Posty post post…

I cried at my mental health nurse’s appointment today.  ‘I’m just not managing my pain very well,’ I said.  She asked if this was part of my perfectionism, or if something else was going on.  ‘I think it’s partly because the pain is worse, and partly because now the mania is coming down the pain is just there again.’ I said.  But it’s the nights that are worst. And I am doing everything I can to try and manage without taking too much medìcine – trying to get by with taking as little medicatión as I can, because I don’t know when I can get into to see my doctor again, and I don’t like having to ask for more paìnkillers.  I told one friend at uni, an ex-nurse, that I had a bad night the other night and had to take 200 mg of tramadól and I let her reaction really get to me and I shouldn’t have – she had no idea of the chronic pain I live with, I shouldn’t let one person’s reaction get to me this much. I’m doing what I can by moving around more, using ice packs, setting up a program on the computer that stops me every twenty minutes so I don’t sit and type for too long, but the pain has just been sooo bad… (I did call up and make a doctor’s appointment late this afternoon – she had a cancellation, so I can see her next week.  What  a relief.)

I have to remember to tell the Very Helpful Psychiatrist when I see her on Monday that I’m getting the shakes a little bit, but whether that’s the medicatìon, pain, or anxiety – who knows.  It’s swings and roundabouts.  You treat one thing and something else pops up.  You then have to decide – just how badly do you want to treat the next symptom? *headdesk*

I am definitely coming down from the mania.  I don’t want to spiral into a depression.  Talk about your rapid cycling… I managed to get to my appointment with the mental health nurse on time  today,  but I didn’t do a full face of make-up for the first time in a long time, just face powder, blush, lippy, mascara – which I then proceeded to cry off. I really must invest in some waterproof mascara, especially if I’m headed towards depression again.   My skin is behaving itself for a change, so I felt like I could just get away with face powder today.  No doubt it will be in the clinical notes – everything goes in the clinical notes.

Before I went out I put on the first dress I ever bought from TS14+, the one that Mr Beloved referred to as my ‘WW1 battleship camouflage dress’ when I first got it.  It’s too big for me now, it flares out too much at the sides to look attractive on me, especially over the mesh sleeved underdress.  Oh dear. Another one for the donation pile.  Looks like I’ll have to spend more money on some new dresses for summer after all – maybe once we’ve recovered a bit financially from the last hit.  I am glad to have lost the weight but I’m still getting used to the idea that things don’t fit the same way.  I have enough clothes to manage provided no one minds seeing me in the same things all the time, (who notices? I don’t) and provided I don’t mind wearing scruffy stuff at home, where too big shorts and t-shirts really don’t matter so much.

I’m still trying to work on my story for class.  Re-writing it and tightening it down, but I’ve got a way to go yet – the maximum length is 10% over the 2000 word limit, and at the moment I’m at around 2500 words.  It needs work, but I’m getting to the point where reading it on the screen is getting difficult – I’ll have to print it off, get out the red pen and get to work moving paragraphs around and editing places where information is repeated or unnecessary.  This iteration of the story is worth 25% of our marks for the course; then we get it back and a further 30% of the course marks come from how well we edit and re-work the story, which we then re-submit.  So it’s something I’ll be working on until the end of October.  (That sounds like a long time but is really only a few weeks, when you think about it… almost September as I write this.)  At the moment I just keep working on it every day, nipping here, tucking there, a sentence at a time, trying to make it better.

And now somewhere around the start of  November I have my brother’s birthday party to look forward to.  Not sure of the details yet, just that something will be happening, and the idea of seeing my family again has me teary with happiness.  It’s been far too long.  Even if I only get over to Adelaide for a couple of days, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

The storm that was trying to build all day seems to have gone around us.  We’re supposed to get a thunderstorm tomorrow, and sometimes this sort of weather makes my pain worse – my back and hips like to predict weather along with the kookaburras and the Bureau of Meteorology.  There must be some scientific explanation for barometric pressure and joint pain but I bet the rheumatologists don’t have any peer reviewed papers on it. (Not that I’m going to go looking.  I’m hurting too much.)

Still down. First Uni assignment result in. Not much else.

So –  not much news.   Med1cation level increasing but so far – meh.

Mark for the first assignment was finally released  –  on Thursday – I got  97.6%, which is a High Distinction.  When I got the marker’s sheet, I couldn’t actually find any MISTAKES, so I can only assume she didn’t want to award any 100s, which is annoying.

And it was a stupid assignment anyway, given only to prove that you could use the library system/journal databases/internet to look things up and then reference them properly.

See what I mean? Not even that mark can drag me out of this slump.  It’s all just GREY.

I’m seeing the mental health nurse twice a week and she keeps asking if it’s time to go to hospital, and I have explained that I have very complex sleep routines that involve two different sorts of ice-packs to help me sleep, plus a hot water bottle for my feet, and I’d rather stay at home with Mr Beloved and the dog and my own things, but I’m not sure how much longer I can avoid a hospital stay.

I’ve asked for an extension for the next essay (due May 8th) so we’ll see what the lecturer says about that.  I missed the lecture last week (but caught up via the audio and powerpoint provided for external students) and missed the tute (meh).

I’ll miss the lecture this week, too, because I’m going to the dentist instead.  Oh joy.  The biggest, oldest filling I have is giving me trouble and I am NOT looking forward to having that prodded and poked at.

That’s about all I can think of.  Other stuff has happened but everything is just too grey to process.

Well, bugger. Insomnia…(rambling thoughts too early in the morning)

I’m starting to write this at 5:45 am after another sleepless night.  WTF?  Here are some things I know about my insomnia:

  • It’s not so much the lack of sleep that upsets me – it’s my struggle with my lack of sleep.  I almost woke Mr Beloved to tell him “I CAN’T SLEEP!” but by the time I even thought of using that strategy, it was 5 am.  *headdesk*  If I had been brave enough to do that earlier in the night, say at around 2 am, I could have had his help while I took the dreaded val1um (and possibly had some rest.)  But we  know about my fear of val1um and I am even more wary of it after the Incident of The Neck in the Night-time.  And by “brave” I am not saying that Mr Beloved is scary – just that I find it hard to be kind to myself sometimes and ask for help.
  • I have a repertoire of “tricks” that usually help me sleep.  These include: slowly savouring about 1/3 of a cup of frozen raspberries; eating a small piece of cheese (protein helps? I dunno); taking off or putting on a layer of clothes; holding a cool wet face washer to my forehead; reading a cozy type mystery; playing the MP3 of the”Mindfulness of the Breath” exercise from The Happiness Trap (it’s not designed to make you relax but I find it very calming).    Sometimes NONE OF THESE WORK.  And I am learning to be okay with that – to stop struggling with not falling asleep.  (Also, I have just reserved a book at the library that looks promising: Sleep Well, Live better: 3 Steps to Good Sleep. We shall see. I am not keen to add any more med1cat10ns because of interact1ons with all the stuff I already take.)
  • My sleep hygiene is important to me, even though some of the things I do (reading in bed!) are NOT recommended.  I am careful about how much caffeine I consume and when;  I take my evening med1cat10ns at an early enough time to let the sedat1ng ones help me get drowsy; I rarely nap during the day (sometimes to my detriment).  Even when I am super tired, I can’t actually get to sleep without reading at least a few pages.  (It’s a habit of at least 38 years, so it’s not likely to change!) The problems happen when I read entire books…which is something I did last night.  (Damn you, Charlaine Harris, for making “Dead Reckoning” the best Sookie Stackhouse book yet! But my insomnia was not entirely the book’s fault – I knew I was very wakeful when I got into bed.)
  • I have times when the aches of fibromyalgia either stop me from getting to sleep or wake me up (and I can’t get back to sleep.)  Now I’m thinking about it, what I need to do in those times is have a nice hot shower/warm bath.  Hmmm.  Or do the full body scan mindfulness meditation, that seems to help.
  • Sometimes if my nose is sniffly I can get really weirded out about putting my CPAP mask on.  Often I can overcome this by lying quietly in the dark and then putting the mask on while engaging “observing mind” – pretending I am a compassionate and gently interested scientist observing the feelings of the mask on my face.  (This is another part of the mindfulness training that the Unhelpful Psychiatrist dismissed as “just a bandaid”.  I don’t believe it is. U. P.  said I need to “address my underlying anxiety or the problem will never be solved”.)
  • Sometimes if I write in a journal I can get to sleep.  Last night though, there really wasn’t any specific anxiety that was bugging my brain and stopping me from getting to sleep. In fact, the journaling seemed to be stimulating rather than soporific.  So after three pages, I stopped.
  • I seem to have insomnia round the full moon.  Despite scientific studies NOT finding any links, there is so much anecdotal evidence for some sort of link that I have to wonder what the scientists are missing.  My bedroom has decent blockout curtains, so I usually don’t notice the full moon UNTIL I realise that I haven’t slept and oh look, it’s about a month since the LAST time I couldn’t sleep.
  • (It’s just started raining.  I find rain on the roof is really lovely to help me sleep.  I have to have a fan on in the bedroom to move the air and to provide white noise.  The current pedestal fan was about $15 and the motor is SHOT so it sounds like a damn Cessna!  I will be buying a new fan TODAY.)
  • AFTER a night of not sleeping, I get anxious and scared about not sleeping because I worry that it is the onset of mania.   I know that this story is not helpful and it’s one that often plays in my head. So, hey, let’s give it a name – hello, Thelma!  It’s you again!  (This may be my favourite defusion technique. My Helpful Psychologist and I recently decided to name my “OMG I’m letting people down” story as “Myrtle”.  The names sound silly, right? But it helps to show those unhelpful stories for what they are – just old stories my brain likes to play with.  Those stories are not reality.)
  • The change of Seasons (hello, Spring!) is a time that manias can ramp up.  So it’s a time I am more aware of (and more anxious about) mania symptoms.  Now that I have expressed this, I can probably let it go more easily.
  • I am very angry that instead of taking my concerns about not sleeping seriously, the unhelpful psychiatrist wanted to talk to me about my childhood.  WTF?!
  • I know that staring at a BRIGHT SCREEN with the LIGHTS ON in the studio as I type this isn’t helping me get any sleep this morning.  I also know (from bitter experience) that I can (sort of) function for a day without any sleep the night before.  Science tells us that to readjust our body clocks, some sunlight in the morning is a good thing…I will be taking advantage of this soon.

What I want from a mental health professional

I’m making a wish list  – things I want in a mental health professional.  It’s possibly unrealistic, since the shortage of specialists (and my bad experiences with TWO psychiatrists now) means that in reality I’ll probably have to take whoever I can get in to see.  However:

  • I want someone who respects the other members of my mental health support team – my partner, my psychologist and my GP.  I want recognition that other things apart from medication and my infrequent sessions with the psychiatrists are valid and valuable.
  • I want acknowledgement that mental illness does not exist in a vacuum – I have other physical issues that contribute to what I can and can’t manage to do.
  • I don’t particularly want to change the medication regime that is currently (mostly) working, but if we decide TOGETHER that change is required, then the psychiatrist MUST be available for phone consultation at the very least during the changeover.  And no medication changes will be undertaken on the brink of public holidays!
  • I want someone who LISTENS to me rather than jumps on their own hobby horse. If I mention that getting fewer hours of sleep each night is bothering me, then I want that symptom discussed.  If I am concerned about weight gain as a side effect, I want that addressed.  I don’t want to hear how successful the Doctor’s daughter or sister-in-law are – unless they have the same illnesses and history as I do, it’s NOT RELEVANT.
  • I am not interested in a Freudian approach – unless it is DIRECTLY relevant to what is going on RIGHT  NOW, I can’t see how digging through my childhood can help.
  • I want compassion.  It’s not okay to ignore my distress.  If I am half way through an hour long session and crying so hard that I can’t see, then at the very least offer me a glass of water.  I am willing to go tough places if I need to, but I need kindness to get there.

Comments?  Suggestions? Am I being unrealistic here?  I would value some feedback on this…

Ugh.

I don’t know what went wrong on Wednesday but I didn’t sleep.

At all.

All night.

Which is a scary thing for me because not sleeping can lead to a manic episode.  Which I Do Not Want. It’s kind of a circular thing, too – the not sleeping can be a symptom as well as a cause…

By 10:30 last night I still hadn’t slept and was so panicked and freaked out that I ended up taking a valium – and even then poor Mr Beloved had to come and be my Sensible, as I had absolutely no sensible left myself.  He made a steam inhalation to help my blocked nose, told me the right things about my CPAP mask (which has been freaking me out for no apparent reason lately) and held my hand until I got to sleep.

I think it started with having to take more asthma medicine – it’s been cold and very smoky at nights.   I’ve changed puffers, and even though the pharmacist tells me that the two products come off the same production line and have the same active ingredient, I am convinced there is SOMETHING different in Ventolin.  Asmol *tastes* different – if you gave me a puff of one and then the other I could tell you which was which. Right now I don’t care if it’s purely a placebo effect, I just know Ventolin is working better for me.  (And thank you to my friend Tammy Gamble in Wagga for telling me that she has better success with Ventolin, too.) Shame it’s twice the price.. (it won’t be once I see my GP on Monday and get a prescription.)

And I don’t think Asmol reacted well with the Bipolar medications (or perhaps just the Bipolar itself.)  It’s hard to tell whether the asthma makes me agitated (as my psychologist reminded me in a very useful session this morning,  you’re SUPPOSED to panic if you can’t breathe – that’s a hard wired survival mechanism!) or if it’s the medicine to treat the asthma that’s caused the problem.

Around this time last year I was recovering from having a septoplasty and tonsillectomy and I was having terrible anxiety and panic attacks then, too.  Interesting.

So I’m re-reading the book that helps –

The Happiness Trap

and working on mindfulness.

And now it’t Friday night – home made pizza for tea, and Coast on SBS, then I watch Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance.  And if I need a valium tonight I’ll take it, but I’m hoping to use other skills instead.  We’ll see.

 

 

A Conversation I Had To Have: Isolation and Loneliness, and A Really Bad Dress

This morning I was chatting with a dear friend – someone I’ve known since 1992, in fact. So this person KNOWS me, as much as anyone who doesn’t actually live with me 24/7 can, I guess.

And this person expressed concern at the way I have isolated myself.  I realised that I didn’t have a single LOCAL friend I could call up today and just say “hey, let’s hang out.”  Part of this is from being part of a couple, since I do like to spend time with Mr Beloved; a lot of this problem has developed because of my mental illness and my tendency to withdraw from the world (or as Alexander Woollcott once said , “like a sinking ship firing  on all rescuers”. He said it about the British actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, but that’s not important right now.)

So I’m on this new medication and off the anti-depressants, and suddenly the days are really hard to get through.  I need to actually find things to do. But I can’t work and I can’t volunteer for things because I’m too unreliable: on a Bad Day, I really can’t do anything.  And I don’t know when a Bad Day might happen, so I can’t have anyone counting on me to show up.  But I really DESPERATELY need more human contact and more exercise, both physical and mental.

Maybe I’m almost ready to join a gym again?

I feel like I’ve burned a lot of bridges: I had a disagreement with the Quilters Club (long story, involving blogs) so I don’t feel I can go back there; my former BFF (who I had a really DUMB fight with, although we were probably heading in different directions anyway) is one of the main movers and shakers of the local Sewing Guild, so I don’t feel I can go there, either.  The gym I’d LIKE to go to – is where the former BFF goes.  So if I went there I would inevitably end up running into her…

What else is there? How do I get out there and meet kindred spirits? Once upon a time I would have found a church but I lost my faith a long time ago now.  There are lots of people to play with online, but I really need someone or a group of people that I can meet with In Real Life.  And I need to be able to do this in a way that doesn’t cost very much at all – after the week we’ve had, the dog is eating better than we are, since we’d already bought her soup bones before The Day That Went Wrong. (I forgot to mention on that post that the washing machine flooded earlier in the day, too, just to make things even more fun…)

I had been going to Social Cr8te at the local scrapbooking shop, and probably will again, I just haven’t really been feeling well enough after the surgery yet. Maybe next Thursday.  And I know a couple of the girls are probably doing scrapping there tonight, but for once Mr Beloved and I have something we both really want to watch: a special on the Eurovision Song Contest (for which we are utter tragics, it’s so kitsch and wonderful, even if SBS does insist on using their presenters rather than taking the British stream, which even without The Great Woges is generally funnier.)

So, this morning I was quite miserable about how shut in and lonely I have become. I went and woke Mr Beloved (who had not come to bed until about 5 am, as he was doing computer-y stuff, and fair enough, that’s his thang) and tried to explain that I needed to get out of the house but I wasn’t sure where to.

We ended up  going for a walk around Toowoomba’s main shopping strip – or rather, what’s left of it after the big shopping malls have forced the closure of many of the smaller, older  businesses.  Lots of empty shops.

I did get a giggle from the sign for this business:

I think it’s the juxtaposition of yoga and burlesque that makes me laugh – apart from the business name, of course.  From one extreme to the other, all in the one business.  I’m almost tempted to go check them out…

And then there was this dress:

I had to post it to my facebook page as soon as I got home and ask: “WHAT is this dress doing? Anyone want to suggest an appropriate time and place to wear this?”  (You’ll have to go see my facebook page for some answers…) I mean: Gingham with that  – what’s it called – crimplene? finish, topped with plastic/metallic beading around the boobs, with more re-embroidered lace dripping towards the waist; then the border of black lace with another ruffle of tulle and then more black netting over white tulle – omfg, I don’t know WHO designed it, but I’d dearly love to know what was going on in their head.

So: what to do? Dear Friend who got me thinking about this suggested a book club; I’ve looked on the local council’s online guide but there’s not really much there that appeals.  Surely someone else must have faced this – what did YOU do?  Any suggestions gratefully received…