Dear Ryan

So I wrote a letter to a radio DJ named Ryan Jon who does the breakfast show in a nearby city, but since he’s a public figure, I have no idea of how to contact him directly and don’t want to be too stalkery so thought I’d just blog it and then send him a link via Twitter!

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Ryan last week during a promo the radio station was doing visiting small towns around the edge of the city, I happened to be passing through one of the towns and popped out to say g’day scoring myself a fabulous tea towel and a selfie with the hosts for my troubles.

When I got home I looked up Ryan on Twitter and noticed he had a podcast about his struggles with having a partner that is very ready for kids and his own fear of becoming a parent.

The podcast is called: “Am I ready To Be A Father” here is the iTunes LINK or you will find it on Spotify or wherever non Apple people go to find their favourite podcasts!

Recommended listening for anyone with kids, thinking about having kids or was once a kid, it’s a deep insight into the personal life and struggles of this fun-loving always-a-joker-DJ, he is only three episodes in and has already interviewed two amazing people – his gorgeous girlfriend Brigitte and the one and only Jimmy Barnes. (ahh the perks of being a breakfast radio host!)

Anyways, on with the letter:

Dear Ryan,

Apologies in advance for the novel here, living on ‘the rim’, I have no radio reception and can only listen to the breakfast show in the car when I go to town so had missed a lot of the baby/no baby conversations you have had on air. I discovered your podcast yesterday and wanted to write a short response but got a little bit carried away!

I had a plan for my life too, I didn’t want kids, certainly not until I was in my 30’s. I wanted to go and travel the world, go to university and get an awesome job in something medical sciency where I could go to different countries helping and meeting people. But instead life had other plans, I quit school, left home, fell in love with a roommate and got knocked up.

I remember sitting on the toilet having just turned 17 years old, holding the positive pregnancy test in my hands and not knowing what the hell I was going to do next. It was of course less than ideal, I wasn’t even legally allowed to drink yet, I didn’t have my driver’s licence, we had barely any money and I had just enrolled to go back to school and get my year 12 certificate.

Luckily I think I already knew I was living with the love of my life, he was my boyfriend and my best friend and while we had only been together for 6 months I didn’t doubt my love for him but I was still terrified, did HE want this commitment with me? Would we end up breaking up like so many teenage parents? Would we have to live on Centrelink for the rest of our lives? What about all the things we would miss out on?

We considered an abortion, talked about adoption and eventually decided to ignore societies stereotypes and let go of that inner fear telling that we wouldn’t be good enough and decided to have and raise our child together.

My point here is life doesn’t always go the way you plan it to, if my fears would have stopped me back then I wouldn’t have Liam, my now 15yr old sweet, funny son who is somehow already nearly the age I was when he was born even though it feels like yesterday. If I had known I would develop a mental illness I likely wouldn’t have had his two brothers and his sister either, that’s four amazing little people that have already made their mark on this world that wouldn’t even exist right now if I had let my fears stand in my way.

You have already lived an amazing life Ryan, you have travelled the globe, lived in various cities, worked fun and interesting jobs and now you have found the love of your life, someone that completes you and loves you enough to want to make and raise miniature versions of you!

From the tone of your voice it sounds like you really do want kids, the warmth in which you describe having that biological connection brings tears to my eyes, so the overthinking and anxiety disguised as logic holds you back. It is ok to be scared, fear is normal and healthy, but not something that should stop you from moving forward through your life, you will be ok, I promise! Like you said yourself, there is no such thing as a perfect time to have children! You didn’t have a prominent father figure in your life but you still had a childhood – and from growing up with your mum you would have learned the things you do want and don’t want for your own kids.

Think of the stories you will be able to tell your children as they grow, think of their smiling faces as they look up at you with admiration thinking ‘wow, my Dad has done so much with his life, I want to be just like him!’ From the way you talk to and about each other, Brigitte comes across clearly as your perfect partner and therefor the perfect person for you to share this next chapter of your life with.

Being the best parent in the world won’t guarantee that your relationship will stay strong or your child wont eventually become a drug addict, have a mental illness or be involved in an accident. You can’t prevent life from happening to your children and you wouldn’t want to, it’s part of the beauty of raising a free thinking little human being.

When it all comes down to it you can only do the best you can with what you have available to you at the time. You can’t control the way things turn out for your children in the end, you can only influence it. Besides, there is no such thing as the perfect parent –  in fact most of us are making it up as we go along and it’s working out fine! Just go to the bookstore and take a look in the parenting section if you don’t believe me, there are hundreds of books; if there was only one right way to parent a child there would only need to be one book. Different things work for different families and different kids in the same families, if I can offer you any advice there it’s to try out what feels right for you and if it doesn’t work let it go and try something else, it’s all a learning curve – we grow with our children.

So don’t look at fatherhood as a sacrifice or the end of that spontaneous fun-  you don’t have to stop doing fun things just because you have a family, your priorities will change naturally and you will start to want to do different types of fun things. You will have to find a new work/life balance, but that will be ok, you will welcome the change and you will embrace it!

Yes, ok I admit that there are times when you feel like you don’t know what the hell you are doing and you will definitely get less sleep, particularly in the first year, but you actually get used to it surprisingly quickly and then one day you blink and they are teenagers that you have to spray with a water bottle just to get out of bed in the mornings…

Ryan, the fact that you are talking about this subject so publicly is awesome, it’s a great forum to start a conversation and its proof that you truly care, it is that caring that will make you a fantastic Dad!

Love,

Kate

Help Lynn Kick Breast Cancers Ass

The lovely Ty who blogs over at The Bipolar Photographer has recently shared his beautiful wife Lynn’s devastating diagnosis with an aggressive stage three breast cancer.

Ty has been a wonderful pillar of support to myself and the mental health community as a whole for many years sharing his journey through words and stunning photographs. Now it’s our turn to support him and his family through this difficult new chapter.

Alongside the obvious emotional stress this places upon the family, the financial burden of healthcare is huge, so if f you are in a position where you can help financially, there is a Go Fund Me page set up for Lynn HERE where you can donate a few dollars (or lot’s of dollars!) to help towards the costs.

If you are not in a position to contribute financially, perhaps you could share a post about your thoughts or experiences around breast cancer including a link to Lynn’s Go Fund Me page on your own blog or website and of course thoughts and prayers are always welcome.

So Lynn, I want you to know even though we are spread around the globe, all of us here in Blogland are standing by your side while you kick cancers ass!

Mummy Issues

I recently met with my psychiatrist and psychologist on the same day, my psychiatrist is generally AMAZING and is very big on talk therapy, unlike other shrinks I have seen who pull out the script pad the minute you walk through the door and then kick you out again.

Having both appointments on the same day was unintentional but it turned out to be very useful as I had some time to think about my discussion with my psychiatrist and then explore that further with my psychologist and had a bit of an epiphany.

Apparently, despite all the denial it turns out that I actually do have some deep seeded unresolved ‘Mummy Issues’ after all, but don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful upbringing. Growing up my much older half-brother & sister lived with their mother interstate and I lived the glorious life of an only child there was never any abuse, my parents were (and still are) happily married and I don’t ever remember them fighting. I have never doubted that I was loved – in fact I was doted on and spoiled rotten but perhaps that is a big part of the problem.

I didn’t grow up with siblings so I wasn’t teased at home and when I entered school life and the bullying began I couldn’t understand why other children could be so mean, intentionally harming others simply didn’t make any sense to me, the kids laughed at me because I was fat, tripped me over and called me names, I was devastated.

When I told mum she just said that it wasn’t true and that I was beautiful but she was my mother and she always said that, but the kids at school had no bias’s so why would they lie? Besides the evidence in the mirror was pretty damning. I soon decided I couldn’t trust anything positive my mother said because she HAD to be nice to me.

When I came home in tears Mum’s efforts to cheer me up involved giving me a hug and pretty much anything that I wanted and I wanted junk food. I was allowed to drink as much soft drink as I wanted from as far back as I can remember and I started drinking coffee at around age 7 we actually had a “chocolate drawer” in my house accessible and filled to the brim with a variety of fun size treats. So when I was around 8yrs old and too young to grasp what caused weight gain in the first place, I was consoled for being teased about my weight with chocolate treats or trips to McDonalds.

I don’t quite know how mum, who was frequently on a ‘diet’ or joining assorted weight watcher style groups, didn’t realise that all the “treats” to make me feel better were just adding to the problem. She maintained at the time that I wasn’t fat, and to this day claims that because I am smaller now as an adult it was “just puppy fat” but photo’s don’t lie and my current body shape is due to an eating disorder so frankly Mum…. Sigh…

My mother treated me like a little adult from early on, she thought I was mature for my age and spoke to me as such. I knew right from wrong, my core values were solid and so I was given very few boundaries and expected to make the right decisions.

I never wanted to disappoint my parents, but of course like all children I wanted to push the limits, the desire to try new things and experience the thrill of danger is strong. I quickly learned that if I simply chose to lie about my actions I could get away with pretty much anything I desired, I was the master of my own destiny and as I became a teenager and hormones and hypomania began rearing their ugly heads, all good intentions and common sense went out the window.

I finally found friends as awkward as me, we did drugs, I shaved my head, had sex and partied all night while I “stayed over at a friend’s place” and then I came home and did my homework where no one was the wiser. At 14 I got sick of the continued bullying and started losing weight, by 15 years old I had developed full blown anorexia and was filled with psychotic paranoia, I was terrified of food, counted every calorie, exercised constantly and thought my parents were trying to poison me. Yes, my parents were worried but I lied to them, I said I was fine and they seemed to believe me. I told them I must be having a growth spurt, I pretended to eat before they got up, threw my school lunches away and became a ‘vegetarian’ so I could make my own dinners.

They only took me to a doctor once, a GP. My BMI was about 15 and she told me if I didn’t eat I would end up with a feeding tube and I simply lied and told her I wasn’t afraid to gain weight and I would eat more, she reviewed me a week later so I water loaded before the appointment and so when I was weighed I was deemed to be ‘making progress’ I lied and told her I felt much better with more weight on me and that was the end of that. Case closed, nothing to worry about and no psychiatric assessment at all.

Of course my weight continued to drop, I wore baggier clothes and when the school worried I denied any problem to them and myself – nobody was going to make me fat again. I was being asked to see the counselor daily and just skipped school instead – I never even met her. When they pushed the issue and had a meeting with my mother behind my back I was furious, Mum felt guilty and I just stopped going to school altogether.

At 15 ½  I got a full time retail job and Mum and Dad went along with it.

I started dating a 30yr old just after my 16th birthday and they smiled as they shook his hand, I left home a few months later so that I could be alone with my eating disorder and they helped me move. No one ever put their foot down, or even really tried – they were always super supportive, always trusting my judgement.

Mum still prides herself on having a ‘friendship’ with me, she had always wanted to be my friend not ‘just my mother’ but sometimes kids need to be treated like kids, they need to be given firm boundaries and told “no”.

Yes, it turns out that I am harbouring some parental resentment there after all. I love my Mum very much and I know she did her best and what she believed was the right thing to do at the time, but I can’t help but feel that maybe if she had said “No” more often when I was little I wouldn’t have been as plump, perhaps teased a little less and not gone on to develop an eating disorder. Maybe I wouldn’t still be dealing with one now at 32 if I had gotten actual psychological help when I first needed it and maybe my bipolar would have been recognised and diagnosed earlier and some of my manic self-destructiveness could have been prevented.

That being said, I have certainly learned a lot from my experiences and if all of that stuff hadn’t of happened I probably wouldn’t have met my husband, been knocked up at 17 and have the amazing family I have today.

Do you blame your parents for your issues?

 

Windows To The Soul

The old saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul” has a lot of truth to it, they reveal your true mood and your true feelings, I can immediately tell if my dad is having a good day or not just by looking at his eyes, there is a certain vacant dullness that comes over them on a bad day whereas on a good day they will twinkle with life.

My husband says when I am manic the whites of my eyes sparkle and the iris’s glisten a vivid almost unnatural blue and when I am depressed they fade to grey; facial expressions and body language can be manipulated to mask emotion, but the eyes never lie.

Thank God for sunglasses.

Holiday-lag

I am home after five days in Brisbane, the sunshine state certainly put on a good show for us weather wise living up to the old saying “Queensland is beautiful one day, perfect the next!”

So my eldest son (Mr 14), my Dad and I flew up last Thursday to visit my brother, his fiancé and their exceptionally cute two year old son for five days. It was Mr 14’s first plane trip and he loved it! No travel sickness for anyone, I think I have finally found a travel pill that works and we also had an incredibly smooth flight which helps.

My brother is lucky enough to live within walking distance of pituresque Southbank and the bustling Brisbane City Centre, I had never really spent time in Brisbane before and was surprised at just how beautiful and green it was, there are parklands, play grounds and manicured public gardens everywhere and of course it’s warm so all the trees have leaves in winter which was a pleasant change from my part of the country

So my holiday was fantastic but today I have been hit with wave of unexpected depression. Holiday-lag perhaps. I think that there are many contributing factors, I returned home to find out that we had completely run out of water and the water truck man I had organized didn’t turn up then when I rang him he said he couldn’t come out until tomorrow and he had increased his price by $80. We told him not to worry about it and now we have to figure something else out so that we can shower again as it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain any time soon.

I am really tired, I have actually slept more in the last week than I usually do but for some reason I am exhausted. My routine is out of whack, I haven’t been for a run in a week which is stressing me out, I think spending that time with my brother’s family made me realize how much I miss seeing them and overwhelmingly I am really noticing the slow decline in Dad.

My regular readers would know that my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this year, it’s sad to see Dad’s memories fading, watching him have fun with my young nephew and knowing that he soon won’t remember it so it was really special to be able to get lots of photographs and some video footage of the trip that we can show him later on.

One evening after Dad turned in for the night, my brother, sister in law and I watched a 4 corners episode about Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It followed the stories of a few different people as their condition progressed and it was sobering to say the least, there is such a long road to go down, it’s scary and so, so sad.

When we flew back to Canberra Mr14 and I spent the night at Dad’s place, Mum is still away in Canada with her friend and he is leaving for his bucket list trip to Darwin today that Mum booked for him seemingly out of some sort of miss-placed guilt about going overseas without him. While his condition isn’t too bad yet and the new medication he is on is making a difference, I am quite worried about him embarking on this trip alone.

I really want him to have the experience – he’s been talking about going since I was about 5yrs old, but I wish Mum was going with him and I am annoyed at her for being so unconcerned about it all.

He is mostly fine as long as he sticks to his routine and everything goes exactly as he expects it to like at home, but he gets quite muddled & distressed when something changes and frankly he has been back home from Brisbane 24 hours and was already tired, he then he had to leave at 4.30am get a taxi to the airport catch a plane to Sydney, then transfer all his baggage and catch a new plane in a different area to Darwin and then find the tour group. Coming home is even more complicated- its a lot of steps for him at the best of times and I really hope there are no gate changes or delays!

It is an over 50’s tour group and I rang them and told them about Dad’s condition as my Mum had not even mentioned it when she booked him in ( I swear she’s in denial). They were very grateful to have the heads up and I gave them my contact details in case of any issues. I have given him dot point, step by step instructions and booked his taxi for him, I went through his phone and updated his contacts information and filled out his medical ID with all of his medications, current doses etc. He can sort them into their little boxes but if you ask him out of context what he takes, he can’t tell you.

Sigh… His plane should be landing in Darwin in about five minutes so I will send him a text message to ask if he had a good flight (and check that he got there ok!).

Have you had experience with Dementia /Alzheimer’s in a loved one?

Do you get holiday-lag when you come home to reality?

A New Psychologist And A Holiday

I see my psychiatrist every three months or so and while she is AMAZING keeps my meds in check and does talk therapy I really benefited from seeing someone for therapy more regularly. I was hesitant to find a new psychologist; my first one was incredible but when she left the next person I saw was a really bad fit.

Frankly, the rigmarole of going through my whole story again only to potentially not click with them seemed too much like hard work. But when I saw my GP the other day to get a new script she told me about a new person starting at their clinic she is new to the psychology field and as a trainee she is still getting her hours up and therefor is providing a free service for 6 months.

It had been more than a year since I last saw someone and it was too good an offer to refuse so today I met up with Fiona. She was lovely! She asked me what I wanted to achieve from our sessions and I said I finally wanted to work on my eating disorder. The thing that rules my life and makes me the most miserable is also one of the hardest things to let go.

This session was mostly giving my history but she was able to read me quite well, she seemed to understand the way I think and gave some helpful insights, I am looking forward to working with her more and terrified at the same time. I am scared of losing my control, I am scared of getting fat and I am scared of not caring that I’m getting fat – which doesn’t really make any sense but then again, what part of this does?

In other news, school went back today and I am going to Brisbane on Thursday!! I am sick to death of the negative zero temperatures where I live and so sunny Queensland should offer a nice respite somewhere in the mid 20’s ahh T-shirt weather, have I mentioned how much I HATE winter? (Yes Jamoalki, I KNOW it’s nothing compared to where you live but I have a low cold tolerance!)

So I am going with my father for his birthday and taking my oldest son to visit my brother who lives there with his family while my Mum is gallivanting around Canada with her sugar daddy. (more on that later…) We are really looking forward to it, particularly Mr 14 as this will be his first time on an aeroplane.

Well the day has flown by and I must retrieve the killdren children from the bus now, I will take my laptop to QLD and hopefully get a chance to do some writing, blogging and photo taking while I am there.

Do you click well with your psychologist?

Are you a winter or a summer person?

Am I a wuss for thinking minus 8 Celsius is really fricken cold?

Anxiety & Grocery Shopping With Children

Today I am supposed to go grocery shopping, the kids are back at school tomorrow and ordinarily I would just do it then, however I need to buy Mr 14 some new clothes as he is growing like a weed and he needs to try them on, I have been putting it off all holidays.

As a mother of four children I have developed a relatively regular routine during the school term which helps the family function as well as keeping my bipolar fairly stable. I am forced out of bed rain, hail or depression to take the kids to school, I feed/clean the animals, exercise for 60 minutes which quietens my eating disorder voice, then I have to shower as I am too sweaty not to and tick off a ‘to do’ list of household chores while getting my social interaction through Twitter & blogs.

School holidays throw me right out of whack, I tend to have trouble sleeping at night then fall asleep around 4am until 10am and often don’t get a chance to exercise until the evening. I have less opportunity to write, other children come and go from our house and I am expected to socialise in real life with real people often over meal times. The disruption in routine triggers mood swings and the lack of control flares eating disorder behaviours and somewhere in between I have to make time for grocery shopping.

My husband has difficulty understanding why I have so much trouble taking the kids out of the house to go grocery shopping, they listen to him better than they listen to me, they don’t seem to beg him for things the way they beg me and while I know this is due to lack of consistency on my part simply the thought of the impending outing sends my anxiety skyrocketing.

Grocery shopping is an anxiety trigger for me at the best of times, my eating disorder dramatically impacts the way I shop. This is better at the moment than it has been in the past as I now eat different meals to my family, generally the same three things week in week out, and that helps me feel calm enough to purchase pre-determined ‘safe’ foods for myself without having to stop and read the nutrition panels 100 times.

Nowadays I shop on Mondays, I pre organise the week’s meals and have a shopping list that I stick to which is written out in the order that the aisles go. I can buy the food for my family without worrying too much about it as I know I am not going to be eating it anyway. I stack things in the trolley so they are easy to unpack onto the register, I still get anxious but I have my system and it works for me.

When I throw taking children with me into the mix it complicates my routine, they of course want to help, which should be wonderful except that they run off in different directions getting things and throwing them into the trolley at random while I desperately try to organise the items into their ‘proper’ place. I know this is my problem not theirs, it’s a control thing.

Then the kids inevitably start asking for items not on the list, we are on a fairly tight budget since I haven’t been working and maths isn’t my strong point at the best of times, let alone when I am in a busy supermarket trying to rearrange a trolley and being asked 4 different questions from 4 different children.

I tend to say yes much more often than I should, this started when they were very young because I couldn’t stand them having tantrums in public because I felt so embarrassed and harshly judged. As they have grown the tantrums evolved into whiny incessant begging which turns my already anxious brain to complete mush, they have learned if they beg hard enough and stress me out enough they will eventually get what they want.

My husband simply says ‘No’ once and they leave it alone, because they know he won’t change his mind. He doesn’t understand how I am intellectually aware of this hole I have dug for myself but my anxiety impacts my ability to put my foot down and start climbing out of it. Usually by the time we leave the supermarket my anxiety is through the roof and I am swearing blind that I will never take them out of the house again, I get angry and shouty and shaky.

So it’s 1pm and I have been putting this shopping trip off since around 9am but I’d better go soon or I’m going to run out of time as it takes over an hour just to get there. I woke up angry and stressed and this was followed by lots of things that could go wrong going wrong ie accidently dropped a glass, broke the dogs ceramic water bowl, spilt coffee all over me… I was kind of concerned that if I left the house I would probably be in a car accident or something.

I feel much calmer after writing this though and Hubby has said that I can drop the younger kids off at his workshop and just take Mr 14 to get his clothes and the groceries so I’d better stop procrastinating and go. Wish me luck!

Do you take your children shopping with you?

If so, what coping techniques do you use?

My Sanctuary

I live with my husband and four children and although the house is a decent size it’s impossible to forget the fact that I share my home with five other people. But there is a tiny room, well its more of a nook actually, that I use as my study. This area is MY sanctuary, a special place for me to write and be alone with my thoughts. I have filled it with things that make me happy, little tokens of my life and soul that have special memories attached or simply put a smile on my face.

Here I have my desk, my computer, stationary stuffs, “Stanley” my indoor plant, a wooden cube my husband made one day when he was killing time that I just love for some reason, there are photos of family & friends on the wall, twinkling star shaped fairy lights, a little jar of marbles (in case I lose mine), a magic 8 ball (decisions aren’t my strong point), a wooden block with “Writers” written on it (haha), a couple of mindfulness adult colouring books (haven’t quite gotten around to using those yet, they were gifts and the extended psych ward stay of 2015 gave me enough colouring in time to kill that desire for a few years!)

My old acoustic guitar is in here and while I can’t play to save myself it brings back happy memories of my youth and late winter nights singing by bonfires. I have storage tubs filled with (dusty) scrap booking stuff from a manic phase years ago, a box with little trinkets of happy memories such as the flashing eyeball from the ‘Dracula’s’ themed restaurant in Melbourne, the bracelet from the first Coldplay concert I went to in Sydney, shells from the beach, the hospital wrist bands from my kids when they were newborns, teeny tiny origami creatures the size of finger nails that my firstborn painstakingly folds, the aluminium love heart my hubby hand made for me from melted down soft drink cans (don’t ask).

With the possible exception of the computer, these are all things with the combined street value of $2.99 but they things that are priceless to me. They make me happy to look at, they make me feel something on those days when depression and numbness take over and my memory can’t stretch past the last few hours.

I also keep in here memories from the darker parts of my life, journal entries written from dark lonely nights in the hospital fueled by fear and psychosis, poems of sadness and depression as well as the suicide letters I had written for my loved ones. While those memories can be painful they are also a part of my history and can be important reminders of just how far I have come.

My sanctuary is an exhibition of the world I have experienced, it has darkness and light, fear and hilarity, stillness and hurry. It is a reminder of a life well lived but often forgotten, a place to reflect, absorb and a place to simply be.

On Forgetting To Remember

How do you know if you’ve forgotten something?

This is a great question posed by the wonderful podcaster Jamoalki over on the Depressed Not Dead blog  click here to read his post!

My memory is generally pretty awful, it can be handy as I am one of those people that can watch the same movie three times and still not remember that I have watched it and frustrating because I have a habit of forgetting appointments or double booking dates. “Thursday the 6th? That sounds great” No, it doesn’t sound great, it sounds familiar because I have already got three things lined up for that date but I won’t remember until the morning of when I will inevitably end up disappointing somebody!

I think I have blogged about memory issues before but I can’t remember if it was here or not (and also can’t be bothered checking right now!) In my non-professional medical opinion, depression itself is DEFINITELY a huge factor. Every single person I have ever met with depression has some sort of memory deficit as a bonus prize. Perhaps it’s to do with our pre occupation with the existing thoughts endlessly circling our brains that there is no room left for us to make any new memories  – I am certain there has been much research in this area and I think my psychiatrist explained it to me once but I don’t recall what she said and if I try and research it now I will just get distracted by the internet and forget what I was doing here in the first place, so please feel free to google it!

Medications can also cause memory problems, I find Lithium completely kills any ability I have to retain new information, even reading a fiction novel is useless because I can read through three chapters and suddenly realise I haven’t retained a single thing. I stopped using Lithium for this reason, I couldn’t do my job anymore as it involved continuous learning and I just felt completely stupid all the time.

Hypomania seems to improve all aspects of my brain function, memory included – it’s like somebody has cleaned a window and everything suddenly makes perfect sense, I will even remember things long forgotten from childhood but as soon as it escalates to mania I don’t retain a thing and once back to my baseline or a depressive phase my memory becomes very fuzzy again.

I somehow managed to write a memoir despite all this, but I think it was purely because I wrote it over a 6 week period while hypomanic and as I have kept journals and various blogs for so long I could refer to things I’d written long ago and the events and the emotions that went along with them came flooding back to me. I don’t remember half of them off the top of my head right now, however  when I read back over my words its like “Oh that’s right, that did happen!”

What saddens me most is how much of my children’s lives I have forgotten, first words, birth weights, milestones in general. I came across some old video footage of when my youngest was about 1 & ½ she hadn’t been walking long, my three boys seemed so young, they were all singing and jumping around the living room like nutters having an absolute blast. It was beautiful to watch but sad at the same time because although I could hear my voice talking to them as I was recording the video, I have absolutely no recollection of that time in their lives and the footage didn’t jog my memory, it’s like it had all happened to someone else.

I know that I disassociate sometimes- all be it mildly, usually it’s as though I am watching myself from a distance but I will lose time occasionally, people tell me about phone conversations that I don’t recall. I wonder if this patchiness in my memory is also related to that feeling of being distanced from everything, time spent in mood episodes seems to be lost to the wind with just the writings from those events reminders that they ever happened at all.

Watching my Dad being very much aware that his once infallible memory is slowly but unstoppably deteriorating saddens me deeply. I can relate to the pain of not remembering things that you know were once so important to you, words or names on the tip of your tongue but not quite within reach. The main reason I am so terrified at the thought of ever having ECT treatments that have been recommended to me in the past is the fear of losing even more of my memories, I would rather die knowing who I was than live a life I don’t remember.

So Jamoalki asked, how do you know if you’ve forgotten something?

Well I guess the answer is you don’t know, ignorance can be bliss sometimes or if its super important then someone will eventually let you know, the mechanic will call asking why you haven’t brought the car in yet (yesterday) or the school will ring you to come and pick up your children (ok, that’s only happened once…)

Routine is essential for me, if my morning routine is thrown out my memory goes along with it, school notes don’t get signed, chickens don’t get fed, dishwashers don’t get turned on and my whole day is turned upside down! Post it notes on the steering wheel can be handy too – just watch the Aussie summer sun with those as the glue from the back will leave sticky residue all over it!

I find writing to do lists helpful, I put them on my phone so that I have them with me at all times great for stuff like ‘remember to bring in the washing before it freezes to the washing line’, ‘clean the guinea pig’ or ‘pay the electricity bill’. When I have a blog post idea I have to write it down (again on my phone) or it’s gone forever, then I can go back to them when I have time later. Sometimes I will find 4 or 5 long forgotten half started posts in my “notes”!

Do you have memory issues? If so, how do they affect you and what do you do to combat them?

Flashbacks

My reflection is staring at me from the computer screen as I type. I look old today, the three lines in the middle of my forehead from furrowing my brow too often appear deeper, the circles under my eyes darker and the skin of my eyelids seems to sag heavily as gravity slowly gets the better of them.

It has also been exactly 2 years since I was released from my two month psychiatric hospital stay after my last suicide attempt. Those years have mostly passed quickly in a memory-less blur. For many, many months following my release I felt nothing. Semi disassociated from the world, my feelings were numb and it was as though I merely watched myself going about the motions from a safe distance.

I have had to learn to feel again, learn to love my family and friends again. It’s like they were from someone elses life where I had just watched the training video and then was expected to step into the main character’s role without any actual experience.

Blocking out the painful stuff is a tactic I learned in childhood, ignoring bullies didn’t make them go away but ignoring my feelings worked well, replace the pain with food and fake laughter only letting it creep back in at night time when I was alone and could cry myself to sleep. Some traumas could for the most part be shut out altogether, I remember ‘refusing to think about that’ and mentally changing the subject, but avoidance only takes you so far.

Real feelings have been sneaking back in, memories lost or blanked out reappear suddenly and startle me, usually in that twilight haze just as I begin to fall asleep. I find tears flow randomly and seemingly without provocation, tears for a life that was saved but perhaps lost after all.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks to my time in the hospital, the fear and humiliation of not knowing where I was, of being stripped to nothing but a gown in a ward full of big psychotic men and being made to sleep on a mat in the middle of the common room floor like a dog for weeks on end because by trying to end my life while in their care I had betrayed the trust of the doctors and nurses.

I think about what could have been done differently, what I could have done differently, I had the option of returning to a different mental health unit when I was released from intensive care and I chose to go back to where I thought I would feel safe and familiar. It didn’t work out that way. I was the enemy now, I had tricked them and no doubt been the cause of a great deal of paperwork and legal meetings. But that wasn’t my intention, I just couldn’t live with the pain anymore.

My psychiatrist added a new med on my last visit around 6 weeks ago when I started to fall back into depression after being brought down from my manic episode, it is a low dose of an anti-depressant. There was always the fear that it would make me manic again, but touch wood that hasn’t happened. The tablet is possibly working, I think I am less suicidal than I was – suicidality is always lurking in the background for me, it’s more a matter of how often I think about it than ‘if’ I do. I don’t know, it’s hard to tell how far I would have crashed if I hadn’t started taking it.

The new med is kindly only giving me a few side effects, carb cravings that scare the hell out of me because I CAN NOT gain weight, my labido got up and walked out and one that seems to unfortunately be getting worse by the day which is shocking night sweats. I wake up freezing and drenched as though I have been running on the treadmill for hours its really gross and I’m tired all the time from the constant broken sleep. But I’m not manic and I’m not dead so I suppose I should be thankful.

Sorry, this got whiny fast. That wasn’t my intention when I switched on the computer! It’s 1pm now, I should really go hang out washing, clean up my bomb site of a house and do a water change on the fish tank but instead I think I will curl up back in bed and watch a movie while playing hashtag games on twitter.