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?

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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 🙂

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.

No talking please

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 🙂

Sleep, just a little, would be amazing…….

I was proud of myself today – I drove to see DH and his dad in a different town to visit the market where they were working.

I feel sensitive to everything sometimes. I feel crowded in and panicked and stressed. Even the tv show on is making me feel so edgy. It isn’t something I want to watch either but normally I find a way to tune it out. It’s hard living with the in-laws and no end in sight to when we can move back home, but I cope with it sometimes better than others.

The worst is when this affects what I do with my baby. I find it hard to leave the house so going out with her is stressful, but I do do it. People buzzing round me in the shops and on the tram is hard work but I do it. But I have noticed there are certain things that happen which I find freak me out/stress me out beyond reason:

– the whole weaning thing

– getting her down to sleep

How do I parent effectively without letting these wretched illnesses take over and hit me on two key areas of my daughter’s development?

Sleep
I’m going to focus on the sleep for now. Weaning, and the uber anxiety I have around that is a whole different story. It is, of course, part of the whole picture but for now sleep has been the most pressing. I’m finding ways of living with the whole weaning thing.

We haven’t had much sleep in this house recently. The poor lamb had a temperature and prior to that a stomach bug. I was feeling pleased with the sleep routine we had established and she was getting pretty good at sleeping through the night. I am trying to be relaxed and laid back about most things but sleep I feel quite regimental about. It’s so important for people without a mental health problem to get enough rest, but then add the bipolar, BPD and now PTSD into the mix and bam, I need to make sure I get enough sleep or I could end up horribly sick again.

So when she’s wailing away in her cot and standing up and refusing to lie down and just rest at 3am I feel beyond frazzeled. More often than not DH has done the night shift so I don’t have to worry. But now I find that I am getting obsessed by the fact she’s gone back to sleep in our bed four nights in a row, she won’t go down now until gone 9pm and is wide awake again 4 hours later and I just don’t have a clue how to make it stop.

It’s awful to say but I find myself focused so much on the ‘how do I make it stop’ at 3am rather than ‘how do I project calm and reassurance’ and ‘what can I do for my baby to make her comfortable’. The latter two of course solve the whole sleep issue for everyone. I do end up doing the former, and then end up having to leave the room after none too gently poking DH awake to get him to take over. Then I feel guilty because there’s a howling baby that I helped put in that state and an exhausted husband who has to get up and go to work in a few hours whilst I slope off and make myself a mug of warm milk and have some quiet time to calm me down.

I have been told, and read, that babies who had traumatic births and long labours tend to be the ones struggling with sleep issues/separation anxiety. Of course my baby girl had to go through both with a stay in NICU so I do believe there is some validity in that argument. Some babies also aren’t great sleepers either. Basically, teething is also a bitch.

What I find is that these things, which the vast majority of parents go through, are then magnified and multiplied in my head into 1000x worse than they probably are. I can easily see how, if pushed too much, it is at risk of becoming a child protection issue. With the latter I am fortunate in that I receive plenty of support and talking therapy to help me, and DH is as ever such a star, but I find the paranoia blooming in that area as well – basically I am terrified to do anything that may be perceived as hurting or harming my child. So that colours my parenting too. My talking therapy is actually around me reducing the distance I have put between myself and my daughter and to reduce the anxiety I have that I will hurt her somehow. Apparently common among people who were abused as kids, but it manifests itself in so many different ways as a parent.  Here it is because I am trying to over-control something which really can only be controlled to a certain extent. I am rather obsessed with it all.

The result is becoming quite toxic. I am sure the majority of parents living with a mental health problem don’t have to camp out at their in laws, facing an uncertain future financially and wondering where they will end up and how they will raise their child amid such randomness. I do hope my circumstances are not the same – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and it definitely exacerbates what I am living with. My in laws are very nice, well meaning people and I will be ever grateful for them giving us a roof over our heads – but lordy I have nothing in common with them whatsoever! And holy hell when they clunk around and disturb the baby when she is asleep I am not responsible for my feelings at that present moment in time. But we can’t move. We are stuck as our apartment is not a suitable environment for a baby right now.

At 3am I am petrified that the boundaries will drop. I end up feeling like a failure that I have to step away so often. It’s why I feel I am regressing in my head, the creeping sensation that something is trying to crawl under my skin and into my brain. Why I had to go and find a quiet spot to sit and write these thoughts out, just to bring some sense of calm and order back to me, similar in a way that my autistic cousin has to go and find some peace. There is so much chaos that I struggle to even bring order to something as simple as laundry, something as straightforward as giving my daughter a bottle, or even putting her into bed. I can’t manage it sometimes. My reaction is way above what it should be.

I have renewed respect for single parents every day who are going through this alone with no one to turn to. DH always picks up the slack, so our daughter is never left wanting and I get some quiet moments to myself. My advice would be always to talk about it. Don’t be afraid that you will be judged. I know I feel like I am the only parent in my version of hell but I know I am not. Talking helps, whether it is with your GP if you have no one else to turn to, your health visitor, your parents, your friends. Never feel like parenting is some kind of competition and look for the signs that you may be spending more time worrying over something than is normal. It’s difficult to know what is normal, I know, but there are triggers. Your partner should always be the first port of call, but some are non existent or may as well be non existent for all the use they are. I am blessed in that regard. So for me, it’s off to the doctor again next week to explore this further and letting DH follow his parenting instincts taking care of the baby at night and me letting him just get on with it.

The responsibility of being a parent, and a mother, is huge and I really don’t want to ruin it because I can’t cope. She is the most amazing thing that has happened to me and she deserves the best ❤

And please wish me luck in reclaiming some sleepy time 😀

When Bipolar and Phone Apps Don’t Mix…..

Call me old-fashioned but I don’t think that never ending battle against stigma in mental health is helped when you have game developers making fun of things such  as the rather horrendous ‘Bipolar Chick’ by ISS Game Studio.

Apparently you can help the mad bipolar chick go as far as possible in her wild ride with a taste of pure destructive power. Oh gee wizz, what fun that sounds [insert confused face]

image

There it is. I’m not making it up. It’s wrong on so many levels. I feel like spamming their email account to ask them to explain exactly what they thought they were trying to achieve by trivialising – and being factually incorrect – over something that has had such a corrosive impact on so many families.

Perhaps some people with the condition see the humour. I certainly don’t. But it’s a great example of how it’s seemingly ok to take an illness which already has a lack of understanding and make it even worse. My life is not a game to be taken the piss out of. How many more of these things that breed ignorance will we have to live with?

Fighting stigma seems like an uphill struggle 😦

Stigma continued

I have been thinking about this subject a lot recently and never did it hit home more until today.

I rushed down to the shops first thing to get some nappies – we were literally down to our last one – and headed to the store that had the best deal, DH in tow as he was on his way to work. It was quiet still, as it had just turned 9am and I was expecting a quick in and out of the shop.

As I went in, I heard a high pitched groaning noise coming from a man somewhere in the shop. I didn’t think anything of it, until it started getting more and more insistent. My paranoia radar was on full alert by this point but I couldn’t leave – I needed nappies and we couldn’t afford to to anywhere else.

By the time I reached the till it was quite apparent the man was in some distress, with a high pitched keening akin to sounds I have heared from my  severely autistic cousin when he is not in a safe place. The man was collapsed in one of the aisles and staff were gathering round him, and the shutters were coming down as they cleared the shop from the general public. I was also feeling quite sad, thinking that could easily be me in that man’s shoes in an episode (DH has had to come and retrieve me from supermarkets and other crowded places on more than one occasion).

There was me and a woman in the queue, and as I hastily paid for my items another keening noise broke out, followed by a very loud tutting noise from behind me! I turned to see this lady with a look of disapproval on her face to the man who was clearly having some sort of horrible episode on the floor.

Well, my jaw could have dropped and I was desperate to give her a piece of my mind, except my Dutch does not stretch to withering put downs that I struggle to find in English at the best of times.

I paid and exited the shop quickly, as two policemen ran in and the shutters went down to resolve whatever problems the poor man had to deal with.

Several things immediately sprang to my mind and have stayed with me since:

– where did compassion go? The man clearly had some form of mental illness yet because he was inconveniencing this woman due to having a meltdown it was impossible for her to go and purchase her cough medicine and sweets elsewhere from a shop less than a minute away (I know, I saw what she had in her basket)??

When did we get so hard as a society that someone so obviously in mental anguish was relegated to being less important than own brand cough medicine and some boiled sweets?

– Dutch police have a reputation for being quick with violence to resolve issues. I also know there have been many cases in the UK of police rough handling people with mental health issues and assuming guilt before checking to see what the real problem is. I know that training on mental health issues is available but I am not sure still how widespread that has been delivered.

I found myself hoping that the police would be gentle with that man and I hope he received proper care and attention.

– that could have been me. I hold it together somehow – well really I freeze and pretend to stare at the shelves before shuffling a bit to the next one, agonisingly waiting for DH to come and get me. I go in on myself. Instead of feeling my flight mode kick in I tried my best to emphasise with the man instead. I really felt his pain, wherever it was coming from. In a way, he is braver than me – he let it out while I hide it away. (Granted, he probably had no choice in the matter but I still think he was brave for even going out in the first place.)

I have been thinking about that man all day. I really hope he got the care he needs. If that woman developed Alzheimers or Parkinson’s or something else equally horrendous (she was older), she had better hope she isn’t judged as harshly as she was judging that poor fellow today.

What next?!

I saw my new psychiatrist yesterday. To say we were underwhelmed would be an overstatement. DH described it perfectly when he said how we were immediately put on the defensive. So this post is a space for me to vent, but also to actually try and muddle through my head what I have to do going forward to take control of my own health again.

There was a really noticeable language barrier for starters. Which if she had read my file should have been apparent and is one reason DH always comes to all my appointments. Except it has never been an issue till now as all doctors are supposed to be fluent in English. And if she didn’t feel confident or want to communicate in English she should have given my case to another psychiatrist.

If she had also read my file as she claimed she had she would have known we were back to stay and had no intention of moving again. But why DH had to tell her three times in the session we don’t know.

Also if she had read my file she would know I have Bipolar 1 with very well documented periods of mania and subsequent depression, so I was left very confused as to the references to Bipolar 2 in the conversation.

If she was really listening to me as a patient she would have heard that I clearly stated I do not have nightmares as a result of the childhood sexual abuse or any other traumatic effect that has happened. I have the odd nightmare same as anyone else but I don’t struggle with them. So why she then listed them as something I was having I fail to understand.

I have insomnia at the moment because I have no stability at home and I fucking hate sleeping on my parent in law’s floor. Funny that. I’m anxious about moving back to our old flat, much though I love it, because our neighbours are so awful and I’m dreading the loud parties with drugs and booze till 3am upstairs where the noise invades my safe place and the police and council did nothing in four years. But we are taking steps to change that and it is better than the 4 of us camping out in someone else’s house. So that’s why I have insomnia.

I have paranoia for sure. I was at a point last week where I wasn’t going to take my lithium any more as I thought the nebulous ‘they’ in my head were trying to alter me in some way.  I can’t deal with loud noises and I look suspiciously at anyone in the street. Literally anyone. I really hate having to leave the house but I have to do it otherwise my poor daughter would never know what other people looked like. I only feel safe when with DH. So this new professional being really quite confrontational was very hard for me to process.

And then the medicine talk. This is the first time a Dutch psychiatrist has just bandied around taking drugs like the were Smarties. I have anxiety through the roof most days but it has been so much better since returning. Quetiapine was prescribed to me in Scotland to take on an as necessary basis. We also reduced my lithium down which had been increased during my pregnancy. We knew I function much better with a lower lithium count and the side effects of too much lithium really push my anxiety beyond coping, not to mention making me very ill. Once I reduced my lithium I was much better with the anxiety. I do not respond well to Quetiapine – in fact I hated it. It turned me into a zombie. Even 12.5mg meant I couldn’t get out of bed the next day. Forget disassociation, of which I am a master manipulator of, this stuff shut me off completely from the world. I couldn’t take it unless I knew DH would be home to look after the baby ad I simply could not function and it actually made me worse in terms of managing the guilt around my child. And, it wasn’t even prescribed for PSTD.

Again, all in my file.

So why was I being pushed to not take Quetiapine regularly, but actually increase the dosage? I couldn’t give a shit if it took a few weeks to get over the side effects, I don’t have a few weeks to walk around like a space cadet. I’m a stay at home mother and I’d be unable to look after my child so who is going to do it for me?

Also, with my lithium usage over several years now, why again would you push for me to increase the dose knowing that it makes me sick and increases my anxiety? If you had read my file, psychiatrist lady, you would know that it is a known issue for me dealt with very ably by one of your colleagues who has sadly now left. More’s the pity. We also know how successfully I respond to lithium, never demonstrated better than when I was pregnant and had no idea what a black spot I was in until my lithium count showed as almost nothing due to the increasing volumes of fluid in me. And I was immediately better when we increased it. So yes, funnily enough I am very aware of how much it impacts and if I thought it would help I would increase it. So how about you listen to me as I’ve been doing this for years rather than assume you know better?

DH thank God just took over at that point in Dutch and said not happening. I was almost shell-shocked at being run so roughshod over.

The final, and perhaps most significant, blow I received in my appointment was to be told that my diagnosis was perhaps not correct. She had read my file and felt that there was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) present but as yet undiagnosed. Now, the way this came across in English was it’s not Bipolar, it’s not BPD but more PTSD.

So my immediate reaction was what the fuck I was just coming to terms with Bipolar what the hell, does that mean I have something completely different? I was so totally confused and also angry given I hadn’t had the chance to talk properly during the session and this bombshell was delivered on just reading rather than talking to me as a person.

When I said bipolar ran in my family she then responded ‘oh well lots of psychiatrists would just say oh it’s bipolar without looking into your history properly’ and DH responded that we had received the diagnosis by her colleagues in the very same centre. To which she looked rather confused about.

So did you really read my file, lady? Did you see the bit by the psychological unit I was assessed by on the floor above us saying it was most definitely bipolar and I had traits of BPD, but bipolar was the root cause? Feel free to slag off your colleagues as much as you like but I can assure you a year’s worth of assessment and multiple meetings reached their diagnosis which was then further reinforced by psychiatrists at one of the best teaching hospitals in Europe during my pregnancy. Yet, on the strength of ten minutes of meeting me, and apparently reading my file which you must have done two minutes before the appointment started, you have decided the collective wisdom of all these others is wrong and you are right. To the point of being pretty rude about them in front of me.

Apparently I do still have bipolar and I do have the BPD stuff. In Dutch it all came out rather differently, or so DH explained to me. Because I don’t think I could survive having to go through a whole reassessment again, I really don’t. I’m struggling to find out who I am as it is and I can’t face the thought of having to start all over again.

And thank goodness I had an appointment with my lovely psychologist right afterwards who explained it properly. That she had always suspected that I had PTSD as well as everything else, but that PTSD alone didn’t explain the levels of psychosis and mania or my reactions so it was now a matter of looking at a combination of things. If it was just PTSD they could treat me one way. If it was just bipolar they could treat me another way. But because of the combination they had to look at the whole and how to approach it going forward now I wasn’t pregnant and full of hormones.

At least I think I have that right.

I’m not denying the PTSD potential. Far from it. What I reacted so strongly to was the word ‘misdiagnosed’ and the subsequent rubbishing of all the previous advice and rejection of how I wanted to manage my condition, which is not to blindly take a drug when I know the side effects it has on me. Again, I am not anti drugs at all but the patient has to be in control of what they are putting in their bodies and the physician has to listen and respect what the patient is saying when discussing the impact of medication. If it doesn’t work then an alternative path needs to be found.

I have always had good and informed dialogue with my psychiatrists previously so this was the first time I came up such a huge brick wall. And one who was just prepared to chuck drugs at the problem without any meaningful discussion. I mean really, give me one good reason why I should put myself and my family through that for a condition that I haven’t even been diagnosed with yet with a drug that has only had a negative impact on me thus far.

Urgh so next steps are for DH to speak to my also very lovely case worker and tell him we want to see someone else. I have to have confidence in who I see or it will make it worse. In the meantime I have my Promethazine back which works when I have insomnia so I’m very pleased about that.

Long term I have to try and get my head around this other hurdle. The one good thing was that I was told I should not work as it is too stressful with will now help with my benefits pathway.

For me too there are whole new areas to think of for research and blogging – the importance of an advocate for the patient, medication and caring for small children, and patient voice. I know they are all huge, recurring issues in the mental health world. I am so lucky to have DH by my side and be my voice when I feel too scared, ill or intimidated. But not everyone has that.

I feel a bit overwhelmed still by the pronouncement so I will take a step back again to process stuff. Perhaps, to end on a positive, it is one step closer in my search for that elusive peace I so crave. I hope so.

Holidays – the destressing MYTH!

Forgive me the delay in posting this. As you’ll see I actually wrote it last week but due to problems with my phone I only just managed to get it onto my laptop now! But, as I am still struggling with the after effects I think it worth posting 🙂

So here I relax on a Sunday morning, cuppa in one hand and enjoying the quiet serenity of the early hours. It’s a special time for me and sometimes the only chance I have to catch up with myself before the bustle of the day begins. Sometimes the dog will join me, curled up by my side or on my lap and sometimes he will prefer to remain snuggled under the duvet, where my husband and my daughter are also still tucked in (the little minx already knows at the grand age of nine months how to twist her daddy round her very little finger!). Sundays tend to be the days where I have my rest, along with a lie in. So why am I up so early rather than cuddling with my family in bed?

One word – holiday.

For most people, the word holiday generates feelings of excitement, relaxation, fun and wellbeing. A chance to experience new places, feel the sun on your skin or just enjoy revisiting old haunts and exploring new ones. Absorbing culture, history or pushing new frontiers, physical or psychological. Then one returns feeling at peace with the world, ready to return to daily life and saunter merrily into the office bronzed and feeling a million dollars. Or filled with a sense of accomplishment, eager to take that determination and drive forward umm, things, in the office. Well, that’s what we are sold anyway.

For many of us though, the idea of travelling induces feelings of panic and stress. It creates the opposite effect of health and wellbeing a couple of weeks in the sun (or snow) can bring to most. It is in short, a worst nightmare to be away from familiar things and comfort zone. I don’t think this is unique to people with a mental health condition of course, but it can exacerbate pre-existing problems and create unnecessary anxiety.

I’m one of the latter. I never used to be. I grew up in a foreign country and travelled long distances regularly. As a young woman I loved the escape that visiting new places bought me, seeing new cultures was inspirational and it gave me a sense of freedom and purpose to be buzzing all round the world. I sa  so many incredible places and met many wonderful people.

Of course with hindsight now that desire to travel so regularly was bought on by my bipolar. I ran up tens of thousands in debt travelling, whipped on by this relentless need to escape and living in an alternate reality where money grew on trees and no corner of the world was too far flung for me to discover. It was also a product of the abuse I experienced as a child, with those BPD traits rearing their head as every situation that could be translated as awkward or difficult resulted in flight mode. I’d retreat in my head, planning my next move, my next escape. I had to permanently be on the move, running away.

These days, I am the opposite. The idea of leaving my safe space nauseates me. Even going to see friends in the next town along is a big deal. The only time it isn’t is if DH is with me. Then I look forward to it. But we don’t get away much and often I travel on my own. And I get so scared. And angry that something is taking me away from my safe place. I like my safe place, it keeps me alive. When I leave it takes me ages to settle again. A few nights of disruption and nightmares. Anxiety and general panic at the thought of having to leave the house again. Having to fly somewhere. I never used to be a nervous flyer. Now the mere bump of turbulence makes me want to vomit and run screaming off the plane with my parachute on. Or trying to get luggage. Will it appear on the carousel? Will I need to spend my precious pennies on new clothes? Even going through passport control is scary. I am super paranoid about the uniforms behind the desk, convinced they will march me off and declare my passport invalid.

But I do it. I force myself to do it. It would be all to easy to retreat into my own private world, but I can’t.

I am now a mother. And that is the only reason why. How do I want my daughter to grow up? Scared of her own shadow? What example do I want to set?

Now, the above statement is worthy of many blog posts alone so I will go into it another time. But I need to get out and about for my daughter’s sake. I want her to be used to travel, to going different places, to experiencing new cultures, so she can make more informed decisions as an adult. If I had my way I would live like a hermit with just DH, her and the dog for company and never see another human ever again, living in a beautiful wilderness by the sea somewhere.

But I can’t do that to my daughter. So I have to force myself outside.

Just to interject, I know I am not the only person who finds holidays stressful and it of course is not limited to people with bipolar. One of the mothers on Sister Wives yes I am a stay at home mum who watches rather too much TLC today talked about how stressful she was finding preparing for a 4 day road trip to Missouri. Which I can well imagine must be a logistical nightmare, not to mention trying to keep however many children entertained on such a long road trip!

I think the difference is that all the stresses we undergo living with bipolar are then amplified So for me it’s anxiety around travel, paranoia and so on. You know. So it blows everything out of all proportion.

I also was worried about what to DO for the whole time I was there. I even have this with my parents coming to visit, or going to see my mum. What the eff am I going to say? How will I entertain them? What will I do to make the time go as fast as possible? I find dealing with people the most stressful thing ever, even those I am closest to (aside from DH and baby), and wish the time to fly as fast as possible.

We went to see my baby’s godmother, who has a daughter and a baby just a couple of months older than mine. Finances and other illness-related things meant that I hadn’t seen my closest friend for some years. Skype I find very difficult too and I communicate best by text. So we have had some long FB and WhatsApp messages over the years. I girded my loins, booked the plane tickets and braced myself for travel.

 I fret and become very anxious about a week before I travel and then once underway I find it much easier. It’s also great having my daughter there as she is such a distraction, but hard on DH who has to put up with my extreme anxiety which is pretty much guaranteed to manifest in shouting and trying to control everything around me which is not controllable.

However, once underway it is normally ok. Except I didn’t realise at Schipol Airport they don’t let you take prams through security like they do at UK airports. Now, my strategy for coping with travel is to be super organised. But I am a bit lazy with stuff for the baby and load up the pram with blankets etc so it doesn’t all fit in the nappy bag. I had such a shock and ended up struggling through security with everything hanging out all over the place. I had the sling which we found useless from the moment we bought it but still I thought I would persevere with it and use it to no effect whatsoever and was practically in tears wishing I had packed her harness carrier thingy instead.

I was sweating and crying with me and a wailing baby on arrival at the gate. Also why do some people feel free to dispense completely USELESS advice to parents? In the baby change I was asked ‘oh don’t you have a baby carrier’ well yes thanks ever so for pointing that out to me when I have a wailing infant in one arm and four bags oozing baby paraphernalia out of the other!! Why don’t you go and put it over the tannoy for all the other parents who might just benefit from your pearls of wisdom?!

Anyway……

Then we made it to the gate and me and daughter calmed down and enjoyed watching the planes and people come and go. I felt a bit better, confidently waiting for them to announce the bit where infants and parents could get on first. Oh except in egalitarian Sweden that doesn’t seem to be the case and I was left struggling halfway down the corridor with everything trailing, baby literally under one arm at a funny angle trying not to bump her head on the seats as we tried to find our place. Kind passengers were picking up my stuff after me and helped put everything up, otherwise I would have been completely and utterly stuck. We collapsed into our seat eventually, both baby and me feeling somewhat traumatised by the last couple of hours.

The rest of the flight passed without incident, aside from the baby flinging across the plane the banana I had lovingly mashed for her in case she got hungry (another point of anxiety/paranoia) and narrowly missing some poor man’s trousers!

By the way, at Stockholm airport they kindly provide you with little prams for the wee ones whilst you wait for yours to be unceremoniously dumped somewhere in the vicinity of your carousel. But hey, at least I didn’t have to carry her round half the airport. Well I did, because no one told me I could get a pram until a bit later! Can you tell I am somewhat bitter?!

I sound like I am frothing at the mouth a bit with the whole plane thing but it demonstrates so well every agonising step in my brain. Looking back I was close to panic the whole time we were negotiating our way to and from the plane and the only thing that didn’t have me crumpled on the floor in tears was the fact that I can’t let myself go because of my baby being there. The situation was escalating so badly – before I even arrived at my nice holiday destination – that I was about to call DH to turn around and come pick us both up as I couldn’t do it any more.

As for the rest of the trip? Well, I never sleep well away from DH at the best of times and neither does our daughter. So I had about two hours of sleep the first night and five the second. The importance of sleep can’t be underestimated but I could barely talk by the end of the second night. It was truly wonderful to see my friend, and the baby in particular had a great time, but I also realised that actually, I can’t travel without DH again. It was a learning for me about how to manage this condition.

I have been unsettled ever since we returned. I had a huge panic attack yesterday whilst out with the baby in the centre of town. I haven’t slept properly. I had to take my anti anxiety medication which, to be frank, fucks me over big time so I try to avoid it and yep, today I was like a zombie.

I also realised that holidays for me are not the stress free adventures that most people have. I think if I went en famille with DH, daughter and dog then it might be different. My anxieties will travel no matter where I try and go. But I have to find a way through it as I don’t want my daughter to have any limitations or feel she can’t do something. If that makes sense. So I have to find a way through it so she doesn’t miss out. I don’t want her looking at me thinking that women can’t travel alone. That sounds a bit ridiculous but I want to be a good role model.

Holidays and mini breaks and travel? I’ll have to keep sucking it up for a while longer. But perhaps I’ll take the marketing hype with a pinch of salt in the future!