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 Eighteen

Wednesday 28th September, 2016….yesterday still to come.

Well this is all out of order but I’m struggling a bit to keep things together. I took my tablets, and went to bed by 10pm last night to give myself the best chance for today. Slept okay I think, hard to remember, thought I was too drowsy and hungover when hubby was going off to work and tried to psych myself up, but he was actually getting up for his 5.30am morning bike ride!! So…back to sleep, and it’s always a struggle waking up from that second morning sleep. When my 9am alarm went off I just couldn’t feel like it was time for the day, and rolled over. Actually can’t remember now what time it was that I got up, somewhere around 10 or 10.30am. Had brekky around 11.30am, hubby reminded me to have lunch around 2 so at 2.30pm I finally got started on that.

Hubby is being my hero, yesterday and today. Not that he isn’t always; he is. But I really need a helper right now, and he’s being that. The photo of the day is his reminder to me of what I could eat for lunch. I have NO imagination for lunch, I’ve always eaten leftovers and when there aren’t any leftovers, I just stare at the pantry, in the fridge and I can’t think! So I default to drive-through which obviously isn’t ideal, but it’s so close to home, a quick drive away. You may have noticed that weight is a bit of an issue for me. Speaking mildly. It’s become a bit of a thing though, buying drive-through, and even when I don’t really want it, that’s what I do because I know what’s there, and it’s always there, and it’s no bother, and it’s just easy and doesn’t require thought or planning. Sad, you probably think. So do I, often. The rest of the time I’m just pleased that that’s lunch sorted for another day. Plus it tastes good sometimes; not all the time.

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I’m sure that hubby thinks its sad too, so I hide it. That’s become a thing, too. Not quite admitting to what I’ve eaten during the day. Burying the evidence at the bottom of the rubbish bin, or in the bin bag that’s on my side of the bed and only taking it out when I’m taking the bins out to the road, or worst comes the worst putting it in someone else’s bins. And that is not the way to have an honest relationship, which I’ve surprisingly taken a long time to figure out! It just puts up a little wall, stone by stone until you realise that there’s a barrier in the way of the two of you really connecting. Somehow it took an honest conversation last night about me hiding my food habits to start taking down some stones and building a bridge. It’s horrible to think we would have something between us! I’ve hated it lately. We have always been best friends and partners with no lies, no hiding, no buried pasts, full openness and honesty; and this is no time to change any of that!!! It’s hard enough keeping an equal relationship with mental illness on one side. It wasn’t intentional; I was doing the self-protection thing. Which does boil down more or less to selfishness, really. Where to avoid an uncomfortable discussion of my obesity, and eating food that can only contribute to more weight gain, and spending money of unhealthy food and so on, I’d hide anything to do with it: receipts, food scraps and packaging, and even pay cash so it doesn’t show on our credit card statement! It’s all become a sad rigmarole, embarrassing, and many other things; I’m sure you can fill in some of gaps.

But, we’ve opened the door, so here’s the new thing: planned lunches. So far today, so good. A nice toasted sandwich with prosciutto, cheese and tomato. Yum! I’ve got pies to cook with frozen veg, some bacon and cheese topped rolls, and a bit more confidence that I can do this! I can eat regular lunches like regular people and go back to the times before when the day manager at KFC knew me and greeted me with a smile every time I drove through, and had a joke with me! She’s a really lovely girl, is it beyond tragic to say I miss her? So much for new city, new habits!!

Well, that was a lot of spewing of internal bile that I hadn’t really planned on sharing today! But there we are.

All I can say about today is my planned ride and bird watching didn’t eventuate. Owing to the fact that it took me 20 minutes and a few sit downs to get dressed for the ride after a phone call to hubby for an inspirational speech, and after procrastinating all day! It didn’t seem like I could throw a leg over a bike! My main achievement was sitting around on the couch deleting a few MB of photos from my computer so I can fill it up again with the 800 or so photos that I took yesterday!!! Eventually I’m going to need my own server! And that was my day! So…not the greatest. Not one to remember. Quite frustrating really watching the brilliant sunshine and blue cloudless skies go by, knowing its the last fine day of the week! If only…but no, as hubby says, it wasn’t my day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be firing on all cylinders just in time to watch an inch of rain pour down from the skies! Who knows? There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to me as to how I’m going to be each day. I am missing the routine of getting up early to take hubby to work, I think, but I doubt I’d actually have been up for it today and yesterday. I wasn’t up for it last Thursday; needed a sleep in. And he rode to work on Friday. Maybe this was coming all along and was just inevitable; after all I did surprisingly well for the first 10 days. It’s just annoying, because I can’t say one way or another. Am I just having a bad couple of days like anyone could? Or am I having a down swing with my moods that I should monitor and that might need some intervention? And on and on, my mind is just going round and round and round, on a slight downward trajectory. Things that don’t usually bother me are getting in my craw, so to speak. I’m thinking too much. A good nap has helped a bit, but in total that means that I slept from 10pm last night to 10am this morning, then for another 2 hours from 4.30 to 6.30pm. 14 hours a day isn’t really sustainable. I don’t know whether having a job would have helped or hindered today. Would having to get up have worked, or would it have been another sick day? I wouldn’t have been the best customer service! Enough! No more thinking for now. Off I go at snail’s pace to potter around about dinner. Hubby’s late, poor him. So here we go, off I go. Off I go…

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.