For the quick answer, scroll to the bottom!
Yesterday I started running. Believe me when I say, I am shocked these words are coming out of my mouth! I have been a running supporter for a while now, AJ has done 1/2 and full marathons and 5ks and 10ks and whatever else they are called. I have done sideline supporting, snacks, cheering, proud photos – you know all that bobbins. But something happened when he did his last run (1/2 marathon up and down mountains). Something stirred inside me. I knew I loved the buzz of being on the sideline and cheering on my loved ones but suddenly I felt the need. It was American mothers day, so perhaps the man with ‘mom’ written on his chest in mud inspired me, or the female friends with crowns holding hands at the finish line,or just your average Joe doing it, just because. There were plenty of inspirational people, including my other half and a dear friend of ours.
Back to yesterday. I donned my best bra, chose my route and boom, I’m a runner now! I can finally join in with all those people who talk about running! Such fun! Well, sarcasm aside, I ran around the block, up a hill and although I had to slow down for a walk, I didn’t stop. It’s a mental leap for me really. I did it again today so, well, let’s see what the future holds ……
Meditation on the other hand…. I met up with a wise friend about a month ago and had a good heart to heart. I have tried mindfulness and meditation before but never stuck to it. See my post ‘I can’t be bothered to meditate’. It is such a hard discipline and yet if you can do it, from my experience, you feel wonderful. Like running: it’s free. Like running, it’s a discipline. But meditation is all on you! Nobody can shout at you and tell you to meditate faster or longer or whatever. I started with just four minutes. I’m a month in and believe me, I have to force myself to do it. You need a quiet space. Having a partner and a 6 year old and living in a small apartment does not always allow for that. I might just mention, I’m going to meditate now and they are great, but getting a quiet space in my head is on ME.
It’s definitely easier to do when I have the house to myself but getting your thoughts to stop and just listening to you breathing is SO much easier said than done. I have tried apps and been to yoga classes with meditation at the end. There are loads of youtube channels. I really like ‘the honest guys’. Also for kids and families there is ‘enchanted meditations for kids by Christiane Kerr’. I bought it for on iTunes for iBooks. I love the sound of her voice. That is quite important to me I’ve realised.
I’m getting a little tired of typing now so I’ll conclude. Meditation is much harder (personally) although both are challenging.
This morning I woke up at 5.20am and I think the reason I am feeling so excited and trepidatious is today’s UK general election. A dear friend of ours (who by the way has been campaigning her butt off) is voting by proxy for AJ and me. I hope we can make a change, all of us who vote. The important thing is to turn up and have your say.
Personally I really hope Theresa May doesn’t get back in as I am so scared of what she will do to all our public services. When Munchie was born six and a half years ago I received excellent care. Imagine a world, just for a second, in which that care had not been free. Living in the US for just shy of 5 years has shown me that privatisation of health care is a lottery few people can afford to pay. If you haven’t got decent health care or can’t afford health care at all, who knows what can happen.
Then there’s the Tory’s educational policies. Do you want your child or grandchild to go to a decent school OR do you want all the government funding to go to grammar schools, a system which was abolished for a reason.
Any way, my mini political rant is over. Turn up. Vote. Have a nice day with the people you care about.
Hello my friends! It’s been so long since I wrote on here I’m not going to bother noting the excuses! One thing I will say is that I have failed at using wordpress and last night I discovered quite a bit of feedback and emails on a page I didn’t even realise I had. So keep on keeping on my friends, I will not ignore you.
I have branched out to twitter and that is where most of my writing goes, but sometimes 140 characters is far too little to tell the whole story. There is a great PND community on twitter. #PNDchat, #PNDhour which is an hour each week on Wednesdays at 8pm GMT discussing different topics: symptoms, where to get support, who to ask for help and so on. Also PNDDaddies for partners. If you search #mentalhealth you might find something for you. However, I cannot tell you how important it is to talk to friends, relatives and professional mental health specialists. Believe me, I don’t always do it and I bury a lot of stuff inside. But when I do speak out, I usually find a listening ear. It may be exactly what I want to hear or it may not but other people’s experiences and opinions can help sometimes. Personally, of late I have been finding therapy very challenging. Baring your soul to another human being is a huge challenge and I don’t always hear what I want to hear. I have got my psychiatrist today so I’ll let you know how it goes. I actually dread it at the moment as I am processing a lot of stuff and feel raw. But it’s ok, onwards and upwards. No highs without lows, right?
Watch this space.
I played a game with myself on the way back from dropping Munchie off at school. I felt a bit annoyed that I was going to miss my yoga class as I was running late so instead I stopped at the ‘gas’ station and filled up the tank. I always enjoy stopping there as we chat in Spanish and the attendant has a smiley face and is always very pleasant. As he handed me the receipt, he complemented my smile. It kind of took me aback as I’d been feeling pretty glum all morning. A cloud hanging over my head, snapping at Munchie and feeling irritable and low. A few trips to the bathroom when I woke up. Anxiety and low feelings have being following me around like a rain cloud these past few weeks.
Anyway, back to the smile. “What a lovely smile you have” he commented. Deep inside I wasn’t feeling too smiley at all but just the act of genuinely smiling made me feel nice. So for the rest of the 25 minute drive home I practiced smiling. If it came from a happy place or memory or thought, some giggles came too. If it was a sad smile, I didn’t feel good. I frowned. Wow. I’m sure there is science behind this and as I write this I am breathing through a concentrating smile. My mantra for this post-holiday Tuesday. Breathe and smile happily. If I can…
Munchie has started a new preschool this year and I’m happy to be getting back in to a routine after the summer. When she asked me this question one day last week, I pondered: when can I start explaining to her that I regularly see a psychiatrist? I know she doesn’t need to know any intimate details, but I’m interested to know how and when it is OK to talk to your four and three quarter old daughter about mental health in more detail. I thought about it the day after she asked as I took the long drive to Manhattan for my appointment. ‘I’ll tell her I went to the doctor’s if she asks and then perhaps say it was for a check-up and kind of see where it goes from there’ I thought. Of course I want my daughter to have a clear and healthy understanding of what it is to be mentally well and how important it is to look after yourself and others in this regard. I would love to hear any thoughts on how others have approached this and I will read up on it for future posts. On collecting Munchie at the usual time and getting her strapped in to the car seat, I asked her about her day and she dutifully asked me about mine. I swallowed. “I went to the doctor’s.” “Oh. We played on the tire swing and did some painting….” She chattered on. Not an eyelid was batted. I guess, when I think about it, I’ve told her I’ve been to the doctor’s before, so come on mummy – what’s the big deal?
Today I have come back from my therapy session feeling totally invigorated. I opened up and was rewarded, I got so animated during the discussion that my hands were flying all over the place and for the first time in weeks Dr. S had to stop me to tell me my time was up. I realised that I hadn’t discussed something that has been bothering me for a while and I’m so glad I did because not only did I feel better but also Dr. S warned me that if I didn’t talk about it then it could become a huge problem.
My decision to go back to Dr.S was definitely the right thing to do and I feel I have made progress. With his support, I have weaned myself off Olanzapine and I have been drug free for 3 weeks now and I feel a lot brighter. After my last episode in December I was put on a dose of 20mg Olanzapine. Whilst that was necessary at the time, long term I don’t believe I need to be on an antipsychotic. Dr.S will keep an eye on me and make sure I do not deteriorate but so far my reaction has been positive. Whilst on the medication I was constantly tired and often felt the need to go back to bed in the mornings, something which often made me feel worse. I was sluggish and foggy and I gained a lot of weight. As I have said before I am not averse to taking medication, but we feel I don’t need to at this time. My weekly sessions with Dr.S do involve a 50 minute drive into New York City but I have discovered the joys of wnyc radio which is national public radio. They discuss news and current affairs and I enjoy some ‘me’ time. It also gives me the chance to collect my thoughts both before and after the therapy. I think it’s worth it.
I am pleased to report that Munchie is having a blast at summer camp! I am also very pleased to share the exciting news that in November I will become an aunty! Munchie is very excited to welcome her new baby cousin in to the world too.
Now in their 12th year, the National Lottery Awards are an annual search for the UK’s favourite lottery funded project. The awards aim to recognise the difference that lottery funded projects make to people, places and communities. There are seven categories including health where an organisation very dear to my heart, ‘Action on Postpartum Psychosis’ are among this year’s finalists. The winners will be invited to appear on BBC1 and will receive two thousand pounds to spend on their project.
Each year 1400 women in the UK suffer from postpartum psychosis. Action on Postpartum Psychosis provides information and peer support to these women and their families. They run a peer support forum with volunteers who have personal experience of the condition as well as a one to one email service. Experts in the field have written guides and online content to help inform families. They also run workshops.
Having experienced the illness myself I know how daunting it is for both the mother and her family and I really admire the work this organisation does in supporting people and helping to fight stigma around postpartum psychosis. Why not follow this link to lottery good causes and cast your vote for Action on Postpartum Psychosis. Read a bit more about APP and scroll down to the voting button on the right. Voting lines close on 29th July.
You can also have a look at the APP website and forum here
I have been finding mornings tough over the past few weeks, especially Mondays. After having such a good weekend it’s hard to get back to the grind. I’ve been troubled by anxiety and diarrhea in the mornings too. However, this morning I didn’t feel so low. When my alarm went off I had a spring in my step. I wonder if this is because last evening I gave this morning some thought and wanted to go ahead with a more positive mental attitude. Thinking and doing don’t always equate, but somehow today it worked. Munchie and I were ahead of time, a miracle in the morning! I dropped her off, called granny, went to Pilates and then bought a copy of the New York Times and sat in a local coffee shop with a pain au chocolat and a latte, bliss. The weather has vastly improved and so with it my mood. Yesterday was lovely and warm, we even caught the sun a little. I’m sure it won’t be long before we are house bound because of the heat! I love seeing all the spring flowers and my neighbours have inspired me to get gardening, something very therapeutic I can imagine. I know lots of people take solace in it. I like getting my hands dirty and it’s something Munchie and I can do together. I’m going to try my hand at some veggies, so watch this space!
Oh my, what a day that was! I was stuck under one almighty rock. I took Munchie to school and on my return went straight back to bed. I think I may have mentioned I’m not a morning person but this was ridiculous. I slept on and off until midday, I kept resetting my alarm. I felt so gloomy. I forced myself to get up at noon and I felt so on edge. My heart rate was increased, my breathing heavy and I was detached and teary. I had it all going on! I called AJ and he suggested I get out of the house, a good idea but it didn’t really make me feel any better. He came home early. I called my psychiatrist, he didn’t get back to me right away but we spoke yesterday and he asked me to think about what could have triggered this anxiety. I think that some sadness came from how homesick I was feeling after talking to my family on Sunday. Monday is always a tough day for me, I feel isolated. Yesterday being Tuesday I was determined to have a better start to the day and so I headed to yoga and meditation. It felt good. I even went to my grueling circuit training class in the evening. Onwards and upwards. Take each day as it comes.
Another epiphany this week! Over the past year I have struggled to find a decent therapist, the correct fit for me. This week I decided to go back to my original psychiatrist in NYC who also doubles as a psychoanalytical psychotherapist, an unusual thing. I was so relieved to see him and although I was quivering when I first arrived (that may have more to do with the 1000 mg of depakote pumping through my veins than nerves!), I settled down and he talked sense. He was really surprised to find out the strength of medication I’d been prescribed in the UK, he put it down to crisis management which to be honest, back in December it was. He was reluctant to talk about my illness as bipolar as he called it a ‘waste basket diagnosis’ which looks at a generic illness and not the symptoms of the individual. This made a lot of sense to me. I had, as you know, cried out for a diagnosis but what is more important is my whole picture of symptoms. Crisis management was critical in December, but moving forward I want to manage my symptoms as the individual I am. Of late I have been so knocked off by the drugs (20mg olanzapine, 1000mg depakote per day) that I can’t function properly. Dr S compared my dosage to that of a horse. I was told about possible liver damage when the depakote was prescribed and I signed a waiver to say I wouldn’t try to conceive as it has high risk of foetal damage. If possible I’d rather not live on such a high dose and instead look to managing my every day symptoms. Anxiety is a big problem for me and at its worst I spiral out of control in to a full blown episode. I’m not anti-medication at all but if it is anxiety rather than mania causing my illness I would rather treat that at the source.