Chapter Five- The Circus
This is the fifth chapter in my postpartum bipolar story. As you know, the purpose of me writing this blog is to create awareness of this illness, and bipolar in general, to those who have haven't come across it in their lives. Which is why it is important it is conversational in tone, and at times light hearted. I’ve always said from the start I want it to feel like I’m sitting across from you, telling you the story over a cup of tea (or a glass of wine). I hope that the people who read this week after week are going to go about their lives more educated about bipolar, and more likely to talk about it. This is the only way to get rid of the stigma.
Now that introduction is out of the way let me share with you Chapter Five- The circus.
A circus is a perfect way to describe our lives over the six weeks I was extremely manic. In some ways it seems like it whizzed by. For Nick it felt like it lasted for years. He has since told me that it used to make him feel physically ill, lying next to his wife who possessed none of the qualities of the woman he married. Even my expressions were different and scary to him. Like a mask.
I took any anger I had out on him. So while I laughed and joked and chatted with everyone else (albeit completely frantically)- I took the negative emotions out on him. He would only have to look at me sideways and I would be jumping down his throat in a rage. I kept thinking how lucky he should feel being married to someone so successful and beautiful. It's really hard to describe the immense level of confidence you feel, and the self entitlement and arrogance that goes with it. I like to think of myself as a pretty modest person so it must have been awful for Nick seeing me so self obsessed and egotistical.
So much happened while I was manic, so I thought I would share just a selection of stories from that crazy six week circus. They are in no particular order, as the memories aren't completely ordered in my mind in terms of timeframes. I’ve put them under headings, in the hope that they seem less jumbled.
But first let me share the Mrs Doubtfire story. Kent and Janet had come to the house to meet with me and they brought another couple of colleagues. Our living room was absolutely tiny, so it felt like we were just squashed awkwardly together. I was normally really polite with them but on this occasion I was upset about a few of the carers (one in particular was really gruff with me) and a bit put out about these new people tagging along. started a tirade about my thoughts about the health system (my favourite topic), the lack of communication and the fact that I deserved better.
I distinctly recall feeling like the carers were actually my servants, and I was providing feedback like any employer would. It ended with me standing in the middle of the lounge shouting “it's all just unacceptable...and by the way YOU look like Mrs Doubtfire in case you didn't realise…” Silence. Janet didn't flinch. Janet and Kent did however quickly wrap up their visit. I do wonder whether she was offended by that or whether other manic patients had told her the same thing. You couldn't deny that there really was an uncanny resemblance.
My absolute favourite pastime during my mania was writing lists. It was a way to cope with the racing thoughts and the magnitude of tasks I believed needed to be done. One particular day I decided to sit down (which was rare in itself as most of the time I just paced around achieving nothing) and write the mother of all lists. For over half an hour I wrote anything that came to mind onto post it notes. When I was finished I had quite the pile sitting there and my mother in law Jude set about helping put them in some order. She sorted them into urgent tasks, to be completed this week, this month and this year. Not surprisingly most of them fell into the “this year” pile.
There should have actually been another pile of “doesn’t ever need to be done” and to be honest a lot of the tasks would have fallen into that category. When they were all organised it was clear that I had doubled up on a few. Well that is an understatement- included in the pile was:
Dentist- 4 times (put into the “this year” pile as I had only recently been). I honestly have no idea why I was so fixated on the dentist.
New cushion covers for the bed- 3 times (not overly important- went into the “this year” pile)
Paint the deck- 3 times (it had only recently been built and stained so I am unsure what my issue was here.)
Fake tan- twice- (but it was the middle of winter so absolutely not a priority).
Hair extensions- only once. But that was an odd one. I had never thought of getting hair extensions before (and have never done so since either!)
Fix the cracked glass on door- 6 times. (This was actually urgent- it was a terrible reminder of “that weekend” so we did get onto that one straight away).
Jude has since told me she managed to throw quite a few other post it notes in the bin when I was out of the room.
I went to my antenatal coffee group each week with Alice throughout this whole time (although I had to be dropped off and picked up). All of the mums there knew about my diagnosis and were very accepting. I think realistically everyone had new babies and were just muddling along themselves, so no one seemed too phased. Although on one occasion I did stand up declaring my new found passion for reforming the health system, with my rant probably going on for much longer than necessary. I also used to get very dressed up, and the rest of the mums sat there in their vomit covered activewear. It does make me cringe to think about it.
I saw many friends over this period, and on one particular day was allowed to go and meet a group of close friends at the park. It was a sort of reunion in a way as we all lived in different cities and countries.
It makes me sad that I hijacked the whole catch up, talking about myself and how wonderful I was. As always I made it a show about me. I don't get to see those wonderful friends often, as we live so far apart, so I can't help but feel like this was wasted time together.
One other side effect of my mania was extremely quick weight loss. I think the mixture of racing thoughts and never sitting still and the fact I didn’t seem to feel hungry at all contributed to this. I couldn't concentrate long enough to focus on eating. I put on a lot of weight with Alice and there I was, four weeks in, having lost over 15kg. As you can imagine this just spurred my confidence in my appearance. Lucky it was the middle of winter as I have an awful feeling I may have started attending coffee group in a skimpy bikini.
Extraordinary phone bill
As I have mentioned I spoke on the phone a lot. Constantly to be more accurate. I would call my close friend Vic at least four times a day. Mainly to talk about myself. Her daughter was only one at the time so I know she had better things to be doing, but she was always there for me which I am so thankful for. Unfortunately all of this excessive talking came at a cost. $1200 to be exact. This was the phone bill after just one month.
Even at the height of my mania I could still see that this was a huge problem. I had a generous phone plan with free minutes so to rack up a phone bill of this size is mind boggling. From this point on I had strict conditions around my cellphone usage, which as you can imagine didn't impress me much at all.
I also had my credit card and other cards taken away for obvious reasons. Even though I wasn't allowed to drive, the shopping mall was within walking distance and I just couldn't be trusted. On one occasion I was dropped off by Nick and Jude to get a massage. I had been complaining about a sore back for a few weeks, so everyone agreed that might be a calming activity for me. I recall being given my bank card with the strict instructions that I was to pay for just the massage-- nothing else. I kept repeating this in my head, even throughout the massage.
As I went to pay the beautician said “ we have a special running currently and if you book and pay for three massages today you get the 4th for free”. What an unbelievable bargain I thought. I would be saving so much money- surely this would help smooth over the phone bill incident. So I said yes. I paid for my massage and another three- to the grand total of $480. I couldn't wait to jump in the car to tell Nick and Jude about my savings. Not surprisingly Nick and Jude were less than impressed.
Only two days after getting a $1200 phone bill, I had now spent $480 on massages. I was so shocked and angry at their negative reaction that I decided it would be a good idea to try and get out of the car while it was moving. We were on our street at this stage so they stopped to let me get out. I ran away down the road and then sneaked back up to the house where I hid under the deck and called Vic. “Ive run away and they don't know where I am” I whispered to her. Vic’s biggest concern was where Alice was, and once she knew she was safe she then texted Nick to tell him where I was. I was promptly escorted back inside, where I no doubt got stuck into writing more lists.
Jude spent the next two days trying to get our money back from the massage therapist, ultimately needing a medical certificate to state I was mentally unwell before we would be refunded our money.
This was our life. Full of bizarre situations, expensive bills, rageful outbursts and frantic talking. With carers working day and night.
Soon, however, my favourite pastime went from frantically writing lists to trying to give away anything I could find in the house to charity...including gifts we had been given at our wedding..
To be continued…