Daily Archives: June 19, 2016

Out of the House – At Last

Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls

If everything goes according to plan (which we all know it never does), this post will be publishing itself while I am at or on my way to this scenic location, Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga National Park.

I was attracted to this particular location when I read on the Internet that, in addition to access via a 1.75-mile hiking trail, the falls could also be reached using a wooden boardwalk from a nearby parking lot.

This easy access appeals to me because I have balance problems and sometimes use a cane, as well as because I seldom leave the house and have difficulty walking any distance. My husband encourages me to get out and walk, reminding me that exercise is good for depressive episodes, but just getting out of the house for doctors’ appointments and a few errands leaves me with no spoons for recreational walking. It’s a pretty dreary life, though there is a nice window in my study, through which I can see shrubs and trees, the occasional hummingbird or squirrel, or that stupid bird that sometimes flies straight into the glass and bonks itself silly.

There were actually tears in my eyes when I mentioned the expedition to Dan.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Would you drive a long way with me to do something that requires very little time to do?”

“What do you want to do?”

“See this waterfall,” I said, pointing at the screen. I explained about the parking lot and the boardwalk.

“How far is it?”

“Near Cleveland. About three hours. Each way.”

It sounded ridiculous even as I said it. A six-hour drive to walk a very short distance and look at a waterfall.

“We could stop along the way to get something to eat. Or we could pack a picnic. You could bring your camera and take nature photos.”

I needn’t have worked so hard to make it sound attractive. Getting out of the house to go see something scenic and outdoors is something my husband has been longing for us to share.

Naturally, as soon as we agreed to go, my brain went into overdrive, doing my usual job of trying to anticipate everything. We would need to GoogleMap directions, of course. We would need some kind of waterproof bag with cold packs and bottles of water. Bandanas to moisten and wipe our sweaty brows (the temperature will likely be in the 80s and I don’t do well in heat). Bug spray. My cane and maybe a walking stick for him. At times like this, I tend to plan the Normandy Invasion.

This is a ridiculous idea/plan. After the last month and a half I’ve had, it’s a wonder that I’m not just crouched in a corner going beeble-beeble-beeble. But if it works, we may make the same drive in a few weeks to go to a horticultural center and canopy walk, if only so I can make the old, bad joke (You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think) and we can meet up with some Cleveland-area friends we haven’t seen in far too long.

So. Getting out. Exercise. Nature. Relaxation. Fresh air. No computer access. Potential socializing. I don’t know whether these things will have any actual positive effects, but I like to think that my therapist will be proud of me.

Never mind that there are plenty of places nearer – even locally – to walk short distances and see nature. Never mind that my therapist often recommends that I take baby steps. This is a baby step. For God’s sake, I used to be able to hike in the Adirondacks. To travel. To Europe. By myself.

I don’t know why I was able to do that then, but can’t now. Bipolar disorder didn’t strike me suddenly, after I had done all those things. Maybe back then I was better at functioning. Maybe life and bipolar had not yet overwhelmed my ability to cope. Maybe I was in remission (or whatever they call it). Maybe I was hypomanic. It’s a mystery to me.

But maybe, just maybe, I can take this baby step toward reclaiming some of the things that used to bring me pleasure. It’s about damn time.

 

 


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: being overwhelmed, bipolar disorder, bipolar type 2, depression, friends, husband, hypomania, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, nature

The Law of Averages, Mania, and Spring

I survived Spring 2016!

Every spring for the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015) I became manic and was hospitalized for a number of days. I was worried that I'd bat four-for-four and also become manic this year. However, that was not the case. And I am so relieved.

Earlier this year my boyfriend mentioned the Law of Averages to me regarding the streak of manias I had been experiencing. He claimed for me that my luck would change, that after three years in a row I was bound to have some reprieve.

Back in February and March, on about two occasions, I felt the twangs of mania: hyperproductivity and insomnia. But luckily nothing came of it.

To stave off the mania, I continue to take my prescription medications; I see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly; I increased the number of acupuncture treatments I receive per month; and I continue to make self-care and sleep priorities.

I know there's no magic bullet to living in recovery, but I like my system. Every component is important, but perhaps the most important two, for me, are sleep and meds.

Additionally, I am glad that I made it through my first year of my graduate school program without a hospitalization. I experienced my first bipolar episodes (one depression and one mania) ten years ago when I attended graduate school for my Master's in Education. I took a leave of absence from the program to focus on my recovery and wellness and would not graduate until two years later. Now, back in graduate school, this time for a Master's in Social Work, I am happy that the first year is down, and without any mental health crises. Just two more years of grad school to go. I'm claiming that I'll be bipolar episode free for the duration.

I know that relapse is part of the disorder. And I've learned to handle both the depression and mania as best can be expected. But I'm hoping the Law of Averages holds true for the next few years.


Atlas Shrugged

These past few weeks, the skies above my head have been belligerent. Normally an all – weather cyclist this British summer has turned me into a 6 miles rider. The longest trip is an urban – to and from the centre of town. The traffic lights, the pedestrian crossings, the cycle lanes have left me sweat – less. That’s not much to be going on if I’m going to post a new edition of my cycling/mental health blog now is it?

Or is it?

The weather analogy has served these pages well enough in the past, and so I will call upon them again today. On Thursday 26 May I saw my psychiatrist for my regular appointment (around 4 times a year) and it took him a mere 15 minutes of that 30 minute appointment to sign me off work for a fortnight. 2 weeks later when he saw me for a follow up appointment he signed me off for a further fortnight. And it is from there that I write to you today. I was confident that this was just a blip. I would bounce back after that first 2 weeks and so I made a plan of how I would return to work. Adjust my hours, do 2 days a week, rather than my usual 3, for a bit. Ease myself back in by attending this meeting, skipping that one. Spend a carefree afternoon working from home trawling through emails. I emailed my boss with the plan. She sounded positive. I sent her my Fit Note signing me off for a fortnight. And that, I supposed was that.

 

But by the time I came to be sitting in my psychiatrist’s office a fortnight later we both knew I wouldn’t be going back as soon as I had planned. I felt relieved, disappointed, guilty and a whole lot of confusion about all those feeling as they jostled for my attention. I knew that I wasn’t going back to work the following Monday because I had failed (yes, that is the right word here) to do what I had needed to in order to drag myself up the hill and out from under those skies. Cycling? Not so much. In and out of town. It made for variety in my otherwise cumbersome days. 12 hours of sleep most nights, and even then the mornings were blurred with fatigue. Upping my dose of mood stabiliser, my most trusted friend in these circumstances, failed to show up.

And so it goes. This week will be different. I will lurch back onto my bike, heave those cycle routes books and maps out of that draw and set off somewhere – anywhere – that is not here.

But then again I might not.

Those skies are on my shoulders, I move and they will surely fall. But amidst all that aching responsibility, all that effort it takes to breath as I sit, my feet still. I sigh, I cry out in frustration and I hold my breath. And then, when all is lost, I shrug my shoulders and I’m ready to let the skies come crashing down.

These days, these nights, this sleep, this waking. The colours of the sky outside, the wet, the dry: its like all the times preceding this I will trust the skies once more. And that is all the hope I have.

Hinterhof

Stay near to me and I’ll stay near to you –
As near as you are dear to me will do,
Near as the rainbow to the rain,
The west wind to the windowpane,
As fire to the hearth, as dawn to dew.
Stay true to me and I’ll stay true to you –
As true as you are new to me will do,
New as the rainbow in the spray,
Utterly new in every way,
New in the way that what you say is true.
Stay near to me, stay true to me. I’ll stay
As near, as true to you as heart could pray.
Heart never hoped that one might be
Half of the things you are to me –

The dawn, the fire, the rainbow and the day.

James Fenton (1949 – )

 


Travels with a Tomato: the London Edition

Tom borrows my sweatshirt for a better view

Tom borrows my sweatshirt for a better view

This the start of an occasional series about my travels with a tomato. I tell you this in case you’re either 1) the sort who skips titles, and heads straight to the blog, or 2) for some reason, you don’t enjoy reading about people who travel on public transport, taking pictures of crocheted tomatoes.

I love London. I love the public art, the museums, the history, the river, the mix of people from all over the world. In my ideal world, I would visit there for regular weekends and weeks, preferably paid by a publisher who understands my need to get away from my adoring public, and travel about this great city, seeking relaxation and inspiration.

Note the word “visit”. I have no desire to live in Da Big Smoke. Too noisy, too crowded. Too – here I display my transplanted Yorkshire roots – southern.

It’s a great place to take photos, though. And to walk, as well as use the excellent – if at times packed – public transport. Earlier this week, I walked from Albert Embankment to here:

The new Globe Theatre!

The new Globe Theatre!

I was tired by the time I got there, yet proud too for having walked so far: probably my longest continuous walk since surgery four weeks earlier. It wasn’t 500 miles, though it felt like it, at times.

Plus, Shakespeare! We’re talking about the flippin’ Globe, for crying out loud!

Of course I hit the gift shop, though not nearly as hard as I would have liked to, having flexed my magic money card earlier that week, ordering copies of “Koi Carpe Diem” for yesterday’s “Turn the Page” literature festival here in Donny.

I also promised myself that someday, I’ll return with plenty of time to see a play.

Outside looking in: the gates at The Globe, London

Outside looking in: the gates at The Globe, London

What of Tom the tomato, or to give his full name, Tom Gardeners-Delight? He’s the main character in a short story titled “Train that Fruit!” which features in my collection “A Yorkshireman in Ohio,” due out next month. “Train that Fruit!” is an imaginary game show in which a piece of fruit tries to travel from one railway station in Britain to another, without coming a cropper.

The real Tom (1) was crocheted by an extremely talented lady who also gave me an Oreo cookie she’d made earlier. Naturally enough, when I visited London for work, I took Tom with me. Both he, and a Tube passenger who happened to sit opposite us, were puzzled, though for different reasons.

Who can blame him? Tube maps can be quite puzzling.

Who can blame him? Tube maps can be quite confusing.

Did I mention how much I love London? Crowded, puzzling, but gods it can be gorgeous. Plus, the buskers are out of this world.

Buskers near the Globe - and the Thames.

Buskers near the Globe – and the Thames.

I love too all the hidden art and wonders that London hides under her huge and sometimes dirty skirts. Such as this little gem I spotted in an underpass on the way to The Globe:

Blue birds in the afternoon, tourist's delight.

Blue birds in the afternoon, tourist’s delight.

London is a colourful and odd place, which is perhaps why it appeals to me so much, as a definitely odd, debatabley colourful individual.

It helps that London’s full of public art, which is one of my passions. Here’s a statue I found along the South Bank.

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.

My trip to London last week, and yesterday’s “Turn the Page” festival, were both welcome distractions from a fortnight which has been clouded by my bipolar, worries about what happens next in my cancer treatment plan (2), work, and the death of someone I cared about. In very different ways, London and the festival helped me get through a difficult time.

So has travelling with Tom, who doesn’t appear in as many photos as I would have liked, as I didn’t want him taking an ill-advised dip in the Thames.

We can make a beautiful city: London, June 2016

We can make a beautiful city: London, June 2016

How can I not love a city where I can come across things as unexpected as this?

British Maritime headquarters, London, June 2016

The International Maritime Organisation, London, June 2016

Walking along the Thames was brilliant. The river may be a bit tired, and dirty, but the views and the cityscape were wonderful. Thanks to all the tourists, I also heard more American accents in one afternoon than I hear in a year in Doncaster.

City of contrasts: London, June 2016

City of contrasts: London, June 2016

Like the decorative tiles shown earlier in this blog, the statue pictured above was an unexpected – if much more public – find. It depicts Basaveshwara (1134 – 1168) , who among other things said “Work is worship.” I’ll leave you with another view of him, and a wish for a lovely, restful Sunday.

River walk: London, June 2016

River walk: London, June 2016

Tagged: A Yorkshireman in Ohio, bipolar, breast cancer, Doctor Who, Koi Carpe Diem, London, public art, sculpture, Shakespeare, short story collection, Thames, The Globe, Train that Fruit, Travels with a Tomato, Turn the Page, walking, writing

Faith-Full Sunday – “The Words I Would Say”

One of my dearest friends has two sons who I have had the honour of watching grow up into fine young men. In fact, I was able to have a hand in their upbringing by being a Nanny to the … Continue reading