The Thing About the Future

The future can be likened to many things, some of them literal and some metaphorical. Sometimes it seems that the future is a butterfly fluttering away in the distance, always visible but never reachable. Maybe it’s more of a stone, rolling down a hill and gaining more and more momentum until it’s an unstoppable force. Maybe your future is a little like mine and is best likened to depression – which obscures the future, until depression is all I see and all I can ever expect to see. It seems like the future is an epic weight on my shoulders, the weight of not only my own small world, but the world, the weight of expectation and anxiety. It’s the dark fog that surrounds me, narrows my shoulders, and hunches my back. The rain-cloud that hovers seemingly only above me, dulling everything else.

I’m sceptical that anybody can see the future, even those that charge money for it.

There are some things that help, I suppose (not many, but there are some). They seem to make the future not any more reachable, but at least a little more possible.

I make plans on the good days. Enough said.

Scheduling social time. Somebody once said that depression is more than an illness of the mind, it is an illness of loneliness. Depression makes me isolate, my borderline personality makes me constantly in need of comfort and validation from others (normally in the form of instant text message replies) but anxiety swamps me in social situations. It’s a tricky tightrope to wander, and yes, I do fall off, and very often, but there are definitely times when seeing a friend, and feeling a little more ‘normal’ lifts the depression just a little, so I can gain a glimpse of the future. Future coffee dates, future catch-up strolls, future movie nights. Just a glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless.

Committing. Not only do I make plans, but I commit to them. It gives me things to look forward to. Also, I hate to let people down, so it’s a bit inevitable that I will commit to plans regardless of how I feel. Unless that feeling is suicidal, in which case I usually end up at the psychiatric emergency care centre, crying into a friend’s shoulder there.

Going outside. Getting to a sensory place soothes and comforts me, and distracts from the depression too. I love to lie in the grass, eyes closed, listening to the birds or the wind, or maybe even doing a guided meditation. If I can drag myself to the bus or have enough energy to cycle, I might head to the beach and wriggle the sand between my toes, or walk into the ocean fully clothed – again, this is not something I would ever do if I was actively suicidal. The outdoors is such a grounding place, and once I find a spot I like, I will return there in the future. This is the only part I miss about my childhood home in Western Australia – walking to the end of the street, over the sand dunes, and down to the beach. Sydney beaches don’t have quite the same amount of seclusion…

Finding a really, really good book. And pledging to finish it. Some of my all-time favourites are:

  • The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
  • The Boat (Nam Le)
  • More Than This and The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness)
  • The Vegetarian (Han Kang)
  • And the absolutely hilarious The One Hundred Year Old Man That Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson).

Being so engrossed in a book that I simply cannot end anywhere else but the end is a surprisingly powerful motive to hold out for the future.

And if you still can’t see the future, that’s okay. I’m sceptical that anybody can, even those that charge money for it.

Sometimes, because of my depression, it seems like my future is all doom and gloom. That’s the thing about mental illness. But the thing about the future? I can’t predict it. The present is the present and the past is the past, but the future hasn’t happened yet. And maybe, just maybe, the future will be a place where my assortment of abbreviated illnesses and I can live symbiotically, rather than fighting for existence.

Being Diagnosed as Bipolar

The first time I asked myself if I might be bipolar, I was sixteen. I remember the day vividly. I was being driven home from the gym by my mum, and I was in tears. Normally my dad does the driving. I asked why she had picked me up. Apparently, I had broken yet another relationship. My dad “didn’t know what to do with me anymore”. He didn’t want to speak with me. My cycling anger, despair, depression and ‘craziness’ (undiagnosed mania) was destroying my relationship with family and friends. My moods were cycling between extended periods of depression with suicidal ideation, extreme irritability, and ecstasy. My concerns of bipolar disorder were dismissed, because – and this is despite a family history of bipolar – my “mania” didn’t seem to last long enough, or occur often enough, or have a large enough impact on / impairment of my functioning.

This week, I was diagnosed with bipolar II, the “less severe” form of bipolar. I asked my psychiatrist if that meant my rapid cycling moods were down to bipolar alone, or if part of the unstable mood was also borderline personality traits. His answer was both surprising and comforting.

He said, too much of psychiatry is about boxes. Too often do we mistake symptoms as only being able to fit in one box. You can have manic episodes, and you can have mood swings as a result of emotional dysregulation. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both.

And I instantly felt understood. I felt like all my anxieties around experiencing mania (and not disclosing it because I thought it was just a “BPD thing”) were finally addressed. I felt like I finally had answers. I finally have reasons. 

Interestingly, I was also thinking about the interplay between my history of eating disorders and bipolar.

I didn’t experience my first manic episode until after my weight was (just) restored from anorexia. So what if there’s a connection between the two? What if Ana and bipolar are besties? I’ve always had the impression that BPD and my eating disorder are pretty intertwined – they both involve an inability to regulate difficult emotions, suppression of those emotions, and a maladaptive coping mechanism I’ve chosen in place of whatever normal / non-disordered people do to cope with stress or express feelings or whatever it is non-disordered people do exactly… How do they deal with feelings? Are feelings even an issue per-say when you don’t live with an eating disorder or BPD or another emotional dysregulation disorder? What even are feelings? If my eating disorder and BPD are linked by my inability to regulate emotions, how does mania fit into that? And would starving myself again prevent the mania from coming back?

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. I feel like there’s a connection between my eating disorder and the way my manic episodes developed over time – as I have continued to gain weight, they have gotten worse. Something to explore I guess. It’s been a rough day, and I’m too emotionally exhausted to consider the impact of another epiphany right now.

Ha, yet another reason to lose weight again… That was a cruel and sarcastic anecdote, but not an unprecedented suggestion, right? I also found out that same psychiatrist described me as “mildly obese” in his notes, which has made me incredibly suicidal. That was definitely not surprising, nor comforting. In fact, I’m more shattered by those two words than I am by this new, life-altering diagnosis to add to my list of neuroses.

Just a quick update on that list, in case you’re haven’t been keeping up – I suffer from bulimia (and had a long stint with anorexia during 2011-2017), borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and what I previously thought was chronic depression has now been confirmed as bipolar depression. And I self harm a bit too. And think about killing myself. It’s a mixed bag in here. I should apologise for such an all-over post but this is what my mind does in distress – I’m all over the place, sarcasm and savagery here there and everywhere.

So yeah, cool, here I am, Rosie Bogs, blogging away, whose day of crumbling sanity was interrupted by a slightly life changing diagnosis. I mean, it confirmed my worst fears, but so did being confronted by anorexia, and I learned to accept that in time. I’m more scared about how being medicated long-term could fuck me up more. It’s fine. Probably preferable to psychosis, which I’m at risk for given my family history of bipolar.

*shrugs, salutes, signs off*

Over and out amigos. Applaud yourself if you made it to the end. No, it doesn’t count if you read only the first and last lines – sorry.

Until next time, unless I’m dead.

Your bipolar blogger (eek!), Rosie Bogs.

Waves

Think of what it feel like to drown: the water covering your head, entering your throat and nose, trickling into every possible entrance, smothering, choking, burning. Imagine the panic that bubbles beneath the surface, the terror that streams from your stomach to your chest and up out of your soul through tensed shoulders and a gasp. Imagine the sensation.

Now imagine drowning in thoughts and distress.

Imagine that every torrent of thoughts is a wave that threatens to drown you. That your mind whispers to you over and over and over to just do it, just do it, just do it you useless bitch. As if it wasn’t enough that you were drowning already, your body – which is desperately refusing to sink – now has to fight against your mind – which is desperate to do the opposite.

Just do it. Just swallow a handful. Just get a knife. Just close your eyes. Just walk into the ocean, never to walk back out.

Imagine that this is something you fight daily. Every moment is part of the flood. Every second, you are torn between drowning and death and life, stuck in a limbo where there’s only faltering hope and misguided dreams and darkness to light the path. You’re reminded of every failure, every mistake, every anxiety that has ever concerned you comes streaming back into your mind, to match the tears streaming down your face. These memories pummel you. Over and over and over. See, they scream, see why you deserve this. Just do it.

But still, instead of listening, instead of drowning, you let yourself hang. Struggle. Thrash between the current. There’s light at the surface, and there’s darkness down below you, but here you drown in between. There’s an escape, and it would be so easy, it’s so close, it’s within reach, just a swallow, just a slash, just a step away. But still you struggle. You let yourself drown, without dying, without returning to the surface. Perpetually drowning.

This is what it’s like to be suicidal.

This is what it’s like in my mind tonight.

Anxious Human Here (Again)

Here are some things that are making me anxious:

University enrolment for semester two. My enrolment didn’t open until 4pm which is unusual, because normally it’s 9am, and this is bad because I had work 2-8.30, and my break ended at 4, so I took a sneaky 10 minutes to enrol using my phone at 5, but by this time the classes I needed were full, so now I’ve had to pick different classes at different times which means rearranging my whole life and work schedule to fit in these other lab times, which is stressful. Also, two of my classes clash so I’m waiting for that to get approved, and if it doesn’t then I can’t start taking philosophy to earn my minor, and I don’t know if I am able to fit in enough units to get that sorted.

That was the least literary paragraph I have ever written, which worries me because of how it will be perceived, as I ordinarily consider myself an excellent writer, except when I’m so anxious, all I can do to cope is rant. Sorry.

People are still sitting too close to me on the bus.

People are still questioning my life choices and future career path, and will I ever become a doctor? Will I even want to study medicine once I’m done with my first degree? What if I never find a job anywhere and become just another intelligent person and former school dux who ended up going nowhere at all because she lacked motivation? Why can’t I drop out and read a medical book and gain a qualification immediately? Are my standards dropping? If I’m not earning the marks I need (cough, 90%, cough) that makes me a failure and I’ll never be loved and then I’ll have failed at thinness and at life and be abandoned and alone forever.

The windows on my house are hard to clean. The dust is black. Is it poisonous? I can feel it entering my lungs, my bloodstream, it tastes like poison, but if I clean it, that means touching it and if it is a disease then it’s probably one which is easier to transmit via skin contact. So my windows continue to collect dust, and that black dust continues to concern me, and I stare and stare, hoping it will disappear, or at least long enough for my vision to get blurry and speckly and weird so that the dust fades into static and I’m more worried about my eyesight than contracting some rare and non-existent spore-transmitted pathogen that resides in dust from the highway.

Dirty cloths from cleaning dirty windows and sponges that collect bacteria and coffee-stained mugs and second-hand mugs and a dishwasher that uses too much power. Also taking the rubbish out when I’m running late and can’t run upstairs to wash my hands because then my hands are contaminated and I can’t clean them and if I touch my face I might die. Or drop into convulsions or something, I don’t know.

A loud heart. Why is my heart so loud? My heart beats more evenly when I’m running than it does when I’m trying to relax. What if it’s an arrhythmia? What if I have a heart condition? What if it is just anxiety, in which case, why can’t I calm down? And why is my heart so loud?

Loud noise (that isn’t my heart). Fire drills. Sirens, especially ambulance sirens.

Judgement. Constant judgement. Internal, external, all-consuming. Stares and whispers and murmurs and short sleeves and clothes that don’t fit properly and no money to spend on nicer clothes and nicer things.

The amount of stuff I own. I own a lot of stuff, mostly books, mostly university work. Mostly dusty and cherished and used for tutoring and essays and not much else. But no-one else has this much stuff. I should try to sell some. I could make extra money and buy new clothes and feel better about myself. But that means interacting with strangers and I don’t know if I’m ready for that when I could just take it to the op shop or give it away to struggling first-years who would appreciate obsessively taken notes by an over-achiever.

There’s more. There’s a lot to be anxious about. That’s just what I am able to get out in the twelve minutes before I need to head to class.

In case you missed it, here are some other things that make me anxious.