Friday, 11 August 2017

first BLOG for ages ............ Good & Bad times

So apologies having blogged quite often during some real hard yards of my life I have negated to BLOG for about 6 months where things have gone from bad to actually a better place.  I want to update you all on my experiences of my BiPolar and navigating the illness at home and at work.   This is partly a reaction to an American lady posting recently on The Mighty about her BiPolar journey and so I may steal some stuff and hopefully end up with an interesting BLOG, I’ll let you judge that.
In 1990 I had my first mental health episode but it wasn’t until September 2015 that I was diagnosed with biPolar and the strategy with my ilnesses was over time shaped more to answer the questions that BiPolar asked and to help me with my condition.  To steal someone elses words …………….. When you realize you have a mental illness, I believe you learn to be more self-aware, to be vulnerable and strong.  I agree with this but I think an awful lot of navigation and learning happens and though you can end up Strong you still occasionally break however much you try not to.
When I was diagnosed with Cyclythymia prior to my BiPolar diagnosis I remember being terrified of telling my work colleagues about my Mental Health and thinking apart from with very close friends I would need to hide it all. I remember thinking they would judge me and disown me — I would become the weakling in the work force, too fragile to be effective. What I now realize is that I would gather tools that would help me cope with more than just my mental health, but with life in general and I saw a Ruby Wax documentary on Channel 4 where I decided I would be open and honest about my Mental Health in the work place, it was part of me and even when diagnosed with BiPolar I didn’t shy away from that. It hasn’t been the easiest process, not everybody listens but ultimately I have found my Aviva colleagues supportive and willing to try and understand.  I have to also say that my Managers have in the main been very supportive.
Below I use someone elses words with a few alterations to make it me that I think detail the differences between Mania & Depression really well, Im a Depressive with occasional Mania, not someone who is Manic lots of the time …… I find the Mania quite refreshing sometimes as it breaks my low mood.
Before I understood my bipolar diagnosis, I just thought that mania was the creative, determined, hardworking, albeit irritable me and that the depression that came after was the sad, tired me. Depression, I understood. All too well. We are reluctant friends who do not like each other, yet find comfort in our quiet. Mania – well, she was new.
Mania comes in, kicks the door down and says, “I want all your attention” But after a while everyone around gets tired of Mania. Mania wants to work all day, fast, wants to plan projects and jobs without thinking it through. Mania wants to write poetry at 11 p.m. When everyone is sleeping, Mania wants to listen to music – loud. Mania says, “Don’t go to sleep, you’ll miss out on all the fun.” Mania thinks three hours of sleep is sufficient. Mania talks back to people and snaps at strangers and friends. Mania says no one else does anything as good as me so I must do everything for everybody. Mania says I’m witty. Mania says I tell the best stories and that I really can do strange things  in the backgarden at 10 p.m., when I really know nothing about them. Mania says I’m fat and that I need to do something about it right now. Mania wants to talk to strangers and make new friends. Mania wants to paint the house at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday. Mania tells me that the people I love are in my way and that I don’t need them as much as I really do. Mania tells me I don’t have to talk to my partner about decisions and says my partner is probably better off alone. Mania says I don’t have to answer to anyone. Mania tells me to buy buy buy comic books off ebay, just don’t tell anyone how many. Mania likes me, maybe even loves me…. until she doesn’t. 
Then Depression decides to move in, carrying more luggage than necessary to do the job. Depression is like an old coat that no one likes. Wooly. Scratchy. Ugly. Smelly. Sad. Depression always overstays its visit. Depression is constantly unpacking baggage. Depression tells me I’m tired, sad and lonely. Depression sulks and cries for no reason. Depression tell me I’m worthless and that I haven’t lived up to my potential so just give up, you cant do that day job anymore, its beyond you. Depression tells me that no one likes me. Depression tells me I’m fat and my face is looking old and nothing I do can help. Depression says not to smile or laugh. Depression tells me it is better to stay in bed. Depression tells me I’m a bad Dad to my children. Depression says I have ruined them. Depression wants to be in the dark, keep the shades closed. Depression cries with me and sometimes I can even find comfort in Depression.  Depression makes me selfish and inward looking.”

Hope that makes sense to someone and perhaps helps.
The key thing is that in the last 18 months I have felt the above way about Mania and Depression and work, family etc but for 4-5 months now I have been in a really good place most of the time though Im still navigating my BiPolar day to day and I’ve felt that it has been a bridge to people as I have been able to speak about it within Aviva to my colleagues, People Managers and even one session with our Life CIO and I’m glad that I have been able to perhaps help a few people with their Wellbeing.
Tony x

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Absurd Words

The below poem came from reading the Stephen Fry book 'The ode less travelled' which wonderful though it is, makes the art of poetry more complicated than I need it to be, for me its free form and free flowing and creative without stress, its carthartic and needs to stay that way, hence I object to the rules ;)


Poem: Absurd Words

If I worry about the meter 
Of my poetry I will peter
Out
If I worry about the stressed
And syllables unstressed
I will Shout
If we talk of an Apple its an AP-ple
If we talk of Fantastic then its Fan-TAS-tic
To be ruled by these rules feels drastic
No doubt Shakespeare would think me a prick!

No LONger MOURN for ME when I am DEAD
Is Iambic foot , please shoot me in the head
Iambic rhythm exists too
Though I’m at a loss to explain to you
Ba-BAH-BA-Bah-BA-Bah-Ba-Bah
That’s hows it goes madam and sirrah!

Heres a sentence written in Iambic meter
As WITH paul AS with PETE
Reverse iambic uses different words
An AP-ple FOR our Fa-ther would be heard

I have no idea what Im doing
I guess you guessed that’s my undoing !!!!

***END***

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Happy Christmas .... War isn't Over !


So this is Christmas, and what have you done? 

  ....... this is probably a messy blog but bear with it .......

Another year nearly over.  Well this year as part of the western world we have managed to vote to leave the EU and our American cousins have voted Donald Trump as the President of the disUnited States of America.  Twice this year I have gone to bed thinking we’ll get a certain outcome only to see that the next morning the opposite outcome has occurred.  I do feel that both of these situations feel very narrowing to me, it feels blinkered to think that we are stronger outside the EU than as part of it.  The EU for all its faults did to me offer something other than just an Economic Area, it also seemed to offer a common agenda around Human Rights and Fairness.  Perhaps I’ve got rose tinted specs but I just can’t see our Brexit alternative as being something that we benefit from in the long run.  I don’t buy ‘getting our country back’.

I’ve not really done that much for the benefit of others this year, it’s been quite a selfish year in some senses apart from looking after Parents to some degree, as I have had to focus on navigating my BiPolar to try and stay at work, which I have managed though with different degrees of performance dependant on how the Mania, Anxiety and Mood have been. Its been a relatively good end to the year though and I have been able to say that since the end of October I have been on a good run where my mood has been good and this has meant being able to deal with Mania and Anxiety when the waves come. 

So work wise there have been some hard yards with more to come but I have enjoyed, almost, the last 2/3 months to some degree.  My secondment is I think helping me to make a contribution at the moment and seeing where that leads will be interesting. 

Creatively I have had a few real bursts of activity, often during periods of Mania and also during a Greek holiday when the good lady was in bed and I was left twiddling my thumbs, I wrote 30 new poems in Greece over a week.  I have also had the privilege this year of writing 50th birthday odes for Neil Holmes, Teresa Buckle and Alli Mac, I hope they were okay folks.  I think I have found a degree of confidence as a poet this year leading to 2 charitable outings as well as Capstock for performing the poetry, with some nice feedback from those who took the time.  We had a frustrating year with the punk band Spewtum as we have struggled with getting a new drummer but friends pitched in and I think our Capstock performance was a step up from my miserable frontman job I did the prior year.  The Spewtum originals still seem to go down well.

On reflection, I think, if confidence doesn’t desert me, I would like to give more back in 2017.  In 2016 I have tried to informally help people at my work with mental health problems and I want to do more of that as I think there are an army of needs here especially in big organisations where the organisation can seem faceless, it may not want to be, but people perhaps struggling under the radar.  We have a really good team of folks who informally support Wellbeing and also filter people into the organisations Employee Assistance Programme as well as trying to provide practical support when they can.  I think that’s the key thing that I want to do, foster more of a sense of community as I feel that in recent years we have once again ended up with a ‘Looking after Number 1’ type culture and even though, with mental health there is an element of that needed there is no reason why we can’t share our experiences and make some sort of difference.  I’ve also tried to provide Homewatch support where I live though people don’t really engage with it that well, Its one of those unthanked tasks to some degree, that isn’t a problem but as I’m in contact with my neighbours I want to encourage them to keep a wider lookout locally socially in the neighbourhood.

Even though work has had some hard yards, I have been able to contribute to the Agile community within the organisation and have felt that this has been well received.

Another thing that has been highlighted for me this year, 2016, is the plight of the refugee, there have been absolute humanitarian needs for countries to take in refugess who are fleeing from fighting and persecution in 2016 yet the nationalistic rhetoric has been at odds with that across the globe.  Even in Germany who have taken in 1 million in 2016, there has been a hardening against that in recent weeks and not least in recent days because of the awful Berlin events.  Is there a challenge here for us all, to retain our humanity when these events are upon us and still want to help those in trouble.  I know the mantra comes out ‘charity begins at home’ but surely our home countries are ultimately a fortunate accident of birth for many of us that deliver us the freedoms that we have.

Peace to you all this Christmas ………………


    Tony

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Fine Art of Surfacing ...........................

The Fine Art of Surfacing is i think an album title from the Boomtown Rats, however it applies to my week this last week.  After some mania Sunday evening last weekend at a Doctor Who convention, approx 36 hours in total, I then had a horrid dip with the Black Dog and Anxiety this last Tuesday.

THEN things got better, since Wednesday my low mood has rescinded and Im left with just the anxietal thoughts, I feel much better about in myself though maybe not about myself and long may it continue.  It means Im focussing in on the anxiety thats left and navigating that however I feel so much better than I have done for 5 months.  Ive even crept out onto socialmedia !?!

Im so pleased to get some respite from the frustration and hope that I can carry that into work next week and a greek holiday the following week.  Going to try and pace myself this week so that I dont go backwards though.

The reason I used the title for the blog that Im using is that it currently feels like I've dived in off the deep end of a pool and there was initially exhilaration ( the mania ) then there was the pressure of working my way up to the surface ( the dip ) and now though there is still work to do my head has broken the surface of the water.   I will endeavour to live the next couple of weeks mindfully and power myself forward, hopefully.

Left currently really with just the anxiety to battle, what is my anxiety.  My anxiety is a set of contradictions that I battle, I have good days but mainly bad days.  My anxiety is feeling lonely in a room of people, feeling less than others, unlovable but I think in recent days I have tapped into the overwhelming feeling that Im loved and if not that definitely liked.  My anxiety is the belief that my job is beyond me and yet a few chinks have shone through this week at work and so ill push those doors and see what happens.   Anxiety, though is mainly for me a complete lack of confidence and self belief hence reading every self help book under the son, I guess I must be in danger of drowning on this swim in the river of Self Help.

Thanks to all my friends and colleagies, you know who you are.

anxiety is not always in control, anxiety is not always right, anxiety is jealous and doesn't want me to share,  to coin a phrase from Doctor Who ............. YANA ............ You are Not alone

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Book about BiPolar: Surfing the Edge


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surfing-Edge-survivors-bipolar-disorder-ebook/dp/B0167DQA70

Surfing the Edge, thoughts so far ...........................................

I've read about 40% of the book and have just read the bit about an unexpected friends death. For me this part felt delusional though the person interviewed Alistair says he felt it was very real, he reacted in a way that he had a paranormal experience, obviously a friend dying has a profound affect on you but Alistairs experience to me sounded Psychotic. In fact i was surprised that the Health Professional didnt cover that trauma in his summation of that chapter. I lost my best friend when he was 30 in a Motorcycle accident and Im still sure that from a self esteem point of view that affected me a lot, especially as I had fallen out with him prior to his death and we never got to clear the air.  I should point out that a very engaging element of the book is that a Mental Health Nurse sums up each chapter of the book from a Health Professionals point of view as service provider.

Reading this book Im getting a feeling that with BiPolar as an illness its much less triggered than some other Mental Health conditions, it creeps up on you either as a manic experience or as a depressive experience though i also have tons of associated anxiety as well. I often feel that things for me change without any reason and once again my self critic gets in on the act and regardless of any prior progress with statbility or living well with the condition thats all wiped out very quickly, in fact my BiPolar which doesnt have lots of mania but has plenty of low mood/anxiety just wipes my life aside when it comes on and though i have tools and practices I can try and use it really is normally just frustrating trying to navigate the condition.

At the moment im sitting here having read 40% of the book 'Surfing the Edge' finding it really interesting but Im aware that the three characters are different to each other and to me, their experience of BiPolar is very different to each other though it feels like they have come to terms with their illness better than I have. I have had Mental Health challenges for a long long time where things were marked down as Stress, Depression, Anxiety going back to when I was at Polytechnic where I didnt sleep for 10 days when I have my Finals exams due to my anxiety levels........I would try running every night to quiet the mania in my head ............ I just couldn't and at my first house when I was up in my Dressing Gown at 0630 in the morning in 1990 when I started painting the house for no good reason that morning. It wasn't until last year that my only time with a Psychiatrist ( bar 1 other ) gave me a BiPolar diagnosis as he spent 3 hours going through my episodes through the years.

Im not sure what im saying here but im very aware that our experiences of Mental Health are very different from person to person.

This book is very interesting though as the way it works is that 3 BiPolar sufferers are interviewed chapter by chapter regards topics and their BiPolar experience. I imagine myself being interviewed and my answers having some correlation with the three folks the book looks at but ultimately being very different.


Recommended

Monday, 19 September 2016

Depression is not a choice

Today has been a bad day at work, in that though I have been at work I have achieved practically zero.
I have had a 'church going' person tell me to pull myself up by my boots and get on with life, intimating that my condition is a choice I have every day.
Who would choose to be depressed?  I have been so much happier in the past when I was not in a relapse or continous anxiety and low mood or less normally manic.
Of course I compare myself to so many things that make me feel guilty/worse, thats how my head works.  I can see all the phyical illnesses that people have, i can see the hardship of trying to build a life in a war torn country like Syria, people don't choose those situations just like people do not choose Mental Illness.
I feel less than others in so many ways because Im struggling to beat my mental illness even though my GP is following the medical model and im also following the Talking Therapy model to try and get some progress, its not proving easy and I understand that because my condition isn't physical in any obvious way that people might not understand how exhausting it can be acheiving very little !!! It can be though.  
I'm always pleased when someone has beaten their Mental Illness or at least not relapsed for a long long while whilst navigating it. its also true that some folks dont beat it and they have to live with how it makes them feel, how if impacts performance, friendships and even of course marriages and family life.  I think everybody we meet is unique and interesting and I think everyone I meet or talk to with Mental Illness is unique and interesting, each experience just like with physical illnesses is unique as well.
Im not quite sure what im trying to say but I think Im just pouring out my frustration that started with a comment to me earlier today and then was added to by my inability to work as I would like to.  My head is still on the wrong axis with too much/many thoughts from past, present and future fighting for part of my mind, making analysis and decision making and creativity at work such an ask.
Im pretty sure that though it can be a First World problem no one chooses to be Mentally ill.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Samaritans

I had never contacted the Samaritans before as I guess I had never felt, however flat and frustrated, that I was in that level of crisis.  To me it indicated that any dark thoughts I was having were beyond me and those supporting me.
Last week and earlier this week though I was becoming incredibly frustrated such that I just needed to vent, frustrated with myself and with my progress not with any of those supporting me and following Talking Therapy ( mine is really good ) that felt stymied I decided I would contact the Samaritans eMail address.
I have to say that the response was much more thought through from Samaritans than I would have expected and the dialogue has really made me think about some things, it hasn't fixed anything but I was so cross with myself I needed an avenue to vent myself within a safe environment and though Im sure the eMail I sent to them was quite venal, the response I got was warm, supportive and well thought through.
I just thought it worth mentioning as its something that people might not exploit because it might seem very dislocated where as my experience has been thats it works as one way to have a dialogue that is meaningful, I'm on a few online forums where I have vented from time to time and well meaning though other Mental Health sufferers are the platitudes can be quite driveby and repetitive if that maske sense.