Friday, September 10, 2010

That Update

Well, I guess I owe people an update, so I'd better start writing. I am not quite sure exactly where this is going to go, but let's just embark on the journey and see where it ends up!

It's been 11 months roughly since the neurosurgery that turned the summer of 2009/2010 into clusterf@#k of monumental proportions. Since then life has largely returned to normal. What helped in the end was deciding to take a big step and start taking an anxiety medication. My mind had been put into such a spin by everything that had gone on up there that it needed some assistance to rediscover its equilibrium.

Apart from the fact that I put on around 5kg almost straight away, the medication did what it was supposed to do. Suddenly I could sleep again and the worst of the vertigo symptoms died away. For the record I still think the surgery messed up my vestibular system, but my mind then latched onto the disturbance and took it to another level. Lucky me - I've had issues with anxiety in the past and have thankfully been able to get over them before without help, though I now think I could definitely have done with some medical assistance back then as well.

What also helped was starting to exercise again. I started training with Duck again, then running with the Squad. I ran a 10k in June, and although it wasn't fast it was comfortable and fun. I started running trails - something I thought at one point would be impossible with my vision issues. I even started cycling again.

In July I committed to 30 Days of Yoga. Around that time I also started suffering what seemed to be side effects from the medication - mostly restless legs and muscle spasms that kept me awake when I was trying to fall asleep. Seeing as I was doing so well I talked my GP into agreeing that I try coming off the meds. I'd only been on them for four months rather than the usual six, but I was motivated and eager. The weaning went pretty well too, other than the standard side effects, including tingling hands and legs and an 'electrical' or buzzy feeling in my head.

As the calming aspects of the medication started to ease off I regained a new sense of energy and enthusiasm. Everything I took on I took on to the extreme. I practiced hip openers in yoga until my poor hip flexors groaned with pain. I went back to lifting weights in the morning, running or doing RPM at night, and then threw a yoga session on top of that. I started to get some of the vertigo symptoms back. However I was holding it all together until a hellish week at work started to tip me back over the edge. By the Thursday afternoon I was crying out to go home and just disappear into bed for a while. However I was booked on a flight to Auckland that night to attend a conference in Auckland the next day.

I was quite aware that I was starting to feel a bit manic. I was suddenly gripped with insomnia again and started taking sleeping pills for the first time in months. On Friday night I lay in bed as obsessive thoughts cycled over and over through my mind, and it took forever to get to sleep. On Saturday morning I was up early to meet a friend for an RPM class, then straight after that I met with another friend to see her new house. We had a lovely visit but my mind was still racing and she soon realised that I wasn't quite right.

By the time I got home on Saturday night I was a little bit of a mess. I was really very rational about how irrational I was feeling. I knew I was getting obsessive. Funnily enough, one of the neurologists I saw had asked me if I'd ever suffered from OCD and I'd said no. Now I realised that I was in fact experiencing an OCD of a kind, and that was causing my vertigo symptoms to relapse.

As wonderful as it had been to be off the meds, as much as it had for a while made me feel like I'd recovered, that I was normal and had 'control' of my life, I knew that I still needed some assistance. I also knew that admitting that was not a failure. I took a half dose of the medication that night and saw my doctor again as soon as I could. She was very positive and made me feel that I wasn't doomed to be on this stuff forever, just that my mind needed a little longer to get over the trauma of the surgery. That resonated with me. I'd been through a traumatic experience, and I was still recovering from it. It was all so simple when it was put to me that way!

So I started taking a half dose of the medication again. The relief kicked in an improvement in the vertigo symptoms long before the medication had any real time to take effect. It felt like I'd been given a safety blanket. After two weeks I knew the meds really were working when I felt my mind let out a kind of sigh, and my body finally relaxed. I got back off the sleeping pills again.

By August though I knew I needed some time out. I decided to take an August 'mini-break' from blogging and simply post the occasional photo. I decided to stop beating myself up about not wanting to communicate with all the wonderful people I'd been put into contact with during the 30 Days of Yoga. I was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, and I needed to be kind to myself and to let being myself be enough.

Now I'm happy with my life, but am left grasping a number of strands that I can't quite weave into a whole just yet. For now I'm not making audacious goals (well, other than committing to train for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge again, duh). I've decided to stay silent when trying to be present in the blogging community wears me out. Right now I'm focusing on that which I know I can achieve. I know I can work full time and do a pretty good job of it. I know I can run or cycle most days, and throw in the odd weights or yoga session. However if I don't take a lot of photos, if I don't write, if I don't plan and cook amazing meals or have a tidy, clutter free house, if I have a huge pile of books in the spare bedroom that I may not read again but can't let go, well that's all ok.

I'm not sure what is me still being in recovery mode, what is the side effects of the medication, or whether I'm being genuinely lazy. I would like, for example, to drop the weight but I can't bring myself to worry about all the chocolate and junk I'm eating which stops me from doing so. I know it's slowing me down when I'm running and I don't like how tight my clothes are. However I know it may be difficult while I'm still on the meds and they take the edge off my ability to care. When I run it's harder to make the effort to keep going and not walk. Again, am I being lazy or are the meds having a negative effect on my ability to push myself? If I'm mentally not on top of my game should I be attempting a half marathon in a month or to cycle 160k?

On the other hand, there are days like last Wednesday night when I have a blistering run. There are days when the sun shines and I get the kind of euphoric joy I used to get pre-surgery, and which I enjoyed briefly when I was off the meds (before it turned into mania). There are days when I'm reminded of how horrid my life was just a few short months ago and how miraculous it is that I'm here doing what I am now.

I say I've stopped making audacious goals, and then I give examples of how I'm doing exactly that. I think the difference is more subtle. I'm over the grand gesture. I want to just live life, have fun with good friends, sleep well every night. In a way, although I don't want to clear my house of all my worldly possessions, I feel like I've let go of attachments in other ways. I guess I don't assume so much about what life will be like in the future. For a while during my darkest moments my psychologist told to stop worrying about the future and to just focus on getting through the day. For a while there I had permission to stop planning, and that was a great freedom.

Now I find that I'm not so much looking for a higher purpose, some deep meaning for everything. Right now life is what it is. Some people have more than others, good things happen to bad people, bad things to good. An earthquake the size of that which hit Christchurch recently may hit Wellington and I may no longer have a house over my head. Right now I like my life, and I'm full of relief that I have so much of it back again. I know I'm a survivor, and I guess I take comfort in that.

I've had to let my life become quite small to survive the last year, however there are signs that it will expand again. I started to hook into something with the yoga that I need to begin exploring again. I returned to the Karori Sanctuary again a couple of weeks ago and something in my heart swelled to be back. Some of my deepest moments of relaxation have come from being out in the sun, or like last night, tucked up inside while it poured outdoors.

I want to run. I want to cycle. I want to spend time with friends. I want to be alone. I want to be outdoors. I want to be at home on the sofa or in bed with the cats and Hamish. I want to be here now, and for now I think that will have to be enough. It's spring, and I feel like I might be emerging again. I have a whole missed summer to make up for.


Kate said...

Pip! I had no idea the last few months had been so hard. Glad you are feeling better and more at ease now- you really are amazing!

Pip said...

Yeah, it's been an interesting few months! I don't know that I'm amazing, just doing the best I can. I guess I'm too stubborn to just roll over!