“We all talk to ourselves. Those we call mad just talk a little louder.”
– Marty Rubin
“We all talk to ourselves. Those we call mad just talk a little louder.”
– Marty Rubin
Things have been going pretty darn well lately. I might feel a bit run down and flu-ish, but my mood has been stable.
Until this morning. I got shivved by an anxiety spike.
You see, I once engaged in the dieting paradigm. Once, after my child was born. My body made it abundantly clear that my metabolism wouldn’t stand for it, brought all the weight lost back in a matter of weeks plus some, and stayed that way for over a year (I got down to 127, and it spiked back up to 154). After a year, I randomly lost a stone, and my body has hovered around 140lbs since then. It’s a good and fine weight; it’s not the 120lbs I was when I got pregnant with my daughter, but it’s a healthy weight, and it doesn’t bother me. My only bodily concern is that people will mistake my adorable remnant of belly chub as pregnancy and try to touch me, because nausea means I can’t stand anyone to get near my stomach (and I don’t think pregnant ladies are public property, ripe for the touching either). Since then, I’ve discovered the Health at Every Size movement via the most fabulous Ragen Chastain, and find it to be a most reasonable and sane approach. After all, I should and do worship my body for doing all sorts of fabulous things for me, like breathing and moving and twirling around! After all, who really takes care of things they hate?
Now, my one social activity that I’ve found and meshed well with is Stitch ‘n Bitch. Unfortunately, almost everyone in my group is dieting. And because I’m one of the smallest people there, anything I try to share of my one diet experience goes in one ear and out the other. I say that my body lost weight on its own metabolism steam, and people assume I’m happier and healthier because I’m thinner. Um… body size has little to do with actual health or happiness, but as said — in one ear, and out the other. I shrug, sigh, and try to drown out he fact most of them are in that smug phase where they believe the weight they’ve lost will stay off, and flat-out refuse to recognize how screwed up their metabolisms are from repeated dieting attempts. It’s their choice, after all, and I can certainly respect that’s what they want to do. I won’t cheer them on for it, but I’ll try to at least be polite.
So this morning, another person fell into the clutches of Slimming World. I shrugged and sighed, until another member of our group suggested we should turn our Stitch ‘n Bitch group into a Slimming World club. It’s been a few hours now, and my heart still physically hurts from the massively severe anxiety spike that caused. Not only would that make it not possible for me to attend the *one* social thing that I have found and am happy to regularly attend, but that’s about as bad as say… randomly declaring it a prayer meeting ‘because most of us are Christian’. Dude, you can pray and worship if you want. You can diet if you want. Do.not.force.it.on.me. It’s not funny, it’s not clever, and man… seriously, did I mention that my heart still physically hurts a few hours on? Because it does, because deity forbid I refuse to let the media and governments tell me I should panic over an arbitrary number they change on a whim, just because. Correlation does not imply causation, and it would do us all very good to remember this.
Beyond that, I’m just trying to be mindful of my sleep. My little one starts full time school tomorrow morning, and while I don’t have to get up to take her to school, I don’t want to be holding up myself and my husband in getting to work. I’m not super-optimistic about my ability to rise earlier and not be horrendously physically ill from it (true story), but I’m trying to convince myself that it should be less dire because it’s still after sunrise. I’m also going to start taking my Seroquel an hour or two earlier and see if that helps me make the shift. Fingers crossed, right?
For now, I am going to go find a beverage, ’cause it’s sweltering here. I hope everyone is having a good one.
Also, if anyone does have a different opinion on this matter they wish to share, by all means — just keep it polite. It’s not going to change my mind though.
[[radio edit]] I feel I should addendum that nobody is actually going to change our group to a dieting club. It was just one gal talking to another and, I presume, offering it as a polite jest. Doesn’t make it any less triggering though.
Graham Shiels is the author of The Bipolar Place, and a partner in the stigma-fighting campaign, Faces of Mental Illness. He is a husband, a mail carrier, lives in Livepool, England, and he is a Voice of Mental Illness.
BSS: How long have you known that you are living with a mental illness?
GS: For me it’s not a simple, x amount of years, answer. I was first diagnosed with a mental illness when I was 22. That would be 13 years ago. However, I think I have had a mental illness as early as the age of 12 or 13. I remember crying myself to sleep nearly every night for what seemed like a year, but I didn’t know what I was crying about. I wasn’t aware back then I had a mental illness, but I also had the feeling that not everyone felt this way.
GS: As already mentioned I was diagnosed with depression 13 years ago. I was diagnosed with bipolar just over 3 years ago.
GS: I was diagnosed with depression after my girlfriend (now wife) basically suggested I go to see my GP. Not so much, because I wouldn’t go, but more a case of I didn’t know what the hell was going on & I needed the help/push to get me there.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar 10 years later. I saw a psychiatrist for the first time after I had thankfully failed in a suicide attempt. I’d basically decided, that if I was going to live through bouts of depression at least once a year, I’d rather not be here.
I wouldn’t say I had any special testing. I was only diagnosed with bipolar due to my history of depression & then the psychiatrist looking back through my medical details realised I more than likely had been bipolar for a long time.
GS: I think I had been misdiagnosed with depression for a long time. Whether I ever suffered from depression or if my depression transformed into bipolar or if I suffer from both is anyones guess. I honestly think most of the diagnosis we have, linked to our brains, will at some point be re-evaluated. Simply because there is still much we need to learn about the brain. I’d be very surprised if when I’m in my fifties I’ll still be classed as having bipolar type 2.
BSS: Have you ever been hospitalized due to your illness? How many times? Do you think it helped?
GS: I’ve only been hospitalised when I took an overdose, but that was your standard A&E department.
GS: I take Sodium Valproate (mood stabiliser) & Fluoxetine (anti depressant). Yes I think they do help, but I’m a big believer in balancing it with healthy eating, drinking & exercise. I don’t suffer badly with side affects thankfully. Fluoxetine does make me sweat a little more than average, but nothing so it’s overly noticeable. Sodium Valporate can cause diarrhoea, but again I’ve not really suffered from it.
GS: Currently, I’m working as a postman which enables me to walk & cycle on average 4 hours a day. For me, exercise is just as important, if not more so, than the medication used for treating bipolar type 2. I’ve only been a postman for less than a year. Before this I’ve mainly worked in an office environment. The lack of exercise in an office job, meant I needed to try & exercise in a gym or by running & cycling outdoors. One of the problems with this is finding the motivation to do the exercise outside of work, when all I wanted to do was relax & enjoy my ‘down time’.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar I’ve reduced the amount of alcohol I drink. I’ve cut out drinking during the week & only drink at most, one bottle of wine when I do allow myself a tipple. Alcohol is a natural depressant & so as I suffer more from the depressive side of bipolar it seems like common sense to monitor my alcohol intake. If I’m going through an episode of hyperness or depression I cut out alcohol altogether.
One tool I’ve learned, which surprised me how useful I found it, is my Alternative Journal. It is a CBT tool that helps change how you think about the things you see on a daily basis. I was talking to a counsellor about how, sometimes, when I’m depressed, I struggle to see the positives that are there all around me. He suggested that I begin to log the things that make me happy in a day. Whether it be a stranger smiling at you, a kind gesture or something that made you smile. So it works like this: Grade yourself out of 10, then write down as many positive things that have happened (aim for ten positives). Read through what you’ve written & then regrade yourself. Hopefully you will feel a little more positive. However, I only really felt the full impact of this exercise after doing it for six to eight months. I now automatically see the positives around me & pause to appreciate them.
Over the last 13 years I’ve seen many counsellors. In general they’ve been very helpful, but I can’t stress enough to be careful that you’re in the right frame of mind for counselling. It’s easy to go to counselling with the aim of helping yourself, but sometimes you just need to let yourself be. After all, picking at a wound isn’t the best way to heal it.
GS: I honestly believe the number of redundancies I’ve had (3), have been as a result of my illness. Of course other reasons have been given. Don’t get me wrong, I understand if you’re off work a lot because of an illness, at some point a business may need to cut back. I simply find it annoying that a company won’t just come out & be honest, giving the real reason. Or heaven forbid they actually allow a form of flexible working allowing me to continue in my job.
My education was certainly affected, both in school & university. I had no idea what was wrong in school & ended up leaving two years early, to escape the bullying & isolation I felt. At university I distracted myself with clubs, drinking & trying to have fun. This worked to varying degrees, suffice to say I enjoyed my time at uni, my grades did not
Relationships have been fine for me. I’m lucky I have a great wife who has been with me for 14 years. My family is, well, complicated, but those I care about have been great.
I’ve never had problems with addictions to drugs. That’s not to say I haven’t dabbled in the lesser recreational stuff…but errrr… we’ll leave that there
GS: Other than losing jobs, I feel were linked to my illness, I can’t say I’ve had any problems. Mainly because, only until recently, I’ve been open about having bipolar. I’m sure if I was open about my illness from day 1 I would have come across some discrimination. Currently I wouldn’t let anyone get away with disparaging comments, as I feel much more confident as a person & would be only too happy to point out the error of their ways
BSS: If you could give advice to someone else struggling with mental illness, what would it be?
GS: Don’t struggle in silence. Be open with those you trust. If people would rather not be around you after you open up to them, as hard as that is, are they worth your friendship?
GS: Don’t give up. The down cycles of mental illness, truly horrible as they can be, are temporary. You can get through them & enjoy your life. That may sound cliched, but I’ve found from my own experience, it to be true.
Yesterday was wonderlovely. My kid wouldn’t mind me so I grounded her, which gave me the pleasure of sending her little monster friends away. Of course, the fuckers came back THREE TIMES in spite of being told not to come back because she is grounded. The third time, they woke me from a pleasant nap, outside screaming my name, telling me my cat was trapped in my car and couldn’t get out. Um, the windows were both down, how he got in the car to begin with, think he can figure out to exit that way too., Manipulative little brats. I ignored them. Still salty I can’t take a fucking nap.
I think yesterday was the lowest stress day I have had all summer. Proof the problem isn’t entirely me, it’s the badly behaved children.
Today was…I went to use my debit card to get cash to pay rent and the ATM rejected it, saying to contact card issuer. Well, it took me an hour to get a live person on the line and even longer to get one who didn’t have an accent so think I couldn’t understand them. They kept telling me to do this, I kept explaining the damn machine wouldn’t even let me get to that screen. It sent me into a panic and I have no grace when I panic.
Finally got it worked out.
Realized I don’t have enough money to pay all my bills. Not new, but still it’s fucking stressful. And more stressful is people telling me, “Get a job and stop griping.” First, I have applied for any job I am remotely capable of doing for two years. NO ONE WANTS ME. Second, if anyone knows of a place that will hire me and work around all my mental issues, I will start work this fucking minute. Can’t guarentee I will be functional for very long, but I am willing t try. I have always been willing to try.
So yeah, functionality…It was iffy today. Panic, accomplishment, manic talky-ness, anxiety, blah…The entire mood gamut has been covered in one day.
And my darling daughter ended up grounded again, because by the time she has blatantly disobeyed me for the sixth time in an hour, I feel justified in trying to teach her that is wrong. And like a bad VD, the devil girls come knocking on the door. Prior to this, Spook was not grounded and was playing out in the yard. But noo, they were playing with other kids their age and just ignored her. I told them she was grounded again and shut the door in their face. (These kids actually barrel their way inside if you don’t take a solid position.) Not ten minutes later they came back. I was just like, how dumb can they be? “We want to play.” Um, I’m the adult, I said no, please leave.
Those two girls are enough to make me want to acquire a Unabomber shack and shun all contact with people. I have always tried to view kids as being basically kid, sometimes they’re just not taught well and they have bad behavior. These two truly are satan children. I don’t like them. I want to. I just don’t.
Speaking of want…
My depression is coming on. Be it the upcoming season change or going off the anti depressant…It’s coming. I can feel it. Feel the joy leaving the things that normally make me giddy,
But that started right after i had my kid. My mom said, “You can’t be depressed anymore, you have to think of your baby.”
Sometimes wonder if she didn’t jinx it. Depression doesn’t give a fuck if you have a kid or kids. It doesn’t care if you’re a goddamn genius or cured cancer. It’s an ILLNESS, not a goddamn choice.
My mother burns me up because when I was 16, she signed herself into the psych ward for depression and anxiety, which left me to take a leave of absence from my job and take care of dad and my sister as well as all the household stuff, the pets, the bills, the errands…That she has the nerve to tell me I “can’t” be depressed because it’s some sort of affront to my kid makes me want to rip her stupid head off her shoulders.
I do wonder why I didn’[t experience this loss of will to live prior to having my kid. I now serve a purpose, and yet I just have so little life left in me. So little joy. Fleeting tastes of joy, and yet, this wall in my mind that won’t let it be more than fleeting, won’t let me see a future worth living, won’t allow me to think I might actually enhance my child’s life as oppose to be a hindrance.
It’s like you know you need to do dishes or laundry or whatever…And you want to want to do it but you’re not feeling it. And it doesn’t get done, even though you feel shitty about not doing it so you flog yourself mentally…
That’s what my life has become.
I want to want to live.
But for the most part, I don’t.
I don’t want to die.
But I just can’t find joy in any meaningful way. Everything is a bucket of suck.
That’s not negativity.
That is mental illness.
I wish people weren’t too damn stupid to know the difference.
Where did I pick up that being a good person, doing the right thing even when no one is looking, trying make good choices and even at times, following my heart or inner voice, would equal a “good” life. Sesame Street? Church? Some new age book I’ve picked up along the way? Don’t most people, somewhere at the core believe this? Isn’t this some sort of belief that’s somehow pumped into the atmosphere for most of us?
It’s simply not that easy, or even true.