WORLD YOU LOVE (2)

My thoughts on my first week on Bipolar medication

Last Tuesday I started taking medication (Lamotrigine) for my bipolar disorder. This was after finally having my appointment with my assigned psychiatrist (who is also my care co-ordinator, whilst the actual term psychiatrist is mostly shortened to the word Pdoc on things like bipolar forums. I’m learning all this as I go along). Anyway, I’ll talk more about that appointment in another post, needless to say that yes, I got ‘official’ confirmation that I have bipolar (which wasn’t exactly a surprise) and that she was lovely, which somewhat allayed my fears at the time about medication.

Now onto my experiences in the first week and a bit –

  • At first I got high, like I mean really high, like I’m talking about I didn’t so much shoot up the bipolar mood scale as blast off into the stratosphere. I was positively away with the bipolar fairies. It was only when I’d calmed down a bit that I realised that what I was experiencing was something I hadn’t experienced in years – a straight up, one mood bipolar episode. It hadn’t even really, like really consciously registered to me that a) the depressive part had become a huge part of my life, or rather it had but this experience just hammered it home, and b) how recently – although I can’t put a proper time frame on recent – my ‘high’ periods had actually become mixed episodes, with usually really fucking rapid changes as well. Back in the day it was always just one predominant mood at a time. No wonder the suicidal thoughts had got worse over time. A lot of these realisations also came up in my assessment with the psychiatrist too.
  • After the initial high, which totally superseded anything else that was going on in my brain, I got really, seriously cranky. It was like this tidal wave of wants, desires and lusts hit me and swept me away. I just wanted to get smashed, spend all the money in the world and fuck. Luckily (although at the time it didn’t feel that way) I have no access to money right now, like I really don’t, and I quit drinking nearly six months ago and luckily everybody knows what’s going on so I can’t secretly and self-destructively indulge. But it was a good warning sign, you know, to keep me on my toes, and to stay vigilant when I get back on my feet and get a job etc. I have to stay sharp and on top of things. I can’t walk out on any jobs in the future or – and this is really important – rack up any more debts.
  • The most amazing aspect so far, the most amazing, scintillatingly brilliant thing I can say about the last week and a bit, are these real lucid moments I’ve been getting, which have increased day by day, where I can see, really see, a bright future; not like a false, delusional future, characteristic of a brief lull in the storm bipolar sometimes offers up as a means with which to torture you, in a kind of ‘this is what you could’ve won’ type thing, but a genuine snapshot of what could await in the future. When it comes to the depressive thoughts, for the first time ever, I have had some measure of control over them. In fact, I haven’t had a suicidal thought in the last few days (which I can’t remember happening in a very, very long time. We’re talking years here). My mind has tried to go in that direction a couple of times but I’ve been able to steer it away.
  • Granted, I haven’t got much control over the more manic phase yet – my brain has felt on fire on some occasions it has been racing so much, and I’ve been averaging like 3-4 hours of proper sleep – but I’m on the lowest dose (25mg,) and the real, therapeutic dose is way up at between 100-200mg (my first dose increase starts next Tuesday). plus in my, extensive, reading on Lamotrigine I’ve come across quite a few people experiencing the same things as me at this dose, i.e. no real control over the manic stuff.
  • My concentration has been all over the place, hence this taking me way longer than I intended to finish, I had planned to have it up exactly one week after starting the meds. But the concentration thing has been improving too.
  • I’ve sure been having some vivid dreams and nightmares.
  • Oh yeah and I experienced a new part of bipolar that I’d only ever read about (and I can’t find the exact link now) but one day for about 10-15 minutes I was both crying but really, stupidly happy at the same time, which was a total headfuck. But yeah it went away pretty quickly.
  • One of the days I heard this burst of music in my head for literally a second. It was loud, clear as day and really disorienting. But that never happened again either.
  • Oh and finally, I get really anxious at night, owing to still having worries about medication plus deep-rooted fears over side effects and something terribly wrong happening as I sleep, which no doubt has also affected my sleep but again, same with everyone else, this has been getting better with time.

And, that’s about it.

Turning into one of those nights

One of those ones where I feel myself slipping into the ‘I don’t need any sleep’ phases. Got a particular piece of music playing on a loop in my head and instead of winding down my energy is ramping up.

I know where this usually leads, the hyperness, the irritability, the eventual crash, but I’m just trying to bring all my coping mechanisms into play, all the things I’ve learnt and read recently.

I actually shed a few tears tonight, which is highly unusual; they were tears of frustration cos I’ve had a good solid couple weeks of feeling pretty damn good; the frustration is that even though I still feel good now, the other parts are starting to come into play that will end up in a bad cycle.

The frustration also stems from the fact that I know what has tipped me over. Last night I met up with some friends and ended up getting to bed a couple hours later than my usual routine and unfortunately, as I’m learning to my detriment for a second time (the second time where I’m aware and conscious of what’s going on) one small thing that puts me out of sync can bring the whole house down.

By and large I’ve made peace with the things I have to do to stay on track, I just have to learn to be even more rigid and firm in my socialising. I mean, I had a great time, and leaving earlier wouldn’t have negated that. Admittedly it’s hard to go against the pressure when people are asking you to stay and you feel like you’ve explained the implications of your illness (the small as it may seem act of the sleep schedule getting thrown off has lead to some less than pleasant thoughts as well as the impending onset of a racing mind), but when it comes down to it, it’s my responsibility.

I just have to accept this is how it is tonight and deal with it best I can and whatever comes tomorrow. I could sit and worry about how I’m gonna cope when I get a job and find myself slipping like this but that day isn’t here yet.

Wordless Wednesday

Been pretty busy with some stuff at the moment so blogging has taken a slight backseat, as has responding to comments and checking out other people’s posts. Will be catching up in the next couple of days.
But I thought I’d share this in the
meantime.

EDIT: yes, I do now realise the mistake in calling this wordless Wednesday.

SECOND EDIT LOL: it’s a tree near my house by the way.

mindfulness plain and simple

Book Review – Mindfulness Plain & Simple: A Practical Guide To Inner Peace (Oli Doyle)

If you type ‘definition of mindfulness’ into Google you get this –

mindfulness

This idea of focusing on being in the present moment, of actively practising and seeing what impact mindfulness and meditation could potentially have on me, is something I’ve been slowly working towards. As I’ve gone about my journey of confronting the mental issues that have plagued me for so long, of opening myself up to positive change in all forms, I’ve found that it has created a sort of snowball effect, the quest for positive change quickly moving from positive thought to manifesting itself in real events, each event having a sort of multiplying effect of positivity. There have been moments of resistance, but each time I have continued and moved through it.

Underpinning all of this in the last week and a half has been my practising of mindfulness, using the exercises and insights gained from this book. The simplest way to describe the impact reading it has had on me is to say that I’ve had a monumental increase in my mental clarity. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve taken from it is how our thoughts are just opinions, stories, the vast majority of which are unhelpful and negative. They either keep us locked in the past or project images of the future that so often do nothing but fill us with anxiety or fear or other debilitating emotions derived from a false reality (and let’s be honest, what actually transpires is actually never as bad as what our over active minds conjure up)

So the book essentially tells us to live in the now, the present moment, which is the only true reality. It gives you a framework to go beyond your normal thinking processes (see the above screenshot again for a definition of what this entails).

I think one of the biggest things I’ve taken from starting to utilise mindfulness is how, whilst it may sound like quite a passive activity, it actually manifests itself incredibly actively, from the way you interact with others in a calmer, more measured way, to the steady control you have over your mind, right through to complementing your personal goals and aims as you become more naturally focused on each task you do, rather than having the continuous running commentary or hum of the mind.

In truth there is so much more I could discuss about mindfulness and the start of the impact it is having on me, as there have been a multitude of thoughts and theories that have been sparked about the nature of happiness, our relationship with people, the world, the universe, what makes us tick, and even ideas about the nature of my bipolar.

I will though save those discussions for the future and leave this post simply by saying that if you are interested or intrigued by the notion of mindfulness and what it could do for you, I would highly recommend this book as a starting point.

As for me, I am continuing my own journey along this particular path and am currently reading The Power of Now and The Secret.

Restarting work on my novel

Over the last two weeks I’ve re-started work on my novel and my creative writing in general. The past couple of months saw me take my first significant break from writing in a very, very long time. I decided that taking a break was the best thing to do as my mind was divided in a million different directions owing to what was going on in my personal life. I needed time to take stock and analyse my life. Not surprisingly, when it came to looking at my writing goals and ambitions, I was realising how my productivity and quality had (quite obviously in hindsight) become inextricably linked to the ups and downs of bipolar. This was also true in relation to how many projects would get started but left unfinished.

I understand a lot of these issues afflict perfectly healthy writers and you could say that obstacles associated with things like motivation and discipline in relation to finishing creative projects and general management of productivity are all part and parcel of the struggle of getting things done.

But whilst this true, I can only speak for my own personal circumstances and say that for me these issues have been amplified a thousand fold due to my mental issues. The frustration for me comes from that fact that underneath the illness, my natural tendencies are ones that keep me very much on track when it comes to finishing all types of projects, whether they be creative or more personal goals. I have a strong inner work ethic and bundles of motivation. I’m naturally tenacious and focused. Again, most people can access these kinds of traits and use them effectively when they want something (although most find they fade after a while because they want instant results). All I can say is that I don’t have that problem when I am sound of mind; however long it takes for me to finish something, or get proficient at something, is how long it takes, pure and simple. Failures or problems along the way do not discourage me because you actually learn so much from difficult moments on a journey. You just have to keep moving forward.

The frustrating thing for me is that over the years, as I got steadily worse and with no idea what was going on in my head, I was only ever able to intermittently access what I call my ‘natural’ state of being. So, with everything that has happened this year, all stemming from me confronting and seeking help for my problems, it was time for a break as I began a new journey, which has involved educating myself on the effects of bipolar, looking at how it affected my life throughout the last ten years and learning about how it can be worked around so that I can live the life I want to lead.

When I say learning about how to work around it, I guess I really mean incorporating it fully into my life by a process of fully understanding it so that I gain control of it and not have it control me. One of the aspects of this, and one I’ve spoken about previously, is the power of routines. Keeping regular, strict routines and schedules is a proven method with which to gain some control over bipolar and as with all challenges that come your way, it is best to try and turn a weakness into a strength, a problem into a solution.

It isn’t nice to have bipolar, it isn’t nice to have to keep up strict routines and change your whole relationship and interactions with the outside world and friends. But they are minor inconveniences compared to the chaos of before and compared to the joy of starting to become grounded once again in your true self and not constantly being pulled one way or the other. Of course it is all early days but best to form good habits now and have the foundations in place, the kind of foundations that are really bloody useful when it comes to tackling a piece of work that is likely to be upwards of 80,000 words.

Knowing what I know about my mind now, it’s clear that the goals I set have to be realistic, manageable and have a certain amount of wriggle room in case of any issues that arise. So in terms of my novel, which I wanted to start from scratch and work on from the ground up, I had to ask myself what sort of timeframe I had in mind to have it finished. A year sounded realistic, achievable and doable. But it wasn’t specific enough. How many words a week? A month? A day even. The figure of 2,000 words a week popped into my head (I don’t know why 2,000 specifically, it just did). That’s more than doable I thought, in fact it’s a positively simple ask. And of course, the numbers add up because 2,000 words a week x 52 weeks = 104,000 words, which is nice, I mean I don’t even think this novel will hit the 100k mark so that’s cool. As for the word per day calculation, well, 2,000 words a week/7 days a week = 285.7, so 286 words a day.

Now then, I challenge anyone not to be able to write 286 words a day, which is exactly what I have been doing. Every morning I get up at 5am, make myself a cup of green tea, and then work on my novel. I never spend more than an hour on it, and I usually do more than 286 words, but that routine, that schedule, that ritual, is something that is vitally important to me. I have to protect my writing goals and ambitions at all costs, especially when I get back to work, which is another reason for the start time I choose. Even when I’m back in work my writing time would be protected and I’d be able to ease into my day in a way that I find helps me stay in control. The point of all this is to, as much as possible, eliminate the possibility of failure. Do a small, even a tiny amount, each day. As long as it is manageable, you’ll do it. Even on a really bad day, 286 words is ridiculously easy to achieve – especially when the time is carved out to do it. Every. Day. It doesn’t even require that much patience. A year passes very quickly.

I’m also working on a short story that the first draft will be finished for by next Wednesday. I’m planning on entering it into a few competitions, hence I have a word count to work too and can say confidently when it will be finished using the same criteria above.

So yes, I’ve restarted some of my creative projects and it feels good.

eat that frog

Book Review – Eat That Frog

Within this slight, 117 page, easily read, well executed book, you are given a variety of tips, techniques and tactics which you can use to make better use of your time, become more productive and ultimately achieve the goals you set out to achieve. That is the essence of what the author hopes to impart to you and I can quite happily say that I’ve already found it extremely helpful and I know that it will be one of those books that I come back to time and again to remind myself of all the advice.


 

Before I go any further about the book specifically, I want to quickly go over how this book came into my life, because it goes back to things I’ve spoken of before, like how sometimes it seems as if the universe is trying communicate with you.

Our house is currently on the market and after not having any luck with a traditional estate agent, we decided to try out Tepilo, which, to save time, I’ll just describe as a sort of DIY estate agent.

A couple of weeks ago a guy got in contact to say he was interested. He came round, had a look and explained that he was a property investor who bought properties, turned them into flats and then sold them on. When we sat down to discuss things further, what transpired was something that if I scripted it would seem too convenient. He asked why we were moving and my mum explained we couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore and it wasn’t something that would change anytime soon because she cannot work at the moment due to having ME.

This guy then opened up about his own story, saying how his life had taken one bad turn after another for him a few years ago until he found himself practically homeless at 29, before finding a job and doing an evening course in business and slowly building up to where he was today, a spectacular difference when you consider that he has won awards for his work within property redevelopment and now had an impressive portfolio behind him. He shared all of this with us and then started talking about his belief in positive thinking, to which my mum and I both chimed in that we were the same, whatever the problems are now, they won’t be problems forever etc.

He then started talking about books that had helped him, before making a list of specific ones that he recommended we read. Eat That Frog was on the list. He looked at me and asked what my plans were. I didn’t want to go into my whole life story, we’d already been speaking for a while, so I didn’t say anything about bipolar, or being halfway through a work program or that I myself was currently building myself up from my own personal low point and had plans to be in a job soon and would be looking to be renting my own flat and staying in London when we sell the house. So I just said that I was looking for work but that I’d be OK. He asked how old I was. At it happens, I’m also 29 (in fact I turned 29 exactly two months ago today), the same age he was when he started his journey. Weird coincidence eh.

The whole thing was a strange coincidence, to have someone with the story he had come into our home at the same time my mum and I have recently been reaffirming our commitments to be open only to positivity and moving forward with our lives. There was a certain synchronicity to the meeting that took place.


 

So, back to the book, and to be honest, if you just glance through it quickly, you may see chapter headings like ‘Prepare thoroughly before you begin’ or ‘Plan every day in advance’ and think that it is purely stuff you already know, or that you don’t need a book to tell you that kinda stuff. But that would be to miss out on good, solid, proven techniques on getting more done.

As for someone like me who only recently discovered they were suffering from bipolar, this book has entered my life at exactly the right time. As I finally know what I’m dealing with, everything I do is geared towards how to deal with it, work with it and get stuff done. Time management is essential when dealing with bipolar and even in just a couple of weeks, implementing some of the things I’ve read in this book has been invaluable.

To end then, although I suppose it would appear obvious, I genuinely highly recommend this book.

As to why it’s called Eat That Frog, click on the picture below to read the blurb.

IMG_3695

card

Conflicted about counselling

My counsellor asked me what I was getting out of our sessions. I didn’t exactly know how to respond, ‘nothing’ seeming partly to be the answer, but not the entire answer, something which I would need to elaborate on, the problem being that I hadn’t felt articulate or eloquent enough when I was explaining simple things in our sessions, let alone unpacking everything behind what I would mean if I answered ‘nothing, but also something’. So I stayed silent. She said that what was happening in our current session wasn’t really therapy, and that she didn’t want me to feel trapped, or feel like I had to keep going if I didn’t feel I needed it. She said maybe it would be best to stop our sessions until I reached the point of feeling like I really needed to see her, or at the very least come back and see her after I’d had my psychiatric assessment on May 19th.

I think the issues here are varied. I think our definitions of therapy do not overlap with one another; if I were to be blunt about it, maybe hers is too narrow? Although on the other hand, what does she see and hear when she sees me? Well, someone who consistently explains things in a calm, measured manner. I can’t help that, it is the way I am. Earlier today I wrote about having made one month of good progress. I described the same things to my counsellor yesterday and I suppose the question is, what is there to provide counsel on when you’re dealing with someone who rationally explains everything. Everything I say to her is true, including how, now that I know it is bipolar that makes my brain spit out thousands of debilitating , conflicting and false thoughts every damn day, I can somewhat control my emotional and physical response.

But you see, the whole truth is complicated. It is utterly, thoroughly exhausting to have to be switched on and mentally vigilant every damn minute of every damn day to stop your mind swinging wildly. Honestly, it requires the kind of mental energy whereby you can actually feel your brain getting hot as you try and force it out of any of the thousands of loops it gets itself into.

Then there is the horrifying daily occurrence where it feels like the floor of your whole world has just given away and you drop into a cauldron of hopelessness and for a while you have to battle the deepest darkest thoughts and emotions that people shouldn’t have to deal with. And then, at the end of many days, you have that same feeling resurface just after you turn out the light and try and sleep, knowing that if you go to bed any later than the time that just works, the knock-on effect will simply not be worth it. Either it will throw you off the depressive deep-end, in which case goodbye productivity and anything getting done as you spend the next day stewing in a thick soup of hopelessness and self-hate. Alternatively, a restless night could buy you an all expenses trip to hyper city, and then it’s goodbye to rationality and any semblance of the mental peace and quiet you sometimes manage to cobble together, which really isn’t peace and quiet but is actually nothing more than being thankful that a) at least I don’t feel like killing myself or b) at least my mind isn’t racing at like a thousand miles a second or have a tune going round and round and round it, or else the feeling that I’m doing this and this and this but actually you’re doing nothing because everything in existence is happening RIGHT NOW in your brain which means you can’t actually do anything or maybe you do actually do something but you do it to excess and really tumble out of control and breathe, and breathe, oh for God’s sake BREATHE. So you resign yourself to the fact the routine trumps any of that stuff, make peace with the fact that sometimes the repetitive nature of the routine sometimes feel like a prison in itself, and go to sleep. And then tomorrow you get to do it all over again. All of this without even mentioning that you wake up a good few times during the night, every night, so you never feel entirely rested.

Now hear this and hear this well, because whilst the above is true – and even within that I’ve just thrown a few choice manifestations of symptoms out there, the joyful reality is that you’re never quite sure which specific symptoms are going to get pulled out of the hat – it is also true about being calm, measured and generally mature in my approach.

I don’t really have any issues with turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Positivity is in me, right down to my core, and along with ambition it drives me. Yes, it gets tainted, even submerged sometimes, but it happens because of an ILLNESS I have, an illness I didn’t know I had so I could never work WITH it and instead spent a decade working AGAINST it and against myself. For ten years I had it, for half a decade I became a victim blamer. I blamed myself and saw myself as weak and a failure. But I’m not. I’m smart, I’m capable, I have a multitude of talents. And now I can actually put things in place to utilise what I have. The biggest problem I had was NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

So you see, none of that discounts or displaces all the crazy shit that goes on in my head, but I guess there’s nothing she can do in terms of CBT. Maybe the psychiatrist can, maybe he’ll recommend medication and I’ll cross that bridge and make that decision when I come to it.

And it is here we get back to my point about the definition of therapy. You see, it must surely be beneficial to have a place where I can speak openly and candidly in a way that I cannot with friends. You can be open with friends to a point, and I can quite happily explain that yes, I have suicidal thoughts or yes, there are some rather weird delusions that can strike from time to time. But you simply cannot, every single time someone asks ‘how are you’, reply ‘yeah mate fine, apart from like 10 to 10:15 where shit got real and I thought about chucking myself in front of a bus but oh, that passed pretty quick, now I’m just thinking about what to have for lunch. Sup with you?’

Or maybe, maybe I don’t need any of that kind of open interaction with a therapist. Maybe I just need to keep ploughing forward. It isn’t like I’m hiding anything or repressing anything, it’s here, I’m open about it, I know what I’m dealing with and I know where I’m going.

If you made it this far, thoughts?