Mind Holiday

For most of my life, I have sat down and read a chapter or two of a book every day. Now I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book that wasn’t for the kids. Life got so full of responsibility and obligation that reading for pleasure suddenly seemed like an unproductive use of my time.

Sometimes, I’d walk past my bookshelf and my fingers would wander over the spines of my favourite worlds. I’d be hit with a pang of twofold guilt; the guilt of neglecting Fitz-Chivalry and his Fool, and the guilt of more important responsibilities that loomed over me while I selfishly contemplated reading.  When did I stop allowing myself to have free time? When did I let mother’s guilt become so all encompassing? I often find myself saying, “I need a holiday from my mind.” But that’s exactly what reading is. It’s brilliant.

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A few of my favourite things.

I had a moment in my kitchen today, when I looked around and didn’t know what I was there for.  The laundry was done. Dishes? Done. Beds were made, rooms were tidy, so what was I meant to be doing? A little voice inside me squeaked, “Read a book!” I heard it, it was quiet, but I heard it. I drowned it out with a louder voice that boomed, “DO SOME BAKING! START DINNER NOW! COOK EXTRA FOR THE FREEZER!” So now we have chocolate slice, cinnamon buns and three days worth of dinners. Which is great, but I could have made myself a cup and tea, put my feet up and read a book. How delicious does that sound?!

I’ve decided I’m going to make time to read. I even went to the library and chose three books. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I’d fucked up. All three books were chosen because they relate to something I want to achieve. I was suppose to get lost in a world of fiction, instead I came away with “Rewire Your Overanxious Brain”, “The Power of Negative Emotion” and “The $50 Weekly Shop”.  Not exactly light reading, but it’s a start.

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A Public Service Announcement For My Fellow Mentals

I have changed anti-depressant medications, and it was an awful experience. I have since found out that the standard New Zealand practice for changing SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) medications is different from that of the rest of the world.  Australia advises a withdrawing period of 4-7 days, waiting 3 days before starting the new medication. America is on the most cautious side of the scale, reducing Zoloft over a period of 4+ weeks, waiting 7 days then introducing Escitalopram.

In New Zealand we just switch straight to the new one immediately. Going cold-turkey from Zoloft is risky and difficult, particularly if the dose is high and has been taken long term. Withdrawal can take several painful weeks. I thought it was unusual, so I made a point of asking the doctor if that was correct. She told me that because they’re both “short-acting” drugs an immediate change is suitable. This is so unique to New Zealand, that it is even mentioned as a side-note in the official UK GP Guidebook.   I have my suspicions that it is likely to be about money. In New Zealand we have a heavily subsidised healthcare system. In my area, I can see a GP for $17 and get prescriptions for $10, and three months worth of meds for $5, the government foots the rest of the bill. It’s pretty sweet. But it’s not perfect.

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I believe the reason that the method for switching SSRI’s is an over night change, is because weaning means more doctors visits, more prescriptions as each week is a different dosage, and therefore more cost to the Ministry of Heath. So people are suffering unnecessarily, because it’s cheaper. And I mean really suffering.

I was unable to function. It felt like I was moving through treacle, my head was spinning. I couldn’t make sense of anything. The simplest things were baffling. I was profoundly sad, and tired. At first, I couldn’t do much more than lay down and cry. There were times when I was detached from reality that I felt like I was an observer, watching the world from the outside. My responsibilities as a mother became monumental hurdles.

It’s been six days now, and I’m still feeling pretty run-down, but it’s getting better every day. I have learned a valuable lesson and I will never, EVER make a cold switch again. Always insist on tapering off SSRI’s

Good Times.

My last 7 days have been like this:

Thursday: Anxiety says,”Who needs cuticles? Let’s gnaw those fuckers off!”
Friday: You know what goes well together? Depression AND anxiety!
Saturday: Let mix things up a bit. How about we completely lose our shit, and throw in some massive panic attacks with hyperventilating?
Sunday: Panic attack hangover, ugh. Still got housework done, yay me!
Monday: Profoundly miserable.
Tuesday: Pretty damn good actually.
Wednesday:  Lots of aimless wandering. Why am I holding this box of cereal? No, this doesn’t belong in the bathroom.

Yesterday I went to my doctor. I’d been putting it off for a while because I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t get my mental health under control by myself. However, it’s become increasingly obvious that I can’t so I had to do something. The end result is I have changed my medication from Zoloft to Escitalopram. Changing meds is very rarely a fun experience and my memories of starting Citalopram (slightly different version of the same drug) years ago are unpleasant. Two weeks of feeling like I was on an icky, muddy high. But once the side effects wore off, I found them quite effective, so fingers crossed.

I took my first one before bed because they’re suppose to make you drowsy and the doctor says they should improve my insomnia. But, first I have to deal with the unpleasantness. So I’m here again in the wee hours, I’ve had two hours sleep. I’m crazy tired but can’t drift off, and I have a hazy disconnection to reality like I’m viewing life though a camera’s lens. So my apologies if this post reads like jumbled up nonsense. Starting to feel kinda nauseous from the spinning sensation, so I’m going to lie down for a bit and hopefully get some sleep.

 

Aquatic Absurdity

It seems I’m getting more insane as I get older, which is awesome because it means I’m probably going to be one of those old ladies who just don’t give a fuck. You know the ones, they’re eccentric, flamboyant, opinionated, unapologetic, and dress like they’re heading to the Rio Carnival. I’m picturing a cross between Granny Clampett and Dennis Rodman. Obviously, there are downsides too, but one day I’ll be too bat-shit crazy to notice. So there’s something to look forward to.

One of my new neuroses is in regards to swimming pools. I love swimming laps by myself with lots of space; I can zone out and focus entirely on the movements (and keeping my tits contained within my swimsuit). So I didn’t think there would be any issue with signing up my Aspie Girl-Child to swimming lessons, and following them up with a play in the pools. Except, I soon found that I quickly become overwhelmed and have panic attacks that leave me on edge for the rest of the day. After much analysing, I think I’ve worked out what it is that bothers me.

It’s every-fucking-thing.

The pools are indoors (it’s still too cold for outdoor swimming), and the building is loud with air-conditioning, pumps and echos. I find that I can’t hear well and this makes me on edge when people are speaking to me. Even though the space is enormous, the sound makes me feel like it’s closing in on me. When people get too close to me, or block me, it compounds the claustrophobia. Also, I have to wear my glasses to keep an eye on my kidlet because I can’t wear contacts. This makes me feel self-conscious because swimming in glasses is fucking weird. If I want to swim properly, I have to take my glasses off, but then I can’t see jack-shit. This means I can’t watch the Girl-Child and because I can’t see her face, I can’t tell if her squeals are happy squeals or ‘I’m about to lose my shit’ squeals. So much of working with her is recognising the subtle changes in her expression. I worry about her panicking or lashing out at someone while she’s out of my reach.

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All of this sounds justifiable to me, but I know that it is irrational for several reasons:

  • Mr. Flatmate comes with us, stays by her and is a strong swimmer;
  • about 6 months ago, we all went swimming together at a different indoor pools before and I was confident enough in Girl-Child’s abilities that I was able to leave her swimming alone while I went on the hydro-slide;
  • and what the shit is with this sound overload? I don’t think I had that before. It’s like my brain short-circuits and I lose the ability to think coherently. It’s new, it’s scary, and it’s stupid.

It’s the school holidays at the moment, so much to my relief, swimming lessons are on two-week break. Mr. Flatmate has suggested taking the kids to the pool several times, but every time he mentions it, I can feel the anxiety rising. I feel terrible, because I know how much they love going, but it fills me with so much dread. We’ll go back when lessons start again and I will make a conscious effort to have more faith in Girl-Child’s swimming abilities, and in Mr. Flatmate’s ability to keep her safe. My goal is to enjoy the Summertime at the pool and the beach with my babies, instead of being a shrieking Helicopter-mum putting the kibosh on their fun.

Anxiety Monster Comes to Visit

It’s been a stupid week. Stupid unnecessary things have made life much more difficult that it needs to be. Life is a bowl of shit, and sometimes folk just like to put a cherry bomb on top. My anxiety issues mean that I don’t deal with certain types of stress well, so this week my conniving mind has blessed me with a visit from Hideous Insomnia and it’s partner in crime, Heart Palpitations. The insomnia is bad enough on it’s own, turning me in to a bumbling, confused, irritable mess. Add in the heart palpitations, ugh. I fucking hate those. That horrible fluttering sensation in your chest that strikes at random and makes you feel weak and sick.

When I’m hanging out with the Anxiety monster, I’m often overcome with the urge to organise things. To tackle the odd jobs that I’ve been putting off. To write lists and to clean. This is a need to feel like I’m in control of something. The monster sits in the back of my brain telling me “if your house is in order, everything else will fall in to place.” There was a time when I embraced this little bit of insanity. I’d laugh it off and say, “yeah, I’m neurotic as fuck but as least my house is tidy.” And to be honest, it was helpful. Having a tidy house and getting on top of things that needed doing helped clear my mind, so that I could focus better on solving the problem at hand.  But lately it’s not helping, it’s making things worse. My mind has been so fried with stress and lack of sleep that I can’t seem to organise anything. In a particularly weak moment, I even got one of my old self-harm urges. I didn’t act on it, I don’t think I ever would, but rather I was surprised to see it there still lingering below the surface.

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Not content to slash her arm like everyone else in Cutters Anonymous, Sarah had to one-up everyone and cleave her ear off. What a fucking show-off.

 

My inability to competently catalogue everything in my house makes the monster a bit fucking tetchy, “if you don’t get things organised, you’ll never relax. You can’t sleep knowing that the kids clothes still need sorting. You can’t watch TV or bead while there’s still unwashed window frames in the house. What if you forget what jobs need doing? Here let me help by reciting your to-do list all fucking night and remind you of the complete hopelessness of your situation.”

This past week, I had to defy the monster or risk burn out. I reduced my activities to the basics. Kids fed? Check. Dishes done? Most of the time. Everyone showered? I think so. Teeth brushed? Yup. Beds made? Uhh.. Nope. Laundry? Big pile in the living room, I think there’s a cat or two in there.

Today a large part of my hopeless situation was dealt with, and lifted a big weight off my shoulders, and I feel a little better. Some small motivation has come back and I’ve finally started on a job in my garden that I’ve been putting off for a long time. I’m still flailing a bit, but in a few days, I should be back on track, beading and studying, probably cleaning window frames.

I’m hyper-aware of the degree to which things beyond my control affect me on a mental level. I get angry at myself for letting things get to me, but I’m also learning to accept that they do. It’s how I’m wired. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. By accepting it, I am able to remind myself to be gentle with the self-criticism, close the door on messy bedrooms, and try to take care of myself. Since embracing my mental illness as a part of me, I’ve become very good at reading myself. I’ve learned to understand why I feel the way I do, and that’s it’s ok, even it is kind of shit. I know when I need to step back from the world. Sometimes I just need to sit and mull everything over in silence. Sometimes I need to adjust my medication, (ain’t no shame in medication folks! Zoloft saved my life and I’m happy to sing it from the rooftops), mostly I just need to wait it out.

It always works out in the end.