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 !