Slowing down

If you look carefully, and you shouldn’t feel the need to, you can see the signs of me slowing down. Mornings get harder (and they’re never really my strong suite, but I’ve impressed myself lately), I stop answering the phone (which is always my strong preference but sometimes I’m better at it), I stop doing anything much around the house (which isn’t saying much but still), I stay in bed longer and longer, getting up and going is harder, and I dive into my laptop and live there because its more predictable and controllable in there than in the outside world. I jump into a world that isn’t reality, where beautiful music and sitcom laughter falsely pep me up. But I take falsely pepped up over no pep most days.

This week I haven’t been doing so well. I know why, but I can’t seem to shift it and improve my mood. There’s just been this one thing that’s bugging me, and I haven’t been able to physically do anything about it to this point and its just biting and biting. That has worn me down as well as consuming my thoughts with less than impressive ideas about myself. It’s brought about a constant level of fight or flight instinct in me, and between palpitations and just feeling amped up it hasn’t been fun.

At work on Sunday a patient came in desperate for something to help him sleep. He really seemed quite beside himself, saying he can’t get to sleep til 2am, doesn’t sleep long, and then is bombed out all day and can’t get anything done for being tired. It seems like a pretty clear case for handing out a Pharmacist Only sleeping tablet, but this man is on an old school medication that interacts with EVERYTHING! He was well aware of this and told me about it before I could ask about other medications. So I did the proper thing and checked to make sure that I could offer him a safe option. Most of the medications we can sell are sedating antihistamines like Phenergan and Polaramine which you may well have heard of. But these interact with his medication so they’re out. There was only one option (other than referring him to his doctor whenever he could get in) so I set him up with that, explained it all to him, reassured him that it was fine, advised him to take a half dose to start with and we both went on our way happy.

Then I got a call from him saying he’d read the leaflet in the box (of course, he would be the one in twenty to do so!) and it said not to take it. I explained again that the reason not to take it with his medication was because of drowsiness not another side effect, and in his case we wanted the drowsiness. At this point I recommended he discuss it with his doctor before taking it if he didn’t feel confident, but he said I was the medicine expert so if I said it was okay, then he was okay with it. Flattering to hear, but a bit of a terrifying responsibility at the same time. But I was happy from what I read so all good. But that call back set off some doubt in myself, some insecurity that maybe I got it wrong and I just cannot get rid of the [insert adjective] questioning in my head!! I looked it up again, and again, and although it seems right, there’s just something!! Did I do the wrong thing? Should I have not given him anything and hoped he could see his specialist soon? Is my knowledge still not up to date enough? What if something happens?? That last one is a killer of peaceful thoughts! Is it likely? No. But…and that is pretty much the loop my brain is feeding me.

I’ve tried to breathe: in 2 3, out 2 3 4 5. I’ve tried distracting myself, thinking of something else like our holiday to Queensland sometime later this year: I now have put together the most thorough bird watching to-do list that you’ve ever seen, have an order pending for a Cairns specific bird book, and GPS coordinates for good locations! I tried eating: fail. Telling a colleague: they weren’t concerned but what does that mean? The responsibility doesn’t rest on their shoulders so…I was asked to work yesterday so I was going to look the patient up and give them a call to check everything is okay, but my shift got canned. So that phone call got pushed out til tomorrow. It’s been a long week!! I’m just stuck in quandry, in limbo waiting for the knife to fall, the bell to toll, the consequence to descend on me. ARGH!

So my mood has struggled. Monday I was in bed til lunchtime, or after lunchtime; sometime around 3pm possibly. I don’t think I did a single thing. Wake up, sleep, wake up and breakfast, sleep, wake up and snack, sleep, wake up and drive 2 minutes for KFC, sleep, dinner, sleep. Very interesting. I was bugged by this sleeping tablet business all day, but I didn’t realise how much it was sapping my energy, motivation, interest in anything else til later. But every time I woke up either overnight or during the day it was right there, clear as crystal in the front of my mind!

Yesterday I managed to get out because I had a voucher with a use-by date to redeem at the aquarium, and at Pancake Parlour; freebies are a good motivator. Breakfast/brunch near an open fire while sorting bird photos on my laptop was pretty fun!!

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Then on to the aquarium where I enjoyed walking around in a removed kind of way, apart from the lovely shallow rock pool with little rays and elephant sharks (which are so ugly!!) and little fishies; that was awesome. Then on to the behind the scene package where we got in a glass bottom boat and watched rays and sharks and fish swim just beneath us. That was pretty cool. But the breakthrough was feeding the rays. I’m not talking about the little ones, I mean the Smooth Stingray species that is 3 or 4 metres across. They come up to the side of the tank for feeding, and they aren’t meant to, but they flap flap flap their “wings” against the side and cause huge splashes!! So naughty, and so fun fun to watch and take photos of! That got me laughing out loud; I really enjoyed that. I was smiling for ages after that.

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Then I went down a couple of levels to the bottom of that tank so I could watch the big sharks and rays swimming around through the glass; another wonderful experience! That really did it for me, and it is SO important to have things that do it for you on not so great days. Last stop was the penguins, and a cute penguin onesie for a baby who I know will be coming later in the year. I was still wrecked by the end of the day, I was still dragging myself around the levels of the aquarium, I was still tired but I got some smiles and laughs in which makes it a win as far as I’m concerned. It didn’t take much to suck that out of me, but at least it was sucking from happy to regular, not from regular to down. That’s a good thing too.

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We had a chat last night, hubby and me. Something about me being in a rut, lost in my laptop, not really engaging with the world or him. And I recognised it then as a symptom, that I really was down a bit and struggling a bit and it was cause and effect happening right there in my easy chair. I was almost at a point to make an appointment with my GP for a pep talk and pick me up, but I’m still holding that card because I see my psychiatrist next Tuesday.

So what about today? There is purely one reason why today worked. Wheel Women had a ride on that I had RSVP’d too but wasn’t sure if the weather would turn out good enough. Last night hubby said: “go even if its raining because there’s only meant to be a small amount of rain, so if it’s raining its probably nearly done”. And it happened exactly like that. Even though it was POURING rain when I woke up, I got up, got dressed, got ready, checked in to make sure the ride was still going ahead, and drove over to Kensington. It rained the ENTIRE way over there, except the last 1 to 2km, and then it was the most spectacular morning you could possibly imagine. Blue skies, the Maribyrnong river was looking stunning in blue as it reflected the sky, the grass was green and it was good to be alive with friends enjoying the sunshine and the fresh morning. That alone does it for me, and I would have been so disappointed had I stayed home.

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Instead we had a lovely time chatting while we rode, chatting over coffee and chatting all the way home again!!! And then, because I wanted to check out some birds (so wishing I had my camera in these perfect conditions!!) and get some shots of the city that I couldn’t take while I was riding, I did the whole thing again!! Yep, 2 loops along the Maribyrong and I can’t think of a better way to spend the day! Right now, I’m happy. I have a low level of anxiety still going on but I think I might take a Valium to give me a bit of a break from that so I can enjoy this feeling of happiness and friendship and accomplishment. Every time I do that ride along the Maribyrnong I remember the first time when I thought it was the hardest thing in the world! Now I just spin along and enjoy it for the scenery, and don’t even notice the kilometres going by. It’s nice having landmarks to show how far you’ve come!! I always appreciate them.

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What else was good about today? I went back again to look at birds and I found some terrific ones!! A Hardhead duck so close I could touch it when they’re normally shy birds. A stunning male Superb Fairy Wren in full blue plumage on a fence post in the sun (oh camera, wherefore art thou camera??!!). A group of Little Black Cormorants fishing together. A pair of Red-rumped Parrots flying off JUST in front of my wheel! A Great Egret in slow, graceful flight. Beautiful, lovely day. Plus a new Wheel Women friend. And watching a recent Wheel Women member improving with every ride; I love that!! Let’s hold on to that happy!!

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First day/s

[Saturday 29th, and Sunday 30th April 2017]

“So how was your first day at work?”

Well thanks for asking! Really. I’m so grateful to every person who has asked about my first shift, about starting this job, and about what’s next for me. It’s so encouraging and I hope this answers all of your questions!

Actually, it’s also a complete relief to have an answer! Being “unemployed” never got more satisfying as a reply when people asked what I was up to. Although “unemployed” is not how I ever thought of myself. I still thought of myself as a pharmacist, although the longer I wasn’t working, the looser that description felt. I thought of myself as a birdwatcher, a photographer, a bike rider, a lady who was able to lunch more days of the week than not; but that seemed to come off a bit lame as an explanation. These titles com in addition to the long term titles of wife and sort-of housekeep; although hubby would argue with the housekeep bit, most likely. And then there’s how sick I had been, and still was, and how that was impacting my ability to work (or not!). Yes, I thought of myself as sick, because it’s hard not to. I mean I was. But it’s hard to explain the full extent of that, and the gradual process of recovery, in a short conversation.

But here I am, a pharmacist again. And I’ve so surprised myself; I’ve fit back into the role like I never left! I really thought I’d lost something irreplaceable somewhere along the line!! Really! Something that would stop me being a pharmacist again. Despite my seven years as a hospital clinical pharmacist, despite everything that I’ve done well and every proof of my good work, I let some unfair feedback from my previous job get under my skin like I do with many little, minor things, plus I have some insecurity about the gaps in my work history and how they would look to a future employer, and I started to doubt myself and worry about what next.

But, thank goodness, no. I mean there are plenty of things I can brush up on, make no mistake about that. There are definitely things I’m rusty on, and there have been a couple of minor boo boos; nothing a bit less of a rush, and a bit more math couldn’t have solved! But I’m back, really back! After my first two full-on days as the in-charge pharmacist working flat chat alongside great staff, meeting lovely patients/customers, doing the job of a pharmacist I can tell you that I’ve come home with an exhausted, almost delirious but actual happy, contented smile on my face, and I feel good! I never quite got the adrenaline rush that’s meant to come from exercise, but work is definitely a rush! One of the biggest joys, and most surprising, of starting back at work has been the methadone/Suboxone customers on the opioid replacement program: they are a really friendly bunch and I’ve enjoyed chatting with them. Okay, so I might be quite starry eyed and all at this point, but it’s all gone better than I thought so I’m staying thrilled for now. I’m back. That’s the most important thing!

Okay what else? My feet have been KILLING me!! This should be no surprise when you spend 7 or 8 hours straight standing up with maybe 10 or 20 minutes sitting down. Especially when up till now it’s been more like 9 or 10 hours of sitting down with interjections of activity. Swollen ankles, aching legs, feet sending out electric shots and shooting daggers; all symptoms of half my blood supply pooling in my lower legs!! Home time means legs up above my heart to return all that blood back to my circulation…lying on the floor with feet on the couch does the trick, if you were wondering. A pharmacist who has specialised in wound care for 30 years or more recommends all pharmacists (and anyone else standing up most of their waking hours) wear compression stockings/socks every time they work for this very reason, to keep the blood flow from pooling causing varicose veins, venous ulcers, cellulitis and more. It’s a great plan. I did wear compression tights for a while in winter a few years back because they pass as opaque black tights and they make a huge difference in how tired your legs get. But honestly, have you seen those opaque beige stockings?? I may not have much to be vain about, but I’m not quite prepared for those stockings. Plus these days I keep too warm for stockings of any kind so that helps my case, but not my legs and feet.

It’s been busy! Not as busy as it should have been on Saturday, then way busier than it should have been today, Sunday! Which evened out to 2 solid days work but we only had to do 30 minutes overtime today, and got out on time yesterday so that’s a win. Unfortunately today was the day hubby was picking me up and he had to wait half an hour in the car! I’m going to drive on Saturdays, but Sundays I have to take the train cos hubby needs the car, and the timetable just doesn’t work nicely. I’m happy to sit around Ringwood station for half an hour on a Sunday morning, but I’m not keen after dark so he agreed to pick me up…dunno if he’ll be so keen next fortnight! But oddly I haven’t felt terribly stressed even when the work is stacking up. I think that these days I accept that I can’t do everything, and just pick one task after the next and keep at it till we get through them all. To give fair due, both days I have worked with amazing help in the dispensary: a 3rd/4th year pharmacy student all day on Saturday and a dispensary technician who I wasn’t supposed to have, but who balanced front of shop with helping me on Sunday. Both were very efficient dispensers, really excellent assistants and a great help with customer service and supply of pharmacy only and pharmacist only products. Plus the shop girls took all the load of processing payments as well as providing great product advice. And there was always that pharmacist out the back providing an invaluable back up to my uncertainty; what a team!!

For some reason whoever was working Friday hadn’t seemed to order medications as they used the last one on the shelf. This is the pharmaceutical equivalent of not only finding that the last sheet on the toilet paper roll has been used up, but going to the cupboard and finding that that was the last roll! And now you have a patient/customer who needs toilet paper or…you get the metaphor. We had a fair few of these annoying and really inexcusable outages on Saturday, and it was embarrassing. It’s also a problem because we can’t order on Saturday, or rather we can but it won’t come in until Monday anyway, so we couldn’t even tell people to come back tomorrow. By the end of the day we had a longer order of medications than I’ve seen so far on a weekday, and we couldn’t order anything; quite the irritation, especially for common medications.

This is going to be my main deal in this job, working every second weekend. After finishing this first one, I think it going to be okay, good even. People coming in on the weekend understand that you’re giving up your weekend for them (sometimes!) and can be really appreciative (or not)! But I think I like it! Even though I’ve taken a pay cut to be here, don’t like working Sundays, have no real entitlement to a lunch break or any other break on a weekend day, am more hectic than I’ve been in a good while, and have to keep processing scripts when I’m busting for the loo, its a job and a pretty good one, so there’s lots to be happy about! Yes, I’m happy!

Don’t panic!

On Sunday I had a bad day.

I woke up feeling bad, kept feeling bad and managed to go to bed feeling only marginally less bad. Thankfully I woke up better on Monday and I’m trying to forget about it and put it behind me. But it was an unwanted reminder that sometime, somewhere, somehow there is going to be a relapse. It’s just a fact. But I really don’t want it!!

So what is a bad day?

I just felt bad!

I know; not terribly articulate. But that’s about all I had on the day.

To my husband’s frustration. It’s hard to be the one on the sideline asking what’s wrong and getting “I don’t know”, over and over. Like, surely you know something about what’s wrong; you must know a bit about what’s happening. But I didn’t; I still don’t. And of course there’s nothing to show for it that would give either of us a hint.

It’s also hard to be the one trying to figure out an answer to the question “what’s wrong?”. I just couldn’t explain it. Between being the one on the sidelines, and the one in the thick of it, there aren’t any winners!

In hindsight I can break it down, a bit. It’s like having a bad taste in your mouth, except its in your mind and its a lot harder to shake than by chewing gum or brushing your teeth, mainly cos you can’t get at it as easily. The bad taste makes you feel icky, yucky, unsettled, nervous, uncomfortable, sad, upset, despairing, weird, a bit spacey like you’re on the outside looking in, a bit in pain and a lot confused.

And why? Why did I have a bad day? I don’t know why. Probably there is no reason why. Or maybe there is and I’m just totally missing it. I don’t know why it happened, or why it happened today, and I probably never will. But it had gone for now, so let’s be happy about that and just leave it be. Obsessing about it won’t do any do, I’ve proved that amply by now.

So what to do about it?

Sleep.

Go back into oblivion where your brain shuts down enough of your thought processes to give you some peace. I woke up at about 9am in a sorry state, went back to bed just after 10am til 11.45pm, and went out for some lunch with hubby and family, more to avoid explaining why I wasn’t up for it as compared with actually feeling like going. Then back to bed just after 1pm til 4pm, a few hours up, then back to bed as soon as possible. It’s not living, but it’s surviving and on a day like this, that is all that counts; surviving.

So I survived, and the next day was better. Who knows how it all works. Just another story in the life of. Thanks for reading.

Canberra Day Three

13th September, 2016

I promise that my posts are getting (okay, will get…) shorter as I progress through the 90 days that I anticipate I’ll be spending in Canberra! The writing to photo ratio is all wrong. And I’m aiming to get them in line with the days themselves; I’m confusing myself writing the day after!

It was a bit of a funny day. Same start to the day today, albeit more sluggishly cos I left going to bed, and more significantly taking my tablets, until 11pm. Meaning I was a bit “hung over” when it came time to wake up. Nevertheless, I jumped in the car early with hubby to drive into his work with him by 8am, then took over the wheel and started off on what is becoming my morning “pick a road at random and explore before breakfast” drive. I had woken up by then; I promise I didn’t drive hung over.

“Peak hour” traffic was really not a thing yesterday, at least not between Harrison and Dickson. Aiming to get to hubby’s work by 8am today did take a tad longer, like 4 minutes longer! I love the traffic!!! I might as well be back home in Shepparton, a town of 25,000. No waiting, no kilometre long lines of traffic, delays of half an hour – instead you just go where you want when you want and the traffic just flows. You could get used to it…

Today I headed south across the bridge over Lake Burley Griffin towards Parliament House then took a left and passed by what I assume are some of the embassies with flags in front of grand houses. The highlight was Mugga Drive in a suburb somewhere which has a fabulous view over the city and to the mountains beyond.

Home again for late breakfast, then writing up yesterday’s blog, trying to sort out the glitch in my website, adding the list of birds that I saw at Black Mountain yesterday into the ebird database, phaphing around doing nothing in particular but spending a lot of time! Oh, and unpacking my suitcases! That was fun, not. I mean, it had to be done sometime, but I was putting it off for some obscure reason. Anyway, its done. I forgot to bring clothes hangars but luckily our awesome hosts have spares. Then back to bed by lunchtime cos the drowsiness was just persisting and I couldn’t think straight!

Got myself up after a couple of hours, and even though the day had been a bit of a wash out, and nothing much in particular was happening, I just decided not to let that go any longer. Time to get my bike out and hit the trails, especially since the rest of the week could be rained out. So I did it. I pulled myself together (to me that’s the most impressive part), got dressed, got my gear together and didn’t forget anything, successfully drove there and back with the car on the roof and it stayed on the roof! Hubby has me on a training schedule and this week I’m doing 15 and 20km rides. Well, kicking that off I rode the western loop of Lake Burley Griffin by myself, and clocked up over 19.5km! And it was beautiful! The skies were really dramatic looking like they’d start raining any minute, and the lake was so still and the trees, the grass, everything was so lovely! Stand by for a Lake Burley Griffin portfolio! I stopped and started a bit too much to take photos; I got a bit cold, which is rare for me. It was challenging with “undulations” but so worth it. I’ll definitely do that again!

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So this has to be my photo for today. A bike ride on a not-so-hot day AFTER my nap, and late in the day when I could have decided not to bother. Pushing myself through the undulations, but loving the downhills. My first bike ride in Canberra. A solo ride, my first for Canberra. First ride around Lake Burley Griffin. Lots of things to celebrate! So here I am at 3.30pm deciding to make something of the day despite it all.

It should have been 16km, but I’m having some issues reading signs! Not literally, my vision is fine. But it’s like I decide what I’m doing to do before I even read the sign based on what makes sense to me, then I read but don’t register the sign, and carry on doing my own thing regardless. So far in the 3 days I’ve been in Canberra I’ve done 2 laps of the entire city in the car after missing my turn TWICE while trying to find my own way and refusing to use GPS, I’ve walked for 3.5 hours instead of 2 hours on Black Mountain cos I didn’t pay attention to where I should have parked and thought I was somewhere else, and now a 4km detour into the Australian National University because I skimmed the sign and thought I should go straight ahead instead of veer off! Oh and the shower. It’s a new shower to me and doesn’t have the symbols on it…tell me though, isn’t it always hot to the right and cold to the left on those mixer taps? Someone agree with me. I was getting very annoyed at whoever used up all the hot water, and my hair was half wet so now what was I going to go, etc, until my hubby pointed out that I was turning it the wrong way!! I feel that there must be a lesson here somewhere…

Lastly for the day, a really enjoyable night out with loads of new people at a baby shower for a girl I’ve sort of known over a few years, and reconnected with this year. I forgot that there would be so many new people until I was inside the door, which I’m really pleased about because it has happened twice in our 3 days that there’s been a bit group of new people, and I haven’t had any anxiety about it at all! Hubby and I agree that I’m not high, I’m not low, and we feel like maybe this is what normal will be like; and we’re happy with that. Some great days, some struggling days, and some middling days. Isn’t that life for someone who isn’t mentally or physically unwell? It’s not all excitement and performance, sometimes it’s just step by step. This would be my photo of the day if it weren’t for my bike ride.

Last thing.

I’ve finally had success getting more photos onto my website after a technical glitch. I have to commend Fran from Adobe for being super helpful! The link for yesterday is below, and there’ll be more to come with coming posts. I’m so pleased with my website and the individual portfolios!! I love my photography, it’s so satisfying and fulfilling. Having somewhere other than Facebook to share it, and share it professionally is so exciting! I really hope that you find something you enjoy, whether it’s scenery, birds, my journey in Canberra or life in general.

For more photos of today, see my website: Bike ride and baby shower

See also my Canberra Day Two photos: Black mountain views and Black Mountain Birds

Anything!

Lately I’ve forgotten how much nicer it is to spend my day doing something, rather than nothing!

When I’m down, flat, depressed, I just can’t think of what to do. No ideas come to me, I think and think and it goes nowhere. I wake up in a fog, get up only when I can’t force myself to sleep any longer and lying there gets unbearable, and spend the rest of the day using as little energy as possible!

This is reflected in all the things that I don’t do. I don’t put the used knife at the sink or in the dishwasher; it stays on the bench with the butter and the spreads that should be put away in the cupboard. The bird bath gets filled up with rain or nothing, and the seed feeder empties and then sits empty: the very worst kind of bird feeding there is that; supply then cease. The dirty clothes can’t make it to the washing machine, I drive instead of public transport or walking. The ironing sits, and sits, and sits until my poor over-worked husband gets fed up and does it, while I watch in shame and guilt and secret gladness that it’s done, at least for today, until it piles up again. I do so miss my ironing lady!

I have lists of things to do, but doing them is more painful than transferring them to tomorrow’s to-do list. It’s been a few weeks of this kind of la-la nothing-ness, and it’s been getting tedious.

So I decided to muster my strength and drive myself the 10 minutes up to Doncaster Shopping Centre to go to a couple of stores. Did I remember that it was the school holidays? No, unfortunately! But never mind. Turns out, neither of the two stores that I went to visit exist there anymore!! This is such a typical palm to forehead moment from me that it has become laughable to my husband and I. A phone call to tell him such a story gives him a great big laugh and helps me feel a bit less stupid and wasteful of my limited resources.

Then he said this helpful thing. Oh well, since you’re there, take the chance to look around at any other clothing you need/want?

Usually I’d be straight back to my car and home to safety, but for some reason this time I thought why not? I looked up one of the stores I had come for, and it turned out that their brand was stocked in a couple of places although their name brand store didn’t exist anymore, so I went off looking for those stores and 3 hours later I emerged having had a pretty good day! I’d bought a pair of boots that I really liked and had been thinking about looking for/buying for a while; actually quite a long while! It all happened kind of painlessly. I’d even talked the staff into giving me 50% off instead of 30% because of a miniscule defect! Quite proud of that one. Bought a couple of fat tops, but not in the fat section; in the young cool people’s section. I’d chatted to service staff, talked to a couple of shoppers spontaneously and tried on every shoe I vaguely liked. I’d even photographed some shoes I’ll think about if I get a job or at sale time, like I’d ever remember that I’d taken the photos or where they were from! Another palm to face moment: I was meant to go to one department store to find the brand that I was after, and I spent all afternoon in the other one!! No wonder I couldn’t find what I was after! Oh dear! Again!!

So there it is, just by getting myself out of the house and being willing to/having the energy to push a bit further out of my comfort zone by staying out, several good things happened and I felt like I’d lived a day in the life of a normal person, shopping the sales in the school holidays.

That was the 7th of July, 2016.

Now, on the 27th July I’m in a totally different zone! A happy, energetic, functional, even efficiently effective zone! It’s so good! I truly literally have not felt this good since I got sick. Let’s rephrase and say that I’m feeling the best that I can remember since early 2013!!

It sort of makes me mourn all of the time that has gone by in the last 3 years – wasted hours and days and months, but they can’t be recovered so I just have to put them in the past, and put my attention to the excellent present that is making me feel good.

This is a solid proof, once and for all, that justifies me for defending myself over these years: my disease bipolar is all about the chemicals. When the chemicals are balanced, this is what I can be like, my best self.

When the chemicals aren’t right, I can bust my gut to be better, and exhaust myself in the endeavor, and get nowhere. But finally, all the hard work, all the psychiatrist’s appointments, all the tablets, all the heartache, all the problems and difficulties are just faded away and I’m well! My husband is so relieved. I think we had just about resigned ourselves to the fact of our lives just being sucked into the vortex of this evil disease. But now we know. We finally know that it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be better, to the point of almost normal. And I’ll take almost normal any day!

Of course the story isn’t over. This isn’t the end. This is a good cycle, but it’s still a cycle. That’s how bipolar works, one cycle followed by another; good following bad, and so on. Our aim is to cycle less often and less severely. Proving that I can get to a good cycle is just such great news, a huge relief and gives hope for the future. The medicines do their part, my psychiatrist and GP do theirs, all of your support does its part too and I do mine, and sometimes we hit the jack pot! Let’s celebrate it while it lasts, and know that when we go down again we’ll have more hope for coming back up!

 

 

Dozy

Dear lovely readers, I am having the best time! I’m well, I’m happy, I’m productive, I’m energetic, not needing as much sleep or naps, I’m doing stuff, back on my bike, I’m out taking photos of birds, socialising, I’m having house guests, getting organised, spring cleaning of all things!! It’s remarkable and it’s thanks to my psychiatrist, thanks to the extra purple pill per day that I’m taking and thanks to my brain for accepting the intervention gracefully and allowing these happy days. I owe thanks to every lovely person who checks in on me when I’m unwell, so thank you so much; I’m glad I can write good news!

[Written a couple of weeks ago on One Of Those Days! I’ve been too busy living a happy life to write this week! YAY!]

Today I didn’t wake up, not altogether. I’m feeling a bit dazed, and a lot like there is a thick fog well settled well over my brain, and down over my neck, my shoulders and half way down my chest!

I’m struggling to open my eyes, and to keep them open, more to the point. They certainly aren’t fully opening. They just have an irresistible almost magnetic draw to close, and the sleep in the corners of my eyes clagging them together is adding to the problem. You know those moments, when people say they need matchsticks to prop open their eyelids? Except that’s usually at the end of the day, not the start of it. Bleary eyed, irritated and itchy, my eyes just aren’t ready for a new day. I realise this isn’t a first in the history of humans. Other people wake up like this too, it’s not just me. But this is after a full night’s sleep, a good rest. I should be rearing to go.

My whole body feels like its wrapped in a deliciously warm lovely blanket from which it would have to put up a great and tiring fight to escape. Well, I guess that’s not so metaphorical; I am still in bed, and I roll around enough in the night that it’s quite likely I’m twisted tight in the sheets by morning. My body is heavy and weighty and it just seems too hard to move it at all. And why would I want to put in that level of effort when I’m in such a nice situation? Oh yeah, to be the adult that I apparently am. But I can’t really think straight enough even to start planning what shape the day is going to take. What time do I need to get up again? And do I really need to get up, or can I cancel whatever I had planned? Assuming I can actually get this hefty body up out of bed. It’s like I’ve lost all muscle tone and I have to use my mind like a lifting machine to lift each dead weight limb, one at a time and they won’t cooperate! You know, one of those caterpillar diggers with the lifting clamp? Or one of the machines that nurses use, whichever environment is easier for you to visualize.

Drowsy, thick in the head, awful eyes, impossible body, can’t see where to start. And it’s my fault, my husband would remind me! Love you, baby; you really know how to phrase these statements. I am of course joking, he only says it nicely and when I know its the truth anyway.

But it’s true, it is my fault, in a manner of speaking. I took my tablets too late last night, and now I’m hung over. Basically.

I take my tablets by alarm, sort of. When you are prescribed a medicine that has to be taken twice a day, you should ideally take the 2 doses 12 hours apart. Says Miss Pharmacist, but what does Mrs Patient do? So, when will you take it?

It actually takes a bit of working out. Will you take your tablets at 7am and 7pm? 8am and 8pm? Really anything 12 hours apart works. Except there’s a complication because one of the tablets that you take at night with the second dose makes you drowsy and then comatose! It kicks in anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes usually. Sometimes it doesn’t really kick in for ages and I can stay up for an hour longer or more, but sometimes it kicks in fast and that’s it for the day. When I feel it starting to make my eyelids heavy and my insides warm and fuzzy, I head upstairs before I can’t stand straight anymore from dizziness and lack of balance! Please never try to see me at this time of night: the whole whites of my eyes go reddish and I scare myself looking in the mirror! It’s all gone by morning thankfully. In the past I’ve tried to push through the sedating effects but they won’t be argued with! I’ve crashed my way around my bedroom, lurching from wall to wall unbalanced and unable to see straight, and unfortunately having to go to the bathroom! There I sit, having done with the toilet, unsure if I can stand up and get back to my bed next door, feeling weak and heavy as a dead weight. Ask my husband, I think he’s had some interesting amusements in the early days of me using this drug! I’m talking about quetiapine, a mood stabiliser very well known for the drowsiness that it causes, among other things.

So, theoretically I could take my morning tablets at whatever time, then most of my evening tablets 12 hours later, then the sedating medication when I’m ready to go to bed…but that means having life interrupted 3 times a day instead of 2. It sounds trivial when I’m taking so many meds crucial to my health, but when I’m well I’d rather not spend all day taking tablets. So I want my meds in two convenient slots, but what times? If I’m working, this is especially critical. I want to take my meds before work, say 8am. But I don’t want to take my sedating tablets at 8pm and go to bed with the children. Plus its so early in the evening that I’m be sure to be awake bright and early at 4am or something inconvenient! So I tend to push out the night dose to 9pm, 10pm or later. If I’m busy, I just wait til I’m finished doing whatever I’m doing and I’m ready to go to bed and THEN I take them. I intend to get to the point where I’m NEARLY ready for bed, take my tablets and get a little sleepy while finishing off whatever, and go to bed nice and drowsy read to go off to a deep sleep. But I often forget and finish what I’m doing completely before taking my meds. The later I take them, the more likely it is that their effect will hang over into the morning. By much trial and error over 2 years, we’ve figured out that 9 to 9.30pm is the ideal time to take my meds at night, giving me possibly up to 10pm to do whatever in the evening and allowing me to wake up fresher. But unfortunately last night I took my sedating tablets at 11.30pm! Which messes up my system, although it is a fairly flexible system to be honest! When my night tablet alarm goes off I’m just as likely to snooze or ignore as I am my morning alarm. Some little rebellion in me about having to take meds. It never works out well for me. And so, here we are. Sedated, drowsy, heavy, tired; finding it hard to get going.

It’ll get better but slowly, across the course of the day, and it’s probably just going to be one of those days where I shouldn’t drive, need to find something riveting to do to keep me awake, or just succumb and stay in/go back to bed! I guess this is one of those days where not having a job works out for me. I might manage to get up and go to work on a day like this, but it’s questionable what quality of work I would produce, and it’s probably in most people’s best interest that I don’t go at all. So if I’m working, I need to be a lot stricter with myself in taking my meds on time. There’s a fascinating concept called presenteeism which I recently became aware of. You know, like absenteeism where you’re absent from work? Except this is when you are unwell, under stress or otherwise compromised in some way, but you turn up anyway and consequently put in a worse day of work than you might usually. A workplace was looking at how much presenteeism cost them as opposed to absenteeism, and whether it is really better sometimes for staff to just stay home. Doing so would theoretically reduce errors, complications, injuries that may arise from incomplete focus. I don’t know how they’ll measure any of it, but I’m watching on with great interest.

So yes I supposed you could say that being hung over and non functional is my fault. I get tempted to have late nights, to be like everyone else, carefree and not worrying about things like tablets. I know it’ll catch up with me the next day, but in the evening when it’s all going down it doesn’t seem as bad as it will be in the morning. So I push out the time a bit here and a bit there, a lot here, too much there! I do have to be careful that I don’t get myself into a different time zone, taking my tabs at 11pm and 11am or worse and really messing up my hours. While I’m off work I can be a rebel and mess up my sleep pattern and sleep in til lunchtime. Who cares, basically! But work is something that I want and need, and when it comes it’s back to taking tablets by the alarm. Like a good girl. For the best.

Sad songs

This has been a pet project of mine for ages, in my head and on my Shazam app at least. Finally I’m getting around to sharing it with you. This isn’t going to be an in depth discussion of songs, so much could be said, but this is just my list of songs that help me.

Music-is-my-escape-saying-quotes

Since I got sick I’ve wanted to put together a collection of songs that have spoken to me about being ill. Songs that have resonated with me about being depressed, being manic, being anxious, being unwell, being out of touch with the rest of my friends and peers, about not being very much at all!

singing to the radio

By calling this sad songs, I’m not suggesting that this is a bunch of depressing songs to get you down and make you more miserable than you are at the moment. I’m planning this to be quite the opposite; a reel of songs that you can turn to when things are a bit bleak. For me these are songs that get me singing and bopping and nodding in agreement. These songs make me feel that I’m not the only one out there feeling off and poorly and badly used. They make me feel part of something, and they make me dig out my would-be-karaoke-star voice, my rapper’s beat and my drummer’s tapping of my feet, or of my hands while I’m driving in the car. They breathe something into me that changes me from how I am in that moment to something better, happier, more alive, more active, more confident and braver to face the world, and every one of those things is a miracle in itself!

Avoiding silence

Every time I go out in the car I turn the radio on. Many people advocate silence and mindfulness and I get that, I do. But a lot of times I just wanna blow my thoughts right out of my brain and listening, singing along and pretending I’m killing it at karaoke (which I’ve never done) and “talking” with someone who gets me, is important to me. Sometimes it’s the only way to express awful thoughts and it can be like a cry for help when you don’t know how else to find the words. Sometimes, it’s just music.

thunder inside

I believe that music can be and is very powerful at reaching into people and making something happen in them. If you feel that way too, then check out these songs and I hope that they inspire you like they inspire me 🙂

My playlist:

  1. Bom Bom by Sam and The Womp, if nothing else in the world can make you dance, this will! “As I go bom, bom, bommm!”
  2. Forget You by CeeLo Green, a great beat and another one to get you dancing
  3. The Middle by Jimmy Eat World, “it just takes some time”
  4. Firework by Katy Perry, “do you ever feel you’re paper thin”, “scream but no one hears a thing”, empowerment plus
  5. Wake Me Up by Avicii, “wake me up when its all over when I’m wiser and I’m older” – this talks to me of suicide and why people do it, to go to sleep for a while
  6. Sea of Air by Portugal. The Man, “when the time comes around, I’ll be brave”
  7. Cheap Thrills by Sia, “I don’t need no money as long as I can feel the beat”
  8. Comfort You by Eskimo Joe, just lie back, close your eyes, this is all you need right now in this moment…
  9. All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor, the right amount of girly sass to shout aloud
  10. Hands Open by Snow Patrol, bop, nod, tap along like a sick percussionist 😉
  11. Something In The Way You Move by Ellie Goulding, bop bop bop away
  12. Are You With Me by Lost Frequencies, lie back close your eyes you’re on holiday
  13. One Call Away by Charlie Puth, “Superman got nothin’ on me I’m only one call away”
  14. Apologise by Timbaland ft. One Republic, great singalong song
  15. Never Be Like You by Flume ft. Kai, “I’m only human can’t you see I made a mistake, please just look me in my face tell me everything’s okay, I’ll never be like you”…apologising for the insufficiencies that mental illness brings about and asking others to tolerate us, and acknowledging that we’ll never be as good as them
  16. Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake, an oldy but a goody for a personally rainy day
  17. Lush Life by Zara Larsson, clap clap your hands! “Gotta get back in the groove!”
  18. It’s My Life by No Doubt, “it’s my life don’t you forget”
  19. Brokenhearted by Karmin, just a fun tune and love the rapping, “Cheerio!”
  20. Domino by Jessie J, just a good beat
  21. Livin’ It Up by Ja Rule, I’m a sucker for a good rap/R&B
  22. Valerie by Mark Ronson ft. Amy Winehouse, love love Amy Winehouse’s voice
  23. Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots, reminiscing about easier earlier days
  24. I Love It by Hilltop Hoods ft. Sia, I love rap, I love Sia, and it’s all Aussie 🙂
  25. Brave by Sara Bareilles, “I wanna see you be brave”
  26. Reality by Lost Frequencies ft. Janieck Davy, a good chill out tune
  27. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton, a nice beat and a great rap, way faster than I can actually understand! Just sit back
  28. My Sunshine by Mashd N Kutcher, a remix, “Don’t steal my sunshine”
  29. Here by Alessia Cara, sums up my avoidance of socialising since I’ve been sick
  30. My House by Flo Rida, I don’t know why but I just love bopping along to this
  31. All My Friends By Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper, another song about why I don’t want to go out
  32. Hotline Bling by Drake, great beat, fun rap, just an entertaining song
  33. Stay by Kygo ft. Maty Noyes, don’t like the lyrics but the beat is nice
  34. Higher by Hilltop Hoods ft. James Chatburn, rap plus that voice! “HIgher”
  35. In The Night by The Weeknd, “dancing to relieve the pain”
  36. Summer 2015 by L.E.J, 3 talented girls and an a capella summer mix tape
  37. You Make My Dreams by Hall and Oates, bop bop bop along to the beat!
  38. The Hills by the The Weeknd, “when I’m f*&*^% up that’s the real me”
  39. Habits (Stay High – Hippies Sabotage Remix) by Tove Lo, “can’t go home alone again need someone to numb the pain”, “I gotta stay high all the time”
  40. Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, “this girl is on fire”
  41. Good Girl by Carrie Underwood, turn it up and sing along with Carrie!
  42. Downtown by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, hilarious!!
  43. For The First Time by The Script, just easy listening
  44. Demons by Imagine Dragons, a good sad day wallowing type of song, “don’t get too close it’s dark inside its where my demons hide”
  45. May It Be by Enya, turn it up and let it wash out your mind and bring peace
  46. Sax by Fleur East, sassy singing and a great beat for your steering wheel tapping
  47. Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, blast it through the speakers and sing your loudest!!
  48. Hall of Fame by The Script, always convinces me I can do whatever I want!
  49. Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas, “her tears like diamonds on the floor”
  50. Shake It by Taylor Swift, the ultimate I don’t care what you think song
  51. What Do You Mean by Justin Beiber, sometimes I just can’t express what I want
  52. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera, “mooooooves like Jagger”
  53. Lips Are Moving by Meghan Trainor, “lips are moving, hey, your lips are moving”
  54. Hello by Adele, that strong powerful voice and my amazing singalong prowess!!
  55. This Ain’t Love by Jessica Mauboy, “cos I made it through the night!”
  56. Wild Ones by Flo Rida ft. Sia, rap and Sia!! Need I say more!
  57. Young And Beautiful by Lana Del Rey (Cedric Gervais Remix), “will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul..I know you will, I know you will”
  58. How To Save A Life by The Fray, for the obvious reason of how to save a life
  59. Faded by Alan Walker, a nice voice and soothing tune
  60. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, “would you lie with me and just forget the world”
  61. Fire And The Flood by Vance Joy, “everything’s fine when your heads resting next to mine”
  62. Out Of The Woods by Taylor Swift, “are we out of the woods yet?”
  63. Be Together by Major Lazer ft. Wild Belle, THAT voice!! “Maybe if the stars align…”
  64. Never Let Me Go by Florence + The Machine, sad day anthem played at painful loud
  65. Mad World by Vintage Vaudeville style cover ft. Puddles Pity Party & Haley Reinhart, “the dreams I have of dying are the best I’ve ever had”
  66. On Top Of The World by Imagine Dragons, a groovy beat and great happy day anthem
  67. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself by Jess Glynne, for the obvious
  68. Ain’t Nobody by Felix Jaehn ft. Jasmine Thompson, another great voice and fun beat
  69. Riding Solo by Jason Derulo, “I’m feeling like a star you can’t stop my shine”
  70. Gold Digger by Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx, a fun rap by 2 hilarious guys, beat along
  71. Chandelier by Sia, my original song because it speaks to me about being suicidal
  72. Happy by Pharrell Williams, because in the depths of my depression I would still light up and clap along! That’s powerful!!
  73. Titanium by  David Guetta ft. Sia, “I’m bulletproof, nothin’ to lose, fire away, fire away”
  74. Better Now by The Vespers, because I’m better now 🙂
  75. Team by Lourde, that voice and “we’re on each other’s team”
  76. Pompeii by Bastille, “how am I gunna be an optimist about this?”
  77. Elastic Heart by Sia, “you did not not break me, I’m still fighting for peace”

music is therapy

Obviously I’ve been at this project for a while! You won’t be listening to these all at once; maybe you won’t listen to any of them ever. That’s okay, it’s for me as much as anything.

music as painkiller

A great piece popped up in my Facebook newsfeed while I was writing this blog, music for the body and mind, article from BUPA. It’s just another perspective maybe with a bit more oomph than what I’m spouting. And then this article, from Lifehack about how heavy metal music influences your mood. Lastly I like this article about making music and our brain. Maybe they mean something, maybe it’s just more noise but I like the idea. Music therapy I’m sure is a whole other fascinating field of health professionals.

Anyway, enjoy or don’t enjoy, this is my music and I’ll be singing along!