Sometimes I get Hangry

I have a lot to do today. I have webpages to fix, uni assignments to write, a family to tend and friends to see. Which makes it very unfortunate that I also am experiencing a high.

Usually my highs are the sort that make everything very easy because I just sail through my tasks with so much energy and all I need to do is keep a lid on it. (Yeah – ha ha ‘all’).


Sometimes though, I get ‘hangry’.


Which for bipolar peeps, is not when you are so hungry you get angry. No, this is when you get a certain type of high that means you are so wired that you are angry at everything. You get angry at the way people are moving. You get angry at the way the bench in the kitchen is skewed. You get angry at the particular colour blue the sky is. You get insanely outraged at people breathing – at your own breathing. The very atmosphere in which you are existing vibrates with your vexation.

And yet, if you’re very good at hiding it, on the outside to others you just may seem a little off. Maybe slightly irritated. Although for some of us, this can manifest into full blown rage. A good article I have recently read about this very thing, put it into perspective for me. I encourage you to read it also.


I grew up with my rages – they were free-range, not contained at all.


I raged at everything and because I grew up in the bush, everyone just thought I was just a feral bush kid. Usually my rages hurt only trees or fences or cars, sometimes though it was my brother.  One instance, involved a teenaged me, a knife and my brother. Fortunately no one was hurt, however on that occasion I literally saw red and lost all control of my mental faculties. I had no idea at this stage -neither did anyone else – that I had bipolar and this for me, illustrates the importance of early identification.

My anger high is associated with racing thoughts that dig me into a hole. At the start, I can think broadly however once my anger fixates on one particular thing, the bottom of the hole begins to narrow, but I don’t realise it while it is happening. By the time I do cotton on, my thoughts are still racing, but usually between one or two things only. And because there are only a couple of things to think about, the thoughts bounce around faster than if there were more.


It feels like my head is a pinball machine which has just gone into bonus speed round. 


Once I figure out what’s going on, it might take me a little while to remember that I actually DON’T like wallowing in the anger pit I’ve made for myself. Sometimes, this takes a bit of convincing! My strategy for controlling my anger, is music. I stick it in my ears, I turn the volume up and I let it soothe the savage beast. It is usually not just any music though, I have to find the one that doesn’t annoy the crap out of me. When I do find it, it’s never usually the same. One time, it might be the hits of the 80’s, next time round may be Viking Metal, and the following round might involve some soothing Indie. Whatever sound it is that my psyche is looking for, I may have to stick with it for a couple of days.

The trick is to recognise what is going on and to remember my strategy to help me (and everyone else!) to get through it. I am pretty lucky in that I have only had one real ‘incident’ that could have resulted in the death of a loved one, jail time and a life time of regret. And I don’t think that is overstating it. I was fairly bent on destruction because I could not see anything else and had fallen down to my primal base. The thing that has stopped me going there again, is my awareness that it happened.

So now, in the time that I have spent writing this story to you guys, and listening to some sick tunes, I have un-spiralled my mind and I although I still feel the rage inside of me, it is somewhat dulled. If I need to, I will plug my ears with beats that don’t annoy the hell out of me and hopefully, ride this sucker out.

Support Crew

I am at this moment, supposed to be reading about the origin of the author’s voice in a written piece for my university course. But as I am a multi-tasker, while I pondered this origin, I went to hang out the clothes. In the middle of pegging out t-shirts, jocks, socks and bras, I was suddenly struck by the urge to write about how our mental health support base is so important.

So there I am, pegging out unmentionables to dry

and I think,

wow!

I have a fantastic broad support base to help me rock life with a mental illness.

Then I thought,

it’s important that I , as the owner of a mental illness should, from a supporter’s perspective, consider how difficult it is to understand what it is like to spend every second of the day with it.

Mens boxer shorts and saucy silk panties together on a suburban washing line in a gender concept. Stock Photo - 10016912

I recently had a discussion about this with one of my support base and for the first time, I popped my periscope up to consider that perhaps it might be just as difficult to support me having this thing, as it is for me to have it!

Anyway, this person was sharing that it was very hard for them to understand what it is that I go through because they have never experienced it but that they were there for me anyway. I have other friends who can’t cope with discussing anything to do with what goes on in my head and yet others who are almost suffocating in their concern for my state of mental health. All different types of support crew and I tell you, I need every single one.

I understand that it would be difficult to know what it feels like in my head – sometimes I don’t even understand it. And I have no idea what it feels like in someone’s head who don’t have a mental illness.

Is it even possible to go through an hour of the day without having racing thoughts which culminate in five hundred different contingency plans for one particular set of circumstances?

What is it like to not look at every single action that I am about to make and see the red string joining every subsequent action to that one?

Image result for red string  web

Is it even possible to wake up every morning and be as contented as you were yesterday and even 12 months ago? I wouldn’t know. And I wouldn’t understand what that feels like. But I can guess and it sounds lovely. Except……if I were content every day, would that mean that I wouldn’t be me anymore? What does a ‘content with my lot’ me even look like??

Just as our support base don’t know how we feel, we can’t understand how they are feeling. I would think confusion, sadness, helplessness and possibly anger may make appearances. Maybe even thoughts of giving up and walking away? The only way we are going to know is if we talk about it with them.

Image result for frustrated meme

Whatever the thoughts of those who support us, one thing is clear. We need a support base because without one, we can’t go it alone. So I encourage you to think a little bit about how you interact with your support base and that even as you find it difficult to understand why they don’t understand, it is equally as hard for them to grasp how your thinking is so much different from theirs.

With a common understanding – even if it is that we don’t understand each other’s thinking – our support base can help us rock life with a mental illness.

 

 

A little bit of somethin’

So every now and again, I like to smash out a short story. They are usually very weird, about my mental illness and can take a whole bunch out of me while I write them. Writing these stories makes me feel awesome. They make me feel that for just that moment in time, my usual life has taken a back seat and I have become me, the individual. I only think of what I want to think about and my whole essence is wrapped up in the weaving of the story. The story I would like to share with you today, is one of my favourites and I wrote it for a writer’s competition. It didn’t get anywhere, didn’t even make the first cut, but it signified that I had put myself out there. And that’s what matters.

If this story reminds you of you and you would like to drop me a comment about your thoughts, please feel free. I am no counselor, but I understand what you are going through.

My Crazy’s Game

I have a little friend. It likes to play games with my head. It doesn’t care if I like to play its games. Its name is Crazy and it lives in my thoughts. Just when I think I have everything in order in my head, I look closer and notice my Crazy getting ready to stick a mental spanner in my works.

It can seem as light as day in my mind, full of good intentions and rosy thoughts. Every waking moment feels on an even keel like, I suppose, a normal person’s mind. Thoughts flow easily and logically and the sun still shines in the face of stress. I can enjoy the company of almost anybody and am quick witted, a real gem and beloved. In this state, there is a vast space in the grassy plain of my mind for my buffalo thoughts to graze. I have cultivated the herd for years. Each buffalo represents a single thought, the birth of an idea created from the depths of my soul. The herd moves constantly across the wide, open expanse picking the juiciest young ideas from the fertile ground and sometimes, stopping to masticate a particularly tasty notion.

Never stopping to ruminate for long, the herd pushes on. Behind them, the plants with abstract thoughts eaten by the herd reincarnate as new theories, schemes, proposals and concepts. It seems to the observer that the herd might exist in this plain forever, such is the self-regenerative power of the plants sustaining the moving horde.

Each buffalo is fat and shiny with health and when moving together, they jostle and bump off each other causing parasitic negative tics to fly off and implode into nothingness. Although they exist as individual musings, my buffalo thoughts are still driven by the magnetic attraction between each one of them. Even as a buffalo carries its own idea, the herd cannot disassemble because if it does, the grass plain of my mind would fall inexorably to pieces. I would be left to wander along behind, in the dust of broken thoughts, trying vainly to gather them back to form a collaborative herd.

As the owner of this life-giving, sunny steppe, I benefit greatly from my herd of buffalo, but even as I rejoice in my creation, I catch myself trying to remember something important about it. I cannot quite put my finger on it and as I try to zero in on the feeling, I almost grasp it. Almost hear a voice whisper on a cool wind that has suddenly sprung up. What is it? What is it? What is it? What is it? What is it? That nagging notion, that feeling that I’m missing something vital. The voice on the wind whispers louder “It’s not real”. It sounds as if the voice is casting dispersions on the veracity of my buffalo thoughts. That perhaps the fidelity of my sunny grassland is less than bona fide. Looking ahead of the roving herd, I can see thunderclouds and a ravine.

What the hell?

It was sunshine and lollipops as far as the eye could see a second a go!!

The voice is screaming at me now “You are going to die! Rein in the herd!” Then I remember what it is that I was trying to forget. This has happened before. Many times. I also remember why I chose to forget, as I do every time.

 I am going to die. My entire herd of precious buffalo thoughts are going to die.

The rate of death is different each time; but I remember that there is no escaping the dark, desolation of the annihilation that follows.  I try to steer my buffalo away from the oncoming storm but they are on a particularly delicious strip of grazing fodder and will not be moved from its path. Its trail stretches into the storm’s oncoming course and the buffalo, zombie-like in their food coma, amble slowly towards their demise.

I desperately try to adopt some techniques to stop the herd. Positive thinking – nope, what’s positive again? Mindfulness – are you even joking right now?? More coffee – does nothing except make the buffalo walk faster to their death.  Curling up in a ball – feels good, maybe I will stay here for a bit and try to think of another trick. All of a sudden, the buffalo reach the top of the ravine marking the boundary of the storm. They are not stopping. I’m feeling less inclined to care. It’s actually less effort to not care about my buffalo, or anything really.

The death of the sunny, nutritious grass plain of my mind is quick. The buffalo plunge over the crest of the ravine, falling, smashing into the jagged rocks of the darkness. Each thought following the one in front, unperturbed by the carnage below it, while the storm rages on above their broken bodies.

The tempest lashes at any sliver of light, throwing dark bolts of electricity at anything remotely resembling luminescence. Bitterness, grumpiness, distrust and constant emotional unrest is the now the order of the day. And the night. I do not mourn the passing of my sunny buffalo thoughts because I have forgotten them. They no longer exist in my mind. My mind is now a cesspool of dangerous bogs and menacing, slimy holes which are all just my size. Where before, nutritious thought-plants fostered growth and nurturing, now only poisonous thistles and thorny vines wind their putrid tendrils through my mind and my body.

Their poison makes my bones ache. My hair and fingernails are in constant agony. The poison saps my energy and my days roll by in a daze of lethargy and pointlessness. Every minute of my pathetic existence is spent fighting the ever-present fog, to keep from stepping in a bog or falling in a hole. The voice I heard whispering to me of my herd’s impending death, has turned into a seductive demon. It whispers that the bogs are warm and inviting and that the holes were especially made for me and would fit me like a warm embrace in which I could remain for all eternity.

The demon is alluring and it seems to be the only thing in my world that cares enough to be concerned about my level of discomfort. But I am distrustful in this state and I don’t listen all that carefully this time. As time wears on however, I become weary of navigating the pitfalls of my stupor and the demon is patient. It’s at my shoulder now. It’s breathing into my ear in its provocative way. My mind leans back into it, like a lover and I release my distrust, falling into the demon’s embrace. I become robot-like and completely devoid of all emotion.

Feelings do not exist within me now and when I could be bothered looking at my soul, I only see blackness. I do not understand the concept of happiness. I only know that it happens for other people. But for me, positivity, joy, progressiveness and the future hold no import or significance. The demon holds the reins of my thoughts and spurs me on with its acid whip. I only live because the demon lets me live. It hasn’t kept its promise that I would be able to stop in a warm embrace, the demon is relentless and cruel. I am physically tired and emotionally drained and I cannot see any use for my battered soul. I do not understand logic or emotion. It is almost too great an effort just to breathe.

Then, just as I have forgotten that any other reality exists, a voice whispers “It’s not real” and through the fog I make out the forms of buffalo lumbering towards me. Like the tide against a beach, their hooves beat out a tattoo that promises sun and freedom.

 

And my Crazy’s game begins again.

What If I Am A Bunyip?

When I was little, we had a book in our house called ‘The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek” by Jenny Wagner .

Image result for bunyip from the berkeley's creek

In this book, a mythical Australian creature, the bunyip, tries to find out what he is. Not satisfied with being told he was a bunyip by a talking kangaroo and an emu, he goes on an adventure to find out from other talking Australian fauna, what bunyips should look like. They give him snippets of information which isn’t very complimentary.

When he asks a man though, he is told that bunyips don’t look like anything because they don’t exist. The bunyip, despondent, goes into hiding where he finds another bunyip and they apparently live happily ever after in their little bunyip world.

Image result for bunyip from the berkeley's creek

I didn’t like the book when I was a kid, it freaked me the hell out, especially the picture of the man. But now that I am an adult with 43 years of life experience behind me, I am considering the book in a different light.

I don’t know if Jenny Wagner wrote this for children or for adults who think about stuff too much, but I can draw several parallels to a bipolar me, trying to understand who the hell I am.

The man in the book said that the bunyip is a creature that you can’t see because it doesn’t exist. You can’t see my mental illness either. Does that mean it doesn’t really exist? Does the fact that I wonder many, many times a day who I am, what I am, do I exist, can anybody really see me, mean that I may be just a bit of a weirdo with a rapidly oscillating brain function? Am I bunyip enough to be happy knowing that all I might need is another person just like me? Probably not.

It is not lost on me that the bush creatures who enjoyed wide, open spaces and were obviously less involved with civilisation were the ones who could see the bunyip and tell him what bunyips should look like.

It is also not lost on me that the man, a scientist, did not even bother to look up from his work to consider the fact that despite his belief that bunyips didn’t exist, there was a bunyip in his chair, talking to him.

Sometimes that is what it felt like when early on, I tried to talk about my depression with others who don’t know what it’s like to have it. They didn’t believe that it was even a thing. It’s been said to me to ‘just think happy thoughts’ or ‘why would you be, you have a great life’ or ‘are you serious? You’re so happy all the time!’ Or the people who feel they are all googled up on the symptoms and behaviours who, like the native animals, tell me what I should and shouldn’t be feeling.

And sometimes, I would agree with them and get bunyip-like and slink off, despondent, to ponder my own existence. 

Image result for bunyip from the berkeley's creek

I have no idea who I am going to be in the next ten minutes, but I could have a guess at who I won’t be. I won’t be someone who has a one, all consuming passion to achieve something great. I won’t have a clue about whether if what I’m thinking is what mentally sound people think. I won’t be someone who has any idea how I can turn off all the noise in my head or tidy up the jumbled thoughts in my mind that trip over themselves to form a coherent idea.  And I won’t know if I give in to not being mentally strong, whether I will fade away from existence.

My existence is a constant topic of discussion between the voices in my head. I definitely feel overwhelmed when I consider the weight of my responsibilities in the world but I’d like to think that as I trundle through, moment to moment, I am like the bunyip, beginning to form a picture of who it is that I am. And hopefully, I will be able to be content with who that is.

Image result for bunyip from the berkeley's creek

Gravity Sucks

Once upon a time, there was a famous scientist who said “what goes up, must come down”. His name was Issac Newton and he was talking about gravity’s affect upon objects. But really, he could have been talking about my bipolar!

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t just get happy

for endless periods of time.

No. I get what my system sells as ‘happy’ for a period of time and then, true to Newton’s theory, I get down.

I get:

Sad. Depressed. Melancholy. Dejected. Forlorn.

Gloomy. Glum. Wretched. Lugubrious.

This feeling lasts for a much longer period of time than the happy. Hence the ‘type II’ after Bipolar in my diagnosis. Even though I’m on Lithium – the ‘gold standard’ of mood stabilisers – my mood is still affected by gravity. Just not as much as it was before I started taking it.

Again, I don’t know about you, but I cannot control when these ups and downs are going to happen. I have no idea which one I’ll be when I get out of bed in the morning.

Do You??

 

Take today for example. I woke up and found I was not in the black funk I have been in for the last week and a half. Just like that. Like the last ten days never happened. As if I haven’t just spent the last 14400 minutes dragging my miserable arse through each excruciating moment of every day.

Nope. Today, I’m bloody chipper!!

Woohoo!! No idea how long this will last. Maybe the whole day if I’m lucky. Maybe a week. It is really one of life’s great unknowns. Like the location of the hanging gardens of Babylon, or where Donald Trump’s hair flies to for winter.

I have found that I really only trust the dark times. I don’t trust the happy, the light, the trippy, the joyous, the sunny, the content.

Delight, is especially dodgy.

In my experience, happiness is fleeting. It always leaves and it never writes a parting note, nor gives a backward glance. Blackness doesn’t need to – because it never leaves. It’s always there. Always. Lurking. Skulking. Planning. Waiting.

Even if I wake up and my emotions are flying high, joyfully bouncing around in zero gravity, I cannot revel in the feeling because I know what Newton knew. What goes up, must come down. Every time. And so I wait for the happiness to end, because it will and there’s nothing I can do about it. And most of the time, this knowledge crushes me as surely as if my illness were a hand gripping my lungs and squeezing the air from them. I can’t tell you the last time I drew a deep breathe and didn’t anticipate the punishment of the dark side.

The ache in my heart after a high is so real that it magnifies the ensuing low, tenfold.

I feel the shutters come down over my soul and my eyes do not see in colour. Every thought is an effort; and every effort is like being in too-big gumboots, wading through knee high mud in a low oxygen environment. Awkward, asphyxiating, hard-going and intensely frustrating.

My life becomes a black and white movie that I am forced to watch through the dirty perspex windows that are my eyes. Every action is slow and laboured and feels like it is being performed by someone else. My ability to care about anything is non-existent. Because I am curled up behind my eyes, in a dank corner of my mind, trying not to fade away into nothingness.

And then, one day out of the blue, the weight is lifted and gravity ceases to be a problem. And the cycle starts all over again.

Weird is A-OK!

Sometimes I wonder if I was born weird or whether it was something that I grew into. I have been weird my whole life. I don’t mind being weird, in fact I quite like that it sets me apart from your average person. If I sit still and consider my weirdness long enough, I eventually come to the ‘chicken and the egg’ conundrum.


Do I have mental illness because I am already a weird person or, is my mental illness the cause of my weirdness?


And then after I’ve considered this for a few days, I get a headache and have to do something mind numbing, like look at Pintrest. I love Pintrest.

I grew up on 15,000 acres in south-west Queensland where my family farmed beef cattle. We didn’t have a proper phone or power. Our water came from tanks and I did my schooling through School of the Air and Correspondence School. Once a week, my mum went into the local school and taught music. I hated going, all the other kids thought my brother and I were freaks and treated us accordingly.

As a child, I spent more time with animals than I did with other human children. This is not unusual for kids growing up in the bush and usually they progress through life with good social skills and an appreciation of the beautiful things in life. I did not. While most of my peers wanted to be cattle breeders, princesses, cowgirls and horse trainers, I wanted to be a morgue attendant. My social skills were not optimal. I did not enjoy being with other children mostly because they annoyed me and also because they bullied me mercilessly. They could feel my weirdness and like all pack animals, they punished the different.

So I retreated into my head and built a world for myself in there. It was a really great world. I could be whatever I wanted to be. While I was young, I chose to be a powerful sorceress on windy days, because I really liked how the wind made my cloak swirl madly around me. On other days, I commanded a team of angels who helped me control the mobs of cattle that I was mustering. On still other days, I just lay on my back and stared into the world in my head and got lost in it.

I could do that for a long time and when I did it, the real world literally ceased to exist. I heard nothing except the air of the world in my head and smelled nothing except the smells of that world. People in the real world would call my name and I wouldn’t hear them. I was completely absorbed. I still do this, however it is a bit more difficult to tune out an adult world, responsible thoughts can creep in and cause cracks in the creation in your head. When cracks appear, the real world floods in; and the imaginary world becomes tainted with the harsh reality of everyday existence.

I have grown into an adult who has always had a weird bent to life. I see things in ways that others do not, do things in ways that others will not and understand things in a way that others cannot. I am brushed off as a little eccentric, and do you know? That is fine by me, because that is how I have come to define myself.  After my bipolar diagnosis, I felt relieved because now my weirdness had a name. Bipolar can be genetic and I choose this to be a gift that has been passed down to me from one of my parents. It means that my bipolar is written into my DNA; like my name can be written on a grain of rice in a market stall.  Nothing can erase it. So to a certain extent, I am like I am because I have bipolar. If I did not have bipolar, I would not be the same weird, eccentric person that I am. Or would I? I ponder this a thousand times a day. I consider it as you would a Rubik’s cube – from all angles but not really sure where to start so that all the colours match up.

This knowledge is fine on the days when I like myself. On the days when I don’t, then that, dear reader; is another story.

Meet Me, Meet My Mental Illness Too

Meet me at Starbucks.      Meet me in ten minutes.

Meet me for lunch. Meet me with your kids.

Meet Me for a chat.           Meet me, I have your books.      Meet me and I’ll tell you.

                                   Meet me.

Meet me.

When you do, I may seem like any other person, and I am, but I am also a part of a global community that is growing larger every year. It is the community of people who have a mental illness.

I have Bipolar type II and Depression. I am starting this blog to bring awareness to mental illness and to do what I can to reduce the stigma attached to it. There will be a mix of blog pieces and fictional stories straight from my head to yours, that I hope will resonate with you, bring you some understanding and mostly, bring you enjoyment.

I live in Perth, Western Australia with my husband and three children. I enjoy sunsets and an ice cold glass of sav blanc. I am a foodie and a coffee snob and I drive an ostentatious four wheel drive, like everybody else in WA. I am just the girl next door. Except I have a mental illness. Well two of them, but who’s counting 😛

I was diagnosed with post natal depression after the birth of our first child and then again after the births of our other two children. I was medicated the first time, Zoloft was the drug of choice. We didn’t get on. It made me feel numb. Even more numb than I was before I went on it. So if numb was a scale between ‘ice on your burn’ and ‘Sansa Stark’, Zoloft had me pledging my allegiance to the North.

I was not medicated with our second child as I didn’t realise what was happening and did not seek help. It was rough. Our third child was born seven years later. I recognised my nemesis when I started appreciating a certain James Blunt song a little too much and considered driving off a bridge a few too many times. I went straight to the GP and scored off the scale on the depression test. Efexor has been my friend ever since.

I was not diagnosed with bipolar until I was 39. When I think about it, the signs were there much, much earlier. I was prescribed Lithium and my mood has stabilised as much as it can.

A mental illness diagnosis, I have found, does not mean that I have had to stop being who I have always been. It has not meant that I have grown a second head or a fifth limb or needed to run away and join a circus as the caged freak. Being diagnosed with a mental illness has helped me find my purpose. But for some, this is the exact opposite of their experience. Stigma is an ugly word and it unfortunately makes mutes out of those who should be able to express themselves freely. My hope is that through my writing, I can offer encouragement for others who have mental illnesses and insight to those who care for them, and ultimately go a little way to lifting the stigma from something that is as natural as breathing.