Adjusting

We’re home from hospital, and as excited as I was, it’s hard. I’ve been through this process before, and it takes time to adjust to being at home, but this time it feels harder.

Gone is the highly structured and enforced routine. Several weeks in hospital and nearly every day went like this:

7:30am – 9am: Breakfast

8am – 9am: Morning medication

9am: Community meeting

9:30am – 10am: Anxiety management group

10am – 11am: Morning tea

11am – 12pm: Morning group

12pm – 1pm: Lunch (and brief visiting hours)

1pm – 1:15pm: Lunchtime medication (if you have any)

1:30pm – 2:30pm: Afternoon group

2pm – 3pm: Afternoon tea

4pm: Walk/yoga/other group

5pm – 6:15pm: Dinner

5pm – 9pm: Visiting hours

8:45pm – 9:30pm Nighttime medication

10:30pm: Second round of nighttime medication for those who go to bed late (not me!)

All of that routine is gone. I didn’t participate in all of the groups because of my physical health issues, but there was still plenty to do. I also saw my doctor six days a week for what was often an intense therapy session. Plus chatting to my nurse in the morning and afternoon. Then throw in tidying my hospital room, washing my clothes, showering, and other self-care. Very little free time!

Now I’m home it’s really hard to keep any routine going. I can sleep when I want, for as long as I want. I can take medication when I want, eat when I want. Complete freedom.

Admittedly I was craving my freedom a couple of weeks in. Desperate to be able to have more down time, and time for Netflix. My focus was therapy though, so Netflix had to wait. Now I can watch as much as I want, but I’m finding myself bored with it already.

The hardest part? Loneliness. I’m an absolute introvert. I need time to myself to process my day, recharge, and plan for the next day. That doesn’t mean I don’t like socialising though.

In hospital it was easy. If I was feeling sociable I could sit in communal areas and chat with other patients. I could participate more in groups. I could stay longer in the dining room and chat with other patients after finishing my meal.

At home I’m almost always alone. My housemate is physically well and able, and is out a lot. It’s almost like living alone. It’s such a huge difference to being in hospital. In time I’ll adjust to spending more time alone, but for now it’s hard.

I wasn’t anxious about returning home, I was excited! I always am, and I think that makes me forget how hard the adjustment can be. Going suddenly from being surrounded by people, talking to multiple people multiple times a day to seeing one person, chatting briefly, then being alone all day is really difficult.

I feel so lonely. So isolated and alone. I’m working on it though. I’m not giving up and sitting in despair. I’ve got a couple of things planned with close friends and family. I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to feel whatever I feel, but I need to remember that there’s something I can do about it too.

Onwards and upwards! More posts to come about the work we did in hospital.

The Stigma Of Treatment

All the important people in my life know I struggle with my mental health. That’s old news. I’m not even overly anxious about sharing some of my struggles with the right people at the right time.

On the other hand sharing what treatment I’m receiving for my mental health is so much more anxiety provoking and worrisome.

I’m on three psychotropic drugs, and there’s plenty of judgement and stigma from people about that. I need these medications to function, if anyone has a problem with that, they can get lost.

I’m seeing a therapist weekly. At this point in time the therapist is a psychiatrist. In the past they’ve been psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors. Therapy is a really good way to help me manage my mental health. Again, if people have a problem with that, they can get lost.

Then there’s the inpatient psychiatric admissions. Five in the last two years. Most of them for about three weeks. Not all in times of crisis, but of great stress, and with multiple crappy coping strategies being used.

I’m heading for my seventh admission with the same doctor at the same hospital. I trust my doctor, and I trust the nursing staff. I know the admission will be helpful, they always are, but I’m scared to tell anyone.

I worry so much more about what people might think about me being in a psychiatric hospital, than being on medication, or in therapy.

Is it really that bad that I need to be in hospital?
Yes. Doing the same amount of work in therapy outpatient is impossible. Plus I’m stuck, again. DID chaos, and multiple shit storms brewing beneath the surface. That doesn’t even cover the issues I’ve had with mood (both hypomania and depression in the last month). It is that bad.

Can’t I just get over it? Isn’t therapy enough? Can’t they give you medication?
I’m doing the therapy, and taking the meds. I’m still struggling. As for getting over it? Get lost.

I know hospital is a safe place to crash land. I can be a mess, be emotional, struggle in any kind of way and it’s okay. I don’t have to keep it together. I don’t have to keep smiling. Staff are kind and supportive. I have time and space to unleash the chaos, work through it, and put myself back together again.

I’ve still only told a few people. I’m so fearful of their reaction to, and judgement of inpatient treatment that I stay silent.

I think the stigma associated with psychiatric or psychological treatment can often be so much worse than the stigma associated with a diagnosis.

It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s even more okay to get whatever help you need to be okay again.

This Is What Depression Can Look Like

Depression.

Depressed.

Someone curled up in bed, hidden under the covers. Sunlight peeking in through the drawn curtains. Phone calls and voicemails ignored. Text messages unread. A dirty plate, and empty, coffee stained mug on the bedside table.

That sounds like fairly stereotypical depression, right? It is. The trouble is, not everyone with depression struggles like that.

What about the person who smiles, and chats happily to friends and family. Who cleans the house, keeps up with chores, and pays all the bills. The dishes are done, there’s food and leftovers from a home cooked meal in the fridge, and the fruit basket is full.

Is that person depressed? If that person is me, then right now, yes. It’s just so well hidden.

I smile and chat with family and friends because I adore them, but I also don’t want to burden them with my sucky (technical term!) mental health. I busily keep up with chores  so I have less time to think about how much I detest myself, my life, and everything about me. Keeping busy keeps me safe. Leftovers in the fridge are from a meal I cooked when I felt like eating. I swing between having no appetite and comfort eating.

No one sees the tears that slip out when I’m finally alone, or on the way home from visiting friends and family.

No one sees the self-hatred, pain, hopelessness, and defeat that flood my mind when I finally stop doing chores.

No one sees the torment that fills my mind over needing to eat, having no food, then ordering groceries, and not wanting to eat.

I usually manage to function until I’m extremely depressed and suicidal. On the way down into that pit of doom very few people know or see that I’m struggling.

Not being able to see it doesn’t mean that I’m not depressed.
Not being able to see it doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling.

Depression looks like many things for many people. Ask before you pass judgement on whether someone is depressed, or how depressed they are.

Shit Has Hit The Fan

Maybe things aren’t going so well. I keep trying to convince myself that things aren’t so bad, that they could be worse, that nothing is really wrong.

Yet today, when my groceries were delivered, I hurriedly hid alcohol and sharps in my room so if my housemate came home she wouldn’t see them. A few minutes after the delivery driver left my housemate came home. My secrets were hidden. Along with a second carton of diet soft drink, and eating disorder ‘safe’ food.

All are flashing neon warning signs that I’m not okay, and my housemate is well and truly aware of them. I’m scared my housemate will find out and confront me. I’m scared my friends will find out and do the same. I’m scared of where I’m headed.

I’m going around in circles of crippling depression, overwhelming emotions, and destructive behaviours. I’m not proud. I don’t want people to know. I’m desperate to hide these behaviours from friends and family.

Yet with hiding the behaviours comes enormous guilt. Guilt from lying to friends and family about behaviours, about how I really am. Guilt at even the thought of telling any friends or family a watered down version of the truth. Guilt because alcohol abuse runs in my family, and it’s a path I’ve always sworn I wouldn’t go down.

The guilt adds fuel to the fire that’s already burning strongly. I’m desperately clutching at behaviours that slowly destroy me. Healthy coping mechanisms are long gone. I’m trying to hold on, but can see the mess my day-to-day life has become, and have given up. Might as well have another drink, or use another unhelpful behaviour to keep holding on.

Shit has hit the fan.

Choosing To Spend Christmas Alone

Christmas_Alone_On_Own_Mental_Illness_DID_Trauma_Eating_Disorder_Feast_Choice_Choose

I’ve spent several months quietly pondering how I’ll spend Christmas this year. In previous years I’ve gone away with family, or visited friends. Last year I was in hospital for Christmas due to an Eating Disorder relapse – that sucked.

This year my family are going out of state for a family reunion. I’m not attending because this is a branch of the family that I’m completely unrelated to, and I don’t know at all. Multiple friends have invited me to spend Christmas day with them, but I’ve politely declined.

I want to stay at home. I want to have a special Christmas that’s as magical, exciting, and enjoyable as some of my childhood ones were. Despite ongoing abuse during my childhood Christmases were generally okay. There was no religious focus in my family. Instead of the focus was on gift giving, and feasting.

My mother was an excellent cook. Absolutely excellent! Christmas meant homemade sausage rolls, and fruit mince pies. All the potato chips, chocolate, lollies, and snacks you could imagine. Plus almost unlimited soft drink. There would be a late cooked lunch – an utterly amazing roast with all the trimmings. This in stark comparison to the rest of the year when there were strict rules around food and eating imposed by my mother.

So this year I’m creating my own feast. I’m making the fruit mince pies (just the way my mother did, and they’re absolutely brilliant!), and planning a roast lunch or dinner. I’m buying all the junk food I don’t usually eat. There will be soft drink, coffee, and perhaps a small amount of alcohol. I’m making cheesecake and/or trifle.

I intend to spend the day feasting and watching trashy Christmas movies I already own, or on Netflix. I’ve welcomed friends to visit if they choose, but this year I’m not going anywhere. I’m resting and relaxing.