Bouncing back

Yesterday was the last day of the winter school holidays thank goodness! We didn’t go away anywhere exotic or even all that warm so we all have a dose of cabin fever. So yesterday I kept my promise to take the boys to the indoor trampoline centre an hour’s drive away. When we got there they ran off and were bouncing around like happy crazy things. Its amazing how quickly their mood can change with a bounce on a trampoline. My eldest loves perfecting flips so whenever he is kicked off the Xbox or iPad he goes outside and bounces. Something to do with the raised heart rate, physical exertion and the vestibular input (flips!) all makes for a much happier kid.

Bounce Back
Back Flips

It got me thinking about what I could be doing to bounce back from adversity and shift my bad mood. I’m down in the dumps and fighting off another bout of depression since the latest job rejection. For me that means I sleep lots, struggle to wake up, go through the day in a haze, feel achy all over, and lethargy sends me to wallow on the couch often. Depression is not just in my head it affects my whole body. I’ve had a headache everyday for at least 3 weeks now, probably due to the tension I am holding in my neck and jaw.

When I’m depressed it affects my ability to do everyday tasks. You have probably heard that before and maybe find it an odd concept. For me cooking is a hassle and when I am unwell I can’t face the kitchen and lack the energy and brain power to prepare healthy meals or even snacks. It can be a bit of a spiral of sweet and salty snacks!

I need to do something to bounce back into a healthier mindset towards a healthier me. So today I am treating myself to a change of scene. I am typing this in my local library. It is bright, colourful, warm and noisy with little kids, retirees and cheerful librarians! This change of location helps lift my mood as the chatter and people reduces my sense of isolation and loneliness, and the colourful chairs and stacks of books brighten my view.

working in the library
Bright library views

Such a simple thing as change of scene can make a big difference to my mental health. And maybe later I’ll go for a bounce on the trampoline 🙂

What do you do to help you bounce back?

Does a change of scene help?

 

Rejection

Rejection HURTS! On Friday I was rejected for yet another job. Yes, they let me down kindly, saying there were an exceptional calibre of candidates and they would keep my details on file for future opportunities. But it still stings. Yup sulking on the floor in my bedroom.

sad cos rejected

Its been 3 years since I held a professional job – I can’t quite believe it. I’ve had a few casual jobs for a few months, but nothing that really taps my expertise or has lasted. There are a few reasons behind this and I think this is a message from the universe.

Firstly you might be thinking I’m not qualified enough for these jobs. Nope, if anything I’m over qualified. I have too many pieces of paper to mark my academic achievements. I also have had a few different careers: exploration geologist, science teacher, executive officer, TAFE lecturer, e-learning technologist, and of course waitress 😉

Maybe this rejection is really a push to go in another different direction?

Perhaps all theses steps I take to get a job working for someone else are actually steps towards being my own boss. I mean, I am the boss of my own life, I have knowledge, skills and experience and I LOVE TO SHARE! So I am taking this latest hit as the FINAL push I need to really embrace myself and what I have to offer to the world and make it happen. I am going to work with my passions and help others. My passion is de-mystifying mental illness and I want to help others live their best life with their mental illness.

Watch this space…….

What job do you think I should do?

Have you found your passion project/job?

 

 

 

 

 

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Not just a cup of coffee

I got a text message from woman I briefly worked with, who wanted to catch up for coffee. Sure, I love a coffee catch up. So we arranged a time and place in our lovely little town. However, I kept wondering why she would bother keeping in touch with me? What did she want to talk about? I felt quite insecure about it to be honest.
When I arrived on my bike, all my concerns dissipated with her friendly wave, smile and a hug. We ordered drinks and sat in the autumn sunshine. Our conversation flowed quite easily from parenting to long weekend traffic. Then somehow quite smoothly we were talking about anxiety, and emotional struggles. It clicked, we clicked.

cup of coffee with cake
Coffee and Cake <3

My openness about my mental illness had given this wonderful women the key to connect, the permission to reach out and ask, the sense of safety to raise an awkward topic.
When things had gotten more stressful in our workplace I had been honest that it was triggering my anxiety. I had said to a couple of colleagues that I had Bipolar Disorder. I hoped by being open about my mental illness it would help alleviate the work stress, and lengthen my period of employment. It sadly didn’t, but that says more about the leaders of the organisation than the employees.
But, and its a Big BUT, it has opened this meaningful connection, this possibility for friendship and mutual support. This is so meaningful and important to me especially as I have only moved to this little town 6months ago and want to make new friends.

Having friends to talk to about everyday life and the harder things in life is necessary. Women often do this instinctively, we chat at the school gate, we meet up and talk over coffee or lunch, we ring distant friends to stay in touch. But when you are struggling with your mental health, when you are feeling anxious or lonely or stressed, we can withdraw or worry that talking about it won’t be well accepted by others. Are we being a Debbie downer? Will we scare others away with our craziness? or She won’t want to be my friend if I talk about that!

My recent experiences have proved to me that when you do talk about your emotions it builds human connections. I was chatting with a school mum who is also new to town and she opened up about her struggle to make friends. So I invited her over for a cuppa while our kids played. Our conversation easily moved from parenting to stress, frustration and anxiety. I shared my mental illness struggles and some supportive advice.

I believe that honesty and truth build our relationships with others. We all need an opportunity to share, to feel connected. So please remember that its not just a cup of coffee, but opportunity to be a good friend.

Just 5 things

My anxiety overwhelmed me last week. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I burst into sobs and tears.

A dear friend texted me, I reached out to her. She told me to write down 5 things I have control over right now and text her back. For about 5 minutes all I could manage was to slow my breathing. Then I slowly thought of other things. I wrote the list in my notebook, and pressed the lavender flower.

I took this photo to share with her and to remind me of this wonderful gesture of a friend reaching out to help me. And that it works! 😍🙌

lavender heart
just 5 things

I am not alone even when I feel overwhelmed and the darkness swallowing. Reach out to someone you can trust.

Even when I feel out of control, I can still control at least 5 things, starting with my breathing. Just breathe

Self care activities do work and are definitely worthy of your effort and time. Smell the lavender, colour in the heart.

Thank you to my dear friend 💜

Am I ill or just mentally ill?

I’m sitting by a tropical pool in Broome, recovering from a terrible stomach bug that went through the whole family. I’ve been lacking energy, zest, patience and tolerance for a week now. I was prone to snapping at the kids and any noise they made was incredibly annoying. My husband kept telling me how mean I was being. I started to think this big family trip of ours was bad for my mental health. I was not feeling motivated to do anything, making decisions was difficult. This trip around the North of Australia was supposed to bring us closer as a family not make us hate each other.
Then my youngest started vomiting, right there by the campfire. A picturesque evening by the banks of the De Grey River, bush camping, everyone happy for a moment staring at the flames of the campfire, anticipating the toasted marshmallows.
After a pretty rough night of half hourly vomitting from Mr T I was tired too. We stumbled our way into our next stop, where I could no longer ignore my throbbing headache and now started to feel nauseous. Thank goodness I was able to snooze away the afternoon with Toby.

Like a bear with a sore head!
Like a bear with a sore head!

Now that I was officially sick too, there was more tolerance from others for my requests for help and also to be left alone to rest! But when I was just plain grumpy there was no forgiveness, maybe I even looked like Cruella DeVille?

Mean and nasty
Mean and nasty

Was I getting sick all along? or was I not coping mentally with all the change this trip has brought?
Was I just ill? or mentally ill?
These thoughts are still rattling around in my head. This second guessing of my ability to ‘adult’ and ‘cope with life’ is taxing on me.

Do you ever wonder if you are just sick or if it is your mental illness closing everything?

Does an illness sneak up on you with a case of the grumps first?

Time on the inside

Mental Health - getting help

I was hospitalised to treat my mental illness. Yep, I spent 3 weeks inside a mental health unit in August this year. You may have seen some of ABC’s documentary Changing Minds: the inside story, showing the public Mental Health Unit of Campbelltown Hospital. Well, my experience wasn’t exactly like that, there were still amazing dedicated medical staff who truly cared for me and knew I was battling an illness.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. How so? Firstly I am alive. Secondly, I was a voluntary patient and I was at a private hospital only because I can afford top-level private health insurance. I have an amazingly supportive husband, family and friends who helped me to get there and get the expert help I needed in my time of crisis. Many people are struggling on the outside with out the help and support they need because our Mental Health System is broken, underfunded and not prioritised by our government. This is a travesty because 7 people die from suicide each day in Australia. Not sharks, car accidents, or even cancer.

Mental Health - getting help
Inside a Mental Health Unit

Are you still curious and wondering what it really is like inside? My fabulous friend Jen, who dropped everything to visit me on my first evening inside, described my room as “God, this is bleak and bland! But you do have your own ensuite like at SJOG” (where we had our babies).

It made me think that really our major experience of hospital stays were the week or so when we gave birth to each of our babies (all 5 boys!). Again in private hospitals, in single rooms with ensuites, and a crucifix on the wall – catholic of course – bless them! I mean we are in our mid 30’s, healthy mums, why else would we have spent time in hospital.

So my room lacked pictures on the wall, but I came to realise that in my fragile mental state any picture had the possibility of triggering me to feel like shit or give me the shits eventually 😉 So it was probably better that they placed all the ‘calming’ ocean scenes to decorate the corridors.

Calming ocean pics
Serene Ocean Scene

My meals did not arrive on a tray to be eaten in bed, half cold. But rather were served as a buffet in the dining hall, to make sure we were getting out of our rooms. This brought back the memories of my years living at college for university and then years of eating in the mess on mine sites.

You have several choices of hot dishes, a salad bar and dessert. The hard part is deciding which food will be palatable, not over filling your plate and resisting the temptation of chocolate mousse at lunch followed by crème caramel at dinner. If you are a steak and 3 veg man or gal, then you will be sadly disappointed. Sure you can get your 3 veg, but your steak is replaced by fish: steamed fish, poached fish, tuna mornay and the all time favourite, ocean surprise pie! Why all the fish? Fish contains OMEGA-3 fatty acids which aid brain development and function, and seeing as we are all sick in the head……..let them eat fish.

Fish meal
Fish dish of the day

Communal eating is a strange thing – its not quite the same as eating out with friends or family at the latest hipster café. Its an awkward moment of turning around with your full tray and navigating the dining room working out who to sit next to, I mean after all they are all crazy. You see the clusters of people that have already bonded, on some common ground. At least here its not on racial lines as in Orange is the new black!

Then in a clumsy possibly medication induced haze, trying to eat with your best table manners and not spill it down your front. After a couple of days I had found a lovely bunch to sit with at meals, my new peeps 🙂

So we became friends over our OMEGA-3 laden fish dish of the day.

To be continued……

 

If this post has brought anything up for you, please reach out for help here:

Lifeline or call 13 11 14

BeyondBlue or call 1300 22 4636

 

Some people I know think that I’m CRAZY…..

I know at times I act a little hasty. That’s when I have a surge of energy, and feel like I can get through all my chores and achieve something great with my day. Other days getting up and getting the kids off to school takes monumental effort and a pasted on smile.

I’ve come to accept that yes I am crazy. For almost as long as I can remember I’ve felt different to everyone else. I struggled to feel happy or content in my childhood, and in my teenage years anxiety truly reared its head. But at the time I didn’t understand it and neither did those around me. So I struggled through and somehow I made it to adulthood.

People think I'm CRAZY
People think I’m CRAZY

My kind of crazy has a label – Bipolar type II. I’m not sure that labels really help you to understand who I am or what is going on for me. But labels do help the medical profession to devise the best treatment plan and it has helped me to find lots of helpful resources and connect with other peoples’ experiences.

Bipolar – 2 poles, polar opposites, ups and downs, or in the old days manic depression. Really Bipolar is  mood swings of the extreme variety. From depressed, sad, lonely and overwhelmed by the simplest life tasks, through so-so, happy, present, to energetic, exuberant, extroverted and high achiever.

I recently read another sufferer’s description that so aptly described my experiences and just as the author says, it is what I wish you knew about Bipolar:

Bipolar Disorder is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.”

read the article here on Mamamia

I survived into adulthood and have learnt many lessons in life along the way. I overcame my anxiety to graduate from university twice. Survived numerous bouts of depression with the steadfast support of my loving husband. I have had careers as a Geologist in the mining industry; taught high school science; and lectured in Mining. I have become a mother of 2 adorable energetic boys who have taught me about unconditional love, patience and perseverance. I continue to learn more everyday from my amazing friends about how to accept life is a challenge for all of us in different ways, and to be grateful for my life.

 

So who am I? I am Louisa, a wife, mother of 2 boys, a loyal friend to some truly wonderful people. And I am battling my mental illness everyday.

Who am I? Loupy Lou.
Who am I? Loupy Lou.

 

If this post has brought anything up for you, please reach out for help here:
Lifeline or call 13 11 14
BeyondBlue or call 1300 22 4636