1 – Bipolar – the gremlin within

The emotional weighing scales in my DNA seem to self calibrate of their own free will. And living with bipolar inexplicably grants these scales permission to tip at any given time.

I have never felt love or happiness in the way that I do now. Thank you Handsome Doc. Thank you MK. Just thank you.

The three of us share love, laughter, tears and joy.

We share our home too.

We share our home with bi-polar. My bi-polar.

The good days are good! Well of course they are, the clue is in the name.

The bad days? They’re really not so good. They’re decidedly ‘ungood’. In fact, they stink. I wish they would just do one.

The chalk and cheese of life with bipolar.

scales

The emotional weighing scales in my DNA seem to self calibrate of their own free will. And living with bipolar inexplicably grants these scales permission to tip at any given time.

To be absolutely clear, I am not bipolar. I live with bipolar. Bipolar 2.

This mental illness does not define me though. I’m still the same me as I was before my diagnosis. But I live with it. Quite different things, don’t you think?

It’s my curse and my blessing, weird as that may sound.

The hypomanic episodes feel like an absolute blast at the time. Who wouldn’t want to feel excited by everything in life? Over excited. Who wouldn’t want to feel capable of doing anything? To have no fear of failure? Motivated. Inspired. Energetic. And happy.  Oh that happiness! Sweet joy! Yeah but guess what, happiness? You’re not real. You’re a fake. Jog on fake happiness, you’re not welcome here. Do one.

This blast though… This blast carries with it an underlying terror of the inevitable low which will follow. The desperate, black low. The loneliness. The exhaustion. The inability to communicate on any level. The feeling that I am not part of the real world. Why is it that everyone else is living a life in which I am a mere onlooker? I’m a film extra in my own life story. My life is not my own.

And then there’s the sadness. Yes that’s it. More than anything else it’s the sadness that affects me. The grief and the sadness. The grief of the euphoria which has been and gone. Simple, agonizing, quiet sadness.

gremlin image

I refer to bipolar as being like having a gremlin in my head. He tries to push thoughts of the impending darkness out of my mind. He teases me that this hypomanic state is just fabulous, and where I belong. And do you know what? He does a good job, but over the years I’ve slowly been learning to fight this nasty little gremlin. I’m learning to answer him back. Slowly.

He’s still very much alive though. He’s had more comebacks than Liberace sadly, but I’d like to think that he’s no longer a ‘shoe-in’ to win. He’s met his match, although still knows all too well how to creep up from behind and pounce when I least expect it. He’s like a leopard hunting his prey – he comes in camouflage.

But hang on, to the outside world I have a privileged life, don’t I?

The answer to that is yes.

I’ve found love in a way that I never knew existed.

I live in a beautiful house in a safe neighbourhood.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful son. My five year old pint sized legend, MK, who brings me such enormous joy every single day in life.

I have no money worries.

We go on a couple of lovely holidays a year.

I’m relatively inoffensive to look at, unless I’ve pulled one of those lonely hypomanic all nighters.

How can I possibly live with a mental illness? What kind on ungrateful self-absorbed person can feel sorry for themselves with a life like this?

Me. Yes me. It’s beyond my control.

Even during my darkest days, I never lose sight of my blessings, but they mean nothing at that point. Nothing has any meaning when I’m battling through a depressive episode.

I’m that girl who when doing the weekly household shopping can at times be heard humming a happy wee tune as I push my wonky trolley up and down aisle 15. Aisle 15 has everything by the way – when I can’t find some random thing I’m looking for the shop assistant always directs me to aisle 15. Always. It’s a veritable treasure trove. Fruit, fishfingers, fromage frais and fresh donuts. You name it, it’s there. Aisle 15. Try it.

I ‘do coffee’ and ladies lunches. Well, I say lady, but I may be flattering myself there. Or at least Handsome Doc would raise an eyebrow. Cheeky sod!

I laugh.

I’m occasionally funny. Well, mildly amusing. Another raised eyebrow from Handsome Doc.

I walk tall (despite being just 5’2”).

I guess I’m relatively inoffensive to look at, unless I’ve pulled a lonely hypomanic all nighter. Not a good look. The bags under my eyes are bigger than the one I’ve filled from aisle 15 on days like these.

I smile and chat with the school lollipop lady.

I even high fived the school caretaker when I walked MK through the school gate last week.

On reflection, that really wasn’t cool. He high fives every child as they skip through the gates. He does not, I repeat, not, high five the parents. Ever. It was bad judgement on my part and I think surprised me as much as it did him. I’m sorry Mr Caretaker.

So how can this seemingly ‘normal’, carefree and capable mummy be ‘mental’?

She just can.

I use the term ‘mental’ in a tongue in cheek context. I feel I have earned the right to be self-depreciating.

This is of course not an illness that should be trivialized in any way, but during my lengthy stay in a private mental health unit, humour got me through it. It’s almost like gallows humour I guess. It never takes away from the gravity of the illness. Never.

Somehow though, sitting in the smoke filled patients’ lounge (pre-smoking ban) with some seriously ill souls and having a competition to see how many songs we could come up with that had the word ‘crazy’ in it seemed fun. I got “Still Crazy after all these years” by Paul Simon. Pleased with that.

Today it’s Saturday. I like today. I’ve been well since Thursday, and am still feeling at peace with myself.

Prior to that however, was a three day low.

It hit me pretty badly this time. That said, it’s all relative. We mustn’t confuse it with the times when the gremlin told me that suicide was the best option. With the times that I believed him and mapped out various plans on how best to go about it. He lost in the end though. Well I’m here, aren’t I? I’m here. Thank you life changing psychiatrist. Thank you meds. And thank you therapy. You have saved me, quite literally. Thank you.

https://talkandcheese.net/2018/02/19/surviving-suicide/

I must just add that this gremlin is not a ‘voice in my head’. Bipolar II presents no psychotic behaviour. To become deluded, to hear voices and to hallucinate is a very different thing to having either hypomania (a high), or a depressive episode (a low).

This recent low though. Bleugh! I could feel it coming on, having spent the previous three days as high as a kite. It wasn’t so much that I exchanged pleasantries with the lollipop lady, more that I had to quash the urge to hug her and swing her round tell her how much she suited fluorescent yellow. Oh and how well she wore her lollipop. How she carried it and moved it with such effortless grace and finesse.

I’m hugely relieved and proud that I managed to quash that urge. It was a close call though. Could’ve been awks.

I was top of the class at pilates. I was planking like a… well… a plank. The rest of the class had rolled up their mats, popped out for lunch and savoured a twelve course tasting menu while I was still holding that plank.

Poor Handsome Doc was talked at for 3 hours straight after a long, draining day at work. He’s a consultant anaesthetist and deals with devastation and loss on an almost daily basis. My 3-dimensional plan of the way we ought to landscape the garden just HAD to be explained in agonizing detail right there and then though. The Tokyo Pop Sofa by Driade in black would offset the raised flower beds, all of which would be filled with just white flowering shrubs. Green and white only in these bad boys. And as for the Pieris Japonica Sarabande? It favours shade. Ideal for our south westerly facing garden. Who knew?

I’m sorry Handsome Doc. You are my hero and my rock. Your unwavering love and support during these challenging episodes is nothing short of incredible. You get me. You get ‘it’. Thank you Handsome Doc. Just thank you.

blinds

This low, however, was less fun than the exhausting high. When the doorbell rung I fled into the bedroom like a stealth bomber and stopped breathing until the coast was once again clear. Phew! That was close. I’m sorry neighbour (at least I think it was you at the door), but do call again and I promise you I will run towards the door this time, not away from it.

I disguised my pyjamas (rather stylishly, I’d like to think), amongst various Ugg boots, puffy jackets and beanie hats when I took MK to school. Well I had to, didn’t I? Firstly, I wanted to be invisible, but also, it shaved off a good 7 seconds when it came to collapsing back into bed when I got back home at 9am. The bed which I stayed in for 3 solid days, other than a few trips to the fridge for yet another 1.75l bottle of Coke Zero, the trips to the loo (which were frequent due to the excessive consumption of said Coke Zero) and of course the school runs.

My hair was crying out to be washed to the point where I’m convinced there were various species of wildlife nesting in there.

Showering? Are you serious? Not happening. Not today, not the next day, and most definitely not the next.

Tears? Oh my days were there tears? At times there were spells of silent misery. The tears were tumbling but I couldn’t utter a sound. At times I wailed. I wailed and sobbed and hugged my knees for comfort searching for any kind of relief from the desperate sadness I was feeling.

time to be happyBut guess what? It passed. It passed as it always does. The sun came out to shine again on Thursday and has remained bright since then. Thank you sun. You heal me.

For now I am at peace. How long that will last before the next episode I simply don’t know. For now though, I am at peace.

The blessing of bipolar? I am kinder than I used to be. I’m more tolerant of other people. I’m stronger than I ever thought possible due to the fact that I have to fight with my brain on an almost daily basis. And perhaps most importantly, I’m in touch with my emotions.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I have been blessed with an accurate diagnosis and receive the most wonderful treatment. Medical and chemical treatment, but also beautiful treatment from those close to me. Thank you friends. Thank you family. You know who you are and you know what you do. Thank you.pills image

I’ll be on a hefty dose of meds for the rest of my life – mood stabilisers, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Each of them have some pretty miserable side effects, but that’s ok. I am one of the lucky ones. Thank you again life changing psychiatrist. We got there in the end.

I’ll always dip my toe in the water of hypomania and depressive lows, but on a far milder scale than I used to. Where once I would fully immerse myself in that pool and tread water for days on end, it’s now just the slightest of toe-dips. I barely need to dry my feet afterwards.

I’m winning. I’m beating this nasty gremlin. He can, as I said earlier, do one.

Keep well x

 

Author: talkandcheese

I'm 44 and have just retired from having been a TV presenter for over 20 years to become a full time mummy and housewife. I live with my boyfriend and 5 year old son. Together we all live with my bipolar 2. I was only diagnosed 9 years ago and it had been an utterly chaotic ride prior to treatment and meds. Every day could be like chalk and cheese. Life is so much less frightening now, but I still get hypomanic episodes and depressive lows. The time feels right for me to share some of my story now, in which there were some devastating lows and some equally as frightening and exhausting highs. The process is helping me to heal, and I hope with all my heart may offer someone somewhere some level of comfort and support that they are not alone.

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