quitting is good for you? If you pushed yourself I think you could keep going”, “everyone gets tired, you just have to push through it”.

Yawn! Surely it can't be time to get up! bed

Yawn! Surely it can’t be time to get up!

Really?! So let me get this straight. It’s not bad enough that I’m suffering with tiredness, but now you get to judge me for the affliction which I would never have wished for, and condemn me for however I somehow manage my way through it. Hmmm. Yep that sounds reasonable.

Rant over; that’s not what this is about. But I will make a side point here before we move one. Every single time that you want to ask someone a question that subtly suggests they are being useless and not helping themselves, think about this.

If that person had cancer and was suffering from whatever-it-is, in this case let’s say tiredness since that’s the topic, would you still ask the question? Would you still hint that they could do better and be better?

If that fails, try, and I mean REALLY try, to empathise with the subject, in this case, let’s say me. How about, as a mental exrcise, you imagine you were me? You may be a friend who knows a little about me, family who knows a bit more about me, or a stranger unmet that knows only what’s written here…but try. And if you can’t imagine it, or have insufficient information to really get into my shoes, then maybe it would be appropriate for you to consider that you also have no right to comment.

And please don’t take this as a rudeness or a get-out-of-here sentence! It’s meant only as a demonstration because I’m certain that most people commenting on health and mental health these days are not the people who have an inside and intimate view of the various conditions that exist.

So; being tired.

Here is the 50 million dollar question: is it physical or mental?

Here is the 25 million dollar: does it matter?

And here’s the question that I want answered that I’m not sure there is even an answer to: what the ……. am I supposed to do about it??? Fill in the blank yourself.

I have no idea what to do about it. No clue.

Everyone else has a lot of ideas.

Who has the answer that is best for me?

So here’s my systematic approach.

Why am I tired?

First cab off the ranks: I have depression, bipolar depression that comes with lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of stamina, lack of feeling. So there’s that.

Second idea: medications including quetiapine (Seroquel) which literally puts me to sleep at night and possible hangs over a bit the next day; lithium which is known to slow you down a bit, so there’s a bit more.

Third thing: I have underactive thyroid which was caused by lithium and we’re still working on getting the thyroxine (Oroxine) dose right. I started on half a tablet, now I’m on a full tablet of the lowest strength and we’re waiting the 6 weeks before we can take a blood test to check if we need to bump it up again. Also I’ve had iron deficiency anaemia over the last year and while my iron levels are finally okay, my iron stores are still low so I’m still getting that sorted out with iron tablets and I’m also enrolled in a clinical trial to help with iron levels. None of that helps.

Fourth: the weight gain thing. The last time I ran around and got excited about jumping up and down, I was 30kg lighter! Thirty kilograms. It should surprise no one that a person carrying a bag of 30kg moves slower than they used to! It’s logical maths.

So actually, when I see it all written out on paper in detail…I realise maybe I could be giving myself a break.

Hmm. That’s actually quite a lot of reasons to be going slow…maybe I need to go back to psychology basics and re-frame my life these days. Maybe what is desperately needed here is some of that self compassion that I blab about but forget to apply, and a new perspective.

The perspective that says, Danika, whatever you can get done today is excellent. Congratulate yourself for getting up out of bed, for having breakfast, for getting out of the house, for getting through a shift of work, for whatever activity you do.

Forget about wondering why you can’t this and that, why you used to be able to do this and can’t now, why it’s hard to get through what you want to get through.

Try being excited and satisfied and happy about whatever you can get done. Give yourself a break. Don’t just say it, give it! It’s not a theory, it needs to be a practice. Give yourself a break!

And remember that you have hope of improving in the future: the plan to eventually wean you off sleepy quetiapine, your intention to slow weight slowly but steadily, your commitment to your medication that should correct your thyroid function and anaemia.

RIght now, it doesn’t matter what the tiredness is; could be anything off the list. Just take each day as it comes, and try not to have excessive expectations of yourself in your current state. You aren’t last year, you aren’t later this year; you’re right now, so just handle what you can handle, and leave the rest to another day.

And seriously: take your own advice! Don’t just right these easy lines for someone else’s benefit; read them and believe them and check in on them again each day. Every day. I don’t want you getting into a state about this tiredness thing anymore; give yourself a break!

Saturday Shoutout

I have hedged around this and hinted at in and mentioned it obliquely but it’s time for some straight speaking about an important part of my life.

My peeps.

Specifically, my psychologist, my psychiatrist and my GP.

My support crew.

Without them, I don’t know where I would be. Literally and figuratively. Would I be in a psychiatry ward in a hospital? Would I be in rehab? Would I be doing a lot worse than am I now? Would I be a vegetable in bed? They have stood by me, held me up, dealt with me, kick-started me, bucked me up and saved my life.

I don’t say this lightly.

They saved my life! They’re that important.

Everything I say here has what to me is an obvious unwritten addendum: as well as my husband. He is the most important person in my life and has been my most supportive friend through every hill and valley, through every new discovery and every boring pushing-on day, through every heartache and excitement. He is so critical in my life but there are times in life when you need to call in the experts!

And these times have been the last year!

My aim today is to give a shout out to my current team because I truly do owe my life to these people. There are other people who have also been hugely helpful to me and I acknowledge them mentally; they might get a write up another day.

Starting with my local doctor, my general practitioner or GP, Dr Richard Young.

I came to see him accidentally after a false start with the GP that I used to see back when I was at uni. She charged a fortune and didn’t give me any confidence that she knew what she was doing. In fact she said to me, I’ll ask my colleagues and check some textbooks; can you come back next week? Well no I couldn’t wait a week, I needed help now! I complained to a colleague at work that I didn’t know where to start looking for a good GP and that I wanted to find one close to work.and who didn’t cost me so much and she handed me a business card for this doctor. I rate this as the best recommendation I have ever had and am always so thankful to her for this!

I didn’t tell this colleague why I needed to see a doctor and yet she gave me a recommendation for a doctor with a special interest in mental health, and who sees many patients with depression and anxiety. That was lucky number one. Lucky number two was the location of the clinic, within a 5 minute walk from work! Could anything be more perfect? I could easily slip away from work in my lunch break, between discharges, after ward rounds etc for my 15 minute appointment. And lucky amazing number three is bulk billing for mental health patients! That is, no fee to pay for each visit! Thank you infinity for this amazing policy that has benefited me and my husband so much!

Richard is a young enough doctor to have passion for his job in spades, old enough to have experience and knowledge and confidence, and has bedside manner and compassion like you dream of in a doctor!

His knowledge of the health system is unsurpassed. I have attended many different GPs in my old clinic last year as well as here, and have never experienced such thorough care! I have cervical migraines; I get Medicare subsidised visits to a physiotherapist. I’m gaining weight on medication; I get some of those visits changed to see a dietician. I have deficiencies; I get treated. I have risk factors; I see the practice nurse to develop a care plan for how I will reduce my risk factors. I have depression/anxiety and need help managing my symptoms; I get ten Medicare subsidised visits to a psychologist, and when I use them all up, I get more! We need help managing the medications; I get Medicare subsidised visits to the psychiatrist. And most importantly, when I’m suicidal he doesn’t let me go home; he sends me straight to the hospital where I can be cared for and a new plan can be made for my treatment.

You get the picture: this doctor is amazing! There is nothing I have that he can’t fix me up with the appropriate health professional or service!

After 8 months of seeing Richard once a week every week I have no complaints! I have had to wait on occasion, I have had to be rushed through on occasion but I have proved abundantly that when I have acute and severe needs, I will be given as much time and attention as I need and be cared for exactly how I need. How I want not always; but always how I need. I think you do need to give credit where it is due and understand the limitations of the medical system and within those limits I have been wonderfully and carefully looked after!

I would absolutely recommend Richard to anyone!

It is due to Richard’s amazing insight and care that I was first given a referral to see a psychologist. Unfortunately the first lady I saw did not connect with me at all, and in fact I left worse than I arrived!! Crying going down the steps is not the right way to go. So Richard promptly organised for me to be assigned another psychologist and I have loved her since the first meeting!

Patty Sabbagh from the Nexus Psychology group is her name and place.

She has seen me through all kinds of scenarios. Happy, sad, suicidal, excited about life, demotivated, purposeful and everything in between are the ways that I have turned up at her door and she has adapted and given me real help and hope and a new way on from every problem! She has helped me to deal with all kinds of issues, she is so resourceful and like a good friend. Sometimes I have gone and its just been a good chat with an understanding fellow human that I needed, and she has been a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a clever therapist able to give me a better way to fight on. A mother, a friend, a support; all labels I could give her and more!

She listens and considers and recommends the best approach. Sometimes talking about it really does solve the problem, sometimes a new way of looking or thinking about an issue is needed, sometimes there is need for meditation, or mindfulness, or cognitive behavioural therapy. Whatever is needed, this talented psychologist and counselor has the remedy!

Anyone in trouble needing someone to help would be well advised to seek the help of Patty from Nexus Psychology or one of her colleagues.

Lastly my newest support crew member, and one who has changed my life. Another big statement but well deserved! My psychiatrist, Dr Ian Katz.

He entered later in the picture because I initially saw a psychiatrist as part of my outpatient follow up from being in the emergency department of the local hospital. He was the one who suggested cautiously that bipolar was indeed a possibility and who first started me on a mood stabiliser. However his role is to see patients in the short term then send them back to their GP to be managed. Which is what happened.

My GP and I went along with the plan for Seroquel and for a while we seemed to be winning. Then that started to fall apart and my GP gave me the referral for Dr Katz. He picked up the pieces, made a sensible picture out of it all and gave me a ‘wait and watch’ directive and asked me to come back in a few weeks. I returned with a history of the most manic-like state that had happened to me so far coupled with a long period of depression and the diagnosis of bipolar was complete. He prescribed lithium, one of the best things that has happened to me in a long time, and things have been improving ever since! He calls it “the game changer”; I call it a life changer!!

I have been so impressed with Dr Katz because of his huge capacity to listen, and hear all the information then process it in a logical and helpful manner. He will then set out a considered, clinically sound plan and make everything clear and easy for me, the patient. That takes a huge lot of knowledge, skill, patience, kindness and clinical experience to attain and I think there are very few other clinicians like him. In addition, his commitment to his work amazes me. I have had appointments at 6.45pm, 8pm and 9pm!! Thank you for that!

I have a very high respect for his opinion and his directions and am just so grateful to him for being the one to really turn my life around!

So there you have it. The three most important people in my life just now, besides my husband. Three people who have left a permanent impression on my mind, and my heart really. Conditions like bipolar absolutely need to have this three pronged approach, which in the past was not such a priority but I would not give up either one of these three for anything! Each has a separate but vital role, and each one contributes in a different way to my overall mental and physical health.

I don’t think I could step into any of their shoes, even assuming I had the appropriate training. They each have some strength of character to do what they do that is beyond my understanding but its so important to me that they continue to do what they do.

I don’t know when they take holidays, I don’t know how their families cope with their dedication to their jobs but I know that without them I wouldn’t know where to go or who to turn to and I am forever grateful to them, and everyone like them who works for us, the patients.

On Wednesday I got excited…

[Author’s note: written two weeks ago]

The last three weeks have been a bit tedious, and boring, and uninteresting, and flat, and sleepy, and just hard to enjoy!

On the 19th May, after 5 days in the manic sphere having a fabulous super productive and energetic time, I collapsed! Literally collapsed into bed, fell into a coma (*exaggeration*) and hardly got up for week (*not an exaggeration*)! I left the house 3 times – Thursday, Friday and Sunday. A friend’s birthday lunch, a mother’s club that I nearly cancelled on, and the gospel meeting. I showered once. It was rough!

The last week of May was slightly better, I got out of bed every day and left the house a couple more times. I did next to nothing but I ate most meals and had a couple of laughs.

The first week of June I had a couple of ordinary days, an intermediate day that I thought might crossover into mania but didn’t (thank goodness!! Can’t take another huge mood swing!), and a couple days that felt like regular good days 🙂 I’ve had a bit more energy and for the first time in three weeks I actually feel like I could hit the gym! I’m even almost excited to go; to run, and jump, and lift weights, and be part of my fitness group again. This is great!

I mean I felt like it, I didn’t actually go; but I felt like it. So that counts, right?

So Wednesday. June 4th. Not a great day; an intermediate day. I left the house because I had an appointment with my psychologist/counsellor. Probably wouldn’t have left it otherwise. Got up late, showered – sad that this is noteworthy! I started well with a good breakfast, then had another good breakfast, then a couple of mandarins and it was starting down a slippery slope of sour straps and peanut butter that luckily got interrupted cos I had to leave for my appointment!

Getting out of the house makes a HUGE difference to how much I eat. This is something to always keep in mind. Having something productive or useful or purposeful to do in the day significantly reduces how much I eat. Mainly because I’m distracted from sitting and staring at food, and actively doing something else like driving or catching public transport or using my brain!

So off I go to the psychologist. Trying to think of something to talk about, and coming up with nothing! Nothing had happened in the week since I saw her last; no improvement, no gains. My brain is not getting exercised and can’t think of anything that we can work on. Luckily, she is a psychologist and counsellor and her job is to know these things.

So we got chatting about the week that had been, and things that had happened and how everything was going. Then about strategies to improve the days, to give me something purposeful to achieve, to help fill in the gaping hours. And it kick-started something in my brain. It jogged my memory again. It gave me flash backs of useful and interesting things that I had done, and plans I had had for other things that I hadn’t done yet, and which my mind hadn’t been able to access for the last few weeks.

It is amazing and fascinating that in down times I really can’t use my brain as well as in better times. There’s actually evidence to show that the pathways to creative and imaginative parts of the brain are diminished and much harder to get to when a person is in the midst of depression. The absolute opposite is the case with mania; the pathways are much easier to access and the creative brain is firing on all cylinders.

I started to get excited. I remembered my knitting, my drawing, my bird watching, my photography. I remembered how I’d been planning to join a choir, that there were pharmacy continuing education sessions I could go to during the day, that I had meant to go back to the zoo, to do a bush walk, have a bike ride, visit some gardens. It came to mind that I could call the pharmacy counselling number and have a chat to another pharmacist about where I’m up to and how I can proceed from here, that I could visit friends, finish my half-done quilt, sort some boxes from the shed, get involved in life again.

And I guess that’s why they pay psychologists the big bucks. This is why I definitely need my psychologist sessions. Just someone professional looking at how I’m going and offering a different perspective and some guidance on how to proceed.

I went into this session unable to think of anything to talk about, to discuss, and unable to see how I could be helped.

I came out of the session inspired with a long list of things that I could do if I wanted; interests re-remembered, hobbies re-energised and feeling more optimistic about the days ahead of me. I had things I could do, I had reason to get up in the morning, I had plans for spending the days. I had hopes and ideas and inspiration.

For that, I owe great thanks to my lovely psychologist. What would I do without her?