bipolar, cyclothimia, depression, hypomania, mental health, Money

Today was the worst day of my life!

Today started off so well! Went to work, had a tuna sandwich for lunch, got a few grumpy customers on the phone but nothing I couldn’t handle. Everything went downhill from there. Called into the petrol station on the way home in my little 2000 plate vauxhall corsa and topped up with £15 worth of petrol. Walked up to the counter to pay and put my debit card in the machine. beep DECLINED!

“Oh shit!” I thought, knowing I was already £400 past a £1000 overdraft. “Can I try again?” Beep! Beep! DECLINED!

Shit shit shit!! The petrol is already in my car!! “I’m so sorry I don’t know why it’s not working, I definitely have enough money in!” I lied to the cashier, who I think was almost as embarrassed as me.

I went to the cash machine outside, the one I usually avoid because it charges me £1.49 to access my own money! You have insufficient funds in your account it boldly informed me.

I phoned my dad in the hope that he would swoop in like the knight in shining armour he is and pay my £15 bill….but then I remembered that my parents were at the dentist, a good 40 minute drive away. I phoned my partner, who reminded me that his debit card had snapped and he’d had to send off for a new one only a day earlier.

I don’t have any credit cards because of debts that I’ve run up on them in the past. How the hell am I going to pay?!

I phoned my bank and pleaded with the operator to authorise the payment of £15!! He simply advised that if I deposit funds into my account then the transaction would work. Funds?! Funds?! I have no fucking funds

Again I apologised to the cashier and made up some story about there being a problem with the chip on my card. I lied to save face, although I imagine he probably had a big red flashing sign on his computer screen saying THIS WOMAN HAS INSUFFICIENT FUNDS!

After about 15 minutes of excruciating embarrassment I managed to get through to my mother in law. Hmmmm, only it wasn’t her who answered the phone. She was still at work. It was her mother, Adam’s grandma! I’d actually resorted to asking an 80 year old woman living on a state pension for £15 to pay my petrol bill. Oh the shame!

Worse still was the fact that I had to leave my drivers license and bank card with the cashier while I made the short journey to Adam’s gran’s house! She gave me £15 exactly in change from the bottom of her purse. I apologised profusely and she told me not to worry, but I was worrying. How am I going to buy milk, or bread, or cat food for the next week?! What about my car tax that runs out at the end of the month?!

I can’t help but feel like I’m in a black hole at the moment. My wage no longer even covers my debt, and I’m being charged £300 a month for going past my overdraft, which only puts me further in debt! I would consolidate if I didn’t already have a raft of loans that I can’t afford!

My problem is that when I’m on a high I spend like money grows on trees, with little thought of the consequence. When I’m down I simply can’t face it. And when I’m back to my normal self I’m in such a mess that I don’t even know how to go about sorting out my finances!

I think the worst part of the worst day of my life was the fact that when I got home, my boyfriend wasn’t speaking to me. He said that I promise to sort it out but never do. He said he doesn’t understand why I am the way I am. Then he refused to talk to me. Part of me suspects he thinks I do it on purpose, and that just breaks my heart and fills me with unrelenting guilt…..

So today was the worst day of my life. And it started off so well!!

bipolar, cyclothimia, cyclothymia, depression, hypomania, mental health

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Well, it’s another late night, can’t sleep post!! The half litre of caffeine filled diet coke probably didn’t help though to be honest.

I want to share my thoughts on CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s basically a form of counselling/ therapy that’s designed to help you develop coping strategies. Lots of talking about your feelings etc. I’m gonna break the rule a bit and give you my conclusion on CBT right at the very start: I think that CBT can be helpful for some people, but you only get out of it what you put in. If you don’t buy into the premise you’re less likely to take something meaningful away from it.

I was referred for CBT after seeing my doctor about depression. My bouts of depression had always come and gone, but they were getting more severe and lasting much longer and I was finding myself less able to cope. She gave me a prescription for antidepressants and said she would refer me for therapy. 8 months later I finally received a letter in the post for my first session of CBT. Bearing in mind that for me the depression was cyclical and not constant, by this time I felt perfectly fine again (after a few more lows had come and gone in between.) I toyed with the idea of ringing the hospital to cancel, but my boyfriend and my mum encouraged me to go. After a brief stint with a children’s counsellor aged 15, where I was ceremoniously diagnosed as having seasonal affective disorder and offered antidepressants (which I refused) I was already sceptical about the effectiveness of therapy. Coupled with the fact that it had taken them 8 months to even get me an appointment, I didn’t exactly turn up with an open mind.

My mental health nurse, Nikki, was very nice. She wore bright clothes and makeup, always had perfectly coiffed hair and long pink nails; she made me feel practically dowdy in comparison, in my black pencil skirt and grey blouse, with my blue work pass swinging from around my neck. But she was chatty and welcoming and I felt at ease right away. We talked about my history of depression and I explained that it had always come and gone since I was a young teenager. She was empathetic, and was always frantically scribbling away making notes.

There was a lot of talk about turning positives into negatives, and forcing myself to socialise or go for a walk etc, even if I didn’t feel like it. Those who have ever experienced depression will know that is much easier said than done! I remember thinking to myself “yeah this is all well and good but I know that I won’t do it! I probably won’t even try!” As the sessions went on, Nikki started to pick up on my pattern of highs and lows, and after delving into that a bit more, decided to send me to secondary care for a bipolar assessment. For that I am very grateful! I suddenly realised that she had been listening to what I was telling her!

Truth be told, I didn’t leave CBT with an arsenal of mighty weapons to use in the fight against depression, but there are 2 things that really stuck with me. I use both of them frequently and they help to stop my mood from escalating or taking a downwards spiral. The first thing I learnt, and probably the most important, is to be kinder to myself. Nikki used the phrase frequently. I would tell her about feeling useless, guilty and lazy; a complete failure, and she would say “Just be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. You’re doing a great job” or something along those lines! An example is the cleaning. When I am manic I become obsessed with cleaning: it’s a great way to expend some extra energy and it makes me feel great! I also get extremely irritable if my partner or step son make a mess! However, when I’m feeling down I just can’t face my normal cleaning routine!! I worry about it all the time, but don’t do anything about it. I just feel lazy and useless. But now I tell myself the same thing over and over, and it makes me feel so much better and far less anxious…..

“It’s not the end of the world if I don’t wash up/ clean the bathroom/ mop the floor/ iron clothes etc tonight. In the grand scheme of things it’s not important at all in fact; it will definitely wait until I am feeling better. I’m being kind to myself and cutting myself some slack, because it doesn’t matter if I’m not perfect!”

It works wonders!! The second thing I took away from CBT was my little imaginary box! I once told Nikki I felt unable to face the grown up things sometimes. You know what I mean. When all of a sudden the car tax is due, the phone company are chasing you for an unpaid bill, you need to ring the bank to move around some direct debits and you need to renew your house insurance. These things always seem to come at once when you’re feeling down, don’t you think!! I described it to Nikki as having lots of scary things floating around that I can’t make sense of, they all get on top of me and I end up not dealing with any of them and just worrying about the consequences without actually taking action to resolve them. So Nikki came up with the idea that I needed a little box to put all these things in, somewhere to store them so they were safe, but I didn’t need to worry about them. Then, when I felt ready (because I’m being kind to myself, remember!) I can take one out at a time and sort it out, without having all the other to do’s looming over me. It works brilliantly for me, it’s almost like a bit of a data cleanse in my head!!

I suppose on the whole, even if I only took two things away from CBT, if they help me when things get tough, then the 12 weekly sessions were definitely worth it! Wouldn’t you agree?

Gosh. I could definitely have split this into two, maybe three posts. Forgive me for the essay!! S’pose i’d better have another go at getting to sleep!!

Goodnight wordpressers!!

bipolar, cyclothimia, cyclothymia, depression, hypomania, mental health

I’m normal….honest…!

More and more frequently I am awoken by an automated text from my bank telling me I am way past my overdraft… doesn’t exactly get me off to the best start for the day! I must must must get a tighter control on my overspending!! It can often leave me feeling anxious, worried or depressed.

So here are 3 things I tell myself every day to remind me that things aren’t so bad!

1) It’s okay to not always be okay!
It doesn’t make you weak, it only makes you stronger! In the face of adversity you are getting through the days one step at a time!

2) I’m not crazy – the chemicals in my brain are just a bit of out whack!
Cyclothymia is driven by biological changes in the nervous system, so it’s important to understand that you can’t always help the way you are feeling.

3) People love me for who I am!
For me this is the most important thing to remember. Those around me understand that can’t undo the disorder or control my moods, and they still love me anyway. In that sense I’m blessed.

Just remember to be kind to yourself. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feel unable to cope. But cut yourself some slack, you’re doing a great job!!

Ruth x

bipolar, cyclothimia, cyclothymia, depression, hypomania, mental health

Cyclothymia – the facts!

Since being diagnosed with this mystery illness I’ve spent quite a lot of time researching it to better understand how I can manage the condition.

In a nutshell, it’s a disorder that is often described as a milder form of bipolar. Whereas bipolar symptoms are typically 2 or 3 episodes of severe mania and depression in a year, cyclothymia often consists of more frequent, but milder mood swings. As in my case, it is often the depression that leads to people seeking help from a doctor. Every couple of months for 2-4 weeks I would feel hopelessly down and depressed for seemingly no reason at all. My symptoms included:

– feeling of hopelessness
– severe fatigue
– sleeping too much and being unable to drag myself out of bed in a morning
– a feeling of apathy towards everything and everyone
– little interest or pleasure in socialising or undertaking activities I would normally enjoy
– an inability to be motivated to do anything, which often leaves my finances and house in a mess!
– severe anxiety, being unable to face things that may seem trivial in normal circumstances
– memory loss – “why did I walk into this room?? I’m sure I wanted something!”
– difficulty making decisions – this was particularly upsetting during the purchase of my first house!
– constantly worrying about things but not having the will to sort anything out
– comfort eating
– crying a LOT

Plus probably more that don’t spring to mind. I tend to find that once I move from a low to a high and vice versa, I forget about how bad or intense the other felt!

The highs that I get are called hypomania, or in layman’s terms mild mania. This means that it is unlikely I will suffer from hallucinations or psychotic episodes like someone with bipolar might, but the mania can still be very intense. My personal symptoms are usually the following:

– little or no sleep (but I’m never tired the next day!)
– severe irritability
– a general feeling of euphoria (I often feel like I’m going to float away!)
– overspending without worrying about consequences
– an ‘everything will be fine’ attitude
– extreme irritability
– massively increased sex drive (I can sometimes get quite addicted to pornography)
– a highly inflated self- esteem and self belief
– inability to focus or concentrate on just one thing
– I often temporarily develop a bit if a stammer or get muddled up with my words, as though my brain is going quicker than my mouth will allow
– an overall intense feeling – I’m struggling to describe this one, but it can sometimes be quite scary, just as though everything is very important, I am very important and if I don’t do something meaningful something bad is going to happen.

As silly as it probably sounds, that feeling of intensity is often brought on by listening to fast, upbeat music when in a hypomanic state. I use relaxation and meditation techniques and soft music to try and calm myself down, because it is usually quite a scary feeling.

It’s important to note that for probably half of the time I feel quite normal; I’m my normal self, sometimes I’m grumpy sometimes I’m happy but nothing is in extremities.

If you think you might have cyclothymia I would recommend speaking to your GP. I’ve not always had great things to say about GPs but if you give them the right information they can help.

I’ve recently been through a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which I hope to run through in a later post. There were some coping strategies that I took away from it that I hope I can share with others! I have initially chosen to avoid the mood elevators and anti-psychotic medication that is often used to treat cyclothymia. Antidepressants are not suitable for the condition as they are likely to induce a hypomanic episode. I think I’d like to put my CBT into practice for a while longer to see what kind of results I get. I’ve also agreed with my mental health practitioner that I will meditate as a way of relaxation, to both calm me down or uplift me, depending on my mood at the time.

I think it’s bedtime for me, but so far I’m finding that writing about my experiences is quite therapeutic! I haven’t been proofing any posts so please forgive any errors!! I’d love to hear from anyone who is going through a similar experience, if only to find out whether anyone is actually reading my small contribution to the internet!!

Anyway, goodnight for now!

Ruth x

bipolar, cyclothymia, depression, hypomania, mental health

This is me!

So here I am. Sat upright in bed at 2.18am writing my first ever blog post! It’s very exciting, but I really should be sleeping…I’ve got an early start tomorrow, and my poor boyfriend keeps stirring at the side of me and quietly groaning at the bright white light shining from the screen of my phone. Incase things start to get messy I should warn you – I haven’t managed to sleep much for the past week and am starting to struggle with stringing together sentences!

Anyway, a little about me. My name is Ruth, I’m 23 and live in the north of England. I live with my partner of 5 years and our 2 cats. I work full time and lead a fairly successful life by all accounts. I really could be the girl next door. And you’d probably never even notice me…most of the time that is. The only thing that really sets me apart is a mental health disorder called cyclothymia. I was very recently diagnosed with cyclothymia, after being in and out of the care of various mental health professionals since the age of 15. Although it is a relief to finally have a diagnosis, it is also the beginning of my journey to treat and manage this mystery condition.

Life can be hard, and sometimes things aren’t fair. But I hope that you will laugh with me in my highs and cry with me in my lows, and that together we can make sense of the funhouse that is mental illness.

I should really write something about what Cyclothymia actually is shouldn’t I? I think that will have to wait until tomorrow. I don’t think I can resist the overwhelming urge to clean the bathroom any longer!

G’night all!