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 🙂

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 😀

Bipolar and Postnatal Depression

I am sorry again it has been some time since a post. Things have been quite crazy and I find I don’t have nearly enough time to devote to my blog as I would like! Sometimes if I am not feeling great then I find it hard to get the motivation to do anything and unfortunately that phase has lasted a few months this time. But here I am! Please note I discuss suicidal thoughts in this blog so if that is a trigger or distressing I’d advise not reading on.

I posted some time ago about being away and how bad things had been. I said I would share when I could a bit more detail, in the hope that whoever reads this might avoid the huge mistakes DH and I made. How badly we misunderstood and underestimated bipolar and postnatal depression.

I was excited for a short burst of time after having made a catastrophic decision to leave The Netherlands and move to Scotland. See, I thought I could have it all. My new baby, a new shiny job, nice house, nice car, nice life, self-respect for having a decent job. Husband able to stay at home and enjoy the baby. And look at me, the great provider, the super mum. My ego needed a boost. Nothing could possibly go wrong could it?

Before I am too hard on myself, we had the very best of intentions. Our tiny apartment had the neighbours from hell who were driving me literally mental with their partying day and night. Money was so tight as to be unfunny. I figured I might have at tops 3-4 years left of work before my next episode and DH wanted to be in a position where he had the qualifications to be able to provide for us. Neither of us wanted to see our baby in childcare from such a young age – nothing against mothers who did it but for us we wanted one of us to be with her. And, seeing as I had the experience and the qualifications to land a good job then it was logical I would be the one to do it. I didn’t want to have a big commute and my Dutch is really really bad so I couldn’t find work locally.

That meant a return to the UK where DH could study and stay at home, and I could find work at a convenient location so travel time would be minimal. I could earn enough to keep the family in the UK happily as well as send money back to cover any extra bills back home. I had in my head we could move back as soon as DH had finished at uni. I got offered what I thought was the ideal job in the ideal location. My confidence took a great boost, something sorely needed after the disasters at work over the last few years.

See, it all adds up on paper doesn’t it? Of course it does. How dumb could we have been to not realise NEVER to make any life-changing decisions until AFTER the baby has arrived?! In our defence, we were just trying to provide our child with what we thought was the best possible life. But did I pay any attention to the horrendous statistics – that I blogged myself – about postpartum depression? Which, as a woman with bipolar meant I had a significantly increased chance of getting (around a half to two thirds of women with bipolar are at risk of postpartum depression – see below article)? Of course I did not. Looking back, underneath I was so uneasy about the path we had chosen. So was my DH. But foolishly we did not discuss it with each other, although one word from either of us could have ended the madness. Lesson to self – communicate more with my partner and vice versa.

Anyway. We went. After a traumatic birth and time in NICU for our baby. I was, and remain, besotted with her. I had no idea such a small creature could bring me such joy. As we packed up to leave (which was left to the very last minute, as if we did not really want to bring ourselves to do it), I carried her and crooned to her and just loved every minute of being with her. This was a far cry from the woman I thought I would be, frighted and anxious of holding my own child, fearful that I would somehow damage her and be repelled by her somehow. As we went through the move process and wound our way towards our new destination in the UK, I savoured every moment I had with her, fully expecting to be still as engaged as I was at that moment. Not realising the pain I would feel at leaving her, when she had not been out of my sight the moment we left the hospital. Not realising how much support I needed from professionals to manage this bipolar successfully. Not realising that I had so much work to do to address issues from my childhood and the impact that would have on me now. Not realising how bloody long it takes to physically recover from pregnancy and giving birth! Not realising either, how utterly shit  mental health services would be in the UK. I mean I wasn’t expecting it to be up to the Dutch standard. But it wouldn’t be that bad would it?

We signed up with the GP and explained my circumstances. I was referred straight away to the psychiatric team. All good so far, we thought. We just had to wait for the appointment to come through.

I started work. The first couple of days were actually ok. Kind of a honeymoon period. I felt really quite dizzy and crap, which later transpired to be my thyroid medication being too high and the dosage was promptly reduced. I had two months of sickness as a result of that but that is by the by. By the end of my first week at work I knew I had made a hideous mistake.

Let’s just leave the job as it was not worth in any way shape or form leaving my baby behind. Let’s just say I didn’t fit in. And I saw the writing on the wall well before my bully of a boss began to try and discredit me. All of these things do not help someone with bipolar in the workplace whatsoever, but when you add the chances of postnatal depression to it, the situation becomes unmanageable. But suffice to say, it didn’t work on a personal or professional level.

I think postnatal depression just kind of sneaks up on you. It’s a gradual thing. Well DH noticed it a lot more than I did before it twigged as to what the problem might have been.  I was in tears every day at work. I felt physical pain in my chest every time I saw DH drive off with my daughter in the back. I felt like I had FAILED as a mother – how could I have left her? Every day when we got home I would get her out of her pram and then cuddle her and sing to her, but after about five minutes hand her back to DH and I couldn’t hold her as I was too afraid to. I turned into that woman I was so frightened of becoming when pregnant.

I was afraid of my own child. A four-month old baby.

Why was I afraid? I was convinced she didn’t love me. She only wanted DH. I was not what she needed, that somehow by going back to work I had rejected her and she picked up on this. I would lie on the sofa looking at her and DH together, marvelling on the one hand at how amazing she was and then crying because I couldn’t bring myself to go near her. I simply couldn’t relate to this growing baby which I had left pretty much still as a newborn and was now gurgling, laughing, chatting and wriggling at alarming speed on her playmat. I was stuck in a past and couldn’t drag my brain with me to the present that my daughter now inhabited. And it was all I could do to get out of the house every day. The only time I found a bit of peace was when she would be asleep in her cot next to me, tiny hand holding my finger, and I lay there looking at her, marvelling at her perfection. We have a sleep sheep that makes the sound of the doppler, and it reminded me of hearing her heartbeat when I went into labour and I remembered the time when she was still inside me, both of us soothed by the sound of each other’s heartbeats. Most of the time though, I just wanted to die.

I don’t think this is the same as hallucination but in a very depressive or very manic state I have very strong visualisations. And I hear things. For many weeks all I visualised were huge metal spikes coming out the ground to impale me. I could hear the noise of the spikes clanging loudly every time they shot out of the ground and thumped back in again. Almost like a cartoon or in a computer game. But very, very real in my head. And I could hear it almost everywhere I went. I had to stop driving for a while as it was so distracting. I also thought about driving off a cliff edge too. And also grabbing my daughter and driving off somewhere with her, anywhere where no one could reach us. I even wanted to leave my DH as I just needed to be with my baby so badly all alone.

In my head, this went on for quite some time. I had better days of course, where we would all go out for a walk and even maybe venture out to do some swimming at a special baby class on the Sunday. Our activity together. I felt like we needed that for her to love me. But there were many very bad bad days.

The turning point came where we were all in bed and I went, mentally, into a different place. Often in life, and even now, I fell like I walk a very fine knife-edge. The smallest thing could just tip me over the edge. And I don’t know what it was, but something that night did.

Before I continue with the story, people might wonder where the mental health professionals were in this scenario. Well, funny that. They were nowhere to be seen. I got HALF AN HOUR with a psychiatrist for an appointment that was supposed to be an hour. I had to have my lithium dose reduced as it was making me too sick to continue on the very high dose I had during pregnancy. A side effect of lithium for me is extreme anxiety when it is too high. Bear in mind I was used to seeing a psychiatrist weekly or bi-weekly during pregnancy and once a month prior to my pregnancy, more if I needed it. So to get one half hour appointment on the NHS was beyond a shock.

I was pescribed anti-anxiety medication to use on an as-needed basis, shortly before my episode. It is one of the strongest and I had to be careful as it could make me very dopey. And then my next appointment, for mid-January, was cancelled and I was offered one in APRIL. When I hadn’t even had a proper assessment in the first fucking place! I was so shocked and really quite afraid. How could I be on such strong medication with no support? We knew something was very wrong with me and we knew that I needed help.

Anyway, that night I went to a different place. It was a happy place in my head, that I remember. My daughter was with me too. DH was on the verge of calling an ambulance when I conked out from the anti anxiety medication. Which did its thing in that it cut off all feeling from everything, but at the time that was what was needed. And when I came to in the morning we talked properly for the first time in weeks and agreed that we needed to go home to The Netherlands. Within three weeks of making that decision we were on the boat back.

Depression is a creeping, twisting thing. DH has depression now as a result of what we went through. It was an isolating experience as it was just us, no support network, no friends, no help from health professionals. We are in a worse place than when we left. Depression seeps through your pores and gnaws at your insides, making you question every little thing you do – when you can actually find the strength to do something.

Postnatal depression is, of course, similar. For me, my guilt over leaving my baby was amplified beyond all reason. My GP explained that all mothers have to deal with guilt when they return to work but, because of my biploar and the depression things were out of all proportion. I was unable to communicate, to continue to bond with her. I felt shut off from this wonderful creature, desperate to come back into her sunny, happy universe but incapable of understanding how to do so. I never once wanted to harm her in any way – in fact it was because I was so paranoid about harming her that I couldn’t bear to touch her some of the time.

Bipolar and postnatal depresssion lead you to an exceedingly dark place, a deep pit I am still trying to climb out from. I have guilt at leaving my baby. I have guilt at putting DH through such difficulty. I have guilt at wrecking our lives when actually what we left was not so bad, but trying to get that back again is incredibly hard. I have guilt at ruining us financially – this very much a bipolar symptom that reared its head with me in January. I felt cold inside, physically icy cold. My mind felt black. Even surrounded by the natural beauty of where we were, I saw black everywhere I looked.

This has left its scars. I thought DH and I might end up divorced. I know it crossed his mind – he says fleetingly but I am sure he thinks it still. The last two nights I have been very close to my knife edge again and I know he is at his wits end. I know he doesn’t see a way out of our current mess. And I find that I don’t have the strength to pull him through along with me. He did strongly refute earlier that he had been thinking of divorce and I believe him. We are in this together or not at all. We still love each other greatly. Every time we have been tested (and there has been plenty and I’d kind of like it to stop!) we come out stronger. And I know this will be no different.

Is there a ray of light as I climb painfully out of my pit? There is most definitely. Since December I have spent every day and night with my girl and marvel at her wonderfulness. I had no idea how becoming a mother would help with my bipolar journey, improving me as a person and how healing I would find spending time with my child. Every day her laughter and smiles and watching her progress warm me up a little bit more on the inside. All parents rightly say this about their offspring, but really, what a little miracle she is. My daughter makes me want to be a better person, makes me want to get better for her sake.

I wept as I met with my old therapist and case worker last week. To talk through with professionals what had happened was in itself such a relief. We talked a lot about the guilt and the confusion I felt about being a mother. I am seeing a psychiatrist soon and starting my psychotherapy again. I can’t believe how much I underestimated bipolar. If anything taught me from my time back at work, was how not to go about living with bipolar. Not for me anyway. Stress wow, what a trigger. I had no idea. What is very difficult for me is the life I had always planned to live is not open to me. I can’t do it, not the way I thought. So now I have to figure out the alternative path. There will be one and at least I know now what not to do.

There is hope. In the depths of the darkness, it’s easy not to see the little chink of light at the door you think is firmly shut. Which it’s not really. I feel so so lucky that finally, the help is there that I need to get better. I might never work again but I can become the best stay at home mother I can be for my baby. She deserves it.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-and-postpartum-depression.aspx

I’m back!

I will write more. I am sorry I haven’t posted for months! But such is the joy and bittersweet elation of becoming a new mother. I have a gorgeous beautiful baby girl who is the light of my life and oh crumbs is six months old soon. But my word, the ups and downs of bipolar and pregancy and the whole WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AFTER  YOU GIVE BIRTH. I want to make a whole website dedicated to it just to help other women – and their partners – who have to go through it all. Labour was actually a hugely cathartic experience. And the sheer bliss and joy of holding my newborn in my hands was the most transformational, wonderful moment.

As to all that happened afterwards, I will leave it for now. Writing is my release so perhaps I will find the words to describe the final months leading up to the birth, and the months after, to give me some form of therapy. At the moment I waver between sheer happiness and crying nonstop at nothing in particular. It has taken me a long time to adjust.

For now though, let’s just say that I have overdone it. My medication has been adjusted. I am back in the UK. My husband has been my rock but even so has come close to breaking. But we look at our sweet adorable baby and feel so humbled and blessed, and we find the strength to get up and go on again. Just a cuddle or shy smile or giggle from her transforms my whole day. Becoming a mother was the best thing that could have happened to me. And, when all is said and done, I look at my little family and know that, once I am out of my thick, black pea soup in my head (the only way I can describe my world at the moment) all is well in the real world.

I will return……