What to expect when reading bi-polar wife

Thoughts and feelings of living with bi-polar as a wife, mother, and person in the world.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Myth busting and ball busting

You know, since my diagnosis I've been the brunt of various mental health misconceptions, myths and general ignorance. Thankfully I have a rigorous and somewhat sarcastic sense of humour, which at times, people aren't sure about. They think I'm either being really nihilistic or viciously dismissive.People laugh uncertainly and change the topic.If I'm in a good space, I can laugh along too and try not to let it get me down. You know ham it up a bit and make people feel a little more comfortable around the mentally disabled person.

Here is a selection of the kind of comments I've experienced over the last 6 months:

1) Oh yes, I'm a little bit bi-polar too - like being a little bit pregnant I assume
2) I'm up and down - Life is what you make it. Not when you're clinically psychotic and have to take medication to level you out its not!
3) You don't look mentally ill. This is an interesting one. I'm not sure if there is a "One size fits all" description of someone with bi-polar. Rolling eyeballs, foaming at the mouth, jumping up and down in your pants singing the national anthem and then robbing the local co-op? Maybe there is a one size fits all or Plato-esq perfect form of each mental illness, criminal persona, bus driver - Who knows! Did Ted bundy fit the desciption of a serial killer. Now lets imagine. Sitting him next the the right picture and saying, "NO, set him free, he looks more like a florist."
4) Have you spent lots of money and why aren't you taking lithium. Because actually this isn't what I do particularly, and I'm taking something else actually.
5) What triggered it, what did you do? Oh yes, by the way, its all my fault and I really want to be like this as it makes me a more rounded and interesting person.

Its usually at this point I want to punch some idiot in the face, or hold my head in despair at yet another fool in the world. (Its either that or bring out the mentally ill facial expression to frighten away the towns folk with their pitch forks....)

IN some cases it feels like a voyeuristic questioning, because really, people want to experience mental illness, particularly bi-polar with its creative flamboyance and film star dinner guest list membership. I think they'd like to believe it makes you special, not psychotic. Thing is people find it fascinating as long as its not happening to them. Trust me - its not fascinating, its a bit of a nightmare. Saying that though, I did write a very intersting brief biblical parody based around cheese. You know, Garden of Edam, the psalms of Davistow....the trinity of cheddar, brie and stilton - then the New Wine, or Cheese (Sorry for the unitended pun) of dairylea, a triangle cheese that please all palates. To be reduced in a process that then brings renewal - You know it all makes sense.Would the apostles all be mini baby bels do you think? And for all you catholics, there must be some stinking bishop!

Anyway, where was I?

prozac - 20mg and counting...

So I wait for a few weeks. I dread some kind of hideous mood alteration, but actually, it just takes the edge off. What this little miracle pill has done, is to reign in the outer limits of terror and soften the dread on waking. You know, waking up at the crack of doom - stomach falling through the bed on waking, with heart palpitations and panic. Its amazing just how many symptoms I have actually been suffering. Bad dreams, sleep disturbance, never ending tearfulness, eating problems, stomach ache, emotional and physical fatigue, forgetfulness, clumsiness. Shall I go on? Oh yes and sometimes feeling suicidal and completely detached from reality! A friend tells me that although I am obviously bonkers, I have insight. I actually know I'm bonkers so won't be going off for an NHS holiday in the not too distant future. I feel ever so slightly relieved and have a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I am able to breathe a little bit easier. I actually laugh. Its a novelty.

Begining of September. My husband thinks we should brave a week away. I am dumb founded into silence and wonder if we can actually do something so incredibly difficult. I agree to go. We go to Poole and stay in a caravan. This is a prelude to psychotic symphony number 2. I over pack, take everything I can possibly fit in a Fiesta and take extravagant amounts of cleaning products. I am stressed, tired and anxious too. I'm not in a great space - Hind sight tells me this but at the time I was so caught up in my own head with the never ending conversations of what, where how and why. I am not taking stock of the situation with perspective. Perspective - oh the illusive gift! I start going "off on one" as soon as we arrive. Its very cold and as I step into the caravan itself, all I can smell is dirt. Its dirty. Its smelly and I do not want to touch anything. I stand around trying not to move or touch anything as my husband organises a cot bed and all of our equipment. Its at this point I get out a) Muslin cloths, b) Milton sterilising fluid - Very large bottle, and C) Bowl of boiling water. Once I start, I cannot stop. All I can see and smell is filth. I am irrationally terrified by the filth. I am on my hands and knees and I am scrubbing everything. After an hour or so, my husband attempts to negotiate with me into stopping, at which point I realise I can't stop.I start crying uncontrollably and he lifts me off the floor and puts me into bed. Its dingy and horrid and I curl up into a ball to make the possiblity of touching anything as little as possible. I must have gone to sleep as I am suddenly awake and I think something appalling and terrifying is about to happen. I cling to my husband who wakes up and tells me I'll be ok. Strangely enough this leads to a very enjoyable 30 minutes of adult play time, which was very unexpected. I pass out and the trauma is over. Thank god.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

6 week check

So, I have had my stitches taken out, I am now fleunt in baby speak and can actually leave the house before 11am in the morning with child. Physically I'm doing great and the GP says my C section scar is more like top end plastic surgery and I should be grateful that I have been stitched so lovingly. I look ok. I am functioning. If I can keep this "pretending I'm alright stuff" up, maybe it'll actually make me feel better. You know - Fake it to make it.

At this time the health visit also begins to see you more often as midwifery services pretty much stop after the first week. Sometimes they see you for up to 28 days, and that is only if you're a special case. The health visitor, a lovely Irish lady, turns up unannounced (which I am immediately suspicious of). She has a lovely tick box assessment for identifying post natal depression. Its a simplistic tool she tells me. NO really? Are you a murderer - tick yes. I try my hardest to answer the questions as though she was seeing me on a day where I feel ok, or less like killing myself. Its like asking an alcoholic how many beers they've had to drink that day and the answer is always, "Just 2." Playing it down (or Lying as its commonly known) I hope, will help me be deemed sane and left in peace for the rest of eternity. I still believe that this will all just pass if I sit it out, or try and think my way out of it. You know, find my own solution. I try really, really hard, but I end up crying and showing that I'm not the full ticket. Apparently I'm on the cusp of PND using her assessment tool. So even lying means I'm unwell. God knows what I'd be if I been rigourously honest. "Lets make you an appointment with a female GP and try to get you feeling a bit better."

Medicating myself to feel well is not an option I really want to entertain, but I currently feel so rubbish I agree. Prozac and I are going to get to know eachother rather well from now on. This truly is the begining of my journey into my inner world and the terrors and wonders that lie within.

What is Bi-polar disorder (Manic Depression) - Info bulletin

 Information from Mind.org.uk

Everybody has their ups and downs in daily life, but with bipolar disorder these changes are extreme. During the manic phase, people may feel euphoric, full of a sense of their own importance and brimming with ambitious schemes and ideas. They may spend money extravagantly, and build up debts. They may eat and sleep very little, and talk so quickly that it's difficult to understand them. They may be easily irritable and angry. Their libido can go into overdrive.
A person may be quite unaware of these changes in their attitude or behaviour. After a manic phase is over, they may be quite shocked at what they've done and the effect that it has had. Sometimes, people experience a milder form of mania known as hypomania. During these periods people can actually become very productive and creative and so see these experiences as positive and valuable. (However, hypomania, if left untreated, can become more severe, and may be followed by an episode of depression.)
Mania may flare up periodically, but depression is the most consistent symptom. People may feel overwhelming despair, guilt and worthlessness. They may feel chronic fatigue and gain weight, or have difficulty sleeping. They lose interest in everything. Problems concentrating and remembering things can make life very difficult and undermine the simplest tasks. The experience of bipolar disorder may provoke suicidal feelings.

The current diagnoses in the UK are likely to be:
  • Bipolar I or II, depending on the severity and the duration of the episodes of mania and/or depression.
  • Cyclothymic disorder - with short periods of mild depression and short periods of hypomania.
  • Rapid cycling - four or more episodes a year.
  • Mixed states - periods of depression and elation at the same time
A great website is Mind.org.uk - They have loads of information for patients and carers and can really help.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Clock watching

When you are feeling slightly deranged, if that is at all possible, you watch the clock. In my case, you watch the clock and the array of post-it notes on the wall telling you what time to feed your child. My house could not be a demand feed house. Everything was far too unmanageable and I was already being spied on by the gorgeous pink bundle upstairs, who was in a very dark room as Gina Ford, my new higher power, told me. I think the rest of the family thought we were over doing it a bit. I didn't care.

Before going to bed, my husband and I were staring at my breasts in the mirror above the fire place. A normally humble breasted woman, I looked like I had been demon possessed by the gigantic boobs of Jordan. We fall about laughing in complete hysterics and I wonder if I'm going to be alright after all. I'm so tired but all I can think about is staying awake as I might miss something, and panic about cot death, bacteria from bad sterilisation and bonding with our new son. He is so perfect and I am so frightend. I made a decision to sleep with ear plugs in with the monitor next to my ear on full blast so I could hear him crying.

I lasted about 10 days breast feeding, or what I now fondly term, milk centred masochism. I don't care that its supposedly the most natural, loving gift you can give to your new born child. He would scream and I would totally dread having to feed him. Someone very kindly told me that she hadn't known any babies die from bottle feeding. Bless her. Bring on the Aptimil.

So we're 3 weeks in and I'm really not ok. The thing with mental illness is that unless you are VERY poorly, noone sees you. Its like being invisible and standing disconnected from your own existence. Like a manequin doll, your mouth and face make all of the right movements but inside you feel like dying because its all so very difficult. What made it worse was my lack of breast feeding, natural birth and not feeling bonded to my baby. I felt like a complete failure. Thank fully gorgeous babies satanic stares and omnipotent cosmic rays had dissipated and I just felt suicidal. Seriously though, people generally aren't sympathetic and expect new mums to be tearful and in a bit of a mess. "Baby Blues" is a genuine state after a few days or birth but this was entirely different and quite honestly, telling somebody wasn't an option. I wasn't sure if it would return the state of weirdness.I felt like I'd had a luck escape.

Complete panic

After 2 days of surreal  post birth experience including catheta removal, my first "Poo" and the never ending torture that is breast feeding, they announce my going home medication is inside the locked cabinet above my bed, and someone will be round shortly to discharge me. I am gripped with terror and my husband looks about ready to pass out. "What do you mean we're going home. I thought I had 5 days?" Apparently if you give birth before 12 midday that counts as your first day -  I had child removal at 6am, so Thursday afternoon counts as 3 days and they feel that is enough time to be in hospital.The ripple of disgust is far reaching throughout the family. I'm sure this isn't right.I just don't feel ready. Don't they understand that we've only been shown how to bath the baby once and I've only just managed to to stand up unaided? Yes I know women in the 3rd world pop out children whislt ploughing the fields! They and their children also die quite frequently I'm told, so stop comparing.

The baby is so small he's almost invisible amongst the blankets, and the new Krypton factor game of parenting is now upon us. Fitting the car seat.  It looked so easy in Mothercare car park and now, with no sleep and the gripping fear of "Going it alone" from hospital, we try not to look totally unprepared. Intellectually we're not unprepared. We've read everything between us. Experince though is a big fat zero. I still wonder what this child has to do with me as I'm not feeling any connection. He has one eye that opens when the other one doesn't and he looks at me suspiciously.

ok - Lets do a little mental health snap shot for a minute. Depression is an egalitarian illness. It does not discriminate or selct persons by age, gender, colour or belief. Quite frankly its a bit of a bastard. It can be triggered by stress, physical illness, stressful events, or be part of your genetic make up. Great - so in my case, at this lovely point in time, I'm first in line for post natal depression prize. Not that I want to be pessimistic or anything....

So, like any normal woman coming home from major gyneacological surgery, we stop off at the local school to vote in the general election. I have a voice. I want to use it. The men behind the desk appear startled that I'm there at all. Tony at this point in time is not my favourite bloke.This is a once in a life time opportuniy and I am not going to miss it.

When we arrive home, we pop our bundle of joy on the floor in a bouncer and stare at him. For quite a while I wonder what I am meant to do with him. He doesn't come with instructions (All though Gina Ford does a good Job of professor of new born baby regime!) I try not to make eye contact with him as he can read my mind. Ok - Hold the phone - What? Again I know this isn't right but I feel it. He thinks I'm bad.

Science bit.

Puerperal Psychosis is a severe type of post natal depression. It is also suffered by women who are more likely to already have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder or, birth may trigger this condition.

Psychosis is,  "any severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted" A common delusion is the belief that the new baby is evil - that they're the devil. Sufferers have been known to hear voices telling them to kill the baby. This is not the only delusion: people suffering can believe anything absolutely and wholeheartedly. This condition is that powerful, and the experiences of the people suffering it are real," (www.puerperalpsychosis.org.uk)

Now at this point in time I haven't said any of this out loud. I think that its just a part of being so exhausted my brain has gone temporarily bonkers.I trust in my heart that it will stop at some point. I promise my self that if, at my 6 week check, I still have these thoughts, I might accept I'm a bit depressed. Denial is my new friend.I fear the myth of social services removing children from mad women. I will not be a statistic. I shall hang on for grim death.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

So, I'm being dissected by the NHS...

...and all is not well. New mothers have a naive and almost floral imagination about birth (They may deny this but seriously, its what we all hope for). You know, flowers, music, female solidarity - not slice and dice. I'm unceremoniously stitched up and have been wheeled down the corridor, and everyone is being positive and happy and talking above me, whilst the white square ceiling tiles rush past. I appear not to be joining in with the celebrations.

I'm slid onto a bed in the recovery room and  its very dark and my new son is laying under, what I can only describe as, a toaster. He's a bit cold and needs heating up they tell me. Its just NOT what I was planning, and I am so tired I don't actually care anymore about anything. Oh and I now have to summon up the energy to breast feed like some earth mother. I can't even sit up without assistance, let alone be the all giving benevolent mistress of child birth.Who is this child anyway.Has everyone completely gone mad. Don't they understand that I've not slept for 3 or so days, have been politely butchered and jetisoned into unreality? Apparently not. Women give birth every day don't they.

Another room, another protocol. Buzzer here, swinging cot thing there, and catheter over the side of the bed. I feel completely cheated. And why is it I suddenly feel paranoid. I am truly in a dream state. I'm not awake but I don't think I'm sleeping. Reality has become a very odd shape.I have a screaming baby trying to eat from me and all I can think of is dropping him on his head to shut him up. Oh, and actually are you sure this is my baby and why do I still feel pregnant? My  hold in the sane world at this point is fairly tenous. Oh yes, and I'm not telling anybody this. Would you? I know I'm not ok. However telling somebody at this point does not seem sensible. Maybe it'll pass? Maybe all mothers feel like this and it all part of the glorious journey.Um. Maybe not.

Monday, 28 December 2009

In the begining, I wasn't mentally ill......well maybe a little bit

People often suggest writing it all down, and considering I feel isolated in my bi-polar world, reaching out might be a relief...or a bore...or a laugh... or all of the above. I'll tell you about my journey so far. I'll keep it in little segments from the last 5 years, to introduce you to my experiences, my hopes and fears, and bring you up to date with the universe I now inhabit. You know the one where I am depressed, or manic, or both, oh and fat too, with a husband and some children, and a small garden. So in the beginning....

The moment of crisis - May 2005.  3 days of pre-labour, labour, labour full flow or stopping on its own, bouncing on a ball, moaning and groaning. They tell me the window is now closed. They tell me (With some great relief) that I am to have a ceasarian section. "I can stop trying to have a normal birth." "Oh god I'm Having a section." At this point, due to exhaustion, hideous amounts of drugs, lack of sleep and stress, I am wheeled into a room full of faces in pajamas, one of which is my husband. The surreal experience of knowing a woman in her forties is swilling her hand inside my body, when I am awake, is disturbing to say the least. I begin to feel very detached from the scene and wonder what is going to happen next. I see small reflections of the Victorian looking procedure on the shiny, bacteria free lighting above. I'm not all there and I know it.