Saturday, April 2, 2011

Coincidences...or no coincidence? That is the question.

Before P told me that there were no coincidences, life carried on in much the same way as it did afterwards  because I didn't believe her. To be honest, I spent the next two years thinking that she was very knowledgeable in many ways, but a bit 'garden gnomes' when it came to thinking that life converses with fate.... I may have been a bit hasty.Garden gnomeNot about the gnomes you understand, these are universally accepted flags of dottiness and not at all the practical 'quirkiness' of someone who, let's say for argument's sake, put a duck-egg blue woolly hat that her mother knitted, onto her teapot during the cold snap and liked it so much that she let it stay there.view details                                                      

I've lost my thread.........

view detailsI have no other way to explain what happened to me a day or two after I realised that I must be bipolar. I was already in depression, tearful and shattered when my daughter's teacher asked if I was OK . Of course, not knowing her in any personal way at all, I replied that I was. Yet, she led me to her classroom, closed the door behind me and said that she wasn't letting me out till I told her what was going on... and so, shaking and sobbing, I told her. I have no idea why, I hadn't told another soul. This virtual stranger listened calmly and in the end it was her story that surprised me for it seems that before she went into teaching, she worked for a pharmaceutical company selling bipolar medication. Tremendously reassuring and a fountain of knowledge, she informed me that the CEO of a very large confectionary brand was bipolar and managed it perfectly well. It was as though I was the unhappy heroine of a fairytale being sent her fairy godmother. She really did give me hope.

The second person that I told was a friend who had recently been in touch after a gap of 20 years. I told her because she is lovely, because I'd cancelled every one of our plans to get together and because she lived 160 miles away and so my privacy would remain relatively unaffected. I shall never forget her response to my confessional e-mail.
"I run groups on how to manage bipolar, so there's no way you are getting rid of me now." It seems she was a mental health nurse and she has been a tower of strength to me ever since.
Emoticon with falling anvilHer explanation for the  2 person 'coincidence' that I had just encountered?
"The universe does conspire to give you what you need if you let it."


had a lovely dream last night where I drove to my friend's house on an errand but had difficulty getting into the drive as it was covered in bracken and I couldn't go round the drive in a loop as I was used to and so found myself stuck. When I got out the car, I realised that Julie hadn't lived there in years. I'd been so busy thinking of my errand that I forgot what I was doing. (In reality it wasn't a house she had ever lived in anyway, though she did once have a house fairly high high up that looked over the sea.)
I had to get out the car to go explain to the people who owned the house why my car was stuck in their drive and I needed their help to get out.
The house was fairly high up on a hillside and I could see a picturesque town below me, quite Scottish in its design. The day was fair and the air was still. I get an overall feeling of warmth. I was very nervous about entering the house t first, I was very disorientated inside and couldn't work out why, but I glimpsed a mother and baby out of the corner of my eye and realised that their was bedroom furniture downstairs and that they'd swapped the rooms around to improve the awkward layout. When a lady around my age appeared, looking a little severe, I told her my plight, apologising profusely but there was a very surprising result. The whole family took it as an opportunity to meet someone new and were so solicitous and charming and caring. The grandad danced with me on the patio and I felt so cared for. The grandad danced with me on the patio-he was a lovely man, you could feel the goodness and content radiate from him. They all came outside, 3 generations of people and the baby was propped up on a counter in front of us, in the middle of the action, not sidelined, although it did slide over to the side as it was so young but very cute. I felt treasured.
The rest of the night was about looking at houses and lovely villages and looking for the right road over hills and in countryside as I drove around, trying to get over steep hills. But with this family, I wasn't looking and yet found what I needed. It was lovely.
If I am , as P says, everyone in my dream then I must put myself in their shoes Grandad is the easiest and he thinks "Well, looks, she's done it, She got here at last, it calls for a celebration" and he greets me like a long lost traveller. The young mother is curious but not frightened and absolutely accept that this person wandering into her house, looks like someone who is going to be significant to the family and she looks kind. The son is baffled and curious, it's a bit more of a surprise to him but he's happy to go with the flow. The mother sees her as more of an unknown quantity, she's a little suspicious and reserving judgement. The baby has a definite connection with her. It wants to touch her, which is perhaps why it unbalances. All in all, lots of love and acceptance as a traveller finds her way home to a place she has /has never been before. It felt marvellous.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to cope with depression

When I realised that I would repeatedly suffer from episodes of depression, I decided that since there were very few upsides to it, I would provide myself with some. I really enjoyed making my 'Comfort Box'. It was great fun and the best part is, I can keep adding to it :)
My Comfort Box is in fact, a rather lovely wicker basket and it contains all the things that I know I can do, even when I am down. It does what it says on the tin-comforts me.
Child striking a pose in a purple and green superhero costumeFor example; I love to read but cannot do so when I am 'on a downer' as it takes too much concentration. I have always had a love of cartoons, Calvin and Hobbes being an obsession- but I already owned every strip that Bill Watterson had ever produced and had read it ten times over. So, I had a great time searching ebay , Amazon and second hand shops to find Garfield, Andy Capp, Peanuts, Fred Basset.....and the list goes on. They are tiny pieces of chuckle fuelled philosophy that my mind can cope with. Once I did that, I realised that during very bad episodes, concentrating on sketching my own cartoons helped calm the savage mind and so I bought a sketch pad and pencils and they went into the box.
One thing that can instantly lift my spirits is a lovely, musky smell. So my box is filled with bath bombs- ready for when I need them most- and perfume sachets that I can stick in my handbag or under my pillow .Oxfam do a great range and I also bought lots of crafty bits there, including great wooden stamps as well as incense gift sets for myself (    My Comfort Box smells great! That new awareness of how smells affect me, led me to spend a fortune in Lush for day to day living and to help keep me on an even keel    since they do blocks of deodorant that smell of patchouli and solid perfumes that are woody or musky (I can't bear those flowery commercial scents that by and large make you smell like an old lady). It might not be cheap but it was worth every penny in mental health terms.(
There's the odd gardening design book , just to enjoy the pictures of nature and good weather and for the same reason, a Conde Nast magazine or two.
I used to love sitting with my kids watching Pingu, so there's a  box set of DVD's- I have no shame as far as Pingu is concerned! Similarly, I enjoy my Postman Pat compendium. I used to live in the Welsh valleys as a student and could swear that I saw his little van surfing the mountains from time to time.
For all the big things that didn't fit in the box, I cut up lots of greeting cards with benign and relaxing or funny photos on them and wrote a prompt on the back of each one to make flashcards.Dog wearing a party hat and surrounded by balloons and streamersFor example -  "Craft kit on top of kitchen cupboard" (I don't remember the kitchen cupboard when I am down, much less the craft kit!) or "Call Tracy and tell her how you are feeling" or "Paint a mural on the kitchen cupboard" and even " Scream.....loudly and long".  I also listed every calming and relaxing CD that I own, including Sufjan Stevens CD that I instantly loved.
My 'Meditation for Dummies' book came with a brilliant CD that gives 9 different guided meditations, from lying down, to sitting to walking. It never fails to work wonders.
The experience of putting my Comfort Box together was a reassuring and fulfilling one. I spoiled myself and bought myself gifts, knowing that it was therapeutic and would help the whole family in the long run. Indulgence was guilt free. It also helped me to value myself by acknowledging what was important to me.

So, have yourself a think.... what is it that you would put in your box? It doesn't need to cost a fortune if you can shop second hand or online.  People often want ideas for gifts at Christmas or on birthdays. I keep my basket next to my bed and no-one is allowed to 'borrow' from it.
My last piece of advice is don't be too precious about saving it for a rainy day, for often that day has arrived and we fail to recognise it. Your Comfort Box may just stop days from going from light shower to deluge. Still if you can come up with a better name for it, I'd appreciate it. Currently it sounds a little like a risque episode of  'Little House on the Prairie'.
Animation image of a young boy changing expressions

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hard Times?

Quite a lot has happened since we spoke last.
I have not been having an easy time, some rapid cycling thingy
 is going on and it's been difficult to meditate or to ground myself  at times but then feel that I am 'never going to be ill again' at others.   I sometimes liken my cyclothymia to autism in as much as I seem to completely withdraw when things get difficult for me; this makes things 10 times worse and then difficult to get out of. For instance, I hadn't called anyone who had agreed to be on my 'Tornado Helpline'. I hadn't taken anything out of my 'Comfort Box', I hadn't listen to my guided mediation tape, hadn't walked, hadn't .....  Then my psychotherapist (P) simply forced me to make eye contact and I had the tools to help myself.

So, what has brought this about? Well, it has been a truly sh*tty time really. All those things that are sent to try us, have arrived at my door at the same time.So, whilst stressed, I am susceptible to the thing that affects me most; the fear of/danger of illness. sends me into a tailspin. We all have our own triggers, and this is mine.

My fear can be brought on by the most tenuous of link. For example; I had a phone call from a company dealing with asbestos, to see if they could come and test my walls and ceilings as they had been asked to do by The Warm Front Grant Team. This was the first I had heard of it and so I immediately presumed that my son's recent illness was asbestos related and that in the long term, each of us were going to die a lingering and painful death.

In the event, when they turned up, they said that someone had made a mistake somewhere since I had no artexing to check for asbestos and that in lieu of the sample he'd been asked to provide , he'd send a sliver of woodchip!  Even if I had had asbestos, they'd simply have followed the builder around with an asbestos hoover if he'd had to drill a hole.
Yet,each time illness is even hinted at,  I simply plummet without warning - screaming all the way down as though the earth has given way to a void beneath. I completely forget that I am wearing a parachute. So until I can do it for myself, the brilliant P has agreed to pull the rip chord for me.
I must remember that the choice whether to panic or not, is in fact mine.

Off for my daily fix of The Gilmore Girls's like an illness in itself. xx

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