Category Archives: Personal

Balance &; Values, part I

The last couple of years I have come to realise how important it is for me to keep my life in balance. ‘Balance’ is such a subjective term. For me, it’s feeling like I’m in the right place. Like I’m headed in the right direction. It’s an imperfect mix of values, which even out to where I feel satisfied and at peace.

I find that when I’m feeling like things are off – when my mood is worse, my anxiety is skyrocketing, my eating begins to slip and I regress to not sleeping for days at a time – often it’s because somewhere, I’ve let things fall out of balance. Whether that’s by something as practical as not taking my medication or something less obvious, like not taking time out to sit and drink tea on my own, or going a few days without checking in with friends.

A few weeks ago I co-facilitated an online session for young people about living in line with your values. It should have been obvious at the time (hell, it should have been obvious four months ago when I started struggling more again) – But I think things are out of balance. So here we go – time to reassess my values, where I’m at, where I want to be, and how to get there.

First up, here are some general areas that I care about: health (physical and mental); relationships (friends and family); education; employment; community; and leisure and relaxation. There’s more to it than identifying these areas though – within these categories, what is important? What is meaningful?

Health (physical): fitness, nutritional balance, looking after my iron and b12 deficiencies, getting enough sleep.

Health (mental): regular mood, controlling anxiety, developing and utilising coping strategies, practicing mindfulness,

Relationships: connecting regularly with others, maintaining positive relationships, showing people how much I appreciate and care for them, feeling valued and loved.

Education: performing well at university, attending classes, potentially furthering my studies beyond this degree, training in areas that I am interested in continuing in.

Employment: working in a job I enjoy, doing my best, providing a service to people, connecting with individuals, earning money, being independent.

Community: giving back to my world, doing what I can in areas that I am passionate about, making a difference.

Leisure & relaxation: keeping myself calm, doing things that I enjoy, taking time out for myself, being creative.

Now – is my life at the moment actually reflecting any of these things? I guess it’s painfully obvious to everyone around me, but it’s taken me a while to catch on. It’s not. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. It’s hard to face up to… And it’s not something that I can look at, and look away. Something (many things) need to change.

* I’ll continue this post later tonight or tomorrow – thinking further into where I am versus where I want to be, what my ideals look like and starting to develop some steps and goals to get me there.

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Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:

– a psychologist who listens and sympathises as I whinge about the health system
– baking as distress tolerance
– a big kitchen to cook in (I made raspberry white chocolate and lime & coconut cupcakes)
– having several friends within a 100m radius of my house to share cupcakes with
– my sister taking the day off work so I had someone at home with me
– madagascan vanilla tea
– my hair growing
– waking up in my own comfortable bed with my teddy and my kitten
– a day without rain
– new wilco and phoenix mix cd in the car

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Apologies, another non-coherent post. I should wait until I’ve had some sleep to write about this, but I want to document everything I can remember, before I lose pieces.

9:30am Monday, the phone rings. A lady from the local CAT team asking whether I was at home at the moment (yes) – “good, we’re at the top of your driveway. We’ll be down soon”. I sat with these two women who I had never met before for a total of seven minutes while they ticked off the questions on their list. Their notes, which I would read the next day, read: suicidal ideation, but no immediate plans. Restarting medication. Recent history of serious suicide attempts and has been to the Gap four times in the last week. Not sleeping or eating, has lost weight. Recommend follow up with community team, has appointment with psychologist 22/3/12.

They left after assuring me that they would call in a couple of hours and someone would be out to see me again that afternoon. Fine, whatever. I don’t really want to see anyone, but if it’s the condition of staying out of hospital, fine. I went back to bed. An hour and a half later the doorbell rings again. I start walking to the door and see a police officer through the side window, making his way around the back of my house. Immediately I know what has happened, and that his role is to make sure I can’t escape by a different door. I take a deep breath and open the front door. There are two different women, one with a piece of paper in her hand, and another two male police officers. None of who I have ever seen before. “We just need to speak to you for a minute”. You’ve already got a schedule in your hand, it doesn’t seem like speaking is what you’re interested in at all. Drawing on rationality from somewhere, I figured it was best not to argue and reminded myself that the only way to get the schedule revoked is to see a doctor at the hospital. I pulled on a pair of jeans, put a couple of textbooks in a bag, walked out the front door and lit a cigarette. Despite agreeing to go to the hospital and be reviewed, the police held me by the shoulder as we walked up my driveway to their car, firmly enough that a bruise has started to develop today.

One we got to emergency, I was sat in the same interview room as Thursday night, the police once again said “good luck”, and left. One of the women from the CAT team sat in the room with me along with a nurse. Cue waiting a few hours. Eventually someone came and took bloods and observations, and I was told that there were no doctors to see me. I was also told at this stage that the woman from the CAT team who had initially scheduled me wasn’t a psychiatrist, or a doctor at all. I started asking how it is reasonable for someone who has never met me to write a schedule before even stepping through my front door. Before asking me any questions. Before knowing what I look like. I was told that I was being admitted to PECU and would have to wait there to see a doctor. They told me that they had spoken to my psychologist and that she was worried about me. They didn’t mention at this stage that it had been five days since they had spoken to her and that, while worried, she had expressly told them that scheduling me was a terrible idea and would undermine the minimal trust I have developed.

Midnight, a psych registrar came to see me. I was hysterical by this stage, screaming about how I didn’t need to be there and that according to the mental health act I have a right to the least restrictive treatment possible and that this certainly wasn’t that. She explained that I had been scheduled (by a stranger, who isn’t a doctor) on the grounds that last week, I was scheduled due to being at risk of hurting myself. Sorry, what? I’ve been scheduled again, for the same reasons, without any new information, regardless of the fact that I have had no contact with any mental health professionals and that I was deemed fine last Thursday, the original schedule was revoked, and I was discharged? Apparently, yes. The psych registrar, being a student, refused to sign anything to say that I could leave.

The original schedule – last Thursday – was written on the basis of the assessment of a new psychiatrist – who had never met me before, knew nothing about my history or ability to self manage and refused to take into account anything I had to say about my support system or coping strategies. My already limited faith in mental health professionals has reached an all time low.

So, I ended up spending the night in the most secure psychiatric unit in the state. One of five extremely sought after beds that would have been much better put to use for someone who needed it, rather than me, sitting on the floor studying and doing a puzzle of rainbow lorikeets. There were four men in the unit with me. The nurses station was around a corner from my room, not visible if I needed them. The men were all loud, with violent psychoses and one continued to knock on my door, open it, and stare at me. They also didn’t stock any of my medications (despite their feeble reasoning for scheduling me changing from being at risk to needing to be supervised while resuming medication).

My mum called the nurses and psych registrar, crying that it has taken so long to get me to the stage that I am able to ask for help when I need it, and that given my previous experiences with the public mental health system, that scheduling me and locking me up was the absolute worst thing they could do – that in one night they could undo years of progress. She was right. The last thing I have any intention of doing right now is engaging with any mental health professionals.

After much complaining this morning, I was allowed to see a psychiatrist. The head of the unit. He was surprised and shocked to hear that despite being scheduled twice and having multiple daily contacts with the community team, he was the first psychiatrist that had actually seen me. He agreed that, if stretched, Thursday’s schedule could be understandable, but that I had been assessed as being fine and had been discharged. He agreed that the events of yesterday and last night were completely unnecessary and apologised, telling me that it was the first he had heard of this. He’s given me the phone numbers of directors to address complaints to, and expressed his hope that the last week hasn’t completely shredded any hope of me accessing mental health services in the future.

The events of the last week have been absolutely ridiculous. I realise at the moment I’m still caught up in this, haven’t slept for a few days and am desperately frustrated by the whole system. In the future I will definitely not be answering any phone calls from numbers I don’t know, or opening the door to strangers. I’m not at all interested in finding a new psychiatrist, and will absolutely be incredibly hesitant to reach out if I need more support. I know that I have a chronic mental illness. I know that I need medication. I know that I should have ongoing psychological intervention, but I’m not sure I’m willing to if this is the cost.

What worries me, is how long can they keep doing this? How often can they show up on my doorstep? If I answer the door, I get scheduled. If I don’t, I’m being ‘non compliant’, and get scheduled. If I speak too little I am too contemplative, too much and I am being difficult. I am an adult, for god’s sake. I study full time, work two jobs and volunteer. I’ve had depression since I was a child and have been in treatment since age thirteen. I know how to look after myself. I know how to manage my medication. I know who to talk to if I need to (though I feel that has now been compromised, after just re-building that trust). For anyone, involuntary hospitalisation is an incredibly disempowering experience – and it’s straight up not helpful for me, for someone with my history. I don’t understand how any reasonable person with even minimal psychological education would think that this is a good idea.

Last week I spoke on a panel at a statewide health training development day, about seclusion in locked units. The girl next to me (who had been unnecessarily involuntarily treated) said something that has been echoing in my head the last twenty four hours:
“A psychiatric unit is like a prison. And you don’t have to commit a crime to go to prison, you just have to look like you have.”

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Firstly, apologies for what will likely not be a very coherent post. I’ve just woken up after almost twenty hours of sleep, which, after months of sleeping no more than 2 hours in a single stint, was very much needed. Last week was strange.

It seems I spoke too soon in my last post. A couple of hours after writing that, four policemen and two men from my local CAT team showed up on my doorstep with a piece of paper signing away my rights. It turned into a huge unnecessary dramatic night at the hospital. After six hours sitting unsupervised in an interview room, with the door closed and an unsearched bag (solid supervision of a scheduled patient, health system) – I finally saw the psych registrar. I spoke to her for about five minutes about how I didn’t want to be in hospital and that I was going to make a cake that day (Friday). She told me I could go home. One advantage of a) being a psychology student and b) knowing the health system and policies so well is that I am very much capable of ensuring I don’t disclose too much in order to be involuntarily admitted (again).

I’m still unsure how it happened. The psychiatrist I saw on Thursday said I could go home, and that was fine. The CAT team was meant to come and check in with me, not show up with a schedule. They wouldn’t tell me who had signed it. They didn’t tell me much at all except that I had to go with them and (knowing the procedure) I figured it was in my best interests not to argue.

I’m tired. The CAT team are meant to be coming to see me three times a day indefinitely for now, and they are the last people I feel like seeing. I would very much like to knock myself out for a few days with Seroquel, but I’m only being dispensed two days at a time and 2000mg will only let me sleep for four or five hours. I really need more than that, but I don’t think I’m going to be going near any doctors anytime soon.

Edit: some man from the local mental health team called just after I finished writing this, telling me that he & another male were on their way over to see me. I told them I didn’t want to see them. He struggled for a while to try and convince me to let them come/come inside, then said he’d call his boss and have her call me. I don’t understand why you would send two unfamiliar men to see a young girl. I just want to go to sleep.

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I saw a doctor today.

The conversation was an hour and a half of (her) “would you rather go into a public or a private hospital?” (me) “I’m not going into hospital”. Repeat. Forget where I am and stare out the window, come back to her holding her hands up in my line of vision and looking at me, concerned. “I’ve only met you today, but I’m very worried, and so is your psychologist”.

I managed not to get hysterical and not to get up and walk out (because god knows that never ends well) and finally talked her down to letting me go home. Catch being the local CAT team coming to see me three times a day indefinitely for the moment. She gave me scripts to be dispensed a week at a time (having to go to the pharmacy every week? Fuck off) with strict instructions and told me that both her and my psychologist will be in contact daily.

I feel like I’m being backed into a corner, and I don’t do well with that at all. I’m exhausted from the time I spent outside of my bedroom and the last thing I want to do is deal with the CAT team when they show up. I’m going to curl up and try to get some sleep before it gets dark out.

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“I felt myself being invaded through and through, I crumbled, disintegrated, and only emptiness remained”

(Stanislaw Lem)

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Not okay.

I am not coping. I need help. I have no idea who to talk to, who to ask. I seem to have lost all capability to get out of bed, get dressed, let alone pick up a phone or sit across from a doctor. I have friends, but not friends that I can call to come when I’m sobbing in bed and need someone to sit on my hands and keep me from myself.

It’s scary how fast things slide. At the moment I just want to fade out of the world and disappear. I’m so fucking ashamed that I’m here again. Last night I kept biting on my hands while driving (fast, too fast) to stop me from screaming through my sobs. I need sleep. I can’t do this.

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I hate writing this. I’m not good at all at facing up to myself when I’m not okay. My psychologist’s secretary called me three times yesterday, trying to reschedule appointments around so that I could see her – all of which I declined. “I’ll be at university all day tomorrow, sorry”. I have no classes on Thursdays. The day was spent lying in bed, trying to will myself to get up and brush my teeth. It hasn’t yet happened.

Death is everywhere, my head keeps spinning. My eyes stare through whatever I should be focusing on. I’m losing time again in ways I thought I’d surpassed. I should go to my lectures. I should find a doctor. I should make an appointment, and attend. All these things feel more than impossible. I should get back on medication – but even if I do, the next (at least) three months won’t show any effect. Three months is a long time when I’m feeling like this. Completely empty, punctuated by desperate moments of the sensation that I need to rip myself out of my body.

The fog has settled. I try to be all about empowerment and hopefulness, but the words are blurring on my laptop screen. Piece by piece the world, my body and mind move further out of my grasp. Right now, I just want to disappear.

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Medication & fog

I am finding it incredibly difficult to write here, as I am finding it hard to see hope. I have started and deleted countless posts today. I realise to write honestly, about both the ups and downs, would be more real – but I don’t seem able to. I like to keep a tidy blog. I like to muse on beauty and meaning, insert colour coordinated images into my posts. It’s much like everything external in my life that I keep meticulously organised in my own systems. Everything clean. The world in perfect, ordered grids. I’m good at keeping things under control. The only catch being that really, nothing is under control at all.

Things begin to overlap each other, and my world gets messy. It literally hurts the inside of my head – it’s like there’s something banging from side to side inside my skull. I should know better. I should not be off medication. Resuming it will be quite a process – I can’t just resume at the doses I was taking before, despite dosages needing to be high in order for me to experience any therapeutic effects. If I were to resume medication immediately and increase at the fastest possible rate, it would still be at least three months before I’m back in a therapeutic range for me. Three months is a long time when I’m in this state. And that’s assuming I can immediately a) find a new doctor and b) find the courage to make an appointment and attend it. To be entirely honest I don’t know how long it will take for me to be open to seeing a doctor, let alone find one and get an appointment.

Off medication, the world is too loud, too fast. I feel blurred. My head weighs infinitely more than the rest of my body, and everything keeps spinning around me. Colours are too intense, sounds scratch at my eardrums, anything in contact with my skin burns. I’m exhausted, but I can’t sleep more than an hour at most at a time – and the prospect of nightmares makes me fear and avoid sleep in the first place. Ideation is without relief, constant images fleeting through my mind. Break all my fingers, cut to the bone and rip them out with my hands, pop out eyeballs with teaspoons, shove skewers through my ears, rip off fingernails and pull my teeth out with pliers. The world is confusing and intimidating, everything with sharp edges.

It’s hard to explain in words the complete suffocation that depression induces. Like a heavy fog, it descends quickly over everything in my life. The greyness has weight – it pushes me down until I’m curled in a ball on the floor of my bedroom wrapped in a blanket – and it becomes near impossible to move against the weight. I lose all energy to perform the most basic tasks. I showered today for the first time in five days, and the water on my back burned like bullets at close range. Everything seems to end in me sitting quietly, staring, not quite inside my body. Three cups of tea sit on my bedside table, each cold before I’ve remembered to drink them.

This sucks.

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