Experts – who needs them?

We’ve witnessed in the political landscape the lack of credibility ‘experts’ have these days. With Brexit they were deemed unnecessary and we all know we’re living through the Trump Administration’s ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ era. Feeling has, in many cases, become more important than actual fact.

The same can be argued about mental health, although for completely different reasons. Because we lack the ability to have our conditions diagnosed through a range of diagnostic tests, I often have felt quite hit and miss with regards a) identifying what I’ve got and b) how the feck I’m supposed to learn how to live with it all. Depending on the clinician (all excellent can I just say from my own experience) I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), General Anxiety Disorder, Postnatal Depression, Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. 4 years ago I received a concrete diagnosis of Bipolar 1 and only 18 months ago I received a concrete PTSD diagnosis, alongside the Bipolar.

And still at every meeting I’m questioned over whether I have bipolar or BPD. It gets exhausting. I have regular cycles of mania and depression and sure I may have BPD traits but it is the bipolar that gets me. It just goes to show how, from definite diagnoses by two psychologists and three psychiatrists can be so different. Sure as hell doesn’t help me with the paranoia – like are you sure you know what you are doing/is there really something up with me/oh dear lord I just figured out this condition now you’re telling me it could be something else…

Over the  years since my pregnancy my knowledge of my condition has grown. I’ve experienced the crushing darkness of postnatal depression, the despair and horror of not being able to hold my own baby. I’ve experienced the psychosis of both Bipolar and PTSD, imagining huge green globs of mould floating in the air because of the damp conditions we were living in, and my daughter suffocating as a result – not to mention the regular suicidal images that permanently would repeat in my lowest moments.

Now I’ve also learnt about burnout, which I am currently off sick for. Did you know that the symptoms combine with Bipolar and PTSD to make you absolutely off your rocker? I  was hallucinating at train stations of being hit at high speed by one so that it could all just END. Burnout aggravated my friendly gremlins that I live with every day, and made things 100 times worse.

I am in therapy again specifically for burnout with a therapist who I don’t think has graduated yet. I think my psychologist (who has graduated) is doing her level best to keep me off work for as long as possible i.e. till my contract expires in June and I can go onto benefits again. It’s soul-destroyingly crushing to admit I can’t work any more but that’s another blogpost. The thing is, I don’t get signed off work by my own doctors. Here I have to go through something called the ARBOdienst in Dutch, which is essentially occupational health, and they make the decision about what I do.

So I have my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my therapist, my ARBO doctor and I just found out today that that occupational health doctor may be changing. (Needless to say, immediate freak-out.) I’m not complaining about the level of care I receive here, by the way, which is fantastic, but just – how many times do I have to go through piles of paperwork and people to tell them I’m sick? How many experts do you need to see that I clearly can’t function in a roomful of people? Am I the expert, to tell them what I have – over and over again?

Again, I’m not complaining, just having a whinge at the amount of bureaucracy. At least I get to see qualified doctors. In the UK a friend of mine just had to go to court to plead his case that PTSD was, indeed, worthy of being on benefits for after a penpusher at an outsourced Department for Work and Pensions, with about as much qualification to make a decision as my Jack Russell, decided that he was well enough to work. I mean, come one, that’s someone full-on writing alternative facts!

Post-truth society again, eh? Wonderful thing.

It’s interesting, watching the clash of fact vs delusional thinking in some countries that’s going on in the world. Perhaps we’ll see the redefining of the word ‘expert’ at some point?


Coming and going 

I thought a year ago I’d be back. I thought a year ago I had my life sorted and on track. I thought a year ago that I could juggle the impossible and come out on top, beaming, smug and satisfied. This illness doesn’t own me, I said to my husband, I am in control. I’m over my postnatal depression, I need the stimulation that work brings, the pride in having done a good day’s grind. 

I thought a year ago I could be the main earner, that I could set an example for my daughter that, look, mummy doesn’t spend her whole life on the couch, she goes out there every day and kicks ass so the whole family can be fed. That she as a girl can aspire to anything she bloody well wants to be. 

I thought a year ago I’d take over the world, on my high from having starved myself in my mania, ready to power dress my way through meetings across the globe. I thought a year ago I could forget how horrendous I found my chosen profession, how dealing with the slightest bit of confrontation without scuttling, terrified, into the darkest corners of my brain, feeding my paranoia daily until I couldn’t talk, just stumbling and stuttering over sentences like a drunkard. 

A year is a long time to fail. A year is a long time to accept that what you thought you could be is actually ashes around your feet. Perhaps failure is the wrong word. But the 25 year old me would scorn the 38 year old me for having lost my zest for life and adventure. 

I find myself having to redefine everything I thought I was. Everything I thought I could do turns out to be a lie. I have this pent up energy and frustration that, because I don’t fit into life’s little square boxes I may as well be on the shelf. 

Some days, I rail against it, filled with plans for changing the world. Other days I slump on the sofa, terrified to step beyond the front door. 

One thing is certain though and that’s change. I have changed and I don’t know what to do about it. Do I like the person I am becoming, as I leave my youth behind and start the narly traverse to middle aged? I don’t know if I want to know. 

One thing is for certain though. What I thought a year ago no longer is applicable. A brave new world! we all cry, setting off into the sunset. 

With me, literally crying. How am I going to survive this next incarnation? I’m too exhausted, defeated by the demons and the drugs. But there’s a little hand reaching out for mine that is my guide. I cling to it, desperately in the hope that one day I might be enough. 

Thank you to my daughter

Well, how much difference a year makes.

Or not.

Supposedly, the march of time will inevitably lead to an improvement. I beg to differ. Sometimes, for all of us, things go for bad to worse, or just stay plain old rubbish.

Certain elements of life are definitely a bright spot. Let’s start there. Being a mother is the best thing in the universe. My daughter turned 2 back in May and oh my, what a blessing she is. It’s that little voice piping up ‘mummy’ at the start of a morning that makes me get out of bed and it’s that tight hug and kiss and giggle before bed that helps me get some rest.

For yes, I’m able to be a mother. It took having to return to work to push me in that direction but it has been the greatest thing. The guilt at not being able to provide her what a nursery can has gone, as she thrives day after day learning so much I can barely keep up with her. The joy  of that little person rushing towards me every time I pick her up after work and the cuddles as I carry her for as long as my arms can possibly hold out are worth every agonising juggle of bags and shoulder strain.

The hatred of leaving her never ends. She still cries seven months into being left, without fail every day. My heart wrenches each time. We have a needy child and I KNOW she has to get used to it because school looms in, crumbs, eighteen months. But I also love that she wants me, that I didn’t fuck up our relationship so terribly in the previous year when I couldn’t even leave the house. It’s a definite guilty relief that she’s sad to see me go, that my baby stays a baby just for a while longer so I can enjoy her.

Toddlers, I am told, are hard work. I find mine a total delight. Sure, she gets upset when she doesn’t get to play with my new phone, and has the most amazing meltdowns when she’s tired. Yet they tend to be in the house. Today, for example, we braved IKEA just the two of us for an afternoon and we had such a blast. She is so well behaved, so cute and adorable and all things right in the world that I really do find it hard to understand why people have such a hard time. Not judging, not at all and I totally feel for the poor parent whose child is having a tantrum in aisle nine over being denied that bag of crisps!

It’s just every moment is so precious with her that I have to make the most of each one. I missed so much time before and, crucially, I don’t know how much time I will have left.

To be blunt, my daughter is the one thing that keeps me alive. I literally do live for her little beaming smile, the cuddles when she bops her head, the kisses she liberally bestows. She is sun, moon and stars to my husband and me.

I don’t want to look down from wherever I might be if I die that she doesn’t have her mummy to sing her songs (daddy is not allowed to sing – only mummy). I need to provide for her – I am the only one who can at the moment as my husband has been battling a stomach ulcer since January and is not fit to lift a tea towel let alone put in a full day’s work (an illness for which he lost his job, by the way). It is thanks to my salary that we have been able to move into a much nicer, larger apartment and away from the neighbours from hell who spun me into my last manic phase. It is thanks to my salary that my daughter has clothes on her back and that she can enjoy the benefits of a wonderful bilingual nursery. It’s thanks to my salary that our poor doggie was finally able to go to the vet and get the treatment he needed, not to mention some much overdue jabs.

I have no choice but to survive right now. I can’t die because both my daughter and my husband rely on me. And work is a literal battlefield.

I have a misogynist for a boss. I am not listened to, I have totally unreasonable demands made on my time. I am in a high-pressure, high-responsibility role and the only bonus is that I can come and go as I please to have nursery pickup and dropoff times catered to (a real plus) and that I can when necessary actually bring my daughter into work. Aside from that, I’m shouted at, belittled and made to feel less than worthless.

Being a mother, however, has hardened me in ways I didn’t realise possible. I have become a fighter with a rugged determination to succeed despite the odds. For my daughter, I want to make the world she inherits a better place. I will not be a victim, nor will I let my daughter see a victim, a beaten woman who can’t stand up for herself. I am determined that my daughter will learn that, although life throws you curveballs that you can’t believe are even fucking well possible in just how fucked up they are, you find the strength to overpower them, or just another route around the insurmountable obstacle.

She will learn that you don’t let people beat you down and you sure as shit don’t let such assholes win.

I want my baby to be as proud of me as I am of her. With that in mind, I should perhaps be grateful that my boss is such a twat. Instead of cowing me, it’s merely made me refocus on what is important in life. How can I live with bipolar, PTSD and be a mother that can damn well earn a living and not be dominated by her illness? There will be a way, and I will find one.

And in the meantime, there’s smiles and cuddles from my beautiful baby, an image I hold in her head with her laughter in my ears as I receive yet another onslaught. The anger simmers, and I focus it in the right direction, to ensure my daughter NEVER has to endure what I have had to, and what I must – for another year or so at least. I will try my best to survive, to ensure you know how to stand on your own two feet in a way Mummy never could.

Thank you, my beautiful daughter, for making Mummy the person she was meant to be. I may not change the entire world for you, but I can at least try and make a tiny corner a better place.

Hiatus over??

Well it was a forced hiatus. Sorry I was away for a whole bloody year and more, but I have been reading and keeping up with all you amazing bloggers surviving and (somehow) thriving and being generally inspirational 🙂

I was super ill. I had a massive manic period, followed by a bout of deciding to stop eating, followed by getting better and realising that I had to do something to get my family out of the trap we’d found ourselves in, so I returned to work. Fuck mental health my god if there is anything that will put a person into poverty – which yes, exists in in developed countries too, all things being relative – it is shitty mental health.

Did I also mention I melted off my hair nearly a year ago? I was trying to go blue and made the mistake of leaving the bleach on for too long. So as well as feeling like crap I had Doc from Back to the Future hair for ages (well I still do but at least I can tie it back into a pony tail now!). I literally did not leave the flat for 4 months till I had to at Christmas.

So far so good ish? It’s a senior role, it’s tough and I have been in floods of tears and had to take days off when I just could not get out of bed, but I am doing it and have lasted beyond six months in a role for the first time in Fundraising since I was 30 (I am 38 this year – actually in less than a week). I have so much I want to share on my blog and so many ideas for things I want to do – but the good thing is that I am on Fluoxetine which has helped with the crippling anxiety and paranoia I was getting on top of the lithium and quetiapine, and we stopped psychotherapy because regressing was was actually making me worse.

We are MOVING HOUSE which such a big deal I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have come close to committing suicide because of our horrendous neighbours (and you know, it is serious not just an expression – their shit dance music is blaring and keeping my baby awake as I write but NOT FOR MUCH LONGER WOOOO). Once I am into my new house, hoping work does not kick my ass too much and so on, I want to return to this blog properly.

The most important thing is that my beautiful baby girl is thriving and doing so amazingly well. I am proud to say she is a typical toddler now at 2 and so gorgeous she makes my heart burst every time I look at her. So, more to follow, I will return to this slowly. Thanks for hanging in there with this blog of mine 🙂

Update from my scribbles post

DH opened a letter just now with a blood testing form. My lithium is apparently too low. I guess that would explain my capacity to write over six thousand words a day for my fan fiction? The compulsion to write literally came out of nowhere two months ago – apparently about the time my levels began to drop and the shit with our neighours kicked off (I forgot to mention it in my last post – we had to call the police. I just wanted to die, feeling unsafe in my own home), and my frenzy began.

Now, perhaps the dumbass psychiatrist might actually acknowledge I have bipolar instead of asking me whether I think I have it which is what I got at my last appointment! Why the fuck would you ask me if I have bipolar! Isn’t that your job?!

Anyway, watch this space. I have to test urgently apparently and they want to review my medication. Hopefully more normal service will resume soon.

Bipolar : Sex & Sexuality

I refused to tell my psychiatrist about this for years and years. It is only recently I came out of denial about hypersexuality and the damage it caused to me during my 20s and finally discussed it with my husband. The only presence of mind I showed was making sure I went to the clinic to get regularly checked out. And no, the sex wasn’t actually fun. I felt dead inside. This is an excellent article by Brighton Bipolar discussing the issue.

Writing and scribbles and disconnect

It’s been quite some time since I wrote on my blog. The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve been incredibly unwell. I still am. The only time I have left the house has been to walk the dog. I have been to the supermarket twice in three months. I think I went out with my daughter twice too. I let her daddy take her places, and to her grandma for days at a time because mummy can’t move, can’t cope with anything outside of her head. The real world is too much hard work. I read  blogs from all you lovely people and it’s like I can’t engage my brain with what is going on that I’m reading. I’m completely disconnected from the world.

Suddenly it’s nearly my birthday and the end of summer. Where did it go?

I’ll tell you where it went (you’ll have to click on pic – can’t get it bigger for some reason).

archive of our own

Yep, 257,739 words later and my fanfic is not nearly finished. I’m on my fourth Word document of which there’s an awful lot more that didn’t make it into the story. I started at the end of June – that’s two month’s worth of writing every single day. I think I’m putting out one of the longest stories about Cullen Rutherford and a female Inquisitor from BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition that exists anywhere.

It is probably all complete crap as well.

Every day I spend eight to ten hours a day, sometimes longer, doing nothing but writing. I  have a compulsion to publish – I literally neeeeeeed to publish a chapter a day, even if I know I haven’t edited it properly. I almost faint at the thought of not putting up something, anything on the site. And if I don’t publish then I am agitated beyond belief until I can get behind my laptop, put some music  on and ignore everything but the characters playing out their lives in my head and translating that to Word.

All I do is type, spell check, sense check, publish. Every day.  I have this tension between my eyes I have never noticed before because of the amount of staring I’ve done at my screen. My wrists and shoulders hurt because of the amount of typing I do, and my back is slowly getting ruined by the amount of slumping on the sofa I’m engaging in.

I write sometimes through till 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, having maybe three hours of rubbish sleep. I dream about the story, waking up with my phone clutched in my hand so I can go back to the chapters and read them again. There is simply no room in my head for anything else but this demand my brain has for me to keep going with my story.

Then I get obsessed. Why don’t people say anything ? Was that chapter just a pile of shit? Why hasn’t anyone liked my work today? Who are all these people looking at my story then not leaving anything at all? If someone un-bookmarks me it’s like I’ve been stabbed through the heart.

Someone commented negatively – oh no I need to have more sex in the story. Oh wait, less sex in the story. More violence, more angst, less fluff. No, there needs to be more fluff, they should be in love, the story needs to move on, no it needs to do this. It becomes crippling. What was something that I did for fun and distraction has suddenly become stressful and competitive. I’ve lost all confidence in myself. Yet I still continue.

I get frustrated and edgy with anything that takes me out of the alternative reality that I am living in – it’s outright panic sometimes that I am being taken away from my story. Geez, even writing this blog is making me feel a bit like, when can I get back to my story? It’s ridiculous. But I can’t help it.

Everyone that is, except my daughter. But even then, I have neglected her. In more sane moments I have sat there, holding her, weeping, guilt overwhelming me that I have not spent time with her that I should. She is fed, watered, changed, clothed, kept clean. But my emotional distance from everything around me is so great at the moment, I am pretty sure she doesn’t know me at all.

She’s fifteen months now, toddling around like she’s a miniature walking undead. She’s a daddy’s girl. Because daddy gives her attention that mummy simply can’t. The majority of my brain can’t engage. The tiny part of me that is well has her heart breaking that her daughter prefers her daddy to her mummy.

I had an appointment today with the government doctor who assesses me to see if my long-term sick benefits continue. When I  described my average day there was no hiding his concern, particularly when he said it was a clear-cut case and I should not be working right now. For a Dutch government benefits official to say that, you know there’s something wrong with you.

The funny thing was that my husband and I had a heart to heart the day before – first time in months – and I said how much I just missed going to work, going out after work for dinner, or eating at home, exercising, then crawling into bed with a book before going to sleep. That routine and self-fulfillment that working gives you is lacking in my life. Yet if I were to try working right now I’d end up in an even worse state than I am now. I can’t bloody well win.

The only benefit is that I’ve lost around 20 kilo/three stoneish and only have another two stone to go. It’s nice to fit into clothes again. The only downside is that I don’t eat at all. I have survived on two litres of diet coke, the same again in water and the odd bit of chicken or beef.

When I write it out and when I talk to the doctor about it, I realise how abnormal it is. But I can’t stop. Why? The alternative would see me dead. It is better that I exist somehow until my circumstances change, than sit there in my car wondering where the nearest cliff is so I can drive off it. For my husband and I this is the lesser of two evils. It’s been almost impossible for him too. We made it to the zoo the other day, which was fun. So I am trying to get out a bit more.

So that’s the bad side. But there is a good side.

I really do, on a good day, enjoy it. And I am a bit frustrated with myself because I know if I took more time then I’d actually have quite a decent story on my hands. I have always loved writing and in this genre I think I’ve found my niche. Fanfiction has provided me with a means to start exploring my writing and writing style. Not for a minute do I think I’ll be the next Robin Hobb but it’s become my own thing. It’s nice to have a thing for yourself.

I’ve also explored the issue of trauma and how it impacts on a relationship. The main male character has PTSD (genuinely accepted in the fandom as true and BioWare have always referenced Cullen as having experienced significant trauma as a result of torture). The main female character also has trauma as well and I wanted to explore some of the issues I face myself through them. It has been really therapeutic.

It makes my story intensely personal to me as well – I mean, it is for all authors, but I think when you start writing about things that have happened to  you and your state of mind at the time it really becomes something else. There is something about writing about an anxiety attack and putting it out there for people to read about that becomes empowering for me. I have no idea why – it just seems to work. It does then leave me vulnerable too but it’s worth it.

There are lots of authors and editors among our Tumblr mental health community and I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on what is normal and what isn’t normal because I”m pretty sure wanting to lock myself away in a mountain cabin with no one else to bother me so I can write for days with no sleep is not normal.

How do you deal with it so you don’t exclude all else? And where do you go to read up on things to make yourself a better writer? How do you not make it too personal if you write about your own experiences as a form of therapy? Is there ever a way of stepping back from it all?

I have tons of story ideas now, both fanfic and fantasy and I have decided to try and focus myself more on writing.

My husband reads it and helps me with the plot line. Sometimes we have fun with it, and it became easier when he played the game too and knew what I was on about. It hasn’t been an entirely bad experience for our relationship. But often he has hated the story and wished my laptop to combust so I don’t have anything to type on. Even then, I’d find a way.

Still, here it is. If anyone on the offchance fancies giving it a critique and plouging through so many words I’d be happy to hear it. It’s fun writing about two people in love. It makes me feel all nice and squishy inside. It’s far too long and too repetitive on certain themes but I like the story itself so far.

But, as my husband says, it’s my story and my Cullen and my Inquisitor. Does it matter what people really think so long as I’m pleased with it?! I shall keep telling myself that for the time being.

Cullen x Mage Trevelyan – A Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic

writings and scribbles and dragons

OK I’m quite giddy about this as I’ve discovered a whole new outlet that is not actually anything to do with mental health, to the point where I just want to talk about my new obsession a bit in a safe space (i.e. no one trying to psychoanalyse my decisions and actions and stick them under yet another mental health tag).

PS if you are yet to play any of the Dragon Age games, there are no spoilers in here.

Firstly, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a long-time gamer from childhood when my brother and I would fight over the Atari to see who got to play Space Invaders next. This has carried on into adulthood and is an integral part of my life. I have learned to be proud of it and not ashamed. How could I not be proud; if I didn’t game then I wouldn’t have a) left my abusive ex and b) met my now awesomeness DH. I’ve a lot to be thankful for because of developments in technology.

I am an avid reader of fantasy and historical romance, and I adore fantasy RPGs. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was working my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition. I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago and actually felt bereft! There’s obviously only so much you can go into as a games developer, and the potential outcomes are infinite. So the game finished and there were huge holes for me in the story, as well as being omg about not being able to end up on the battlements with Cullen at the end of a long day 😉

Now, with World of Warcraft (WoW) I was never into the lore really as I enjoyed the gaming experience with all my friends. Dragon Age (DA) was the polar opposite, where even the smallest decisions you made five years ago had a huge impact when you played later. Just to clarify there are three games – Dragon Age: Origin being the first, Dragon Age II the second and then the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I) at the end of 2014 depending on where you lived in the world. There’s also a fair amount of associated DLC which I have skipped (although for DA:I I may make an exception). All made by BioWare who also made Mass Effect. I think I read recently that there were 40 potential outcomes to the end of DA:I which makes it an immense game. Not to mention the beauty of the  Dragon Age Keep where you can import custom world states based on key decisions made in the earlier two games – and change it around in future run throughs. How .incredibly awesome can you get? Every game is therefore quite different if you want it to be.

For me, however, what both games do amazingly well, abeit in very different ways, is create a culture of community which makes them stand out from the likes of Skyrim etc. In WoW you can actually have loads of real life online friends, and in DA you get to create your character exactly how you want, building your companions and utlilising your advisors. The greatest thing is the relationships within the game, who you choose to be friends with, make enemies with and who to sleep with.

I’m not massively into long battles. I play RPGs because of the story. I tend to game on casual or normal as having protracted drawn-out battles with archdemons is completely boring for me. And that’s again where DA:I hits the nail so well. The story is so compelling. And, for a girl addicted to romance, the romances are awesome. I mentioned who my Inquisitor ended up with and of course there’s only one person – the incredibly sexy Cullen Rutherford. I really couldn’t give a shit if I fall into the stereotypical female type of adoring the idea of a knight in shining armour sweeping his lady off her feet. Yes, I’m a child of Disney. And no, I couldn’t care less about how cheesy it may be. It’s compelling and awesome and makes me want to swoon in delight. Oh BioWare hit it on the nail. Every time he and my Inqusitor ended up in a cutscene I just melted in the middle.

Romance is fabulous. Romance and sexy in the best RPG ever is mindblowing.

So, here’s the thing. When I finally finished the playthrough I just wasn’t satisfied with the story. There was so much missing, which was understandable – this is a game not the Wheel of Time – but it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d properly finished. My Inquisitor was so firmly in my head I just had this overwhelming need to figure out how to fill the gaps – and even adapt the original gameplay.

Tentatively, I explored fan fiction. I had never read any before, unless struggling halfway through 50 Shades of Grey and then throwing it away in disgust counts. I thought it was all anime and Twilight, and terribly written sex scenes. So it was with great trepidation that I started to see what had been written about DA. I was floored; there was so much out there, from the very first Origins game to stuff covering the latest release of DA:I DLC – which had only just come out. There was some crappy writing, sure, but I was amazed at how much great writing existed. It was so interesting to read how others had perceived the main characters in the game; how they saw their Inquisitor and what relationships they had built as a result. There are loads of people like me – needed to know more about their characters and the story in general, looking to fill the gaps.

There’s also a huuuuge amount of rather explicit material which ranges from downright laughable to EL James needing to take notes on how to write good sex stories into fiction (sorry for going on about this again – I just found the whole 50 Shades thing so ghastly). I was also surprised to see the amount of people who had Cullen in a gay relationship and actually that was interesting, to think about why developers still shy away from including gay characters in very traditional hetro male roles. Gay men can have knights in shining armour too if they want, no? I hope BioWare take note of this in future games. Oh and interestingly, I read somewhere that there was three times more fan fiction devoted to Cullen relationships than any other character in the game. I’m glad I’m not the only one 😀

Anyway, it has been a really interesting journey through the world of fan fiction to find out more about the game, the characters and also build my own story in my head. I know that there are stores of people in the grip of mania writing whole books in a week and, I must be honest, I have felt that way, even frustrated to the point where I couldn’t write because I needed to do the dishes. So, literally burning with the need to tell the story of Lea and Cullen, I started to write. I spent 15 years writing for a career and this has been far and away the easiest thing I have ever tackled. I am not a creative person when it comes to art or music, but I feel that writing is where my artistry lies. It’s not just a skill, it’s a craft to tell a good story. Not that I am suggesting I write the best stories ever – this one as my first attempt at fiction is probably a pile of crap – but I have to begin somewhere.

The words flow onto my screen, I can see my characters in my head, what they are thinking, how they move, how they react. I can see the landscapes where the story develops, the way the clouds move towards the horizon, the way trees rustle in the wind as they move past. I see the convoluted plots develop, the enemies rising and attacking. The emotions in battle; fear, anger, lust, joy, contradicting yet working together. I feel the pain when someone dies; the quiet sadness and unshed tears, the sheer want for that person till the end of time and continually whispering ‘I miss you’ in their minds.

That, and a lot more. I’m not them, but I can see their story. That’s about the best way I can describe it. I found it actually good fun to write a sex scene in the book and had great fun reading through various examples (think granite mountain) – who would have thought that would be anything other than a completely cringey experience!

Who knows; perhaps it’s the bipolar singing to me. But you know what, I don’t actually care if it is. I am enjoying this penning words to paper (and eternally grateful to BioWare for providing such an amazing framework) and not everything with this illness is a bad thing. I feel the best I have for some years and I hope to feel a bit of closure when I finally finish! Sixteen thousand words and counting and I only just left the starter zone. Haha 🙂

Writing as therapy. I’m only sorry I didn’t find it before. It sure beats having more drugs forced onto me.

My PMAD (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) Gets No Respect! Part One

Very important distinctions (from a pre-existing bipolar 1 patient who then developed postpartum psychosis).Great article by Dyane.

Birth of a New Brain


Happy Thursday, my friends! Thanks for stopping by!

Since 2013 I’ve abstained from writing this post because I worried it wouldn’t apply or appeal to most of you, even if you have bipolar disorder. But I decided to finally spill the beans. Why? Because it feels good, it’s free, and most importantly, there’s the chance this information may be relevant to a reader and make a positive difference. 

I have faith that my explanation of postpartum bipolar disorder (and how it’s ignored and misunderstood by the postpartum and bipolar communities) has merit, so I hope you’ll give this post a chance. 

So here goes – a little bit ‘o explanation – PPBD 101, if you will! 😉

My mood disorder is classified as postpartum bipolar disorder (PPBD); it’s sometimes also referred to as postpartum onset bipolar disorder. While I’m currently seeking a more recent statistic, in 2008 it was found in the…

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Well, it’s been a week or so since I last had a freak out about things. We’re currently in the middle of a heatwave here in The Netherlands and I’ve found that having several fans going at once 24 hours a day does much to block out the noise of the idiots upstairs. So things have been better in that regard.

My baby turned one a month or so ago. I didn’t find it as awful as I thought it would be, parents and in-laws notwithstanding. She gets more beautiful, awesome and temper-tantruming by the day which always makes me laugh rather than freak out. I find that I’m finally taking pleasure in her growing up and doing stuff, instead of being stuck in hospital at her bedside in intensive care as a newborn, or feeling that I missed out and failed her the first seven months of her life. I’ve not quite moved on yet but I am slowly getting there, and really notice it in her reactions to me now as well. We are much closer and I love it. She’s my little shadow.

I also had to go back to the useless psychiatrist who still didn’t have a clue about my dosage or really what I was about full stop. It wasn’t quite as bad as last time as she seemed to slightly give a shit about me as a human this time round. But to say I have zero confidence in her would be an understatement. I also had to attend the appointment on my own as DH had to work and she couldn’t wait to get me out of the door. Which suited me fine; my case worker always attends those sessions as well and he’s fantastic so I felt quite ok about it all. He was the one who got my prescription correct and really understood what I was getting at when trying to explain certain scenarios I have found stuck in a loop in my head.

What she did do which was alter my lithium so I now take 400mg in the morning and 400mg in the evening. I noticed that I was really struggling in the afternoons, to the point of refusing to move sometimes. We’ve switched it round so my dosage is more spread out and I am also getting fewer side effects now too. Even though it’s only been a couple of days I really notice the difference so that’s good.

We also discussed the rapid escalation I have to noise sensitivity, so I go from normal to suicidal at a rate of seconds if too much sound encroaches on my airspace. I’ve been doing a lot of headset on, but that only works when I’m not caring for my daughter of course. I still cannot tolerate any level of stress without freaking out. This also applies to when my daughter refuses food or won’t sleep, for example. I was getting better but that seems to have gone backwards a bit.

So until my mood stabilises, which I think the lithium is helping with greatly right now, they can’t do any treatment of whatever else it is – which is what they have said since I began treatment nearly 3 years ago so nothing new there. They were upping my psychotherapy when I fell pregnant and had to stop. So it’s been paused for nearly two years now and I am not sure what else they intend.

What this useless woman is also still hinting at is whether I have bipolar or not. She actually asked me whether I thought I had it and for a few seconds I was like wtaf, why the hell are you asking me? You’re the doctor! So I could only reply saying yes, as this was very different to the behaviour I had displayed before we moved – bipolar dominated everything in me before – and I got my diagnosis and your colleague on the floor above you told me categorically it was bipolar 1 not BPD. Dumbass.


What I didn’t have the opportunity to point out was that I had been doing rather well pre-pregnancy and that a huge amount of this had been bought on by the trauma of the difficult pregnancy, labour and then spell in intensive care. I’m pretty sure it bought out latent whatevers in terms of PTSD and has aggravated that significantly. There are several excellent bloggers on here who have made me realise what a massive impact going through pregnancy and childbirth can have on  your mental health.

Whether I get listened to is another matter but, whatever. The way I see it is that I have to do this to get my benefits and my lithium, and I’ll mark time till I get a better psychiatrist.They tend to rotate every year or so, I just have to bide my time. If she tries to change my diagnosis I will demand a second opinion.

Given that it’s my health up for debate here, I feel remarkably sanguine about the whole thing. What will happen will happen. I got a letter from the agency that pays benefits the other day saying I will switch from unemployment benefit to long-term sick in the middle of next month which I see as a good sign. I don’t have to pretend to want to work any more. No idea how it all works, but DH is in charge of that so I can relax.

I had a good day today. I walked to the supermarket, leaving DH who had the day off with the daughter and dog. I realised that, even with neighbours I could happily shoot on sight, I am actually very content right now we finally have our own space back and for the first time, I can be the mother I want to be with no one over my shoulder. The weather is super toasty, my baby is doing wonderfully well and I have such a great husband. We are completely stony broke but I actually appreciate things so much more than when I was able to buy whatever I wanted. I’m more thoughtful about things and the lithium controls that impuse urge to spend, spend spend.

I have been trying to do small things to make positive changes in my life. I’ve struggled with illness on and off the last few weeks so had to park running for now, but I intend on starting up again once the weather is less oppressive. Instead, I’ve changed my diet and cut out almost all carbs and sugar in an attempt to kick-start my weight loss. And it is amazing! I used to do this before to help me improve my diet and basically ditch donuts and chocolate, and so far a week in I’ve lost around 7 pounds and have way more energy than before. I am not uber-extreme as I do have sauces like ketchup and eat sweet potato etc – and I can’t live without Diet Coke right now – but I hope this will help me get back on the straight and narrow. When I was diagnosed hypothyroid I switched to a gluten-free diet and noticed a huge difference in bloat, weight and general cognition. So that’s my aim over the next few months is to getting to eat healthily and properly.

I am a bit wary as last time I lost a lot of weight I stopped eating – something that happens in every manic phase – and I lose a lot of weight. So DH and I are watching me closely to see if there are any signs of that but so far so good.

The other thing I have discovered is fan fiction. I’m going to write about that in a separate blog but in a nutshell I’ve been writing quite a bit since completing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I  have always wanted to write a proper fantasy story and the tale of my inquisitor caught my imagination like nothing has before and I found an outlet to share it. I’m also a sucker for a good love story – man Cullen is just the hottest character BioWare could have come up with – and it is so cool to craft my own fantasy romance 🙂

I have been writing a lot late at night. You could call it manic but I don’t think so. The signs are not there. There’s no starting and not finishing projects, obsessing madly over completely random things and the impulsive behaviour isn’t there. I only write when I have downtime i.e. my baby has been taken care of and is asleep or with someone else. Otherwise I do stuff with her and put this to one side. And sleep has been fairly lacking, but it is so hot I can’t get much rest anyway so I’m taking advantage of it. And sleeping during the day when my daughter sleeps helps too.

Don’t get me wrong – I could if I was able to write nonstop for weeks at a time about this story that has intrigued me  and I am always thinking what direction it’s going in next. But I can control it. Writing has made me feel alive again and I’m absolutely loving the outlet it gives me.

Useless woman thinks I am disassociating and I don’t agree. When I mentioned what I was doing – because I recognise that it isn’t normal to sit up eight days in a row to write and write and write with about 3 hours sleep a night – she immediately said disassociation which was rather frustrating. I just found it thoroughly enjoyable.

See here’s the thing. My psychologist tells me to stop associating everything with my illnesses. My psychiatrist doesn’t do anything but associate everything I do with my mental health. I feel like I can’t just BE. What is so bad about having my alternate universe to escape to? It isn’t actually any different than gaming for days on end. Why can’t I just enjoy this story telling that I want to do? It won’t last forever. I’m fed up of scrutinising everything and not just allowed to explore my own life without an axe of mental illness over my head.

In other news, I finally made it to a playgroup and it was actually ok. DH came with me which made it much easier. I still struggle to leave the house and do stuff like that on my own but it is getting easier.

Oh and DH and I also made it away for a weekend sans child! We went to Rock am Ring in Germany and it was fucking awesome. We only went for 2 days to save money on accommodation but we were one of the fortunate ones to catch Foo Fighters before they had to cancel their tour. I turned into Mama Smurf, going a bright electric blue for the event and DH got loads of ideas about the new vinyl business he is starting up. And it was fun to just drink a few beers and enjoy time with each other (DH doesn’t drink, bonus for me on not having to drive to and from the hotel). German festivals are awesome, so laid back and relaxed. DH quite rightly pointed out the difference in atmosphere compared to the UK, where everyone just releases all that pent up straight-lacedness and ends up in a huge fight, whereas in Germany even the drunk and drugged up people were so polite to each other. No undercurrents of aggression and it was so relaxing for me. The weather was also fantastic – I’m waaaay too old to be slumming it in the mud and rain just for the sake of the festival atmosphere 😀 in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed that in my life.

So, name of the game going forward – continue to lose weight, get some more regular exercise, sit out the heatwave and play as much as possible with my baby. And ignore what I can’t change i.e. wankers upstairs and useless police forces. Just work on our escape route in the long term and in the short term plan lots of nice one-night trips away!Rock and