Dealing with Grief in a Bipolar World: Part 3

TRIGGER WARNING!

This post is based on personal experience. There are references to suicide.

Reader caution is strongly advised.

If you are suicidal, please contact your local suicide hotline for support and advice.

The Third and Final Part

Being as manic as I was, I had no problems making friends while I was in hospital. For the first two weeks, I continued in this highly manic state. To assist in bringing me back down, I recall having two injections of what I think was Haloperidol. Both occasions induced a massive sleep of 18 hours plus, and left me extremely groggy until the effects of the injection had worn off. Once the mania had ceased, there was a major crash in my mood and only then, did I begin to realize the level of destruction that had occurred. I became withdrawn from just about everybody. Internally I was riddled with guilt and shame about everything I had done. I was also terrified because I had no place to go beyond hospital. I vaguely remember being told I was Bipolar and there was some relief to finally have an explanation for everything that couldn’t be explained prior. But the mess that had been made was far greater than anything that had happened in the past, and I had serious difficulty getting my head around everything that transpired. The worst was yet to come and I couldn’t have been more ill equipped and less prepared for any of it.

Being of no fixed address, the hospital provided me with an outreach service to assist in finding accommodation. By the time I was ready for discharge, I was placed into a boarding house which was terrifying to say the least. I was also extremely depressed and no longer on an anti-depressant for fear that I would become manic again. I was in a very poor state, but  at the same time, I was also keen to leave the hospital. So off I went. I lasted two nights at the boarding house before I packed up everything and went to stay with my Mother. I felt like there was no other option at the time, but due to the state I was in, I also had no idea what to do beyond that. With a high dose of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics, I slept for approximately 15-18 hours a day. Mum lived in a one bedroom flat and within time, the environment became toxic for both us. Mum was full of care at first, but over time, she became increasingly aggressive towards me and in then end I was forced to leave. Four months had passed and I was still in very poor shape.

*TRIGGER WARNING – THERE IS TALK OF SUICIDE DURING THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS. READER DISCRETION IS STRONGLY ADVISED*

During that time, I made an attempt to commit suicide. Had my mother not found me and called an ambulance, I’m fairly sure I would have died. When I got back the following day, my chest was very sore, and I came to the assumption that resuscitation attempts had been made. Looking back, why the hospital would discharge me, despite giving me the option of being transferred to psych, is beyond me. I had spent weeks crying out for help, only to be turned away on multiple occasions. There is a lot to be said about the public mental health system in this country. And most of it is not very kind whatsoever.

Despite a reluctance to have me there, my brother took me in after I was forced to leave my mothers place. He facilitated the rental of a caravan which I stayed in for approximately six weeks before ending up back in hospital for the third time in six months. Despite being in a depressed state, my brother was putting  pressure on me to find another place to live. I took another overdose and he had no hesitation in saying that I was not welcome back after I had done so. It was the day before New Years Eve. This time I wanted to be in hospital. I knew I wasn’t well. I also knew that nobody knew how to deal with me. The pain of not receiving adequate support during this time still cuts deep to this very day.

I have no contact with my family today. Having no family in my life hurts deeply. But the reality is, I am much safer this way.

During the third hospital admission, I was placed on an anti-depressant and began to improve. An offer of stable accommodation with a retired gentleman was offered to me and after three weeks, I was once again discharged. I continued to sleep for more hours than I was awake. Thankfully, the guy that I was living with put no pressure on me whatsoever. He lived in the front half of the house, whilst I had the back half all to my myself. I called a close friend one night simply said that I needed someone. That phone call would start a chain of events that would, by the end of that year, see me well and truly back on my feet. I was accepted into a nursing course, and I was determined to start rebuilding my life.

It was a time full of hope and positive things started happening once again.

Looking back, from the time I was first hospitalized, right through to starting the course in nursing some twenty months later, things were about coming to terms with what had happened. I didn’t realize I was grieving. Grieving over a life that was a ultimately a lie. Grieving over events that had happened that were ultimately influenced by having a mental illness. It is difficult to describe how your whole sense of identity is compromised and brought into question. A fair chunk of 2007 was spent rationalizing everything and finding some peace within it all.

Whilst the damage was done, at least now there were some answers.

I thought I had the necessary tools to overcome having Bipolar and make it work to my advantage. I couldn’t have been more wrong and while I am proud of myself for making a good go of things, I am still to this very day, haunted by a life that is so dominated by this illness. Much to my resentment, it has shaped my life in every facet and continues to do so.

More than six years later, I am still at war with myself. With every fiber of my being, I hope that I can one day find a level of peace and contentment which is able to bring me out of the darkness and establish a true identity within myself. Fluctuating between anger, depression and acceptance is draining. It accomplishes nothing more than sucking the life out of oneself and leaves in it’s wake, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

All that is left is hope. Hope that one day, this will all feel like a bad dream. Hope that the sun will shine on more days than it doesn’t. Hope that I can still overcome this illness and be the type person that lays dormant amongst the pain and misery.

There has to be hope, for without it, continuing to exist, is nothing but an exercise in futility.

Dealing with Grief in a Bipolar World: Part 2

TRIGGER WARNING!

This post is based on personal experience. There are references to suicide.

Reader caution is strongly advised.

If you are suicidal, please contact your local suicide hotline for support and advice.

2006 was by far the worst year of my life. It was the year I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, battled homelessness and almost lost my life in the process. In a follow up to Part One of Dealing with Grief in a Bipolar World, the following is my personal experience of being diagnosed with Bipolar, the events that lead to this point and everything that transpired following.

The downward spiral that led to being diagnosed can be traced back to August 2005. I lost a very close friend to a heart attack and at the same time, the five year engagement to my fiance also came to end. I had taken a job interstate during the middle of that year. I knew in my heart of hearts that would spell the end of the relationship, but I had hoped my partner would follow me and we would continue. When she made it clear that she didn’t want this, our relationship was over. It was something that should’ve been over after two years, not five, but the lesson I learned through this break-up, was that it takes courage to leave a bad relationship. Moving interstate was the catalyst in doing what should’ve been done a long time earlier. We rarely fought, but we weren’t compatible. It really was as simple as that. We remain friends, although have minimal contact with one another.

A few months into my new life, I received a phone call around 10pm. I was already asleep, so the message that resulted from the phone call wasn’t retrieved until the following morning. I knew what had happened even before I made the call back.

J.J. had a heart condition. The fact that he even got to 29 was an achievement in itself. Still, it didn’t take away the initial shock that he was gone. I still miss him to this very day and occasionally he pops up in my dreams. I like it when he does and he damn well better be waiting for me when it’s my time to go. We have so much to talk about.

Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. These two life changing events were delayed in terms of their destructive impact on me personally. However the signs were there early when I started to smoke pot as a means of escaping the pain. I worked and when I came home, I smoked. I did this for a period of four months which included my trip back home for the Christmas/New Year period. When I arrived back to work, I stopped smoking and I wasn’t in a good way. I was having frequent panic attacks, both at home and at work, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was due to withdrawals from smoking pot. A no brainer one would say, but at the time I simply didn’t realize it. All I wanted to do at the time was get back to my home state, so I threw in the towel at work, and a few weeks later, barely one month into the new year, I was back home.

During the drive back, I recall that over the last 100km’s, I had this horrible feeling come over me that something bad was going to happen. I was relieved to be going back home again, but I was lost and wasn’t completely sure what I was going to do next.

I stayed with a friend when I got back. The same friend, whose family had taken me in when I left home at 15 years of age. It felt like a safe option, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The boys there were still smoking pot, years after it was just a teenage thing. I fell into it again with open arms. It was a stupid thing to do and I still kick myself for allowing this to happen. The only blessing that came from this period, was getting a diagnosis that explained years of certain behavior that was otherwise not justified, despite several attempts to seek some answers. Unfortunately, the shit would have to seriously hit the fan before I even got to this point.

I ended up finding work as I continued to smoke with the boys during the evenings. On weekends, taking ecstasy also came into the mix as I went to nightclubs and partied like it was 1999. Within a couple of months, I was on top of the world. I became so manic and was so psychotic in the process, again, with the benefit of hindsight, it was only a matter of time before everything would come crashing down. So erratic was my behavior, that I went out and got a new phone on contract and racked up almost a thousand dollars in phone calls before I was hospitalized. I also got a new laptop and signed a contract for a premium internet service. In this psychotic manic state, I was about to start a company that would take the world by storm. I was also going to start an online radio station. High profile business and media identities were going to want a piece of me. I had no insight about the state I was in, although through all of this, there were signs I was crying out for help. I contacted family members who didn’t want much to do with me. This all came to head one weekend when my father refused to pay for flights and accommodation to an interstate location where I was to meet a reporter from a television show (I actually did call and speak to this reporter the day before in a psychotic rage).

By Saturday night of that weekend, I was being interview by police over threats I had made towards my father. On a rational level, my Dad is not nice guy. There is a reason why I left home at 15 years of age. But that situation remains sensitive, as does what I’m presently describing, so I won’t go off track.

By Monday morning, having had very little sleep over the past two weeks or so due to being so manic, things were at breaking point. I had no money and no place to live (having well and truly worn out my welcome where I was staying due to my behavior). I was so outraged over what had occurred over the weekend, I was desperate to engage a lawyer. Instead, by mid afternoon, I was again detained by police and was on my way to a psychiatric ward and admitted as an involuntarily patient. I would remain there for the next five weeks and in that time, I would go from being completely manic, to crashing back down to earth with a huge bang.

*I didn’t think this post would be as long it is. So as a result, part three will be written and published in the next couple of days. Please bear with me as this continues to be a difficult time to recall and write about*

Dealing with Grief in a Bipolar World: Part 1

TRIGGER WARNING!

This post is based on personal experience. There are references to suicide.

Reader caution is strongly advised.

If you are suicidal, please contact your local suicide hotline for support and advice.

THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF

For those of you who have received a diagnosis of Bipolar in the past twelve months, no doubt you have experienced a wide range of emotions. Particularly those who have struggled with mania and/or depression, whether it be five, ten or twenty plus years, to finally have a diagnosis that explains and possibly justifies periods of erratic behavior followed by periods of poor functioning that accompanies the depression side of things, a feeling of relief isn’t all that uncommon, based on what I have experienced and learned about others through their own personal testimony.

I would say that the events surrounding a person being diagnosed are traumatic to say the least. When a diagnosis is finally made, the relief a person can feel could just about wash away all the pain and suffering encountered prior to this. Finally there is an explanation, a reason that can explain what couldn’t be explained in the past. The feeling of relief is most deserved, but unfortunately it gives way to a grieving process. Support and understanding are of utmost importance during this period that could range anywhere from two to twelve months, even longer. In my case it took me more than a year to find my feet again. Support and understanding were non existent. And it almost cost me my life.

Before I go back to the dark days of 2006 when I was first diagnosed at age 29, I would like to identify the five stages of grief and how they could apply in a Bipolar sense. It begins when initial relief, turns into complete disbelief.

Denial“Why me? Surely not! There has to be another reason!” – Denial is a natural reaction. Everything we know to be true is being challenged and it’s fine to ask questions. Learning as much as you can about this illness helps to gain some perspective and know what you’re up against.

Anger“Are you fucking serious? What did I do to deserve this? This is bullshit and I want nothing to do with it” – Channeling your anger in a constructive way is important here. You don’t want your anger being destructive by lashing out at others or acting out. Scream into a pillow or find a punching bag (a real one) to bash the shit out of. Your target should not be other people.

Bargaining“If only I could do such and such, this wouldn’t be a problem. I would give anything to not be in this position” – Anger gives way to trying to find a way out of a tough situation. Know your limitations and try not to set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations.

Depression“I give up! I’m a horrible person. I don’t deserve anything good in life. I would be better off not being here anymore” – This stage is the scariest in my view. We are at our most vulnerable during this stage and having the right kind of support is really important. Remaining safe is key. It is most important that you reach out if you are not feeling safe. It is not uncommon for another hospital inpatient stay to occur during this stage.

Acceptance“I know what I’m up against. I might not be completely okay with that, but now I know what I need to do, in order to make sure this illness doesn’t get the better of me” – This stage is all about managing the illness. Find a good psychiatrist to help you with medications. Engage in therapy if and when you’re comfortable to do so. Find a support group, even if it’s purely online. Engage with others in similar positions and learn from those who have years of experience managing and living with Bipolar Disorder.

The process of going through the five stages of grief is extremely difficult and draining. Patience is an absolute virtue and it’s really important that you give yourself as much time as necessary to get your head around everything that has happened. Try to minimize feelings of guilt. You can’t change the past. Concentrate your focus and energy on the future. Further challenges lay in wait, make no mistake. Bipolar is not an easy illness to live with, but with decent management and practical things in place, like a secure roof over your head, stable diet, a little bit of exercise and trying to enjoy some of the more simple things in life, all can go along way to being well and truly on the path to recovery. Maintain hope for the future and give yourself every chance to stay on top of this illness. Mood fluctuations will still occur, although the severity of these fluctuations will hopefully be far less extreme than in the past.

There is no black and white, especially when it comes to Bipolar Disorder. Different things will work for different people. The key is to find what best works for you. And always stay true to yourself in the process.

For some, even years after this grieving process is done and dusted, fluctuating between, anger, depression and acceptance can still occur. Denial becomes a thing of the past and bargaining goes beyond being futile. However the other three stages can still be prevalent with certain mood phases. Such is the nature of this illness. Try to be as kind to yourself as possible when things become difficult. Never give up on hope and never stop reaching out for support and guidance.

*I have decided to break this post up into two different parts. Part 2 will cover my personal experience after I was diagnosed. It won’t come as easily as Part One. Alot of what is written in this first part, comes with benefit of hindsight. My own experience was a very difficult time in my life and easily the darkest. I am not looking forward to writing about it, as this is a time I am forever keen to forget.*

Stay Tuned!

It all starts in 3 weeks

This year has not been an easy one when it comes to accepting the limitations that having Bipolar puts on my life. Through the despair of a long depressive episode, I am struggling to accept my position in life. No career, no partner, no kids. I’ve never resented having this illness as much as I do right now. Through all the pain and suffering, I hang onto a small glimmer of hope that one day things can get better. That one day I will have what my heart desires most. It’s not about material gain. It’s about being able to rise above a situation so dark and bleak in nature, to a place where the sun shines on more days than it doesn’t. Having a mental illness becomes secondary. Loneliness and isolation is a thing of the past. Positive relationships are forged. There is love in my life through the power of family. The shackles of all present limitations are broken and pave way to opportunity.

A new journey begins in three weeks. It is my chance to dig myself out from the depths of despair and strive for something meaningful.

I am returning to study. My sights are set on achieving something that should have been done during the early stages of adulthood. It is unfinished business and something I simply must do.

I have chosen to study Psychology. There is still a burning desire within me to help people . My days working as a nurse provided me with the necessary insight, to realise how good I can be in the role as a carer. I feel a ‘calling’ in life. It is strong and it’s loud. If I do not try to make the most of the opportunity that lays before me, I don’t think I can live with myself.

How this idealism can translate to real world activity is still beyond comprehension. I am starting small by only doing a couple of subjects. This pace should suit me for where I am at right now. Anything more, and the chances of being overwhelmed by stress become more of a reality. I have been down that road many times before, when I knew it was bad for me, and yet I persevered. In the end, I lose the battle to keep up with everything and find myself back at square one. Depression in all it’s glory takes a strong hold and it will be months before I am in a position to pick myself up and dust myself off.

What I am most looking forward to about studying Psychology, is exploring how the brain operates. Nature vs Nurture concepts. What essentially makes us tick. I know that by the time the theory is done and dusted, practicing Psychology in the real world will be vastly different. For now though, I am looking forward to the journey of exploring all of the theory and the personal development that comes with learning a new vocation.

This opportunity is one I hope I can relish. It is a chance to grow and expand the knowledge and experience already gained in my life thus far. It is a chance to embrace optimism once again and strive for something better in life. It won’t be easy, but I think I am up for the challenge once again.

Wish me luck!

End the Lockout!

For the past five years, the immediate pain of the AFL season ending, has been off-set, knowing that the NHL season will soon be underway.

Ice-Hockey has become another of my sporting passions in recent years. It is a direct link to my skating days as a teen, a happier time in my life. Whilst I never played the game, being exposed to Hockey was also part of my upbringing. This chapter of my life was one I wanted to forget. The reasons are sealed in a can of worms that I do not wish to open at this time.

My love affair with the game of Ice Hockey, in it’s purest form, began during the month of October. The year was 2007. It was AFL Grand Final day and Geelong had just broken it’s 44 year Premiership drought. There is an emptiness that comes with realising that the AFL season is over. It would be another six months until an another ball would be kicked in anger. Sure, there is a summer of Cricket to come, but that wouldn’t begin for another two months. Something needs to fill the void. Enter Ice Hockey.

I had never followed a season from start to finish before. My thirst for the game became obsessional. And I loved it! Access to games was somewhat limited, but I was able to watch full games. My team at that stage was the Dallas Stars, but getting my hands on games out of Dallas was a challenge. There was no shortage when it came to the games played by the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Detroit Red Wings. The Leafs were struggling, while the Wings were more than competitive. I quickly fell in love with Detroit and they became more than my team of choice. There was an emotional connection and once that sort of connection is made, there is no going back.

All the hype in 2007 was around a young prodigy named Sidney Crosby. “Sid the Kid” was likened as the next Wayne Gretzky. A rivalry between Sid’s Pittsburgh Penguins and the Red Wings would soon develop. The void was filled and the inner child in me was more than satisfied. I learned about the history of the game through a documentary series called “Hockey: A People’s History”, celebrating the game born out of Canada.

The series chronicles Hockey’s evolution from a small spectacle in 1875, through to the modern era, celebrating the games achievements and documenting it’s downfalls over it’s 135 year plus history. The 2004 lockout which saw the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season is also featured. Four days after the regular season should’ve began, we are still without hockey. No pre-season and no training camps. No end to the lockout in sight. Games have been officially cancelled through to the 24th of October.

And the one’s suffering most are the fans.

The heart of the current lockout lies with the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the team owners and it’s players. Despite an increase in Hockey Related Revenue of almost 1.2 billion dollars since 2006, team owners are intent on reducing the players share from 57 percent, to at least 50 per cent, with some reports estimating this to be as low as 43 per cent. What is defined as Hockey Related Revenue is also at the heart of this dispute. The salary cap is also a part of this stalemate, with owners asking for the players to take an extended pay cut.

This all comes down to a figure of almost 400 million dollars, which the league would like to have at it’s disposal, to support struggling franchises within the league. On paper, the issue doesn’t seem all that complicated. The notion of ‘fairness’ would suggest that a 50/50 split of Hockey Related Revenue would be enough to keep both sides happy. However, the players association and franchise owners seem to be in no hurry to end the dispute anytime soon.

Specifics and details aside, this current squabble is at the expense of the fans. I purchase a TV subscription that allows me to watch games online or through my Playstation. As a small financial contributor to this sport, I am insulted that both parties do not seem to be in any hurry to get this matter resolved. So much so, that I will not just handover precious dollars when they do finally get their act together.

Without the fans, the league and it’s players wouldn’t have revenue to argue over. They have had the entire off-season to sort this out and the number one priority should be to make sure it’s fan-base is not affected. For the second time is less than a decade, the league has failed to look after it’s number one asset – the fans – those who buy season tickets, merchandise and television subscriptions.

To the NHL, the owners and the players association: Get your act together! Get this sorted out and let’s play some hockey. Or you may find in the not too distant future, that there is far less revenue to argue over and fans leave the game for good.

Let’s drop the puck, play some hockey and leave your squabbling in the boardroom, where it belongs. At this time of year, headlines should be about highlights and results in the sports section of the daily news. Not the business section!

End the lockout! And it end it soon!

This is a powerful and moving video. Such a brave young lady. “If you die, they win” This is my mantra and there is nothing but truth in those words! Well done Hannah! You’re an inspiration to those of us affected by Mental Illness!

The Bipolar Place

I stumbled across this whilst on YouTube & thoughts it overall message, if a little simplistic, was worth sharing.

 

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Embracing Social Media in an Isolated World

Having Bipolar has turned me into a very private person and this has created a void in my life. There are times when I am happy to be left alone and simply not care about what the world is doing. There are other times when I feel lonely and isolated. This is where I desire to have a connection with people, want to feel less alone and crave the need for support and understanding.

Creating a blog dedicated to my illness was designed to help fill that void. Getting likes, comments and followers of my blog had it’s desired effect during the initial phase. Now I feel somewhat empty again. I have been too low in my mood to put something meaningful together in the hope that others will identify and appreciate what I have to say.

My last few posts have been dark and angry which relates to the way I’ve been feeling. The void and emptiness of not having people in my life continues to manifest though. I participate in a couple of mental health forums but sometimes I struggle to feel like I’m really heard.

I use the reader in wordpress to keep up with blogs I am following. As pathetic as this sounds, I am sometimes envious of people with regular likes and comments. The same applies to those who have Facebook and Twitter followers.

Today I have created a Facebook account and a Facebook page for Bipolar Beach with the hope that over time, this builds up to help fill the void of feeling lonely and isolated. The problem though is that I find it very difficult to share things personally about myself.

There is a mild acceptance of where I am at with my life in terms of having Bipolar, the medications I take to manage the illness, and the lifestyle I lead, despite all of this. However, there is a deep sadness within me that there are no people to talk to or hang out with. I guess there is added difficulty being in my mid thirties. People have come and gone. Others have settled into married life and are busy with raising kids and the rigors of everyday life.

The negative aspects of social media such as stalking and bullying have left me with the belief that living in anonymity is better than being vulnerable and exposed. It saddens me that tools designed to bring us closer together, can have such devastating effects. But I guess that comes down to the fact that there is always going to be bad people in the world. I am turning to social media to feel more connected and reduce the impact of the loneliness and isolation that comes with having a mental illness.

Another issue that I think about is finding love. Finding that one person who understands and accepts you for who you are. I seriously wonder if I’ll experience love again in my lifetime. I’m sometimes curious as to whether I can actually find the right person over the internet, but think this is probably a bit naive. There is also a part of me that thinks I’m better off not being in a relationship. At least during this phase of my life where things are more challenging than they should be.

I don’t spend the entire day on the internet but it is the first thing I do everyday. It helps me to feel calm and focused. I am returning to study in November and the degree I am pursuing will be done online. This fits well with my needs and lifestyle. I hope to meet some like minded people that will challenge and stimulate me, alongside the study content .

For now, I will continue on my mission of trying to feel better connected, despite living in isolation,

It might be only wishful thinking, but I hope you can support me on this journey.

I’m only happy when it rains…


I only smile in the dark
My only comfort is the night gone black
I didn’t accidentally tell you that
I’m only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down on me

I’m only happy when it rains
You wanna hear about my new obsession?
I’m riding high upon a deep depression
I’m only happy when it rains

Mood wise, it’s been a very dark week!

My depression managed to find it’s way into scary territory, to the point where thoughts about ‘checking out’ were staring straight at me. Not only did I fear for my life, I also feared for my sanity. I felt like I was crossing over to the point of no return. And I was completely shit scared!

Following a broken nights sleep, I’ve slept much of today away. Anxiety is what got me out of bed eventually. Now I’m in a calm and partially numb state. As far as today goes, I think the weather is playing a significant part. It is the second month of spring, and yet today is cold and miserable. For whatever reason, I’m finding comfort in that. I’m not ready for the warmer weather. Not with the way I’m feeling.

Maybe it’s because it’s a Saturday. I feel no obligation to the world. The guilt and emptiness of a life not being fulfilled isn’t bubbling away in the pressure cooker. Self loathing has also taken a backward step. It might just only be for the day, but at least there is some relief.

Today I’m cutting myself some slack. There is no threat. I am safe. The depression can linger. I don’t particularly care right now.

It might only the the depression talking, but the lyrics pasted above, are a true reflection of the way I feel at this very minute.

Pour your misery down on me. I’m only happy when it rains.