I have this great friend who acts as my soundboard and does this kind of motivation coach (I know, it sounds awful) thing with me. After a five or six years of not being in touch I rang him because my life was in mess and I wanted to talk about somebody taking over my finances and we eventually set up a registered Lasting Power of Attorney.
Once that set up he got me to look at the way I spent money, what I spent it on, how many times a week I visited a cash point, how often I used a debit card and it opened my eyes to just how messy things had got.
He then suggested that I opened an ISA and began saving. I was skeptical about doing that because I have a low income and didn’t think that there was room in my budget for saving but, as it was issued as a sort of challenge, I took it up. I started with a tiny amount and eventually built it up so that I have a bit of fall back money now and I no longer worry about money.
I’ve always had a problem in keeping things tidy around home. My head is so chaotic that I find it difficult just to keep things less oppressive and dreamed of having an uncluttered flat. A psychiatric nurse I once saw for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy said I had to set targets. He suggested that I should do hoovering once a week at a time when I couldn’t see the floor. I don’t think he got the idea that living in chaos needs very small steps to get out of that chaos.
Once I no longer had anxiety about money I found that my mind was freed a little and I could assess what level of chaos I could live with and was encouraged to not exceed that level. I don’t often exceed that level these days, if at all, and it’s freed up time to let me bake my own bread and, when I can get my head together, cook fabulous food.
As mentioned in a previous blog I’ve had an appointment with a consultant psychiatrist who thought that what I’d assumed is an extreme escalation of bipolar disorder could actually be brain damage (I can date the change in behaviour quite accurately) and I’m waiting for a CT scan.
The consultant asked me if I had high cholesterol levels (6.2 – 6.8 typical but has been as high as 7.1) and if I take statins and I think he was hinting that there may have been a mini stroke. That consultation changed things for me.
I haven’t had chocolate or crisps since that day and as I’m losing my sweet tooth I can’t bear the taste of diet coke (overwhelmingly sweet!) and I’m now losing my taste for diet lemonade. I’m not even drinking low sugar squash, tea or coffee very much and so I’m drinking loads of water. (Try leaving a glass by the sink and instead of boiling the kettle pour a glass of water – it’s good for your body.) My cholesterol levels, measured after three weeks without chocolate or crisps came out as 5.1!
I’m less manic than I was. I think this is partly because I know the extreme behaviour isn’t necessarily bipolar related and I’m learning how to temper it. As a result I’m not feeding the mania and perhaps some of it was sugar fuelled – who knows?
There’s a little bit of a weight loss – 7lbs – but a long way to go. It’s a small start but a start anyway.
The moral of the story is (and I will repeat this often and regularly) is start on any part of your life that you want to change and concentrate on that. Sooner or later there will be time and energy to look at another area of your life. Some changes will come as a consequence of the first change but things will change. Baby steps are still steps and life, hopefully, will improve.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the people in the know (the medics, the psychiatrists etc., the professionals) don’t always know how to enable you to move your life forward. Being advised to take small steps is great advice but backed up with the idea that to concentrate on just one area of your life is better.
Now excuse me, I’m off to do hoovering for the second time this week.