23 February 2007

Perfect - more or less.

The other day, when talking to a friend, I mentioned a couple of arguments Partner and I had recently.

She looked really concerned. "Is this a recent thing?" she asked.

"Hell no! We fight all the time."

"Really? But you seem so perfect for each other!"

"We are perfect for each other. That doesn't mean we don't fight."

I always wanted to find the person who was so perfect for me that we wouldn't fight. I thought if I found the right person, found a relationship with mutual understanding and open, honest communication, that I'd never fight with my partner again.
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Ok, you can stop laughing now.
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When Partner and I had our first arguments, I nearly hyperventilated with fear and anxiety. We'd been with each other for a few months by then, and were already planning a life together. I became so worried that the arguments were a sign that our relationship wasn't what I thought it was, that it would degenerate into the same old crap I'd gone through with other boyfriends.

But it didn't. And I've come to realise that finding the right person doesn't mean you stop fighting about the silly, petty little things of everyday life. We grumble. We scream. But then, and this is the important bit, we talk. We talk properly, like mature people. And we sort things out. Everything gets resolved. This doesn't always happen straight away - occasionally we do the rounds two, maybe three times before we really nut the issue out. But everything, eventually, is resolved, and there are no lingering resentments.

I always thought fighting was a sign that things weren't right. And it's true that at times, neither of us fight fair. We both have issues, we both get defensive, we both say hurtful things. We're both trying to minimise that. But we agree on all the really big, fundamental things, and we generally have very good communication. So when a small issue flares up into something, we can always talk it through to the point where we understand each other and find a solution.

This is what I really wanted.

17 February 2007

Grrrr

Why, why did I fuck around with the template? I swear it said something about saving the old one if you want to go back. Wrong! Now I've lost all my old buttons, and I can't make head or tail of the new template.

Not being a computer geek, I was so proud of setting up a blog, and working out how to use HTML and put links in and stuff. Now I feel like I'm a newbie again.

Blogger promised the new system would be easier. Easier my arse.

I think the changes blogger's made to the template look silly. But on the other hand, do you like the purple? I do.

16 February 2007

fucken blogger

I think the new blogger is going to be enforced on me, whether I like it or not.
Today when signing in, it sent me to a 'switch to new blogger' page. There was a small 'click to enter your old account' button, underneath which it said 'you can only do this once'. I guess that means next time I post, I HAVE to move! Fuck you, blogger. I hate being forced into shit.

Now. Where was I?

Ah, bugger it. I've been derailed.

I fell asleep early this evening, had a really vivid dream and woke up in the middle of the night with no desire to go back to sleep. But after an hour of pissing around on the computer, I don't have the energy to write.

Fingers crossed that the transition to new blogger goes well.

11 February 2007

Just one more thing while I'm on the subject

A State Government report (I hope that link stays viable) "says the mental health system is failing 800 mentally-ill South Australians." It outlines 41 recommendations including "a plan to cut acute care beds to fund early intervention programs."

These people are fuckers.

If there are 800 people already being failed by by the system, they are already ill. Early intervention will not help them. The people helped by early intervention are the people becoming ill now, and the people that will become ill in the future.

Taking acute care beds away from a system that is already struggling KILLS PEOPLE.

I knew a girl who died while waiting for an acute care bed.

I knew a guy who spent three days sitting on a chair in the waiting room of an emergency department - and only got a bed when he attempted to commit suicide in front of the desk.

I knew a guy who was released from hospital after several hours due to lack of beds and proceeded to kill himself that night.

I once rang the Acute Crisis Intervention Service, trying to get admitted to hospital because every time I left the house I had an overwhelming urge to throw myself in front of the traffic, and it frightened the shit out of me.

Their answer? "There are no beds. Just don't leave the house."

The mental health system needs more money - not just a money shuffle.

10 February 2007

More on that

Since blogger ate my responses to the comments in my last post, I thought I'd address a few here, since the more I think about it, the more there is to say.

A common theme was that I was 'brave' for posting it, and that it couldn't have been easy. Well, that's true. I have wondered ever since I started blogging whether to write about it or not.

After I was diagnosed, I pretty much told everyone. Of course, it got around my group of friends pretty quickly that I was in hospital. But I spoke far more widely about it than that. I told people who really didn't need to know.

I always thought that the fear and stigma of mental illness is one of the biggest crosses to bear, and I wanted to lighten the load. And I found it lightened the load for others too. I would tell people at parties (where it's often not done to talk about these things). And then one or two people would confess that they had a mental illness, and a few more would say their partner/mother/friend/boss has one. And then a discussion would ensue about things people had kept hidden away through fear of what others would think.

I get a real kick out of helping people with their problems. Not only have I told people with bipolar things they never knew - I've also helped so many relatives and friends understand why the person they loves is acting the way they do. Being able to spread understanding and therefore compassion is a true gift. And I give it because when I was sick, someone with bipolar helped me come to terms with what had happened, and someone else with bipolar explained a lot of stuff to my dad which helped him understand me.

But for some reason, a couple of years ago I got sick of telling people. I got sick of wading through the judgements and ignorance. I got sick of being an ambassador for people with my illness. I just wanted to be normal (whatever that is). And people do think differently about you when you have a mental illness.

Here's a small example. While travelling a few years ago, I wound up in Nimbin. For those of you who don't know, Nimbin is famous for its marijuana culture. I was sitting at a long table with about 20 people smoking grass. I had told one person about my illness. When I started looking a bit glassy-eyed and nodding off, he asked me "Did you take too much medication today?" Now, bear in mind we were in Nimbin, for God's sake. We were all smoking - a lot. If anyone else had nodded off, people would have assumed they had smoked too much pot (which is, actually, what others thought had happened to me - and what had, in fact, happened). Assuming under those circumstances that I had an issue with my medication was a judgement, and evidence that he saw me differently from those other people. He was trying to show that he had at least a nominal understanding of the issues I face, but ultimately just proved that he saw me through the filter of my illness.

That situation was not a big deal. But imagine what happens when you go for a job interview and on the form it asks you if you have any illnesses. Imagine that you have gone to the Housing Trust to apply for a house, only to be told that you will have to provide references from your previous neighbours to prove that you won't be a disturbance in the street (this actually happened to me). Eventually you get mighty sick of it.

To be honest, the main reason I hadn't posted about it was because it would be an obvious marker if anyone I knew ever found the blog. What I'd already written would probably be enough to identify me, but reading about that would clinch it. But now I'm not quite so worried about anyone finding it.

The real reason I finally posted it is because of what other people had written. Just as I had given courage to others to be open, so other gave me courage. Confused Husband has been incredibly honest about his journey of self-discovery. Artful Dodger wrote about a terrible event in his childhood which he has drawn something positive out of. People like this have made me ready to tell my story - which again, helps others to tell theirs.

I feel that now I've mentioned it, I've opened the floodgates. There is so much more that I have to say. But as this post is already long, I'll save it for later.

But if you have anything to say about your own experiences with mental illness, or those of people you know, I'd love to hear it. And if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

3 February 2007

On to more serious matters

You Are 100% Bipolar

You have some serious ups and downs, maybe to the point of endangering your own life.
Consult a doctor to see if you may truly have bipolar disorder.






Five years ago I was hospitalised and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I believe I have had the illness since childhood, but bipolar is notoriously difficult to diagnose in children. I had my first episode of severe depression when I was nine. I first noticed symptoms of hypomania when I was thirteen, but at the time, although I guessed something was not normal, I didn't know what it was. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I was mis-diagnosed with depression, and subsequently wrongly medicated, which actually made the condition worse. This is a common story with bipolar. After all, when we are depressed we know something is wrong. But who goes to the doctor because they feel great? And hypomania does feel great. It's only when it slips over the line to mania that it becomes frightening and life-threatening.

To be honest, right now I can't be arsed explaining the illness. If you want to know more about its symptoms and effects on quality of life (and life-expectancy) here is a comprehensive page with good information and good links, and here is a brief overview.

Reading this information makes me feel quite hopeless. My prognosis is not good.

When I was diagnosed, I felt my life was ruined. I'd lost my job, my home, my friends, my partner, my education and my reason for living and all due to the illness. But none of these things would have ruined my life. You can always get new friends, another house, another job. What made me feel ruined was that I couldn't trust my own brain anymore. The illness both impaired my cognitive abilities and and made me behave in abhorrant ways. (I might write further posts on this, because really, hearing the direct experiences from the horse's mouth give people an understanding of the realities of living with bipolar that you simply can't get from a dispassionate account of symptomology.)

I'd wound up in hospital because I had severe mania, with delusions which were bordering on psychosis. (There is a joke that schizophrenics think they have a direct line to God, but bipolars think they are God.) And when I come out of that, and was properly medicated, I realised that my mind had betrayed me. I'd thought a lot of things were true which were in fact products of a diseased brain. And of all the things I have, the one thing that is truely mine and I could truely trust is my mind. We all like to think that we can evaluate facts and situations and come to accurate conclusions. But what if those conclusions turn out to be wrong? If you can't trust your own mind, what can you trust?

I began to wonder if everything I'd ever thought was wrong. I spent years after that learning as much as I could about the illness, and monitoring my own thoughts and behaviours until finally the day came when I could trust my own thoughts, and recognise when they were faulty.

I thought bipolar was a curse. As I said, my prognosis is not good. I'm likely to die young. I have to accept that my relationship has only a 10% chance of lasting that lifetime. I have to accept the years of lost productivity, and bad health. I have learned to have flexible plans and deadlines because I never know when I will be well.

But I have come to regard this illness as a blessing in disguise. Because of it, I have highs higher than most of you will ever know. I have periods of greatly increased energy, productivity, creativity and sociability. But more than that, I've learned to treasure my mind. I've learned that my mind is an organic product, and that my thoughts don't define who I am. I have learned to analyse and scrutinise my thoughts and behaviours, and as a result I know myself better than I possibly could have otherwise.



In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves

1 February 2007

wet

As I mentioned before, the wet season started only about five days before we left to go south.

The wet season! Urgh. It was all mangoes and frangipanis then. Now it's all mould, a house full of it, and coral vine covering the verandah, forcing the windows open and filling up half the bathroom. I think if we'd stayed away another six weeks the house would have disintegrated completely!

It has been raining non-stop for three days and nights now. A few minutes ago Partner asked me when we should start work on that Ark.