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My Journey with Bipolar

“the moon affects the mind as the mind affects the body and it all needs to remain in balance”

Bipolar is an important topic to me as I have travelled the highs and lows of this particular form of mental illness for 26 years.

This blog is intended as a light hearted journal documenting my journey from the past to the present and hopefully some of you out there may gain some inspiration and come to the realisation that it can be a positive and rewarding experience, once you have acquired the necessary skills to manage the illness.

You may also have the illness or perhaps a family member, close friend or colleague that you can assist them in leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Christmas Carols without Fireworks Displays

In light of the recent bushfires and out of respect for people who are suffering around Queensland and Australia, some of the fireworks for the 2019 Christmas Carols Gold Coast have been cancelled.

Even New Years Eve fireworks maybe cancelled in Sydney as well, and there are suggestions that all the money be given to either the people in need whom have lost there homes and all possessions, or even give money to the drought affected throughout Australia. It has been a really tough year for them, and Australia as a whole has not had much rain all year, some places in several years.

“Light displays” may be an option in place of fireworks. WHAT A GREAT IDEA !!!

We in Australia may be doing it tough right now, but we all stand together united !

Sydney to the Sunshine Coast

After spending 1 week in Sydney visiting a family member who has “Alzeihmers” then we headed back towards home on a road trip again, this time heading for the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for a beautiful week spent at a tropical resort for some true “rest and relaxtion”. Once again, heavy smoke filled the air all the way (well over 1000 kilometres of road travel).

The resort was just what the doctored ordered, a relaxing stay prior to christmas and the silly season. I work in a resort, and holiday in a resort, and live in a resort, so I am truly blessed. I travelled with my mother who is on her own now since my father passed away 12 years ago after many many years battling with heart issues and rheumatoid arthritis.

We spent the week, lazing by the pool, shopping, shopping and more shopping. Going out for the occasional dinner.

I did end up with an ear infection from swimming in the pool, but thats OK, as long as my bi polar is in check nothing else is any concern. I am extremely lucky that I can manage my medications myself now, so any change to my behaviour or mood is nipped in the bud very very quickly, plus plenty of sleep to calm the mind.

And now I find myself back at work and ready and raring to go for the Xmas period!!

LIFE IS GREAT !!

Holidays & Bushfires – Climate Change is in our own Backyard

I haven’t posted of late, not because I am having issues with by Bi Polar, but because i have been away on 3 weeks holidays!!! Yeah!!

You might not be aware but “Australia is truly on fire” at the moment. Over the last 4 weeks we have had 100’s of bushfires around the Country. From Queensland to New South Wales (Sydney), Victoria, Adelaide and also Perth.

Most having been raging out of control for weeks. 3 major fires around north of Sydney have now merged into what is called a “Mega Fire”. Our fire fighters have been on the frontline for so long, trying to save homes, properties and of course lives.

THERE IS NO END IN SIGHT!! These fires are predicted to go on for several months in fact, well into the New Year and beyond as our summer down under only gets hotter.

Our resources are stretched to the limit and we have had to call in for help from other countries including New Zealand, Canada and America.

My first week of holidays was a road trip from Queensland to Sydney right in the thick of these raging inferno’s. There was smoke in the air all the way down and back. Main highways through towns were closed due to fires jumping the roads, scrub and bushland for kilometre after kilometre were destroyed and blackened.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT AN ISSUE – ASK ANY AUSTRALIAN AT THE MOMENT AND THEY WILL TELL YOU- JUST LOOK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD and realise that climate change is here, right now and we need to be doing something about it.

Australia has NEVER experience anything like this before. Its a super storm of uncontrolled fire. Yes, we have had bad bush fires before, but nothing of this intensity.

Many lives have been lossed. Over 700 homes destroyed. Unimaginable properties sustained major damage, people living in bushland areas and on farming properties have lost sheds, animals, manufacturing equipment etc.

KOALA’S have been killed in high numbers, there habitat is being destroyed. Those that have been saved, are now in hospital’s being rescued and hope to recover – but many don’t and have to be put down, in the only humane way possible.

It is going to be a very bleek christmas for a lot of Australians this year.

OUR LOVE AND THOUGHTS GO OUT TO ALL OUR AMAZING FIRE FIGHTERS, INCLUDING OUR VOLUNTEERS WHO DON’T GET PAID AND TO THE AMAZING TEAMS THAT HAVE FLOWN IN FROM OTHER COUNTRIES TO ASSIST, AND GIVE OUR OWN TEAMS SOME RESPITE FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, BEFORE HEADING OUT INTO THE FIRE STORMS ONCE AGAIN !!!

Am I Ok???

I find myself asking this question each and everyday. And it’s exhausting….I have forgotten what it feels like to get up each morning and just get on with my day.

When you have bipolar you are forever critical of your behaviour, trying to tune in with your body and mind and asking yourself….how am I today….is there a change in my mood, what challengers will I face today.

Some days upon waking there is a foreboding feeling of anxiety, luckily this only lasts for a minute or two.

Other days you feel quite flat and start to wonder if you may be heading to a depressive state.

Forever wondering and questioning your behaviour is extremely frustrating.

Unfortunately the above is required to stay in tune with yourself and nip any extreme possible changes in your mood quickly to alleviate a full blown manic or depressive episode.

Am I ok I ask myself…..of course I am…..then I can get along on my day.

My Bucket List….Travel

Because of my bipolar I haven’t travelled overseas but my dream one day would be to go to Canada and Alaska and perhaps do the railway trip and river cruise. I love the cold and would love to see the spectacular sites and sounds.

Long haul travelling is meant to play havoc with a bipolar mind. Changing numerous time zones, jet lag that the average person gets is 10 times worse when you have Bipolar disorder.

The fatigue, lack of sleep, sensory overload doesn’t help with the body clock of someone with Bipolar. I am sure many of you have travelled overseas but unfortunately it’s not for me at this stage of my life.

An Aching Body and Fragile Mind

When things start turning south and you feel an episode coming on, there are plenty of telltale signs that are like “early warnings”. Like when a thunderstorm is approaching, you can see it building in the distance, but as yet no thunder or lightening. It comes with time, practice and being aware of your own mind and body to fully appreciate and understand any “triggers” for changes in mood patterns.

Everyone is obviously different but the things that I pick up on when stress generally triggers a change in my behaviour is things like crankiness, irrittibility (those things that wouldn’t normally worry you), tiredness, body aches and pains (sore neck, shoulders and legs), you may even have headaches, you can’t concentrate as well as you normally would.

At this point I know I need to be kind to myself, remove myself from any stressful environment, medicate, medicate and medicate. During periods where I am heading into a “high” I find that having plenty of showers to relieve all the aches and pains, getting plenty of sleep is really beneficial.

Support network… family and friends

It’s important to have a network of support around you. People that can help you when times are tough. Not just medical support As in doctor or psychiatrist but close friends and family.

Family and a small group of close friends who know about your disorder sometimes pick up on a change in your mood before you realise yourself.

My colleagues at work also know about my condition, as let’s face it, we spend a lot of time at work therefore they pull me up if they notice any changes in me.

The quicker a change in mood is noticed, the quicker you can medicated yourself to ward off an episode.

Is Bipolar Hereditary or Bad Lifestyle Choices

There is no signs of any form of mental illness going back through either side of my family. Plus I think the jury is still out within the medical industry as to why some of us get the disorder and others don’t.

My personal opinion is that if you perhaps are susceptible to it, and a trigger in your life sets it’s off, then unfortunately that’s all it takes to bring the disorder to the forefront.

Similar to an alcoholic, if you have an addictive personality and continue to drink heavily then our actions and lifestyle factors must be taken into consideration.

I will be completely honest here and say in my early 20’s, before mental illness reared it’s ugly head, I used to smoke marijuana. I honestly believe that was to my detriment and played havoc with my mental health. Apparently marijuana has a very negative effect on women more so than men. I know people out there will say otherwise, but my poor choices back then I am sure did not help in causing me my mental health issues, particularly with several bouts of psychosis which I have had.

Heavy weekend drinking with friends also wouldn’t have helped my situation, binge drinking basically but you can’t change your past…. but move positively forward with the future.

Depression and the jumbled thought processes

When you are suffering severe depression regardless of what form of mental illness you have, the fact remains it is so hard to describe your thoughts to anyone. Unfortunately now that I am well I can now clearly remember every negative thought and frustration I felt when severely depressed. Here is some examples:

Waking up in the morning was a nightmare. You don’t feel like getting out of bed and struggle with thoughts of how the hell you are going to get through the day.

Showering – it’s sounds simple right? Think again…. we all have our routine eg. Wash your face, shampoo, condition….well when you have the shrouded fog of depression these simple stages of what to do, what order to do them in is a nightmare. I used to stand under the shower nozzle and be completely unsure of what to do. Half the time it was easier not to even shower at all. I would go for several days without bothering, until I forced myself to do it.

Eating – another easy task, make something and eat it yer. Not so easy when depressed. No appetite, no idea how to cook anything, the simplest of meals was all too hard. My mum used to force feed me grated apple just to get something in my system.

Reading – well that was just absolutely impossible. It felt like your brain was full, no more room for any information. Concentration level was below zero.

Watching television – I would lie in front of tv all day, unable to take anything in, just staring into the void…..

Sleeping – this was the only thing I was good at, I loved to sleep, it seemed to be the only thing that would soothe my weary mind.

Hijacked from Hospital

I can look back and laugh about this story but it wasn’t funny at the time. I was hospitalised for the last time in Sydney about 13 years ago now. Whilst there my mum and sister flew down from Queensland packed up my house, literally threw me in the back of my car after being released from a 2 week stay in hospital, and we drove to Queensland. I had no choice in the matter, was still high as a kite and didn’t really care at the time. It was all for the best in the long run. I just wasn’t coping living alone in Sydney.

My stint in hospital came about when I spiralled out of control yet again after going into an extremely high phase which then reached the ever so scary psychotic episode.

I still wasn’t diagnosed at this point with bipolar, that actually took 15 years! Every hospital stay they just said, oh you have had another “nervous breakdown” or termed as”schizophrenia form of psychosis”. Did anyone explain that to me…..no…..did anyone explain to me that I had “depression” which I had for 12 months after the psychosis….no no no. You can imagine my frustration dealing with these debilitating illnesses and the fact that no medical staff sat me down at any point and explained anything. I struggled on all alone, but with plenty of support from my family, who were also in the dark.

Thank goodness there seems to be a lot more awareness about different forms of mental illness and people are diagnosed a lot quicker and therefore medicated correctly today.

I guess this is where those of us who decide to publish our own stories help not only ourselves but those around us. The more informed the general public are, the less stigma there is for mental illness as a whole, so congrats to all you bloggers out there who are voicing your illness and informing the world!

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