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.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

France part 2 - Adjusting to holiday living

The first 5 days are really hot and fraught with shopping trips and trying to sort the silly car out. Thankfully my husband has a french work colleague who does some phoning around for us and gets our car booked into a garage. What I often forget is that when I spend a reasonably long time with a group of people, I have to get used to being around them. Its an emotional form of exposure therapy. Family dynamics can be difficult to interpret, whether it's passive body language, or outright war. Some people just shout at each other a lot and for them that's normal. For me that would be quite scary and I'd probably want to hide. To paraphrase, what this means is that for the first 5 days I feel absolutely terrible in my mind. Thankfully, I have my mobile phone and can text people about the carnage in my head, get some perspective and survive. It's hideous when you realise that everyone else seems fine and you want to throw yourself under the nearest croissant making machine.

When the madness in my head slows down I begin to relax and get into the groove. My extended family are happy, clean, food centred and terribly indecisive. They'll laugh when reading this as their faffing drives me to distraction and  I'm always telling them to get a bloody move on before we all die of frustration or starvation! Going to the supermarket can be a trial. My mother-in-law dawdles and loves all of the food, cooking pots and produce shelves. I just want to grab it and go. I'm damn impatient really and am a shopping spoil sport.

We barbecue, splash about in the pool, bath the kids in the laundry sink and play cards at night. Granddad tries to teach the kids cricket, but my youngest keeps running off with the ball which makes it nigh on impossible. We share the preparation of meals out, with one family doing lunch, and the other doing BBQ. It all works well and washing up is done on a natural rota where noone is requested to do it, it all just happens together. I feels good.

After about 5 days, the heavens open and it rains and rains and rains! We still go out places and have fun, but its difficult when you only have a caravan to come back too. It's at this point I start to feel a little bit of cabin fever, and depression wise, I feel erratic. My mood is all over the place and I'm certain that it can only be bad news. The amount of people that said to me before I came on holiday, "You'll feel much better after a break". Those people obviously have no children and a serious mental health condition. Holidays with family for me are not a break. Going on my own to Majorca for a week on holiday would be a proper break, and no that isn't going to happen in the near future. I think my husband would divorce me if I left him on his own for a week with our two kids.

The rain abates and the last few days are sunny, peaceful and good fun. We have a "Twilight zone" moment down by the sea front the day before we come home. We meet some people who, it turns out, live in the house that my mother-in-law was born in in England. It was very queer to say the least. We wistfully pack up our gear and make it to the ferry with no breakdowns (Well, not of the car variety at least) and when we come up on deck and sight land, we all feel slightly reflective but pleased to be back.

Depression is a nasty creature as it infects what ought to be good and honest with cynicism and fear. A 2 week holiday, spent in a peacceful part of France with loving family, should be a happy and joyful time. I did have a good time, but my constant companion tries to drag it back to gloom the whole time. It fills you with guilt, as really, you have no reason to be terribly miserable. Depression is a thief. Its a distraction burglar that tears you're eye away from the sunshine and when you look back to see it, you missed it. It's a life of "if only's" and my biggest fear is soon to be realised. I'm on the greasy hill down into madness.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

France part 1

Considering I travel badly, going on a holiday that involves extensive driving and a ferry ride fills me with a sense of  trepidation. I have no idea why I agreed to this vacation but everyone else seems ok with it. I'll just have to take motion sickness tablets and abandon parenting for a considerable amount of the journey.We are going as a large family group with 3 cars in convoy. There will be 6 adults and 3 children on a holiday for 2 weeks. We are being joined by my husbands parents, his sister and her husband and their 7 month old son. Between us we'll have two large caravans on a small site with a shop, swimming pool, children's play area and a 20 minute walk to the beach. Sounds Idyllic. As we board the ferry all I can think of is the scene in titanic where the Irish woman is sitting on her bed reading a story to her 2 very small children, knowing any second she is about to drown in freezing cold water. I am definitely nervous and try to talk myself around and not infect everyone else with my projection of a catastrophe. Its like that film "Final destination" trying to cheat death. I need to get a grip quite frankly.

Finally we all gather on deck to wave goodbye to blighty and then everyone decides it's time to eat. I try hard not to gag and think of burning vomit coming out of my throat. I'm not enjoying myself yet. Everybody keeps banging on about brioche and crepes, and all I want to do is pass out and hopefully either wake up when we're there, or, die of drowning in my sleep so I never know of the catastrophe I've been so dreading. I  look like a grey, ashen faced rabbit in head lights against everyone else's glowing excitement. Saying that though, my gorgeous sister-in-law is struggling with her baby who has decided he no longer needs sleep and is playing up a treat. First holidays with children are a traumatic affair. Its like normal parenting nightmares in a different country and climate. Its not a holiday - its hell on earth.

In the morning I wake up, obviously not dead, and gratefully make it up to the cafe to eat pastry. The kids are very excited and when we finally depart from the belly of the beast, we all trundle along nicely following our pre-prepared map to our destination. 20km from the site, our car packs up. Totally dead. Something has gone wrong with the wiring and the whole thing is locked. No power, no nothing. As we are in convoy, we deploy children to other cars and wait for international rescue. I try to reframe the situation into a positive theme, like, "Oh, 30 minutes of free time in the sunshine." Before international rescue arrive we are visited by an old French man shouting and urinating on the hard shoulder, then a English speaking French man offering help, and then the Gendarme. They try and move the car but can't, and then to my relief the tow truck turns up. They literally drag our car off the road and deliver us to a very shoddy garage with a fat lady and a smelly dog. However, things turn out well. We leave our car there, get a hire car and arrive 3 hours later than planned to our new caravan home.

The next 24 hours will be a test of my serenity and CBT techniques. I'd forgotten that change, stress and dealing with other people can send me a bit doo-lally! It isn't their fault, I'm just wired up like our car.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Feeling dodgy on the way to La-la land

Imagine you are juggling 3 balls comfortably, but then someone throws in an extra ball. It throws you off your step, but you manage to keep a hold. But then another ball gets thrown at you and you start to drop balls all over the place. This is what its like building up to a manic episode. Your tummy feels fluttery a lot of the time and you have a bubbling stream of weird excitement jogging along with you. You know its there but its like a lid is pushing down on it, and for now at least, it gently propels me along at a pace I can just about manage. I have a curious sensation of being attached by a wire to the body that is separating out in front of me. The body in front is the one that is rushy, taking at 100mph, taking on far too much work and generally being a bit loopy. The trailing body is the one that watches on in despair as it predicts the hideous crash that will inevitably happen, but feels completely powerless to intervene. The thread of connection becomes more stretched and tenuous the more I speed up.

I remember seeing my psychiatrist at the begining of May and telling him I didn't feel quite right. It was definately the odd before the storm. That little orange nylon covered chair that pushes up next to his desk is a comforting safe place. I wasn't keen on leaving after our 20 minutes, but he said, "If you have any problems before your next appointment, just telephone."  Famous last words.

So during May things start to pile up. I'm trying to organise a conference for approx. 100 people, using a whole new approach (the whole systems approach) and I keep having to have extra meetings with a woman we all fondly begin to call chlamydia because we can't pronounce her name correctly. People are going off sick too, or, being redirected to other work instead of helping me. I am under lots of scrutiny from up the 3 line whip and everything is feeling a little bit unmanageable. The stress also increases as I have 2 weeks holiday booked, which will parachute me back into the chaos 2 weeks before the conference actually happens. Oh yeah, and I'm meant to be doing a workshop for 25 people with my boss as well as attending meetings and mediating between the variety of tossers who think being a strategy manager is an easy job and involves doing nothing. I ask for extra help or for someone to keep an eye on my e-mails etc. in my absence. Every ones looks at me as though I just popped a shit biscuit in my mouth. I'm on my own.