Back on the air!

Hello everyone,

Well its been almost two years and three months since I’ve posted anything. OMG!

Last time around I was under heavy stress with a failed summer romance and study.

Now I have neither on my plate and for the last two years, I have been keeping to myself and living in a bubble.

That is both good and bad.

Good for the fact that I don’t have much stress in my life (money matters aside), and my Bipolar has thanked me for the lack of stress. My medication regime is settled and I am sleeping and eating well. I’m not exercising as much though and for this I have payed in the weight department. Fair to say I could drop 15-20kgs at a minimum.

The bad side is that I am terribly unfulfilled. My life is lacking purpose and direction and I am becoming increasingly restless due to the fact. I have a volunteer role moderating a chat room that I’ve been doing for almost 15 months now. This fills in a few hours in the afternoon, however there is still a void. An area of my life I would like to change.

I have also had multiple failed attempts to quit smoking. Due to a lack of money, I am forced to go without, however when I do receive my pension, my first purchase is a pack of cigarettes and I feel genuine guilt about that.

Perhaps I might use the re ignition of this blog to try and drum up some support to quit and stay that way.

Perhaps.

As far as being fulfilled goes, there are a couple of ideas I have been floating around in my head. One is start my own forum board with an emphasis on mental health, covering areas such as Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder and Eating disorders just to name a few. The idea is to build a community where people with a mental illness can come together and forge friendships to make the day to day grind a little more bearable. An extension to this would be the integration of a few moderated chat rooms to help build and maintain the community. I know these aren’t exactly original ideas, however I am yet to find a forum board that has flash based chat software integrated to it.

To achieve this, I would need to raise some funds and I am still working on ideas to raise the necessary funds for this to work, and how much exactly would need to be raised.

So that just about does it for now. It’s nice to be blogging again and I would sincerely appreciate some feedback on all matters mentioned above.

Peace to you all!

Alone again. Naturally.

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It happened and I could see it coming. The person I had started seeing in January ended it on Friday. I’m in a world of pain at the moment, numbed only by the Seroquel I am taking as a PRN during the day. My head is fuzzy and I have this sick feeling in my stomach.

Bipolar has robbed me of yet another opportunity. I am at the end of my rope. I simply do not know what to do right now. My confidence is zero. I am depressed and all I want to do is sleep.

I am trying to keep my anxiety under control and Seroquel is helping with this, but I am very sad and completely demoralized.

I don’t want this blog to be an ongoing sob story, but I don’t know what else to write. I am still suicidal with my thinking. I just feel like I’m out of options. I have crumbled under the pressure of trying to study. I’ll be lucky if I survive the semester without failing both subjects. My psychiatrist is helping me with this and I have now registered with the university’s disability service. Either way, it doesn’t look like I will be returning to study anytime soon. I was also aiming to engage with a Disability Employment service in the near future, however I don’t have any confidence to pursue this avenue right now.

I just want some peace. This illness is consuming me in a way where I feel like I’m drowning and there is nobody to help pull me up. My next appointment with my psychiatrist is on Thursday. At least there’s that. For now I am just trying to survive each day without things escalating in intensity. My life feels so meaningless at the moment. I’m hanging on for dear life, hoping that I can come through this. I need to find the strength to feel better about myself and life in general again.

Right now, I’m flat and defeated.

In a Dark Place – Trigger Warning

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I need to write. I need to get it all out because right now I’m not in a good place. In fact, I am in a very dark place and I feel sick to my stomach over it. I’m anxious, depressed and suicidal. My symptoms are really serving it up at the moment and I do not know what to do. I’ve thought about calling a crisis team or presenting myself to an emergency department, but I do not want to end up in hospital. All I can see is dark times ahead. No light whatsoever. All I want to do is sleep. The intensity of what I am feeling right now is oh so painful. I’ve all but lost my battle with trying to keep up with my studies. My new relationship is also on shaky ground. A few weeks ago I was absolutely fine. I was happy and focused and optimistic. Someone had come into my life and I felt ‘blessed’. Why do these symptoms come from almost nowhere and wreak so much havoc? Bipolar has already cost me so much in terms of lost livelihood, time lost due to episodes, and time lost due to trying to find the right medication combination. When I came off Pristiq just prior to Christmas, it was as if a minor miracle had happened. My sleep pattern went from abnormal to normal almost overnight. My energy was good and best of all, my anxiety had all but disappeared. So all was going really well for a little while there. I thought I had come out of an abyss and things were finally start to turn in the right direction. That was until a couple of weeks ago when my anxiety returned with vengeance. I was throwing up and when there was nothing more to come up, I would dry reach. After a week of this, I was completely exhausted. On Thursday I spent the entire day in bed with no energy and no motivation. I got to speak to my psychiatrist on Friday and he advised me to increase my overnight Seroquel to 100mg or even 200mg if that didn’t do the trick. So my anxiety subsided from Thurday when I resorted to taking Seroquel as a PRN. Today, despite having taken 100mg on Friday night and 200mg on Saturday night, I am a mix of anxious, bombed from the Seroquel and suicidal with my thinking. Seriously, how much can one person take?

I am reaching out to the blogosphere for support. I am not active on any psych forums at the moment so I am reluctant to post my concerns there. 

In my heart of hearts I know that I am not up to academic study. I’ve tried but I am not enjoying it and I am not coping with the workload. I simply cannot see myself being in it for the long haul. Stress has been the trigger of this latest episode and I know that being Bipolar, stress is something to be avoided or minimized. I don’t have anything to prove. I would like to do something with my life that is Bipolar friendly but I have no idea what that is as yet. Assuming I drop my uni course, it is something I will need to put some work into. Having suicidal thoughts because I feel hopeless and inadequate in the wake of having Bipolar is why I am writing this post. I don’t want to die and I shouldn’t have to feel like this. I thought doing two subjects was a safe call, but even with that workload, I am still struggling.

In regards to the person that I have recently started seeing, I am fearful that I will lose her because of my illness and this has my heart in a million pieces at the moment. I really like this person. She is understanding of the fact that I am Bipolar and isn’t bothered that I am not well off financially. She reassures me that she likes me for who I am. But the state I was in yesterday did freak her out and made her uncomfortable. She had come to stay with me for the weekend, however ended up leaving yesterday afternoon which made me feel 10 x worse. This type of scenario is exactly what scares me most. It is not my intention to make anybody uncomfortable because of my symptoms. I hate feeling this unwell and it’s during times like this that I question what’s actually worth it when it comes to stress and Bipolar. I want to do something with my life but it has to fit within the limits that Bipolar sets. I wish life didn’t have to be like this and I want so much more, but the reality is that I suffer from a chronic mood disorder and there are limitations that come with that.

I feel a little better for typing out my thoughts. It’s better than having them swirl around in my head and consume me 24/7.

Thanks for reading if you have made it this far. I really do need your support right now.

Blog for Mental Health 2013

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I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

I am linking this pledge back to A Canvas Of The Minds for giving me the inspiration to get on board with this wonderful initiative.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar in 2006 at age 29. This came after years of knowing something was not right despite only being treated for Depression. It took a major manic episode and five weeks of hospitalization to receive a diagnosis. I continue to struggle with this disorder and some days are more difficult than others. I have just commenced a Bachelor of Psychology as I continue to try and rise up against this illness. I have been on Disability since mid 2011 and would one day like to be able to re-enter the workforce in some capacity. For now I am comfortable (albeit barely) with my studies, however would like to be well enough to take on some part-time work, hopefully in a community based role assisting people with disabilities. Bipolar can be a cruel and isolating existence, however I do take comfort in knowing that I am not alone and there are wonderful people out there who are fighting the same battles and doing well under less than ideal circumstances.

Blogging has given me a voice about my illness and I am grateful for the people that I connect with and able to touch through my writing. It is my hope that I can ride through the symptoms and episodes and try to help others along the way.

By taking this pledge I am committing to the fight to raise awareness for those affected by mental illness. I hope to reach more people and spread the word as my blog continues to evolve. I am also advocating for people with mental illness and their carers as part of this pledge.

In pledging five other bloggers, I would like to pay particular attention to the following bloggers:

Am I Nuts?

Bipolar 2 Dad

Weathering The Storm: Overcoming Bipolar Disorder

…on becoming a counsellor

and last but definitely not least:

All that I am, all that I ever was…Hope to see you back soon Addy!

I look forward to continuing to share my experiences as well as my ups and downs. On a personal note, I am at the closing stages of the semester with my studies. This blog will continue to remain quiet over the coming weeks, however, when I have a chance to breathe again, I look forward to posting an update on everything that’s been happening at Bipolar Beach.

Sending lots of love and support to everyone involved with this Blog and the readers who randomly stop by.

Be well and stay safe!

2013: What will the new year bring?

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So another year comes to a close. Goodbye and good riddance I say. I think it’s only natural to be reflective at this time of year. Reflective of the things that have caused pain, brought pleasure, achievements, losses, tragedies and new arrivals.

But just because the clock turns midnight and signals the beginning of a new year, it doesn’t mean that some magic spell has been cast and everything we wish for and desire will miraculously come to fruition. At least not straight away. Having said that, there is no harm in hoping and there is no harm in feeling a sense of optimism that despite what may have occurred during the previous year, things can and will improve throughout the new year.

My 2012 In Review:

2012 is ending in similar fashion to the way it began. Despite the fact that I am still alone, this year I am feeling slightly better about that compared to this time last year. Maybe it’s because I have found somewhat of a happy-medium when it comes to my medications. In early January I was absolutely fed up with feeling anxious and depressed most of the time. I was sick of functioning poorly and I desperately wanted things to change before they got out of control again. If you you would’ve told me that it would take most of the year to find the right combination, the likely reply you would’ve got from me, would be “Fuck that!”. I know full well that in reality it can take people much longer to get their med combo right, but seriously – one year? Mostly dedicated to trying to handle unwanted side effects, becoming depressed to the point where suicidal ideation intrudes my thinking. No thank you! But you know what, I have survived and I’m grateful that I did. I have come out of the darkness and into the light once again and believe me when I say that I am in no hurry to go back there anytime soon.

A small point on Suicide. In previous posts I have stated that I do not believe in Suicide, but that’s not to say that I haven’t thought about it. There have been times where these type of thoughts have gotten so intense, to the point where I think there is no other option and it ends up absolutely scaring the crap out of me. It is NOT how I want my life to end and no matter how dark things may get, there are always avenues to get past these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. I am yet to call a crisis line or check into an emergency department, however I have made use of online resources such as mental health forums to seek out support and understanding. Taking anti-anxiety medication or simply sleeping it off has also been enough to lift that sort of intensity. But enough about that.

Despite having a lonely and isolated year, I have persevered and would like to think I have come out on top despite the ugly circumstances of having my Bipolar run rampant and making life almost unbearable at times. I think a small turning point came when I started this blog. Having an outlet to express myself and talk about how Bipolar affects me has been a positive experience. Receiving likes, comments and knowing that your voice actually reaches somebody has been very rewarding. Equally, reading and commenting on other blogs has also been a rewarding experience. There are some amazing people and stories out there and the blogosphere is a wonderful opportunity for people to be heard and connect. It doesn’t matter if your post is 200 or 1200 words in length, everything is valid and has a place.

The other positive which came later in the year was returning back to university study. Having a sense of purpose once again has done wonders for my mental health. Naturally there is some stress with studying and there is also some self doubt as to whether I can actually complete my Bachelors, but I am taking it one semester at a time. The end goal is firmly in mind, but I cannot afford to look too far ahead. I think I am on the right path and I believe in being an advocate for those who suffer from a mental illness. I believe that is my purpose in life. There was a brief time when I was a psych nurse where despite the stress of being in such a role, I had a sense of purpose and fulfillment I had never felt before. I was devastated when I became unwell again and had to give this up, but the issues that surrounded this time make sense with the benefit of hindsight. I only wish that I had handled things a lot better and didn’t find myself in a situation where I had to start from zero once again. They say that everything happens for a reason and I am now at the stage where I have made peace with the past and happy to look forward to the future.

And that’s where this time of year provides something unique, unlike any other time of the year. There is a chance to start over with a clean sleight. A chance to bury what’s happened in the past. A chance to feel positive about the future once again.

I am grateful to have a roof over my head and I am grateful for the people I have in my life. I don’t have many friends, but I know that the people in my life care about me. I care about them too. This includes the people I have come to know online through this blog and via forums.

The voids in my life are something that I need not rush or try to force any change. It will all happen in good time. This is my path in life and whilst it’s far from how I would like things to be, that’s not to say it is too late for things like falling in love again and starting a family. If there is one thing I do know, nothing matters unless there are people to share things with. It has taken extended periods of loneliness and isolation to realize this. You can have the best job in the world and yet feel completely empty when there is nobody to come home to. You can have all the peace and quiet you want, yet the silence becomes deafening and you wish someone was there. It’s no fun going through life alone and everybody needs someone. As much as they may not like to admit it.

So what will 2013 bring?

Oh who the bloody hell knows? And don’t even get me started on new years resolutions. Stop smoking, eat less crap, go to the gym. Blah Blah Blah!

This time if year is stressful enough, without the added pressure of trying to completely change into something I am not and subsequently spending January and February feeling like shit because I haven’t been able to live up to these expectations. Not for me sorry!

What I do vow is to keep things simple and try to find a balance between normal stress (which is part of anybody’s life) and toxic stress that could cause a relapse. I am intent on not going through another winter depression where I hide from the world, am highly anxious and hate myself for it.

I will continue to focus on my studies without being daunted by the big picture. I will invest time into building friendships without feeling the need to have a hundred friends. I will try and give more to the ones that I care about.

I am also keen to return to work in some capacity. Ideally in the field of mental health. I may go back to nursing, but there are a few hurdles I need to jump through to get my registration back. I hope this exercise isn’t too stressful in itself.

When it comes to finding a partner and falling in love again, I am not putting any pressure on myself there either. Establishing a foundation based on friendship, mutual respect and trust is more important than diving in dumb and blind. It is a process that needs to happen naturally and cannot be forced.

Again, it’s nice to be reflective at this time of year and sort through the things that you do and do not want for the new year. The reality is that we will wake up on the first day of the year, exactly the same person we were on the last day of the year. Change should be gradual and realistic but there is nothing wrong with following your heart in order to find what you most desire.

As you reflect on another year passed, whether it was good, bad or indifferent, stay true to yourself in your desires and expectations for 2013. Make sure you’re not someone who is burnt out within the first three months of the year. It is of course a marathon – not a sprint!

Most importantly: Have yourself a good one and I wish everyone a Happy and Safe New Year!

*Thank you for supporting this blog over the past few months and I look forward to more sharing and connecting with fellow bloggers during 2013*

Christmas: The Aftermath

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OMG! What a head fuck! Christmas has come and gone and unfortunately it wasn’t pretty. Anxiety surrounds the prospect of New Years Eve still to come, but compared to this time last week, I think I’m doing a little better – if only just.

In the week leading up to Christmas, I was busy with writing assignments for University. I had made the conscious decision a few weeks earlier that I would not let the occasion get the better of me – as per my last post before Christmas. I thought I was prepared but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As a reward for getting my assignments out of the way, I took myself out to see a game of 20/20 Cricket. (Being summer in Australia and thus being Cricket season, its one thing to do if you like sport – especially Cricket) – Anyway…

From the moment I got into town (which is about a 90 minute drive from where I live), I felt like rubbish. I felt so out of place which is a bit unusual as I love going to watch live sport. The game itself was enjoyable but by the time I got home I was exhausted.

I’ve seen a pattern developing recently whereby whenever I go out and do something, I am completely wiped out the following day.

With Christmas only three days away, I found myself sinking again and everything went completely off track. Plans I had for Christmas night went out the window and I decided to just stay away for the sake of myself and everybody else. I didn’t want to subject anybody to any negativity, plain and simple.

On Christmas Eve I decided to cook so I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking on Christmas Day. There was no roast, no turkey, no ham. Just a Greek lasagne dish called Pastitsio. Along with some prawns and plum pudding with custard, that was Christmas lunch/dinner. I was actually doing well on Christmas Eve after falling in a heap over the previous two days. I had coffee with my next door neighbor. She gave me a card and a movie voucher which was really thoughtful and nice. I have since invited her to see Les Miserables with me over the next couple of weeks.

That night, in a highly emotional state, I watched a Christmas movie called ‘Noel‘ and I was in tears most of the way through. I was desperate not to completely breakdown so I let the tears run down my face, but I avoided any full blown crying. On Christmas morning, I had a modest sleep in and felt okay.

For about an hour and then it all went to shit.

My friend who I was supposed to go and see on Christmas night, send me a text message wishing me a Merry Christmas and informed me that his in-laws were not going to be there as originally planned. He said if that changed anything for me, then I should reconsider going there. Initially I completely ruled it out and sent though a reply saying so. Then guilt hit me like a tonne of bricks and I changed my mind. I sent through a text asking him what time he would be home, but unfortunately (and therefore typically if you ask me), I never got a reply. By 8pm that night, having felt like shit for much of the day, I sent a text to him saying “Thanks for making a difficult day even more difficult”. By the next day he sent me reply saying he was sorry for not replying sooner, but that he also didn’t appreciate ‘the dig’. He knew full well I was struggling with the whole occasion, but in typical fashion, his ego was far more important than any pain I was going through. An attempt to clear the air on my part two days ago had all but ended our friendship. He said he was too busy to call me and I called him an Asshole in reply. His response:

“Wow you have really lost the plot. I don’t know why I bother. Enjoy your self absorbed life”

BAM!

Didn’t I feel like a worthless piece of shit after getting that. Add that to the list of things NOT to say to somebody with a mental illness – regardless of whether it’s Christmas or any other time of year. One thing I do know about myself is that I am not self absorbed. People with any form of narcissism really get up my nose, however…

Bipolar IS selfish by nature, but that doesn’t make us selfish people, self involved, self absorbed  or whatever. I know full well what my flaws/personality deficiencies are, whether they are linked to Bipolar or just naturally make up the person that I am. We are all the same in that regard. This is where tolerance, understanding and empathy come into play. Especially at this time of year where there are triggers for some at almost every turn.

To say that I am hurt over a sense of abandonment at this time of year, (particularly when you tell somebody you are struggling, only to fall on deaf ears) is a quiet understatement. Simple words which promote empathy would be a nice start. My friend is obviously far too busy to even make a small amount of time to come and visit me. To see him, I basically have to go to his place 9.5 times out of 10. One way traffic in a friendship/relationship is also one of my pet hates. Okay, I live one hour away, but is a one hour drive really that hard?

The other frustration when it comes to my illness is that he has no real understanding of it. He cares, but he doesn’t get it. The reason why there is a high emphasis on this person is because he is my only support. I have recently met somebody who does understand my illness and isn’t judgmental about it. I really hope that a friendship can blossom as a result, but it’s too early to tell. I’m not one to try and force anything. You simply cannot control other people and that’s reality. A fair one too I might add.

Which brings me back to my friend of 20 plus years.

Yes he doesn’t get my illness. He knows that I have Bipolar amongst other issues, but I don’t think he can really handle these facts. When I’m good, things are fine. We get along great. When I get depressed, I normally shield him from it to protect both parties. I am able to suffer in silence (most of the time), without having to deal with the guilt or humiliation of having symptoms and episodes (mostly depressive ones), exposed to others. Then there are his friends and this is the reason why I cant even go over there on New Years Eve – as much as I would like to under normal circumstances. Similar to Christmas night, it would be nice to not have to subject myself to self imposed isolation. His friends know that I have a mental illness. Unfortunately, they do treat me differently because of this. Therefore I am not comfortable being in that social circle and besides, they are his friends, not mine. I have tried to accept his friends as my own, but the bottom line is that they are just as ignorant as he is and all of it makes me very uncomfortable.

So my plan for new years eve is to simply make it through the day. Hopefully my symptoms won’t be a major factor. Like Christmas night, I will most likely double up on my medications and get an early night. I’ll also have to negotiate new years day, but hopefully by the 2nd of January (which I now have plans with my new found friend), I will be back to normal, having survived the stress of the holiday period, and can then focus on the challenges that await for 2013.

As per my pre-Christmas post, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I sincerely hope you have a good one. If you are struggling, do reach out to someone that you trust. Hopefully you won’t get burnt in a similar way to what I did this Christmas. Above all, remember that you are not alone, even if you feel that you are. Despite our best intentions and efforts, this is a difficult time of year for so many of us and therefore it is not to be underestimated.

Do what you have to do to get through and survive, but please be sensible and safe in the process.

Sending lots of love, warmth and empathy to everybody – especially to those who understand and appreciate the meaning of this post.

A week of mixed emotions

First I would like to express a sincere apology for not being active lately. I have enjoyed being a part of the blogger sphere, not just through my own posts, but reading other blogs. It has filled a void and I’m grateful to have found such a wonderful outlet.

My return to university has finally arrived. My focus has been pulled in a different direction, however this is a positive thing as I begin to rebuild after almost two years on the sidelines.

Such is the subject of this post. It is nice to be doing something again. I am feeling stimulated and a sense of purpose has returned. I very much believe in the path I am taking, however I am somewhat conflicted about the timing in terms of my age. Self doubt also makes me wonder whether I am trying in vein.

Yesterday was a good day, but it wasn’t without it’s triggers. I put the finishing touches on the first week back of uni. I was also up earlier than normal and had some time to take in the first day’s play of the first test between Australia and South Africa. I decided to call a friend, just for a chat and before I knew it, I was in the car to go and see him for the first time in months.

Anxiety started to take hold during the drive up. This is not uncommon when I head into a social situation, hence the need to avoid social contact for the sake of self-preservation. Despite this, I was completely comfortable when I arrived and it was nice see people that I actually care about and think about often. Towards the end of the night, I began to get a headache, and during the drive back home, anxiety had just about escalated to a full blown panic attack. By the time I was home, I was quick to get into bed and looked forward to getting a good nights sleep. Today I have emerged flat, feeling that sense of emptiness which has become all too familiar as time rapidly goes by.

The friends that I saw yesterday are starting to do really well for themselves and make no mistake, it has only come through hard work and perseverance. This is the thing that really gives me the shits about having Bipolar. I want to work hard to get ahead in life. I don’t like waking up in the middle of the day because the medication I take the night before has such a strong effect, my body doesn’t wake up until it says that’s it time to. I want to be up at a time where I can eat some breakfast, go for a walk, come back for a shower and then start the day. Even more, I would like to have a job to go to, socialise after work, or have a partner/family to come home to. I would like to be able to go out for dinner and visit people on the weekends. Just normal everyday things that other people take for granted.

I completely hate where I am in life. The grasp this illness has over me is difficult to comprehend at times, let alone accept. And there lies the situation as it is at the present time. Fluctuating between anger and acceptance. I am grateful for the things I have. My situation could be so much worse. I have a roof over my head, I can pay my bills. I can buy food and feed myself. But living in this fashion and being on my own doesn’t sit well whatsoever.

I remain conflicted about who I am and why things are the way they are. I am searching for some peace so that I can accept things for the way they are and continue to strive for something better.

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!