Saturday, February 18, 2012
The strange thing about being in the public eye... to a small extent is how often people read things you write that give no hint of the depressive side of the illness and assume you are "normal" again. What these people are ignorant of is that with BMD there is a conscious daily monitoring of mood scales and charting them on that -5 to + 5 scale and somewhere inside this scale is the range people call normal.
The other assumption is that if you are not dwelling in the depths of despair and writing about it, you can't be there when in actual fact the last thing you could find energy for at the -5 end is any time to string cohesive (or even non co-hesive) thoughts together as 'writing'. You are merely surviving of trying to disappear into the arms of Morpheus at every possible moment of that protracted period of illness. There is no today, tomorrow, later there is only this seemingly timeless 'now' that will never pass. One an only write this when you are rising out of the depth, and beginning to develop a degree of objectivity about the situation. The writing is innavriably about the past.
At the +5 end of the illness there is no time to write nor if there were would the writing be coherent or logical. Mania is also living in the now but with that added belief that there is a tomorrow and it will only be bigger, brighter and better. You thoughts race, you cannot type as fast as the thoughts occur and why would you? You can't sit still let alone 'capture' these moments of non-energetic motion.
Ah then there is the phase trying to reach that balance point, shall we say zero, instead of normalcy which is such a relative term. This is the point for me at least where I have pushed myself beyond what was a logical degree of pressure, attempting to overcome and surmount every obstacle thrown in my path, on all fronts. professional, personal, domestic and environmental. Words associated with mania and grandiosity are often attached to this phase.
My biggest problem is, like many manics I cannot and do not recognise this state in myself. To me I am not having grandiose plans and levels of attainment, I am simply pushing through to prove to somebody, usually myself that I can conquer everything the world throws at me, and not only conquer it do it bloody well. Just to prove to the world that those of us with mental illness can function at a very high level of productivity and intelligence. I carry the pressure of all BMD patients at this time. And that is grandiosity and delusion. It has been a very hard lesson to learn over the last few years.
Every time I begin a new job or work project I push myself ridiculously hard, and I even have enough self-insight tio know why. I will never be good enough for me... no matter how amny pieces of paper are framed on mhy walls, no matter how many times colleagues tell me how 'intelligent' I am. No-body gets it. I am not good enough for me.
And if you add to this a certain number of years being called lazy, work-shy (whilst plodding through studies as I cannot read fast and always feel stupid), unstable, irrational, over-emotional, irresponsible... those negative labels begin to take hold, especially if they are spoken with venon by people you live with, family or significant others. This is the damage thoughtless and ill-conceived words of criticism can have over a protracted period of time... on ANYBODY not just someone who is mentally ill.
These are the feelings of worthlessness that drive 'normal' people to plummet into unipolarity and hospitalisation. My gift is that I have bi-polarity and at times the excitement of riding the mania does allow me to produce good and valuable work... but not in toxic or negative environments. It's as if I am hyper-sensitive to dynamics between people and inside work places. I lose perpective on my own mental wellness states and lose complete capability for rational thought.
When something turns pearshape, my subconscous is screaming "get out... leave before it is too late", yet my bigger fear is returning home to condemnation and articulated words about "typical failure" or "incompetence". This being torn in both directions is what I have lived with for the last six years at least.
Yet, I know that by ignoring my inner self-awareness, mania will lead to the inevitable melt down, and then EVERYBODY around you has no time for the healing process. Apart from the medical teams and professionals who know the battle. I have just had one of he harshest 'talkings to' from my trusted General Practitioner who did not hold back. Knowing I had a virtually immediate appointment with my psychiatrist and knowing me better than I know myself... he told me stop pretending to myself that I am well or superwoman who could do it all... or not so much in those words but you get my drift.
He put in words what is actually my biggest fear, that I may be ill and not able to function under the levels of stress required in some jobs. For me that meant EVER AGAIN... yet as my Psychiatrist indicated, this was catastrophising and thus not a sensible framing of the future... again I am advised to live for the now and heal.
So off I go back to my PhD finding great solace and pleasure in writing and alone-ness and begin to chronicle this journey on the www. I am under the possibly mistaken belief that this blog will find readers who are in need of what I have to say about my experiences with BMD...
Yet what happens my ex-employers perceive the sudden onset of tranquility as a sign that I can function as a professional employee... even though I am an EX-employee, as they have a deadline and my melt-down did not help them, thus now that I seem better... can I just hunt through my computer files and find material I didn't provide them.
This from the woman who many friends knows does a complete hard drive reformatting EVERY time I come out of a crisis situtaion to give myself a metaphorical blank slate from which to begin life again... new day new life. I trash everything... reformatting all hard drives... I am now expected to find the old stuff (from where?) and get it to them asap as they paid out my holiday leave and sickness benefits so surely I must still be an employee open for contact.... Well no I am still very unwell and in the re-establishment of my health.
I am/was so unwell I couldn't even go on holiday relying so heavily on medical treatment at the moment.. . so i find the nearest place I can have a mental holiday (all less than 5 kms) from where I live but because I am seeking out places of beauty... I must be well and on holidays... When will I ever be strong enought to say... hey I like you guys personally but professionally FUCK off you are killing me (almost-literally).
Do not pollute my safe spaces with past toxicity... not from work, not from University, not from home... leave me heal.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Can there be such a thing as contented aloneness? And am I contented thanks to three (legal sized) serves of New Zealand Sqyeling Pig Sauv Blanc? I am even contented enough to forgive the cehf his use of re-c0nstituted dried figs on grilled saganaki IN FIG SEASON! Perhaps it is the mellowness of the wine relecting the mellowness of my mood for the first time in weeks.
Is it alcohol that fules my empathy for my dear friend who under time pressure returned home to be "domestically accountable" at precisely the "expected time" to perform her "anticpated wifely duties"? Yet again I sit pondering relationships, especially marrriage and the contraints and limitations that seem to flow towards one particular gender only. Surely the columnist speak of trust but is that trust only accountable one way? Is she (whichever married, ex-married or partnered acquaintance) trusted to have space.. some private alone time without explanation or justification? Where is that freedom to "just be"... not to do anything morally or ethically suspect or downright wrong or misguided just free to have a private space uncluttered with the demands and emotional baggage of significant others?
Am I too selfish? Is there such a thing when trust and negotiated boundaries are clearly articulated? can somebody tell me how simply "stopping and gazing across a marina revelling in the gentle sea breeze ruffling one's hair and the salty air wakening the nostrils to living nature" doing anything wrong or damaging to others?
And what of friends who share a common bond with an intricate understanding of what scholarly academic pressures are like throughout the simmering pressure cooker of a PhD. Only one who has been there has any possible inkling of what is necessary to simply 'get through it in one piece', mentally, emotionally, academically and even physically... RSI anyone?
I look out over the marina cove and I see it for what it is an unphotoshopped real estate marketing glossy in the shop windows. The water is not blue or turqoise or any other aestheically sounding hue of blue-ness. It is green, an not the most attractive shade of green, a green verging on military khaki.... or to be kind perhaps olive. This very olive tinge is a life giving force. It is from this water the brighter algae adheres to the concrete pilons and foundations of the hotel deck. I watch mesmerised as quite large dark grey/black fish quickly push through the surface with a tail swish whilst nibbling on the algae.
The green surface has the very slightest ripples from the onshore breeze interupted by samm clusters of airbubbles hinting at the teaming living world below. As I gaze acroos the many empty moorings I am tempted to anthropomorphise the small motor boats reminiscent of patinet domestic pets waiting the return of owners for daily excercise. Behind the few boats and the tidy coils of rope laying in waiting next to the bollards my eyes are drawn inevitably to perhaps the most offensive building aesthetically, the corrugated iron multi-level boat under-cover storage area. The one st St Kilda shows stach upon stack of glistening white and blue craft, this one has a small roller door offering only the tiniest peak inside to a dark space reminiscent of an industrial complex or aircaft hangar, and on one middle rack a single vessell is in full view as if the last unwanted item on a supermarket shelf.
To one side of this monstrosity blocking any possible visat across the marina to the riverfrontage units on the opposing side, resides a large metal skeletal structure with angular thrusting beams and trusses. I pray this is not an extension for the ubiquitous neon-dominated 'pokies area' just visible past the bar and servery. Enough. Too many elderly players resorting to these inanimate voracious machines gulping coins, notes and point of sale e-cards.
Pokies and thrusting architecture... so Melbourne circa 1980. What is it with this 'aspirational heavenward reach'... forgive the sinners lord they know not what they do? Or forgive the finacier-predators for they truly believe in the economic 'trickle-down' effect whilst churches and welfare agencies deal with the familial collateral damage?
Neither neon-lit machines or monolithic outdated architecture suits the locale. Nothing compliments the gentle curves of a once natural watercourse, or artificial islands and curving boardwalks lined with palm trees, serviced by monopoly supermarket and fuel outlets to facilitate the needs of city-bound comuters attempting to find their small piece of seachange whilst daily battling the gridlock of the freeways.
Yet despite the somewhat incongruous waterfront villa 'stacks' each complete with mooring, jetty and balcony I still feel calm and tranquil. I guess it is because the place is so vacant of activity, no nodding passers b y happily walking Fido, carrying the environmentally sound fabric shopping bags and all the time in the world for a kind word or two as encountered at Yarra's End in Melbourne. This vacant environment is ghostly with a sense of expectation... something will happen eventually even though it isn't Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
"Little boxes, little boxes and they're all made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside and they look just the same". These have no hillside. Yet they are exactly the same. Each balcony showcases the ubiquitous multiburner BBQ, weather-proofed woven outdoor settings with reinforced glass tables and the obviously compulsory 'mop top' planters. Each apartment or unit is stacked one on top of another with a minimalist dividing wall. Obviously communication between neighbours is frowned upon and despite a raked and stepped design no conversation is possible between upstairs occupants with their donstairs counterparts. Yet I can hear in my imagination the same sizzling steaks and seafood sounds, the murmurs of conversations, wine bottles being opened and corks popping. The same communal relaxation noises without the Community.
Suddenly my reverie is interrupted as I realise the community buzz is in fact real and emanating from a sectioned of part of the L-shaped deck of the hotel where a work function is taking place. You can tell the deeper rumble and throatey guffaws of the men with the lighter pitched women's voices in counterpoint as alcohol and party atmosphere lifts normal vocal pitches even higher. I look at the group and realise I do not want to be with them. I do not want to be over there listening to the same mundane workplace gossip and inanities with forced smile and party face. I am content, alone, here across the water. I am calmly observing the world going about its business.
At a table for two just down from my seat there is an animated conversation taking place between what appears to be late twenties best friends of each gender. She is defensive of him and her pecerception of how a particular female acquaitance is abusing his good nature. He nods and replies with the obligatory 'umms' to give the impression gthat this is actually a conversation when in fact it is a very bad therapy session replete with self-help cliches being hurled in his direction from his "bestie". Oh no back to relationships again... the afternoon is turning full circle as the sun lowers in the sky, the seabirds head noisily home for the evening.
I am fighting the urge to stand up and scream to everyone in earshot, the party, the couple the pokies players... "Just shut up and listen. Listen to the sounds of paradise"... the softly discernable whoosh of wind on water, the falpping of the duck wings coming in for landing, the gentle thuds of the boats bumping against the rubber floatation hammocks, and the sounds of the seagulls across the marina through the one green treed pathway between inlets.
It is then I notice them, the family. One man, one woman a young girl in blue print school dress walking their fluffy white puppy. She skips along the boardwalk opposite, the man and woman holding hands. Ah possibly the ad agency picture perfect photo... quick pass my camera for THAT real estate agency advertising shot.