Monday, June 8, 2015

Tattle

The hubster had quite the day yesterday taking care of me and Baby. I was able to feed and watch Baby a little but he was main caretaker nearly all day. I recovered my balance a little for the evening and we were able to go for a walk. It was actually a little out of order my perk up in mood....

Usually I break down and we talk things out then go for a walk or "get back on the horse" trying to take care of me but this time I asked if we could go for a walk and felt lighter and started talking without a break down. I had him read a journal entry and a blog entry and he got to open up about how he's been feeling.

It was heart wrenching but good to hear his perspective (great even). He isn't always that expressive but sometimes he comes up with some wonderful turns of phrase. He said that day he had been mourning me, that when the darkness comes it completely erases the real me, I disappear, it's like a mini coma. It's not just a bad mood where I'm still Hannah, it's night and day and I'm not myself. He was so sweet emphasizing that in these times I'm not myself and that I can't feel bad for what I think and do because I'm not myself, it's not the real me.

He opened up about feeling wore out and clarified that while he hadn't been talking about my self harm or the mood dip it was because he doesn't like to bring it up when I have a good day and talking about it while I'm down isn't always helpful, so sometimes he just bites his tongue and waits for a more stable tine to discuss things.

He also mentioned that he had texted my mom. He had asked what her schedule was for the week and if she could come up as I was having some mental health issues. She responded with a lot of excuses and odd references to my neighbors, recommending I go down there with the Baby and sit with some neighbors. Not helpful and no inquiries into how I was really doing or how bad things were. Not surprising but definitely disappointed him. As many times as she will say "I'm always there for you" her idea of support can be hit or miss.

Surprisingly though my dad called while we were out on our walk. He and the hubster talked for several minutes about the state of things and eventually the hubster handed the phone off to me. The second I heard my dad ask, "Haven't been feeling too well, eh?" I broke into sobs. Thankfully we weren't in a super exposed part of the walk but it was still a public break down!

We talked for quite a while and even though my father still has a hard time understanding what my illness is really like and how mental illness works he listened and tried to be supportive which was helpful. I think part of him still sees mental health as a thing of willpower and thinking about this made me want to type out a hypothetical letter to him...



Dear Dad,

I know it's hard for you to understand my sickness. I know it seems like something I should be able to beat and make disappear, something that I should figure out how to fix and keep fixed but it doesn't quite work that way. You may even think that it's a question of personal strength and that my relapses are due to a weakness in character, a lapse in discipline, or laziness-I sometimes think this myself-but that's not how it works. Sometimes I can avoid the pitfalls, but other times it's just a storm passing over me... It's complicated.

Sometimes I have regular ups and downs like "normal" folk. My emotions are reasonable, my reactions modulated, my mind and judgement is sound. But when I have an episode or a relapse my brain becomes hijacked by the disease. My logic is corrupted and rational thinking becomes nearly impossible. All my knowledge, experience, and wisdom is overwritten by a mental virus-sometimes it's a hypomanic virus, sometimes a depressive virus. 

When the hypomania hits I feel overly positive, make rash decisions, think that I can do much more than is reasonable, feel so jazzed I only sleep for 4 hours each day (I normally need 8-10 hours of sleep). Sometimes these switches sneak up on me, my mind tells me "it's just a great day!" but it's really the illness. When the symptoms are "feeling good, being up beat, and getting a lot done" it's easy to think "what's the big deal?" but it is a big deal because when I get on a high like that it disrupts my sleep and routines and sets me up for a big fall.

When the depression hits self harming and suicide become rational ideas, I can barely get out of bed, sometimes simple movements (like shifting position on the couch or reaching for a water bottle or wiping my nose) become nearly impossible as if I'm stuck in a vat of crystallized honey, I have panic attacks and anxiety, near constant tension in muscles all over my body, and a sick, sucking feeling in my stomach. Sometimes I will sleep for 12 or more hours a day, other times I struggle to get 5 or 6 hours, either way I suffer and struggle to get back on a healthy schedule. 

In a severe relapse it can take weeks for me to myself righted again, sometimes it can take months-I'll have good days thrown in there but I've had years where I'm stuck between hypomanic and depressive states without being "normal" for very long. It's a big factor in my weight gain since both states can affect my appetite and often put me in a place where sweets and carby foods are the only thing that ever sound good to eat.

I know that I have many things to be thankful for and that it's hard to imagine me really believing that everyone would be better off if I were dead but when my mood dips down it really, truly seems like the best thing for everyone. Having been suicidal multiple times a year (sometimes as often as multiple times a week) for over a decade it's become a very familiar idea and it's easier to slide into that depth of mood each time I relapse. It's like the path in my mind has become worn down and whenever my mood fails my thoughts take that path of least resistance, ending up at suicide as a solution. It seems crazy but that's because it is, I'm not in my right mind when these thoughts crop up, it's not my true logic, it's the disease's tainted logic, the sickness' programming overwriting my own.

When I self harm it's a similar situation but slightly different. My logic becomes skewed but it's also a very physical compulsion. The physical pain relieves the mental and physical pain caused by the depression, it distracts my brain from rerunning the suicidal and depressed thought sequences that loop in my mind during an episode so that when I self harm I very often feel better for a short time. It's a coping technique, a negative one but one that works quite often. It doesn't make sense to hurt yourself to heal yourself but it can be like a hard shutdown that reboots me-the virus or diseased thoughts usually return, it just interrupts the episode and gives me a momentary reprieve.

This is only a bit of what I go through. I'm not sure how to explain what the hubster and I have been through and what this illness really looks like day-to-day and over the years, it's such a big deal. It's a huge part of our lives and who I am but at the same time it's totally NOT me. It's hard to comprehend an invisible illness that masks itself as personality, that hijacks someone from the inside-out, a disease that doesn't just coalesce in physical symptoms but expresses itself using my voice, my movement, my thoughts. If I didn't experience firsthand I would say it sounds like a cheesy sci-fi flick, but that's just what it is.

I live my life sharing my existence with an illness, not simply sharing my body like arthritis, diabetes, or a heart condition. When my disease flares up it takes my body and my soul and my mind, expressing itself over all planes of my existence not just the physical, which makes it so hard to see it for what it is and not mistake it for the real me.

It took me a long, long time to realize these patterns and understand the nature of my illness (heck, I'm still cracking the code) and it was exceptionally hard for me to accept it as a fact of life. You may say, "why accept it? fight back, don't accept this, reject it" but it's not something I can excise. Drugs may dampen the effects but they don't kill the virus and very often they suppress the real me, prevent me from feeling any natural highs or lows, prevent me from experiencing happiness as well as sadness in addition to the troublesome symptoms. 

It's a losing game. The best I can do is try and maintain a preventative lifestyle and avoid symptoms cropping up, and recovering as quickly as possible when they do. There isn't always a way to win in life, sometimes a tie is the best we can do, and living well with Bipolar II is almost always a tie of sorts. I never really defeat the disease, it's always there but when I do well enough I get to be "there" too instead of overwritten.

I don't know if you'll really understand any of this but even when you don't you're able to listen and be supportive and I really appreciate that. I just hope that you aren't disappointed in me or think that I don't try hard enough to fix myself, because I'll never be "fixed," this is part of my genetic, physical, mental make up and it's something I'll live with for the rest of my life no matter how hard to try to make it disappear. I guess that's what I really want you to understand. That I try even though there is no cure. That I'm not a failure because I can't cure an incurable disease. 

Love,
Hannah

1 comment:

  1. What a great and well written letter. You could write a book.

    ReplyDelete

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Be well, HBF