Mood (de)stabilisers

I posted a few years back that I’d gone off all my meds, cold turkey.  Well that didn’t last and within a few months I was back in treatment and back on meds.  But I switched shrinks because I really felt my old shrink was over medicating me.  I couldn’t function and the meds were making me more depressed and suicidal.  My shrink at the time would nod off during sessions.  I wondered if he’d had enough of my daddy issues until another patient (who happens to be my GP – very small world and clearly GP’s aren’t as stable as we’d like them to be) told me he nods off in her sessions too.  Time to retire, Good Doctor.  Anyways, I found a new shrink after I ended up in an Emergency Room with blood pressure so high they refused to just let me hop on across the road to the Psychiatric Unit.  I quite like him.  He let’s me smoke weed and doesn’t accuse me of being an addict.  He also doesn’t have me on an endless supply of meds (sometimes to my dismay, can I just have a benzo please), and he put me on a mood stabiliser that didn’t turn my skin black.

But the problem with mood stabilisers is they stabilise ALL your moods.  Even the happy ones.  I didn’t want to engage with the world.  They made me lethargic and I couldn’t muster up the energy to get out bed, never-mind socialise.  I just preferred to stay at home and enjoy my rosé all by my lonesome.  These meds have taken my life from me.  I felt like I was existing, not living.  I had zero interest in anything.  Even music started annoying me.  So I decided to go off my mood stabiliser and the difference has been amazing.

For one I started taking my kid to school again.  I started cooking again.  Most importantly, I can decipher my thoughts and am quite looking forward to my forgotten dreams.  I’ve been on a few different types of mood stabilisers and they all had awful side effects.  I can deal with medication but not side effects.  Pins and needles in my face, hands and feet basically all the time?  No thank you Dr Selfish with the Benzo’s.

I’m scared I won’t lie.  Because when the depression hits it’s all “Lord, take me now”, but I turned 40 two years ago and realised that I’ve spent my 30’s in bed.  I can’t afford another 10 years in bed.  I haven’t been able to function on these meds.  Right now I feel like going off the mood stabiliser is the best thing for me.  I feel able to participate in life again.  Only thing is that on the meds I barely gave a second thought to the fact that I wasn’t doing anything with my life.  Off the meds I’m all “What the fuck now” after a decade long hiatus off life in general.  But at least I’m able to think and feel again.  Even my laugh is back to the way it was: loud, hearty and most importantly genuine.

Rosé all day

So it has been three years since my last post.  Surprised I remembered my login details.  What’s been happening?  Well a whole lot of bed and rossssaaaaaaayyyyyyy!  Rosé all day for a whole 3 years.  In bed.  With Netflix and Real Housewives of whatever I can find.  This bipolar situation drives me to drink.  Lately, though, I’ve been off the rosé.  Although I’m have a glass as we speak.  And as we know wine comes in a glass bottle so I won’t specify what kind of glass of wine I’m having.  As it turns out my meds love liquor.  They tell us not to drink on our meds but literally I crave booze on meds.  It’s weird because I am very cautious when it comes to mixing my meds with mind altering substances so when I have a bender I don’t take my meds.

I never used to drink during the week.  I’ve always been a Thank God it’s Friday kind of gal but all that changed when I started taking handfuls of prescribed medication.  I’ve since gone off it but at some point I was on an antidepressant that made me crave wine at exactly 4pm every day.  Even the staff at the liquor store knew I was bipolar cause I spent so much time in there, they became my confidants.  I would tell them when I was going to be away so they didn’t think I’d offed myself cause I wasn’t there at 4:05pm on the dot every day.  My shrink at the time didn’t believe me.  He insisted I needed rehab. I insisted he was getting too old and over prescribing medication and then I insisted on going into treatment so I could prove I could go 21 days without liquor.  He insisted of dual diagnosis.  I refused.  So off I went to psychiatric treatment to prove I’m not an alcoholic.  I did well.  The shrink had to admit I was not, in fact, an alcoholic.  Admittedly I’m a full blown lush.  I love my wine.  But an alcoholic?  Talk about a misdiagnosis.

Now I know I’m sounding like I’m in denial.  Step 1.  But really I am exceptionally self aware and am fully aware of my cycles.  When I’m hypomanic I love to drink, amongst other thinks.  I’m an all round good time, even on my own with my glass of wine in bed (in fact I prefer being on my own with a bottle glass of wine in my bed).  But I know when I’m drinking too much, I’m not in denial, I’m just drinking too much.  Oddly when the depression hits I stop drinking.  That’s when I smoke more weed than my lungs can handle.  Wait let me clarify:  I’m always smoking weed, I will probably never quit.  Weed makes me a better person, at all times.  I truly believe that and I’m sure my daughter would agree if she knew the difference but since I’m always stoned she never will.  It’s just that when I’m in a depressive cycle liquor doesn’t do it for me but I’ll start smoking 10 times the amount of weed.  I feel guilty about drinking but I never feel guilty about smoking weed.  I suspect when I’m knocking back 2 bottles of wine a day it’s my mind telling me I’m not in any position to be making sound decisions.  When I’m hypomanic I can’t make any decisions but nor can I make any decisions when I’m depressed.  This is where the last 3 years have gone I suppose.

It’s hard to say which cycle I prefer.  When I’m drinking I’m more able to socialise.  When I’m smoking weed I wish everyone would lose my number and never contact me again.  Neither cycle is ideal.  I hate that my daughter sees me go through bottles of wine a week.  But I also hate that she sees me stoned in bed all day barely able to move. There is hardly ever an in between.  Don’t get me wrong, I parent the shit out of her.  Neither wine nor weed stops me from being a functional parent.  She is still shit scared of me and doesn’t fuck with me in any way, as it should be with an almost teenager.  Being a mother is the one thing I haven’t flaked on, even if I do parent from my bed.  Luckily I share custody with my ex husband so I keep my binges to when she is with her dad.  But the guilt of not being able to participate like a normal parent cause I can’t get out of bed to get her to a party is at times crippling.  Her dad does all those things cause first of all I’m not a parking lot mom and second of all I just can’t pretend that I’m okay when I’m not.  I’m lucky she’s a good kid cause I couldn’t cope otherwise.  I just hope I haven’t fucked her up and that she doesn’t go off the rails in her teenage years like I did.  Literally I’ve been drinking since I was her age which scares the shit out of me cause I know her friends have started stealing their parents booze but she’s a snitch, she tells me everything so here’s hoping she remains a snitch and stays out of her friends parents liquor cabinets.

I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into words for a while.  But lately I’ve been feeling like I don’t need the wine and even feeling less like smoking weed.  I’ve been, dare I say it, stable.  Able to sort through the racing thoughts and make out what I’m feeling and thinking. Part of being bipolar is not being able to finish things you start or even know where you want to start.  But I love writing and I hope these last few years have given me the courage I need to discipline myself to dedicate myself to committing to my passion: words.



The Christmas hangover 38.0

Jesus.  Really, what’s a Chinese Torture chamber compared to Christmas with the very same people who make you miserable.  After a 3 year hiatus from family Christmas, this year I decided to completely ignore my bestest judgement and go to Joburg to stay with my miserable father and his functional alcoholic life partner.  It was hideous.  So hideous, in fact, that I went to the airport 6 hours early hoping to catch a flight that didn’t involve me spending an entire day with Miserable Father of the Year.  That guy has more issues than National Geographic magazine.

My family history has made me what I am today, a psychologically challenged mad woman obsessed with making them see the light.  They won’t.  Ever.  A narcissistic father, schizophrenic mother (coincidentally only after splitting from my turned-out-to-be Gay father) and pathological liar sisters.  I mean it’s a bloody circus and they always attempt to make me the ringmaster.  Well sorry for them, I have good meds and an even better psychiatrist.  I see you, fucked up family.  No wonder my life long severe depression ended in a Bipolar mood disorder diagnosis.  I mean these people are delusional, and only give me more power by attacking me at every corner, stop sign and traffic light.  I even got attacked in transit on the N1 highway.  How is it that a conversation about the difference between the N1, M3 and R27 sparks harsh swearwords directed at me (when I said that Motorways don’t necessarily have 3 lanes).  Well I’m so fucken sorry I am always right.  Is that any reason to tell me to fuck off in front of my 8 year old daughter, Grandpa?

Needless to say I’d rather cry myself to sleep on Christmas Eve out of loneliness than ever spend a Christmas with a bunch of sociopaths who literally make me crazy.  Fuck that.  My mental health is so much more important than a Swarovski crystal leather bracelet.  Which yes, I left behind to make a point – I don’t need things, I need emotional support, and you can’t buy me pretty things in the vein hope I will forget about the massive trigger you are to my mood disorder.  Well the pretty things would go a long way if you actually acknowledged the effect your gross cruelness has on my recovery.

Off with their heads, family or not!

Type 2: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

Being bipolar is something I have to manage every day.  I’m a single mom.  And unfortunately I took it upon myself to fornicate with the devil, which ironic because our mutual child is an absolute angel – must be my side, and now I am stuck with this psycho and his equally psycho mother.  I also have to cope with my narcissistic father.  And I worry that these genes do not bode well for the future of my kids mental health.  So everyday I battle the tears, the frustration, the hurt, the racing thoughts, the helplessness, and simple tasks such as getting out of bed.  Bipolar type 2 isn’t obvious.  There are no manic, euphoric phases.  Only real life.  And then real life.  And in my experience, the only things that distinguish between the two are those that are completely out of your control.  Like life.  It’s happening.

To be honest, I find writing about my bipolar odd, because I generally tend to make light of even the most traumatic experiences in my life. When I am having a low, I can find humour in almost anything. Except my low. Nobody knows when I am having a dangerously low mood swing. I laugh, I interact, I go about my motherly duties, my duties as a friend. I am very religious about my medication and continued therapy. I’ve come very far, and my bipolar diagnosis was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Because finally I could understand myself. Finally, I could see that it wasn’t just me. I could stop taking on everyone elses shit believing it all belonged to me. It didn’t. I’ve always been headstrong and brutally honest. Qualities I admire in others, but qualities I was belittled and rejected for. I thought it was me. The masters of our own destinies and all.

My first clue should have been the fact that my first trip to a therapist was at the age of 5. A suggestion made by the school I attended.  I remember sitting in those sessions with my mother, hearing her tell MY therapist what a nightmare I was. What a danger I was to myself. How accident prone I was. How stubborn I was. How naughty I was. Thanks mom, send me to a therapist so you can take over the session with your issues by blaming me for them. I should mention she was married to a gay man. She knew it. He knew it. But they played happy families anyway. With my sisters and myself their biggest guest stars yet. I always wondered why? Why my mother put up with my father never being at home. Why she subjected herself and her kids to the hideousness that was their marriage. Why she didn’t just move on. Why we had to be exposed to the 3am fights in the driveway. Waiting for my father to join us for Sunday lunch after a ‘weekend business trip’… For two… I would hear about hotel bills for two, we would go away for family holidays and my dad’s “friend” would house sit. On our return, Uncle X would have left a bunch of flowers, chocolates, wine, and a signed ‘welcome home’ card. I remember thinking it odd. But I was maybe 9 years old, tops. Sometimes my mother would go ballistic. Who knew why? She was always going ballistic. At the time, she was a lawyer. A defense lawyer. A female of colour during the Apartheid years. The death sentence still very much a part of what was already an impossible legal system to navigate for those of colour. My mother’s moods seemed justified… Necessary even. I mean what kind of person would come home and embrace their kids, and ask them each about their day, just after their client had been given the death sentence. So we put up with an angry and emotionally absent mother. And a physically, mentally and emotionally absent father. Somehow, I managed to be the dumping mine. Each member of my family had a spade so that they could dig up their own shit and dump it onto me. A habit my sisters also picked up. And honestly, 30 years later, it’s a habit they all have a hard time breaking.

And that’s what eventually broke me. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Except in this case, the straw was a champagne glass and the camel was me, and the back was my face. But what nobody ever actually asks is who put all that straw on the camels back? Who was the asshole that decided the camel could cope with more than what it’s physical being could possible allow? Well my asshole was my father. So, to simplify it. My father threw a glass at my face which shattered on impact. And that was the beginning of what was to become the worst place I’d ever been in – my own mind. Sitting with my kid in the ER on Christmas morning, after flying from Cape Town to Joburg for the holidays. Having to explain why my face was bleeding. Pulling shards of glass from my face. While my father threatened me with more violence, my sister jumping to his defense. Comforting HIM while I am bleeding all over her house. My baby wide awake, barely 4 years old, packing our suitcase to leave. It was horrific. I had always been able to keep myself together. Granted, usually with a little help from a mind altering friend. Okay, always with a little help from a mind altering friend. Anything to keep myself out of my own head. It had never been a pleasant place to be, but after this, my mind became a fate worse than death.

I probably would have been okay with a few therapy sessions, weekly parties till dawn (and beyond). But things were different now. I had a child. And my father and sisters went on to tell everyone we know that I was the one who had thrown the first stone. Or glass. I would ask why this version (thanks Gerrie Nel) was being put to everyone except me, and of course anyone who is very close to me. Of course, in true Oscar, I mean NARCISSIST style, this would be denied “what do you mean, I never spoke to anyone about that, I don’t know where that’s coming from”. Um, YOU??!!! No ways. A narcissist will never admit that they are an asshole. They know it. You know it. They know you know it. You know that they know that you know…. But they don’t know what you think it is that you know because they were never there and they never said anything to anyone, ever… *insert frantic scrambling through text message exchanges for proof of whatever you (think) you need proof for. Two word: Mind Fuck. Better yet, make that one word because you’re too busy finding proof to counterclaim current and extremely confusing Mindfuckery. This mindfuckery began a year long downward spiral that eventually led to my kids friends announcing to me that I was always in bed when they were over for playdates. Of course my kid by this point was also always in tears because, well I was always in tears. Always in tears and always in bed. I had never allowed my depression to get to this. Fair enough, there were a few suicide attempts way back in my late teens… But like I said, I had never allowed the lows to get this low because before I learned to self medicate, I’d over medicate myself in an attempt to shut the depression down. Permanently.

This time was different. In spite of the meds and the intensive therapy I was undergoing, I could not cope. Eventually I agreed to go somewhere for treatment. I had been refusing before out of fear that my ex husband would use it against me. He did. He does. But I knew then if I didn’t get help I was not going to be around to make sure my daughter was protected from such male role models.  I knew I had to do it to stay alive.

Finally, I realised that abuse in it’s worst form comes from the people you’re supposed to trust the most. Those who are supposed to protect you are the very ones who know exactly how to hurt you. I could return what wasn’t mine emotionally, and used that space to find clarity and confidence in who I always had been.

It’s hard to tell people about psychiatric disorders. Society is not at a place where it accepts this. Yet we accept physical abuse from our fathers, husbands, brothers. I wish I had called the cops that night my father threw that glass in my face. If I had known then what the events of that night would trigger in my life, I would’ve laid charges against him instead of protecting him.  But as is usually the case with abuse, the victim is the one who has to heal the wounds.  To make sure they stay healed.  To hide the secrets of those who abuse us.  Because they are all too often those we love, who we yearn to love us back.  Because that’s what family is supposed to do, right?