Friday, 15 August 2014

Resurfacing

The suspense must be killing you! Unlikely, but after my post about struggling again with depression and increasing my dose of medication I haven't updated on how it is going. And it seems as if there has been too much happening both in the mundane of my daily life and in the massive of world events, to make space for my situation.

But busy with mundane is actually a good sign. The new dose has made a huge difference. After two weeks I was waking up looking forward to the day and with energy to actually do it. I feel like I am no longer bumping along the bottom but have resurfaced and can see the world in colour again. That first glimpse is such joy cause I forget that it really is so good, life and living and being. And so for about two weeks life felt just so awesome! I was revelling in being myself again. The real me that is often muffled and numb and so tired by it all.

But now the thrill has worn off a bit. Cause it does. Sometimes it wears off so much that it doesn't last and I start sinking. But I don't think that is what is happening. I think it is just the reality that a pill is not the whole fix. I have to keep take responsibility for the thoughts in my head. And the medication has definitely helped create a pause between a thought and my reality. It is like each thought or at least the negative and deceptive and damaging ones, has to pass through a toll booth, or a traffic light, and I can stop and ask "Is that true?" And then I can choose to replace it with something that is more real and productive. Hear is an example from my A rotation of untrue thinking.

"I cannot cope with this" (This is common at about 7:30am when feeling still tired, I am navigating the feeding, clothing and general chaos of the morning with the whole day ahead of me)

Stop light on.

"Mmm. I am coping with this. This is a normal morning with kids.  I have made Ella's lunch and I know what we will have for dinner. I am tired from being woken in the night. That is understandable. I need to eat my breakfast and have a shower. Turn on Peppa Pig so you can do that. Get dressed. Leave the mess till later." (I can remind myself of what is going well and make a plan of what to do next. I can be kind to myself)

I have such a huge collection of A Rotation lies and negative thoughts. And I also know how to address them and replace them. But without that pause, I am at their mercy and I am drowned by them.

So now that I am feeling better there is a risk that I will take the pause for granted, rely on those two little pills to keep me going, and carry on in my perfectionist patterns. But I know what eventually will happen. My energy will run down, my stress and anxiety will increase and eventually the pause will disappear again.

To maintain the pause, and the self-awareness and peace that comes with that, I actually have to do some tough stuff. It is tough because I have to have some self-discipline and some ways of doing life to keep me well. Any time I try to do that I can end up turning them into rules to beat myself with and instead of freeing me, they become a way to judge myself. So it is no small thing.

I have always been in awe of people who just decide that they are going to take up running. They decide they will run three times a week. And they do. Or sometime they don't. And their sense of self and self worth is not affected by their running status. Amazing!

For me remaining well includes getting good sleep, boundaries with my phone and being on facebook, doing exercise and eating regularly with no sugar added. Spending time alone but also with friends and spending time in prayer and reading my Bible. These are not things I should do, they are necessary for me to be ok. When I neglect these things I feel worse.

And honestly out of that whole list, I am doing none of them. Well probably sleeping pretty well, except for when little people need tending to. So it is a bit of a list and quite a bit of change to make. But it needs to happen because I do not want to go down again. And I am really to accept that I have limits and need to take care of myself.


Friday, 1 August 2014

Believing I can write

I was very flattered a few weeks ago when I was asked to write a piece for the Kiwi Families website. I have wanted to do more writing for a long time but have struggled with self confidence and time to actually do it. I have had so much positive feedback from people about my blog and my writing and I also love doing it. But it always falls the bottom of the list and there never seems to be enough space for it.

But writing this piece has made me really think about the fact that if I love this so much then I actually have to make space in my life for it. There are always reasons not to do something. I can think of a list a mile long. But even before and chaos and craziness of have kids, I still didn't make the time.

I read a lot of blogs. Mummy bloggers I guess. But many of these Mums who write see themselves as "writers". Their writing is not a hobby. It is there vocation. They aim to make a difference in the world through their words. I see their lives through the filter of what they choose to reveal and it is easy to idolise or assume they inhabit some alternate universe where the normal limits and obstacles do not apply. But these writing women also tend to be pretty vulnerable and honest and you can also see that writing for them is a choice and a discipline. A sacrifice of other things to make space for their hearts and passion for writing. And it is a battle to overcome self doubt and pride and ego to write things worthy of the pixels and paper they take up. You cannot deny the practical realities of life, such as the fact that I have to work, that I still have one preschooler who I need and want to spend quality time with. But there are no rules of how often or how much. There are no strict deadlines or goals to achieve. I just need to make space to do what I love.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Bumping along the bottom

I am sure you have heard the phrase "a bottom feeder". It is a metaphor for someone who feeds off the lowest and seediest parts of life. I am not that. But I am recognising that it is possible to be stuck at the bottom in life. Imagine a bottom feeding fish, swimming around in the almost dark and murky waters. All this fish sees is the mud a few centimeters in front of it's face. It is oblivious to the amazing wonders just a few metres above, where the sun's light reveals more and encourages life to thrive and grow.

In this sense I have been a bottom feeder. And the worst thing about it is you don't really know you are. You actually start to believe that all there is is mud. You lose faith that there could be anything else. Mud becomes normal.

For the last 6 months I have been on a new medication.  It is an SNRI and works to make my brain more sensitive to both seratonin and noradrenaline.   Gradually I have been increasing my dose, with the support of my very caring doctor. I didn't want to be on more medication than I needed. This new medication goes up in very small increments but the maximum dose is very high in pure grams than my previous medication. But what I am learning is you cannot compare dosages between medications. It would be like comparing 500g of beef mince with 500g of ground black pepper.  One is a good family meal, the other could be used as a form of torture.  Anyway, after multiple increases between January and March, I was feeling better.

I wasn't in that horrible blackness and having the awful self hatred or thoughts of self harm, ( the shame of sharing that I struggle with that level of depression and those thoughts is so huge). And since it had been that bad, things seemed so much better. Unfortunately with this type of medication, a positive response to an increased dose just confirms it was necessary.  But if the dosage is still inadequate, the positive side effects will gradually wear off. Slowly the water gets murkier and you sink millimeter by millimeter down into the mud.

I would think to myself as I woke up with dread in the morning, that is was just tired. As I became more and more overwhelmed I told myself that my kids weren't sleeping well and my hours at work had changed. It was understandable. And then I started thinking it was probably my fault. That right there is the powerful deception of depression. The mud and murkiness is my fault. If I just exercised more, or was stronger or calmer or like those mums over there...until I forgot that maybe it was just that my brain was broken. And not my fault at all.

I am so grateful for more objective measures of my mental wellbeing such as the Edinburgh scale. I can go it online and it gives me an indication of whether I am ok. If I am aware enough I can catch a slide downhill before it gets to crisis point. And this time I did. And two weeks after another dosage increase , the sun is out and I am swimming to the surface again. I ask myself "why did I let myself suffer for so long?" The sad answer is that if you are used to suffering from the very lonely pain of depression it is easy to put up with things being not ok for a very long time before thinking "I deserve better and I remember the light".

So now I am hoping and praying that if this increase is not enough, that I will realise and not drift down to the bottom again.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Everything is awful

I have very strong feelings. I also tend to have all or nothing thought patterns and add to that a sense that i am responsible for the well being and success of humanity, i am rather vulnerable to thinking "everything is awful and it's all my fault".

If you know anything about the Myers Briggs personality types, based on the work of Carl Jung, I am an ENFJ. So I am all about how I feel and this can be a problem.  It can be hard to know if the way I feel is because of certain circumstances or whether my feelings are actually driving my perception of my circumstances.  Probably both are happening in a kind of self-fulfilling feedback loop. Whether the feedback loop is positive or negative depends on all sorts of factors.

Here is a list of contributions to the mix organised into loose categories. These are the negative influences on how I feel about life snd myself. If I can tick too many on the list then it will only be s matter of time before everything feels awful.

Physical
- poor or interrupted sleep
- hormones (I can guarantee a bad week due to pmt
- missing meals, too much junk or sugar.
- lack of fresh air, sunshine and exercise.
- having any illness or pain.

Environment
- mess or lack of visual order
- jobs around the house that need doing
- no connection with nature
- a negative vibe such as conflict or anger

Parenting
- feeling that I am not 'coping'. This usually means I am struggling to meet the practical demands and expectations I have of myself as a mum.
- tough stage of development for kids such as needing lots of supervision or hitting etc. Or clingy so lots of crying and high needs.

Relationships
- lack of quality time and connection with hubby
- conflict or hurt in friendships
- not keeping healthy boundaries with others.

Activities
- social, either not enough or stressful
- stress at work
- over committed and dont have enough time to do it all.
- lack of selfcare such as brushing teeth before bed
- not making time to read, pray, write.

Medication
- did I take my antidepressant and is the current dose and type working?

Random stuff
- bad traffic
-running late
- unforseen happenings ...

All the above and any combination can trigger negative thought patterns which then turn into...

"Everything is awful
I am awful."

And the feeling of that becomes my reality. The darkness comes down and if I am not careful, it can overwhelm me.

Last night I found myself seriously thinking about going back to work full time, despite knowing only 24 hours earlier that not only was that unwise, it was not what I truly wanted.

But that's the problem with extreme thinking and big feelings. You get lost so fast.

After a good talk with hubby and the process of recognising what contributed to it, I seem to be seeing things more clearly. I am able to take some steps back and start to question the thoughts that lead me down that dark hole. But that's a whole other post...

I guess I am realising that if I dont learn to see the signs that I am not ok then I am at the mercy of this horrible roller-coaster.  It has already had such a devastating impact on me and if I let the feelings keep dragging me down it threatens to keep me down and I might not know how to get up again. They are feelings, not facts. They are based in fact but if I give them too much power they can stop me from actually being ablevto function.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

I miss this

So I gave up... including writing. Not that it has been a regular thing for the last year or so but almost every, single day I think about something I want to write. But I don't. Cause I don't want my thoughts to be for the purpose of publishing first and me later.

I am a natural teacher. Before a revelation about life has even revealed itself to me I am already thinking about how I could share this new found clarity. There is a large amount of ego in there I think. Something to do with proving that I am somehow wise about this world and how to live in it. But there is also this inbuilt reflex in me to be a teacher or guide. Not someone ahead showing the way but maybe someone who doesn't mind being honest about their own journey so that you can know you are not alone. Or so that you can see things in a new or different way. Or receive some sort of comfort or hope or something.

But as part of my "Year of No", as 2014 has been affectionately dubbed, this has included a no to writing this blog. I wanted to check in on the motivations and just what I wanted to achieve. I also wrestle with the vulnerability of how honest I want to be and also the privacy and respect I want to give my husband and family. I am not a secret keeper. I am probably an oversharer. So I am still working out how I can be authentic and real here but also guard myself. I am not an island and the ripples from what I write have surprised me at times.

But I miss this.
I miss writing my thoughts and journaling just doesn't seem to do it for me in the same way. I know that out there or here, on the inter-web, thousands, probably millions of people, are blogging about some aspect of their experience here on this planet. And it is easy to say it is not worth the pixels it is written in. But by what are we measuring its worth? The example of the continual popularity of cat memes and videos shows that worthiness is not something easily quantified.

So I want to write again. As I feel restless and struggle to keep saying No this year and try to stay strong in the face of my addiction to trying new things that are too much for me to manage, writing here is a little yes that doesn't require too much from me and is something that reminds me that I am more than the daily repetition and sameness I feel right now. It is a little piece of creativity and creation just for me.

Oh and you.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Giving up in 2014

I hate this time of year. The no-man's land between Christmas and New Year. It's not that I specifically hate the days. They are often lovely and full of fun and relaxation and a wonderful "nothing to do" vibe. But it also has that sense of approaching doom for me of another year beginning. Think the soundtrack of Jaws...

It has not always been this way. I am naturally a lover of all things fresh and new and full of possibility. I am a planner by nature and used to love to think about what I would be doing in the coming year. But over the last decade or so I have become jaded and frankly completely afraid of facing the new year as appears on the horizon.

You see, reflecting on the past year and planning for a new one is like cocaine for a perfectionist, planner with unrealistic expectations, such as myself. I guess for an alcoholic the New Years party creates its own share of temptation and risk. And for me, the list of resolutions has grown to become something I run from. This is where the alcoholic analogy falls over completely so please disregard any connection from here on.

Imagine loving to plan but becoming fearful that all a plan becomes is a trap to throw myself into and live in for the rest of the year. If I follow the plan I am "good", if I don't I am a failure. And the plan itself is only based on whatever felt important at the time I wrote it. Oh and it was written by a perfectionist with unrealistic expectations so it was also completely impossible and detailed and really was a set up for failure from the beginning. Add to this not just a plan, but specific goals that deal with specific things I want to do EVERY SINGLE DAY!

So in reaction to the obvious flaws in the above approach, I stopped goal setting, planning or really expecting anything. At least officially. I was and remain a very harsh critic and the expectations, whether written or not, still float around in my head as some kind of yard stick of "living well". Unfortunately this has led to me losing some of the joy I do find in looking forward to the future.

When I was a teenager and couldn't get to sleep I used to daydream until it turned into real dreams and I drifted off. My daydreams would be about actual things I was looking forward to or hopes and dreams I had about the future. I often thought about what my life would be like when I "grew up". This usually meant move out of home, go to Uni, get a job etc. This was the stuff which reminded me while I struggled through the angst of teenage-hood, that there was another age and stage around the corner where I would be able to make more choices, have more freedom and maybe the self confidence to be the someone I was sure I was, hidden under my insecurities and awkwardness.

And I have to say my 20s were a lot like that. My dreams didn't quite come true but I loved the decade as I grew into myself and made so many wonderful friends. I became more comfortable about who I was. But it still was never enough. Each New Year approached and I would try again. Often the same goals rewritten with a twist for 2002 or a focus on something which was becoming more important to me at the time. But every year I looked back and was disappointed in myself. After a while I stopped. Why do something which makes me feel so bad even if at its heart, I wanted to make my life better?

However, it seems this year that there is a change in the air. This week I have felt so exhausted as the weight of how hard the white knuckle ride of the last 6 months has been. I honestly feel that hibernating for 6 months is required for me to ever venture beyond my front door again. And so I find myself thinking that I better make a plan. This time the plan is not to improve myself, well not in the usual sense. I think this plan could be more about avoiding breakdown.

I think I need a plan to work within my capacity, to treat myself as fragile and to recognise that this body I am in and the person I am will actually fall apart both literally and figuratively if I keep living like I am. I am still allergic to the idea of goals and feel the tentacles of perfectionism beginning to tickle my ankles even as I stand paralysed this side of January 1st 2014. This plan will not be about being "better" or "improvement". It will be about weakness and vulnerablity, saying "No, I can't manage to do that". And being able to sit with my imperfection. I say I believe in a God who loves me as I am and has made me in his image. I say I believe that I am forgiven for anything and everything I could ever do or have done that would hurt myself or anyone else. I say I love others because I can see how fearfully and wonderfully we all are and how precious we are. But somehow I seem to think and behave as if none of the above applies to me. And this year I plan to give up. Give up on trying so hard to do things that don't matter and leave me in a pit of self loathing hiding under my duvet.

Hopefully the plan can remain a relief and not a noose around my neck. There is a glimmer of hope here but so many roads that still lead down the path of not-good-enough and unacceptable. I wonder if I can create a new path. I pray I can cause this one is a dead end. Pun intended.

Monday, 7 October 2013

balance is for bikes and I am not a bike

One term into working full time and juggling all the different parts of my life, there is a sort of an auto pilot going on in my head. I feel the need to cram in as many "to dos" into each day and even when I try to stop, my brain keeps on trucking. There have been so massive upsides to working and I do love it. But the downsides are pretty clear too. Hubby and I have spend the last few weeks reflecting on our choice and we are blessed to have the option of reversing our decision and me going back to my two or three days a week in the new year.

Throughout the term I have been confronted with the lack of personal time I have, the poor food choices I make when meals seem to be an extra that I just can't fit into the mix, and the other commitments I have with my local Parents Centre. Add to that the usual no-win guilt trip of not being with my kids during the day and all the household things such a meals, laundry, cleaning and the list goes on. My hubby barely gets a look in and my friends are almost strangers, since I don't get a chance to hang out much anymore. And I still wish I could do more - more work, more volunteering, more fun with the kids, more quality time with hubby, more, more, more...

A friend just sent me a link to a document which allows you to evaluate your quality of life and lists the characteristics of a balanced life. There are lots of other models or lists like this that include the various aspects of life - emotional, spiritual, mental, physical and relational. So there are many ways to cut up the pie. And the inherent view within them all is that if you make thoughtful choices and drop some things and take up others, that you will one day reach the nirvana that is BALANCE.
But you know what? If I look around me, balance is actually not that normal.

If I look for balance and examples of it in the people I know I have to say I don't know many. I definitely admire those people who take care of themselves, avoid over commitment and maintain a positive outlook on life due to making sure their needs are met. But I reject the idea that balance is the key.

If I look for balance in the natural world or in our garden, I don't really see the tidy and balanced world I would expect. For example, we are hoping for a tomato glut as summer takes hold, and we actually want one. We want to be able to have lots for pasta sauce, tomato sauce, salads etc. And if you look at our garden right now, it is pretty barren. Partly due to lack of attention but also because we chose to plant crops over winter which will renew the soil. So they have been dug back in and it is ready for planting. In the world around me I see seasons where sometimes things are busy and productive and to the untrained eye, wildly out of control. And then are other times things die back, they rest, they wait. If the garden got stuck in the productive phase for too long, the soil would become depleted and production would drop. Then a time of feeding and waiting would begin before plants could grow to their potential again.

I am wondering whether that is a reality of life that should be more acceptable and actually means that I feel that I can cope and even thrive during this wild time. I can enjoy the busyness and the feeling of being productive. But I also need to plan a season of rest and renewal.

I know that the foundations, or soil of my life are my faith, family, friends and time to do things I enjoy. I will never be able to live well for long without tending to these. But each day or week or even month will not be a neatly divided exercise. That seems to be more about rules and ticking boxes, than living with the ebbs and flows of life.

There are some regular things you need each day to keep being productive - good food, good sleep, and time to just be. I need to value myself and this season enough to make these a priority.
But I no longer want to justify my choices to myself or to those around me who greet my current commitments as fool hardy or heading for a fall. I have not walked away from what is important to me. I have not abandoned my post or let anyone down. I am learning a lot and enjoying this season. And come December, and the school holidays, a new season will begin.

Balance is for bikes. Instead I choose to live in the seasons.