On lowering my expectations and learning to take the pressure off

I’m still a bit shell shocked by the news I got on Tuesday. It actually all makes a bit more sense now I’ve learned a little about what executive functions are. I have to talk things through thoroughly with a few people and then I’ll feel more at ease and less dis-eased because right now I feel as though I’m inhabited by an invisible parasite.

The news has focussed me as bad news often does and today I’ve been looking at how I spend my time and why I spend my time the way I do.

This morning I was in a local park with some fellow dog owners and our dogs. None of us really knew each other until just before Christmas but now we’re at the point where we’ve swapped phone numbers and we talk about the big stuff to each other. This doesn’t happen with any of the other groups of dog walkers I see so it feels pretty special. I’ve seen two of them today and they allowed me to talk about what’s been going on and there’s been hugs and tears and that in itself is healing.

I didn’t sleep well last night (I was watching an episode of My Crazy Ex at 3.30 this morning) so when the alarm went off I was in no state to walk Ogden and we were late getting out and getting back.

There was a dog show in one of the parks tonight that I was going to go to but I changed my mind because it was a pressure I didn’t need and Ogden didn’t have a clue what was going on so its not like he’d have a tantrum if we didn’t go.

I live in a city that is permanently on the point of vomiting with excitement because there is so much going on all the time. It’s filled with newcomers who have tiny spans of attention and who seem to be unable to spend time alone or silent or in any kind of isolation which is the opposite of me. So what does this have to do with the pressure I feel?

Well I’ve recently been dipping my toe into community stuff again purely because nobody else round here does and the experience has been as awful as I remember – ungrateful neighbours and resentful officials with few exceptions. So that’s the first thing to go. I’ve got a response to a plan to type up and then that’s it.

I’ve also decided that I need to change Ogden’s routine a little because I’m supposed to be the one in charge and so I get to decide what we do and when. He’ll not be short of walks or love so he won’t mind in the slightest.

image

Small changes but they’re the ones that build up until they’re big changes and I recognise that I’ve been giving into pressures that I’ve put on myself but also because of the way other people perceive me – I don’t have to live up to the image that anybody has of me. I was once a very capable and driven person which is why I’ve lived my life the way I have but, and it’s a reasoned but, I’ve changed.

I’m not less capable but I am differently capable and because of that I’ve learned to be adaptable. Adaptable people succeed because they’re willing to bend yet essentially stay the same and it’s a constant process.

I’m going to plan my days a little more but try to work out a way of coping with the small changes that I am no longer able to cope with. I’m going to have to try and plan food that takes into account that some days I can’t work out how to get the raw ingredients onto a plate and safe to eat. Big ambitions but some days you have to aim high.

And today? Today I’m catching up on junk television and doing just enough to get by and it’s been a good day. I’ve missed out on a few things but I don’t have to have every experience that’s on offer – quality not quantity and that’s the way I have to remind myself from here on in.

Changes, changes, changes

After around 8 – 10 months of what has become chronic mania I am finally depressed for more than 24 hours. It feels awful but it also feels good in a bizarre way. I’m not in a high grade depression, it’s relatively low grade, and so liveable with.

Strange though it may seem to some people, it actually makes me feel kind of optimistic because after a relentless period of mania I’m feeling something that’s not incredibly out of touch with reality. It’s a form of insanity and I’m glad of the relief that comes with it ending at least temporarily.

How long this will last I don’t know. I am sincerely hoping that it lasts for at least three or four days. I want to be depressed so that I can feel something. I want to cry at the begging adverts on television asking for money for starving donkeys instead of being irritated about them. I want my empathy back for more than 24 hours.

I cried yesterday as my mood plummeted and I’d like to cry some more. It may seem strange to here but I’m actually enjoying this depression because it’s a wonderful change from the relentless fucking optimism that has been haunting me for far too long.

I feel outside of the world and I feel detached from reality but I feel something and I’m grateful for that.

 

An endless springtime

There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that manic depression is a hibernation cycle that has gone badly wrong.

In the lows, the depths of mood where it is impossible to feel even in despair, we are hiding in caves not of our choosing waiting for spring to creep in and enlighten our lives.

In the highs, the manic fevers where it is impossible to get true rest or think very clearly, we are outside tilling our fields like there is no tomorrow and shooting everything in sight to prepare for the long winter that will surely come.

I have spent far too much time in the hibernation stage and, until recently, I have never experienced a period of chronic mania. I can cope with depression after a bizarre fashion as days pass by, albeit at a ridiculously slow pace, and they are all the same. If I can get out of bed I do and if I can’t I don’t. I carry a cushion around inside my head that acts as a buffer against the world but it also over protects, it shields me from myself. But it is comforting and it is only once I improve and gain energy do I pass through the dangerous zone when I become suicidal then move on to self harm and, finally, back to the instability that is considered stable.

I have spent little time with prolonged mania and have had to accept that my period of acute mania has now become a period of chronic mania and I hate it. I no longer have mood swings and what would have been periods of depression are now bouts of exhaustion. I collapse into bed at least once a week to sleep for 12 hours and I rarely sleep less than nine hours. It is driving me crazy.

I can’t stand the relentless feeling of being upbeat, of seeing only the positive, of being hugely irritated by people who I think are too stupid to understand what they should, of having people not follow the lines of thought that leap magically across huge gaps so that the first few words in a sentence bear no relation to the last few words and most of all I am tired of my mind going so fast it can’t lay down memories.

We all go through the going into a room and forgetting why we went in there moments but with the memory problems that have come about because of bipolar disorder I often have no idea why I’ve stood up or how to finish a sentence I’ve started or started to put on shoes and socks to find I’ve only managed to do one. It’s a relentless struggle and it is madness.

I have to accept that this isn’t going to go away quickly and that even a period of recovery will take time. There will be no waking up one morning to find myself back in my own instability and I have to stop kidding myself that I’m within my own instability when clearly I’m not.

What worries me is that I find it hard to accept my limitations at the best of times and in these not quite the very worst of times I could make things a whole lot worse. I never thought I’d say this but, I miss being depressed.

A head full of shit

I feel a bit strange and have done for a few weeks now. As I return back to my version of stability, which is really a level of instability that I can live with, I’ve become aware of, and am coming to terms with, certain things.

The first, and arguably most important, is that I’ve gone from being a predominately depressed person with manic depression to someone who has become predominately manic. Mania is supposed to lessen as you get older but I’ve never been one to follow all the rules.

Having spent quite a long time unstable last year which resulted from an attempt to stop taking medication (supervised not whim) I was acutely ill and on the point of it becoming chronic. Even when back on the full dose of my usual medication I realised that I wasn’t going to get stable without extra pills and that was, potentially, a problem. My GP needed input from a psychiatrist and I no longer see a psychiatrist so it looked like a referral back into the system was going to happen. This would have been a bit hit and miss depending on how urgent it was deemed so my GP rang the consultant that I’d seen for a decade and he agreed to do recommendations over the phone. This flexibility and bucking of the rules is what makes the NHS great. In a fee paying medical world the man would have had to forgo a fee,

I had noticed that I was feeling a greater lack of emotion that usual. This is not unusual with depression but not so with mania. It made me consider what was going on and, looking back, I have to accept that I can be cold and ruthless when it comes to people. I put it down to being an Alpha person and therefore I have a touch of the psychopath about me (25 on the Hare scale so a big touch) and that it’s something I try to rein in. On the odd occasion when I feel backed up against the wall and the person refuses to read signals that I’m not necessarily giving out I lash out big time.

I hadn’t cried for a long time and have since cried a little but, in a way, I want to wail in that almost animal way that hurts like a painful death but leaves me feeling empty and ready to move on. I also haven’t laughed a lot except with close friends and family. Sometimes the laugh is on my face and in my eyes but inside my head there is nothing. I rarely laugh at comedies or comedians and this puzzles me. Is it linked to manic depression or is it part of the suspected psychopathy?

There’s love too. I love people but it has never been an all consuming thing for me. I don’t love easily or readily so when I do it’s something that scares me. I get confused about what other people think about what happens when you love someone. I like my friends at a physical distance so that I can cope with emotional closeness. My last big relationship was with a man who lived 3.5 hours travelling time away and sometimes it felt far too close.

I’m rambling more than a little and whilst it makes some sort of sense to me I have the feeling people won’t get what I mean even though some people will say they do. This is my head and it’s not possible for anybody to get inside it and, even if they could, it’s not the kind of place you’d want to stay for very long.

Oh God, not another blog about Christmas!

This may be a bit of a ramble or it actually may make some sense but I want to talk about Christmas and I’ll be mentioning spending it on my own and about having a mental health problem but, chances are, yours will have nothing or something to do with either.

The problem with Christmas is bloody Charles Dickens and his unrealistic portrayal of a white Christmas and all jollity and forgiveness and happy families. Charles Dickens was wrong of course because we rarely have a white Christmas, it’s not all jollity, forgiveness may not even rear its awkward head and families often feel they have to be happy when they’re really showing their teeth in a rictus grin.

That’s a bit more than on the cynical side but it’s a lot closer to the truth than the experience of a lot of people. We all have that friend on Facebook who has the perfect family and they cook a perfect meal before they exchange perfect gifts and have a perfect evening before they go to their perfect beds and have a perfect sleep. I mute those people at least for the day (they usually have a perfect Boxing Day too) because I do not need their living up to hyperbole. I live in the real world all year round at that includes at Christmas.

I also mute those people who post status updates or tweet about how they imagine how people who spend Christmas alone feel. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW WE FEEL. Sorry for shouting there but it’s incredibly frustrating when people do the social media equivalent of the head tilt and feel sorry for me. I have, in the past, hated being on my own at this time of year but, as I’ve got older (and hopefully wiser) I’ve learned that for me it’s a positive thing.

There have been times that I’ve sat alone at home and cried my way through Christmas Day and Boxing Day and avoided seeing people so that they couldn’t asking me if I’d had a good Christmas. I thought that I wasn’t invited because I was awful but after a few conversations with “friends” it turns out that people can be insular, self-centred, feel a little awkward or just don’t have a clue about what friendship is. One particular male friend told me he couldn’t invite me to Christmas lunch because we weren’t having a sexual relationship. I still shake my head over that one.

I don’t cry over being on my own these days and it’s been a long time since I have. I have a long walk in streets that are almost deserted then come home to eat a meal of my choosing whether it’s a roast or a curry or baked beans on toast. I get to sit and watch my choice of television all day and I don’t have to consult with anybody else.

I put up Christmas decorations if I feel like it and if I don’t feel like it then I don’t. It’s my home and I do as I please. If I want to send Christmas cards then I do and I don’t particularly worry if I don’t get any back.

There is lots of advice for people with mental health issues on how to cope with Christmas (take a few minutes to yourself etc.) but they can apply to anybody whatever your circumstances. People with health problems aren’t necessarily destined to have bad experiences at Christmas. If you don’t presume you will be ill or stressed then you may well not be ill or stressed.

I tweet if I want to and post things on Facebook if I choose. I don’t join in hashtags on Twitter especially those aimed at people on their own or in poor circumstances. Nine times out of ten some noble figure with a horde of followers declares that they will join in and defeat the object of the exercise. If anybody is having a hard time they’re welcome to tweet me for a chat (@WeirdSid) but, be aware, I’m likely to be enjoying sat on my sofa in my underwear watching soaps on television.

I hope that you get the day you need (which isn’t necessarily the day that you want) and remember, if you want to vent do so and curse Dickens because he’s the bastard that started off the tradition of the unrealistic Christmas.