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.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka's Gregor actually returns to "normal". Only 1 swear word.

OK so in "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, Gregor, the salesman, wakes up one day and has turned into some weird kind of bug. Just go with it..... His family cannot adjust or accept his change; what it means for their relationships, the impact on their home and the embarrassment they experience of other people in their circle of friends and life in general. Although it was written in 1915, it's an amazing parallel of mental illness arriving uninvited into a family setting and ruining the gentle world in which everyone was just getting on, blissfully unaware of any potential chaos and fear. Sadly in this scenario, Gregor gives up, and for what he feels is the greater good, goes into his room and dies. Sound familiar anyone?

So why am I going on about this? I had a lovely chat with someone yesterday about transformation, letting go and moving into newness. Metamorphosis, transformation or change, involves a process of fear and letting go. Even if you don't believe in God, in changing you have to step out into the unknown with a degree of "faith" in the hope and expectation that something good may come of your exercise in positive risk taking. It's either that, or fester in the rut of comfortable suffering.

We talked about tadpole to frog. The tadpole may never believe that it could live without water or a tail. But, as it forces its way upward to the meniscus, new legs popping out of its side, tail diminishing, there is a beautiful resistance between old an new; friction as it presses its face towards sunshine and fresh air and explodes through an invisible barrier. And in its arrival into the new universe, surprisingly it finds it can breathe, jump on lily pads, eat flies with a very long and exciting tongue and generally have a whole new experience.  The struggle was real, but it was worth it. And our frog can still dip into the water, know it's depths and challenges, but it no longer needs to spend its whole life there. He has been transformed.

For me, living with a debilitating mental illness makes me feel like I have been cloaked in otherness. I wear the insect like exoskeleton. Although I am me, it's not the uninhibited real me. Whilst poorly and attempting recovery, I push against the invisible film surrounding me and fight to break out of the constraints to reconnect and to breathe effortlessly. In this space, I am Kafka's constricting, life limiting insect. Whilst suicidal, I am the tadpole, sitting on the algae in the bottom of the pond, wholly believing that I will never reach the surface again. I consider going to my bedroom and not returning.

However, I find myself more recently, throwing off the shackles that have held me back and am spending more time on the lily pad. The things I believed were helpful or necessary have been discarded in order for me to grow skills for the world of the well. And although this process is uncomfortable, fear provoking and throws everyone I know into mild disarray, it has been worthwhile. I am beginning to feel "normal".
Normal- noun
  1. 1.
    the usual, typical, or expected state or condition.   Or maybe not the whole 9 yards eh?

The biggest indicator of this transformation is when my Mum and sister recently saw me (In the real flesh sense and by photo) and both commented, "Oh, you actually look like you!". A sentence of 6 words, encompassing 10 years of hard work, struggle, terror and a "Fuck you mental illness" attitude.

Struggling with the invisible monster is a daily occurrence.  The degree of struggle varies, but it doesn't disappear. Wellness, recovery and happiness are achievable. I know it isn't that way for everyone, but for me, giving it a go is everything. The desire to really live is strong. Existing for me is not enough. SO I will keep showing up, and if you think I don't really look like me, I am still there. Maybe I just need you to recognise my struggle and walk with me patiently whilst I readjust between pond and pad, exoskeleton and the glorious nakedness and freedom of wellness.

Image result for franz kafka metamorphosis

Monday, 20 February 2017

It's been 10 years - lets have a review!!!!!

I realised yesterday that it's been pretty much 10 years since I entered secondary care services and first experienced a psychiatrist, cpn's and the whole system of mental health provision. In hindsight, which as we know is a beautiful tool, I could never have imagined the journey I have been on. When they told me at my initial assessment they'd like to keep me in services for a little while to assess my symptoms,  I assumed the whole cycle would take 6 months to a year. I had no inkling that 10 years down the road I would still be turning up at the cedars centre (Not a gentle old peoples home) and sitting in the crappy reception with it's water dispenser and oddly inappropriate magazines. So lets have a recap!

I have taken:
Valporate semi sodium

I have received:
12 sessions of Understanding depression cbt
12 sessions of Understanding low self esteem cbt
3 sessions of exposure therapy (trying not to avoid bleach, glass, knives, boiling water etc. in daily living)
3 sessions of mindfulness (But had to stop as I was so sedated by quetiapine I kept falling asleep; I did come off that stuff.)
5 sessions of family intervention with Ian
1 session of Schema and domain work
5 days respite during crisis
Crisis team intervention twice
A cpn on and off for 2 years - 3 different people
Recovery college courses living with bipolar, anxiety management, comedy and creative writing
6 different psychiatrists
3 manic episodes lasting up to 4 days

What I have done:
Not drank alcohol
Not taken illicit or unprescribed medication
Not actually attempted suicide even though it's been a bit dicey a few times
Asked for help and done what was suggested by professional people
Fought discrimination and stigma
Tried to be unafraid and rooted in faith
Been rigorously honest (Which doesn't always go down so well when your intrusive thoughts tell you to do incredibly random stuff and you share it with your husband!)
Attempted optimism and hope in the darkest of times
Forced myself to parent, show up to the business of living and try really hard to have a recovery centred, solution focused life
Smashed the odd plate and used the C word (By the way Christian friends that wouldn't be the Christ word sadly :) )
Reached out to others and tried to express how it really is for me in the hope that I might be understood

Sometimes I wonder how on earth I have got through it, survived it and am still here to tell the tale. I got fat, got thin, got fat; my hair fell out; I slept all the time then couldn't actually sleep at all. I got a rash that they thought was life threatening.  I had a psychiatrist who told me I was really ill and needed to do nothing except sit and get well, but wrote on my notes that I was in remission and needed no help. Someone told me how to hang myself properly (That was the day of the guy who had tried to remove his eye with a spoon), have been held and prayed for and felt love that is so strong it has kept me wanting to live. I have run about a work office like an insane person and heard voices.

My mood barometre is bouncy and flutters erratically, but in amongst the peaks and troughs, I am living and engaging and attempting all that boring normal stuff that some people take for granted. Never under estimate the power of the ordinary. And never doubt that God isn't in the very fabric of your every breathe and heartbeat.