Saturday, 22 June 2019

" How am I gonna be an optimist about this? "

Some times it's a test, sometimes a breakthrough.

I've been trying so hard to put a lid on all things dark after being advised to quit therapy.

I've been trying.

Then there was the other night.

We're chipper, having fun and in the mood to dance as we walk along wharf street.

Out of nowhere, there is a loud bang, brakes, chaos.

We see this lad stand up off his bike, counting his blessings that he is still alive but swiftly noticing that his bicycle did not survive the hit.

I froze as my friend went to chat to the said lad but then followed behind blindly wondering who seemed more shaken at this point.

I knew the nightmares would come back so I delayed the inevitable by asking my friend and partner (at different times haha) to sleep in my bed alongside me.

Then there was last night.

Cue nightmares.



BUT

As much as I woke in a cold sweat and tears, I tried to focus on why this would be triggering me right now and what I could gain from it.

When I was around 10 or 11 years old I was involved in a bus accident. I came out unscathed but sadly I can't say the same for everyone and the whole experience has weighed heavy on my soul for years. Often in the night, I'll hear his scream, the crash, the chaos. I'll see his face. I'll wonder if he ever got to tell his loved ones how important they were.

Now, here's the kicker that I'm just beginning to see.

This is around the time my perspective grew smaller, darker.

They put me into therapy and counseling. I figured out what to say to appease them pretty early on and it didn't take too long to duck out 'cured'. I was just happy to spend more time with my mum, glad to be away from the school bullies and pleased at indulging on a cheeky wee MacDonalds bacon roll weekly.

I never got much from the therapy, in fact, right then and there was when I told myself something crucial in my eternal downfall.

IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT.

YOU DESERVE TO FEEL THIS WAY.

I believed that my actions, even if minuscule, could have changed that mans fate.

And off I went into the night with this false belief.

Every time there was a trauma I knocked it up to being my own fault and I slowly pushed my mind into a living hell.

The universe wanted me to hurt, and I, in turn, was giving myself reason to hurt, or so I thought.

Maybe I'm not supposed to be living in past memories, in past pain. Maybe it's time to overcome all these traumas and stop living them again and again.

For the first time, I'm seeing what I'm allowing this ball of past emotion do to me and I'm not letting it continue.

Some things are sent to test you right?

Well lets dance psyche, lets dance.. . one breakthrough at a time haha

I hope you are well.

Love xo






Friday, 17 May 2019

Check in time, I think so!

It has been a while. . .

I think a wee update is in order, don't you?

Things have been pretty up and down since I last checked in on my 'Rabbit Holes' post.

It didn't make sense for me to continue working full time, and unfortunately, it was not feasible to work part-time in my existing role. For the good of the company, I decided to hand in my notice and let them find someone who could be more reliable long term.




I'm not sure when these episodes are going to kick in but I definitely should not be exacerbating the symptoms with unnecessary stress.

I felt so bad about leaving my job. I was plagued with feelings of guilt and self-doubt, but somewhere I knew I was making the right decision.

I don't know what this means for my discharge. Things were going so well and I took on too much, sending myself backward. It's been a rough couple of months, sure, but hopefully, I can work toward discharge again in the near future.

It was a bit of a struggle but I managed to muddle through to the end of my bookkeeping course and since then things have slowed down, not that my mind has gotten the memo.




I have increased therapy sessions and joined a CBT for depression class through the local mental health recovery program. I have been walking more, going to Qi Gong, the odd hot tub and just generally taking it a little easier than the past few months.

We are tackling some pretty heavy things in therapy right now and it's sending me a little bit loopy. I've just noticed that a couple of days running up to my therapy sessions my sleep starts dwindling. Post sessions I have been feeling completely run down and have frequent symptoms of a kidney infection. This is something my doctor thinks is interstitial cystitis, a sensitization syndrome which, funnily enough, is impacted by mental health, PTSD and stressors.

Dr. Boston agreed today that I am rapid cycling, a more frequent episodic state of bipolar, due to the PTSD and memories we are uncovering in therapy. I go from feeling down to bouncing right back up, hypomanic up, and then of course, down again. 

There's no middle ground in a mixed or rapid cycling episode.

This is something I spoke with my psychology professor at length about just a few years ago. It's like my mind tries to fight the depression with a boost, but then you're flying too high and inevitably, comes the crash and again, depression, boost, crash. It's a vicious fight to see what mood will win, and even though you would think that that is the main makeup of bipolar, there is usually a baseline to return to in between episodes.  It doesn't feel like that right now, or if there is, it is fleeting. Id' say I'm averaging about 1-2 days baseline a week and the rest is either hyper or exhausted.

Another thing that my psychiatrist pointed out is that I am becoming dissociated. 

Oh man.



After seeing the psychiatrist today we've decided I need to stop therapy for the time being and increase my meds a little. I am not ready to relive past traumas and my body and mind are quite prominently telling me that. PTSD is the root of this all and until the new medication has a better effect, I cannot be dabbling with my moods and emotions.

It'll get better, little steps are good, its just not the right time yet.

On a brighter note, I GO HOME TO SCOTLAND IN 8 WEEKS TIME!! I am soooo excited.
I feel that the time I get to spend with family and friends will rekindle my fire and get me going again.

Anyhoozles, I hope you are doing well!

I am taking myself outside to the sunshine, I hope you like the pretty pictures of flowers I took on my walk recently.

Love ya xo






Thursday, 16 May 2019

It's not all black & white.


I have this habit of going all in or all out.

It's a common error in thinking.

Looking back over the years that tends to be my go to.

Mmmm. .

In the past few months with everything going on, my mind has taken a step backward and I have moved back into this black & white way of thinking. 

Before psychosis I was quite the negative thinker, I was suspicious and always premeditating the worst of a situation.

Psychosis opened my eyes to a more positive way of thinking, yes I was completely out of touch with reality, but I was aware that everything was connected and a positive influence made for a positive outlook and in turn, a happier life.





I slowly incorporated a more balanced approach in my mind. Things CAN be grey, colourful even.

Somewhere amidst this depression, the negative thoughts have crept back in. I find myself expecting the worst from situations, jumping to the last possible conclusion as opposed to the sprinkle of magic my eyes once saw.

I don't know where it is coming from and it's pissing me off.

OK, it's not all despair. Calm down, Natalie. It gets better.

Extra therapy and CBT classes are going a long way in correcting these errors but as with everything it's going to take some time to get back to an even keel.

It's just making for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

It's literally grey matter. .  HAHA, I made a funny. . It helps regulate emotion? No? 

K, FINE.

I'm getting there.

Love xo



Thursday, 25 April 2019

Don't listen where it's not needed.

I was talking with my psychotherapist the other day and he pointed something out that we often don't realize. . .

There is a difference between conscience and self-critic.






That voice we hear within ourselves is often questioning our thoughts and actions, but what is it actually saying?

Sometimes we affect our conscience. Maybe we went against our values, or for me, it's often when I don't contribute to the greater good, when I become the negative thinker in a situation. My conscience gets rattled and I feel guilty. Maybe it's something bigger playing on your conscience, you were mean, you broke a law. . And sometimes you should feel guilty if you have done wrong. It's not always black and white of course, but we all know when we are doing something we shouldn't

Now, on the other hand, when it comes to everyday guilt, hell I think it's overrated. We hold ourselves to such high standards that we feel guilty for almost anything these days. Well, I do at least. Have to cancel a meeting with friends to look after me; riddled with guilt. Didn't eat healthy enough for the week; you suck.

But do we need to feel guilty about everything?

Sometimes that voice is our self-critic. The voice that gives you shit for things not going the way you planned. The voice that holds you accountable to the highest of expectations.

You know what? 

FUCK that voice.

Constructive criticism is welcomed but negative criticism is toxic. 

That inner critic can run rings around you, but hold yourself accountable for the way you listen to it, the way you react to it. 

Sometimes it's overpowering and sends you into destruction, I am highly aware of that. I've spent the majority of my life fighting with that, but it can't be a fight, its got to be a knockout. A win of epic proportions, and that win? YOU of course. You can overpower that stupid little critic. 

Look at how far you've come. Look at how much you have achieved. Look at the love you have surrounding you.

YOU are better than some lingering feeling of doubt, hopelessness and low self-worth.

Filter out what is helping you and what is hindering you. Just like you would a rotten apple in the bushel. Don't consume it, get rid of it. 

Ahhhh, I needed that.

Writing is so cathartic, even if it is just to rant and reinforce my thoughts.

Anyhooooo.

Love ya <3

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Rabbit Holes.


I fell down the hole. 


I was on top of the world and I thought it couldn’t happen, then BAM. 

I should have seen it coming.

I should have seen the warning signs. The losing interest in normal activities, poor cleanliness around the home and personal hygiene, not eating, not sleeping, overthinking, crying. . Ok, yeah I definitely should have seen it coming. It was a slow play.  Around 4 weeks to get to breaking point I’d say. Last time this happened I took myself to the hospital to avoid the spiral. This time I wasn’t as panicked.

Sure, I closed up for a while and didn’t want to talk about it, mostly because I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t doing well. I’ve come so far in 2 years, I didn’t want to go backward.

The panic attacks and nightmares started up a few weeks ago. 

I should have seen it coming. 

I thought back on the last 6 weeks and watched my self-care fade away.

I should have seen it coming.

I’ve been so tired in this new full-time position. I genuinely thought I could handle it, but in hindsight maybe I can’t. I can do the job no question but I can't work 45+ hours. I often found I never had the time to do anything for me. No reading, photography, writing, walking. Over the weeks' everything else seemed to break down. I was coming home stressed, and this is my bad, but I wasn’t communicating it enough. I know my team would have worked hard to help me but I was still coming to grips with the early warning signs. I didn’t want to believe that hole was lingering.

It all became too much and the self-doubts start creeping in. You’re a loser, you can’t handle a full-time job, pathetic, absolutely useless, you don’t deserve the opportunity, you don’t deserve the balance. Cue more panic attacks.

That’s when the tears started. I cried at conversations, songs, tv shows, movies, memories. I cried in front of people and I cried when I was alone. I fell asleep crying and I woke up crying. My emotions were so fired up.

When I was alone my thoughts moved with speed but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. 2 zopiclone and 2 Ativan and still nothing. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

My thoughts were racing around my head, not giving me peace, freedom or even sleep. It was a prison of worthlessness. 

Ahhhhhh

Can’t handle it.

Why can’t I handle it? Other people can handle it just fine? What’s wrong with you? Smarten up.



I took a few days off of work to try and get back on track. I spoke with my doctor and my psychotherapist. I increased my meds and slowed down my lifestyle

Steve stepped in and brought out my crisis management plan. 

Step 1: Use the chart and be transparent about what stage you are in.

Mmmm depression you say?

Sadly, according to the charts, the solution was the hospital. I wasn’t going to let that happen. 

IT DOES GET BETTER.

Baby steps. Thursday I brushed my teeth. Friday I had a shower. Saturday I washed my hair. 

It took so much out of me just accomplishing those small tasks. I felt so slow moving and exhausted but I felt accomplished and that’s important.

I read through some old blog posts and journals. I can do this. I’ve been here before, choose how you want to deal with it.

I started taking my emergency medication Serequol. I’m not pleased to be turning to this medication but I know it impacts. Last time I was on it my emotions quite swiftly turned off. Yeah, it was no way to live back then but for a couple of days that was the respite I needed.

I’ve tried to challenge my thoughts and overcome them with positive self-talk. 
I HAVE to take control.

Maybe the reality is I can’t do the things I have done pre-diagnosis, pre psychosis. Over the years and without medication, mania drove me to set high standards but that’s no way of life. Mania might be fun but the short ferry ride to psychosis and the come down is not worth it. For me, medication is key to keeping that side of bipolar locked away.

It’s very clear to me though that I don’t yet have enough clarity and or balls to recognize and handle my depressive episodes as well as I could.

Yeah, I have caught the last few before they ran away with me but fuck! I can be getting there earlier right? 

I really need to work on this. I will manage this. 

Future goals.

For now, I’m going to read some Eckhart Tolle and book a massage. 

I’m hoping I can rest and clear my head enough to actually be functional at work by Monday but I think I need to reduce my hours moving forward. 

I need to look out for me.

Take good care of yourself, friends, YOU are important <3

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The war is over.



I just got home from my psychiatrists' office and you won't believe what transpired today...


DISCHARGE


That was the topic of conversation. I'm saying it again just to be sure, DISCHARGE.

A lifetime at war with myself and 5 years stuck in the mental health system, and we are finally talking about discharge. I cannot believe this is happening.

I have come such a long way; through the cutting, the suicide attempts, the torment, the depression, the mania. It has all led to this. Stability.

I couldn't have done it without the all the support from my friends and family. So I will take this moment to say THANK YOU.

Thank you for holding me when I cried, for wiping up my mess and staying strong through crisis.


Without you, by my side, I was doing this with half a heart.


Without your words of encouragement and love, I was an echo down an empty hallway.



Without the strength you have shown me I could never have found that for myself.








The therapy, the psychiatrists, the medication, the care strategies, the rehabilitation classes .. ALL of it has led to now.

A couple of years ago I was on an intense prescription of medication, over 1400mg of drugs per day. Now I can say with a more holistic approach that I am on 102mg. Yeah it takes time, it takes trial and error, it takes hard work BUT it can be done.

Special thanks to Dr. Boston, Dorion Dellabough, my caseworker Andrew, Vancouver Island Health Authority. . the list goes on.

Biggest thanks to my mumma, my rock. Flying from Scotland to sit by my side at doctors appointments. Late night phone calls and messages. Nonjudgemental love and guidance the whole way through.

Andrew, that day you brought me to the mental health emergency services all I could think of was disappearing, escaping, getting out. The voices, the visions, the sleepless nights, the panic attacks and everything in between was a test, but in the end part of the journey.

You cannot appreciate the stars until it gets dark, and if darkness took me one step closer to the light then I regret NOTHING.


I can only hope and pray that this is my life now, and if there are blips? I know I will get through them because there is always tomorrow. There is always another chance, another path, another push to success.

IT GETS BETTER.

I promise you that.

5 years ago, in the midst of a major psychosis, I could barely tie my own shoelaces. My mind was scattered, my brain stopped working and my life was teetering on the edge of existence.

I stand before you today and I scream, 'YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS'.

It might seem like a hell hole right now but there is another side.

There IS happiness.

I love you all so much.

Thank you.

xo

Monday, 28 January 2019

Set expectations, break the stigma.

Stigma around mental illness is still so prominent. I found myself running into it lately and was unsure of how to handle it.

I had mentioned to you that I had not yet disclosed my illness to my new employer, mostly because I don't have much experience in disclosing my situation (except to you guys and some loved ones), but I was also scared.

Would they judge me? Would the review my job offer? Would they expect less?

I had no idea.

Sure you can't legit fire someone for having a mental illness, and hell would I even want to work with a team that viewed me differently for it in the first place, but it was all unknown.

A few years ago I made the mistake of 'fessing up' to some co-workers. The outcome profusely saddened me. I was met with what I believe to be naive and ignorant comments such as 'someone with your condition should be at home on disability', 'you shouldn't be working with people'  and my personal favourite, ' I hope you're on medication'.

A lot of people really don't understand bipolar, I tell ye!

It made me feel sad and to be perfectly honest, less than enthused to share a very important part of my life with friends, family and coworkers alike.

Fast forward a couple of years and I dare not mention anything at the interview because of the (admittedly my own) STIGMA still surrounding it.


And then there was today. . .


After thinking about it for a while and receiving some very welcomed advice over the weekend, I thought why not rip off the band aid. Honesty is the best policy, right? I sat down with the owner of the facility, and then later the manager and they were both so receptive of my news. Not only were they encouraging and thankful that I opened up to them, but they offered support and made it clear that this in no way altered my position with them.

Stigma sucks, it really does, but we don't NEED to meet that expectation - we NEED to set the expectation.

When I was first starting out on my road to recovery, the idea of telling anyone my secret brought me to tears. You should see the hysterics that would set off when I did in fact get round to telling someone. It wasn't cool, but I wasn't stable, I wasn't in a good place and I certainly wasn't in control.

Yet here we are almost 5 years later, with care strategies, medications and 2 years of stability under my belt.

For a change I am happy to talk about my situation because finally I know that it does get better.

I hope you know that too. It does, and it will get better.

Love xo






Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Jobs Worth.

I've been trying to weed out stressors in my life for quite some time now. It is crucial to my recovery and stability that I am not over stressed, especially by the little things.

I was beginning to realize that there was one major stress factor in my life, and I have been cowering to tackle it.

My job.

I was not happy, not challenged and certainly not engaged.

I didn't know where to turn. I have been in the same industry, and a similar role for the past 15 years. I didn't even know how to change it.

Where do I start? What's gonna be flexible and understanding of my illness? Do I have the time to change my career prospects? Do I even have the energy for all of this?

I thought about bookkeeping. It has always been a go to of mine and something I usually fell back into throughout my career, but I also didn't want to walk away from something I'd stuck at for so long.

After mulling over my situation for a couple of years, and with things not so peachy at school, I thought what better time than now to make a drastic change.

Looking through job ads was daunting. Nothing jumped out at me. I whittled it down to 3 positions; 2 of which were bookkeeping for hospitality and the 3rd was a total shot in the dark; front desk at a local gym.

I didn't think too much of it and submitted my applications.

Within 30 mins I had en email back from the gym requesting an interview, and within the following 24 hours I had heard back from the other 2 positions. One was sadly already filled and the other also arranged for an interview.

Bear in mind I hadn't been to an interview in quite some time. The last of which, I was just coming back from a major psychotic episode.



Bright and early the next morning (8 AM to be precise), I went to meet with the manager of Innovative Fitness. I could not believe what was outside my world of hospitality. Within the first 10 minutes it was crystal clear that this team were built and motivated by team work and collective inspiration.

I went on the other interview on the same day and was over the moon to be offered both positions, but I couldn't shake the feeling I got from the gym.

After a second meeting with the principal, it was decided that I would start training the following day.

Since then, I have been waking up at 7am, running the front office, drinking my tea AND now, training with a personal trainer. What a perk! My own PT. This change is going to do wonders for my mental health, I just know it. So far I'm eating 3 healthy meals a day, sleeping better and drinking less.

Our staff meetings are made up of goal setting - staff and clients alike work together to push boundaries and challenge each other.

What's more, is that within the next couple of months I will be further utilizing my skill set by taking over bookkeeping duties.

The bottom line here is that, for the longest time and because of this illness, I thought I wasn't capable of trying something new. I thought I wasn't capable of reaching out to the unknown. I thought I wasn't capable of the challenge. .  and that's my story. .

YOU CAN DREAM.
YOU CAN MAKE CHANGE.
YOU CAN CHALLENGE YOURSELF.
YOU CAN DO BETTER.

And in the end, what do you have to lose?

I didn't disclose my situation to the team, but I am willing to bet that not only will they be supportive when I do, but they will work with me to achieve a better level of stability and health.

GAWD, I'm buzzing.

Love xo

Thursday, 3 January 2019

2019 - I'm coming for ye!

Hello old friends,

Why, it has been too long. I do apologize. I have been so wrapped up in life lately that free time has been allocated to sleeping only haha

Med wise, things have been ultra stable. Taking the lithium out of my diet has been one of the best things we could have done. I tried the PTSD meds for a few weeks but I didn't see much of a difference if I'm being honest. My next step in combating the fear and nightmares is going back to weekly sessions with my psychotherapist. I have also been introduced to a course called CBT for insomnia, which I aim to dabble in by the end of January.

All in all, this bipolar thing is STILL pretty under control. 2 whole years and no trips to the psych ward, no severe episodes - I couldn't ask to be in a better position than right now!

And then the new year comes along, wagging its funny little tail hehe. . .

This years goals you ask?

Well. .  considering I haven't set myself any goals in almost TWO FREAKING YEARS. . its about time to start making some moves. If you click on that link you can see some of the goals and ideas I had in 2017. I had only been feeling better and balanced for a few months and I was ready to take on, well, life I guess. After setting said goals I spent most of my time enjoying myself and not necessarily working towards anything. I traveled, I laughed, I met new people, I made money, I spent money, but overall I managed to live my life. Something that I thought was long gone during the depths of my bipolar. The fun has to . . not stop. .  but be contained. I want to balance my lifestyle; having fun whilst achieving goals.

So lets run at it again shall we:



Self Care:
  • Biweekly psychotherapy appointments
  • Three monthly psychiatrist appointment
  • CBT for insomnia
  • Regular sleep/ wake schedule
  • Healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Relaxation; walk, massage, night on the sofa, hot tub etc
Education & Work
  • Continue with front office administrator & bookkeeping Job
  • Continue with small business & boost promotions
  • Explore business accounting or business admin course
  • Listen to two new podcasts per week
  • Read one new book per month
Leisure 
  • Write one new post per month
  • Write one new creative piece per month
  • Submit regularly to competitions & publications (Four per year)
  • Listen to one new album per week
  • Volunteer
  • Travel to a new destination annually
  • Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
  • Create something



So, really, these goals are pretty similar to the last ones. Uuuuft. But I tell you, I'm closer this time.

The most recent change in my life has been going back to, and developing my career. Unfortunately this meant giving up my studies. Primarily I lost attendance marks in my writing classes, whilst gaining A's & B's on papers. It meant that the average grade was lowered and it didn't fill me with motivation to continue. Because of this, I have decided to pursue writing at my own leisure. After all, there are a plethora of publications and competitions just waiting on a wee demented Scottish lassie to say her piece haha

My new job has filled me with confidence and promotes an all around healthy lifestyle with regular sleep/wake routine, nutrition and fitness. YES, I do work with a bunch of personal trainers and I bloody love it! It keeps me in my all too familiar area of Front Desk but branches me out into a different industry and within the next 6 months will also allow me to utilize my bookkeeping skills. My hope is to intertwine my career with a business management course, perhaps something online would work best around my busy schedule and that way I wont lose out in attendance marks.

Launching my own small business a few months ago has been a thrill in itself, it's still a small poke of chips at this point but its slowly growing. I have had some delighted clients and wonderful reviews. I can only hope to keep people glowing all year round!

In other news. . Well I gone and did it, didn't I? I put myself out there. With less than high expectations to be fair, but nonetheless I have wound up meeting a wonderful man. We just celebrated our first Christmas and New Year together and I could not be happier. <3

You can't knock this smile 2019 - LET'S GO!

I hope your new year has started off well. If 2018 was a shite one for you, it really can only get better from here right?

Love xo