Daily Archives: October 23, 2014

Depression On My Mind

One of the advantages of admitting one is depressed is it takes all the pressure off to pretend otherwise. I’ve fought it tooth and nails for over a week, but the truth is I feel lousy and I may as well acknowledge it. There’s no use in trying to pass it off as a little blip on the radar, or blame it solely on what’s going on in my life (although that definitely triggered it). It just is, and it stinks on ice. Or as Dr. Awesomesauce poetically put it the other day, “You feel stuck, and it sucks”.

It’s not ALL suckage, as yesterday’s amazing Facebook hook-up goes to prove. Will and I have to give up our three cats because the family members we’re moving in with are wildly allergic—the kind of allergic that requires the carrying of an Epi-Pen—and I posted my dilemma on FB. Before the day was out, however, I not only had a friend who would take all three, but another friend agreed to drive them to Seattle and still another is going to finance the trip. Now I won’t have to worry about them, because I know where they’ll be and that they’ll get to stay together. I already miss them, even though they’re still here…..but at least there’ll be a happy ending to their story. Who says there are no miracles anymore?

I’m still majorly bummed out about pretty much everything else, though, and that doesn’t help matters. I’ve apologized to Will a hundred times because I’m basically useless and he doesn’t need me to be sick now. Of course, he doesn’t blame me for anything and is doing everything he can to raise my spirits; luckily for us both he has succeeded in quashing my budding suicidal ideation (the last thing on earth he should have to deal with at this tough time in HIS life). It wasn’t as serious as it was back in June when I was really down, it was only fleeting and I think it just happened because that’s the way my mind works in depression: I want OUT, dammit!

But there is no way out of either the depression or the situation, only through it, and I know that. I keep trying to do what Dr. A said and seek the opportunities in it; never one to blow sunshine up my skirt, he still thinks I can turn this into a positive thing, and he’s probably right. I just haven’t found the good stuff yet, and being in a downswing makes it really hard to look for it.

This, too, shall pass…..

 

 


Work

Whether it’s a job or a career, work can be a big part of your life. Holding down a job is one of the most difficult challenges of bipolar disorder. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) states that 88% of people with a mental illness reported that their illness affected their ability to perform their duties. I loved my job. It’s been seven years since I’ve worked, and I still miss it. Not only do I miss the actual work, but I miss the social interaction, the feelings of accomplishment and fulfilment, and the creative outlet.

When it comes to work, there’s the burning question of whether or not to disclose that you have bipolar disorder – to your immediate supervisor, manager or co-workers. An argument can be made either way but to tell or not to tell should be seriously considered. It’s a very personal decision. In most vocations you are not obligated to tell. Your health is private. But if you don’t tell you won’t have the support from your supervisor or co-workers. You won’t have understanding when your moods make you sick and keep you home. You’ll have to keep your medical appointments secret (or even problematically miss them). And you won’t have the accommodations that could help you succeed.

I chose to tell. I faced gossip, anxiety, judgement and even disrespect. So I suppose you’d have to say I faced stigma. But I’m glad I told. Overall it was for the better. My supervisor and manager were very supportive and accommodating, and most of my co-workers were understanding.

After an unsuccessful return-to-work and considerable research, I have learned some of the best supports that you should have in place if you decide to work while you have bipolar disorder. Those include: extra time to learn new tasks, a self-paced workload, modified hours (even some working from home), frequent yet short breaks, fresh air/brief walk, reduced responsibilities, know your limits, regular meetings with your supervisor and provide them with resources about bipolar, increase natural lighting, have a private office or quiet area to reduce noise and distractions, divide large assignments into smaller tasks, maintain several calendars and lists, structure but at the same time flexibility, and stick to your treatment plan. These may or may not be possible depending on your work.

For me, it’s not only the many symptoms of depression and/or mania that keep me from work, but also the executive and cognitive deficits that have developed as a result of bipolar. Those challenges include: memory loss, decision-making, problem-solving, concentration and organization. The ability to work is just another thing bipolar has stolen from me. I envy those who can.


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Mental Illness + Kudos + Coolness!

Yeah, I know… it’s not often you see ‘kudos’ and ‘coolness’ next to the words ‘mental illness’. But I am at times reminded that mental illness is taken up as a ‘worthy cause’ when someone famous is diagnosed with it … Continue reading

Disclosure

Although my Secondary Care assessment and diagnosis appointment isn’t for another 5 weeks yet, I decided (while lying awake at 4am) that I would make a ‘gesture of trust’ with my boss in work and talk to her about what’s been happening to me since I approached my GP in early July this year.

So I gave her the very short version; that bets were now off on me getting a diagnosis of bipolar II and had in fact had this all my aduly life, 35 years or so, without getting any help, advice or treatment.

My thinking about revealing this now was that I would be able to access some Occupational Health support and would be protected by the Disability Rights Act if not now then after late November.

She was very supportive, or at least suggested such. Time will tell..


Personalising your Lavatory, and the Legend of the Poo Bucket

It’s official. The Christmas decorations are out.

christmaspeople

You can probably guess what type of person I am.

Having said that; the one very exciting aspect of Christmas was delivered straight to our door yesterday afternoon. That’s right people: The Home Care Catalogue: Christmas Edition.

The Home Care Catalogue is always one of my guilty pleasures. Sitting down with a coffee to read about the latest innovations and imagining the inventors at the Dragons Den always amuses me. But the Christmas Edition is something truly special. This year there was such a fantastic array of items featured that I suggested to my family that we all pick something out of the catalogue for each others christmas presents. They were surprisingly unenthusiastic, but still crowded around pointing out “Look at the motorised gardening buggy!” and “I totally need one of those Holy Bible USB drives!”

Given the calibre of the selection, it was incredibly difficult. But I have decided to stray from my usual topic of mental health today, to personally present a few of my favourite catalogue items to you. So here they are. In no particular order of fabulousness.

You’re welcome.

First up. Toilet Decals!

wpid-20141022_204057.jpgWhile I have never seen my lavatory as an object of decoration, there is always time for something new! This particular design reminds me of a birthday many years ago, when our good friend Jack asked Steven and I for a  golden toilet seat. And a private jet. In that order.

While the jet was somewhat difficult to obtain, we did manage to fulfil Jack’s desire of a golden throne. A quick trip to Bunnings, one standard toilet seat, and some gold spray paint later Jack could now rest his posterior in a princely fashion. But THIS toilet seat decal could take the DIY out of DIY. No having to explain to the staff member why you need the spray paint. And for under $50. Who could resist?

Next up….a more comfortable throne.

wpid-20141022_205756.jpg

I have never known a gift magazine to contain so many lavatorial items. But I actually had an epiphany when I saw this. I realised that  humans vary in size and stature….but (aside from the minuture toilets you find in daycare centres) TOILETS ARE ALL THE SAME SIZE.

Thats, like, discrimination against the non – average. I’m a tall person. (Not freakishly tall, I hasten to add, but I can tend to look like a 12 year old boy at the end of a school year if I don’t buy the “Tall” sized pants). This lavatorial add on could make an actual difference to my life. To all tall people’s lives! And the convenient portable nature of the seat is a total win.

I’m sensing somewhat of a lavatorial theme here. And this next item is no exception, although it is less of a promotion and more of  a cautionary tale.

wpid-20141022_211145.jpgFor the love of God, DO NOT purchase this Dog Poo Waste Terminator.

My parents  were often trying to come up with innovative ways to dispose of our doggy dung. The time they decided to feed the poo to our worm farm being another example (Fail. Worms died). However the Poo Bucket incident was undoubtedly the most disastrous of these occasions, and has  become the stuff of family legend.

The purpose of the Poo Bucket is to add your poo (well, not yours, the dogs) to a mix of chemicals and it is supposed to, I don’t know, melt the poo, transform it into mulch, or fertiliser, or ice cream, or something.

Anyway all our poo transformed into was a molten, steaming, brown liquid that smelled SO bad that we couldn’t actually use the side of yard where the bucket was housed for the best part of a year. I am not even exaggerating. Even flies expired if they strayed into Poo Bucket Territory.

You have to understand. The smell of the Poo Bucket was so indescribably revolting. So gut wrenchingly putrid. And I’m stating this as a mother, dog owner, former childcare worker, and individual with recurrent gastrointestinal distress who should really have “Adept at dealing with bodily functions” inscribed onto my resume.

For the most part our policy of dealing with the Poo Bucket was “out of smell, out of mind.” But Dad pulled the short straw on the morning of twenty first birthday party, dry retching as he ran with the Poo Bucket, trying to find a suitable spot where the bucket could neither be smelled or sighted by guests. We totally didn’t watch and laugh.

But even after hiding the evidence, the core problem still remained. A large bucket of molten poo is surprisingly difficult to get rid of. Eventually, out of desperation my parents ended up dealing with the Poo Problem by digging a large hole underneath our lime tree.

On the up side, our limes did very well.

And now, I’ve truly saved the best for last…

wpid-20141022_210117.jpgA realistic model Bigfoot for your garden. Seriously. Who WOULDN”T want this gracing their front lawn. It’s “Fascinating”. It’s also only 52cm tall because, admittedly, a life-size Bigfoot would just be going too far, Rachael.  If you are my Secret Santa this year you totally know what to get me.
Happy Home Care: Christmas Edition!


Meh

Vomiting is pure bloody misery, isn’t it?

I got a headache last night, so I drank orange juice and went to bed. Then I started to feel like I had rls right through my body and I started to wonder whether it was all psychosomatic. Then I had to run for the toilet.

Puking up fresh orange juice smells pleasant, by the way, but it does put you off.

I presume it’s the lithium, because it happened a few weeks ago too. Anyway, I’ve mailed my psychiatrist.

The Cost of a Migraine

Every little girl has a dream of what she wants to be when she grows up. For many, it’s a lifelong goal and they actually get to do what they want, or at least come very close. For others, our dreams change as we get older and for still others, the dreams never culminate in anything more than that- dreams.

I’ve always been different, never really went with the norm. If you asked me in the 8th grade what I wanted to do, I would tell you in all my 13 year old wisdom that I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for the school newsletter and fully intended on working on my high school paper, as well. Recalling the fervor with which I believed I could change the world with a scathing article over why we didn’t get lunches when our parents paid tuition embarrasses me now. Then I realized I didn’t want such a passive job, I wanted in on the action, not just to observe and report. I could feel my ideals shifting but it wasn’t clear where I was heading. I would figure it out in time, but my dreams never came to fruition due to one reason. Not my bipolar or depression, not my heart murmur or my thick glasses or my skinny ankles but my migraines.

I got my first migraine when I was 9 years old. I was in school and I asked the teacher if I could use the restroom. The bell dismissing us for the day was about to ring, so she told me I could hold it till then. I was miserably nauseated and I honestly thought my head was going to explode. After the teacher told me to go sit down, I did. And promptly emptied the contents of my stomach onto my desk, the floor, everywhere. Ironically, the teacher who refused to let me go to the bathroom had to clean it up. I stayed home the next day, mortified and sure people would pick on me for the rest of my life and that “puked on desk” would go on My Permanent Record, you know, the record the teachers warned you was on file and would follow you for all eternity. From that point on, I would get migraines every Monday or every first day back at school after a holiday. We only had one bathroom in my house and I recall having to throw up in the basement wash basin because someone else was using the restroom, and always after Monday night dinner.  Fortunately, with time, the nausea went away, but I would still get frequent migraines. Once I got to high school, they were a lot better and I attributed the bad spate of headaches with the stress I felt in junior high from being bullied.

I started working full time right after high school and went to community college part time, not really having a major or any specific goal in mind. Not long after I started working more hours, my migraines increased again. Taking 4 classes at college while working dropped down to just 2 classes and I was getting frustrated. Somewhere in the course of going to school at night after work, I finally figured out what I wanted to do and it surprised me. I wanted to be a firefighter. The college I was at had a fire sciences program, and I was looking at all the requirements, started working out to be up for the physical challenges of the job as well. My parents were surprised but supportive and I decided in fall I would apply for the fire sciences program. Then my migraines launched the worst attack I had ever had in my entire life (until now that is). I would wake up, go to work, sleep immediately when I got home, shower and go back to bed. I barely ate, I dropped to one class at college. It was so bad I used to sneak into a quiet room at my job and sleep for 20 minutes in the hope of reducing the intensity of the migraine. I went to the doctor and the first battery of tests began. I got my wisdom teeth pulled to see if that was contributing. I had allergy testing done, I had a CT scan. I was put on a new medication every 4 weeks and the neurologist simply said he could find no cause. Finally, I had to drop out of college. The next several years of my life involved new medicines, doctor’s visits, counseling and tears.

Years down the road, I found a medicine that worked and it helped me for nearly five years before I had to stop using it due to damage it caused my kidneys. Subsequent medicines proved less effective, but I am here at that desperate place again, hoping my new medicine will be “the one”.  I have accepted that my employer will never give me a perfect attendance award. I have accepted that I will miss out on family get togethers and fun nights out with friends due to my migraines. I have accepted that having a romantic relationship is very difficult both due to my migraines and being bipolar- it’s no fun to be with someone who is always napping, hurting or just miserable. I have never accepted the betrayal of my own body costing me my dream, however.  When a fire engine goes speeding past me, I feel just like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, that sadness of your dream passing you by and you’ll never catch it.  Last year, I did get to pretend, though. One of the fire squads that works with my hospital offered to let me ride along for a shift. It was exciting and fun. But it helped cement the finality of it, as well.  Migraines have cost me more than I ever thought they could. I won’t stop fighting them, though. I owe my dream that much, at least- to fight the migraines as bravely as I would have fought a fire.

Filed under: Self Discovery Tagged: career, disappointment, dreams, migraines, pain