Please note that this blog post discusses suicide so don’t read on if that could be triggering.
Today was a hard day and tonight is the hardest. We all have been lain low by a stomach bug the last few days and maintaining a cheerful demeanour is pretty hard going. Fortunately my daughter and I have had the place to ourselves for a bit to just veg, watch baby tv and play on the floor lots. My bones have ached and I felt sooo heavy. But today my head decided to join in. I literally could not move this afternoon after our nap and had to lie there in bed with eyes closed letting her play next to me. She thumped me awake every time she needed something. Bless her little heart. I have the most epic baby ever.
Motherhood with bipolar (and whatever else I have) is very tough, there is no denying it. It’s infinitely rewarding but it is hard work as well. You have the littlest thing in the universe totally dependent on you and it takes an incredible amount of will sometimes to power through and not lose it completely.
So many times I have sat and stared mindlessly out of the window wondering how to make the pain and thoughts stop permanently. Then I look down to see a little hand on top of mine, complete with a beaming smile on the cutest face ever in front of me. Just as if she knows I need reminding of all the many reasons why she needs me to pull through and be there for her. There is my reason for living right in front of me. There is the one thing that instantaneously banishes the pain from my head and my chest.
See, I exist in a little bubble. It is just me and my baby and my sole focus and reason for being is to take care of her. We play, we laugh, we smile, we cuddle, we nap together, we think of exciting things to eat and do together. Aside from a couple of major stressors – which I have mitigating actions to reduce said stress – life is really quite lovely.
When the outside world intrudes, like having to pay bills, speak to anyone on the phone aside from DH (or be conversational in general for that matter), go to the shops, apply for jobs, basically anything that removes me out of my baby care bubble, I completely freak out. I realised the other day that I can only go to shops that I have been previously with DH or some other trusted friend (I have a couple here who know what I have). Then I can return to them on my own. Sometimes I am ok to do new stuff but mainly I can’t cope.
I also realised that I cannot talk to people on the phone any more. I can’t even talk or Skype to my best friend or my parents. The only person I can talk to is DH. I don’t think people understand. I cannot talk. I cannot do it. I have a barrier in my head that needs to be removed. It is a coping mechanism I have developed when under extreme stress and has happened before and far more extreme than this so I am not overly worried for now.
By the way, I know this is not normal. I have an appointment with my psychologist on Monday whilst we try and switch me to a different psychiatrist (the current one even got my prescription for lithium wrong for god’s sake which I discovered at the pharmacy yesterday!). I know I don’t want to live like this and I think I know where some of the stress factors are but it will take a little while to work those out. In the meantime my coping mechanism is to retreat further into my bubble with me and my baby. (Just to clarify, she is in no danger and is well taken care of :) I am surrounded by people who I know would dive in at the first moment if they thought something was amiss with her care. We have a pre-agreed intervention deal in place if necessary. The funny thing is though that I was worried about the most in terms of impacting on my mental health yet she is the one thing above all else that prevents me tipping over the edge, bringing me such peace.)
Three things happened today that have made the walls of my bubble even firmer.
Firstly, Dr Phil should be ashamed of himself. I had the misfortune to have to sit through the intervention special with Whitney Houston’s stepson who they were trying to save from suicide attempts. Aside from the fact that my mother in law is oblivious to how distressing this is for me to see and has no clue about the impact this can have on someone who has regular, sometimes daily conversations in her head about death and how to achieve it, to then hear him tell this incredibly vulnerable young man who was clearly on quite a cocktail of narcotics and alcohol to ‘man up’ was one of the worst things I have ever heard or seen. Also I have zero interest in the life of Whitney Houston or her family aside from the fact I think the whole thing a tragedy, so to watch some intervention was just blergh. My daughter felt the same – she refused all food so we chucked on some clothes and took the dog for a walk. I had to escape.
Secondly, whilst out on our random evening excursion, the lift broke on the top floor of the mall so I couldn’t get back down the stairs with our ridiculously heavy buggy. I tried and tried to call DH to ask him to come and help us, but he was away helping his mum. I couldn’t talk to people (part of the above) to ask for help, but in a small chink of light moment I trotted off to McDonald’s to sit and wait with her until DH could retrieve us. So at least I wasn’t in a panic. But it didn’t help me improve my state of mind in any way. And the chips were gross.
Thirdly and finally, and also the one that leaves me the most upset, is that DH and I had a row. He’s had a migrane for three days in a row and the stubborn man refuses to call in sick as he doesn’t get paid. Really, I couldn’t care less about 50 euro or so, skint as we are. Honestly it would make little difference. We need him well. It is a regular argument we have, where I am expected to do all that I can to maintain my mental and physical health yet the shoe is not on the other foot. Heart attacks and strokes kill just as surely as my tablets do (for he is very overwieght and unfit right now). He is so focussed on trying to provide for us he is of course running himself into the ground and getting very head in the sand about things and missing out on precious time with his daughter, who he misses terribly during the day. I love him all the more for all that he is trying to do but he needs perspective.
He also was supposed to join a carer’s support group which he of course has not done yet. In Scotland he nearly lost it himself as he couldn’t cope with caring for our daughter as a stay at home dad and caring for me and my spiral into whatever mad clanging metal spikes I had shooting out of the gound going on in my head. Which is so understandable. But now, as the breadwinner, carer of me and hitting the ground running with the baby as soon as he gets in, I think he needs the support more than ever from an external group. Except he as usual puts himself last. I don’t know how to help him get over that. I am a proper nag about it all but there is only so much I should be doing on that level before it’s a broken down record. That is, as with so many other blog posts, another topic in itself.
We didn’t row about that, however. We rowed about how I was going to apply for my benefits. And this is the first time I thought, wow, you don’t understand. And the first time I refused to carry on talking to him. He was getting very frustrated with/at me and didn’t get it when I said I couldn’t talk to the benefits people on the phone. I couldn’t do it. I can’t do it. He was saying, I’ll be with you I will call and if you need to speak then say so and I said I can’t.
(Quick explanation – basically hooray Dutch bureaucracy, you have to call in sick to the unemployment office who then send out a supposedly independent doctor – the service is known as ARBO – to assess you. The word of your own psychiatric team is not enough. Your own doctor cannot sign you off although they will liaise with the company doctor. I don’t get the point of it as from what I have heard it is all about them making money, but there it is. If you are employed the same thing applies. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I am eligible for some form of support but the whole thing terrifies me. It isn’t set up at all for people struggling with mental health problems and is quite intimidating to me. When I interpret something as intimidation I completely shut down.)
And when I said I can’t, and how does it work if someone is in hospital with a stroke or psychiatric admittance or cannot bloody well talk then there has to be an alternative. And he started swearing saying I don’t know, this is their process, blah blah you just have to be there.
(Part of this is, by the way, a very Dutch thing which makes me chuckle a bit. They are almost as process-driven as the Germans and anything that requires stepping outside of the process or questioning the process (particularly if one is not familiar with said process in the first place) is met with thorough confusion. It can be done of course, and normally in a convoluted manner, but there is a definite cultural clash sometimes between the two of us. We Brits are somewhat more flexible and a bit more ad hoc I have found – which drove DH bonkers when we lived in the UK!)
I found him quite aggressive which he is never normally. The aggression was absolutely not targeted at me to be clear – he would never do that. It was him raging at the situation, complete with migrane, feeling swamped and overwhelmed and thoroughly unwell, fed up at living with his parents and the lack of progress at moving back home with the bank providing its usual level of Dutch customer service and not contacting us (ie crap). And the uncertainty of our finances and the future of them. And on top of it all, wanting to be with his baby and his worry and anxiety over my mental health. And no clue how to fix any of it. Basically everything.
He’s bogged down in the hopelessness of it all and gets stuck in a rut. He finds it hard to pull himself out.
I see all of this. I have seen it before. He can’t even blow his top because his mum is next door or relax because his computer screen will wake the baby up. He needs rest, sleep and downtime.
But I can’t engage with it tonight. I sent him away. I told him I couldn’t talk to him when he wanted to talk it out before sleep. His eyes were clouded with migrane pain and fever and lack of sleep from being up with the baby (who he refuses to let me do at night). He’s doing too much and I wanted it to all stop for now.
The problem is now I can’t talk. He doesn’t understand even though he said he does. No, he doesn’t get it. I CANNOT TALK TO THEM. How could he forget when I was in hospital and we only talked through text message? I am not as unwell as that right now but I can see how I could descend into that again, It isn’t something I choose to do. I would dearly love to gossip on the phone with my friends and let my baby wave at her cousins on Skype but I cannot do it right now. Don’t get frustrated with me. I am not well. So leave me be if you can’t accept the situation. But don’t expect me to talk. The only person I talk to right now is my baby and that’s to make her giggle. It’s not about being stressed. It’s way way beyond that. And no you are not in my head, you don’t have what I have and you can’t understand. It is completely irrational. There is nothing to understand except I cannot talk on the phone.
I will come back. I will talk again. But it will take time. This is my coping mechanism. I only talk to trusted people and right now I don’t actually trust him because he isn’t himself. If that makes sense. Tomorrow it will be better. Tonight it wasn’t my husband standing there, just some angry caricature of someone resembling him. And that is what I don’t trust. They all have to understand I Can’t Talk. They don’t have to understand the why (even I don’t). They just need to accept it and do whatever it is to not force me to apply for jobs which is making me very ill some days. And not force me to talk on the stupid phone. I find talking so stressful. It’s bliss to be quiet.
God reading this back it all sounds so fucked up. I can make it to shops etc to do things but just saying anything meaningful apart from hello and how was your day is beyond me.
Let’s park today as a pretty shit day. Tomorrow there will be no Dr Phil to blot my horizon, the weather is looking nice and warm and sunny again and it will be another day towards getting rid of this horrid bug.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. My daughter and I are going to look for flowers and butterflies and visit a city farm for her to see the animals. I can’t wait. She loves chickens for some bizarre reason!
For now, there is Promethazine and some blessed sleep. Thank you to you lovely bloggers for letting me get this out on paper. I feel better already :)