New Buzzfeed article- 6 Things I Wish I’d Heard as a Bipolar Teenager

Bipolar isn’t the whole story of my life and definitely not my teens, where I started to become ill but was mostly unable to cope under the psychic pressure that teenagehood is, a stew of hormones, trauma, the Manic Street Preachers and very shitty make up.  It was a pretty lonely, pretty frightening time, pretty silly time for me at points. So I wrote an article for Buzzfeed on things I wish someone had said to me as a teenage mentalist. You can read it here.

Spoiler- it doesn’t end with me shiny haired and recovered, because that’s never how it ends.

Give Us Your Body, We’ll Give Your Mind

I wish I could go back time and never have taken psychiatric medication. I’m not even sure how much I credit it with my stability. There are definitely times that it was helpful, but did I need to take it always, forever?

When I was prescribed carbamazepine when I was 16, nobody told me why, or what it would do, or what side effects it did. I was so drunk and dizzy on them, so sleepy, I’d fall over. I was 16 and my life should not have been like that and if it had to be I should have been told why. You take them because an adult told you to and your life was falling apart and you were scaring everybody with how you were behaving.

When I was 17 I was prescribed olanzapine and again nobody told me why or what side effects it had. I gained a frightening amount of weight in such a short space of time that I stopped recognising myself, I felt like my body was being inhabited by an alien.

I’ve been on antipsychotics my entire adult life so far. I never got to know who I was without them, except for the periods I’d stop taking them to see how I felt, and naturally I got ill (ill or withdrawal? I still don’t know). It’s not as easy as just going, “I’m not taking them”- you get labelled, “non-compliant”, “difficult”, and when you’re trying to live your life, rocking the boat is scary.

Now I’m 30 and I’ve been off them for about 6 months. I had tried many times to, and I was okay to stay on them postnatally as I could see how they’d help (even if it meant I could do no night feeds, and miss out on that special, defining parental experience).  I came off them, finally, when I had to go back to work and realised I couldn’t take them and parent, and work, and that I’d had enough of weight gain. It wasn’t as hard as it had been before because I was in a good space mentally, I’d titrated down, and used antihistamines to take the edge off.

I’ve only lost 7lbs since being off but it is the first time in years the scales have gone down.  I am almost 5 stone overweight and the only time I’ve been slim in my adulthood was when I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t a slim teenager either but I wasn’t fat, and I wasn’t the antipsychotic fat I am now, with a bloated face and huge tummy.

Doctors have never taken me seriously about this. Despite gaining 3 stone in 3 months on a dose increase.  Nobody was ever honest about this with me, about side effects in general. I was always made to feel it was my fault, that I was just stuffing my face, when I wasn’t. Always told to do more exercise when my medication made me so tired that I could barely get up in the morning, and when I said that I was told to go to bed at 6pm.  Whenever diabetes was mentioned, it was always with an apologetic shrug. Despite the fact that due to my medication I was supposed to get annual health checks and blood sugar tests, I only got one- my first one- last week.

Now the inevitable has happened, what I’d hoped to escape by getting off them, but I haven’t. I have prediabetes and now I have a fuckload of work to do to try and undo this, to avoid diabetes, if I can at all, I don’t even know.  I need to, what choice do I have? I am already on my knees with exhaustion, I commute 3 hours a day, I work full time, I have a baby, I am trying to manage my mental health without medication and it is hard.  But I am not going back on it ever. I am petrified of getting diabetes, of anything that will shorten my lifespan. I’ve always known the 20 years younger statistic,  I’ve quit smoking, my cholesterol and blood pressure is perfect at least.

I’m not blaming the medication entirely, but I wouldn’t have gotten to this weight without it, and I have no idea what it’s done to my body. And I’m scared and worried, and wondering- was it worth it?

One

I have a one year old. How the hell did that happen?

Happy first birthday to Sunny Boo, little Bean, beautiful Oisín. It is a singular joy being your mum and watching you grow from a mini Bean to a human Bean. At one, you still love the cats, you love music and dancing, shaking your head and jumping up and down on your bum, bibbling, pretending to have a tantrum then laughing, Chu and Where’s The Cat (‘at!), the light of the moon and little eggs laying on leaves, hurling yourself onto teddies, talking to the bookshelf, cleaning your high chair tray with a cloth, watching other people, being carried up the stairs by your dad still makes you dance with happiness every night. You still love your little baby gym- you couldn’t even reach the dangly toys when we got it and now you can lift the whole thing up to tip over, and those toys are well chewed. You love the feel of the wind in your hair. You love being sang to, sometimes when I sing to you at bedtime you flip out so much I have to stop. You are hilarious and make me laugh more than anyone else. You push books to us to read and flick back to your favourite pages. When you have night terrors I feel like I’m walking an ancient path, responsible for such a small life beginning to make sense of their world, a sovereign being in your own right, but being carried around by your daddy and a cat always makes it better. You have weird taste in food and love anything strong, you turn your nose up at mild cheddar and yomp down the vintage stuff, smoked salmon and celery. You make the most amazing noises (the cats have their own special ones) and sometimes wake up in the night to babble with slightly unnerving clarity. You’re the most sociable and sweet baby I’ve ever met, you share your happiness with everyone around you, looking into our faces with a grin. You have the best selection of smiles, the softest skin and the longest eyelashes. Having you has made me reevaluate what’s important, made me kinder, happier, given me the closest thing to the answer of what the universe means that I think I’ll ever get. You’re the best and we love you. And thanks to everyone who’s been through this year with us, helped, hung out, given advice, made him giggle.

Oh, and happy 8th birthday to the cats too!

One year ago today:

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Now:

7 Things I Learned as the Child of an Alcoholic- My Buzzfeed article

Hello you lovely lot. I wrote a Buzzfeed article about my dad- 7 Things I Learned As The Child of an Alcoholic. 

Do check it out and tell me what you think. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know my dad’s story.  Hopefully it helps someone out there. There’s a lot of us kids of alcoholics lurking around.

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Discharged from perinatal psychiatry

So much I want to write about! I’m still gathering my thoughts on Bowie but I posted this on Facebook on the day he died (he died?) and it sped around Twitter. It was quite reassuring to know lots of people felt the same way.

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For now, here’s a quick update from MentalLand.

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I was discharged from the perinatal psychiatry team on Monday. Hooray! I got a, “well done on not getting psychosis” talk from the psychiatrist and a “haha but no really” aside that I’d be referred back in any future pregnancies.

But it’s good, it feels like validation that I can mum it alone, like a normal person. The question of whether any of us actually should be doing it alone is another matter.

I didn’t really mention the anxiety stuff to her because I can’t see what they can do to help. There are some times when I’m leaving for work and freeze outside the gate and am hit by the sense that something awful is going to happen. So strong, so vivid and real it is that it feels like a premonition. But I have to just carry on and try not to become too paralyzed by it. I really do, it can’t be drugged or talked away, it just is and that’s that.

I did just want to be left alone by now, too. Life hums by, mentalism is there in the background and it flows and recedes, occasionally tsunamis, and it is what it is. Recently I started fraying a little due to basically not sleeping for a fortnight. Thankfully (what odd thankfuls we have), I got floored by a cold and it gave me the excuse I needed to lie in bed for a few days and sleep.

So now, it’s basically try to stay well for the rest of my life.

Blog series: Bipolar pregnancy, birth and beyond

So, at the moment, there’s a storyline on Eastenders where Stacey Slater, who has bipolar disorder, develops postnatal psychosis after the birth of her child.

You might have found this blog searching for bipolar disorder and pregnancy. Or you may be watching Eastenders and feeling quietly terrified. Or relieved. Or confused. Or even disgusted.

From finding out I was pregnant, to having my babe, I’ve been blogging about what my experiences of having bipolar disorder and being pregnant and under psychiatric care have been like, including the good stuff, the shit stuff, the triumphant stuff and the angry-making stuff. And on how my having a mental illness has also not defined my pregnancy, or my parenting, as much as I feared it would. I’ve collected those posts as a series, which you can read here.

The Beginning: Pregnant, Mental and Fat

My Big Fat Bipolar Pregnancy: featuring the perinatal team, the birth plan and the Fear

My Birth Story, Why Birth Plans are Bullshit and the Stigma of Mentalist Mums

Musings on Mumhood: Feminism, Love and Grief

Therapy Tales Part 1– when I started therapy for death and postnatal anxiety

Therapy Tales Part 2 and 3

Therapy Tales Part 4: Trauma

My Body Has a Trigger Warning: Self harm and stigma

Stopping psychiatric medication after 16 years: My Drink and Drugs Heck

The Beauty of Babyhood

And if you don’t have time to read, here’s my video which talks about how my diagnosis shaped my care:

But if you’re already in the trenches of depression or more and want some support and real life stories, then you can check out PNDandMe on Twitter.

Hope this helps someone.

The Beauty of Babyhood

Last Import - 141The baby stage is passing with incredible swiftness. Here are some things I love (shared here and not just privately, who knows):

His big grin when Robert picks him up. Even if he’s crying and feeling crap, he grins when Robert picks him up. Every night, Robert takes him up the stairs to bed and Oisín grins his head off up every step. I stand at the bottom and watch while he does this 😀 I follow slightly behind to watch his grin at a rackish angle, his fluffy fringe.

His cat noise. He sees them every day and is never bored. He gets night terrors and sometimes wakes up crying and completely blank. You just hold him, unrecognising, but then a cat pushes their way in (and they always do when he’s upset) and slowly he comes back to himself and starts giggling through his tears. He has a special sound for them, and a silly, exaggerated crawl, and Girl Cat is especially patient with him.

His total unbridled love. He just loves seeing us and I know it’s not forever. I know it’s uncomplicated by anything. Robert often lets me lie in, because he’s not only a total dote, but a wonderful dad who understands I need a bit of sleep more than most. And when I clamber downstairs, Robert says, “Here’s mummy!” and Oisín’s face lights up with a huge smile, he starts jumping and flapping and wriggling and crawls towards me. Recognition! Of the best parts of you. The loving, warm, uncynical parts of you. There you are. I thought I had lost you (I thought I had lost you). When we’re together, he looks from each of us with total wonderment and reaches his little hand out to our faces and strokes. Waking up at 6am can be shit when you have to go to work, but he’s so happy it’s hard to be too annoyed.

His massive gummy kisses. He swishes his head from side to side when he wants to kiss you, but when you say, “Kiss?”, he opens his big drooly mouth and tries to kiss you. They’re so clumsy and cute.

The way he falls asleep when I sing to him. I stopped singing for years and I’m not even sure why, when I love to sing. Since he’s been born, I’ve been regaining my voice, singing to adverts, to the radio, and to him. Tonight I sang a mix of songs while he groped for my hand, found it, and fell asleep.

The night wakings. He bought us to our knees when he woke up every half an hour. But as long as I get a bit of a lie in (which won’t happen when I’m full time), I like doing the 4am feeds. I volunteer for them. I miss him, he misses us. I’d rather he didn’t wake up (for everyone), but that hour, those hours. Love, love, love. Crawling, silliness, half asleep, a bubble. Quiet, quiet world, and here we are.-

(But you do odd things when half asleep)
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The babble. I can’t wait for them to becomes words, but his babble is adorable. It’s taking form, and tone. We can tell when he’s having a go at us, or when he’s happy, or curious, or being silly.

Trying to make us laugh. When he’d had enough of dinner earlier, I shook his highchair and pretended it was an earthquake, which he laughed his head off at. After that, he started rocking his chair back and forth and hooting, turning to me and giggling, waiting for me to laugh back.

The tininess. Tiny hands, tiny nose, tiny feet, fluff head. All of which I call him. His tiny hands in your big hand. His oversized lashes on tiny eyelids, heavy and lush.

I love his anticipation before Robert blows on his belly. Hands poised, big grin, giggle already forming in his throat, then a big guffaw.

I love his open trustingness (and it also makes me sad that won’t be forever). He has a bit of separation anxiety, but he loves, adores, people. Studies their faces, coos, giggles, chases, babbles. He loves to make friends. When we’re on a bus, he’s either patient and watching out the window, or cooing his head off at a nearby person, smiling.

And I love his reaction to his teddies. He hasn’t got a firm favourite, he cuddles them all. If we hold one out to him (too paranoid about SIDS to put one in his cot), he hoots and giggles and reaches out then bear hugs them. For some, he will run at them and then wrestle them in a cuddle while laughing.

Although it can be boring, I love that he has his favourite books. They always chill him out. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chu’s Day and Where’s The Cat? are his best ones. He pushes you to read them. Kneels and looks at your face for reactions and laughs. Sits with his downy head against your cheek and hums. Hands turning a piece of hoodie string. Eyes looking. Cupid mouth, and hum. Softness.

I love his good mood even when he’s sick. We’ve both been sick but for Oisín it’s been snuffly, coughing business as usual while I bitch and moan. He’s an example to me.

The privilege of watching someone grow from scratch. And scratch isn’t blank. I recognise aspects of his personality I saw at days old. Straight from the packet. In every aspect, in every way. It is amazing. I know some people find it boring, and I understand that, but to me it’s fascinating. To see a person- a person!- become, be, like, dislike, love, unlove, is amazing. It feels like an honour to be witness to it with someone you love so much, to guide them.

I love that he helps me rediscover things about the world and myself. I was a nature baby, an animal child until I was bitten. I look at the hearts of leaves and the sky again and share in the wonder. Find books and words and songs. And feelings. Stripping off the skin feelings that are often unbearable and a barrel wetness of emotion and anxiety that can be hard to cope with- separation, forever, whenever? It’s terrifying. But my darling.

And a depth of love for Robert I never imagined. Watching someone you know and love know and love, tenderness, endless gentleness, playfulness, humbleness. Love, love, love, everywhere. My love.

And there are more. Many. Much. How can I love someone so completely, utterly, totally? My babe.

 

(Love, love, my season)

 

 

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