the bad: Being prescribed an anti-psychotic that was supposed to make me sleep the Thursday before Christmas. My re-action was atypical and I was awake all night and really groggy the next day, actually not just groggy but almost unable to function and having a child to look after, and lacking the judgement to ask for help. Wanting my mania back because then I could do stuff and at least with the sleepers, I got six hours sleep a night. Making a fairy skirt for Grace and receiving one from G's family in Tasmania that Grace opened first (on Christmas Eve) and liked better. Over-reacting. Probably a misunderstanding from when we talked about gifts. It's not like I can remember what I say half the time at the moment. Having to lock myself in the study on Christmas morning to cry because everything was just all too intense. Christmas is not a good time to have a manic episode, my friends. Not being able to drink on Christmas day eventhough I'm still not driving. My Dad had seriously nice drinks, so that sucked. I love getting a bit wobbly at Christmas.
the ugly: Yesterday was the first day I haven't felt like crap in a bag. Boxing Day I felt like I'd been hit over the head several times and there was a pain across the back of the neck that radiated into my right arm. Sewing, computering and much tension held in my neck, is my guess. And I couldn't get the new telly to play dvds in colour. On Thursday, Mum took Grace while G was at work and I bumbled around by myself at home. The morning was fine but in the afternoon I collapsed into a pitiful crying heap. Again. For two hours. Thought I was doomed. At least it all came out.
the good again: Finally figured out dvd in colour. Watching said telly (did I say before how much I lurve the telly?). Friday, Mum came over and we went to the material shop (to touch fabric and get more of some lovely cotton knit I made my Christmas cardy from). I made chicken soup (with the stock from the Christmas roast carcasses) and then while Grace napped, we sat and chatted while I did some mending and light sewing. Maybe I am going to be OK. We talked about planning Christmas so that there's still time for making and doing (even if I'm working). It's going to be much more mellow at this end next year. But lunch at Dad's was great. Like I said in my last post, I am so grateful and love it that my family can do that. I really do.
Today is pretty good too. We've picked a whole heap of apricots and I'm off to jam in the heat. As it should be. Hope your Christmases were all excellent and that the recovery is well under way.
Anyway, as I was sorting through my stuff, I found some old rolls of film and with no idea what was on them, had them developed. This one's pictures from Christmas 2002. A tough year if ever there was one. The year Frank was born and died, the year Nina was really sick. We had Christmas lunch at our place, in the loungeroom. We roasted free-range chickens in our tiny oven and served up in our funny kitchen. It was a great meal.
There was Gerard's ex, Jennifer and her housemate Michael, my sister Betty and Camo, my parents and their respective partners, Lance's ex partner Helen and their daughter Vivian and Rachel his daughter from his previous marriage. Sounds confusing? Well, the best part was, everyone played really nice. Everyone was welcome. It probably wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good.
I love it that my family can come together like this. I probably said it last year, but we've come a long way. Doing this is no small thing. It's the best thing. Tomorrow we're all going to my Dad's place. I've been talking to Grace about what will happen and she's been reciting who will be there and telling me, go papa's, have game, lunch, presents, afternoon sleep in big bed, then we come home, dinner, read story, etc. He and Nina will have done most of the hard work this year. And Mum's making the pudding(s). Yum, yum.
Merry Christmas everyone!
May your day be full of peace and good cheer.
It's the season where all the issues in your family come to the surface. The good, the bad and the ugly. Our family, my family, his family. It wouldn't do to go into detail, but I wonder if more is passed from one generation to the next than one might imagine. Of course, I'm oversensitive at the moment. So every little nuance, every unkind word or less than generous action has me wincing. And agonising. Biting my tongue because I don't know whether it's me or the crazy about to speak. Damn that hall of mirrors.
I saw my doctor today and we talked about whether or not I'd be a whole lot better after Christmas. She thinks I might, a confluence of the medication kicking in and some relaxation, but reminded me that this has been building for months. Christmas hasn't caused this. It's just that the stress of the season isn't really helping. Quite the opposite (like der, I have so been in denial about this, just because manic and Christmas and mothers go together anyway). So maybe, in the post Chistmas lull, I will find some calm. The doctor's not leaving it to fate though, and has extended my medical certificate and I'm going to see one of her colleagues before I go back to work(she'll be on leave). And there's now a low dose of another new medication. To help me sleep. As I wake up and can't re-settle after exactly six hours at the moment, no matter what time I go to bed and no matter whether I take one or two sleepers. The new pill's also an anti-psychotic which I'm less than thrilled about. Hopefully I'll still be able to use the sewing machine in the morning because there's still a big list.
So, I 've been thinking about how to make my life less stressful (and counter some of the effects of the medication that I'm likely to be on for the next few months) and how I might make Christmas better next year (and forever, ha). Like organising gifts, activites and festivites in October and November perhaps. So that December is all about putting up the tree and making thing little things. And celebrating. And being together. It also occurs to me that I also need to try and feel less responsible for how everyone else is feeling. For how the schedule is going. To not take on all the motherguilt that comes with the season.
Right off to
do a spot of sewing. Before
my early bedtime.
Yesterday and Sunday I made plum jam (recipe here). These plums aren't great to eat on their own and they're a bugger to prepare but they make the best jam. Especially when made with a precentage of green fruit. The first batch is mouth puckeringly tart. Mum suggested that I could make some with ripe fruit as well, so for the second batch I left out the really green ones. It's still pretty tangy but that's the way I like it. If I get a chance, I'll make another batch when they're fully ripe. I think they're damson plums. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.
First we pick and wash the fruit.
Then we stone it. My hands are not recovered yet. I know, I should wear gloves, but it's too slow.
Put the jars in the oven before boiling the jam. Admire your super large preserving pan found at the opshop sometime in the nineties and mix all the sugar in. Wonder about the childminding arrangements. G agreed to look after Grace while the jam was boiling on Sunday but she wanted to help me. At one stage, I thought I was going to have burnt jam and hours of wasted preparation or much worse, a burnt child. Not that it was close, just that boiling four kilos of fruit and sugar on a low and wonky stove and supervising a toddler is beyond nervewracking (never again). The deal was supposed to involve G supervising Grace while I cooked, whether or not she wanted to be involved. So I could concentrate during the critical part. Mum knows how to do this. G dissappeared into his shed at the first sign thing looked OK. Which varies moment to moment with a two and a half year old. And I am still not the easiest person to deal with.
Anyway, I made the second batch yesterday. While Grace was napping. It was so much easier. I even stood at the stove and did some light mending. Alternating with stirring. Then I poured the jam into jars and listened for the snap of the cellophane covers shrinking.
I saw a stray pip and some froth. Talked on the phone about jam with a friend, neither of us goes for jam making perfection because it always turns out well enough. And always far better than shop jam. In odd parts of the day, I wondered whether I could have skimmed the froth more. I used to skim alot because that's how my nan taught me. I'm less and less inclined to skim now. What causes the froth? Is it sugar boiling or impurities in the fruit? And does it mostly go away by itself? Looked to the internet for answers and the best I could come up with was this. Which didn't really answer my question.
Next up apricot. And maybe some of the little yellow plums which I've never jammed before. Must plant some damson pips in a pot.
Writing is good for me now but slow. Oh, so slow. And this one took forever in dribs and drabs because I'm trying not to spend too much time on the computer. From here, here and here and maybe more, but I forget.
What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?
Pears translucent. It doesn't make me itch, smells faintly herbal and you can put the old slither of soap on the new bar so you never waste any. I like that. And you can buy it at the supermarket.
Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Yes, I do. In a bowl, cut up and ready to eat.
What would you change about your living room?
The yucky paint finish on the window frames and curtains. Which if it were my house I'd strip and oil/varnish. Or paint white. For a start. Let's not talk about the carpet.
Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
We don't have a dishwasher. Shocking, I know. G reckons he always does the dishes so we won't need one when we move into our new house (if and when).
What is in your fridge?
Milk (dairy and soy), orange juice, diet lemon cordial, black currant cordial, diet dry ginger, soda, cold water, beer, chocolate. Lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms (always), carrots and eggplant, bread, muffins, butter, ghee, nuttelex, tofu (blech), vegie burgers (double blech) sushi su, molasses, yeast, pickled ginger, peanut sauce, mayo, mustard, various other condiments I forget. And watermelon.
White or wheat bread?
Various kinds of semi nutritious but spongy sandwich bread. Helgas or the spelt one, but I'd prefer natural tucker or homemade. Yeah, yeah. One day I 'll try this one. Doing the messy bit outside.
What is on top of your refrigerator?
The manky recipe book from when I had the cafe, my ideas and clippings recipe book. A plastic tray of glad bags, bin liners, gladwrap etc. Dust. Many egg cartons waiting to be recycled.
What color or design is on your shower curtain?
Black flowers on a white background. I made it myself from material I found at the opshop. Love it heaps, everyday. Needs washing.
How many plants are in your home?
One. A ponisettia that was a gift from the leadership at work. Very sweet. But as I rule I don't have potted plants inside anymore because I forget to care for them. Same in the backyard, anything in a pot has to be very hardy and live off rainwater. Even then, they can be shortlived.
Is your bed made right now?
Yes. We have doonas. So it's a shake and a flick. Beds are always made once everyone is up.
Comet or Soft Scrub?
Is your closet organized?
Yes. And becoming more so. Just yesterday I moved some items that were borderline into the suitcase on top of the wardrobe. If I don't wear them this summer, off to the opshop they go. I'd rather have fewer things but like them.
Can you describe your flashlight?
Yes, and there's more than one. But do you think I could tell you where they are?
Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Glass. Duralex. In theory unbreakable, just like in theory, communism works. But there's still some plastic bubby cups. And the elmo cup for Grace's afternoon soymilk and apple snack.
Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
No, but I'm rather partial to ice tea in hot weather. Made with liptons, lemon and mint from the garden. And not too sweet. With ice, in the plain jug or the blue jug with matching glasses for special occasions.
If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Yes, but it's supremely organised clutter. It's really G's space, although I'm welcome there.
Curtains or blinds?
Curtains with insulation. From the opshop and coburg market and remade (by me) to fit our windows. Essential in summer and winter.
How many pillows do you sleep with?
One, although there are two each on the bed. Mostly I chuck the other onto the floor but sometimes I have two. Sometimes two under my head and sometimes one down the side like when I was pregnant. Even though I don't need it. Oh, just fascinating I know.
Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
No. If I have to get up for some reason I trun one on. Or bump into doorframes and swear alot.
How often do you vacuum?
As little as possible. Mostly G does it, and he vacuums under furniture (which I'm slack about), although doesn't knock all the cobwebs down which I like to do first.
Standard toothbrush or electric?
What color is your toothbrush?
Green and white.
Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
What is in your oven right now?
Is there anything under your bed?
No. It's very low to the ground.
Chore you hate doing the most?
Anything that involves getting my hands wet. Cleaning the bathroom. On the other hand I quite like cleaning the windows and bleaching the plates, if I get around to it.
What retro items are in your home?
Most of my life is retro. Except for my computer which most definetely is not.
Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Yes, we call it the study. It's where we nerd out, G has his online chess, I have my blogs and flickr, and Grace is learning how to play toddler computer games.
How many mirrors are in your home?
Nine. Not including compacts, but including the rear view mirror on G's desk and another down low in the bathroom. I like mirrors for reflecting light in old houses with smallish windows. All of ours are old and have character. And there's two or three in the backyard too.
What color are your walls?
Off white. Some rooms have a greenish tinge. We used paint left over from my dad's reno and that we found in the hard rubbish. I figured out all the colours, had it re-tinted and did some more remixing at home. The windows frames in the sunroom and the scullery are painted a dark gold.
Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
What does your home smell like right now?
Window cleaner. Freshish (inner city) air.
Favorite candle scent?
Something very subtle. Fresh air.
What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
Polski Ogorki. Although I can't find my favourite brand anymore.
What color is your favorite Bible?
Um, I don't have a bible I don't think. Although there might be one around somewhere. If I wanted to look something up, I'd use the internet.
Ever been on your roof?
Yes, on the sunroom roof some fifteen years ago. G has said that he will build me a sunset viewing platform in the new house (if and when).
Do you own a stereo?
Yes, although it's been amalgamated with G's music equipment. We are wired for sound in ways I don't understand.
How many TVs do you have?
One. And the h-hold is really bad, meaning it flickers and has to be adjusted. And there's a pink stripe down one side. I can barely watch it, which gives me more time on the internet. We're in negotiation with a friend of father christmas at the moment. So we'll see.
How many house phones?
One. Two mobiles.
Do you have a housekeeper?
Oh, I wish.
What style do you decorate in?
Me and G style.
Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?
Mostly solids, but I like a patterned carpet. Don't mind the odd bit of wallpaper or lino either.
Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Der, of course there is.
In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
I don't think I'd care, I'd just want eveyone and the cat out and safe. The rest is only stuff.
And thank you all for the well wishes. You're all very sweet.
Last week at work was truly awful. I felt like I had no skin, open to everyone else's feelings. The medical word is labile, from the Latin labilis, meaning liable to slip. I had this feeling before the post natal psychosis. Maintaining control has been like navigating a supermarket on acid without anyone noticing. You can do it, sort of, but it's really, really difficult. And it had begun to feel like normal. Obviously I looked and sounded fine enough on the outside, but wasn't and lacked the judgement to tell someone. Wednesday was surreal. On the way to work, on a packed tram, an old lady fell into my arms. She was about to dismenbark and I was poised to take her seat when I heard her teenage granddaughter say, Nan, Nan are you alright? Someone help. I stood behind her as she fell back into my arms. Someone call an ambulance, I said, and people reached for their mobiles. I helped the old lady onto the floor and was checking for breathing. As she came to, another woman, much more experienced in first aid, appeared from the back of the tram and took charge. We placed her in the recovery position and put something under her head. A connex offical with a backpack arrived and despite the firstaider saying that the old lady shouldn't be moved, arranged for the tram to be cleared and change tracks so the next tram could pass. As I went on to work I couldn't stop crying under my sunglasses. In the end, I think the old lady was taken good care of. It's pretty normal to be shaken when something like that happens, but later and throughout the day, I started to doubt whether the event had actually happened. Eventhough I could still feel her old lady soft body fall against me. Reality was becoming tenuous.
There have been stretches where things have been OK. Including some Christmas shopping, in town, on Thursday morning. Bizarre, I know. Mind you, lunch at my favourite food court eatery (with really good chilli eggplant, mmm) was surreal. A really fat man sat at the table next to me and picked at his food and another man, homeless I think, did furtive battle with the sparrows as he ate from plates left by others. The young waitress clearing tables pointedly ignoring him. I just sat there and freaked out. However with hindsight, it's obvious that good bits have been moving further apart, becoming much more unpredictable. It all came rushing out at my psychiatrist appointment that afternoon. Not only did my doctor have her notebook out, but she checked her notes from the previous two and a half years.When I said the thought of hospital is appealing, she asked me, would you like to go to hospital? I can arrange it, but it would have to be in the public system. I've been in hospital before and decided no, because as my doctor says, hospital has it's own set of terrors. It's likely that I have a form of mania. Not a bright sparkly high, but an anxious unpleasant one. Chances are that my diagnosis has moved from mood affectiveness disorder to some type of bipolar. On hearing this I cried, I blamed myself (as I always do) for not being more on to it. We can manage this, the doctor said, would you react this way if it was diabetes or some other treatable condition? Lots of people make this point and can I just say that I would (at least intially) blame myself for having diabetes. And be upset and frightened. Being faced with a chronic condition is probably always shocking. Even when the signs have been there for a while.
I've told work what's happened. Not too much detail but the truth. Which worries me, but then if just say I have a medical condition, is that really better for me? There's no problem with leave but because I'm taking more than five days off, I'll have a rehabilitation caseworker assigned when I return. Gotta love the public service. I've been crapped off and pretty angry about it all; upset that I'm leaving my colleagues short staffed at a busy time, feeling like a shirker, a fake (love that hall of mirrors) and a drama queen, worried about how I'll be labelled, whether I can still do my job and how it will affect my future prospects. It's amazing how attractive work becomes when you can't. If I'm well enough to go to the Christmas party after work next week, they'll arrange for someone to collect me and Grace. Which is really pretty sweet and decent. But what do I say to people? The other night Dad reminded me I like my work, that it gives me a deep sense of achievement as well as an income. It's important to remember that not coping at work is a symptom of being ill and not the cause. In the past I might have just left. I'm determined not to do that this time.
So everything is on hold. No work until the new year. No buying houses* or other big decisions until I'm better. No driving until the new drugs stop making me drowsy and the crazy has settled. Not too much computer. I didn't leave the house for two days and alternated between nausea, head popping headaches and drowsiness with the odd bout of pitiful crying (but not in front of Grace). It wasn't depressed crying, more sorry for myself, how did I let it get this bad, it's all my fault for not living a better life, being in the mental health system is making me crazy and oh shit, I have to take mood stabilising medication again* and what if I turn into a zombie, and yep, I really am going crazy, kind of crying.
Oh fuck it.
On the good side, we already have some clean bits in the house. Not a whole house, but patches of detailed clean. Expect spasmodic posting and weird comments with bad spelling. And maybe some sewing and jam making. There has to be a good side to this. There really does.
* A house that I really liked sold in our price range today, but doing a major renovation in this state is lunacy - even I can see that. There will be more houses.
* Not lithium which I liked and would happily take again except that it gives me the shits, quite literally. Another one. Side effects (for me) unknown at this stage. Although it does appear to be working and calm seems to be returning. Yay for that.
It's now in my sewing pile. For after I finish this binge of work clothes sewing. Two skirts and a slightly dodgy refashioned top this weekend. Considering that we also went and looked at houses, did shopping and other weekend hoohah, I'm pretty pleased with that. No photos because I was too busy cutting, faffing and sewing. Unfortunately when I washed the other skirt I made, it lost so much colour and sheen that it now looks very worn in. Not in a totally bad way and I still really like it, but I think it's a weekend and going to the beach kind of skirt.
Anyway, mid week we dropped a load off at the brotherhood. And came home with more yet more stuff, but still less overall. Which is good. Nothing too exciting there, just some old magazines. The real haul was on Friday after I went for my (should be more) regular thyroid function blood test. Grace was very good at the doctors, played with the toys in the waiting room and then sat on the little stool next to me while the nurse slapped my arms around and tried to remember which vein she used last time. Afterwards at Savers, I took Grace into the changerooms with some summer clothes we selected together and she told me they were all too big or too small, give to bubby-lee. Even dresses or tops that fit well. Sigh. I think she's still too young to help select her clothes, which is a pain because if she really doesn't like something, it involves no end of drama to get her to wear it. I try to pick things that are practical, that she will like and offer limited choices and pick my battles but, as far as I can see, there's no reasonably reliable laws as to what she does and doesn't like. Even the aforementioned dackies and singlets can be tricky.
After hanging the rejected items on the return rack we found some books and I did a deal that if she came up the back with me to look at tea towells and fabric, then on the way back she could play with the toys. Which we did. She started playing with a slightly older girl and it was all going well until the older girl got down a plastic dolls pram. That Grace instantly decided she wanted. I said no, because she already has a dolls stroller. There was howling and the other little girl was kind of egging her on. I looked away and noticed a felt horse. I pulled it from the shelf and realised it was a homemade hobby horse. Not great felt, but kind of kooky and charming. I gave it to the girls to play with. Grace liked it, but the other girl raced away with it, riding all around the shop. In the end, I told Grace that we had to go home now, or we'd be late for lunch and that as the other girl was playing with horse we weren't going to buy it today. More howling and some kicking and screaming. After the storm abated, I sat her up on the bench and she looked all woebegone, horsey come home with Grace? The Savers lady looked at me, did you want the horse? She didn't think the other woman would buy it and went to see. Now, tantrums don't as a rule get results around here, but I would have bought the horse anyway, if the other girl hadn't run off with it.
Grace rode horsey all the way back to the car (except for crossing the road) and has been telling me all about girl play horsey, lady in shop get horsey, thank you lady, horsey come home. On Sunday, horsey had lunch (salad) and then had a afternoon sleep on the sunroom floor with blanket over her. While I sewed and Grace played with my buttons. The buttons are no longer sorted according to kind in little plastic dealer bags but a big joyful muddle. Which gives me a precious thrill. Especially since when I came home from work (aargh) tonight, Grace asked, mummy do sewing and play with mummy's buttons? I see so much more sewing in the future.
Thinking about another houses post. There was a fabulous one, which even though it probably won't be ours, was great to visit, but haven't processed either the pictures or my thoughts yet. One thing at a time.