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.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The dreaded DWP medical assessment

Can I just say, those of you who offered prayers, good vibes, love and support, I am totally grateful. I have actually survived, and now that I am home I am experiencing some kind of weird adrenaline/anxiety neuro-hormones come down. I feel slightly floaty and mentally scattered. Weirdness aside, I wanted to write before I forgot how it was today.

So, I think the beginning part of the assessment is seeing whether or not you can actually park and find the centre. It's above an NCP car park in disguise. You have to walk past the pay stations and up some stairs and there is a small door with a very small sign. There are strict instructions to only press the entry buzzer once. My fear and paranoia at this point are quite high and I wonder how many people push it in annoyance and impatience and get sanctioned as a result! Next we are ushered  through a small square holding section with a very grumpy security guard into a waiting area. Blue and green nylon chairs line the walls and it is packed. You have to approach the man in the security glass hatch and show your passport, sign a document to say who you are and  take a seat. He is forced jolliness personified. He must have some kind of special rhino hide personality to work in this environment. So Ian sits and I go to you the loo. The door/loo is part of the large room, so initially I wonder if everyone will hear me pee. Also, considering the amount of people that have been through the centre, my germ fest OCD kicks in horribly.

I sit down and I am overwhelmed by the smell of dirty oily hair and sweat. There are some magazines on a table near me. There are a whole stack of auto traders, some good house keeping, digital photography and a glamour. There is also a small booklet entitled "Urban fox" with some young blonde on the front. I am unsure as to whether this publication is about city living in Leicester with the football "Leicester foxes" reference,  or the slightly sexualised Leicester provocateur on the cover. There is also some weird air con machine, with a huge tube attached to the windows with brown sticky tape. There are bars on the window, for either keeping robbers out, or stopping people like me throwing themselves out of the window in despair. And everyone is moaning. Moaning to each other, moaning to the the jolly man at the hatch of despair or just grumbling. The man adjacent to me is actually groaning and rocking.

What I glean from the titbits of conversation is that everyone's appointment is late, and everyone is enormously pissed off. The guy behind me has 3 people with him to actually help him make the appointment, the couple in front of me are going to be waiting more than an hour and a half as the person before them is running over and there is also a double booking. Jolly man comes out to explain why it's all so hideous. Apparently there are different practitioners for different illnesses and the contract providers, "MAXIMUS" have only been doing this 18 months and the whole system is in melt down. The back log of customers is enormous and there are no targets to meet so it's bumbling along whilst slowly falling apart. "A 6 month wait for an appointment isn't bad deary" jolly man tells me.

When I finally get summoned I am in such a state walking down the corridor that my knees almost buckle and I can hardly see straight. I am nearly crying with fear. I give the lady my letter from the GP (Picked up this morning after a 6 week wait and a £20 charge) and my latest psychiatrist appointment. She asks me what my day to day living is like and after a bit of explanation, I am crying. It's hard telling strangers that your head horror story and the mad crap that goes on every day, some some relentless punishing machine. She is actually kind, knows what mental health is and is a nurse by trade. Last time I dealt with an admin worker who didn't even know what bipolar is. She tells us that just by looking at my GP notes I shouldn't have even been asked to come in. It's obvious that I am unwell and find living difficult.

I am flooded with relief and explain that the worst thing is thinking that I will be called a liar and forced back to work. She tells me that her recommendation is to get esa, and not be hassled to go to "Back to work" interviews. She will send her findings to the faceless cretin in decisions (Please watch "Brazil" for a clear explanation of this process) and now I will have to wait. More waiting.

Maybe I am actually dead, and I have gone to hell. I am going through the circles of hell, layers of demoralising tests, criticism and punitive questioning and all for nothing. Then it all starts again!

So I am home and and coming down from the anxiety and stress. I have a creme egg in my pocket which I shall lovingly demolish in a second as a small gesture of reward for surviving. You know, I had Ian to take me, stroke my back when I was crying and bring me home. I have a loving family and circle of friends who are amazing. I cannot even begin to imagine doing all of that alone. Although I am diminished in mental health, I am rich in love and fellowship and for that I am forever grateful xx

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Anxiety management course and my shredded emotions

Anxiety is useful and totally NOT USEFUL. It's all about where and when it kicks in. When we were all hunched over and running away from T-Rex (Not a 70's glam rock nightmare), our fight and flight brain helped us survive the onslaught of imminent death. That's actually really useful! Imminent death these days is more about avoiding getting run over and sprinting away from a mugger. However, what happens with problematic anxiety is that the "surviving death" mechanism kicks in when non life threatening circumstances occur.

The brain has a thought, believes you are at heinous risk and the body responds in kind by employing the full apparatus of the sympathetic nervous system. It prepares your body to run away at pace or stand and kill something or someone. So your senses become heightened, blood rushes to your muscles away from your tummy (Butterflies), your heart pumps faster and you breathe more quickly to flush oxygen around your body and it can feel like your body is going to collapse and die. Actually it is doing all of the right things to run away from T-Rex and his gong; your body is amazing. But you don't know that is what it's doing, so you think you are having a heart attack, or can't breathe or might actually be going blind or having a stroke.

Then you come down. The para sympathetic nervous system turns up to mop away the chemicals no longer in use and puts you back in to calm mode. You get woozy, heavy legged, tired, emotional and most of the time, slightly weirded out. It's pretty amazing from a biological perspective, but as a life style choice it is massively destructive. You can end up avoiding people, places and things, shrinking your universe and being held hostage by it. It makes you feel like a failure and destroys your self esteem.

(See mind.org.uk for further info and support)

So is there a solution? We've been working on distraction, mindfulness, planned trigger situation exposure to build resilience, and catching the thought of major doom which is usually the paralysing feature of a thread of mind activity that leads to the anxiety episode. We also looked at unhelpful thinking patterns like catastrophising, mind reading, negativity/doom projection, avoidance and unhelpful "Fixers". You know wine, shopping, hiding....

I have homework this week to practise more mood and thought monitoring.

You know my "discovery of self" journey started almost 20 years ago. At that point my head was firmly up my arse, and although people say ignorance is bliss, I was a self centred, narrow minded and treated people without thought or care, including myself.  On reflection I have come quite a long way! "Praise the Lord" I hear you say! But on a serious note, change takes time, patience and commitment. It's also bloody hard work and can be incredibly painful. I still have lots so iron out, which is why I am grateful for this course I am on and that there is still room for growth. It also reminds me that actually lots of stuff is massively better and my head only revisits my arse on rare occasions. Today is a non-arse day...Arse, arse arse.... Sorry.

Next week I shall discuss my homework with my fellow emotional travellers and see where we are at. Hopefully we will all be a step closer to freedom.