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, 8 January 2010

History of being busy

I have always been slightly fast. I've been over active, reasonably gregarious, and a little over excited. When I was very young I did gymnastics. It wore me out and gave me a focus for my unending energy. I had the sensation of being a little bit "Rushy" at times and people would comment by asking me to "slow down". The odd thing though is that I could never really slow down. I was prone to being annoyingly bouncy at work with slightly wearing enthusiasm.

Thing is with this behaviour, its hard to determine what is manic and what is just a slightly over active personality trait. There is a very fine line. I've often talked very fast and been gesticulative; I've not been scared to say what I mean. What has been really useful for me is keeping a diary of my mood, and the thoughts and behaviours that go with these periods of excitement and incredible focus.

It starts with a feeling in my tummy like adrenalin bubbling. Its like an invisible rope is pulling me along and I'm running behind it. My actions, thoughts and speech get faster and I become almost twitchy. It feels like a fast forward button has been pressed and my thoughts can react at the speed of light. All of the banal clamour of the world fades and I get an exquisite sense of clarity. Its like ice cold wind blowing through my mind. When this happens I can read masses of documents and pretty much remember them all in detail. I can almost visualize the information with all of its connections to other information and concepts. I learn at a faster rate than normal and can produce large amounts of work in short spaces of time. I become very articulate, viciously sarcastic and a bit too intense. Sometimes it lasts for a few hours. Sometimes a few days. What has been very interesting and revealing to me is that this has happened to me from about the age of twenty, on and off.  Its not been on a regular basis and I'm not sure whether it was triggered by something or just happened as a matter of course.

The flip side of this though is that sometimes it feels like it goes a little bit further. Rather than the thoughts  being joyous and connected to the universe, they get too fast and scrambled. The sarcasm becomes savage, and the thoughts are too fast. I feel that the energy connection that was flowing with me, pulling me happily along, gets stretched like an elastic band and its dragging me along and its not fun anymore.  I can't keep up with it. Instead of having a Chrystal clear view from a higher plane, it morphs into brutal grandiosity.Everything becomes jumpy and I get paranoid and agitated. It can result in me telling people to "Fuck off" when I'm normally loving and tolerant. The expanding beast becomes aggressive and takes control of me and I am attached to it even when I don't want to be. Its usually at this point that I completely crash and need to sleep for 2 to 3 days. This thought process is a dramatic shift away from the fluffy Duracell bunny, and is more akin to chucky. Its not the multicoloured kaleidoscope of  euphoria and elation but more like hydrochloric acid dropped on the softness of life, turning it into a waking nightmare of complete blackness. Everything is bad.

After these periods I feel very low, exhausted and burned out. Its not fun at all. Its not glamorous, its not fashionable and its not something I would want other people to experience. Its known as dysphoric elation. I've also experienced this type of mania in combination with depression. Its known as a mixed state and carries a high risk of suicide, something that I attempted twice in my early to mid 20's.

For me my saving Grace is my level of insight. At no time have I ever completely lost touch with reality. The relationship has become tenuous and fragile but I've always been able to reign it back in, or, as I have waited it out, it passes and I survive it. It is incredibly frightening and its only now, when I am almost 40, that I have a diagnosis and the right medication. Its been a long and arduous journey.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Now, should I go for the big push or for the chop?

We're having a big discussion about my bleeding, my fluctating contractions and whether or not to induce me. My husband looks like a zombie and is having trouble keeping up. Thankfully we have family, only 40 minutes drive away. We did have a battle plan for the end of June but its been brought forward 4 weeks. When they arrive I'm in a clinical area, with monitors and all of that going on. I can't get up - I'm not allowed, so every now and then I call for the commode and my in-laws have to stand behind a curtain or leave the room. Its all a bit surreal. I would never have thought I'd be having a conversation with my father in law, interdispersed with panting, slight groaning and  football trivia. My husband goes home to sleep and will be back in the afternoon. We're still not sure if I'm in or out of labour. I get periods of really strong contractions and then it stops. They decide to give me some chemicals to speed up the labour but it fails miserably. I really do have troube with this whole delivery thing. The in-laws leave as hubby returns. They very kindly look after son number one whilst we wait. I'm still bleeding too. I won't go in to detail as its really not pleasant. Basically my placenta is rupturing gradually which can be very dangerous for me and baby number 2. In the early hours I lose a "Blob" the size of a grapefruit. The aneathsetist is called and we're going down the section route. Thankfully this time around, I've had some sleep, I know what is going to happen and I feel much more in control. Back on with the blue pyjamas and off we pop on the trolley.

We have another gorgeous pink baby boy arrive, 3 weeks early, but a good weight and completely healthy. We are relieved. Sadly, the woman stitching me up this time is quite forceful and my epidural is wearing off and I can feel my organs being shoved in a bit. I sick up in cardboard egg box sick tray and ask her to knock  me out. She kindly staples me back together and I drift off for a bit.

I am overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that everything is ok. I demand bottles of milk for feeding - the breast feeding Nazi squad don't stand a chance with me this time, and I am confident in handling my new born. I whistfully reflect that it would have been so nice to be like this the first time around. After 2 days this time I actually want to go home. I've had no periods of unreality, feelings of confusion or desire to do anything dangerous. Thank God. I'm given the pain relief medication as per last time, but this time I get to bring home my own sterile stapel remover. For a moment I think that I myself, am going to have to remove my staples from my groin.  Nothing would suprise me you know.

I find myself, suprisingly, at a very large and well know supermarket, having a large fried breakfast with my mother-in-law with my 5 day old baby all snuggled up in the plastic seat of a trolley. I am a world away from my first foray into child birth. We both smile - this is how it should be. I feel blesssed that I have actually been able to enjoy the process - well not the cut and shut part or the hideous bleeding, but the lack of psychosis and  definite prescence of Joy!!! Just maybe, it'll keep improving and I'll finally feel ok.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Cruising into birth experience number two - more like cruise missile

So I'm spinning plates really. Its taken a few months to get in to the shift pattern and I'm feeling a little less stressed and anxious. I'm focusing on the fact that work will soon be over for up to another year - I'm not counting on flowers and gifts on leaving for maternity this time. Fanfares and "Please don't come back like that again you loon," is probably more like it. I think we'll all breathe a little sigh or relief.

My beautiful little boy can spoon food into his mouth, he can toddle on his own and is just about to have his first birthday. We do a family trip to the zoo. He is fascinated by everything and I am waddling like an oversized cow and moaning about the heat.I do enjoy it immensley but I'm getting tired. We also have some family members over to celebrate. The sun is warm and we are moving in between our dining room and the patio. Suddenly I see a really mangey cat trotting across my garden. I promptly give my son to the nearest person and start screaming obscenitites at the now terrified creature. Its hiding behind our garage and I'm threatening it and calling it names. Now, don't go ringing the RSPCA just yet. I'm freaking out as I think its burying its turds all over my garden and you know that I'm paranoid about germs. Suddenly a voice interupts my rant and its the next door neighbour. We haven't really chatted yet, so this is an embarrassing first introduction. She tells me the cat is from a rescue centre, that it's deaf and mostly blind and has escaped by accident. No wonder it won't bugger of, it can't hear me or see me. I am slightly mortified, then bravely state that, "I'm currently not a cat person." She picks the white fluff ball up and dips out. Everyone is looking at me. I think I've rather over reacted. I've had an incident like this before. It involved a dog jumping over the fence from next door, pooing on my brand new terracing, then jumping back. It was promptly followed by expletives, and me getting a big spade and throwing the poo back over the fence on to their patio. I think I get "The red mist" every now and then.

Friday is my last day at work and I was right - no gift or ceremony. A brief, "Yeah bye" and I'm gone. Although the depression is still my constant companion it feels less like open warfare and more like a temporary amnesty. I relax over the weekend and focus on a the next 4 - 6 weeks with no work. I can take my eldest son to nursery twice a week and have a few days to rest and slow down.

I get up on the Monday and drop my son off. I have a brief chat with my colleague who's daughter is also at the nurssery. She asks me about my plans for the next month and it feels nice to be a little bit normal. I get home and actually decide to go back to bed. My husband came home at 6am so he's snoozing away peacefully and I roll in and pass out. I wake up after a few hours and think I need to go to the loo. Sitting on the throne, I get the most almightly contraction out of the blue. It takes my breathe away and I stiffle a squeal. Oh dear. There is a lot of blood. I grab a towel, hit the floor in a heap and scream my head off. A mumbling groan and a "What" follow, to which I continue screaming and ranting and demanding help. Bless my bewildered husband. He's had 3 hours kip and is confused and scared. He rings the hospital maternity triage desk. There is a unenthusiastic woman on the other end who says, "Well, I suppose you'd better come in if you're having some bleeding." This is an understatement. My best bath towels are crimson and I'm trying my hardest not to panic and think the worst. As I arrive, ashen faced and petrified, the triage nurse suddenly looks appalled and realises that she may have underestimated the situation slightly. There is a flurry of activity and I'm very quickly wired up, layed down and talked about in quiet voices slighlty to the left of me. God I hope its going to be ok....

New routines

We move house and it goes without a hitch, thank goodness. It is cold  as there isn't any proper insulation in the walls. We get a grant to squirt weird yellow goo in the walls and put layers of woolly stuff down in the loft. This will help keep us from hypothermia and bankruptcy. My husband starts his new job too.I keep reminding him that I am not keen on the idea and that I'm struggling. It falls on deaf ears. The new vision of work and success is not up for negotiation and the shift work goes ahead.

My husband either gets up at 5am or 5pm. If he's on a day, its not too bad. I can be at home or at work during the day, and he comes home for 7pm. It means he's in the house overnight and can help me if I shout loud enough. When I am at work, my son can go to nursery and it gives me a change of scene. My colleagues try to be polite, and tolerate my prescence. They can't wait for my maternity leave to start. When he's on nights its awful. He needs to sleep during the day, so having a baby at home is disruptive. I either have to try and keep him quite or we need to go out. Also, he goes off to work at 5pm and I am alone all evening. This I find hard as it means I can be awake most of the night if baby is ill, I have noone to help, and its lonely. I'm also getting quite pregnant now so its getting harder to carry baby, do housework.

Having depression makes completing normal tasks complicated. Your thinking can be sluggish or scattered. You can become more easily confused. Couple this with pregnancy hormones and you might as well get shipped off to the knackers yard. I am of use to noone really. I am not living the dream (Marriage, home ownership, having children). Those thoughts were naive and foolish wishful thinking. Currently my life is not dreamy and its not really living.  Its hard work, people ignore you - you know, "oh Hi, you must be so and so's mum" and you are not socially acceptable as your twice the size you normally are. Although a baby is tiny, it depends on you for absolutely everything and can only communicate via 100 decibels of screaming. Life is about juggling balls and getting by. Nobody asks me how I am. If you have depression, people stop asking you about it. Its similar to a death. When someone first dies its fresh in their minds so they ask you regularly how you are feeling. After a few weeks, new situations or events happen and nobody mentions it again. Even though you are grieving, noone else gives it a thought.Being depressed means being disregarded after a few conversations. People also have a limited supply of sympathy. Like I said before, people use the "Pull yourself together"attitude or think you look ok so it must be alright.

Saying all of this though, I am managing to do everything I have to. I might not be doing it very well, but I'm doing it. For me, I am trying not to let the depression ruin my daily life. I don't want to give up, get into bed and never get out. I have a gorgeous son and a new baby on the way. I will not let this illness steal my ability to be close to my children. I refuse to give in. I'm fighting the whole way.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Choas is my constant friend

The period that follows is one of  being overwhelmed, misunderstood, full of internal conflict and moments of complete despair. I cannot get to grips with anything as I'm always trying to please too many people in different places. I'm a part time mother, a part time manager, a resentful wife, a terrible work colleague who keeps disappearing off  when the baby gets ill, and a husk of a woman with low self esteem compounded by never being able to finish anything off. All I can say is that I am demoralised and without hope. Its at this time too my husband is offered an alternative post at work. One that involves working 12 hour shifts, days or nights on a rolling monthly program. He'll do it for a year, 18 months perhaps. He says it will improve our prospects as a family as it includes a wage rise, and a step on the promotion ladder. His aim is the magical health care cover and a job upgrade. The reasoning behind this too is that every month he'll have 7 days off in a row. He'll be able to help me.  Oh yeah, and we're moving 12 weeks time too. Can anyone spot what the problem might be here? Alpha women with excellent mental health might need a PA under these circumstances.

My routine goes something like this. Up some nights, doing a feed and/or broken sleep due to teething. Its my job to do this as I only work 2 and a half days per week. My husband works 5 days and is the bread winner. Its like a monopoly get out of Jail card Free used at all possible occassions that involve him getting up. Its a constant source of friction. I'm waking early mornings with pregnancy sickness and exhaustion. I Drop baby off at nursery then get into work where several distressed staff members are freaking out about their jobs and the car park space rota. Like I give a ...I actually end up crying in a management meeting because I've had enough of the petty issues. Why is there no water butt? Why can I not park when I have a space on the rota? Who is the phantom crapper on the second floor who keeps leaving a big smelly poo, much to the disgust of the female members of the team?  My line manager has also been changed to one that doesn't really understand what my staff team do. She feels it'll be a really good learning experience, for her. She very rarely sees me for supervision and I have noone to go to in my distress. My job share partner, once my friend, now thinks I have been taken over by the demon of  an impossibly stupid emotional cripple. I start to get paranoid about her bitching behind my back. Everyone thinks I am a pregnant waste of space, and can't wait for me to go on maternity leave. This whole going back to work thing was a complete mistake.

The thing with Bi-polar is 1) You're not manic/hyper manic the whole time; 2) Diagnosis can take a long time as your mood needs to be monitored over a period of years in some cases, 3) If you don't really know what is happening to you as  if its something that has been happening for a period of years, you think its normal and you use coping mechanisms like self will or self medicating, 4) Mostly bi-polar people are either depressed the majority of the time with periods of mania, or reasobably balanced with medication but still some mild depressive symptoms 5) Hyper mania sometimes is very useful - it makes you creative, extremely productive and uplifting to be around, and 6) Its not going to get sorted if people keep saying its post natal depression and is only being treated in the very minimal way in general practice. I'm unravelling very quickly.

One thing that I have experienced with depression is that feeling of being completely invisible. Mental illness is just that- In the mind. Nobody sees it. I've actually looked a photos of me at this time, and I try to look closely to see any signs. There aren't any. Being depressed the whole time is like enduring torture. Its a relentless foe that you have to battle with every day or it might just take you away forever. People also lack sympathy  or lose patience. They don't realise how hard you have to work just to get out of bed and do the basic chores. The phrase, "Pull yourself together" is widely used. They can't see it so don't acknowledge it. I feel completely alone. My symptoms are a mixed bag of tearfulness, overeating, nightmares, emotional fatigue, memory loss , clumsiness, anxiety and panic. My focus is trying to be a good mother. Whilst not at work, I prepare decent food, games and baby visits with friends. I love my son so much, but at times I wish I could lend him to someone for a week so I can sleep. My emotions used to be the wallpaper of my every day experience.They didn't control my mood or behviour. I now go from extremes of happiness, Joy and love that makes me ache physically, to wishing I could just drive off and never come back as its all impossible to do, so I should let someone else do it. My feelings hijack me when I least expect it and I feel out of control of my mood. I am inconstant and unpredictable. I'm trying really hard to keep up the happy face, the illusion of wellness and hope that it really will pass soon. I  long for a depression free day.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The thin blue line

I'm feeling a lot less scattered, and although still depressed, its manageble. I talk to my GP and discuss going back to work - just 2 days, as it may give me a break from the parent-child head space. You know the one where I panic about everything. Temperatures, cleanliness, cot death, bonding, feeding; God its a never ending list of possible nightmares to catch out the new and unsuspecting parent. She thinks it will help me reconnect with a time of confidence and routine. I focus on the fact that if I return to work I can talk to grown ups and drink a whole cup of coffee uninterupted. This is my plan. My husband and I have looked at a nice house and have put an offer in. We'll know on Monday if its a GO. The future looks bright.

I organise a visit with my friend in Gloucester and take a drive down. No mean feat with a car seat, a "bumbo", sterilising equipment, masses of clothes, nappies and muslin cloths. She too has a new baby so if I go completely loopy, at least she'll be able to help. Whilst chatting she asks me if I'd like some money toward petrol.Something inside me reminds me that my period is due. I am then reminded of my night of psychotic love in the caravan from hell, and suddenly think I should just check that this one occassion, lacking in contraception, isn't going to be life changing. I ask for the tenner but buy a pregnancy testing kit with it. We go to her local cafe on the way home from the pharmacy, and I nip in the loo and pee on the stick of hopes and dreams. Who would've thought such a tiny blue line could make or break a relationship, bring total joy or devastation in the space of a minute. I'm standing over the little white plastic stick with an attitude of , "Don't you dare turn blue...". I'm counting and trying not to hop about on the spot. I close my eyes, brace myself and try to be calm. OK - Lets look. I almost pass out and sit down very unsteadily on the loo seat. Oh my.

As I reappear , my friends face is quizzical. I sit down and burst into tears. She is absolutely over joyed that I'm pregnant. I am absolutely terrified. Terrified of telling work that I'm coming back pregnant, and terrified of telling my husband, as we could be about to take on a new mortgage and moving house with a child under 1.  "Ideal situation" is not a phrase I would use at this point in time.

I phone hubby at work. He is thrilled that our offer on the house has been accepted. He asks to phone me back in 10 minutes when I tell him we're having another baby. We are both shocked an amazed that this one incident of unbridled passion has resulted in new life. Its a bit scary to say the least.

I go to the anti natal "booking-in" appointment and the big, fat, smug midwife looks at me with a knowing smile. "You aren't the first, and you won't be the last me duck." The due date is middle to end of June. I'll have to continue on the 20mg of prozac. Apparently its reasonably safe and has a least been tested in pregnancy. I now have a very small baby, mental illness and pregnancy to contend with. Oh yes, and going back to work next week, job sharing for the first time ever, and managing a staff team that are about to go through an organisational restructure. Bring on the melt down....I must be completlely insane.