Friday, 23 December 2011

December 23, 2011

Just figured I'd update my blog because I'm really bored currently and haven't for ages and ages !

I suppose the most significant things that have happened recently were that I finished university + passed all my topics, and my 21st birthday. So I'll just ramble about those things for awhile.

University - I'm sure going to miss that place. I'll miss learning in a structured environment, but hey, I can always continue with my own studying. I've been working about 4 days a week lately which has been okay really, better than I expected. When I was studying I always wondered how the hell I was going to work full time when I found working just 2 days a week draining and stressful ! However, with no university to worry about, it's going okay and I'm looking forward to having lots of money when I pay off all my christmas debts :)

My 21st birthday was pretty quiet. . . As I don't drink alcohol anymore I wasn't in a particularly party mood, but having my family over was nice and everyone gave me such great gifts + money for a tattoo I want which is awesome. I kind of thought I'd feel more grown up or something, I'm not sure why, I've never felt different on any other birthday, but this one is meant to be important or something.

 I suppose in some ways my birthday has changed my thinking - next year I really want to get my health on track. I have an appointment with a rheumatologist about my constant joint pain, and I'm not sure if my fatigue and headaches might go with whatever is causing that (if anything). I've also found myself a permanent psychiatrist, who I'm hoping can help me with something to feel a bit better about my weight because it's really worrying me and making me sad lately. I know I don't look over weight or anything, but after putting so much effort into losing weight in the first place, putting most of it back on is really frustrating and I feel so out of control of myself. I'd love to get back into exercise too when I'm not so damn tired all the time. I'm just frustrated because I don't know if there is something wrong with me or it's my medication so I don't know how to help myself.

I suppose on the topic of my bipolar I have to say my moods have been pretty good lately, I've been really happy aside from the last day or two when I've felt so grumpy and sad for no reason, but hopefully christmas will be enough to drag me out of this slump. I also got my cheeks pierced today which made me feel better - i love facing my fears ! I was so god damn nervous but having my mum there with me made me feel better and it went really well :D

Anyway, I guess that's all I have to say. Sorry it wasn't a very interesting post tonight - just wanted everyone to know I'm still alive.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

November 20, 2011

Figured I'd write a post before I finish exams because I can't study tonight, my head is too messed up..

I may or may not have mentioned in earlier posts how I often feel like I have bugs crawling under my skin. . I obviously know there aren't bugs under my skin, but it's the only way to describe the kind of itchy, tingly sensation I feel. It's mostly in my joints, like my elbows, knees, finger joints and toe joints, but a tiny bit in my arm and leg bones too. I'm used to it mostly, but when I'm having a panic attack the feeling is far worse and today, I assume to the extra stressor of exams being added to my life, it was the worst it's ever been. I couldn't stop scratching my skin and was so panicked and agitated, I felt like it would feel like this forever. Morgan drove me to the doctor and he gave me some valium to help calm me down, but suggested I go back to a psychiatrist for a longer term solution because valium can be a yucky addictive drug.

It kind of pisses me off because I thought it would be like 'you have bipolar, take this and you'll feel normal', but it isn't. The mood swings went away, but the anxiety got worse, tried to treat the anxiety, and now I just get random panic attacks with weird paresthesia. I'm sick of there always being SOMETHING. Hopefully this is the last of it. . Aside from that occurring, I actually woke up in a really good mood today and lately have been feeling really positive about life. Just feels like as soon as I start feeling good, something bad happens so I'm just re-affirming that I should always expect the worst and it's not the way I want to live but I feel like I don't have a choice in the matter. Every time I try and be positive the world gives me a better reason to be negative.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see how I feel when exams are over and I enter december, my happiest time of the year !

Monday, 31 October 2011

November 1, 2011

Hi everyone !

Just thought I'd write another blog now because with exams fast approaching I won't have time over the next month or so.

A recent problem I've been having is with anxiety. When I was on anti-depressants my moods were all over the place, but I wasn't as anxious as before, however; since being off of them I've had random panic attacks. They usually occur in clusters; I'll just have a day or two a week where I am constantly ready to drop to the ground in the foetal position because of a random panic attack. . All I can think is 'I've got to get out of here' and get terrible abdominal cramps, a tight feeling in my chest and throat, I feel like I'm 'zoning out' (kind of like that whole 'white light + can't hear your surroundings properly' thing before you pass out. Anyway, it was getting to be quite a problem, especially at work and uni. . So my doctor told me to go back on the last type of anti-depressants I was on, lexapro. To be honest, while it IS another pill to have to remember to take, I'm not too bothered because I didn't really have any terrible side effects from that one and it helped me lose weight/maintain weight.

WHICH REMINDS ME ! I was warned valproate caused weight gain in some people when I first started taking it, but as I'd lost some weight over the past year I thought it wouldn't affect me because I usually eat reasonably well and do a lot of incidental exercise. Well, I was wrong. Over the course of two or so days my daily hunger levels went from minimal (I don't usually eat much) to almost uncontrollable. So so so hungry all the time, and I put on like 3 kilos in 2 weeks D: I'm kind of vain in that the idea of gaining weight is just a huge fear I have, and after putting in so much effort to lose 10 kilos, regaining 3 was a bit of a kick in the teeth. So I've kind of had to go back to extremely healthy eating and purposely exercising, which I obviously don't LOVE the idea of, but I've already lost one of those three kilos I put back on so I hope the others go away soon too, and I kind of hope lexapro helps with that. .  But we shall see !

As I was saying in the first sentence, exams soon ! This is very exciting for me; nothing compares to the amazing feeling walking out of an exam knowing a topic is COMPLETE. This is my last year of university, and I'm just wrapping up my last semester, just handed in my last assignment, feels crazy, really does. Managing to work next year is going to be a whole new adventure. I honestly don't think I can work full time, I don't think I'm either stable enough, or perhaps I'm just not like normal people who can force themselves to go to work. It's incredibly stressful for me and I don't enjoy pressure. Luckily I do have a great boss and considering where I could be working, I do love my job.. It just IS stressful. Mistakes get noticed, and can seriously affect people (I work in a pathology company), and it worries me of what could happen if I screw up. I know most other people who work there don't worry about it as much as me, but my personality is such that I am terrified of making a mistake or being seen as stupid. I'm going to work 3 days a week over the holidays and see how I go, and like I said, my boss is so understanding.. She knows all about my problems and is a really caring person so I'm hoping it goes well :)

As usual, any questions - feel free to contact me. Or give me ideas of things to write about ! I'm running out D: Thanks for reading !


Saturday, 22 October 2011

October 23, 2011

Howdy y'all.

It was my first little sister's birthday yesterday ! Shelby turned 18, which is a big deal of course, her being an adult now, so we had a big party to celebrate. I decided to take my medication later than usual and have a few drinks earlier on in the night because unfortunately I have enormous social anxiety and the idea of facing a large group of people without any kind of chemical assistance is too daunting. Unfortunately valproate and alcohol don't mix, and I only had about 2 drinks when I started feeling funny + really snoozy. Also if I skip my medication, my muscles twitch so hard it actually moves my whole arm/leg, and my whole body is itchy. It makes me want to murder people, really, it's SO uncomfortable. I had no idea this medication had withdrawal type side effects.. So anyway, I tried real hard to be sociable but I have no idea how I went. It's hard for me to imagine how I come across in conversations because in my head I'm thinking of a reply / a conversation starter, I'm counting how many seconds between eye contact, thinking about my body positioning so I don't come across as rude, trying not to panic when there's an awkward silence, etc. So I'm not totally sure if I come across as awkward and petrified as I feel on the inside, or if I just seem like some nice chatty kid.

I guess feeling so yucky has basically lead me to decide that I'll probably quit drinking. . there are few things I hate more on this earth than vomiting and having a headache, and combining them is some special kind of hell so I just can't risk it. I think at the end of the day, I have to think about what is more important - staying on medication and feeling mostly happy and stable, or quitting meds and going back to feeling like a train wreck but be able to drink a fair amount. . And of course, I pick the first one. It just means I have to find some way to work on my social skills, or at the very least accept that I'm awkward and not engage in any future social interactions ever. While I was toying with the idea of living in a mountain cave and eating nothing but imported salt and vinegar chips, Morgan suggested I try work on my social skills :C So in any case, I am going to try and not be such a socially awkward person, please don't give me too much of a hard time if I come across as rude or anything in conversation. I just suck at it. The only people I can talk to are my immediate family, morgan, and gemma and ellana - who I've known for I think 5 and 3 years respectively. Which is a long time to get comfortable around someone !

 On a completely unrelated matter - I noticed I didn't make a blog about a recent decision I made. I decided to get dreads months ago but couldn't find anyone who used the technique I wanted, until about 2 weeks ago when someone on my facebook said they could dread hair without using products or back combing - just what I wanted ! We met up and now I have a head covered in tenacles which I love so much ! No more swearing at my hair / the mirror every morning cause it looks awful. I'm very happy with the result C: so if you're serious about getting your hair dreaded, let me know and I'll give you contact details (or check out 'Zephyr Elf' on facebook. Thanks for reading !

<3 B.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Kids + Mental Illness

I'm feeling inspired to write this blog due to the recent birth of my first niece, Annabelle Grace. My brother's partner, Jodi, made me so proud throughout the whole pregnancy; she never drank, smoked, didn't take ANY medication except for the supplements she was told to take to help her body, she was such a trooper. The whole birth went a little less smoothly than hoped but Jodi and Curtis were so brave and made me cry on more than one occasion. I can't be more proud of them. And now, we have a beautiful little baby in the Freshney house who couldn't be more beautiful if she tried. . .

The whole experience has made me really clucky to say the least ! But, to begin with, I'm a planner. Have to finish uni, have to get my own little place with Morgan, have to have lots of money, etc. But in addition to those little things I would LIKE to have planned out first (I realise life doesn't always work according to plans) I also have to contend with the fact that I do have a mental illness and I am prescribed some pretty yucky medication to make me able to function on any kind of normal level.

The medication I'm on is category D I believe, which basically says it is known to cause birth defects, but the benefits may outweigh the risks. I have to decide, with the help of some medical professionals, whether the risk of severe depression + mania is great enough to risk the health of my unborn baby. Re-reading that sentence makes me feel so selfish, but if I can't look after myself how am I going to look after another little human who is totally dependent on me ? The risks to the baby include increased risk of spina bifida, lower IQ, and some craniofacial abnormalities. . It is still only a RISK and lots of healthy babies are born to women on valproate all the time, but is it a risk I want to take ? Then there's also the risk of taking medication while breast feeding and possibly harming the baby, but the chance of me having post natal episodes of depression/mania are ridiculously high, and are usually more serious than those that occur without the new stressor of child birth + raising a baby. I also have to consider what I'd do if I accidentally got pregnant. Yes, I use birth control now, but what if it fails ?

There isn't just the physical risk to the child that concerns me. I have to worry about the likelyhood of passing bipolar onto my kids because it does have a genetic component. I also worry about the long term effects of my mood on my kids - I'm I guess what you'd call 'in remission' now. . I'm neither up nor down, and I really do love it (well I do miss the 'ups' but they weren't worth the 'downs'). But I know episodes could still occur in the future, and while they may be less severe than usual, I'm terrified of mentally screwing up a kid. I think having a little sister who is 16 years younger than me has really upset me in some ways because when I'm sad and I have her around me I feel so guilty and worry about her seeing me like that will do to her in the future. She's so young and these times are crucial to her mental development, I don't want her to remember growing up and remembering me being a mess.. I hope she's too young to remember.

Having a grandmother who has bipolar episodes has had a big impact on me and my siblings. We have learned to tiptoe around her and often worry about telling her things / asking her things because of her mood. I'm scared I'll be like that to my kids. I don't want them to ever see me as unpredictable in a scary way or have to worry about talking to me.

I guess there's no reason to worry now and I'll just have to deal with it as it happens and make the choices as the options arise. Maybe if you are mentally ill and there are kids in your life though, especially children who count on you/trust you, THINK about what you're doing to them. And if you don't want to get better for yourself, for christ's sake, do it for them. You don't know what damage you could be doing.

Also, in relation to my first post, don't give teen parents shit until you really understand what kind of parent they are. My brother and Jodi are young parents and they are so much more responsible than a bunch of adult parents I know. Age means NOTHING in terms of responsibility.

Guess that's it.


Friday, 30 September 2011

September 30, 2011

I just thought I'd write a quick blog letting everyone know what's been going on in my life, while I wait for Morgan to finish work at take me home. .

Basically I've been on the full dose of valproate for almost two weeks now and I feel really really happy. I think before the problem was I had a good life but I couldn't appreciate it, or appreciated it too much in a short amount of time. . But now things are balanced. Bad things make me feel bad, good things make me feel good, and considering I am actually pretty lucky with the way my life goes, I'm feelin' good. This has basically been my general thoughts for the last week; before that I was sick. My tummy hurt from the tablets, then my wisdom tooth decided it was a good time to start growing again so my whole jaw + part of my throat was swollen and sore. Then I took too much neurofen to try and fix it and ended up with excruciating stomach cramps which was awful. But it went away thankfully ! Just last night I forgot my tablets and woke up feeling like my old bipolar self this morning, which was a rude awakening as to how quickly things can spiral downwards. .

I've been on holidays from uni for the past 2 weeks or so, I'm back to uni on tuesday D: The first week was ruined by feeling yuck and then I had to do assignments over the weekend + monday + tuesday but I powered through them and hope to enjoy my last weekend of freedom before throwing myself back into school.

Because of my tooth ache I had to get a dental x-ray thing, which meant I had to take out my bottom lip piercings, which made me kind of sad. I was going to get my cheeks pierced in their place, but unfortunately I have a big blood vessel in the way so that didn't go ahead. I put one of my lip piercings back in and got the otherside done, and I'm so pleased :D I went to modify body piercing on king william street; Suzie gave me my first lip piercing when I was 18 and has given me nearly all my piercings since (with the exception of Harmony who also works at Modify). I was also disappointed to find out the modification artist Efix Roy postponed his trip to Adelaide, which means my scarification and tongue split are also postponed. . but if you want something done right, you have to go to the best so I'll have to wait !

In any case, my life has been kind of boring since I've been happier. Which actually feels nice. . nothing to worry about. I still have a few blogs left to write on specific aspects of mental illness, so if anyone has anything they want mentioned aside from mental illness + friends + being social, and mental illness + children then let me know, I'd be happy to write one :) Thanks for reading !


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

September 7, 2011.

Just a quick blog to let everyone know how my medication is going. Basically coming off of my antidepressants is giving me awful abdominal pain and a fuzzy head, and i'm predicting the brain zaps will start within the next few days. Valproate is giving me mad nausea all night so I can't really sleep at night, I'm just surviving off naps during the day when the tummy ache has faded enough to rest. This new drug takes 2 - 4 weeks to work so I am chemically 'alone' at the moment. Which accounts for the fact that I feel LIKE TOTAL SHIT. I'm grumpy, I'm tired, I can't focus, I can't have too many people around me because then I start feeling panicked and overwhelmed, I can't eat, occasionally I stop feeling 'real', ETC.ETC.ETC.

So I've taken this week off uni mostly to rest so I don't have some level 5 breakdown in the library because I couldn't find a helpful journal article regarding point of care testing (yes, this happened monday). So please, if I don't seem like myself, give me a break. I'm trying to distance myself from every one who I care about because it's you guys I feel the most comfortable going crazy at because I love you. weird, I know. I just don't want to upset or hurt anyone right now.

I guess I feel kind of naive for thinking that I'd feel better straight away. But I have to remain optimistic ! Things will get better soon. Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know what's going on. Hopefully my next post is much happier.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Parents + mental illness.

Well today is fathers day ! I stayed at my parents house last night to spend time with my dad. We watched the football and unfortunately dad got really mad because the crows lost, but I think he was happy overall that Jordan and I spent time with him, plus all the other kids of course :)

Its been a really tough journey for my parents, watching their first born having such a hard time with life for so long. I remember one time in particular I came home from uni at lunch time, went straight to bed and hid under the quilt and just cried and cried. . I didn't know what was wrong, but my chest hurt so much, like someone I loved had died, even though nothing had happened. I remember my mum sitting next to me on my bed asking me what was wrong and what she could do and I kept saying nothing and the look in her eyes was so heartbreaking, I'll never forget it.. A look of pure helplessness. Mum and dad have been with me through all my ups and downs, and I owe them everything. I think I have my dads grey eyes, his perfectionism and shyness, and my mums teeth, shopaholic ways and need for everything to be done straight away ! I guess the point I'm trying to make is that so many people who are mentally ill either rely totally on their parents, or completely push them away. . and maybe when I was younger I pushed them away, but now that I'm 20, I need my mummy and daddy more than ever. Some days I come home after university and lie on the couch, and mum rubs my feet and we watch television together. I still need dad to drive me to new places that I'm scared to drive myself, or if I need a ride anywhere. And every saturday night I'm home, dad always comes and hugs me goodnight and tells me that he loves me. When I sleep over and dad isn't there, because he works nightshift, sometimes I make mum come and tuck me into bed still. I'm just a big ol' kid and sometimes I feel sorry that my parents have a 20 year old baby :P Mostly, I hope they know I do still need them and love them so much. I am so grateful for the childhood I had, and that my parents are always there for me. Having bipolar disorder I know there's a strong chance my kids will have it too, and I don't know how I'll cope, to be honest. I don't know how my parents do it, watching me be so sad. . The times I've curled up in my mums arms and told her I can't live anymore, she's so strong to have gone through that. And my poor dad being a nightshift worker and not being able to be there for me as much as mum. . I think it would have been just as hard for him because he couldn't even be there to try and help.

There's also the whole 'i feel sorry for my parents for having such a weird first child/daughter' thing. I know it makes my parents angry when we go out and I get stared at. It's like water off a ducks back to me, but they're still so protective of me. I guess I'm trying to say sorry for being a blue haired, pierced, tattooed weirdo :) And I'm sorry for insisting I want my tongue split and subdermal implants, but I won't push my luck !  I think my parents have learned to accept me for who I am, whatever that is, and I'm glad they still love me even though I'm a tad eccentric. I don't think they know how much it means to me that they don't give me crap about how I look and I'll forever be thankful to them for that. I truly think I have the best parents evaarr !

If I've learnt anything, it's that you only get one mum and one dad. So be good to them, kids! And gosh, THEY LOVE YOU, so tell them how you feel. There is nothing like a hug from your mum or dad when life is hard. Don't shut them out - it hurts everybody.


On another note - the medication I'm due to start tomorrow has side effects including MASS WEIGHT GAIN. So I've decided I'm going to drink those yummy diet shakes for breakfast and lunch (not dinner), just to try and keep the possible weight gain at bay. I would diet but I hate vegetables so shakes it is. So PLEASE don't be all 'why are you drinking them, you're skinny already !' because I'm not trying to lose weight.. I'm just trying not to gain it. Also, I've decided to quit drinking aside from rare occasions like my birthday, because I'm trying to be healthy and take care of my body while taking this drug because it can be quite toxic if you don't take care of yourself.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Ask questions, etc.


Friday, 2 September 2011

September 2, 2011

So today was my big day ! After waiting what felt like an awfully long time, my psychiatrist appointment day arrived ! He was a really friendly guy, and after chatting for just under an hour he decided I did, infact, have type 1 bipolar disorder. He also said the antidepressants I'd been on were probably making me feel worse rather than better, and so I'm supposed to phase them out over the next two weeks. He also prescribed me a new drug - sodium valproate. It's apparently some anti-epileptic drug that has shown to work as a mood stabilizer aswell.

Aside from giving me a diagnosis and new treatment, the psychiatrist also cleared something up for me that I'd been worrying about for some time. When you're mentally ill, and have been so for some time, you begin to wonder what is 'you', and what is just a consequence or side effect of the mental illness. I was telling him how I'm incredibly quiet, have difficulty making friends, don't really feel very connected with people or have any common interests with them, and constantly find myself questioning peoples actions because I truly can't understand how they made such decisions and can live with themselves having done so. I thought this whole isolated, somewhat misanthropic behaviour was caused by my mood, mostly my depression, because when I'm manic I don't really give a shit. But apparently, nope ! I was informed that I have an 'outsider' personality, and that I will always be this way. I'm happy to know that what I was thinking and feeling was actually 'me', but at the same time it is a tad sad, just knowing I'll never be the social butterfly I always hoped I'd transform into so I didn't have to deal with this crap anymore. But hey, I have to accept who I am. I may not have many close friends, but the people I am close to know just how much I adore them, because I only let the best of the best into my life. I may not ever understand the way most other people work and why they do the things they do, but I just need to realise that this is OKAY ! I don't have to understand everything. I just have to learn to be happy with what I do have, and what I do know and be able to admit when I don't know something.

This is all part of the chapter in my life I guess. I really hope this medication works, but at the same time I don't want to become too excited about the prospect of stability, just incase it doesn't happen. I also don't want to get my hopes too high, because I'm not so sure how I'll change yet. I'm told I'll still be moody, but the moods will be less severe. I might wake up and feel sad still, but it won't stop me from doing the things I have to do. I'll be 'functional'. I suppose that's all I can ask for.

Anyway, that's all I have to report today. I think I'd like to do my next blog on mental illness + parents, with fathers day coming up and all. Thanks for reading ! And as always, feel free to contact me. I don't bite <:D


Saturday, 27 August 2011

August 27, 2011.

This isn't really a blog about anything in particular. I just thought I'd write one because I've had a strange week and might have seemed kind of 'off'.

I guess Thursday was the worst day. I woke up in a really bad mood and it just got progressively worst and I was a grumpy, teary mess by lunch time. Work wasn't too bad - the best thing about my work is that you just sit down, do your work, and go home. There's no dealing with customers, which is great. That sounds awful I know, but there's nothing worse than feeling awful and having to go to work and put on a fake smile and ask people how they are, when all you want to do is curl up in a ball in some kind of quilt tent and cry until your eyes are swollen and have no more tears left.

I can't really remember Friday, which I think means I was in a good mood. Which brings us to today . . I dropped Morgan off at his dads and took my grandma out shopping because she was grumpy at my brother. I felt bad because I was meant to spend time with my dad and he seemed really sad, which made me feel awful. I always feel like my dad doesn't know how much I appreciate + love him. In any case, aside from making my dad sad, I feel okay today. I know I'll have a chance to have some drinks + hang out on Saturday night with him for Daddy's Day C:

I just wanted to clarify something. If I'm in a sad or angry mood, I'm not sad or angry at you. If I were, I'd tell you. So don't worry ! Don't constantly ask me what's wrong, either. Because most of the time I don't have a god damn clue what's wrong. I LOVE my life. I feel so incredibly lucky because I have everything I want and need (minus millions of dollars, but I'll deal with that). I have no real control over my mood. So when I say nothing is wrong, or I don't know what's wrong, I'm telling the truth ! If I look tired, or grumpy or I'm not talking much (when I usually do around you), don't worry. I'm having a bad day. The tablets I'm on currently mean one day might be bad, but the next day is okay. Usually the bad mood lasts weeks, so I understand why it might be strange now that my mood is constantly changing. But all I ask is that you don't interrogate me; it makes me feel 10000x worse.

The thing is. . I made this blog so I can tell people how I'm feeling because I HATE doing it in person. The internet has this comfortable sense of being impersonal, so I'm telling you how I feel without it feeling like I actually am. I hate constantly complaining about how I'm tired or how my bones hurt or how I feel like I'm going to burst out of my skin at any second. I don't want to constantly talk about how I feel with the people I care about. I could spend all day telling you every single negative thought inside my head, but where would that get us ? I know how ridiculous most of them are as much as the next guy. I really rely on you guys to distract me from myself and make me laugh, cause that's why you're in my life ! I don't feel very human most the time, so I choose to surround myself with funny, happy, amazing people, because the people in my life are the only people who make me feel attached to this earth + to life.

So to the people in my life, thanks for 'putting up with me'. I know it's a challenge sometimes, but I hope you know that YOU are not the problem. I'm just going along, trying to make the best out of a sometimes bad situation, and I don't want you to worry. I'm not the giving up type (and as soon as I feel like I am, I go a-running to my mummy). Just put on a smile and make me giggle, because you being happy is the best thing you can do for me. When I want to complain, trust me, I'll do it (just ask Morgan !) but until then, let's get on with shit.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Relationships + mental illness

So it's been a while ! First things first - I scored myself an appointment with a psychiatrist in two weeks. I'm so happy I'm finally seeing a specialist and can take some real steps towards getting better.

But anyway, moving on. The point of this post is not to make it a sappy 'I love my boyfriend so much' blog, but I want to discuss some of the challenges I face when in a relationship. I won't be discussing previous relationships because a) I've changed a lot the past year or two and I really wouldn't be discussing the same 'me', and b) I would be really unhappy if I found out my ex's were discussing me and our past relationship to anyone who'd listen so it's just a 'treat other people how you want to be treated' sort of thing.

I'm currently in a relationship with this boy, Morgan, and have been for over a year and a half now. I think I'm with someone who fits my lifestyle and long term goals, we are so supportive of each other and just want each other to be happy. Having said that, I do have issues. Not that he has ever done anything wrong to me, but there are some things that I really struggle with.

To begin with, my jealousy is the biggest problem we face, and being jealous is just awful. Mostly during my 'down' moods, I feel really unlovable and feel generally bad about myself. When I'm in these moods I constantly think that he's going to find someone better who isn't so 'fat/ugly/stupid/boring/sooky/etc.' I don't really think it's an inherent insecurity per se, because I generally think I'm alright, and gosh, when I'm in an 'up' mood I'm the number one member of the Bianca fan club and don't think Morgan would ever leave me or cheat on me. It's just these stupid 'down' moods that make me question everything and draw negative conclusions, and Morgan has to suffer through having a girlfriend who is bothered by things she usually isn't.

My mood swings are also a huge problem, but I try to protect Morgan from them. When I'm sad, I just go to bed and sleep a lot. When I'm in an 'up' crazy mood, I go to my parents and can act really silly and no one bats an eyelash because there are so many people there, and my family are used to my silliness. But sometimes, they can be unexpected and then I worry he feels like he has to look after me. There have been nights where I'll go to bed early because I'm sad and then come back out of our room hours later crying my eyes out and telling him I want to die. And so, he carries me back to bed, tells me he loves me and rocks me to sleep, and I usually wake up in a slightly better mood. Other times I will be so irritated at nothing in particular, and get angry because he's tying up his shoes too slowly or something. It's so unpredictable but usually, as I said, I try and stop and think what I'm doing because I really don't want to do anything to push him away.

My general motivation in life also ties in with my mood swings. When I'm sad, I'll have to force myself to get out of bed to go to uni and work, and at timesI don't manage to do so and just stay in bed. I think it must be really frustrating for him because there is nothing he can do to make me feel any better, he just has to watch me sleep my days away or drag myself around in a somewhat zombie like state until I eventually feel better.

Another aspect of my mental illness that I think is frustrating for him is the physical aspects of being sick. I constantly have headaches, pain in my joints, sore muscles, and I am usually ridiculously tired all the time. He's constantly reminding me to take panamax or ibuprofen but I've given up on those drugs for most of the part. If I take a lot, the headaches go away, but nothing else does. So basically I'm often lying around with some kind of ailment and there's nothing anyone can do about it and it's often frustrating to watch (I imagine).

So basically, the hardest part about being with someone with a mental illness, or atleast the mental illness I have, is nothing is really predictable. My moods and thoughts are independent of what is happening in my life and aren't easy to change, so whoever is around me basically has to get used to it. It's important to note that I'm incredibly lucky to have a partner who is so supportive of me, and, well, 'puts up with me' during the bad times, because the good times we have are amazing. I think at the end of the day he knows how much he means to me and I'm pretty darn sure I mean a lot to him. Many people aren't so lucky - many people with mental illness either end up with someone who takes advantage of their vulnerable mental state and hurts them (physically, emotionally, etc) or they end up with someone who loves them but due to being mentally ill, end up driving their partner absolutely crazy. If you have a mental illness and you are in a relationship, COMMUNICATE ! Tell them how you feel, talk them through why you do the things you do and if you don't know just tell them that. Try and get help too ! It's better being with someone who is struggling but doing everything in their power to get better than someone who sits around crying or complaining and doesn't do anything about it. Because really - it does get better. Pre-medication Bianca around my first major depressive episode and medicated Bianca as of now are completely different, and no, not every day is smooth sailing but I know there is hope and I look forward to the future. And I look forward to building my future with Morgan because I know just how lucky we are to have found each other.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Medication + Mental Illness

One of the biggest misconceptions about mental illness is medication. This isn't a psychiatry or pharmacology lecture, so I won't be detailing the physiological causes of mental illness, and I won't be discussing how it's believed that medication works - because unfortunately, we don't really know. Basically what scientists think is that there are chemical irregularities in the brain, and certain medications cause changes in the brain that counteract depression in about 2/3 people. But if you do want some kind of background, feel free to message me or inbox me on facebook, I'm fairly well researched in this topic.

In this blog I'm going to be talking about the antidepressant drugs I've been prescribed in the past and how they've worked for me. The thing is, I've already mentioned that my diagnosis was bipolar disorder, which is usually treated with mood stabilizers, NOT antidepressants. Unfortunately, no intelligent GP will prescribe these mood stabilizing drugs because the levels in the body have to be kept within a very specific range and require specialist supervision. . which is why I'm waiting for that psychiatrist appointment ! I'm just on antidepressants currently to take the edge off the negative symptoms I have, the 'downs' I mentioned in my last blog.

 The thing about antidepressants is, they are only really useful in people who have severe depression. People with mild to moderate depression are usually people who are experiencing some kind of traumatic event in life and benefit greatly from psychologists + counselors to help them deal with their problem. But for us 'chemically irregular' mentally ill folk, talking about our problems doesn't fix much - mostly because we don't know why we're sad or angry or demotivated or whatever is going on. Also, before I get started I just want to make a point of saying these drugs work differently for everyone, and I can only document my personal experiences with them. You could give someone else the same drug and it could have a completely different effect, so this isn't really a drug review per se.

ENDEP (AMITRIPTYLINE); I was prescribed this drug before I was actually diagnosed with anything. I just went to the doctor because the pain I experience and the insomnia I was experiencing were driving me CRAZY. So I was prescribed this drug to help me sleep, and boy did it work. Infact, it worked so well that staying awake soon became the problem. There were other side effects too - having a dry mouth half the time was fairly annoying but tolerable. However, the hunger was pretty irritating. And when I say hunger I don't mean 'I'll sit in front of the television with some BBQ shapes', I mean this kind of hunger where I was waiting for people to leave the room so I could gnaw on the furniture in peace. It was awful. I definitely gained a few kilograms in a few weeks. So my friendship with endep was short lived, however my emotional problems were becoming far worse, so I was off to the doctor again.

CYMBALTA (DULOEXTINE); My doctor diagnosed me with bipolar and prescribed me these drugs + regular visits to the psychologist. The psychologist was a lovely lady - but when you don't know why you feel the way you do, and external events have no impact on your internal thinking/moods/etc, then there wasn't a lot she could do. So it was just me and the drugs after that. Cymbalta is from a different class of antidepressant to endep, which is why it had very different side effects. The dry mouth was there, plus nausea and insomnia for the first few days. After that subsided, I had reduced appetite, so I lost weight really easily. It took away my physical pain and helped me sleep. Unfortunately, again I was sleeping too much. I persevered with drugs for about 6 months before I threw in the towel. They did take the edge off life so to speak - the sad days weren't as crippling, the ups were more frequent. . but the fatigue wasn't worth it. By now my doctor had entered some kind of unofficial semi-retirement so I found a new GP and she helped me taper down the dose. You never go off antidepressants cold turkey - and with good reason. Even with tapering down the dose slowly I felt like I had the flu for about 2 weeks, plus I was frequently experiencing this phenomena we in the industry call 'brain zaps'. Ever been really drunk and turned your head too fast, and you experienced 2 seconds of intense dizziness ? It's like that, plus this weird jolt feeling to your brain. They sound fun but they're awful, and they were happening every few minutes. Anyway, my doctor made me fill out this form with all these questions to calculate a depression+anxiety+etc. rating. I went back to see her a few weeks later + answered the same questions. Unfortunately my scores had doubled (=a bad thing) so I was put on new drugs.

EFFEXOR (VENLAFAXINE); Effexor is amazing, really. I had the whole nausea and insomnia thing to begin with, but then this really strange thing happened. I was sitting at work one night thinking about something really cute morgan did when we first started seeing each other, and I felt this weird feeling in my chest. My heart actually felt all warm and ticklish. I figured this must be what love feels like, and boy, it feels nice ! My mood improved quickly in the first fortnight, for the first time in a long time I felt really, really good. Unfortunately, like cymbalta + endep, the sleepiness was a problem. I had zero energy, and would mentally rate how good days were by how often / how long I could nap for. One time, I was so tired I couldn't even be bothered moving my tongue when I spoke. I went back to my GP and she said that unfortunately, we should move on to a new drug. I was quite sad, my friendship with effexor was over so soon, and it was so promising ! But at the end of the day, what's the point in being happy when you're only awake for less than 8 hours ? I was told 3 days cold turkey, and then onto the new drug. I felt like I had the flu again, but the brain zaps weren't so bad. However, I was an emotional wreck. I even yelled at my dad, which made me feel awful. . I never yell at my dad :C

LEXAPRO (ESCITALOPRAM OXALATE); This is the drug I've been taking for the past two days (just half the recommended dose to warm up). To be fair, that isn't really enough time to make an accurate assessment on how it's going to go, but already my sleepiness has reduced drastically. In fact, today I forced myself to take a nap because I got so bored ! I'm not used to being awake this much and I'm just starting to realise how many god damn hours there are in the day. . My mood is slightly better but still recovering from the whole cold turkey thing.

That basically brings us up to speed with my medication history ! It really frustrates me that people think antidepressants are just these happy pills for sooky people. They don't even work on non-depressed people, and the people who are sincerely depressed experience so many side effects and may not even end up happy. Sometimes these drugs just work to numb you, and then you have to decide what is worse - feeling sad most of the time or feeling nothing at all. They can help make you happy but that depends on the individuals brain chemistry, and it's also a matter of finding the right drug, which can put your body through hell and back. Some people don't agree with the use of antidepressants but at the end of the day, if you had a headache you'd take panadol, why wouldn't you treat major depression + other mental illnesses ? They're no different.

So to summarise !
a) kids, become public health system psychiatrists. WE NEED YOU.
b) antidepressants are recommended for the severely depressed only - they are ineffective on people with mild to moderate depression.
c) They're not just 'happy pills' - they have plenty of awful side effects and aren't just a quick fix.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading + learnt something new. I haven't really decided what my next blog will be on, but I'm thinking relationships + mental illness, just to highlight to everyone what my poor boyfriend puts up with + why I can be so hard to live with. If anyone has a request for a topic they'd like instead, let me know ! I'm doing it to provide information to you guys !


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Every story needs a beginning !

Disclaimer: If you don't like what I'm saying or you feel the need to say hurtful things, go do some gardening or something else productive. You don't have to read what I write. Oh, and I'm a scientist, not an English major. My spelling and grammar aren't always perfect - don't bother correcting me !

Mental illness is like many things in life; it doesn't matter how many times, or in how many different ways you try and describe it, you can never truly understand it until you've experienced it. To be fair, I really hope none of you do, but I know so many people out there are struggling and really have no where to turn. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but due to the mental health system in Australia I'm still waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist to get a confirmed diagnosis.

All the trouble started when I was about 14. Cute little B. officially left and was replaced with some kind of short tempered, moody swamp monster. I thought I'd grow out of it, and I think my parents prayed I would, but I never really did. There's so many different dimensions to who I am and how I feel, it'd be impossible to fit it all into one reasonably sized blog. To summarise..

The downs; Feeling stupid, ugly, like no one would ever love me, worthless, I didn't even feel human. I feel like I've been wasting my time for years and I was running out of it, time I will never get back. Never being able to sleep, but this progressed to being so tired I can never stay awake. Sometimes I cry, with the same pain and intensity as grief. . My chest feels tight and heavy, like something or someone precious to me is gone and I can never get them back. It's a feeling of total loss of control and every single sob consumes your body. The pain in your head becomes real physical pain. It feels like you don't exist outside this moment and you'll never feel good again. Sometimes it's not so tragic, sometimes I just wake up and don't feel anything, I feel totally empty. Everything feels pointless and strange, like I'm awake but stuck in my dreams. I just watch the world go by like I'm not really a part of it. There's also the pain that goes with depression - chronic aching and tingling in my bones, concentrated in my joints, headaches, stomach aches from the anxiety (worrying about everything that has happened, is happening and will ever happen). The main way I describe it, and this is just my own personal silly way, is that my soul is hurting. . The essence of who I am, in every single cell of my body, is aching.

Then there's the ups; there's so much energy stuck in my bones, my muscles feel like they're full of electricity, I could run a marathon and I feel like I'll explode if I don't move around. It feels like the universe loves me, everything is going my way, I feel a part of the world and no one can stop me. It feels like someone turned the volume up in life - sounds are so loud, it can be scary - like the world is screaming at me. Colours are much brighter, it can be almost overwhelming. Everything is so much more funny and pretty. I think, 'god damn, life's going to be different from now on'. But it always goes back to how it was.

There's also the neutral aspects, not really ups or downs, just strange things I feel no matter what my mood. I constantly feel alien - like I wasn't meant for this earth and one day some space craft is going to land in little old Adelaide and take me home. I look in the mirror and it shocks me, every single time. The first thing I always think is 'wow, have I really been walking around all day looking like that?' It's not negative, it's just I don't feel like I look like this. . two eyes, a nose, a mouth, the right amount of limbs, etc. Customisations aside, I'm essentially the same as everyone else ! It's so strange to me. This is where all the piercings and tattoos come in - I could spent years visiting psychiatrists to try and learn to accept I'm a person like everyone else. Or I can get piercings and tattoos, colour my hair + wear funny clothes to take control over my appearance and feel a little bit more at home inside this shell. In addition, I also always feel like my skin is always so tight around my insides (think alien who stole the farmers skin in men in black ! ) and it feels so uncomfortable. This is amplified during the 'ups' and I feel like I'm claustrophobic inside my own skin.

Imagine going from months of 'downs' to an 'up' fortnight or so, then back to feeling 'down' and never ever feeling like you're in the right place, or even in the right body. It's tiring and confusing, and I'll probably never get used to it. Constantly feeling out of control is frightening, not just for me, but for the people around me... The poor souls who put up with me (my parents, my siblings, my partner, my friends) and I'll love them eternally for it. I would certainly describe mental illness as a battle, and so far, what I've shared hasn't even began to scratch the surface. It's so difficult to put into words, but I've really tried, and hopefully I've provided a bit of a picture of how it can feel.

I'll be looking to cover more specific things in blogs, such as: medication + mental illness, studying + mental illness, working + mental illness, friendships + mental illness, relationships + mental illness, family + mental illness, with the additional rambling blogs with details of my day to day life. If anyone has any topics they want covered, feel free to contact me on facebook or anonymously through formspring ! I'll post the links below. Thanks for reading - and I hope to find you back here soon !