Tag Archive | Seaside Therapy

Sudden Changes

mh-carers-fine

I thought I would post an up-date, as it has been a while and a lot of things have changed.

It became apparent that it would have been impossible to leave my mum on her own – we had done everything we could to try to get NHS carers, but no help was forthcoming, so she agreed to come back to Cornwall with me.

The timing could not have been worse, as we were just about to move house. My brother organised a caravan for her to stay in to avoid the chaos, but as it turned out she hated it and it was just one more thing for us to deal with, so she came back to the house and lived with the chaos.

We started to move house two weeks later (and we’ve done that gradually – paying for an extra month of rent was cheaper than getting removals, but it has meant doing everything ourselves which has been pretty awful), so it has been differing levels of chaos over the last month. It won’t be over and done with until the end of this month.

So now, I am a ‘carer’. In a way it’s my worst nightmare come true, but it hasn’t been as awful as I expected because on the whole, mum has been much better – happier and healthier with us than she was at home. The doctors here have been much more responsive to dealing with mum’s physical health issues than her (apparently incompetent) doctors back home. It turned out that mum’s lithium levels were almost toxically high and so they reduced it and a lot of the symptoms (diarrhoea every day, which mum thought was IBS, amongst others) have lifted which has made a huge difference to quality of life. My only criticism is that the GP made an ‘urgent’ referral to the Psych Team, and we’ve heard nothing from them more than two weeks later.

For myself though, I thought I was fine at the beginning – my ME/ Fibro seemed to be in remission after a pregnancy earlier on in the year, but over the last few weeks I was beginning to feel signs that the Fibro was coming back. I didn’t want to believe it so I tried to ignore it, stupidly, and now I feel completely burnt out.

There are lots of things that have made everything more challenging – my  mum is a completely different character to me. Whereas I am perfectly happy to stay indoors, mum is a real ‘going-out girl’. She would like to go out every day, and wants me to organise groups and dinners and day centres. I’m finding it a challenge to find things for her, but hopefully that can be sorted in due course. But in addition, mum hates going in the car, and since we’ve moved out of town, now we’re about ten miles from everywhere. That can’t be helped unfortunately.

So I’m just having to deal with it, and get over my natural tendency to agoraphobia. I’ve been pretty brave myself as well, going out to support groups and the like. Next time I’ll post some info on some nice places we’ve been instead of doctors and mental health centres!

I found the picture above when I googled ‘mental health carers’, and felt that it was exactly how I felt as a sudden carer. Hopefully it will get better (although mum doesn’t really want to be here, she forgets very quickly how unhappy she was alone, and wants to go home every day), and I plan to make sure I plug into support groups and resources for carers.

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Karma

Just a quick note to let you know we have moved (or rather are in the process of moving, since we haven’t let the old place go yet, to make moving gradually possible – not the way ‘normal’ people move, I know, but it seems to be the way we do it!)

We have no phone or broadband at the new place for the time being (other than a very patch connection to BT’s openzone hotspots or whatever they’re called. Better than nothing, for sure but frustratingly slow and requiring fresh logins every 5 minutes.

I am, I have to say, unspeakably happy to be away from the previous place. We’re in a bungalow now which is just wonderful. It needs lots of work, but it’s actually ours – we finally own our own home again, against all the odds. (If I have enough signal to upload photos I will).

As chance would have it, the week before we were set to move, my mum – who has bipolar disorder – had a crisis which meant I needed to stay and look after her, and when it became clear that she couldn’t look after herself (possibly due to dementia creeping in there too), I brought her home with me and she moved with us. Terrible timing, but since the bungalow is big and we had a ‘spare’ bedroom, it’s all working out (as well as any story including bipolar can).

From everything I can gather, although the local Psych team were trying to do what they could, it appears that mum’s GP was completely incompetent, so I’m hoping that we can get her a little bit more stable and happier with a bit of TLC from my great new doctor’s practice, and although she is very uncertain about the whole idea of moving, managed to persuade her to register here as a permanent resident so at least then the GP can do some proper investigations.

And, fortunately again, I seem to be quite well right now. Preganancy may have put my ME into remission, so I hope it will stay this way. I had a bunch of unsolicited emails this week reminding me that I should have been 21 weeks’ pregnant this week, but I’m not allowing myself to slip back down into grief and misery. I really don’t have time.

Counting Blessings

bipolar

Hi folks.
I’m taking some time out at the moment to care for my elderly mother who, in addition to suffering from bipolar disorder, is beginning to show increasing signs of dementia.

it is a bit of a challenge to determine where the bipolar ends and dementia might begin, because my mum has always been incredibly disorganised and was never really able to cope with the housework at the best of times. Over the years, our attempts to help her – for example by trying to make her kitchen and particularly the fridge, counters and sink more sanitary, tended to be met by anger and accusations of wanting to control her life/ steal from her/ hide her things/ some other nefarious motive. It has always been hard work. In fact my brother said recently that the relatively new term ‘Bipolar Disorder’, replacing the old ‘Manic Depression’, really just not do the illness justice.

Recently, though, she seems to have had a ‘crash’ (what might once have been called a ‘breakdown’) and due to chronic insomnia, has very suddenly accelerated her memory loss and confusion, and instead of being consistently high or low for weeks or months, has started ultra rapid cycling of moods and what appears to be mixed states of mania and depression at the same time. In short, she can’t function at all. What we didn’t realise, because she hadn’t let on, was that it isn’t just the sudden memory loss and confusion – that part of the problem has been coming on for months and months. We only discovered it because with this ‘crash’ she had to admit she needed help.

Over the few days I have been here, she has run the gamut of all possible emotions. At the weekend when my husband was here, she behaved appallingly – swearing and violence – and I was very embarassed. Anger, crying, despair, laughing, singing, and obsessing about God and the devil (she has had a whole life’s worth of unhelpful religion, and is often convinced that her illness must be demonic in nature). It is exhausting to be around.

But I do also know, to a lesser extent, how exhausting it is to experience first-hand. I don’t have any kind of diagnosis, and I certainly don’t believe I have full-blown BPD, but children of parent(s) with BPD are at increased risk both genetically and in terms of the emotional environment they grow up in to experience difficulties with mental health generally and BPD in particular. There have been occasions – when I have been prescribed various prescription medicines and also some alternative medicines – when I have experienced symptoms of BPD. Fortunately, I recognised it and the symptoms disappeared as soon as I stopped the medicines.*

I obviously have a vulnerability there, so I do need to take care to look after myself and practice self-care – get a good amount of sleep, eat as healthily as possible, exercise, and exercise emotional intelligence in all my relationships! (Easier said than done, of course, for all on that list).

I was worried that being around my mum would be bad for my own mental health, and I think that would be true if I stayed here for long. But in the short-term, apart from worrying me that I must take more care, it has made me realise actually how well I am. It has always been a worry in the back of my mind that I might ‘end up’ like my mum. But I know I am not my mum, and hopefully it’s an unfounded fear that I don’t really need to worry about.

Now, though, we have the enormous task of finding a suitable and acceptable long-term solution to looking after my mum who is really very difficult to live with, now that she seems to need not only help with day-to-day washing, housework and shopping, but constant supervision and company round the clock. The best and most logical solution, since I live 200 miles away and can’t be much help on a regular basis, is for my mum to move in with or near to us in Cornwall, but she really doesn’t want to. Is it awful that a part of me feels relieved about that?

* Incidentally, the medicines that threw me for a loop were: Amlodopine, prescribed for blood pressure – not known for affecting the brain perhaps, but it obviously didn’t agree with me, and St John’s Wort – a well-known traditional remedy for depression which I took for PND, but oh boy, that made me ‘crazy’, in a word.

Additionally, Gabapentin, which I was given for pain, made me feel suicidal when I was on it regularly last year. It is known to have risks for people with BPD, but is often prescribed nevertheless because in people with BPD it has the ‘off-label’ effect of reducing anxiety. I’m not overjoyed that my mum has been given that particular medicine, but anxiety seems to be of particular concern at the moment, since it seems to be what is causing the insomnia, and the local Psych team don’t want to try any anti-depressants until the sleep is sorted out. The wheels of the NHS turn incredibly and frustratingly slowly. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking time for everyone involved.

I am looking forward to getting home to Cornwall and to my kids, but I don’t know when that will be.

Hope and Grief

I suppose I had better get this out of the way.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I am no longer pregnant.

It has been a week now and although grief has a nasty way of winding you when you least expect it, coming over you in unexpected waves as it does, I think I am starting to see light at the end of the long dark tunnel and I hope I can look forward to some better days soon.

We hadn’t planned this pregnancy at all – we had given up a long time ago (although I never stopped being broody and wishing for more babies) but I had more or less come to terms with the fact that, at 45, more babies weren’t very likely.

This was my 6th loss too, which seems far more than my ‘fair share’.

Anyway. I need to fold up all my hopes and dreams and plans of babies and young children and lay them back in the ‘hope chest’ and lock it away for now.

Plan B?

I’m not ready to think about that yet.