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Bipolar diary – three months alcohol free

And I have to say I don’t miss it in the slightest. It hasn’t been the great cure-all I thought it would be – another win for naivete there – but I certainly fare better without alcohol than I do with it.

I’ve had two or three times where I’ve had the slight craving for a pint, actually there was one time I fancied several. I know something had pissed me off that day, and there had been minor annoyances the other times I fancied a drink too, but in everyday life and in the little socialising I’ve done this year, I haven’t missed it at all. I don’t have a problem being around alcohol either, and actually much prefer it if people do drink around me and behave as they normally would.

Of all the things I’ve been told and read about bipolar, all the dos and don’ts and ways to help yourself, cutting out alcohol has by far been the easiest, which, you know, considering how big a part of my life it was in terms of socialising, is kinda surprising I guess. All I know is that at some point you just get bored of being dysfunctional. It gets annoying that other people can switch off after drinking and get back to normality and live their lives, have jobs, function, whilst for you drinking either sends you….well, in the direction of one extreme or the other, let’s leave it at that because the absence of alcohol is a very positive thing and it would be silly to temper that in any way with talk of symptoms.

Here’s to another alcohol free month.

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My daily journal – it seems strange that less than two weeks ago…

I was talking about stepping out in front of a car and welcoming the impact. Sitting here, typing this as I am right now, I can’t help but think how strange and peculiar the mind can be, releasing those kinds of thoughts and also rationalising them too. Certainly the past few weeks have made my already strange brain more variable in its mood than it would usually be.

I spoke yesterday about how my devil now has a name and how that simple fact is empowering. My devil has a name and a personality; it has character traits that I can identify and watch out for, I have the knowledge too plan ahead and ward it off the best I can.


 

Whenever I come back from the brink and escape the real dark thoughts, I wonder how anyone could possibly feel so low, so utterly hopeless, so lost and devoid of hope, as to wish such terrible things. How tragically sad it is to be in a place that the idea of throwing yourself in front of a car seems a perfect answer, a sweet escape. It seems so alien now, as it always does; how could I have felt that way? It makes my heart ache for the people that are feeling that way today. I feel a deep sense of sorrow for those who are in the position I was in, who do not understand what is happening in their mind, who have not yet reached the point where they reach out for help and begin down the path of recovery. It is a terrible thing, a truly terrible thing to be lost, confused, in pain, to not understand, to not have answers, to feel alone, vulnerable, hurt, every word no closer than the last to truly describing the anguish.

I wish I could save everyone. Too me that sounds and reads like a trite statement, but it is the truth. It is the truth.

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My Daily Journal – birthdays, weddings and relationships

As I mentioned earlier, it was my Mums birthday today. It was also my ex-girlfriends wedding day. I had an invite to the ceremony, reception and a room at the hotel for the night as well. In the end I contacted her this week and explained that I couldn’t go, explaining that I just wasn’t well enough to attend. She responded by asking if it was because I still had feelings and that she thought I’d moved on. The truth is, that I most definitely have moved on, I just genuinely am not well enough. I stated this to her, but whether or not she and my other friends that are attending will believe that, or simply assume that my recent troubles are an easy convenience to hide behind, is of no concern to me. I should stress things were not left in a strained way and my two friends, who are bridesmaids and two very close friends, have both been supportive through this whole process.

To be honest since I got the invite I’ve had an onslaught of views and opinions ranging from ‘why would you go? I wouldn’t invite an ex’ to ‘I wouldn’t go to an ex-girlfriend’s wedding’ to ‘you’re still friends, so why not?’ It doesn’t really help that I’m reticent to go into too many details that would add more colour and clarity for anyone reading this.

All I know is that such an event would no doubt have been a trigger for me and tested my resolve in ways I doubt I could cope with at the moment. And with event being the right word – with a very large crowd in attendance and the whole occasion unfolding in a manner befitting my ex and her families status – it was best to avoid it*.

You see, you walk a damn fine line between normality and madness when it comes to bipolar. Sometimes the sheer energy of a place can send you into a manic state where you lose your judgement. As I say, I don’t have romantic feelings for her anymore – I’d question my sanity if I still did – just happy ones that she’s getting married. For that reason I think I would have struggled not to get swept up in the day. It may sound silly, but from past experience, I can look at that mood scale I referred to yesterday and easily foresee myself racing up the scale. Or maybe not, maybe I’d race down it, but whatever the mental response, I doubt I would have come out of it feeling balanced. The sheer amount of socialising, the mental toil of being switched on, the question of alcohol; would I be strong enough to refuse? If I did how would I be able to handle the question of why I wasn’t drinking? Would I be comfortable enough to be open? Or would I crumble, succumb and lose my mind to excess and put myself in danger over the coming weeks from the skewed reality alcohol leaves me with. I’ve written enough recently about being mentally exhausted, I mean it wasn’t that long ago I was talking about my mind being perfectly accepting of very dark thoughts.

No, best to retain the equilibrium I have found for the time being as I continue my journey forwards. Nothing is more important than that and I must protect myself and look after myself. On Monday my counsellor said that, with everything I’ve been doing, there are tangible, life-affirming green-shoots of recovery, but they are fragile, as they would be. Now, I hate to think of myself as fragile, I’d much rather see myself as strong, tough, able. But the truth is the truth.

I can’t shake the thought that today is the biggest day of my exes life but yet at the same time, what is unfolding in my life right now is probably the most important period of my life. One day I’ll look back and be able to say, that was the point in my life where I started to turn things around, where I got back on track, where I started to find answers and build for a happier future. That is a great thing.

So yes, today I’m staying home and celebrating my mum’s birthday with my family.

* Further on that second paragraph, I’ve steadfastly refused to go into details about the relationship on this blog, if I ever do discuss it here I’ll choose my words and sentiments carefully as it wasn’t exactly a healthy relationship. If I were too choose one word for now to describe it, it would be messy, but there were certain situations that transpired where I was able to help her in fundamental ways, actions which I’m proud of but again, that isn’t for now.

 

 

What I got my Mum for her birthday

At Christmas I got far more creative with my lack of money in getting gifts for my mum, for her birthday I kept very simple and decided on a book –

ariana huffington

 

Shit me that’s a big picture, didn’t think it’d come out that big. Anyway, over the last couple of months our relationship has improved immeasurably and we’re both set on moving forward with our lives. My mum suffers from ME, something incredibly frustrating when you consider in the past she was exceptionally active, owned her own business etc.

One of the things I’ve been working on at my work program as I’ve mentioned is positive thinking and we both quite like books such as this that are in that sort of ballpark. The back has a recommendation from Susan Cain, whose book Quiet I reviewed here. Anyway, she liked it.

My mum is an excellent cook and settled on a English tea theme for the meal. Well actually, she cooked a main meal of lamb curry too. And before anyone says anything she prefers to do the cooking herself and no that isn’t a critique on my cooking skills per se, just that there are levels, she’s Premier League, I’m Championship. And I washed up.

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Scones, three different kinds of cake, cream, jam, chocolate sauce, good stuff

 

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Bipolar Diary – Staying Positive

I think the key thing that has sprung up this week in counselling and also in week two of my getting into work program down at the mental health charity is the empowering nature of having a name for my devil. Yes it’s annoying, frustrating, I still feel angry, but at least I know what I’m dealing with, so I can plan for the future properly for the first time since I embarked on my first failed attempt at a degree at the age of 19. That’s a long time to have been unstable, a decade in fact, but after a lot of careful thinking, I think I’ve identified what first triggered my bipolar and from there the slow descent into the position I find myself now, which, thankfully, is indisputably at the beginning of an upward curve. I’ll talk about that first trigger in a future post.

I printed off a mood scale from Bipolar UK, which looks something like this –

MOOD SCALE

This past week I’ve been hovering between a 3 and a 4, which might not exactly sound great, but I’m finding it easier to cope by not expending valuable energy fighting the tide. I simply say to myself that it is a fact I am not feeling 100%, but I recognise it isn’t my fault, so just keep doing as you are. Certainly I feel in the past I may have driven myself to distraction arguing with myself and maybe not turned up to the work program.

The only thing that derailed me slightly this week was a late night on Tuesday. My friend is a teacher but had no lessons on Wednesday so I met up with her to play pool. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks and I hadn’t told her yet about the bipolar stuff and wanted to do it in person, plus she’d spoken about having a stressful time recently and we’re both pretty good at helping each other, giving each other advice. And I just like spending time with her.

The late night though had a knock on effect the next day and also into Thursday, where in class I found myself slipping into thoughts of ‘I don’t need to be here, I’m perfectly healthy, I’m not ill etc etc.’ But I’m sticking resolutely with my routines and feel somewhat back on track. I’ve spoken previously about sleep and bipolar in a post you can find here, but again, I understand so much more about the relationship between bipolar and sleep that I feel empowered by that knowledge and can work with my ebbs and flows and not against them.

In the future I’d love to live between 5 and 6 but all in good time. I’ll get there and for now, as long as I’m not 8 or above or slip below 3, I can cope with that.

So yes, that word empowering, today it’s the buzz word because we worked on coming up with empowering statements that relate specifically to us and our lives. This was after spending time looking at limiting beliefs and the way we hold ourselves back consciously and unconsciously. As I’ve mentioned before, everyone in the class (there are 6 of us) each has their own issues, in fact I think we’ve all got very different issues, although there are overlaps for all of us in terms of the impact mental health issues has had on our lives. I’ll talk about the empowering beliefs I came up with next time.

All in all then, staying positive and keeping my mind set on the future as much as possible.

therapist1

Counselling session 1 of 8: my thoughts

These are my initial, fuzzy, thoughts on my first of eight counselling sessions. I’ve struggled with sleep the last couple of nights, there’s certainly more I’ve taken from it and no doubt could write it better but, you know, I just have to relax about everything having to be just so, and give myself a break.

  • Even after only one session I can appreciate the benefits of having someone to talk too.
  • It is very helpful to have someone external highlighting what they have garnered from my words. For example, a couple of times she highlighted how hard I was being on myself in terms of the language I was choosing to describe certain aspects of my life. I had never really considered this before or how much of a burden it was to be carrying around such a powerful inner critic. After talking some more it became clear that a lot of my frustration stems from not being able to be as – for want of a better word – effective, or proactive, as I used to be. I have to approach my life in a different way, I have to find new ways to be as effective as I used to be, in terms of getting things done, functioning at a level where I can get a job, plus the way I socialise has to change. I’m basically mourning my old lifestyle. I can’t hold myself to the same standards I used to have.
  • That isn’t to say I still can’t have the same goals, the same standards, I just need to approach how I go about things differently, build in strategies to help me.
  • Almost instantly that harsh inner critic evaporated, or at the very least became more manageable. The state of play has changed, I need to have understanding with myself as I would have someone else. I’m not a failure or letting myself down if one of the myriad of symptoms rears its head and affects my day negatively. There’s a reason for it and on those days I just do the best I can.
  • I accept that I need to hear encouragement and advice from outside. I used to be able to rationalise my own problems very well. But the fact is as my mental health has deteriorated, whilst I can still vocalise good advice and sound judgement for others, I find it very hard to do so for myself. My personal judgement on how to go about things has been tainted and skewed by excessive highs and debilitating lows. This is slightly different to my inner critic and again feeds into the point about having someone external.
  • I’m very aware of becoming too reliant on her and have to remind myself that it’s the process of counselling that is helpful. It’a quite an emotionally empowering thing to have someone listen implicitly. I mention this because looking ahead I don’t want to become attached to her in a way that would hold me back if for some reason I had to switch counsellor or in the future after our 8 sessions are finished. At the bipolar support group I heard from a few people who had grown accustomed to a particular person only to have to change.
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My (not always) daily journal – some much needed respite

In the past, when I felt like this, in control, capable and balanced, I would fall back on the assumption that this is it, a new day has arrived and I have returned to my former self for good. History has taught me that this assumption is false but, significantly, recent events mean I’m not viewing this return to ‘normality’ with a sense of ‘well this is great, but no doubt it will be short lived.’ I now have a name for what I experience and the more I read, the more I write, the more I talk, the murkiness begins to slowly clear on how I can at least begin to attempt to keep myself in the place I currently find myself in.

Linking this to the other posts that have gone up tonight, there is no doubt that forcing myself into a fixed routine in terms of a sleeping and waking cycle has worked very well, with the added plus that now I know why it works

I now have to work out how to fit everything around that schedule. That in itself isn’t hard, it’s simply the social aspect that really needs to be figured out. I need to find the right balance for me because honestly, my whole life, apart from the last couple of years, I’ve been exceptionally social and also popular, but it simply got to the point where I couldn’t face the aftereffects of the kind of lifestyle that I used to have before bipolar came along. That life is incompatible with where I am currently but I can accept that. My anger and frustration is fading with each passing day (I know it’s easy to say that now when I am in a good place).

It seems now the key is recognising my triggers. As I am armed with far more knowledge then I ever have been before, this is a doable task. I’ve written a lot about the effects I experience when in the grip of an episode, now it’s about digging in and identifying precise details.

I’m determined not to fall foul of any naïve ways of thinking like I have done since I started this journey of confronting my problems, so I’m not going to make any proclamations about how if I simply do a, b and c things will be fine. I know there’s a long way to go and I still need to seek more advice and guidance, especially when it comes to what I wrote earlier about determining how I go about tackling this long term.

But at the very least I can say this is the most stable I’ve felt since, well I think actually since I started this whole process.