Hope ….

I write this blog after being well for nearly 7 months. This is the longest period of wellness that I have had for years (maybe even since my diagnosis) and gives me real hope for the future. Just 9 months ago I was nearing the end of an awful year as far as my bipolar goes and I was not sure how much more I could take.  I had lost hope.

Over the last 7 months I have thankfully found that hope again, it hasn’t been easy and I have had to make some difficult decisions, changed things in my life, have had hard conversations with myself but the hope has returned and that is just the best feeling!

Life isn’t really easy and carefree but it is good, fulfilling and I am very happy. I do have to give myself a reality check often (sometimes daily) to monitor how tired I am, how much sleep I am getting, whether something I want to do might not be the best idea. I have to avoid things because they might lead to increased anxiety which in turn might trigger an episode and some days I am definitely still walking on egg shells.  But having said all that, the hope I longed for at the end of last year has returned with the help of my family, friends and for the first time some superb mental health care.  

After a turbulent few days as a citizen of this country I wish the hope that I have found for myself could somehow be transferred into the lives of everyone in the UK.  Let us celebrate the fact we are so fortunate to live in a democracy and remember those with no hope and no chance of ever having a vote or having their voice heard. Let us unite in hope and try and bring some peace, compassion and love into the most difficult of situations. Let us celebrate our differences and not let politics divide us. 

None of us know what the future holds in this great country just like I don’t know what the future holds for me and bipolar.  What I do know is that hope can return and change situations for the better and for the moment that is what I am holding on to.

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A positive January … for once

January has historically been a very difficult month for me.  I know that I am not the only person who finds January hard – the dark mornings and evenings, the cold weather, the quiet after the Christmas rush and often having less money can be just a few factors that can contribute to increased anxiety, negative thinking and episodes of depression and other mental illness. 

January became all the more difficult for me when my Grandfather passed away five years ago on the 14th January. He had a huge positive influence in my life, he acted as a father figure, guide, confidant and friend and I still miss him terribly. 

This year for the first time in what seems like years I feel pretty together and relatively well in January.  After what seemed like an impossible 2 months the depression has lifted quite quickly and I feel stable and the anxiety that had seemed like it would never go has improved also.

I am doing everything I can to stay as well as I can, I am probably being over cautious and it does feel at times like I am walking on eggshells. I am avoiding triggers wherever possible – just last week I decided not to attend a funeral in case it acted as a trigger.  I am working very hard at work but having a proper break every day and eating well.  I am enforcing some rest into everyday – today this is having a bath whilst listening to the radio. All this positivity isn’t always easy but I am doing my best and hoping that it is enough to keep another episode at bay. 

I am enjoying things again, singing, meeting friends, planning travels, these are just some examples and yes being back in a routine helps with all these things.  I am so grateful for the support I have had whilst unwell but also for the support I have now, at this moment, when I need reminding that having the odd wobble doesn’t mean the start of a downhill spiral and I need a gentle nudge in the right direction to take some time out!

I am also eternally grateful for the support of my Grandpa, who helped me enormously during some of the most difficult times of my life. Rest in Peace, love always. 

Does getting away for a bit help?

I am writing this blog on the train coming home from a lovely quiet weekend in Harrogate with my husband. We have both been very busy lately and last weekend we had a family wedding to attend which was lovely but very tiring. It was also my husbands birthday this weekend and we often go away around this time of year before the Christmas busyness sets in. 

Over the last few weeks I haven’t been feeling that well. My anxiety and paranoia have steadily increased and become more and more disruptive and I have also experienced bouts of depression that aren’t constant (and are actually relatively quick) but when they suddenly occur they are terribly painful and often come with a wave of emotion that I struggle to control. 

As the train gets closer to London with the inevitable ‘back to a routine and normality’ that it brings, I am anxious, as I worry that whilst I had the same head with the same illness with me this weekend that it might seem all the more difficult at home. 

During dark times I often have the urge to ‘run away’. When I was younger I used to actually do that (probably causing untold stress to those that love me) but I was convinced that I could run from the depression and the anxiety that was building up inside me. It did though help a bit and even now when I get away on mostly pre-planned trips it does give me some breathing space and a chance to gather my thoughts before trying to fight this illness in the midst of work and ‘normal’ life. 

So as I return to work tomorrow I will do so after 48 hours of ‘getting away’. It hasn’t been always easy this weekend as reading and relaxing in general are pretty difficult in my current state of mind but I have been able to enjoy parts of the weekend and it is those things I need to hang on to through the despair of depression. 

Coping with a 45+ hour working week…

Yesterday I decided to take some medication as part of how I am coping with a huge increase in stress and workload.

I think that I am coping pretty well and taking steps to manage this which include being pretty honest that it isn’t always a walk in the park.

Working in education in September is always busy and with an added audit means that everyone is under so much pressure, but with bipolar I have to ensure that I take good care of myself through this very busy time.

My steps to managing during this time are:

Ensure I have one break away from my desk each day – I have managed this most days this week but on the one day I didn’t, I felt my paranoia and anxiety increase. Yesterday a very good friend came and met me for lunch and next week I am already planning in breaks so they are harder to get out of.  It isn’t always easy and in the past some colleagues have been known to say ‘we are too busy to take a break’, but my health must come first, I am already working overtime and one break can help me and makes a big difference.

Make an appointment with GP or other care professional – I have all my care provided through my GP who I see monthly or every two months or more often when I am unwell. Even though I was very well when I last saw her a month ago I knew I had a busy time coming up so I made an appointment for a month so therefore I am seeing her this week. This not only reassures me but also those that care for me that a professional is keeping an eye on me.

Take PRN medication – In the past I very rarely took any medication to help with anxiety or other symptoms until I had experienced pretty bad symptoms. Whilst I feel pretty well I have also had some quite bad anxiety, especially this week and have already taken medication that the Dr has prescribed for such times. I now know that there is nothing wrong with this, I am not weaker for doing so but actually sensible and strong for acknowledging the little bit of extra help I do need.

Talking with managers/colleagues (where appropriate) – This isn’t always easy or possible and I have experienced appalling stigma in the past however I am hugely fortunate to have excellent managers at the moment who not only keep an eye out for staff but will ensure I am looking out for myself. As they said to me this week, they want me at work as they value me, if that means having the full lunch break that I am entitled too that is more than fine! I also manage staff myself so being honest with them and supporting them through this frantic time helps me as well and means that as a team we are more productive in the long run.

Find time for rest & fun – in addition to a huge workload last weekend I took my Brownies away for a 3 night holiday which was brilliant but also meant that my weekend had very little room for rest. This weekend I am enforcing quite a bit of rest on myself starting with a lie in today, plenty of tea breaks and nothing at all stressful to do either! Whilst there is a temptation to work I won’t as I need to have a complete break as next week and probably the rest of the month will be as busy. 

So working isn’t always easy and I have to be so careful, but I am coping very well and although taking a day at a time isn’t always possible I am managing to stay well and do a good job.  Maybe I am also challenging the stigma surrounding mental illness without even realising it! 

One of the hardest weeks ……

After one of the hardest weeks I have had this year I thought I should blog as hopefully it might help to get things down and I haven’t blogged for ages! Last weekend I was struggling but trying to stay positive and I had got my sleeping into a sort of routine again. I had a fairly positive weekend – caught up with friends, went to Church – the depression was coming and going and my anxiety was also still causing problems. Whilst in Church I realised that music was slightly distorted and that I occasionally heard sounds that others didn’t.
On Sunday night I hardly slept at all and probably going into work at all on Monday was not a great idea. The depression was so bad it felt physically painful and my head was full of so many negative and painful thoughts that I couldn’t focus on anything.
I was only working till 3pm instead of 5pm as it is one of my reasonable adjustments when I am not well but work is also very stressful at the moment and so I knew I needed to take a break. I felt as though I couldn’t work out what was real and what wasn’t.
I am only under my GP who is brilliant and I knew that I couldn’t face A and E so therefore I put all my strategies into place and had 2 days off work which is very unusual for me. It did though mean that I could take PRN medication at night at slightly higher doses than normal without worrying about being dozy in the daytime. I did worry about being on my own during the day but I saw people and friends and family kept in touch.
I spoke to my doctor who then agreed that getting back into a routine might help so I went back on Thursday slightly more rested but with a fit note to work till 1pm until I finish for Christmas.
It has been a very dark week, one where I have wanted it all to end on many occasions but there is a bit more hope this weekend and I have shown that I am coping better with such severe symptoms and also made the right decisions as far as my care was concerned.
I am massively grateful to those who have sticked by me this week – hoping I can look forward to Christmas and a well needed rest.

Dealing with stress at work, my survival guide!

As some of you may know I am dealing with huge increased stress at work at the moment and obviously with a diagnosis of bipolar I am scared I am getting ill or may get ill in the future. I am though lucky that at the moment I am very well and so I have been able to put some strategies in place to safeguard myself and to also go someway to stop being so frightened.

One of the most important things I have done is to recognise the symptoms of stress and deal with these as they occur. I have felt my anxiety rise which is probably the most frightening symptom as I often experience horrendous anxiety when I am ill. I have used the same coping strategies as I do for any anxiety I experience and given myself praise for coping with the anxiety (something I wouldn’t do if I was ill)!

I have recognised that stress is serious and just because it isn’t a bipolar episode I still need to take care of myself and recognise the symptoms. I have kept in constant contact with my doctor and asked friends and family for their reassurance, advice and support.

I have also drawn on support at work. Whilst certain people or situations have caused stress I also know that the organisation have procedures and policies to assist where necessary. I have done everything I can to make the time at work easier and drawn on HR support, team support and support of my close colleagues where I can.

I have used my WRAP which really comes into its own in times like this and it is even more important to take care of oneself and the mundane eating, sleeping etc are vital. Last week I wasn’t sleeping that well because it was hot and so I took something to help me sleep after just a couple of days as I knew and recognised that sleep was even more important during this period of stress.

Last weekend has also given me huge confidence and something to remember during the week that has followed. I took 16 Brownies to the Zoo, helped lead a Church parade and Messy Church and I felt fantastic! If I was ill the whole weekend would of been a massive struggle and at difficult times during this week I have remembered this. I have found that because I have a diagnosis of bipolar certain people have said I must be experiencing a bipolar episode when I have raised concerns over the stress I am under. When this has happened this week I have been able to remember last weekend and even tell people what I did and how I felt which has given me and others the confidence that I am not experiencing bipolar symptoms.

It hasn’t been easy and I am exhausted, emotional and sometimes physically unwell but I am taking a day at a time, doing all I can to take care of myself and can draw strength from the last few weeks.