I would love to say I been busy in the garden with the kids and building up my business and enjoying life. To a certain extent this is true. I have added to the garden. A garden is always work in progress.
The boys always keep me busy work has taken a bit of back seat to trying to get my health in order, I do work very part time, I see maybe 2 clients some weeks other weeks if I am good 4. But never more, I found it too overwhelming to manage any more than that and probably isn't going to change anytime soon.
Over the past year my marriage has dissolved, but I remain amicable and friendly with the kids father, we both still own our home so the kids could remain in stability and go to the same schools, and not have more upheaval as the past two years have been tough on them. So we remain friends. The kids father lives a few hours away now.
I don't normally talk about my mental health, but I would like to now. It is a part of me and therefore a part of my journey. It gives myself and my family massive struggles, sometimes often. I would like to inform and improve awareness in regard to mental health. I would like to reduce the stigma. I also feel that many of the daily activities I do have helped how I cope and have improved from feeling at my worst to being able to somewhat manage and see some hope day to day.
I was diagnosed formally with Complex PTSD and Bipolar Affective Disorder (Bipolar 2) in 2015.
I had been told by a couple of Psychiatrists prior it was likely I had Bipolar 2 due to the recurrent depressions I had and also the occasional elevations of hypomania.
The PTSD symptoms became really pronounced beginning 2005 and then I would just get occasional periods of disassociation with triggers and flashbacks - I am a survivor of multiple childhood sexual abuse, some occurred in institutions.
My Bipolar was pretty sporadic in episodes until I took one of the abusers to court a couple of years back. Then the cycling between depression and hypomania became more rapid, pretty much every 2 weeks I would cycle from hypomania to depression, I never really had many normal periods. The case went to court twice as after the guilty verdict there was the usual appeal. I lost 27 kilos in about 8 months, when the second Judge overturned the appeal I had a fairly significant breakdown resulting in 2 attempted overdoses.
The court case was quite public it was a huge strain on my children and permanently changed us as a family. I would never ever report an abuse again to the Police. The Police were were very supportive from day one until the court case and after. However, legal process destroyed me, and as a victim, I had to testify with no protective screen and face my abuser, the Judge felt that as I didn't wish to make use of the remote testifying room that I should have to face her. Unfortunetely there is a lack of understanding in how to deal with victim's of childhood sexual abuse in the legal system. For myself because I disassociate under trauma and being in a room with the person that abused me and being cross examined by a defense Lawyer who I am sure are given lessons on how to have maximum impact on how to upset a victim & I knew I needed a blocking screen. I was given one the first case but not the second and testified badly. This wasn't really something I was aware of until after the process, it was information I became aware of with therapy and time, I knew however it was vital I testify in that room. There were huge ramifications for my health in going through this process, I didn't realise this would happen, hindsight...
My eating disorder is stable, I am at normal weight again if not slightly above. I was 41 kilos in this picture. Now I am 57. I was 67.
I am not actually sure I will ever get back to the person I was before. I am struggling to accept this. I have been on some medications that have done wonderful things for my mental health but unfortunately have not been great for my physical health and in fact have exacerbated my blood pressure to a level where I had to abruptly had stop the one medication in combination with two others that seemed to work really well for me and I am now left with a decision of just accepting that the couple of medications I am on will have to be enough.
I have struggled with difficult mental health issues over the past 30 years, from anxieties, disassociation, flashbacks, associated with the PTSD, eating disorders, depression and hypomanic episodes with the bipolar and I am convinced that for me medication is going to only play a small role in the recovery or maintenance of my condition so I have made a plan, these are my go to idea's for good mental health for myself, these are the things I have found work for me, there may be some science behind my list of helpful tips for, but these are personal tips of what has been helpful for me over the years and more so what has been helpful over the past 18 months and what I am looking forward to trying next in the near future some I have tried for years and find I get a small effect of lift in mood afterwards, others I feel helps me overall.
I try and do a few classes a week, usually Hatha sometime Hot Yoga and try and practice at home few times a week too. I have practiced yoga for about 7 years regularly, I am not particularly good, but that's ok. Its taken me about 5 years to focus on the breathing, once I got that, I really was in my yoga zone and the outside world didn't matter anymore. the past 2 years I have been very interested in yogic philosophy, the Yama's and Niyama's and as luck would have it the yoga studio I attend have started to teach these as well as the asanas so I feel very blessed to be learning these.
When I am on the mat, I am in my own work for that time and I calm my mind for a good few hours after the practice.
I have also always exercised but I find I have to change the type of exercise I do being in pace that really have 4 very definite seasons with extremely hot Summers and really cold Winters.
I will cycle on my road bike most places in Summer, Autumn and Spring, for the most part as long as there is no rain. Cycling is fantastic for me, gets me places as often I can find it a bit of a challenge to drive, gets me outdoors - fresh air.
Swimming, I love doing laps, I have times I am really confused and have a lot of trouble with cognitive thinking and for some reason the rhythmic motion of freestyle swimming seems to help with this. I also like to lift weights, having been anorexic 3 times in my life my bone density is not good in places so it will help with this later in life.
I have a dog so must do this twice a day for his benefit but have found its amazingly good for me also, there is the fitness aspect, this will help me to sleep at night but the chance of interaction with others is a good thing, getting to meet others in my community, if I am elevated its a way to burn off energy if feeling flat then its a way to get me moving each day and motivated.
For me this can be my craft group or a coffee with a friend, catching a movie, or time out doing something one on one with my kids, its a change to see what others are doing and take all focus off myself and focus on others, have a laugh and just chill for a bit.
Close friends, my friends are like family to me.
This isn't everyone's thing, but its always been mine from a very young age. I LOVE to garden, I love all component's of gardening and will try to get out there and do something every day even if its just 30 minutes in the gardening. Some pruning or weeding or planting, I really do enjoy the beauty of watching plants grow, for me this is again a distraction from the everyday and very much a mindfulness practice. Lately I am dabbling in succulents a bit as a friend is part of the succulent society and some of her beautiful designs in Bonsai pots are enchanting. I am sticking to single plant single pot for now but my interest is certainly there.
Also indoor plants, I am still loosing a few but the more I pot up and surround myself with, the calmer I feel.
Apparently journaling is good for you. I like to write down my activities and mood for the day as a record to know if I am elevated or depressed to now if I am having a mood change and need to make plans to watch for this, to ensure I don't spend too much or do something irrational, or make too many plans I can't keep if I am getting low. I have brought many pets during elevated moods and although I would never regret these decisions, I have to say I don't always make to most rational decisions.
Along with each day is a gratitude section and even on the worst day there is always something wonderful to be grateful for.
Limiting Triggering Exposures;
I live in a town where there has been many cases of childhood sexual abuse, we have had a royal commission come here and so that tends to be a trigger for all childhood victims of not only institutional abuse but unfortunately any sexual abuse and so for me that means limiting social media, disabling Facebook, not watching the news, disabling Facebook, and not reading any papers, this can be a bit disconnecting but its also really freeing at the same time.
Using all available supports possible:
In the past when linked in the public Psychiatric system I would do my best to get unlinked as quickly as possible. This would be mainly due to the fact some of my teen sexual abuse occurred in a psych hospital and they are incredibly triggering places for me, but I can see working with a case manager giving them all information I can about my situation and having a Psychiatrist who understands my dual diagnoses it can be helpful. I also have a therapist through CASA - the Centre against sexual assault, who deals with my trauma past and each communicate with each other so they all on the same page so I think its amazing and I am hugely grateful that these services operate to assist me in my healing.
I really like walking and particularly in nature, I have noticed that after doing a bushwalk there is a good residual effect for a good couple of days and I feel really uplifted, perhaps its the connection with the clean fresh environment, the isolation and feeling the silence and bird song. I also like walking along the beach, I feel really tranquil by the beach and could listen to the waves for hours.
I have been wanting to get into photography for years but time has prevented this, I really like the idea of experimenting with macro photography shooting flowers. I was going to look into buying another camera but a friend was telling me the iPhone cameras are really good at taking pictures if you earn how to use them properly and there are different macro lenses you can buy fairly cheaply to attach to your iPhone, financially its a way better option as it would have taken ages to save for the camera, this will aid in mindfulness which is a huge benefit in helping with depression for me.
So its a slow journey, I am sad my relationship after 20 years with the father of my children has changed but we both still care for each other, we simply cannot live in the same house and be a couple any further. He now lives 3 hours away and has a job close to home provided by his work so at this stage my home doesn't need to be divided and the kids uprooted or moved from school.
I don't what shall happen after the last child leaves school, I try not to think of this...
Forgot to mention, I have a new pet baby.
Meet Meggsie, she is a joy and sleeps IN my bed! Taps my face gently with a paw when she wants to get in the bed. She is a pet rescue and has Hypometria according to the Vet. This means she high steps and doesn't land terribly well when she jumps although she certainly can get up in high places, its neurological and likely to stay and a symptom not a disorder. Trust me to pick the most special of kittens to fit in perfectly with my family. We ADORE her.