One of those things

[written sunny Saturday 9th July, 2016; updated 12th July, 2016]

Today I brushed my teeth.

It shouldn’t be a big deal should it, but it is. No one can remember the last time that I brushed my teeth…last year? It’s terrible I know, and doesn’t exactly match my pharmacists’ health promotion ethos, does it? And it’s not something my husband relishes! Or others, possibly; I haven’t heard! But it’s just gotten to be one of those things. You know, those things? Things that you should do, but it’s just a bit too hard. So they’ve slipped down the priority scale, and dropped off the to-do list. I know I have new cavities from being so slack; I can feel them on the lower left side of my mouth when I eat hot food, drink cold drinks, eat something sugary etc. It’s going to need some attention and I’m happy to give it that, but I’ve got an insurance situation to sort out before I can afford it. Soon. Interestingly, or not, I pack my toothbrush every time I go away. I even pack my dental floss, the same dental floss that I’ve had since no one knows when! That’s extreme optimism for you, right there! I don’t know why I think it’s going to be different on holidays, why I think I’ll get it done. I guess it’s something to do with believing I’ll have more time on holidays, that I’ll feel differently on holidays, that everything will fall into place on holidays. But that’s not how it works, is it? What you have at home, your routines, your schedule, your habits, you take on holidays with you. So it just gets put off a little longer, and a little longer. I’ve never been great at this, but I’ve been a heck of a lot better than this, even committing to daily bleaching my teeth for 3 weeks once! It’s probably one of the bigger of those things.

Today I washed my hands.

That, of all things, should NOT be a big deal but washing and drying my hands has become a stand off with myself! It’s like a rebellion against something, I don’t even know what. But you’re supposed to wash your hands, yeah? Well I won’t! Terrible, childish thought process, I know. But it’s there, and it takes a lot of overcoming! Every time I should be washing my hands, this something rises up in me and I just sneak away without doing it. So silly, yet it persists. Obviously because I work in a hospital there are safety limits but a pump of alcohol or chemical based cleaner is a lot easier to me; maybe I should install a couple of home! It’s just one of those things. It’s not that I never wash my hands. If I think an activity warrants it, like dirt from gardening, dusty or greasy hands from my bike, food matter etc then yes they get a good wash; or a good rub down on a hand towel that will disguise it! I’m practically a kid when it comes to this! It’s the little times when my hands aren’t dirty, but its tradition (and probably hygiene!) like before a meal, after a meal, little things. In my mind. Probably not in others minds, but it feels like unnecessary energy that I can’t afford to waste, so I save my efforts for something more essential, as least to my way of thinking. It’s one of those things which seem like why wouldn’t you just do it, but I feel like it will take too much energy. It’s a fight with myself.

Today I walked one kilometer.

Walking, any walking, has become a big deal since I got sick. I never used to think about the things I asked my body to do. I walked as long as I needed, I ran for exercise, I loved swimming for fun, weights were my favourite form of exercise, I’ve done a couple of bootcamps including one at a boxing gym, pilates was my relaxation, and so on. But now, I struggle a lot with it! For various reasons, I suppose: I’m fat and heavy, I’m slow and sluggish, it takes energy and effort and motivation, I’d rather catch ANY other form of transportation, my legs rub together and chafe til they’re red raw unless I wear undershorts or leggings, it drains my mind and my body, and I’ve come to associate it with pain and suffering. I know, a little over dramatic! But there you have it, it’s one of those things! This walk in particular was slow, and it wasn’t for exercise; it was for bird watching and photography. But hey, it was outside in the sun and breeze, and it was a kilometer. I take it however I get it, and don’t sneeze at the little bits of exercise however they come. I’m meant to be exercising more. Well that was more than yesterday, more than the day before, and more in one go than I’d done for the whole week and probably longer so I’m counting it as a win!

Today I rode my bike.

And it reminded me that I do love my bike! I’d forgotten that. I quickly forget the joys, and never-endingly remember the pains; it’s not a good way to be! I keep planning to ride with Wheel Women and sign myself up for rides optimistically hoping I’ll feel like it by the time they comes around. But then I pull out closer to the day as it becomes clearer that not having left the house or changed out of PJs for 2 days, it really isn’t going to be likely that I’ll be up and dressed by 8.30am ready to drive 45 minutes across the city! Or I heave a sigh of relief when a planned ride is cancelled due to rain, path flooding or wild weather. Then I roll over and go back to sleep. Well that’s been the pattern lately while I haven’t been well. Before today I hadn’t ridden or been on my bike even since the 3rd of June! Five weeks out of it! I think I’ve had 5 weeks out of a lot of things, to be honest. It’s been reasonably bleak for me and with me, and that’s when all of these things, those things, fall away because it’s too much effort to keep them going. But flying downhill brought on that high, that endorphin burst and suddenly I was in my zone, loving it! And I flew all the way home, even up the hills, and that was that, I was back, mentally. And when you’re there mentally, you’re there!

Today I climbed hills on my bike.

If you know me and my riding, you know about me and hills; we have a difficult relationship! Frankly, right now, I’m not built for going up hills! My weight is very much against me when trying to defy gravity by going up. Nevertheless, the hills are there and they do come across my path, and at the end of the day I do have to get up them somehow. So when Wheel Women ran a class on climbing, cornering and descending, it sounded like exactly the skill set that I could benefit from! So how did I get to that class when I hadn’t gotten to any other rides? My innate cheapness!! I put down money for this class, little though it be, but it’s a powerful motivator in someone with Scottish blood, however diluted it be! And I did learn some super helpful tips to help me up those hills. And then I flew down them again, but that’s the fun bit, the bit that gives you a rush! The other bit, the climbing is different, but I guess it’s a means to an end if you like. It’s still hard. But I did it today! I conquered one of those things, at least for now.

At the end of the day, what a day?!

Better than I’ve had in quite a while! I’ve been struggling with depression lately and it has sucked, but suddenly on Thursday night when I woke up from my nap, something shifted! I was high, elevated in an energetic and motivated frame of mind. Just like that! If only I could click my fingers and get that result! Who on earth knows what it was that tipped me over, impossible to figure out. But YAY!

So what you’re seeing here is the chemicals in my brain giving me a booster shot to actually manage to do some of those things. I even cooked tea one night this week! Rare event these days! When the chemicals all line up, life is good. It’s easy, way less effort, far less forcing myself around. It just happens and we’re all relieved. And vice versa, you understand. But for now, for however little time I have this little break, it’s nice to use it to do something. It’s not perfect. My ride was still hard! The hills still hurt. My walking was still slow, although that was more for the sake of finding birds, and it wasn’t far, but still. I washed my hands but not all the time. And I brushed my teeth.

What I didn’t do today was shower. It’s probably the hugest of the things. To get into our shower you have to climb into the bathtub. Every time I think of having a shower, I think of having to hoick my leg over the side and it just seems like too much effort! It’s such a small thing, right, but it literally seems like it’s impossible. Once I’m in its great; I love a nice hot shower and feeling clean again, once I’m there. It’s just the getting started, which is after all, the issue with all of these things; getting started. It’s pretty much classic depression: issues with motivation, energy, self care. It is amazing what lengths I’ll go to not to have a shower, and how long I’ll go between showers. And by amazing, I also mean embarrassing! After Bali, I had a mega battle and I almost lost count but I think I went more than two weeks and no shower, and unwashed hair! You may have noticed! I still used deodorant and perfume so hopefully I didn’t stink, but it wasn’t a nice episode and finally my husband had to drag me to the shower and make me get in. And it was delightful! All that fuss and bother and argument, vanished, and I had a lovely time and came out feeling wonderful! It’s one of those things!!

That’s today [read: Saturday 9th July]. Tomorrow we have to wake up and do it again so we won’t get too carried away, but today those things have had a bit less hold over me.

So, the next day: Sunday morning, the hardest morning of the week. Mainly because I ideally would aim be up and going earlier than I may have done for the other 6 days of the week. But today I was up by 9am and actually feeling like I was up and going, not sluggish or doped out. My anticipation of the coming Sunday can mean that I go to bed late, and so not take my tablets til late just before I go to bed, and so I can be a bit sedated by the effect of my tablets lasting well into the morning. I have this contrary thought process that not going to bed will prolong the next day’s arrival…obviously it’s just the opposite. But it’s another reason why waking up Sunday is a complicated thing. Sunday morning is also traditionally when I wash my hair. I should really change that, if common sense prevails. It’s just another thing to get past to get to church: waking up, clearing my head, getting fed and watered and tabletted, showering, dressing and getting out the door not long after ten.

But today was pretty successful. I actually had a shower, and even dug out some moisturizer and did my legs! A miracle of a day! I’m energetic but not irritably manic, the best way to be. Touch wood for more days like these. I’m active, I’m wanting to fill in my day instead of hiding from it; I’m like a normal person!! YAY!

Choices

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So here I am. Bright, beautiful autumn day, not quite 10am in the morning and I’m in the gorgeous Fitzroy Gardens wandering my way back to the city. What a fabulous way to pass the day!! And that’s right, not quite 10am and I’ve gotten out of bed, dressed, had breakfast, walked to the station, caught a train then a tram to an appointment and now I’m out the other side, carefree and almost dancing my way along. It’s a sweet happy day.

In my mind is always the question, is it a too happy day? Am I tipping the scale into the slightly manic?

Today, the answer is: I don’t really mind, I’m happy, it’s a good day and I’m out lapping it up 🙂

Why up so early? Two answers.

1) I’ve changed over antidepressants, again! I’m up to number 7 now, all within 12 months! 5 of them in the last 6 months! It’s been hectic up in my brain!! But to tell the truth, number 7 is actually a repeat of number 2 which I really liked and had to stop because of side effects. So I’m “cautiously optimistic” as my doctor would say, but keeping in mind that I may have to stop this one again. Which would be very disappointing cos so far I’m loving me with this drug in my system! It’s been all of 4 days but it’s made the most amazing difference! I now wake up at 5.30 – 6am like I used to when I was first starting antidepressants again in December.

Which is an incredible change from dragging myself out of a stupor at 9.30am to try to start the day, cutting out all non-essentials sometimes including showering and doing my hair. Now I’m up and ready to start the day with the normal people 🙂 And I still get a pretty solid sleep thanks to my mood stabilisers, although it is a bit more fragmented. But I’ll take that over being doped out!

2) I have a 9am sharp appointment with a private psychiatrist. So far I’ve only seen one psychiatrist, not sure if he was a fully fledged psychiatrist or one in training but I really like him either way. He was friendly, professional, asked questions no-one had asked before and got really quite a lot of information out of me.That was way back now, in early March, two days after I was sent to emergency suicidal and utterly despairing. That day that I saw the last psychiatrist was the day when I realised that the question mark over me having bipolar disorder did actually make a lot of sense. Because from acutely suicidal on Monday night, to that Wednesday midday was the biggest change you could possibly see in a person! By Wednesday morning I was happy, active, energetic, motivated, full of life and ready to go gangbusters!! It really was that dramatic and gave a lot of credence to that theory.

This visit is not at all acute, it’s really like an all over review of my treatment to date and making a plan into the future with the expertise of the specialist. I’m very happy and confident in my GP but a second opinion and eye on the situation never hurts. So yes, 9am sharp! Which a week ago would have been physically impossible but today it’s all good! Yay for that!

So, choices. I loved coming to this point in the path and having the options. Where to go?

I have been given choices in my treatment. Choices about where to next, about what’s tolerable and what’s not, about what’s important to me.

Given the choice between flat, unmotivated and doped out or somewhat anxious and a bit zingy I chose pumped up. So I know I have to take the lesser quality sleep, shaking hands and faint but persistent feeling of something not quite right. It’s been a while, I must say I’d forgotten just what it was like to have my heart on full alert all day. That vague feeling of anxiety about anything and everything, but at least I’m functioning and out enjoying the day instead of thinking about dragging myself out of my slumber.

I chose anxious over depressed. Because I can handle anxiety. I’ve been seeing a psychologist for months now so I have the strategies, the coping techniques, the knowledge of triggers and stressors. So although it’s not what I’d chose given a choice between anxious and not anxious, it’s what I chose over depression.

Depression I can’t handle. I don’t like it, I don’t like me in it, I can’t manage it away. Strategies seem so unachievable, thinking differently is just too hard, mind over matter just isn’t a thing! The awfulness, the horridness, the terrible feelings are just unconquerable. All I want is to run away, escape, go into a time warp. That last one is my favourite. It doesn’t involve self harm or permanent damage or death or anything undoable; it’s just somewhere I can go for as long as it takes until the pain has gone away. So if there’s any option other than having to suffer through depression I take it!

In this case it’s anxiety. You’re back, old nemesis. But this time I’m running the show, I hold the reins, I control the degree and depth and frequency, as much as I can. I have my strategies, my re-thinking, my knowledge, my support, so much on my side.

It’s going to take some getting used to, it doesn’t sit well. I have to be aware of it, and not let it get started so that it can’t get out of control. At the same time it’s important not to get anxious about getting anxious. So back to all that. But the upside: not depressed, touch wood!!