Just another day

You know, I think the hardest part of writing a blog is to come up with a title.  Half the time I end up changing my planned title and even then I swear half of my titles must sound silly.

Latest update in my life is John and I are trying to buy a bigger house again.  Two years ago we tried but decided the house we were looking at was just too expensive.  We could get the loan approved, but we didn’t think we could meet the repayments with me about to go on unpaid maternity leave for 3 months.  Which ended up being 4 months, and then only lasting one month before having to quit.

But now that I’m back at work and going reasonably well.  I say “reasonably” because I hurt my back at work a week ago and been off for a week, and then my roster accidentally gives me this week off.  But I’m desperately hoping to return to work next week.

And the house we are looking at is significantly cheaper than the last one we nearly bought.  There are negatives though – it’s cheaper because it’s 20 years old, not quite as big, needs some repairs and doesn’t have some of the cool features we were planning in the other like a bigger bath with an inbuilt spa for days when my pain is bad and sitting in a nice warm spa bath would help.  But it’s a place we could both agree on, in an area that we could both agree on and has everything we need (just not everything we want).  I can see us happily living there until the kids are all grown up and move out and we can downsize back to a small place.  The downside is it’s also significantly cheaper because of the massive downturn in the property market here so our current house is valued less too (significantly less), so we won’t have anywhere near the amount of equity for a deposit as we did two years ago.

Of course moving will be a nightmare.  I’ve long accepted I genuinely have a hoarding problem. It’s not out of control.  We can still live a normal, safe life.  But we do own more than we fit into the house we’re currently in and it will be a nightmare packing and cleaning.  I don’t even want to think about how we’ll do it.  But at least I’ll have John to help this time, and maybe if the timing is right, my lovely mother in law might also be able to visit and give us a hand.

I feel like I haven’t written much about mental health in a long time.  I guess though it’s all part of sharing the experience of living with bipolar. For those of us who are lucky (?), even though our episodes may be extremely severe, we can have periods of great wellness in between. For the last few months, life has been just normal for me.  Not entirely “normal”.  I do have the mild hoarding problem, I do have the aspergers, I do have the social anxiety, but while those influence my life a bit, they don’t control it like an episode of depression does.

I guess if nothing else, I hope continuing to share my blog while I am well will show you, my readers, that life with bipolar can be relatively normal.  Not that I think anyone or their life is completely “normal”, but overall it’s possible to have a relatively normal life.  And that is what I’m living right now.  There are ways in which our little family still aren’t “normal” by society’s standards, but they are generally positive abnormalities (or neutral ones) not negative abnormalities.

I still have down days, but everyone does.  Even the most optimistic, happy people still have down days when faced with challenges.  And the reality is, John and I do have challenges that the average person doesn’t have.  My physical health is being really difficult – the back injury at work last week was just the final straw.  John continues to struggle with his anxiety and stress levels.  My nana’s passing has deeply affected me.

I don’t show it on the outside, but it has affected me very deeply. It’s not that I feel overwhelming sadness.  I feel some sadness, but I hope she is in a better place now.  She always said she didn’t want to live past 86, and the fact she made it to 90 and got to welcome 4 great grandchildren in the space of 3 months a year ago was really special – and in her last few months, she got to see all her grandchildren and great grandchildren one last time – me and my kids at Christmas, and the rest of the family at her 90th birthday a few months earlier (which I sadly couldn’t go to having just started my current position).  I miss her dearly, but I’m glad she is no longer suffering.  I think sometimes if we love someone, even if it hurts, we have to let them go for their sake.  So I don’t cry, I am not devastated, but I just dearly miss my wonderful nana.

She has left a wonderful legacy – grandchildren and great grandchildren who will not forget her and to proudly carry on the family name (figuratively, not literally sadly as my mother took my father’s surname and my uncle had only girls who have taken their husbands’ names).  But my nana lives on in all of us grandchildren in all the wonderful things she taught us and the wonderful experiences she gave us.  And on a personal note, she is the one who saved Sammie from bullying years ago by helping pay the school fees for a private school I couldn’t have afforded otherwise.  And with her kindness of leaving us grandchildren a small amount in her will, it makes up the little bit short John and I were short for the deposit for the house we want to buy.  So her last act of kindness to her grandchildren will be a special blessing not just to me, but to John, Sammie and Rose too.

So all in all, over the last month, I’ve had some really rough days.  I have had days when I’ve cried – sometimes from pain, sometimes from grief, sometimes from stress and a few times because John and I have had a few arguments over organising the legal and financial things to do with buying the house.  I love John and he is a great husband, but neither of us are perfect and because of his anxiety he procrastinates – which would normally not bother me as I often procrastinate too – but when it comes to important things, I must admit it drives me crazy.  But the secret of a loving marriage isn’t having no fights – the secret of a loving marriage is how a couple acts when they fight and how they resolve things after.  We both love each other deeply and dedicated to making our marriage work – to stay together, but more than that, to always love each other as well.

I’m a firm believer that real love is not a feeling but a choice and an action.  Romantic love can come ago, as can erotic love (sexual attraction).  But true love is a deep connection that people choose to give to the other person.  I mean, I hope we never lose our attraction for each other, and I accepted very early in our relationship that the downside of dating a man with aspergers is generally romance is not high on their list of priorities (although he can be very romantic at times).  But we have deep, real love for each other.  Even if we are mad at each other, we still love each other.

Although in saying that, even though we both love each other, fighting still hurts.  Hence why it can make me cry.  But what I was getting to, is even though this year so far has been very tough emotionally and I have had a number of quite sad days, the good thing is they are not depressed days.  It’s something I talked about with Dr A yesterday – how frustrating it was a year ago that the psychiatrist I was seeing before her didn’t take my depression seriously and just dismissed it as occasional sad days caused by my life situation, and missed that it was severe constant biological depression and nothing to do with my life situation at all.  I still can’t understand why he thought it was my life situation, because I had everything in life that I wanted – a loving husband, two kids I adored, one of them being the baby I had longed for for more than a decade, a job I loved, my physical health wasn’t too bad in the first few months after having Rose and so on – other than a baby who never slept, something that is within the realms of normal for a baby, my life was great.

What I said to Dr A was even though the last two months have been very difficult and stressful, in some ways it’s a reassuring reminder that I’m NOT depressed now.  That what I go through when I am depressed isn’t normal for me and that with the right medication and support, it will pass and that I can stay well – obviously not forever.  I’m well aware after three major episodes and a number of less severe episodes, that depression is something that will most likely come back.   But I had five good years in a row the last time I got over post natal depression, and I fully intend to try and make that even longer this time around.  It’s reassuring to know that I can feel the normal range of human emotions, even if that includes sadness and grief and hurt, without it being overwhelming or crushing or enduring like depression or other mental illness problems.

So that’s where things are at right now.  I was having stress migraines in the week before and two weeks after nana passing but thankfully they have stopped.  I still have sleep problems, which the valdoxan only seems to be having a small effect in helping.  And the back pain is hard to cope with – and I’m stressed out about being off work.  Partly because of the money  as I have no idea if they’ll approve a workcover claim as I already had a back injury, but this has made it worse, and if they do approve it, what they’ll actually cover (to be honest, even if they just cover the cost of the doctor, would be of benefit as medicare doesn’t cover seeing doctors for workcover claims so we’re already out of pocket several hundred dollars for the doctor alone).  But I’m more stressed out in case my bosses and colleagues think I’m some kind of wimp.  And I’m stressed out about organising everything.

Even though my work is pretty much “if you don’t stuff up, you’ll always have a job”, I still am a contracted worker.  Even though people constantly say a person can’t be fired for making a workers comp claim, it’s not technically firing someone, choosing not to renew a contract when one expires and it wouldn’t be the first time someone on a contract isn’t renewed due to time off for ill health of some kind.  So while everyone keeps trying to reassure me that this won’t hurt my job, I can’t help but worry.  As I love my job and we need me working part time.

And the other worry is my back isn’t getting better anywhere near as quick as I’d hoped.  What if I can’t go back to work at the end of this week (when my next rostered shift is).  What then?  They can’t fire me but they can get cranky at me.  My biggest fear is what if I never go back? I’m not even worried about the money although I can’t see them giving me much financial support anyway, especially when I’m part time and on a contract, not permanent.  I don’t earn much, so me not working financially isn’t a big deal.  But I love my job.  I love helping people, I love making a difference in the world.  I do love spending time at home with my kids (one reason I’d be part time even if I was 100% healthy) but I don’t want that to be my sole existence, especially when they’ll grow up one day and leave home.  Being a mother is one of my greatest purposes in life that I love, but I don’t want it to be my sole purpose.

Every sensible nurse realises that a back injury is not just possible but a common inevitability no matter how much workplace health and safety training we do.    I already had back pain, and I accepted that I couldn’t nurse forever.  But I always thought it would be a slow gradual process and had hoped I would make it to 60… or at least 50 years old before having to retire.  I didn’t expect to just be in unbearable agony suddenly after a shift one day.  I’m mid 30s – I’m too young to have to give up work!

Not that I’ve given up.  I’m hoping and I’m praying. I’m doing everything the doctors have suggested.  I’m chasing up the work physiotherapist to try and get an appointment as soon as possible (if they ever answer their phone!).  I’m going to do everything possible to get back to work as soon as possible.  But in the meantime, I guess I have the normal fears anyone in my situation has.  But those fears won’t break me.  And that’s what matters.

So for now I will say goodnight.  I hope to take little Rose out to a mums and bubs music group in the morning for the first time.  Hoping everyone reading has a good day.  Take care.

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Down day and relationships

Today has been a real struggle.  Struggling really badly with constant headaches (interspersed with migraines – yes there is a difference) mainly caused by stress.  But really struggling most with feeling like people in my life aren’t who I thought they were.  Not on unimportant things – but on the very things I liked and respected them for.  Some whom I’ve known for a very long time (more than half my life).  Even though I’m obviously disappointed, I’ve always felt it’s better to know the truth than not to know.

It often means re-evaluating the relationship (whether it be friends or family) but usually that’s for the best – either the relationship deepens and grows (which is good) or it fades and/or ends (which is sad but is usually for the best).  It stings to lose someone you care about out of your life – the closer and the longer the relationship, the bigger the sting – but a healthy relationship needs honesty and openness.

I’m not saying any of these people have deliberately hidden who they are on purpose. With each of them, it’s been different reasons.  For some it’s just fear of being disliked if they show fully who they are – which I understand.  And for others it’s simple a matter of no one shows 100% of themselves to every single person they meet, so it’s inevitable, even if you’ve known someone for a really long time, to see a new side to that person and sometimes that’s a positive side and sometimes it’s not.
Some of these people, I’m sure our relationship will grow deeper as we work through seeing this other side of them, others I think our relationship will fade or end. I will miss them, but like I have to keep remind Sammie (with her teenage high school dramas), you can’t force someone to be friends. And sometimes you can just be too different from a person to make the relationship work.  Some things can be worked through, other things can’t be.

I will always mourn the loss of any relationship for any reason but I’ve also been the type of person of moderation.  I’m not the type of person to just say “forget they ever existed” and move on like the relationship didn’t matter at all, but I’ve never been one to dwell or obsess.  Depending on the type and closeness of the relationship and why it ended, I will give it a reasoned amount of time to see if things are resolvable but I won’t just cut things off immediately with no chance of resolution but nor will I give endless time and effort.

At the end of the day, it’s about striking up a balance between respect for yourself and respect for the other person.  In the past, I’ve had too little respect for myself and let people walk away all over me, until they’ve had enough use of me and abruptly end the friendship. But on the flipside, I’ve seen too many people who think too highly of themselves and not care about other people and end friendships over petty things and not even try to work things out even after decades of friendship and I don’t ever want to become like that.

So I’m going to keep trying to be balanced.  And it’s not easy.  Some days the actions of people who I thought were friends really hurt.  And some relationships just can’t be saved.  But as long as I have those who are closest to me (John, Rose and Sammie), I can get through the loss of any other relationship.  Of course there are very dear friends and family who I would be deeply hurt to lose (whether through death or ending of the relationship) like I still mourn for my grandmother and wish she was still alive, but I know I will get thought.  I dread the thought of ever losing John or one of the kids, but I live with that fear by convincing myself they’ll live a very long time and hopefully I will go first.

Anyway, I think I’m getting really morbid now, but I’m tired and I’m sad.  I’ll be ok, but just need time and sleep to get there.

Life goes on

So I decided this year I’m going to be more chilled out about posting.  I had been feeling disappointed after m month or so off writing while I was away but then I realised I was putting way too much pressure on myself to come up with something every single day.  So this year I’ve decided to write a post at least once a week.  I may write more if I feel the burning desire to put fingers to keyboard (“pen to paper”) but I no longer feel the pressure to force myself to write every day.

So as I mentioned in my last post, a lot has happened in the last two months, but yet again I’ve left it too late at night to write about it.  I cried for the first time since my nana’s death.  Hearing the news that my husband’s grandmother is ill and is having risky surgery I think is what finally led me to tears.  I know she is not my biological relative, but she is still dear family to me – like the rest of my husband’s family, she has kindly gone out of her way to welcome me and Sammie into the family and like the rest of my husband’s family, I treasure her as if she was my own grandmother.  So I hope and pray she pulls through and makes a full recovery.

In other quick news, my husband and I think we finally may be able to buy a bigger home.  No more living like sardines!  Of course it hasn’t been an easy journey.  It’s not our dream home – but to buy our dream home, we’d need at least $80K more and we definitely couldn’t afford that right now.  But it is close enough to what we want, that we’ll be happy.

The little hiccups along the way are that there are issues with the sellers not speaking english and have never sold a house before so they haven’t done a lot of the required things they are supposed to before trying to sell (but we’re working through that) and then we have to sort out our loan.  We hope we have the required income and we should (since we were supposedly only $20K short of the $560K loan when we were trying to buy 18 months ago), but it’s just a matter of going through the application and approval process.  The only problem I’m worried about is that I’m still considered a temporary worker.  I mean, my work has just got me to sign another contract for 6 months, and constantly say that as long as I work well, there will be work, but banks don’t tend to just like taking an employer’s word for it.

But these are all things that we’re working through and we hope and pray that we’ll find a way through it all.  And we’re sure we will.

Mentally, I’m doing well.  I feel sad about losing my nana, but sadness/grief is not the same as depression.  I’ve started my next placement at work (been there a week so far) and apart from the usual levels of social phobia in any new situation, my anxiety is pretty much under control.  I’m amazed that I don’t have the crushing anxiety I did six months ago where I reached the point where I genuinely wanted to die rather than going to work, so it goes to show how I’ve come in just six months and that obviously the cymbalta is the right med for me for now.

Physically, I’m not doing so well.  I know part of it is the fact that I ended up having six weeks off work and six weeks off going to the gym, so going back to work was a real shock to the system.  It’s just the usual – knees playing up really bad, back is really bad when I’m at work, really run down and exhausted, blisters after being on my feet all day.  Just the usual anyone would get when returning to something physical after a significant amount of time of inactivity.  So I hope I’ll be back to my usual fitness and pain levels within a few weeks.  Which in itself is not fantastic but it’s manageable.

There is so much more I could write about, but I’m hoping to get up and be awake enough in the morning to do some fun things with Rose tomorrow morning now Sammie is back at school.  So goodnight all.