It has been over a week now since my final electroconvulsive therapy session. Now I am living in the “Wait and See” time, where I and everyone around me takes special notice of my mood in an effort to give me the “All Clear” so that I can go home to Chinchilla with my husband. This “Wait and See” period places pressure on me (non-intentionally) and it is this pressure that I write about today. It is linked closely to my social anxiety (that I will write about another time) but it is different, it is an additional pressure on top of that.
This “Wait and See” time frame involves me shifting from (in this case) a major depressive episode back into a balanced mood state. Being careful that I don’t swing too far into a manic phase or swing back into the depths of depression, I plan every day carefully to push myself enough to show progress but not too much to cause an ‘over-swing’ (I just made that descriptive term up but I think you get what I mean).
At the same time as all of this is happening, I am in Brisbane, my hometown and consequently I have friends and family nearby that I can visit with while I have the opportunity. These social visits are a great way to start stretching my legs and testing my ability to cope with everyday scenarios. But with them comes this added pressure, pressure to make sure everyone can see that I am getting back to my old self and each time I visit someone I can feel them assessing me, this may be real (in some cases the judgements are said out-loud) or imagined, but in either case it FEELS real to me and (in the beginning at least) the pressure is unbearable.
It feels so real to me that I get quite anxious on my way to visit anyone. There are some people that I feel more relaxed around and others that I am unsure around and others still who I avoid all together (these are the ones who can’t see when it is time to listen rather than preach). I literally have to steel myself just to muster the courage to engage socially in the beginning, and then over time as I am getting more and more confident this anxiety fades away and it is then I know that I am truly ‘almost’ better. When I can engage with anyone, even the preachers, and be confident in myself and in the choices I am making regarding my mental, physical and spiritual health. All of which need to be on track for my bipolar disorder to truly be in check.
The amount of pressure and anxiety I feel are a gauge that measures how well I am and I report back to my husband. It also tells him how far he can encourage me to go that day, whether to push the boundaries or try again tomorrow. Each time we visit someone, or go somewhere or do something, I let him know how much pressure I am feeling, and he keeps a track of this to in turn report back to my psychiatrist. Eventually, when the pressure and anxiety are within normal bounds, every day for a long number of days in a row, we can officially close the “Wait and See” window and start looking forward to an “All Clear”. When my psychiatrist announces the “All Clear” (which is based on many factors include my pressure/anxiety levels), I can feel quite confident that I am ready to face the world again, and then we head home, and the real test begins, but I’ll write more about that later.