Month: April 2014

And down we go

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Well I finally handed in a draft of a chapter of my thesis I have been working on for a while. Most of the Easter weekend was spent on it. Late nights, missed lunches, tears and headaches. So you’d think I’d be happy right, feel a little weight off, feel accomplished? True it was much later than I had wanted to submit it (about a month), true it doesn’t have a discussion yet (waiting to check the content is ok as have changed this chapter a couple times now) and true I did leave out an aspect of the data analysis as I was just sick of it. So it’s not as good as it could be. But something with the supervisors to get feedback and comments on is better than nothing right? I can now prioritise getting in and getting some of my final lab work done, I can prioritise making the slides for and practising a talk I have to give last week, I can move on to my other big results chapter. All good things right? I even learnt how to use a statistical programme that I have been struggling with for the last 3 years. Also good right? I should be feeling pretty darn motivated and happy, shouldn’t I?

But I’m not. I read a couple chapters of my current book last night as a reward (hadn’t done any non-thesis reading for a while) and went to bed feeling as I should. I woke up empty. Like someone had left the tap running overnight and everything within me, that made me me, was gone. I managed to get out of bed for the postman as my husband was in a meeting. I stayed up for about 30 minutes before I returned to bed. I didn’t even sleep just lay and stared at the walls. I’m not even sure I was doing much thinking. I tried again, got out of bed, had a shower and dressed, had breakfast and tea and decided to work on my talk and maybe start on that other results chapter from home rather than go in and do lab work. I got as far as opening powerpoint and checking work emails. Then I realised I had been staring at the walls again for who knows how long. I returned to bed, maybe a nap would reset my brain. Sounds silly but sometimes that does work. I read someone on here saying that they ‘woke up on the wrong side of the bed’ referring to a bad day. And it’s true, I never know how I will be when I wake up. Regardless of the events preceding me falling asleep I can wake up on top of the world or at the bottom of a deep dark pit.

I slept for about 6 hours. I woke up no better. I couldn’t motivate myself into the garden. I managed to clear away dinner from last night and eat some lunch. I wrote the title of my talk. I made tea. Our housemate came home and started on dinner. I did the washing up and tried my best not to cry. Everyone has gone to bed now. I’ve written the text for most of my slides, not even looked at the chapter.

I want to say that I am trying, trying so damn hard to keep it together but it feels empty. If I was trying I would be doing better wouldn’t I? My therapist says I place unrealistic goals on myself and am overly critical when I don’t reach them. I don’t think getting up and staying up and maybe doing some work is unrealistic though. My CBT at the moment is all about challenging my thoughts. So here goes. Current thoughts, feelings associated, rational way of looking at it and how I feel about it now

Thoughts:

I’m lazy, stupid and useless. I hardly do anything in the house. I can’t seem to do this PhD. Better off if I wasn’t here wasting people’s time and taking up resources. I can’t even motivate myself to do the things I like. I am taking no pleasure from food or TV or games. I’m just watching the days of my life slip away. What is the point?

Feelings:

Throat is tight, feels like my chest cavity is caving in, whole body feels heavy, eyes burning, want to run, want to be small, cover myself with soil or blanket or water. Want to throw up.

Rational:

You are depressed, looks like quite severely as you have lost pleasure in even eating. It is going to be harder to do things. You are still doing things in the house just not as much. You cooked dinner the other night, came up with ideas for dinner tonight. You are still taking basic care of yourself. You are still plodding at the PhD, not at the pace you would like but you are doing something with it every day. You have not resorted to harmful coping strategies. Those are all accomplishments. You can be very intelligent at times but the depression affects your concentration. When that is bad you will struggle to do tasks that you can normally do. If you try at the right time you will be able to do well with the PhD. People love you and rely on you. If they do not think you are a waste of their time or resources you cannot override them and say that you are. You are capable of many things when you are not depressed, you manage to maintain a fair amount even when depressed. Be proud of your achievements, however small, and be kind to yourself. This will pass and you make progress again. If the thesis isn’t submitted in June/July then you can’t have the external examiner you were hoping for. Another can be found. If you are still struggling come October then you may be able to negotiate with the university for extra time. If it really cannot be done then you drop out. It is not worth ruining yourself over. You are currently stressed, which is affecting the stomach acid, causing the nausea, anxious which covers most of the physical symptoms and depressed which covers the mental apathy. Take time, be kind, get back on track.

How I feel after looking at it rationally:

A little better about timings of PhD but still like I am letting people down around me, like I’m failing. I feel that if I was really trying I would be able to do it all. So if I’m not doing it all I can’t be trying my hardest. I guess I can go round in circles with the thought challenging. I can challenge the thoughts until I am blue in the face but until I can believe those challenges more than I believe the thoughts I’m stuck. Intellectually I know the challenges are right, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts from telling me that they are just excuses and platitudes designed to make me feel better about myself when the truth is there is nothing at all to feel good about.

I have an appointment with the GP next week and with my therapist this week. I just want to be productive again. Hell even if it’s not with the thesis I could be knitting, brewing, spinning, sewing or gardening. I could even be doing laundry, cleaning and cooking but I’ve no desire for any of things I usually find joy and self worth in. Horseriding tomorrow night, fingers crossed that can help me shake this mood a little. Another day at home tomorrow to finish talk and start on chapter then work Thursday and Friday with supervisor ┬ámeeting last thing Fri. There is still time to bring this week around. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up on the right side of bed.

I leave you with a gif that describes me today perfectly.

Image

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The journey so far – Mental Health Problems

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Well here goes.

 

Well I have had this blog for a while now and touched on a a few aspects as I said I would in the first post, but I’ve yet to really mention my mental health. I wasn’t sure how to go about it without making it depressing. I’m struggling at the moment now so I figure it is as good a time as any.

I had been diagnosed a few years back (wow just thought about it and it’s more than a few years back, about 6 years ago). I was told then that I had Type 2 Rapid Cycling Bipolar. Later I was told that it was more like ultra, ultra rapid cycling. I can never do anything straight forward. My moods are rarely straight forward, at bad times it can be that I can only tell what my mood is based on if I am crying or laughing.

I get deep aching depressions, have battled with self-harm, can be plagued with suicidal thoughts, anxiety is common, I can be too scared to leave my bed, far less be around other people. I can be angry, irritable and irrational, the violence has thankfully been low, I don’t think I have ever hurt anyone other than myself, but have been known to throw things. I can be irresponsible, take risks I shouldn’t, spend money I don’t have. I can also be so happy, so in tune with the world around me, productive, caring, giving. I can feel so full of life that I can’t stop moving or talking. I make plans, so many plans and they all need starting on right this minute, this second. My husband is very practical and early on in our relationship he would always counter my ‘I’m gonna give it 200%’ with the statement that it would be impossible as 100% is the maximum, it’s not possible to give more. After a few years of knowing me he accepts that I do in fact give more than 100%, but maintains that it is not possible and uses that as an explanation for my crashes. I am just so full of energy that I just do and do and do.

I go though all those emotions, which many people probably do, but I can go through most of these emotions in one day, on a bad day I’ll go through them several times. At my most recent appointment with a psychiatrist he suggested I may have something called emotionally unstable disorder. I laughed, I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounded apt. He listed off the traits and my husband and I could only nod (my husband now accompanies me to my psychiatry appointments, I never tend to give a balanced view of things, always focusing from the standpoint of my current emotions). Got home and googled, it’s actually Borderline Personality Disorder. That I had heard of. It had been suggested to me many years ago, it had also been the outcome of an assessment I had back in 2010. I had dismissed it then, much as I did the Bipolar diagnosis when I first got it.

I mean depression is one thing but Bipolar and BPD? Those are like seriously crazy people right? Unhinged? I think I was *that* bad, and come on, I mean what you call me up is just me being happy and productive. So what if I talk so fast I scare you, so what if you think I’m a little out of control. I am having fun, is that not allowed, must it suddenly mean I’m even more crazy if I’m not depressed and suicidal all the time?

That was pretty much my thought process on the bipolar diagnosis. In time, and with reading I came to accept it. Took a little comfort in there being a name for it, it summed me up pretty well apart from the lack of psychosis and the ultra, ultra rapid swings in mood. Some psychiatrists don’t accept that ultra rapid cycling bipolar is a thing. My psychiatrist said maybe the short duration of my highs is what protected me from developing psychosis, my highs don’t get enough time to build to that level. The BPD does fit me better. Maybe that is the issue maybe ultra rapid cycling bipolar crosses over into the BPD in terms of symptoms.

I think I will come to terms with the BPD diagnosis. Over the last year I have been made to see how much my mental health, illness, issues, whatever you want to call it affects me and even more so those around me. That’s been one of the hardest things for me to deal with, my effect on others.

I’ve started CBT, should also be seeing a CPN soon. I’m medicated with antidepressants but tbh at times like these I’m not sure they do much. I do also have SAD and some kind of hormonal linked depression, actually had an artificial menopause for a year that gave me bit of freedom from all this, but that had to stop as I couldn’t tolerate the add-back hormones, made me suicidal again. I’m working on mindfulness. Trying to work with the mood swings, do stuff when I can and when my brain can’t process I do something physical like gardening or cleaning, I can find them quite therapeutic. On the really bad days I can’t get out of bed and I’m working to try and lessen them.

So there you go, my ‘brief’ journey so far of my mental health. Kudos to you if you managed to get all the way through that! Hopefully there won’t be too many dark depressing posts, but part of this blog is to chronicle how I live with this, how I weave the rest of my life around it, so I guess you kind of needed to know about it. I apologise for any typos, spelling errors or general rambling in this post. If I go back and read over I’ll feel embarrassed and change things so this is going out raw.

Salvaging the fruit patch!

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The aftermath of the gas works
The aftermath of the gas works

This is what we were left with after the gas company left. You can see the before here. The blueberry was ‘re-planted’ in the middle space, a good 5cm above the soil level. The strawberries were left on the lawn and on the raspberries, and the goosberry was ‘re-planted’ above the soil level as well. I decided to use the disruption to re-haul the patch.

The raspberries are autumn fruiting so now was the time for hard pruning. I tried to salvage what I could of the alpine strawberries first. I posted about that here. I’ve now separated and potted 2/3rds of the alpine strawberries, they are surviving well and I have re-homed a dozen but am still over whelmed. Think the other third may end up composted, though I struggle to come to terms with ‘dumping’ them. It’s the problem with thinning carrots all over again. I started to do the same with the normal strawberries but quickly ran out of pots and was overwhelmed again. I was a bit more ruthless and just threw all the excess plants in a bucket, if they survive and I can replant them great.

The plan for the fruit patch was to pull up all the strawberry plants, put down weed proof fabric then replant strawberries and keep control over the spread. The reasons for weedproof fabric were:

1) Keep strawberries off the soil.

2) Keep the strawberries and raspberries from taking over the whole patch and choking the berry bushes.

3) Possibly help the soil warm up and dry a bit, very heavy clay soil

4) Keep the weeds down.

Just to clear the strip between the red and white currant bushes I filled an entire wheelbarrow with strawberry plants. I pulled a fair few raspberries too, those are tough. We’re going to leave the left hand side of the fruit patch to the raspberries. Faced with a wheel barrow full of strawberries I started on the strip of the garden on the right hand side. Took the top layer of ‘turf’ off – more weeds than grass, and dug it over. Our garden is slanted right to left and back to front. We are attempting to level it so the hubby made up a barrier and I filled the soil to it. I’ve dug what will be a strawberry patch so far. Hopefully by next weekend I will have dug the entire strip and levelled it. Then the strawberries can go in, may need a normal strawberry patch and an alpine strawberry patch, and I can start looking at all the things I want to grow from seed as the greenhouse will be empty. I got a subscription to Kitchen Garden from the MIL for my birthday and they keep sending seeds. Itching to get growing.

The other ‘bed’/greenhouse plot at the back of the garden is also coming along. I’ve started digging off the stop layer which still has lots of gravel. Then I will dig out the really heavy clay, replace with some of the soil from levelling out the long strip and work on planting that too. Lots going on right now, and being out working in the garden feels so right. Had a tough week or so with the mental health, a post for later in the week I think. Saturday I just didn’t know what to do with myself so I went out and dug. The anxiety just leaves, and the thoughts go away. I really do wish I could spend more time outside, it doesn’t even matter if it is raining or how cold it is. I layer up, put the waterproofs on and get to it, finish up fairly soaked in sweat and exhausted but feeling better for it. It’s a good job we don’t have a light out there or I’d be there now!

Leave you with a picture of the finished article. Think the fruit patch is salvaged now, at least as long as I haven’t killed all the bushes by digging near them!

Salvaged fruit patch
Salvaged fruit patch
Soon to be strawberry bed
Soon to be strawberry bed