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.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Less black dog, more gorgon with sprouting snakes for hair

The reason I'm saying this, is because my lovely depressive illness is a multi-faceted demon of despair. My general symptoms I learn, trigger secondary behaviours. So if I'm feeling isolated, tearful and forgetful, I'll hide in the house and eat. Or, I'll zone out whilst watching a DVD and procrastinate until it's bedtime. Rumination is another offender - chewing the useless cud of unsolvable problems, over and over and over. The thinking spiral dips and then low self esteem, doubt and fear kick in, and all is lost for another few hours, or days, or weeks.

The enormous universe inside my head is intricately structured and is nicely honed with habitual behaviours that are really quite bad for me. For example, I'll compulsively shop for at least half an hour before I get to group to stem the anxiety. I feel like my mind has been doing this to me whilst my back has been turned and I never even noticed how complex and controlling it had become. Certain types of people can also trip me up. I realise that those persons who are aggressive and dismissive cripple me emotionally and I shrink into my shoes and want to run away. Also, between 2 and 3pm every day, my energy level dips and I cannot concentrate for toffee - my vocabulary chip goes wrong and all my words come out back to front. I'll call a dressing gown a wardrobe, or just go completely blank for minutes at a time. Quite frankly, I am a total shambles!! How the hell I've been functioning in the grown up sane world is beyond me. Oh yeah, I've been off work for 6 months, so I haven't! I have an epiphany, and realise that most people are simple, uncomplicated folk who just turn up on the day, and plod joyously and freely around the world, blissfully unaware of the nightmare some of us live through. Jealously is an ugly character defect although at this point I may nurture it for a while until I feel better. Its fuels my sarcasm, which is another finely tuned coping strategy.

So every week I go into the room full of depressed souls, and share my inner most fears and talk about how my learning journey is impacting on my life. It is like a bad soap opera, and truth is definitely more bizarre than fiction. Our resident CBT cynic is starting to get on everyone's nerves too. "I just don't get it" is the phrase that triggers resentment and rolling eyeballs from all of us. We even try to do intervention and cross examine him as to why he's struggling so much. To be honest, I think its a case of  not being willing or able to change. The moaning gets on my nerves so much I actually complain to the therapists who also bemoans the lack of willingness but they don't want to throw them off the course just yet.  If I was in charge I'd be more cut throat.

And after the 2 hour soiree into the murky depths of the dysfunctional mind, I actually have to go back to work.  I've given up being coy about my whereabouts, and tell them I've been at mental club. I seriously think some people just tolerate me and the rest think humour is definately a good way of dispelling the harsh reality of my situation. Part of me wishes I had a T shirt that I could wear that states, "Menatlly ill and fragile - Handle with care" on it, so I can negotiate around the difficulties. Sadly I'm not allowed to be treated as special and different so I just have to make do. Admitting I'm a bit bonkers isn't so bad and actually I am begining to accept my disability. That in itself is a huge shift in thinking, and maybe one day, I will actually be ok. I won't need to tell you I'm mad because I'll be just like you.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Parachuting into therapy

You really do have to throw yourself into therapy, or nothing will change. I begin to realise that my depression has been around for much longer than I imagined, and what first triggered my depression is not what perpetuates it. New incidences or traumas keep it going. So for me that would mean childbirth, more childbirth, inter dispersed with massive change, a dead grandparent and the nightmare work scenario. Its really been piling up. Also, events leading up to the birth of my first child were also guilty of causing more problems - another dead grandparent, a miscarriage and 2 relocation's in 4 years. I think I've been on automatic pilot, functioning to the best of my ability but, mired so deeply in the illness, I've not seen the depth of it or how incredibly unhappy I've been. Its definitely an eye opener. I'm more broken than I first thought.

In the second week of mad club we talk about our depression patterns. Does my mood dictate my reactions and behaviour? Do I give in to emotional fatigue? Do I try to think myself out of my problems and then get stuck inside my own head?  What habits do I have that act as coping mechanisms? What I'm learning is that my mood and my social  environment have a massive impact on how depressed I feel. I've been living in my own head far too much and giving power to people, places and things far too much. I need to grab the black dog by the neck, put a collar on it and muzzle its face. I must be alpha dog! No barking necessary, although howling at the moon might be acceptable at some point!

What is interesting for me is that I realise I have been absolutely terrified of the illness. Scared of what it might do next, how it will sabotage my happiness or oppress me so much that I will just give up. I also learn that I cannot think myself out of depression. Intellectual gymnastics, reading and wishful thinking won't do it. I have to take action. The depression won't just go away and I have to learn how to live with it. I need to give it it's place, which is not the centre of everything, and not my singular defining characteristic. For some unknown reason, I have these skills for other issues in my life, but when it comes to depression, I appear to have a massive blind spot.

We are given a piece of homework called a "Mood diary". We literally have to monitor our mood every hour during the day for a week and write it in a diary. It feels like an overwhelming task but it will help to identify what our behaviour patterns are like. When I return to group the following week, we all look like we've been run over by a bus. I personally feel so vulnerable and raw that I think I might just lay prostrate on the floor and weep. This is a course for those people who will do anything to get better. Lesser mortals would hide in denial and despair. I have to accept that I am feeling resistant to change and I am going to have to dig deep with my willingness.

When we feed back to our fellow group members the following week, we are all sadistically pleased that everyone is feeling shite. It means that all of us are finding it tough so we can all relax. We all begin to realise that there is no magic feeling of constant happiness. Normal people have fluctating mood and they just get on with it. With depression the moods feel magnified, so we have to learn to recognise what the mood is, and then choose how to respond to it.  We also see how moods link together and take you down the plug hole of despair. We are told that in the coming weeks we will learn how to behave in a way that can halt the marching army of maudlin demons and rise above the insanity. We all breathe a sigh of relief - the discomfort will pass and normal service may well be restored in the coming weeks. I've got to learn to live outside of my head and give the depression the view of my rear end!