Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring is here!

Hi dear readers. I've been thinking, among other things, about my blog. Have realised that I would actually like more readers, and with a view to increasing my readership, am resolved to visit more blogs, and not just lurk but comment! That is crucial! And probably stick to my main sphere of interests for this mental health, recovery in mental health, the role of nutrition, exercise and spirituality. It probably won't ever be a particularly polemical or political blog. Apart from anything else that is already being done by many who do it better than I would. This is above all a personal story of recovery, and well, can you ever get too many of those?

Let me clarify. I am not 'recovered' from mental illness but I am very much 'in recovery' from it. That could very easily be a lifetime's work, but as for claiming to be recovered, well that's a big claim. I have been tempted to say it over the last year of withdrawal and a vast improvement in my overall health, but the last few weeks have demonstrated to me more than adequately that I still have to work with and around a mood disorder of some degree.

I had a much better day at the library today. After literally being in a state of high anxiety and fear for much of the last two weeks about it! Remarkably I didn't even have to tell anyone 'I feel anxious about going on the counter'. One of the higher-ups said I should really have been given some proper training before being put on the desk. Another reassured me that if I felt stressed out by anything I had to do, just to say and they would give me something else! I could really have hugged both of them on the spot.

I did quite a bit of re-shelving (which is strangely enjoyable!) , did some 'book prep' (where you mend books or strengthen them and put various labels on) and even went on the counter a bit, always with someone there though. There were no big queues, or angry customers! You get two tea breaks and an hour for lunch. The people are really friendly. It's actually pretty good! I am doing this work experience in order to establish whether I might pursue a library/information career. Well obviously the jury is still out but from today's experience I think there's a good chance.

Take care all!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I'm still struggling with depression. Heartily wish I didn't have to do any work at all right now but instead am doing the minimum. Also postponed my contact with my son from this weekend to next. Gives me a chance to see my doc on Monday and see what can be done. I would like to get a salivary hormone test, as the blood tests I have had before don't seem to tell you very much and can be misleading in my experience. Don't know if my doc can or will refer me to this service.

Some of this may be triggered by psychological issues, such as my difficulties around work and relationships. Even I have got to be shocked by the degree of tension, anxiety and sheer dread I experience at the thought of the workplace. A lot of it is centred on the people I have to interact with at work. I am experiencing a crippling shyness, partly stemming from my feeling of inadequacy and inferiority around work. I didn't think working in a quiet office or in a library - a library for God's sake - would expose me too much socially, but remarkably, it does. Or rather, when I feel vulnerable, which is quite frequently, I can't cope with 'normal' social interaction at work.

For the first time since I withdrew from meds I am facing the fact that my pre-existing problems have not miraculously disappeared. Back to the goddamn drawing board. Thought I'd better check in but haven't the strength or the inspiration to write any more now. Zoe.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just keepin' on keepin' on.

Hi y'all. Well, I've had my week off. It's been mixed, but at least partly enjoyable. Today I met some chums from Dual Recovery Anonymous in Euston. We went for a fab slap-up veggie Indian meal at Diwana's in Drummond Street, then crossed the road to the Wellcome Institute which has a fascinating free exhibition of artefacts from the Wellcome collection. Quite an eclectic mix with a vaguely medical and scientific theme. From Darwin's walking stick, Florence Nightingale's shoe to a mummified corpse, Hieronymous Bosch's paintings and Japense erotica. Really weird, wayout and wonderful. We really enjoyed ourselves, then went for a cuppa in their beautifully designed, minimalist cafe. Chewed the fat thoroughly about some of the drawbacks of Twelve Step fellowships for people with mental health problems. It was very refreshing and fun and pretty much totally un-stressful..

I cheered up a lot in the course of the day having been glum in the morning despite a workout in the gym. I was anxious too about going back to work tomorrow. But I travelled back on the bus with my good friend and she somehow eased my mind by understanding my issues around work...and pinpointing them as about rehabilitation into the 'normal' world... gaining acceptance, challenging stigma and alienation. If it was easy, well probably a lot more people would 'return' from serious mental health issues to tell the tale and be fully rehabilitated. As it is, we are the exception that proves the rule. Just being so well understood by someone who really knows me well, I felt a weight lift off me...a weight of shame, twisted-up feelings, hurt, wounded ego, dread, fear and heaven only knows what else.

She said maybe the work issues are triggering these moodswings up to a point. It's a chicken and egg, both things fed into each other. One thing is for sure. I cannot butt out now. I'm in the middle of the pain barrier and must keep on pushing through it until the pain eases and I begin to see clearly what my issues really are. At the end of it I'm doing this for me. It's a discipline akin to getting up at six-thirty to do yoga and meditate. Sure I would rather stay in the comfort zone of my warm bed. I just know that this chrysalis stage can't last forever, and I must keep pushing through until I burst out into the Spring sunlight.

Lots of love. And if you are reading, do drop by and say hi! It gets echoey in here!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My main emotion was relief...

...this week and gratitude that I had some me-time. I badly needed to take stock, relax and rest. The day after my last entry I picked up a lot. Helped by (at last) getting the birthday card and letter from my son.

What is clear is that I still have a pronounced bipolar tendency, or at the very least, cyclothymia. My moods have a tendency to dominate my life, and no-one could say that I neglect my health in any way. I'm doing all the right things. Still my moods have a tendency to take charge of me rather than the other way around. Thank God for my spiritual life. Sometimes it is all I have that is effective against the mood demon. Sometimes I'm left clinging to it like a piece of driftwood in a stormy sea.

Anxiety over work issues looms large at the moment. That's clear from reading the last few blog entries and seeing what a preoccupation it is. Work as I think I said before, is a trigger. It triggers the recollection of all I have missed through these years of debilitating mental illness, which in turn sets off feelings of inadequacy, uselessness, incompetence, inferiority and...crippling shyness. Morrissey's line 'No I've never had a job because I'm too shy' could have been written about me. I lack a normal sense of being protected by my skin. Other people scare me and threaten me just by existing in that separate but parallel way they have. No wonder I ended up escaping into mania.

Not that I'm about to let any of that make me give up on it. Only by persistence can I come to terms with the work demon and convert it into a friend or at least neutralise it. I'll keep on keeping on. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Besides I have the perspective of maturity. That's a gift that the passing years have brought. I am basically cognizant of just how incredibly fortunate and blessed I am. I have led a charmed come back from some of the places I have been to not only intact but whole and healthy is testimony to that. To have work issues is a high-class problem for someone who has been repeatedly locked up, who has totally lost her mind on countless occasions, endangering myself and possibly others.

Above all I am grateful for the presence in my life of a Higher Power.

There's been so much to tell this week. I almost have pressure of speech trying to somehow get it out. My inner life is so overwhelming sometimes. Even that is a privilege in a way. There's such a richness of experience inside me that others don't necessarily know about. When I share at my OA group I feel like an outsider, never really fitting in and not by any means sure I even fit the description of 'compulsive overeater'. But I'm inclined to accept that and even celebrate it. My only fear is that others will be annoyed at my presence in the group. After all that wouldn't be a new experience for me. In one way I'm most at home in groups (more than pairs for instance!) In another I have a history of challenging them without necessarily even realising it.

Take care dear readers...thank you whoever makes it to this blog. It's the literary equivalent of a sketchy overgrown footpath that the Ramblers Association are trying to keep open. Hardly a main road then! Love, Zoe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Like wading through wet concrete...

...that's my life at the moment. Started at the library. The morning was fine when I was being given my induction. In the afternoon though I was a bit daunted at having to go on the counter and deal with the public. There are loads of fiddly little things to learn have to use a scanner and a mouse. I felt terribly inadequate.

What was even worse than of the customers was a woman I'd been in a therapy group with. I had ended up leaving because I basically couldn't handle what I felt at the time were remarks that crossed the line. I've never really regretted leaving, though at the time I felt pushed out. Anyway she was friendly and I was friendly back, she wasn't really the one I had a problem with although she was a kind of catalyst that affected the dynamics of the group.

But oh my God I didn't want her to see me make a fool of myself on my first day in a new job. Seeing her just made me feel even more painfully exposed than I did already. Then she was talking about her daughter. It all just fed right into my depression, low self-esteem and sadness over Jasper not ringing and not sending me a birthday card. I can't help feeling there's got to be a reason for it. And I'm already low, ready to read negative interpretations into...whatever. Roll on the CBT seminars that I'm booked onto in April. Any sense that I no longer require therapy was premature.

I was just relieved to get out of the library, and become anonymous in the street again. It will probably take me a while to process all of this. These feelings, which are making my life intermittently hellish. I've also got to do things like contact Jasper's social worker. I've bought him an Easter egg and card which I've wrapped up all ready to send tomorrow. Thank God I don't have to work for the next week...the servers are down at my other job and my line manager phoned to say I needn't come in. We also have the Easter weekend. Usually I don't care for bank holidays but the way I feel right now I'm just relieved I don't have to struggle on at work.

I did feel better for awhile after doing some shopping for Jasper's egg and some hairdye, etc. My hair is utterly disgusting today...all greasy and lank. But I'm too wrung out to do the dye job tonight.

One of the few things that helps me feel somewhat OK is doing my yoga in the morning, and meditating and praying afterwards. At times like this, though it's hard to even get out of bed, I need these things more than ever. For the first time since I came off psych meds I am seriously contemplating going back on them. Well maybe not seriously, but contemplating. And I've booked an appointment to see my doc to discuss the moodswings and the HRT. Take care all, a weary Zoe.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pretty low.

Oh dear. I perked up a bit at the gym yesterday and while Richard was here but now he's gone I feel a bit s***. Starting at the library tomorrow. Now 46. And computer playing up. And I haven't had a card from Jasper. He phoned yesterday and I was out and he hasn't phoned again. Not good. Haven't the heart to blog right now. Take care.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Still moody after all these years...

Ohmigod. First two days of this week I was up and away and ready for anything. Halfway through Wednesday I started to crash. I am thinking 'hormones'. And maybe, 'HRT'. I've been on it for about six months now and at first it seemed miraculous in its effects. Now I am less sure. My appetite has been out of control too...cravings for sweets, even though I don't go near sugar any more. Also been waking quite early. And getting terribly tired. Haven't been to the gym all week. Just couldn't face it.

It isn't mental health problems as I've known them in the past...there seems very little danger of a recurrence of psychosis or severe persistent depression. However these rapid and unpredictable moodswings are impacting on my life. They don't prevent me from working or functioning, but they do make me feel fairly miserable at times. In the course of a few days, even hours, it's all change. Today I was massively fed up at work, yet the other day I really enjoyed it. It isn't the blasted work. It's me!

Will be starting a new voluntary job at the library on Monday. So that will be three days working out of five.

Still pretty down, and I am doing pretty much every damn thing I can to be well. It occurred to me today that work itself does trigger me the sense that in an average, office environment I am faced with facts about my life that I find difficult. For instance, I have been on state benefits for the best part of twenty years...for a lot of that time I was too ill to work and as a result I have missed out on a career or even gaining significant work experience in the professional world. Whether I can really catch up now is doubtful, however good I am at learning and so forth. I'm going to be forty-six tomorrow. The best I can hope is to defy my age somewhat by keeping mentally and physically fit. I feel so depressed right now that I'd better not even carry on down this route...I just can't find it in me to be positive and I just hope to God that I'll feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Feeling better...

...and hope I will be out of my little trough soon. I guess I was a bit gung-ho about the work thing to start out with. The other shoe had to that the right expression? Well anyone bipolar knows the score. The knack is to ride these mood waves and prevent them from derailing us too badly...but if I am forced to pretend normality I am afraid I will fail every time. For God's sake, I'm working in a mental health organisation and I already feel pressured to keep the mask up. Because it's an office and I'm on the reception desk! If it was at all a busy reception I think I would chicken out of's just too exposing for my hypersensitive little bipolar soul!

Anything regarding work is a steep learning curve for me. I've been, in some ways, privileged to be able to do my own thing for years and years without having any significant money worries or restrictions. Now I'm discovering something about how the other half live. My ego is having to take a battering, and my self-esteem is suffering too. I basically feel like the office dogsbody...I'm the only volunteer and it can't be coincidence that I'm having to do stock-checking (YAWN!) post franking and entering lists of names and figures in a book for the finance department. Is it for this that I got a first class degree in languages?

Whither my grandiosity! Still there, but in reduced circumstances! I have to withhold any conclusions about my current work situation because, please note dearest reader, I'm a little bit low! I have to bite my tongue, which feels like giving vent to an outbreak of Tourette's, and play the good, docile office worker. My ego has to bear feeling incompetent and clumsy at even these most basic of tasks.

I'll give it time. And as I'm only doing two days a week I have plenty of time to scan the job market. Surely a paid job can scarcely be harder work than bloody volunteering! Take care all...Love, Zoe.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Been a little bit low...

...and been having a crisis of confidence about the work thing. Been having to fight feelings of reluctance and resentment about going into my voluntary work. Long to somehow connect my abilities with the task but there's no flow at all at the moment. I feel like I'm doing tasks that any idiot could do. Coupled with that when I browse the job websites (such as Charityjobs) I am overwhelmed by the length and specificity of the person specs.

I've always waited to have a sort of Eureka moment as regards work, looking for a vocation rather than just a way to pay the bills. I'm an idealist. It's never really happened and at this point in my life, on the cusp of my 46th year, is as good a time as any to have to come to terms with that, I suppose. It happens for some people Goddammit! Why not me?

Slightly depressed, energy a little low. Take care! Love, Zoe.