Sunday, February 19, 2012

I HAVE not I AM

I've been thinking...

The last few days have been a little rough for me... I thought about writing about it but am unsure.

I write this blog for a variety of reasons, the main one being to capture a little slice of my life so that years from now I can look back on this turning point.

I also write it to keep reminding myself of the wonder and pleasures that can be had in everyday living.

But there is one aspect of my life that I have avoided writing about and that is mental illness. I suppose that I am afraid of the stigma that comes with having a mental illness, people that read my blog might judge, but I remind myself that I didn't let stigma affect me when I had Spike by my side as a Service Dog. In fact I made it a point to talk to people - strangers - about mental illness and bring it out in the open. To consciously fight the stigma. I wonder now if doing the same thing in my blog might help others.

20120127_snow-ice_011

In talking about how mental illness affects me people might see that one can still live a full and (mostly) happy life. By talking about my feelings maybe someone who is reading this will understand their friend or family member's illness better. Maybe they'll understand that when a depressed person pushes them away, they are really saying "help me". Or that when a manic person snaps at them it is really their illness talking and not them.

So… with a bit of trepidation… I have decided to include thoughts about living with bipolar in my blog entries. Usually I am well with just occasional bouts of hypo-mania or depression, so I don't expect I'll usually have anything say (I don't want the blog to become all about my illness), but there are times when depression returns, often only for a few days, and I may talk about what that is like. Or I’ll mention days when my head is swirling with thoughts and ideas that make it impossible to settle on just one. I am lucky though – those thoughts and feelings rarely visit (especially now that I’m retired!).

People with bipolar disorder often say "I am bipolar" while I say "I have bipolar disorder". It does not define who I am, but merely colours how I sometimes view the world around me.

I have been lucky in many ways during my journey of getting well. While in the midst of my first major depression (I'd had many, many smaller ones throughout my life) I was able to quickly get in to see a psychiatrist, and he quickly diagnosed me as bipolar. We were able to get a working cocktail of medications within a year or two. They have been tweaked over the years but have mostly kept me well enough. I was lucky that my boss and co-workers were supportive of me as I went through the recovery from the depression - my brain had been greatly affected, I could barely follow a recipe let alone manage a technical environment. I was lucky that I had a supportive spouse. He did so much to create a healing environment. I was lucky to have supportive friends, ones that didn't abandon me to my illness. And of course I was lucky to have a family that cared.

20120219_property_010

Now what about the last few days? Well, I've been feeling depressed. I'm feeling a bit better now which is why I can write this. What does depression feel like? It is a little like feeling blue, but there is more to it than that. I feel that life is too hard and overwhelming – it would be easier to be dead. I'm so uncomfortable in my skin, almost like I'm being torn apart inside. I can totally relate to those who turn to drugs and alcohol to escape the feelings (I don't though), they are almost unbearable. I feel cranky and snap at Carm - he takes the brunt of it. I don't really care what he does or what he says - how can I? I don't even care about myself. Everything is like a grey fog or shroud is covering it. The lustre is out of life. I can't read a book, my attention span is too short. (Blogs are good though - they are short, with photos.) There is not much that I feel like doing. The thing that is though, although I want to be left alone - I really don't. It is scary to be left alone with such awful thoughts and with solitude they get worse and worse. But it is impossible to ask for help.

Then one morning I wake up (usually after a really long sleep) and I'm back to normal. The sky is a beautiful blue and the snow sparkles like diamonds.

20120105_dogs_004

I just got in from our afternoon walk and the sky was a pretty rosy pink. That's a good thing.

Rose Tag 1-(SHOLT)-onj-side