….. continues the roller-coaster ride of mania, depression, panic and anxiety with mother and daughter.
Panic Stations – Natasha’s Ride
From a break-down to a break-up.
From the city to the mountains.
From mental illness to physical ailments.
From friend to friend.
From hospital to hospital.
From dreaming of death to loving life and back again.
From moments of shear panic to moments of pure joy.
From snow to fire.
From hope to despair.
From book 1 to book 2.
From dreading change to embracing it.
From there to here to now.
Panic Stations – Ela’s Ride
Finally we have the correct diagnosis for our ‘different’ daughter, but this is not enough to stop the Bi-Polar roller-coaster. I am still along for the ride as we navigate through drugs, medications, boyfriends, girlfriends, holidays, mania, depression, panic, anxiety, doctors, hospitals, stress, emotional landmines and physical complications. Belatedly I discover a few home truths about myself.
Then she went to a motel in Long Jetty her late grandmother and her grandfather used to take her and her sister Michelle to on holidays (Arthur was so frustrated he drove off and left her there). She insisted they show her the room they stayed in (years before) and took many brochures. The owner called the police who took her to Wyong psychiatric ward in a Paddy Wagon. She had to be subdued by 6 nurses, who jabbed her with sedatives in her bottom and put her into isolation in a padded cell. We got the phone call to come to Wyong at 11 at night from Arthur. Michelle immediately took time off work and the three of us raced up to Wyong, with our hearts in our mouths. That was the beginning of 8 long and harrowing weeks.
The Gunyah psychiatric facility was more like a minimum security prison. Barbed wire surrounded the tall walls of the outside area. To go in and visit, all possessions had to be handed over and stowed away in a locker, before a nurse would come and collect the visitors through 2 other doors. If you wanted to smoke outside in the courtyard, there was a little ‘lighter’ in the wall to light up. The patients were scary. One named Tricky was scarred all over from sores that can occur when taking large doses of Lithium. He had ‘simply’ beaten up a customer who wouldn’t pay his bill at his car workshop. So, it was prison or Gunya for him. He couldn’t understand that what he did was so wrong as to land him in Gunya. We didn’t see many visitors for him or the other patients.
But at least in this hospital, we felt as if mental illness was better understood by the medical staff. They knew Bipolar Disorder existed.
Who would have thought that a tight bond would form between my sister and me?
Not me. We got along when we were much younger but through the teen years we had our differences, well it seemed there was nothing but difference.
I also resented her for many petty reasons. So we didn’t get along much, well she always tried but I pushed her away and refused to see who she really was.
She always cared and supported me and my decisions, but I didn’t care. She bailed me out when I was in Scotland, but still I didn’t accept her love.
She found my diagnosis of Bipolar before the doctors did, but to me this just emphasised her intelligence, so I resented her more.
But recently I have seen a new side of her, a side which was always right in front of me, but I chose not to see. She is one of the most supportive, caring, generous, kind and loving people I know. She knows I struggle with money so she puts her hand in her pocket and shouts me dinner. She knows I’ve been down and lost since R2 left, so she comes over to watch dinner and eat movies. She laughs at my jokes (p.s. the last sentence was one, Shell, I know you got it :) .)
She took me out into the ‘real world’ to meet some ‘real people’. She took me to comedy, to laugh and have a drink, meet some new people and possibly find a new man for me. She invites me to places and parties. She doesn’t judge me. She organised a party for me to meet some new people, have some food, have a laugh and possibly find a new man for me.
I spent years fighting, with her and against her, and it only took me 25 years to figure out that she’s actually on my side.
I look forward to our time together. I can’t wait to tell her something funny as her laugh makes me warm inside. She has been so patient with me over the years and now everything she is doing for me has made me see her true colours, and it’s a rainbow – just like mine.
She works like really hard, in the office and at home, yet always finds time for me. I’m so glad she stuck around. I’m so glad I have such a patient, understanding and wonderful sister, but more importantly such a great friend.
I look forward to more movie nights, dinners, going out meeting new people, laughing together and the prospect of possibly finding a new man for me.
Mostly I just look forward to a future with my sister by my side, laughing hopefully. :)
So I wrote her a poem:
We may be different but sometimes we trade traits.
We walk side by side our whole lives.
Sometimes we are at an arm’s length.
Sometimes you are dragging me.
Sometimes I walk in your shadow.
Sometimes you are as close by my side as can be.
Sometimes we are holding hands, even if your hands are full.
And just once I carried you through darkness,
because it is no stranger to me.
We are sisters forever, and sometimes we are also friends.
When I visited Tash in Wyong, she would come up to me, right up in my face, and ask me “Am I beautiful? Or just a beautiful disaster?” She would ask this over and over again. I didn’t know what to say. The truth was: a little bit of both. Sometimes I would say “You’re beautiful sweetheart” sometimes I would say “Yes dear”, sometimes I would say “Both” and sometimes I would just shake my head. I had no idea what she was on about; to me she was just raving, just mad.
About six months later, with Tash out of hospital and things having returned to our version of ‘normal’, I was driving when the Kelly Clarkson song ‘Beautiful Disaster’ came on the radio. I had never heard the song before. The song is about a guy that has Bipolar, and a girl trying to decide if she can handle it, if she can “hold on through the tears and the laughter”, asking if she did “would it be beautiful, or just a beautiful disaster?”
Turns out Tash wasn’t quite as crazy as I’d thought at the time. She had clearly been referencing this song, and maybe she had been asking me if I would hold on through her ordeal, through her tears and manic laughter.
Well it was my tears now, as I drove alone down the Western Distributor I was bawling my eyes out, thinking about Tash in that clinic, how alone and terrified and out of her mind she had been, yet clutching to elements of reality in a desperate attempt to work her way back to us.
So I got into University. Who would have thunk it? I met an amazing guy, J, on orientation day and we were doing 2 subjects in common; Psychology and Film Studies.
We got along great, and in the first week I loved Uni. J and I would cruise through classes; copy notes if the other was too slow, perve on hot boys, eat at the over-priced cafes and help each other with assignments.
I had a shocking day when I had to do an experiment that turned out to be receiving electric shocks to induce anxiety. I had not read all the forms properly and if I had I would have pulled out, electric shocks are not fun. I had to stop halfway as I was all shaken up. They told me I was the perfect candidate for this experiment, because I suffered from anxiety. Fuck off asshole and let me get outta here now.
I spent the night at my parents’, too shaky to eat or even watch Neighbours. Wow, now you realise how bad it was. We wrote emails to the university department heads, they panicked thinking we would sue, but we just wanted a better warning for anxiety sufferers before this kind of experiment.
This was the start of my downward spiral.
In late 2009 I pulled my back out (well not literally, I’m not a jellyfish yet). It was incredibly painful and I couldn’t move for nearly a month. I started for the first time in my life going to see a chiropractor. He was great and after nearly 10 sessions I was back. I didn’t keep up the exercises and took my health for granted. So mid 2010, around World Cup soccer, damn Germany, I pulled my back out again. I moved in with my folks for a week, mum was my nurse, helping me get to the toilet, outside for a ciggie, dosing out my meds and pain relief. She made all my meals and brought them to me in bed. We talked for hours. I refused to go back to the chiro hoping it would fix itself. I went back home after a week of being pampered. What a great loving mum I have. I don’t know what I would have done without her, I don’t know what I’d ever do without her.
Back home my soft shitty double bed – which forced me to lay diagonally because my feet hung off the edge of the bed, hurt my back even more.
So back to the chiro. This time I had X-rays and some tests. I have an extra vertebrae and -5kg of muscle (minus muscle). Fun fun fun.
I had nearly 3 weeks off volunteering. I was going crazy. I love volunteering so much. I missed it so bad. After watching 4 seasons of Buffy and half my DVD collection I was bored and itching to go back to work. I missed the kids and my new friends, the guy I liked, the activities, even the fresh air. Oh and the tantrums. Nothing makes you feel unbored like a screaming child who needs comforting. (Sadly that wasn’t sarcasm.)
Harvey Norman had a special and a sale. 50 months interest free on a spanking new queen sized bed. Speaking of spanking, the guy who sold it to us could have told me it was $100,000 and I would have looked into his dreamy blues eyes and handed over my Visa card. Luckily he didn’t take advantage of his ridiculous good looks and it was only $1500 (and besides I don’t have a Visa card).
When it finally got delivered I was in heaven. My feet didn’t hang, my back was firm and supported. There is plenty of room for another person and even a little person later on (no I don’t have a midget fetish I was talking about babies, silly). This big bed inspired this whole chapter. It was written in the very same bed, which I am calling Kingsley. Hugo (the couch) is jealous. Ok I know I am writing lovingly about furniture but as my “love life” is lacking, this “cat lady” has become “furniture lady”.
But if you are desperate for some juicy gossip, the best I can do is a “not sure if it’s a date, date” with the doctor from work. We went to the movies. I wore a heat patch for my back which burnt a layer of skin off and I had to awkwardly remove 20 minutes into the movie. Don’t worry neither Shrek nor the doctor noticed a thing.
We watched, we talked, we laughed, we compared notes on movies and discussed hanging out again.
But there was no hugging, kissing, hand holding, so I have no idea!
I guess I’ll keep you posted.
I’m going to go to sleep now, on my new bed. I hope it helps my back.
Oh and have a count, how many times did I write the word back in this chapter? Answer on page 12, back soon…