Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Drugs Dont Work, They Just Make Things Worse

I doubt The Verve were singing about Lithium, but they may as well have been.

Tomorrow I see my gp to tell her I Say NO to Lithium. 

I have only become able to write now through taking a Lorazepam about an hour ago. Prior to that, I was (literally) catatonic much of the day, unable to move or communicate, with strange thoughts like just getting in the car and driving off, taking all the kids' money out of the bank, and not coming back. Ever. (Slight problem: I cant drive.)  I dont want to see people, I dont want to talk to people. Especially my kids. Their incessant noise makes me want to scream and kill kittens.

I cant live like this. I have no idea what is going on. Reaction to Lithium? Has it tipped me over into some strange Bipolar 2 mixed state? Am I NOT Bipolar at all and Lithium is making me crazy?

This drug-induced nightmare, whatever its genesis, has got to end. I was supposed to see my GP next Monday anyway, but the way I have been feeling I cant be sure I would be around by then.  Life was a lot easier when I was drinking all the time. How is this better? How can these effects of medication be better than being mellow on wine?

Fuck. I have felt shit since I stopped drinking and now its worse instead of better.  Did I kill the baby jesus in my past life?

Has anyone else ever experienced horrendous side effects from the meds that were supposed to keep them safe and sane?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lithium, Thy Name on, I know this)

I am cotton wool brain.

I am thoughts stuck in a whirlpool unable to get out.

I am words on the tip of my tongue.

I am apathy.

I am lead.

I am sleep.

I am nothing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eating Your Self

When I was a kid, I was tall and skinny. My long legs meant I could run faster than any of the other kids and hence always won the 100m races at school.   My only body-image issues were related to the size of my boobs (bloody small) and my nose (big)

As I got older, my body changed shape, as it does when you're female, but I was essentially still tall and thin. The boobs and the nose stubbornly refused to change at all, sadly

I fluctuated somewhere around size 12-14 for all of my adult life.

Then at 32 my life imploded.  A Restraining Order to get my violent ex out of my house was followed a few days later by a sexual assault courtesy of two "friends."

What my traumatised brain did was amazing, truly amazing. Never underestimate the ability of your brain to fuck you over.

While everything around my in my life was out of control, my brain decided there was something it could control, and that was what went into my mouth. Or rather, what didn't. This was all totally subconscious. It wasn't until years later that I realised what I had actually done.

I didn't eat. If I felt hungry I had a cigarette. (I was smoking a pack of 25 36mg cigarettes a day) I drank alcohol, but not a huge amount. I took crystal meth. I took ecstasy. I smoked marijuana. (I am really not expecting to ever work again, obviously.)

When I was at home, which wasn't often, I would drink Multi-V Juice and eat an English muffin with raspberry jam and cream. That was it. That was all I could afford to buy, since my drug bill was so high each week.

In about 2 months I went from a healthy 70kg down to 56kg. From a Size 14 to a size 8.  

I didn't realise what was happening to my body until I had been at that game for about 7 months. I looked in the mirror, and I saw, really saw, what had happened.

The collar bones jutting out. The ribs clearly visible. My wrists, bony. My hips...god my hips...and my pelvis clearly visible, I looked like someone from a POW camp.

This realisation came at the same time as my creditors raised their hands and demanded their money; the money I had spent on drugs instead of giving to them. So instantly, the lifestyle had to change. I had to work. I got hungry and couldn't just smoke it away, I actually had to eat.

Two months later I met my husband. I look at photos from then and I am appalled at my appearance.  I still own a skirt that I purchased the day I met MonkeyBoy. I hold it up to myself now and cannot fathom the mind that thought it was ok for me to fit into that skirt.

What I think happened is this: I never looked at myself and thought I was fat, so it never occurred to me that I had an eating disorder. I never threw up my food, so I never had an eating disorder.  And I didn't strive to be like the waif-thin models that were - and sadly 10 years later still are - everywhere.

But there are more ways to have a disorder than just Bulimia and Anorexia. It doesn't just have to be about not wanting to be fat. And I want you, dear reader, to understand that. If I had known that, or others had known that, maybe there would have been some sort of intervention sooner, before it had serious health consequences.

There are more than just two ways to kill yourself by not eating.


My daughter is 3 this week. I already talk to her and my 5 year old son about these images, and describe the women as unhealthy, and how the images have been changed to make them look very different.

We have to start talking to our children about these things when they are so young to get the positive messages cemented in their subconscious so they never ever look at magazines images like these and think they are normal. So that they are happy with how their own bodies look.

What their brains do after that, god knows.  I hope their brains are kinder to them than mine was to me.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


  • Its statistically half way through my life.1
  • It is the angle in degrees for which a rainbow appears.2
  • It is the height in inches of unicorns.3
  • It is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

    Image credit

    It is also the birthday I celebrate today.

    I'm disgusted to discover I am now officially middle-aged. When the fuck did that happen? Its amazing how much I don't want to bound out of bed and greet the world after having that particular thought.  I suppose I could celebrate being 21 again. The first time round it involved the biggest joint I've ever seen as my birthday present. Perfectly sound idea! Yes!

    All told, its a Significant Birthday. When you add in recent events - giving up alcohol, getting a diagnosis - then it is even more significant. Today marks the start of the transition from the first half of my life to the second, and - I think, I hope - the transition from traumatised, non-functional Sharon to self-aware, happy and emotionally stable Sharon.  I am only 3 years away from the age both my brothers were when they committed suicide and I feel that acutely. I don't want to still be struggling with my mental health to that extent in three years. There will be struggles, that is a given: Bipolar is a lifelong condition, and there will be lifelong struggles. But what I hope to do in this second phase of my life, is to discover what it is that gives my life meaning.

    When I was in second year Philosophy at university, I wrote a paper which stated categorically that the meaning of life for humans is to ask what the meaning of life is. To some extent, I still stand by what I said then, but I have learned enough now to know that we humans can find meaning for our lives in the pursuit of what makes us happy. Happy...happiness. It's a concept foreign to me, that's for sure, but  armed with the right medications, the right diagnosis and the right choices I might just be able to find that spark of happiness. 

    It is immeasurably sad that at 42 I don't know what true happiness is. 

    What I do know is that now I have a chance to finally figure it out. 

    That almost makes up for the "middle-aged" tag.

    1. a bunch of statisticians
    2. some maths nerds and god
    3. me. probably not true
    4. bow down and worship Douglas Adams

    Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    The One Where I Get A New Label

    Psychiatrists suck.

    Psychologists suck.

    Not all of them, granted.  There are some out there who do their jobs properly.  I met one psychiatrist the other day who seemed quite competent at diagnosing someone.  I also have a great psychologist who does what she is supposed to do, namely challenge thoughts and behaviors and help me live my life better.

    But the rest - and there have been many - that I have seen since I was 19, well they can all bite my shiny metal ass. (erm...)  How can that many shrinks of one variety or another and that many GPs (also lots) miss something like Bipolar?

    Bipolar 2 Disorder.  Bipolar Lite, if you will, which means I'm not about to spend the family fortune, shag everyone I meet nor will I talk a thousand words per minute and think I am Jeebus. But I will visit the deepest darkest pits of hell of depression and be serious about others being better off if I weren't here. I will also have amazing ideas for projects that take up all of my time every day, that I am not physically capable of doing, and no one else seems quite as enthusiastic about it as me...

    My psychologist made me do a test. I love doing test. Love.them.  This one was an hour-long online assessment through the Black Dog Institute. It took an hour to complete, and I didn't need the whole hour to realise into which box my answers would be fitting.

    My score:
    • 30 out of a possible 30 for Depression (still? really? shit)
    • 24 out of a possible 24 for Functional Impairement (that's some fucked up functioning)
    • Severe PTSD
    • Moderate Anxiety Disorder
    • Moderate Social Phobia
    • Moderate Panic Disorder
    Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder

    When I saw the psychiatrist last Friday for a full assessment, the online assessment was confirmed and I was advised to start taking the mood stabiliser par excellence Lithium and the anti-psychotic Seroquel.

    Tonight I have popped my first Lithium, and so begins the new med-go-round. I hope this doesn't play out like the trial and error of getting my pain management right. I don't want to waste another two years of my life trialling meds before I am stable.  I have lost so much time already from not being properly diagnosed when the Bipolar first appeared when I was 14.  I dont want to dwell on how different my life would be had I been treated then.  I want this diagnosis to play a positive role in my life now.

    I now have a label on which to hang many things from my past. I have a way of making sense of things that seemed nonsensical. Nothing in me has changed. My behaviour hasn't changed, or not until the Lithium kicks in anyways. I'm still the lovable nutbag I was last Thursday. Its just that now I come with a label attached, one that is valuable and beneficial as far as my treatment, future happiness and understanding of my self goes.

    It is unfortunate that with this label comes society's prejudices, assumptions and negative ideas about Bipolar.   And with those comes the likelihood of being discounted or dismissed because I'm manic (even when I'm not) or as just another nutter who doesn't have anything to contribute (when I do), or as someone whose friendship may be too difficult to manage (I'm harmless, promise).

    The trick for me now is to concentrate on the benefits of knowing what is wrong with me my condition is.  That's a hard trick for me to learn, since I have spent most of my life being told I am worthless, but it is one I must learn.

    Fuck the haters, right?

    Image credit

    It's my 42nd birthday in two days and I'll be happy about being Bipolar if I want to.

    Monday, August 01, 2011

    Lush Life

    I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder dreadfully.  I do exceptionally well on lovely sunny days and want to kill kittens on miserable overcast days.  I'm a "Fuck winter in the ear" kinda girl. Today, despite being at the "ear-fucking" end of winter, was a remarkably lovely, sunny day.  I should have been hugging trees and singing The Hills Are Alive.  But no.

    Whether it was just being tired from pushing myself in the garden yesterday while weeding the Pits Of Blackberry Hell or being fed up with Ella being so needy or really enjoying the relative silence of only one kid at home then noticing it shatter at 3.40pm or being reminded by the lovely-sunny-day-with-a-light-breeze that this would be a great day for a cider in the sunshine...well, whatever it was, today I really needed a drink.  Not just noticing that I would normally have a drink at this time or in this spot, or being reminded every time I take the Camparal (to stop the cravings) that I dont drink anymore. No no.

    This was: "I.Want.A.Drink.Now!"

    "This will pass this will pass this will eventually pass," the voice in my head repeated. There is no alcohol in our house so there was thankfully nothing I could do about it. And it did pass. And I fell asleep straight after dinner.

    But not before I realised how precarious my sobriety is. 50-something days. 57 I think .(I'm too tired to do the math.) 57 days is nothing, not compared to over 1000 days of drinking to excess. Not compared to the 365 days I have to take the Camparal to ensure I am not going to go back to being a Lush.

    I have made progress, absolutely, but it could be undone in the blink of an eye because I realised that if I'd had access to a refreshing cider or a lovely fruity Sav Blanc I would have had one. And then I would have had more.

    I realised that there is no "I'll just have one" for me.  I realised that my alcohol dependance was not just about self-medication for pain that got out of hand.

    I realised that I cannot stop at just one, and I never could. I am an addict, which is a very different beast to someone who was "just" physically dependant.

    There is so much more work to be done here that I realised.

    There is also a story to be told about my visit to the psychiatrist but it is a story that I can't quite bring myself to write yet.  In time.  Soon maybe, even.

    Once I'm over the desire to drink again. 

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    The Ties That Bind


    It has been my life-raft for the last three years.

    After events of this week, it is fair to say that I am now treading water on my own.

    I feel physically ill thinking about it. Not by the loss of hope, but by the situation I find myself in once hope has gone.

    I am trapped in this dysfunctional mind, trapped in this broken and pain-ridden body, trapped in this relationship and in this house in a volatile situation. I am in a box within a box within a box and it doesn't matter how much I might scream no one can hear me and no one can help. I am suffocating in here and the one person who can do something about it refuses.

    Here I am again, powerless.  (Yes, actually powerless, unless I want to lose my kids.)  I'm wondering how I managed to subconsciously see this in someone who was so totally different 9 years ago.  I must have, because I can pick 'em every time. No matter the beginning to the relationship, the ending is always the same. My programming has been impeccable.

    I am so well programmed from my childhood to live this situation again and again. To accept it, to see it as normal. Nothing was ever done in my childhood until things had reached boiling point and there was violence. It was even made my responsibility to deal with it. Thanks for that, mum. 

    And yet now I do not accept it and I do not see it as normal. I see it as chronically abusive but I know there is no help, there is no way out until we get to the crisis and by then the damage is done. I have been here before.

    No two year old should have to hold her mother's tear-stained face in her hands and say "Its alright mummy, don't you listen to him."

    image copyright Emmy Ryan

    I don't want to know what's next after that. For there will be a "next."

    There always is.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011


    A wonderful friend of mine has been here this week helping me out.

    She asked Felix if he thought mummy had changed at all since coming home from hospital.

    I immediately stopped what I was doing because it had never occurred to me to ask him, and I desperately wanted to hear what the answer was.

    Thank god he chose the correct answer and agreed I was less grouchy and more relaxed. Possibly he thought his pocket money depended on the answer he gave.

    For a while I haven't felt any better, any different at all. Just weird, uncomfortable, out of place.

    People tell me I look great.  That's nice to hear.

    I look in the mirror and my skin looks clearer, less muddied.  That's nice to see.

    I hang out with my kids and play board games.  I wouldn't have done that before. Board games? Are you kidding me?  I do stuff in the garden; just weeding but weeding is my zen, my state of peace. There is nothing but me and the weed and the dirt and the sun on my back or the wind in my hair.
    Gettin' my zen on. Image from here

    I do these things and I realise I am getting better.   That is rather wonderful to feel.

    I am 50 days sober today.

    That is freakin' awesome to know.

    Warning: May Have Been Genetically Processed By The Same Equipment As Nuts

    After I checked myself into hospital to get help dealing with my alcohol dependance (dependance? addiction? which should I call it? words are so loaded with hidden meaning) and there was some space for me to think, really think, for the first time in years, there were things that I began to realise about myself. Writing in my journal helped to solidify those realisations. There were certain behaviour patterns that kept cropping up, things happening in a cyclical fashion. There has been underlying depression present for as long as I can remember, with occasional windows of what I have considered "normality" that on reflection may not have been normal at all.

    I have seen many many mental health professionals in my life. It started when I was 19, being treated for Major Depressive Disorder.  I have been on 6 different anti-depressants in my life. I have been so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. I have cried continuously for weeks. I have been suicidal on many occasions since my teens.   I was absolutely serious about it last year, when my GP made Monkey Boy take control of my medications to keep me safe.  When I see a new shrink, we do the usual thing of going through the family history, list the stressful things that have happened to you.  I've done it so often I now see it as some kind of entertainment: what will the reaction be when I tell them? Will it be humour? Sarcasm? Offer platitudes? Or a chin drop to the floor? (that happened just once, but was quite funny. Maybe you had to be there. Or be me.)  My most recent therapist told me shrinks love people like me because it makes their job all so interesting. I'm a complex case, multi-faceted.
    Yes yes, I know I'm fucked up, that's why I'm seeing shrinks.

    The family history has always been:
    • Mother: controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive in extreme, chronic depression for which she was given Valium and told to stop being neurotic.
    • Father: violent, anger issues, developed Alzheimer's in his 80s
    • Eldest brother: depression. Suicide in 1998
    • Middle brother: violent, anger issues, turned to God to solve all his problems (is that in the DSM these days?)
    • Youngest brother: paranoid schizophrenic. Suicide in 2001
    • Me: well you all know by know I'm fucked up in an interesting multitude of ways

    (You can tell I'm assuming I am never going to be working again at this point, yeh?)

    So the therapist/GP makes assumptions and decisions about medications based on that information.  But what if its wrong? What if it is incomplete? What if it is incomplete and you don't even know it?

    I'm a great believer in the power of Dr Google. Some may scoff (many most all doctors do) at self-diagnosis, but I believe that if you are using the information wisely it can bring you closer to a proper treatment a lot quicker than if you leave it up to your overworked, underpaid, stressed out health professional who just doesn't have the time to listen to all your problems.  I learnt pretty quickly while dealing with infertility investigations that I had to be my own advocate for proper health care and diagnosis, and this is especially so if you are dealing with a chronic health issue. I know my body, I know what is normal for my body, in a way my GP never will because she doesn't have time to listen to me tell her. There are a million nuances that I am aware of but cannot articulate.

    So I read a lot of medical websites. Professional ones, as well as teh forumz. And sometimes I read stuff that punches me in the guts because it has described me clearly on paper, and made me reassess things I took for granted as being normal.

    Trawling mental health sites and reading up about alcohol dependance, anxiety, depression etc, I came across articles on Bipolar Disorder. I read them out of interest more than anything else, because I have extensive experience of living with someone who had Bipolar 1 with Psychosis. (Fun times.) That is what I think of when I think Bipolar. That is not a label I would ever apply to myself.  Ever.

    Except I keep reading. Especially the section on Bipolar II, where there isn't the crazy mania people normally associate with Bipolar Disorder. Instead, there is the extreme "whale shit at the bottom of the ocean" depression combined with at least one instance of Hypomania, or Mania Lite.

    Cue Oprah's "Aha! moment."

    It all fits and that means that maybe if I get the right medication I wont feel like whale shit any more.  Woohoo. Except the likelihood is fairly low unless you have a family member who has a Bipolar diagnosis too, which I don't.  But you never know right? So I get a referral to  a psychiatrist (I hate them, the last one I saw kicked me out of her office after reducing me to sobbing hysteria by telling me that society didn't want to help people with mental illness).

    I will have a full mental health evaluation. Doesn't that sound like fun?

    A couple of nights ago I had a long Facebook conversation with a family member (the only one I have any contact with) and discovered that what I knew about my family profile is wrong. It turns out that:

    • Eldest brother: had Bipolar, prior to suicide.
    • His daughter: has Bipolar
    • Middle Brother's daughter: has Bipolar




    I have had depression for as long as I can remember, and despite the 6 different kinds of antidepressants I am still depressed on them, though not whale-shit depressed. I don't want to kill myself when on the right AD.  I become too apathetic to kill myself, which is not really a glowing endorsement for relief of depression, is it?  The only time I can categorically state that an AD made me not depressed at all was when I started taking Prozac and the first month felt like I was on Ecstacy. Looking back, I can see it: hello Hypomania!

    I am so unbelievably grateful to have this new knowledge of my family's mental health history. It could very well make the difference between a definitive diagnosis and a "you might have this, or you might have this, here try these pills and see what happens."  I've had enough of those experiences. I know enough to know that there is something wrong with my brain other than good old unipolar major depressive disorder.  

    On Friday, I will have what may very well turn out to be the most important appointment of my life.

    This is probably the first time in the history of everything that someone has actually wanted to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

    image from
    Image from here

    Well, hey, I'm crazy like that.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    The Post That I Cant Say Out Loud So I Will Write It Instead

    **Warning: this is a LONG post. It is not a happy post. It is not a post to read if you are pregnant.**

    The trouble with reading other blogs is that they may one day contain something that is very close to your heart. And that makes you think. And you may not like thinking.

    Then in order to avoid thinking about it all the damn time, now you find that you have to write about it and you didn't ever want to write about it but here it is, in your head, so it wants to get out.

    I'm looking at you, Madame Bipolar and MrsWoog

    So. Here we go.

    From the very beginning, the existence of my daughter Ella is very much caught up with negative events.  She was not, unlike Felix, tried for and desperately longed for. She was the "you have got to be fucking kidding me!" baby, the "how the fuck did this happen?" baby, the "anniversary" baby.  Not planned, not even considered to be a biological possibility after the hoo-hah surrounding Felix's conception. We "came to terms with" this baby.

    November 2007 was marked by 3 life-changing events.

    1. Monkey Boy and I went out(!) on our own(!) to a Crowded House gig (!!!) which was magnificent and wonderful as you would expect.
    2. At that concert, I sat down and made the mistake of "chair dancing" which is a bad idea at the best of times because you look like Steady Eddy but more so on this occasion because my back went "Even I know chair dancing is wrong."
    3. 2 weeks later it was our anniversary. 'Nuff said. 2 weeks after that I knew, even before peeing on the stick...

    So I had managed to rupture a disc in my lower back, by sitting down. Normally this could have resolved itself over a number of months with rest. When you’re pregnant and you have the joint-loosening hormones released, and the additional weight increasing right at the level of the rupture...well, not so much on the resolving.

    By the time I was 12 weeks pregnant, I could hardly walk. By the time I was 20 weeks pregnant I was taking Panadeine Forte and seeing the hospital physio, which didn't help at all. By the time I was 26 weeks I was taking PanFortes 2 hourly, round the clock, and begging for them to take the baby out so I could have decent pain relief. I couldn't walk, I couldn't stand, I couldn't sit.  At 33 weeks I finally got an MRI which showed the disc herniation. I knew what it was from the start, having had one before (and had surgery to fix it. Same disc, other side), but no one would take me seriously, not until the MRI.  Even then, to get the decent pain relief, I had to cry hysterically and act like the crazy female and swear at my obstetrician that this state of affairs was unacceptable and if he didn't help me I would take my own life. I was serious.  I was given Endone.  I was referred to the Mental Health Midwife, who marked my file with all sorts of big red stickers.

    Endone allowed me to sleep. Blessed blessed sleep, no longer on my hands and knees, rocking on my bed, back and forth back and forth all night while wet fire engulfed my leg as it was torn off via my big toe.  I still needed it two hourly but it gave me some relief. I loved my obstetrician from that point. At 38 weeks we all decided enough was enough. Two hourly Endone, and I can still barely walk and the pain is constant, it never stops not for a second. Ella will have to be kept in the NICU for at least 5 days and be monitored for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome - or withdrawal from the narcs to you and me.

    So I am induced. Have a read of this post and this one  to see how well that worked for me the last time.  Or more to the point, I am induced (Day 1), and induced (Day 2), and induced (Day 3), and induced (Day 4), and had my waters broken and was put on a Syntocinon drip and 21 hours later of 2-minutely contractions (Day 5) I am still only at 4cm dilation. I will never ever forget the doctor’s face as she looked at me and told me we had no choice but to do a C-section. The next half hour is full of memories that I can’t even write. Memories of distance and of pressure to do what I don't want to do, of fear. Raw, primal fear. Memories of things once done and said can never be undone. Of the end of things. Of a line drawn in the sand.

    And then there is the operating theatre. And the yellow paper curtain in front of my face, hiding things to awful to see...  And the woman at my head, the anesthetist. Monkey Boy next to me.

    And then pain.

    White hot searing pain.  Stop. Stop Stop Stop.

    I don't know if I screamed it over and over out loud or just in my head. The epidural had worked at surface level only. Once the scalpel had got past the first few layers of skin...  Monkey Boy started yelling at them to stop. "We can’t go on like this" I remember hearing someone say. MB being told he had to leave. Leave? No! Saying goodbye, I thought I was going to die. Then the mask, and I didn't care if I died. "Breathe, just breathe."

    She was born - without her parents even aware of it - blue, the cord wrapped around her neck twice, meconium swallowed and inhaled and not breathing. I lost 1.2 litres of blood.

    I hear "it’s all over, you've had your baby." Am I in the 1950s? A young child is screaming in a nearby cubicle (tonsils) but he is not my child. Where is my child? Is she ok? Why isn't she here?  The epidural line is still in and they bump up the level because my pain is too much, but the epidural didn't work you fuckers! What is the point in doing this??  It meant I didn't "get my legs back" for over 24 hours.  Utterly stuck. Can’t move. My legs are not mine, they are lumps of meat that are pinning me to the bed.  This causes even more pain in my spine and my legs and feet are now swollen to the point where the skin almost starts to weep.

    And Ella. My baby. The one for whom my soul was dragged to hell and left there.  I don't see her for 7 hours. MB held her in the NICU.  He had to ask the staff where the hell she was. No one told him. He took photos, and a short video of her, and I look at them over and over.  When she is brought in and I get to hold her for the first time, I am allowed 20 minutes together. I won’t see her again until her first proper feed, in a few hours. When she screams or when they have staff. If they have staff.

    I feel like I went through all that time and pain and damage to my body for nothing. I am alone, no baby. Just pain and immobility. Then suddenly we get caught up in the hospital admin game of finding places to put people.  We get shunted from room to room. Labour Ward is full, women are in full labour in the corridors. 4 times we were moved, with all our stuff. A ridiculous amount of stuff really, but 5 days in the Labour Ward...

    The catheter and epidural line are removed after 24 hours. (Day 6)  The catheter has damaged my urethra: It feels like my urethra is being pulled out continuously. (This is a feeling that doesn’t stop until close to a year after delivery.) The doctor comes in to tell me that I am borderline for needing a blood transfusion because I lost so much blood in delivery. Because it is borderline it is my decision whether to have it or not. If I don’t, it will take about a month for my iron levels to come back up to normal and I will feel shit for that month. Who the hell lets a delirious woman make judgement calls like that? After what they have done already, there is no way I am going to agree to more interventions.

    I start taking tentative steps, but I can’t do it. I need a wheelchair to get to my baby. Get me a bloody wheelchair! And so I go to the NICU and I see what will be her home for the next 5 days, and see all the other babies, babies who have been there for weeks and will be for weeks more. Not mine not mine please god not mine. We learn their observation and coding system for NAS, we learn the procedure in the Breastfeeding Room, and I hold my baby girl for the first time. She is so beautiful, so soft, and yet I feel nothing.

    While MB is in the hospital with me, I can be in the NICU as often as I want. Once he leaves, I am up to the dictates of the hospital and staff levels. By Day 7 I can walk, very slowly, painfully, with much help. I can’t get my slippers on because of the swelling, but I can get to my baby under my own steam and I'm bloody well going to. The NICU is a 2 minute saunter for a normal person, for me it is 10-15 minutes.

    She won’t latch onto the breast properly. She snuffles around trying desperately to find it but will not latch. So she isn't eating. Here's another failure to add to the growing list. She is on formula via a naso-gastric tube. They decide to give her antibiotics because she swallowed poo. She has a line in her nose and another one in her hand, securely bandaged like a big boxing glove. There is so much stuff attached to her, I can’t get to her at all.

    MB has been sleeping in the hospital with me, on a camp bed. He went home one night to make sure Felix was ok with Nanna. Sadly for me, he chose Day 3 to do it.  Everyone knows Day 3 is the killer after delivery: the tissue box will be too hard to reach and you will start bawling. I had no baby with me, the delirium of 5 days labour and no sleep for 8 days, the trauma of the C-section, the pain of my spine, the pain of the C-section, and no baby with me. Ella’s NAS scores are borderline, which means that she may have to stay in hospital for another 2 weeks and be given morphine.  And there is an awful ruckus in the room next door. Furniture being tossed around. Hushed voices in the corridors. Then Police. Every staff member is in the nursery, around one baby. I have no idea what happened, but it scared the hell out of me. I find out months later the mother had killed her baby. 

    This is the start to the Day 3 Baby Blues. For me it was the start of psychosis.

    The phone calls from the NICU are incessant this day. There is no MB to wheel me down there and seemingly no staff either. One trip is enough and now I have to make several, on my own. No help from the hospital for the woman who can barely walk.  By 10pm I can no longer cope. The phone rings after I just get back into my bed from being in the NICU for a feed. She is crying again, come down.  WTF???  Thoughts reel through my head: stick a plug in her face, give her a bottle, give her Phenergan, go away, just go away I can’t deal with her.

    So I call for a nurse who never comes. But the NICU keep ringing. Incessant.bloody.ringing.  (Fucking deal with her yourselves, I can’t bloody get there.)  Still no nurse, so with incredible pain and utter exhaustion I drag my arse out into the corridor and hold onto the railing, and I just can’t make myself walk down there again. And the tears start rolling, as they do.  A nurse is coming, asks me if I am alright. Bloody stupid question. I try to tell her but I can’t get much sense out of my mouth. Pain, walking, bloody baby, NICU, can't just can't.

    "Well there's no point crying about it, is there? Is there? That won’t make it any better." 

    Is this woman for real? It is the final straw for me. If I had enough spirit left in my body at that point I would have decked her. The best I could do was look at her and cry more. I silently beg for my mental health nurse to come and rescue me. But she never comes .

    Nurse Hardarse rang the NICU and asked them to bring Ella to me. Great, fine, but they leave me alone with her. That's sensible, right?  Distraught mother with known mental health issues left completely alone... (I wonder now if that is what happened in the room next door...)

    I fed her. She wasn't really interested. I needed to go to the toilet. She started crying, and it seemed the part of my brain that was used to babies crying and knew i could leave them for 30 seconds had been removed.  I dragged her bassinet on wheels contraption into the toilet with me. Why?? I don't even know. She wouldn't stop screaming and my how that echoes in a tiled room. 

    I wanted her gone. I didn't want anything to do with her. And I hated myself for it.

    I have no feeling in parts of my right leg.  No one knows why. (Try the epidural placement, numnuts.)  They put me through another MRI.  Have you had to get into an MRI machine 3 days after a C-section when you can’t feel your feet and your back feels like it is folding you in half all by itself.?  I can’t stand, I can’t sit, I can’t lie down. The MRI shows the herniated disc. Wow, yes it’s still there. They don't know why I suddenly can’t feel big patches of my legs: Sudden Onset Post-Partum Patchy Leg Syndrome, first case ever reported.  They are all idiots.

    With Ella’s NAS scores so high, we are looking at not going home with her. We ask for the Parents' Long-Stay Room.

    Nope. You can stay in this room here, but that means that you are not actually a patient in the hospital and no nurse will come to help you.

    I live a 1 hour drive away, which I can’t manage anyway because I have this spinal injury and I can’t sit in the...

     Nope. Other mums do it.

    Other mums don't have my spinal injury.

    Express your milk and have your husband bring it in every day. 

    Eventually they realise that they need to check the nerve responses in my legs (checking for damage from their fucked up epidural) so I get discharged to the “Non-hospital Room” and then readmitted within the space of 3 hours.

    Day 10, and Ella is finally given a clean bill of health. Nothing on her blood screens at all, apart from all the drugs they gave me during delivery. No narcs! No Endone! I didn’t harm her in utero!  It frightens me that she came so close to being put on morphine for 2 weeks on the basis of an arbitrary and subjective scoring system.  Its 5 days since delivery and I am so delirious I am unable to see clearly.

    My discharge meds in the morning consist of two Endone tablets, which is a four hours’ worth of pain relief.

    What’s this?

    It’s all we are going to give you, mums aren't normally sent home with Endone

    Most mums don't come in here ON Endone…

    You will have to see your GP.

    And we were sent home. No mental health evaluation, no post-trauma counselling, no referral for post trauma counselling, no social worker visit, and no "we're sorry". 10 days, 1 baby, 1 new source of PTSD, 1 case of Post-Partum Depression, 1 case of Post-Partum Depression in baby's father, no family supports at home. 

    The red stickers on my file were never looked at. The fact that my labour was 5 days long was never written in my file. The fact that I was inadequately anaesthetised and could feel them cutting me open was not written in my file.

    “Length of labour: no labour” it says.  

    It was all a bad dream. My file says it never happened.

    So we went home, taking with us much more than we bargained for.  Within a week I was thinking up ways I could get rid of her. (I know, we all joke about this when they are being little shits, right? I actually wanted to get rid of her.) I considered the options: Its cold outside at night, she wouldn’t last long. Hide behind a bush; no one would see what I did. (What was I going to do? I didn’t think that far, it’s pretty obvious my thinking was totally fucked at this point.) Give her to MB's parents.  Just get her away from me! I felt no love, no connection. I didn’t hate her; I just thought she would be better off not with me. I felt sorry for her because she had me for her mother.  I looked for signs that she might love me: anything. I didn't see a thing. To my mind she hated me. Fair enough too, I thought.
    And then, after a week, the panic attacks started whenever we were out. I wanted to scream, I wanted to vomit, I wanted to run run run and never stop. I felt like I would explode. The fear, the inescapable fear would grip me from nowhere and toss me on a sea of anguish from which there was no escape.

    No one wanted to assess me. We had a CAFHS Nurse and a Mothercraft Helper in our home every week.  No one did anything, even though they both reported to the hospital they were worried about me.  I knew that I was not right but I couldn’t communicate this to anyone. My GP notices after 2 months that I am severely depressed.  She asks how I feel but I dare not tell her about my thoughts towards Ella.  She checks my thyroid and I have  Post-Partum Hyperthyroidism. I have lost so much weight, I am running around like I run a meth lab, I don't want my baby and it takes 2 months to pick it up???

    With hindsight, it is clear that I should have been in an institution for Nutter New Mothers I look back with red hot shame at the things I thought of doing. When I see photos of Ella at 3ish weeks old, she is clearly smiling at me, clearly looking at my face with love. Yet at the time I couldn’t see it, not one bit of it. It wasn’t until she was about 3 months old I recognised a smile from her and thought “Ok, now I can mother this child.”

    Thankfully, there is a lot of information freely available about Post-Partum Depression. Signs to look for, what to do if you need help, support groups, celebrities opening up about their own experiences, etc.  How about we also take a good look at one of the potential causes of PPD: how we are treated in the days immediately following the birth of our child. How much support we are given by those caring for us, whether we are listened to at all, whether we are given a chance to “debrief” particularly if the birth was a traumatic one, whether anybody stopped to ask “How are you? Are you coping? Is there anything you need to talk about?”

    Not one person in that hospital bothered to ask me how I was. How did I feel???  I was in shock. I was severely traumatised. (I still am.) I wanted to die.

    Had someone allowed me to process what had just happened to me, in a supportive environment with trauma counselling, maybe I wouldn’t have gone home with thoughts of killing my own child.


    Monday, July 18, 2011

    The Future is Now

    I spent a lot of time while in hospital thinking about the future, being afraid of the future.  My future loomed, like a big scary monster at the foot of the bed.

    Raar! We'll eat you up!

    That was mostly because being in hospital was like being in god's waiting room, waiting for the next phase of my existence to begin. There was nothing to do, very few visitors to keep me connected to my life and no one to talk to about what would happen next.  It was a total removal from the realities of my life, so much so that I could almost convince myself that there was nothing else for me outside the walls of that room.  Being so distanced from my own reality was what made the prospect of leaving that environment and going home such a traumatic idea.

    When I left I didn't want to go, not by a long shot. After the huge panic attack and suicidal thoughts the night before, I knew that the hospital environment was going to break me rather than help me if I stayed any longer.  And lets face it, the only way in which it helped was by giving me room and board so I could be alone with my own thoughts for a while and not kill my kids while I sorted my shit out.  The hospital didn't DO anything.  The psychological benefits I got from it were of my own making, through my own incessant journalling process.

    I have been home now 12 days and it seems so much longer than that.  In that time I have holed myself up in my bedroom and refusing to come out except to eat dinner with the family, because the anxiety associated with the living room was too high. I have stopped taking the benzodiazapines the hospital put me on and consequently I am awake until 4.30am most nights.  Felix tells me time and time again that he loves me, wants to be with me all the time, that I am his "beautiful mummy" and that he wants to marry me. I am getting the distinct impression that he wants to make sure I don't leave him again. Ella just wants mummy all the time. For everything. Daddy isn't allowed to do nappy changes, take her to the toilet, brush her hair or get her food. Its mummy or meltdown. From the kids, the pressure is on to perform, to be the perfect mummy that they want to have around all the time. and I am feel like I am failing miserably.

    The biggest fear I had about the future is that I had no idea how to be (in the simplest definition of the word) without alcohol in my life.  I didn't know how to parent, how to relax, how to reduce stress, how to talk to friends.  I've had plenty of times in my life where I didn't touch alcohol at all, or very little, and I knew who that person was. I had an identity. But as a mother of two, in this stage of my life, I have no idea who I am without alcohol. I have no idea what I think without alcohol. I have no idea what I want to do without alcohol in my life.

    I thought that once I got home something would be revealed to me, like the Big Reveal on Extreme Makeovers: the whole family waiting anxiously for me as I arrive home from hospital and then screams of delight and "Oh my god the transformation is just amaaazing..." "you're a new, better you!"  But there is no big reveal, there is no miraculous transformation just because I stopped drinking. There is no waiting for the big scary Future to start. The Future is here, it is now, it was the day I stopped drinking, it was the day I asked to be admitted to hospital, it was the day I opened my hospital room door to stop my suicidal thoughts. It was the day I decided to come home, and it was the day my son told me he wanted to marry me.

    I have come to accept the Future, not as a big scary monster at the foot of my bed but as a succession of tiny moments a continuous string of "nows."  Some are noteworthy, some hard, some beautiful, some distressing, some funny.  There is no need to spend precious time worrying about how I am going to "do" mothering sober: I am already doing it.

    My future is now.


    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Hearing Voices

    I don't believe I'm worthy, the page in my journal reads.

    "Piffle" my friend Lioness offers from Portie-Land, and asks me to think of all the reasons why my friends do love me now, why I AM worthy.

    yes yes, plenty of reasons blah blah

    But when my head is reeling with noise noise noise that I just want to SHUT UP, its not so easy to hear the distant whispers of those positive words. This noise is so persistent that it is indecipherable, all encompassing and constant.

    I want it to stop. I want the silence.

    Pink wrote in her song "Fucking Perfect": Change the voices in your head/Make them like you instead.

    Listening to this song for the first time while in hospital, I came to realise that's what they are, these incessant noises: voices.

    Voices of people long gone.
    Voices of people dead.
    Voices of people dead-to-me.
    Voices of people with their own pain, that they never acknowledged or dealt with.
    Voices of people who would project their feelings about themselves onto me.
    Voices of people with no love to give, even to me, who should have had it.

    These voices are loud, constant, persistent, unrelenting and lifelong, starting at birth and continuing through bullying at school and then into relationships. They have had me shy away from friendships that might be positive, or worse, not nurturing them as they needed to be. Shying away from the people that wont treat me like crap. Persisting with those that do, whilst begging them to change.  Rejecting those that love me to pursue those that can't love me and never will. Then I do it to my own children too, rejecting them in favour of things that have no value in my life.

    I feel like whale shit at the bottom of the ocean because this is not what I want to do, this is not the mother I want to be.

    And the panic, the panic that those voices can instill in me...  The intense cell-level need to flee, to get away from the conflict that is coming, the negating of what I have to say, the denigration, the PROOF that my mother was right. Anything to avoid that...

    My psychologist asks me during my session this week about my early childhood (no, not that, do we have to talk about that??)  Who did love me, if not my parents?  And I think.  And I shrug my shoulders and the tears fall.  Because the answer is unsayable. The answer is "no one."

    Imagine that?

    She explains that if a child has just one person to show them affection, to nurture them, provide care, to show love, make them feel safe and wanted, then their brain will develop to expect that relationships are positive, safe, good things.  If the child doesn't have that one person, then the brain develops completely differently. Relationships are a source of danger, and are to be avoided or sabotaged.

    Without that "one person" to show me love when I was no bigger than my own children are now, it is no wonder I behave the way I do, react the way I do, expect the things I expect from people. The voices, they repeat the things that hurt the most in my childhood. The way I react to them and the way I relate to people is result of my brain development.

    Does that make a difference?  I know now that my childhood is not something I "should just get over." I know that there is no point in beating myself up for the way I react in certain situations - its like hating on myself for breathing. I know that with self-knowledge comes the ability to change.

    I know that when my heart is pounding and every cell in my body screams "danger! love approaching" that my brain is going to try to fuck things up for me.

    I just don't know how I'm going to stop it.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2011

    Home Is Where The Pizza Ordered By The Five-Year-Old Is

    I decided to check myself out of the hospital yesterday morning, even after the MASSIVE panic attack I had over the AA meeting non-event and the subsequent suicidal ideation. I was alone in the room, with the door shut and the nurse not likely to come around for at least half an hour, and I started having plans...  The fuck???

    But I pulled my shit together, I really did. I DID SOMETHING. I realised what was happening, realised it was BAD and I made a change to the situation I was in.  I opened the door, I put the lights up, and I decided I needed Milo from the patient kitchen.  My mood changed. The thoughts went. I calmed down. Lets all hear it for Milo! It potentially saved my life that night.

    Packed with B Vitamins and the Will To Live

    Despite the alluring option of staying another day and feeling worse because it was more time alone, I chose the Get Out Of Jail Free card.

    I do feel strange. Strange to be home, strange to be out of the regulated environment. Strange to have new feelings come up because I am no longer squishing them down with the booze.

    Strange to look at my kids with new, clearer, eyes.

    Strange to realise that I cannot be left alone at the moment due to intense, out of the blue flashes of aforementioned suicidal thoughts.

    The best thing about being home is that Felix decided that as a surprise for Mummy when she comes home, they should order take-out pizza from the store around the corner, because Mummy loves that and it is something everyone is happy with.

    I'm sure the kids have changed in the last week. Or maybe I am seeing their behaviour with clear eyes and a clear head? 

    Nah, a week ago Felix wouldn't have cared what anyone else wanted for dinner.It would be Macaroni Cheese with Bacon all the way.

    Home. There is no place like it, and we'll take it one day at a time to see if that's a good thing or not.

    Monday, July 04, 2011

    Baby Steps

    In 18 minutes in another part of this hospital, an AA Meeting will start. I decided 2 days ago that I would go, so I could get some ideas, some strategies for coping when I go home. Which most likely will be tomorrow.

    In 15 minutes now the meeting will start and I am lying on my hospital bed, in an empty room, feeling sick to my stomach, with a racing heart and a devilishly strong desire to flee.

    Hello, panic attack. Fancy seeing you here!

    In 12 minutes the meeting will start. The meeting that everyone says is a must if you want to have the best chance of staying sober.

    In 10 minutes the meeting will start and clearly I wont be attending.

    I feel like I am letting myself and my family down, but I just.can'

    In 4 minutes I will not attend AA. Despite how I feel right now, I think that's okay.

    I've taken the biggest step.

    Now its time for baby steps.

    This baby step writes a blog post and has some meds and goes to sleep.

    The meeting has been going 12 minutes, and I have not had to say "My name is Sharon and I am an alcoholic."

    Because I said it here.

    One Step Closer To Leaving

    Digital Parents Blog Carnival
    This post is part of the July Blog Carnival! Click on the image to view the list of participants for July
    and read some damn fine blogging.

    Detox Day Whatever*



    Writing furiously and prettily in my journal and have come to some conclusions:

    I have had Panic Attacks my whole life.
    I have had Anxiety my whole life.
    I have had multiple epidodes of PTSD, none of which have been dealt with properly.

    When I read my list of the consequences of my upbringing, I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack.

    Fuck knows where to start on the mess thats is my mind.

    These clouds looked like a good place to start.

    The Clouds They Do Beckon 

    *Edited to say: its actually 28 Days sober today.

    Saturday, July 02, 2011

    Writing as Therapy Because There Is No Other Option

    I've done therapy before. Lots.

    Loottts and lots.

    Surely somewhere along the way I have picked up some useful information and some of that information could be applied to my current detox hell, AND some of that information might actually have been retained in my alcohol-soaked and drug-addled brain.


    So I have a notebook and a packet of textas thanks to BFF visit. And a couch to sit on, as you saw earlier, which I find essential to the whole therapy process.

    An hour and a half sitting on the couch sure did release a lot of crap out of my brain.


    Wandering The Corridors Of Recovery

    Cant writer much, brain as fuzzy as this picture. Mostly anxious and angry.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    "Being Nuts" Part the Third

    In which the heroine discovers that the Detox Program she has signed herself into at great personal heartache and mental distress does not, I repeat does NOT have any psychotherapy/psychology/counselling/mental health worker chat type arrangement. At all. At.All.



    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    And also

    Just look at how clever I am! Go on, I'll wait.  Yes, see! Cle.ver at figuring out how to use my Android phone as a tethered 3G modem for my laptop 'puter. Figured it out all by myself I did.

    Take THAT nerds!!!  Oh crap. If I did it that, ikso fatso, makes me a nerd too.


    Day 1 of detox started fine this morning, dropping the kids off to their respective institutions.  Fine fine fine until it was my turn to see the doctor and then I completely lost my shit. Which was, in fact, a good thing so there was no doubt about me getting admitted for being nuts.

    I met a male nurse in emergency whose favourite comic song ever he found on YouTube recently. It was The Only Gay Eskimo, by Corky and the Juice Pigs. Who happened to contain my friend Phil. Small world, etc etc, today filled with singing of Gay Eskimos.  Who needed the Lorazepam that came immediately after?
    Well me because soon I wasn't shaking with anxiety, but falling sideways on the gurney into lalaland.  That's OK.  Lalala is OK, when you are in a supported environment.

    So far, a whole day in hospital and not a great deal has happened. A lot of lying on my bed, playing with my phone. Taking pills. Feeling lonely for a bit. The kids came in and had a visit long enough for me to read them a long story, and for Ella to tell me she wanted me to come home, Felix to get bored and to want to leave and for me to be glad that for a while I am away from the two precious creatures I need the most.

    There are two old buggers in the room next door who clearly have been sharing for too long and are over each other, which provides some amusement. Apart from that Day 1 of Detox is all a bit...well...boring.

    Cant even get something decent to get me to sleep. What is the point in this if I cant bloody sleep?

    Come on Day 2. Show me something better! Let's get challenging.

    Day 2:  More pills. An exciting*  *actually in no way exciting chat with Mental Health Team said done an amazing job, have incredible insight and strength yadda yadda. She has to report abuse to children mentioned in conversations to Families SA. Great. Adam needs to work on his anger management issues (NOOOOOO???) and we need to have family therapy with Felix. Ohhh. Well.

    Social Worker who said she would definitely be back today at 12pm. We have seen no sight of her today and she has been given Orders, yes Orders by the senior nurse to get her arse up to me pronto in the a.m.

    Doctor happy. That's nice for him. I am mostly bored, flicking through magazines and chatting to my neighbour in the room and watching her tv. Walked for a short walk to the meeting with the Mental Health Team and ended up almost on the floor. Walking round corners on the drugs not so good. Definitely lalalalalaboomph.

    Ohhhhh Squeeeeee: Pretty sunset!!

    Felix is on Yellow Circles Reading Level, so had to go to Mrs B's room to get the next level up (i.e. from year level 1) which is a big HUZZAH for him and his hard work and cleverness and all round brilliantness.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    The Night Before The Future

    Tonight I have told my 5 year old son that mummy has been sick and sad for a while because I was drinking too much wine, and that wasnt good for my body.  He asked me if I drank it because I liked it and I said "no, it was to help take my back pain away, but I drank too much and it made other parts of my body get sick." 

    I explained that I would be going into hospital, probably tomorrow, and the doctors and nurses would look after me for a few days while my body got better, and my brain got better, so I could stop being sad and angry and be a better mummy for him and Ella.

    Cue crying.

    Cue tight hugs from Felix.

    "Are you sad, Felix?"

    Bottom lip trembling: "Yes, because I'll miss you."

    I'll miss you too, my darling baby boy.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Sleep, Tarot Cards and the Future

    On a sunny Saturday when you sleep until 10.30 because you took 4 Temazepam the night before and they actually worked so you miss either a) looking after your daughter while the boys go to the movies or b) miss going to the movies as a family, it makes for a great time to go visit your neighbour and have a cuppa and talk about how shit your life is and have your Tarot cards read.

    I havent had mine read for 14 years, when the "Wheel of Fortune" card came up and the next day I got a call to go on the TV game show "Sale of the Century."

    As a result, I believe in the power of the cards.

    Well... It was all about personal power and strength and difficult decisions and what I am considering is the right thing to do and will be better for all in the long term, and it was all rather mind-blowing stuff.

    So the cards say that I am on the right track with my instincts and once I get this shit sorted I will rule the world. 

    It will be so much better for everyone that way.

    "If I Am Not For Me, Then Who Is For Me?"

    *Apparently a Jewish Proverb. I read that on Twitter today so it must be true, eh?

    If I don't look out for myself, then who the hell else is going to?

    The one who almost 8 years ago promised to "love honour and cherish, in sickness and in health blah-blah" is certainly not showing any signs of "being for me", looking out for me nor for supporting me in this, one of the hardest battles I have ever had to face.

    And you've read the condensed version of my life's battles. There's been some corkers, hey?

    Drinking alcohol in front of me with friends and joking about "now this is really rubbing it in": not supportive.  Screaming at me (in front of the kids) that I have no idea how much I am costing him personally: not supportive.  Making every day so stressful by the yelling - always the yelling - at the kids, that if I hear his voice once more I am going to fucking explode.  Not asking, not ever asking how I am feeling without the alcohol: Not.Fucking.Supportive.


    I am for me.

    I cannot stand to be in my living room because the associations with alcohol are so strong. I cannot be in the kitchen at dinner time because my automatic response is to get a glass and go to the fridge. And then I remember..."Ohhh, DAMMIT!" I cannot cope with the constant noise and the demands and the yelling.

    I want to be alone, so I can have the shakes and cry in private and not in front of my children. I want to be alone so I can hear my own thoughts. I want to be alone so I can feel something other than frustration with my children - because lets face it, boy (5) + girl (almost-3) = nightmare - and anger at my husband.

    The only way I can see how to do this is to put my hand up and say "Help me! I can't do this alone anymore." To voluntarily go into hospital and do this with people who know what they are doing, who know how to get people through detox and who are not going to ignore my fairly obvious distress. I had my first panic attack since the birth of my daughter the other day, for no reason other than I was in my son's classroom and there were other adults there. The second was a day later in the car with MB, simply because I was with him.

    I need rest. I need sleep. I need quiet so I can hear myself. If I cant hear my own thoughts, or if I cant even process information because of what my body is dealing with, all that happens is anxiety and panic.

    If I cant hear myself, how can I help myself?

     If I cant help myself, how on earth am I going to be able to help these  two precious, beautiful children?

    I am for me.

    I am also for them.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Realise Your Future

     Today I have made several important realisations:

    Being in friendly company is waayyy better for my mental health than being left to mope around at home.

    That the increase in my Pain & Brain meds since last Thursday has in fact made a huge difference already, and not just in the "lalalaboomph" department.

    That my kids are far more tuned-in to how mummy is traveling than I gave them credit for.

    That Temazepam does shit for getting me to sleep.

    That I have triggers for wanting a drink and the worst trigger is my living room, which is not surprising since this is where I would do 99% of my drinking. I haven't been able to spend an evening in there with the kids since I stopped.

    That there are people that I have only known for a few weeks, or haven't seen in 6 months, or 25 years, or have NEVER MET because they are my internet crew who have been with me since the Infertility Days, that are capable of voicing their support and their belief in me and their love in such a way that I can physically feel it, and it wraps around me like the softest purple minky blanket with unicorns on it you've ever seen. I am safely cocooned and buoyed on an ocean of love and belief.

    That there is one person, the one who most of all should make me feel this way, who has not offered one word of comfort or congratulations in making it this far.

    That today was better than yesterday.

    That I have been sober for 15 days.

    That I have started maybe thinking about considering contacting AA. But only to get their medals. Would I get one for 15 days?


    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    All Alcoholics Are Created Equal

    When I lived with my previous boyfriend, who we call Fuckhead round these parts but whose name was John, I had a close-up hands-on experience of alcoholism. When we met he had already been engaging in serious drinking for a few years, and by serious I mean bottle of Scotch in an hour every day serious. Bottle in the filing cabinet in his office at university. He was an academic. He was brilliant. He was - then - a high-functioning alcoholic.

    Lets not get into the myriad reasons why I wanted to enter into a relationship with a person who was clearly - and I do mean clearly- a complete write-off mental health wise. Lets just look at the alcohol.

    When he lost his high paid academic job (due of course to the alcohol) and could no longer afford the scotch, he turned to the cheapest source of alcohol above metho, which was a 5 litre cask of wine. To this day the sight of a Berri cask of white wine fills me with anxiety and dread. Said cask would be consumed in one night. Or sometimes starting earlier in the day, if it was a bad day, in one afternoon. It would inevitably lead to other forms of abuse. This would happen every single day and we were together for four and a half years.

    That level of alcoholism renders one unable to function, not only in the real world but in your own house too. The stories I could tell you of the filth he chose to live in when I was not there to clean up the detritus of another night's binging...they would make your stomach turn.

    Of course I tried to get him to stop drinking, and as a good deal of alcoholics will tell you, he said "I'm not an alcoholic. I never drink before 12."  Or "I can stop drinking any time I want!"  What I didn't realise then was that he couldn't stop drinking because he already had Korsakoff's Syndrome which had rendered him brain damaged. I only discovered this only 12 months ago, when I was told that he had died from Korsakoff's.

    I mention this story because this is my only experience of alcoholism.  Extreme. Brutal. Deadly.

    So when I drank my one, and then two, bottles of wine each night, the word "alcoholic" did not enter my consciousness at all.  After I had Ella, I never drank to get drunk again. Unlike before, where there are many stories of friends holding back my hair in the UniBar loos...  But I digress.

    I drank because it helped reduce the pain. I drank until I was relaxed. I always drank white wine because red made me a depressed and melancholic drunk, but white wine has no such effect. At the point I could feel that I was getting slightly tipsy, I would stop drinking and usually toddle of to bed, knowing that I was relaxed enough that I would sleep as well as my non-sleeping kids would allow me.

    And this went on for three years. Every night. No one knew, except Monkey Boy., Sure, people knew I liked to drink wine, but that was it.   Eventually though, I got to the point with my pain and my limitations that I was truly suicidal. I had a plan, which I thought about often. I didn't believe any good could come from my being alive. I truly believed my kids would be better off without me.  So of course, my doctor was told about the alcohol, and wanted me to stop drinking immediately.  And I went into a major panic attack.

    In conjunction with our social worker, it was decided I would taper my alcohol consumption in the same way I would taper down a dose of medication before stopping it, which at the time seemed logical.  But I couldn't do it. MB was in charge of doling out the exact number of mls each night, and it was torture. Having a little when I knew that I "needed" a lot, and not being in control of what was happening was just not going to work. So I faked not being suicidal anymore and went back to drinking, and I was still thinking that the alcohol was just a form of pain relief.

    But then I would start to panic if we were down to the last bottle in the house. I would panic about when we would be able to get to the bottle shop to get some more. I would be in major distress (which I masterfully hid, or MB is blind to my distress) when MB said "Cant you just wait til tomorrow? I'll pick some up then."

    I started to look at the clock mid afternoon and wonder if 2.30 was too early to start drinking. Some days it wasnt. but I never drank before 12!

    I started drinking when my son got home from school. I would refill my glass as soon as it was empty, and kept doing this all night.  Then I began bringing the bottle into the living room and sitting it next to me so I didnt have to keep getting up to get another drink. Saving myself the pain of getting up and down I said to myself in justification.  Then it occurred to me that John used to do exactly the same thing with his 5 litre cask.

    When I got to the point of drinking two bottles of wine every night just to feel "normal" of an evening, and I would wake up shaking each morning, I knew something had changed.

    What I realised was that I had become physically dependent on this drug, and that if I continued it would kill me as surely as it killed John. I also knew that I had no idea how to stop.

    My doctor gave me Valium to get me through the anxiety I would surely feel, but because of the cocktail of narcotics and anti-depressants I take I was certainly no candidate for the drugs that are used to block the desire for alcohol.

    And it wasnt until I stopped, until there was no alcohol in my system at all, until I had gone a couple of nights without touching a drop, and I started to feel SO low, so sad, so anxious, so depressed, withdrawn, unable to stop crying, and so scared that once I had got through these physical effects of stopping, I would still not be able to have just one or two drinks, that I wouldn't be able to stop myself once I wasnt until then that I realised the awful, shameful truth.

    That I had become an alcoholic.

    That there was no difference between John and I, except for what stage we had got to with our drinking.  Had I continued...I would end up in the same place: liver damage, brain damage, death.  We started for different reasons: he refused treatment for his bipolar disorder and self-medicated with Scotch. I tried every medication available to me and still nothing was working satisfactorily so I tried to use the alcohol to "kick along" the other meds into working better.

    For me, the knowledge that I am no better than him is devastating. It tears at my soul, it makes me want to scream, it makes me sick to my stomach.

    I am a person who must remain in control of what is happening to me. Knowing that I have no control at all in this situation, that I am controlled by my addiction is terrifying.  I am controlled by something I thought, in all honesty, would help me.

    I am controlled by alcohol: I am an alcoholic.

    I have been sober for 14 days, but I am a mess, I am having panic attacks, I am frightened, I am sad and I don't know how to get through this withdrawal.
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