Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – The story of my pill boxes

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder about six years ago. That seems like such a long time ago now. A different life, a different era.

During these years, as part of my medical treatment for this mental illness, I was directed by various psychiatrists to try various different types of prescription medication.
(Read: Trialling different medications, different dosages, different combinations, taken at different times, and all with different instructions).

As those of us who take any medication on the regular would know, having a lot of different pills that need to be taken at different times of the day can be tricky to successfully and consistently incorporate into a busy and unpredictable lifestyle.

And like many of us who have had to make the decision about medication and mental health can understand, initially, I was very uneasy about taking medication for my bipolar disorder. How would I know what was me and what was the medication?
I remember thinking that taking medication would blur the already shaky lines I had of my self-identity or maybe make me numb to my emotions when all I wanted to do was control the soaring highs and the catastrophic lows i.e. have all the high energy and good moods with none of the moodiness or depression (basically have my cake and eat it too).

Every time I had to take my medication, it was a constant unwelcome reminder that I had a mental illness. Two or three times a day.

I remember upon revealing my diagnosis to a close friend, I was embraced and made to feel like I was accepted. We had known each other for years and it didn’t change who I was, the experiences we had had, the love and respect that was there.

This same friend also happened to see my pill boxes at the time, which were split into morning and evening doses for each day of the week and labelled very simply with pieces of scrap paper.

Next thing I knew, my friend presented me with these custom-made personalised labels,  for each day of the week, to fit into my pill boxes, each day with a special drawing of one of my beloved toys. See photos below.

As a bit of background, I had a number of plush toys scattered around my room; toys which I hugged to sleep, carried around the house, or sometimes even brought out with me into the outside world. Some were bought, some were gifts, all with many memories.

 

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This may sound silly, but looking at these hand-drawn labels on my pill boxes every single day really made a difference in how I viewed taking my medication for my mental illness.
Yes, taking medication multiple times a day will be a constant reminder of my bipolar disorder, but it was also a constant reminder that I was loved, and that I was taking medication because I wanted to get better. That was the goal.

So, my suggestion to anyone out there with a generic pill box:
Customise it now! Make it yours!

Make your pill box a reminder that medication isn’t about being ill or abnormal,
it’s a conscious daily action towards positive mental health that we do because we want to get better and be a better version of ourselves. That is the goal.

Never forget that.

 

Thanks for reading.

^_^”

Love, accidentalbirds

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Planning ahead

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder I was overwhelmed and scared of what that label meant, yet at the same time, relieved that my demons finally had a name, and that there was treatment.

I remember early on as I started taking medication that I had so many questions. Some were easily answered, while others I had to develop my own answers.

I’ve separated them into categories to try to make it easier to make sense of.
I hope these questions and answers can be of use to you.


Planning ahead so you never run out a.k.a. Maintaining your supply

  1. Do I have enough of each of my medications to last me till the next time I plan to go to the pharmacy/chemist?
    I don’t count each and every pill I have, but I do make sure I have enough of each medication to last me at least until the weekend when I can go to a pharmacy. It’s always good to stock up a bit so you have an emergency supply. Generally, once any of my medications goes down to about a two week supply left, I make a point of going to the pharmacy.
  2. Am I low on repeat prescriptions for any of my medications?
    Your general practitioner or psychiatrist can give you more scripts for your medications as needed. Medication prescriptions have finite authorised repeats which means your GP or psychiatrist will have to routinely write you new ones in order for you to get your medication from the pharmacy. It helps to be aware in advance if you are close to maxing out your repeat script for any of your medications so you can ask for one at your next appointment. Many psychiatrists charge extra if you need a script outside of your appointment times while a doctor’s appointment generally involves a long, tedious wait beforehand.
  3. Do I know where the best pharmacies in my area are in terms of:
    • Location – Convenient and accessible, perhaps near your local shops, near home or on the way to work.
    • Type of stock – I found out through experience that some pharmacies only stock the generic brand of certain medications or only the brand name. It’s important to differentiate between generic and non-generic brands of medication. Although they would both have the active ingredient, the ratios will vary as well as the “filler” ingredients used in each pill. A good example is the drug quetiapine, which is also known by the brand name Seroquel. I was specifically directed by my psychiatrist to avoid the generic brand as it simply was not as effective. Always check with your doctor if it’s okay to get the generic brand to cut costs, otherwise you’ll have to make do with the more expensive, but also potentially more effective brand of medication.
    • Cheaper costs I’ve found that the cost of medication is highly dependent on location, with suburbs closer to inner Sydney or the city being more expensive than in the western suburbs. 
    • Opening hours Late night chemists may help to cater for after work if you do long hours or if you need to buy any medication on short notice.
  4. Special considerations when travelling
    If you plan to travel, it’s important to make sure you have enough in stock to take enough of each medication with you in carry-on luggage only (not checked luggage). As a precaution, I always get a medical certificate along with any necessary vaccinations from my doctor to certify me for carrying medication, just in case I’m questioned by airport security.

Correct storage

5. Am I aware of the correct storage of each of my medications?
All medication has specific storage specifications. Always read and follow the medication instructions. I store my thyroxine sodium medication in the refridgerator at about 4-5 degrees, my lithium carbonate pills at room temperature, and my omega-3 capsules at room temperature away from light.
I generally store my medication in their original blister-packs or containers until I prepare my daily doses in pill boxes. I do this every two days so my medication isn’t exposed to air for more than 48 hours.

6. Storage when travelling
Many medications require storage at room temperature away from direct light and thus do not require any special care. Other medications, such as thyroxine sodium as mentioned above, need to be refridgerated which can make things a little tricky when you’re travelling overseas. A product like the Medication Travel Pack from The Australian Thyroid Foundation would have been handy on my previous trips as it is designed for the transportation and cool storage of medical supplies. It’s on my wishlist for future travelling adventures, though is a bit expensive at $69 (including membership).


 

Clear daily schedule

7. Do I have a clear daily schedule of when I take each medication?
By clear daily schedule, I mean a succinct and detailed timetable of what medication I take, each dosage, at what time, and any other specifics. I found this especially important after undergoing electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatment and suffered from some memory loss. It is also helpful for your emergency contact or loved ones to know your medication routine and to act as a reminder or in case of emergency.

8. Am I aware of how to take each of my medications?
Each medication has different and specific instructions on how to take it.
For example, I take my thyroxine sodium pill thirty minutes before food every morning (or whenever I wake up). I take my lithium carbonate tablets with food and I take my Seroquel tablet one hour before I get in bed.

9. Do I have my medication easily accessible and ready to take on a daily basis?
The main idea is to make taking medication on a daily basis simple and an automatic part of life i.e. minimum brain power required. The more I minimise the decision-making involved, the easier and seamless it becomes as part of my everyday life. It becomes less of a chore and just something I do everyday, like brushing my teeth.
Plus it will lessen the probability that I will miss or skip any doses.

10. Can I prepare my medications in labelled pill boxes in advance?
Consider trying different types of pill boxes to suit your needs. I’ve tried quite a few over the years depending on my medication as you can see in the photo below. I started by using seven-day pill boxes, then moved to split pill box containers with personalised labels for each day, and finally two handcrafted wooden pill boxes from an Etsy seller. My pill boxes evolved to suit my needs as I changed medications and dosages over the years.

pill boxes sa title

11. Do I need a split pill box to separate my morning medication and night medication?
This is helpful if you take pills that look similar at different times so you don’t mix up the doses, or if you’re like me and just like taking all the pills in the morning section in the morning, and all the pills in the night section at night.

12. Do I need a pill splitter to break any tablets and get the correct dosage?
Pill splitters are available at most pharmacies/chemists. You only really need it if you’re in-between doses under the instruction of your psychiatrist. I’ve found it to be quite a handy tool over the years as I’ve trialled different medications that required a gradual increase in dosage.

pill splitter sa title.jpg

13. Will it help if I set regular alarms/reminders on my phone so I can take my medication at set times?
I have my alarms set at 8 am, 12 pm, 8 pm, and 9 pm for the different prescription medications and vitamins I take. 

14. Would it be helpful to trial the different mobile apps available for recording and taking my medication?
There are lots of apps available to help you take your medication on time. A key search term would be “Medication reminder“. I personally use an app called “Medisafe Pill Reminder” to monitor my changing medication. I have trialled others in the past but have stuck with this one for many years and find it helpful in monitoring my compliance i.e. if I take/miss/skip certain pills, as well as changes in dosage and changes in overall medication.

medisafe screenshot sa title.png


Coping with side effects

15. Do I know the potential and likely side effects of each of my medications?
This one is hugely important and means I prepare myself to cope with the side effects I experience as a result of all my medications. For example, lithium causes me to experience dehydration on a regular basis and constant thirst, so I will make an effort to drink a minimum of two litres of water a day and also always carry a reusable water bottle on me at all times. One of my medications, Seroquel, makes me very drowsy so I make sure to take it at night just before I sleep instead of in the morning, and I also make sure I don’t do anything that requires too much concentration like driving.
It’s a necessary evil to cater for the side effects of your medications, especially if that particular medication is working to help balance the chemicals in your brain. It’s a matter of striking a balance between what you are able or willing to tolerate in terms of negative side effects versus the gain in positive effects on your mental health, and to adjust accordingly.


In case of emergency

16. Do I have a complete and up-to-date list of all the medications I take in case of emergency (with dosages)?
I have a written reminder in my yearly planner to review my “Current medication list” every six months. I make sure to list all my current medications with today’s date, each medication dosage, when I take each in a day, and even a basic drawing of what each pill looks like. It is important to set aside time to regularly review and update this list so that you, your emergency contact, and any loved ones have this information on hand when needed. Pictured below is my actual current medication list. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just as long as it conveys the necessary information.
On another note, this list is also handy to bring along to different doctor’s appointments as I’ve often been asked what medication I take and it’s easier to show this list than verbally list each one.

current meds list sa title

17. Have I made this list available/accessible to my chosen emergency contact?
I have my current medication list typed up as a digital note on Google Keep which I’ve shared with my emergency contact. I have also emailed this information to my emergency contact in the past and left a physical, written list attached to the front of our fridge with a magnet. You just need to find out what works best for you.

18. Do I know the important contact details of all my health professionals for emergencies? (Including full names, profession, contact number, address)

  • General practitioner
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Other key therapists, support groups, etc

I find it helpful to keep this in one spot so it’s easy to refer to when needed. Include contact numbers as well as location.

19. Have I educated myself on the potential side effects of each of the medications I take in case of toxicity/overdose?
I learnt about lithium toxicity the hard way when I overdosed and had to admit myself to hospital. It’s important for you as well as your loved ones to know the signs so you can act fast. Find out what the signs and symptoms are for each and every medication you take, make a list, then share it with your emergency contact and loved ones. They may recognise emergency symptoms before you do and can act fast to get you help.


Regular review of medication

20. Am I aware of how regular my blood tests need to be?
In order for my doctor to monitor the correct level of medication in my body, I need to have regular blood tests. My test results help my psychiatrist to adjust my dosages accordingly and determine the number of tablets I need to take to achieve an optimum level in my blood. I think in general, it’s best to ask your doctor if you need a specific regular blood test each year to keep on top of things, or as often as every three months as in my case to track lithium levels. For myself personally, I ask questions specific to my medication such as:

  • Quilonum (slow release lithium carbonate) – How often should I be having blood tests to check my lithium levels? What is the optimum range? What happens if I’m below the optimum range? Will I experience symptoms? What happens if I’m above optimum range i.e. toxic level?
  • Thyroxine sodium – How often should I be getting thyroid function tests? Am I currently on the correct dosage of medication? Do I need to see an endocrinologist?

It’s important to become an active participant in your own healthcare because, ultimately, you are responsible for your own mental health. Your doctors, other health care providers, and loved ones are just your support team; they can’t take those steps forward for you.

I have found that this way of thinking strongly contributes to my mental resilience and the drive to get better and stay well even after every setback. I have to regularly remind myself that I am the catalyst; the game-changer; the one that makes the decision whether to try again. When, not if, I fall over, I can choose to get right back up; I can also choose to lie there for as long as I need to and recover. It’s a tough journey towards prolonged stability, especially if like me, you experience rapid cycling, so make sure you make the choices that are right for you to support your well-being. Yes, it will be a lot of trial and error, with a lot of setbacks, but you can do it. We can.

21. Are the medications I take regularly reviewed by my doctors? I’ve seen many different health professionals in relation to my bipolar II disorder and over the years, it’s easy to lose track of when you started or stopped different medication doses. I’ve often been asked when I started a particular medication and at what dose, so I found it helpful to make a concise record a.k.a. my treatment timeline, which includes both medication changes and treatment changes (see screenshot of my actual treatment timeline below). For example, I started Quilonum in November 2011 at 450 mg, or had 12 rounds of ECT treatment in August 2016.

tx timeline sa title.png

It also helps to make a note of what medications you used to take and why you stopped. E.g. Escitalopram, 20 mg, taken from February to May 2017, stopped due to side effects (add details).


Medication waste

Medication blister-packs are currently not recyclable in Sydney and can only go to landfill -_-” As someone who is trying to minimise their waste, this is a pretty big disappointment. Of course, I do recycle the cardboard boxes that the blister-packs come in, but I also regularly feel pangs of guilt as I drop yet another blister-pack in the bin.
This photo below is the amount of medication waste I generated in about two weeks T_T”

meds waste sa title.jpg

I am hopeful that TerraCycle in Australia will eventually offer a program in collaboration with the big pharmaceutical companies to recycle their pill packaging and force them to embrace a closed-loop environmental solution. This basically means that the  companies that produce the pills and profit from the sales become accountable for their products from manufacture through to disposal (which is the way it should be!). Fingers crossed that future accountability and sustainability isn’t too far away.


I hope you have found at least one of these tips to be useful to you.

Keep embracing the adventure.

Thanks for reading ^_^”

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Overcoming the stigma of medication

As someone with bipolar II disorder and I assume like many others, I eventually decided to go on medication after overcoming the stigma associated with it and listening to my psychiatrist who wanted to help me get better.

I started off slowly on low doses of medication, and over the past six or seven years since I was diagnosed, have been on about a dozen or so different medications, combinations and dosages.

As you can imagine, keeping track of medications can get a little tricky when there are different instructions for each. And taking different medications multiple times a day can prove to be monotonous and if I’m honest, a bit of a slap in the face; a constant reminder that you need this medication to help you live your life.

It took me a long time to come to terms with taking medication and I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled through the questions: Do I really need to take my meds? Will it change me and who I really am? How do I know what’s me and what isn’t?


The answers are simple.


Yes, I need to take my meds, because my brain isn’t able to balance the chemicals I need it to alone. When I am on my medication, and my brain chemicals are finally balanced, then I will be the real me. Without the meds, I am a shadow of myself as my brain struggles to maintain stability. Me without medication is a version of me that isn’t coping with life.


I think I understand some of the fear, because I’ve been there. And if I look closer, there’s a lot of hope there too.


I am not saying that medication solves everything. But it helps. Along with daily mood charting, regular psychiatrist appointments, regular psychologist appointments, and constantly striving for a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, good nutrition, plenty of water, good relationships… you know what I mean.


And this stuff is lifelong. It’s not just a short stint and then bam, permanent results. It’s a constant evolution of self. A regular reflection of who you are, what your values are, and where you want to be. I wish I could tell you it’s an easy road, but there are ditches you won’t see till you fall in. You and I, we will always fall. This life isn’t about avoiding the fall; it’s about knowing you will, preparing for the consequences, and then planning for the recovery and the climb back up.

You just have to make the choice in your mind that you will make the climb, because you want your life to be better, because you want to know that life can be better.


Embrace the climb, my friends.


And enjoy the simple adventures in life.


Thanks for reading.

My Water-Only Hair Routine – Giving up shampoo and embracing simplicity

*Please note that this article is regularly updated as I find better ways to simplify my hair care routine, add better content and share it with you. I prefer to add to this blog post to create a comprehensive list rather than have several scattered posts related to the same thing. Let me know if this method is good for you. Constructive feedback is welcome. Thanks. ^_^”


Over the years, I have purchased and used various brands of shampoos and conditioners to clean and look after my hair. Like most people, I want my hair to be clean and smell good and for the longest time, shampoo was the only product I knew of that ticked those boxes.

If I didn’t wash my hair regularly with shampoo, I just felt greasy and unclean, especially after a sweat session or being out in smokey environments. 

I’ve tried many of the various brand names that you find in the supermarket, which typically had a lot of fragrances and packaging to go along with the marketing.

I’ve experimented with hair waxes, sprays and creams to keep my hair tamed or conditioned and also tried many short and long hair styles that involved their own types of maintenance costs. I noticed the amount of products and items I had accumulated just to maintain the hair on my head seemed a little, well, a lot, and we’re not even talking body hair maintenance yet!

I realised how long and expansive the hair care aisles are in the big supermarkets and when I stood still and watched, I found I wasn’t alone. I was typical of many as I observed the very same multitude of hair care products in the trolleys of fellow consumers. I saw the same uncertain expressions as they gazed back and forth at the different colourful bottles on the shelves and thought to myself, “They probably just want clean hair too”.

So, I decided to experiment and go on a simple adventure to change my hair care routine. I wanted to simplify my routine and minimise how long I spent on my hair day to day, so I researched online to see what was out there and what might suit me.

In terms of alternative hair products, I came across various brands that either had interesting or exotic-sounding ingredients, were advertised as eco-friendly, natural or vegan, or just came in pretty non-plastic packaging. The multitude of products seemed a bit overwhelming, but in the end, they seemed just like the same types of products I was already buying but dressed up in different outfits, so to speak.

When I looked into the possibility of making my own shampoo, I discovered some interesting alternative methods to replace standard shampoo which included rinsing with apple cider vinegar, washing with baking soda, using soap nut water, sticking with regular shampoo and conditioner but just washing less often, the “no poo” method (i.e. no shampoo method), and finally, the water only method.

In the end, I found that I just wanted it keep the process as simple as possible, so this is what I decided to do:

  • I washed my hair less frequently – this really depended on my schedule but it went from every day, to every other day, to maybe once a week.
  • I eventually stopped using hair care products altogether – No more shampoos, conditioners or styling products. Just water only.
  • I started simply maintaining my hair by brushing it with a good bristle brush from roots to ends and giving myself the occasional scalp massage to help move the oils and naturally condition my hair.

And the result? Well, if I’m honest, a bit hit and miss.

My hair initially felt a bit oily. I read that this was common as our scalps go through a “detox” period where it realises it is overcompensating by producing more oil than needed. A “transition” period is therefore required which means your scalp needs to take a little while to regain control since you’re no longer stripping your hair everyday using shampoo, thereby forcing your scalp to overproduce oil. I guess that makes sense. 

Using water only to wash my hair and scalp felt like it didn’t quite get all the greasy feeling out. However, after really sticking to it for a couple of months or so, I found that my hair has responded really well and looks healthy and tangle-free (after brushing). Whenever I wash my hair with water only, I always give myself an inadvertent scalp massage as I’m running my fingers along the roots to remove any excess oil. Along with regularly brushing my hair with a natural bristle brush, I believe this is the main reason why the water only method has been so successful for me.

My hair generally doesn’t feel oily or weighed down anymore, the lengths feel soft and conditioned from my own scalp oils, and my hair is simple to maintain. Best of all, my hair feels clean and does not smell like a mix of synthetic perfumes from various products. My hair just smells like me. ^_^”


My Essential Simple Hair Care Tips:

  • Keep your hairstyle simple to minimise maintenance. This means no need for waxes, sprays, ironing, curling. etc. I have found that keeping it shorter in general means less tangles and maintenance.
  • Don’t heat-style your hair – Give up the hair dryer, curler and straightener. Heat damage makes your brittle over time and harder to maintain without using products. Try better alternatives such as braiding your hair when still damp for soft waves. Think of it as aiming to work with your body‘s natural groove instead of forcing it with heat or chemicals to hold to an artificial standard of beauty.
  • Invest in a good natural bristle brush that will help to distribute the natural oils in your hair from your scalp to the ends. This helps to condition the entire length of your hair with no need for extra conditioning products. Buy quality, sustainable and cruelty-free.
  • Wash your hair using water only if you can. Some people have commented that the water only method doesn’t work for their hair, so try it to see if it works for you and the area in which you live. Everyone is different and the water available to you will be different. I live in a soft water area and the water-only method works very well for me. The advantage of using water only is there’s no need to purchase shampoos, conditioners or other disposable hair products. You basically just need a good brush and to wash with water when you feel like it needs it. Definitely a simple, cost-effective routine.
  • Troubleshooting – I have found that I do still have some days where my scalp feels a little bit dry and itchy. During these times, I’ve found that using dilute apple cider vinegar really helped (I would approximate one capful of apple cider vinegar to one full glass jar of water as shown in the photo below). The smell is a little bit strong on the nose initially but fades in a short time. It leaves your hair surprisingly shiny and soft and your scalp soothed. Yes, I know this is technically still buying a product but I think using the water-only method for your hair and the occasional apple cider vinegar to condition your hair and scalp is much better than the concoction of chemicals we use in standard hair products. Not only that, but it’s about using minimal products with minimal ingredients. Stick to locally made, organic apple cider vinegar with the “Mother”.
    Water-only ACV.jpg
    Important sidenote: This Bragg brand of organic apple cider vinegar (as pictured above) is not locally made (made in the USA and imported to Australia), but I did recently discover a brand made locally here in Australia that I plan to switch to once I finish this bottle called Barnes Naturals Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother. They seem to be pretty much the same on the label (certified organic, raw, unpasteurised, with the “Mother”) and both come packaged in reusable glass bottles, but the fact that the Barnes Naturals brand is made locally here in Australia proves to be a more sustainable option.  Interestingly, it also turns out to be cheaper which I suppose is a result of not having to import (Bragg is $1.37 per 100 mL as opposed to Barnes Naturals at $1.25). Remember to vote with your wallet and support local companies who are doing the right thing by sustainability. To read more about this topic, please check out my other post: Conscious choices – Vote with your wallet

  • Troubleshooting – On some days where my scalp is a little oily but my hair still feels pretty clean and I don’t want to wash it, I sometimes use arrowroot powder and massage very small amounts directly onto my scalp with my fingers. I’ve found this works quite well at extending the days in between washing your hair with just water only. I don’t do this often though, just when I feel like my scalp is still clean (i.e. not sweating from exercise) but is a bit too oily for my liking. Just remember to use arrowroot sparingly and massage thoroughly to avoid your hair looking white and powdery.
  • I personally also love the little bit of self-care that goes hand-in-hand with washing with water only too, which is a regular scalp massage. Because self-care is important ^_^”
  • Cut your own hair – or ask a good friend that will help. It will not only save you money and time going to a hairdresser, but regularly allows you to be creative and have fun with your own personal style (cause hair grows back… or alternatively, you could rock a hat till it grows out). I’ve had cheap haircuts that cost me $20 to designer ones that cost me $250 for the whole wash, cut and style combo O.o I’ve cut my own hair for a number of years now and I definitely recommend it. I even enlist the help of my partner sometimes to help me shave the back of my head when I need another pair of eyes. (In case you’re wondering, I am currently rocking an undercut with shoulder-length hair and eyebrow-length bangs) ^_^”
  • Avoid dying your hair – Rock your natural colour loud and proud! Your natural hair colour will always compliment your skin tone, plus it requires zero chemicals and wasteful packaging for both you and our environment. I do however, support the freedom of expression that changing your look can bring with a new colour so if you do dye your hair on the regular, it’s just about making conscious choices and knowing the effect of your actions, both positive and not-so-positive, on both your body and the environment.
  • What do I do with all my unwanted hair products that I have already accumulated? Well, it is always better to give your unused/unwanted products to someone who will happily use it rather than have it clutter your space remaining unused or added to landfill.  I donated an almost full can of hairspray and a bunch of elastic rubber hair ties to my brother (who happens to rock a hip top-knot style do). I also no longer use bobby pins and have passed my huge collection of them on to a friend who rocks a more high maintenance hairstyle and will put them to good use. I slowly used up whatever other hair products I had with the assistance of my partner before beginning my adventure with the water only method. Remember: Donate, Repurpose, Upcycle, or Recycle only after using up your products. Don’t just toss things in landfill because it’s the easiest option. Be creative. Live with intention. Make conscious choices.

Other benefits of a Water-Only hair routine:

  1. Using water only means this hair care method is vegan and cruelty-free. Stick to natural plant fibre bristles for your brush instead of synthetic (unsustainable) or animal hair (animal welfare cannot be guaranteed).
  2. Water is generally toxin-free and extremely cost-effective as you only pay for your water usage. If you add in a navy shower style to your routine you’ll save even more in both water costs and time showering. To read more about navy showers, please read my blog post “Why I choose to have cold showers – And why you should try it too”
  3. You really only need water and a good bristle brush so that makes this hair care routine super minimalist and simple.
    Water-only essentials.jpg

  4. Eco-friendly. Low impact on the environment. Sustainable. Zero waste. Zero packaging. 
  5. You save storage space because there’s no need to store any hair products or styling tools (except for your brush).
  6. Travelling is easier as you don’t need to pack anything in your luggage but your brush. No more bulky containers or liquids to pack or declare.
  7. Save time. Hair maintenance will likely be a lifelong repetitive chore for most of us, so the less time we spend cleaning, primping and preening our hair in our lifetime, the more we can experience all life has to offer ^_^”
  8. So in summary, essentials for your hair care are water and a natural bristle brush. Optional items are apple cider vinegar and arrowroot powder (go for organic and locally made with sustainable packaging), sharp scissors and an electric shaver for DIY haircuts, and maybe an additional wooden comb to style your fringe or beard if you’re so inclined.
    My water-only hair care routine.jpg


I hope my simple adventure into simplifying my hair care routine has inspired you to rethink how you take care of your hair too. I really hope this method works as well for you as it does for me.

Thanks for reading ^_^”


 

Pets and Mental Health – Bipolar II Disorder and the Cat Effect

It has only been one week since Neko the cat has been in my life, but it’s been a wonderful week. If you haven’t read my other recent blog post, Neko is a beautiful three year old domestic short hair cat that my partner and I adopted from our local RSPCA shelter.

In a few of my depressed moods this past week, she has kept me company in bed by sleeping on top of the blankets. When I forget to eat regular meals, she reminds me to feed her and in turn also gets me in the kitchen so we can both eat. During times when my mind is in a fog and I can’t think or focus she has even approached me to play with her by playfully biting my fingers or rubbing her body against my leg to ask for affection. I’ve noticed that she actually helps me bring my thoughts outside of myself so I can refocus and function, if that makes sense; kind of like a reminder to practice mindfulness that comes in a furry four-legged form.

Having a pet for the first time, as in my case, my first time having a cat, can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when I feel like I have enough trouble taking care of myself let alone another living being. But I can honestly say that having a cat has impacted my bipolar disorder in a surprisingly positive way. Sure, there’s poop to be scooped when there wasn’t before and you are suddenly aware that there’s another living being that you’re responsible for, but overall, it’s a pretty wonderful adventure that I highly recommend.

The feels when my cat jumps in my lap and meows up at me when I’m feeling down and out, when she feels​ the need to accompany me each and every time I go to the toilet, and just the feeling of unconditional love that emanates from her, words really can’t describe.

I used to forget to eat, or just not bother, but with a cat, she helps keep me in routine simply because I have to get up and feed her several times a day. Sure, sometimes it might be an hour or two out of schedule, but I still get up and do it as she gently meows and encourages me. I watch her eat and try to get her to eat slowly without inhaling all her food at once. She encourages me to be better simply through the act of feeding her to in turn, feed and nurture myself too.

The only negative aspect of having a cat and having a mental illness for me is that I’ve noticed I developed a bit of guilt when I feel like I don’t do things right or I mess up. Guilt when my emotions are dulled and I can’t return her affections. Guilt when I can only muster up the energy to clean her kitty litter trays once a day instead of twice. I have found that although I’ve felt this in varying degrees when I interact with her, I’ve found that on the whole, my cat actually enforces me to do better and to be better.

What do I mean, you ask?

Well, having my cat around me this week has encouraged me to overcome some of my low moods and low energy to actually function in a productive way that reinforces a good routine i.e. feeding her, remembering​ to eat for myself, cleaning her litter trays, and even overcoming my anxiety about going outside to throw out the trash.

I know it has only been a week, but I am hopeful to what the future brings with a furry feline in my life. I feel like a solid routine might be more achievable now that I am accountable for looking after another living being. I want to take the very best care of her that I can and all the while she inadvertently helps me improve bit by bit and be the very best I can be too.

I hope this was helpful to you, especially if you’re looking to adopt a pet into your life too. I can’t recommend it enough. You drastically improve the life of an animal in need of love and in turn, maybe nurture your own heart and mind too.

Thanks for reading.

Conscious choices – Adopt a fur baby

Conscious choice: Adopt from a shelter

This is a pretty big life decision that I made with my partner after sitting on the idea for over a year. We simply decided it was a conscious choice in improving our quality of life to be able to adopt, love and nurture cats together.

The only criteria are:

  • We would be adopting cats – A practical decision since we are moving into a small apartment very soon. Also, neither my partner or myself have ever had cats before so it’s a new adventure for the both of us!
  • They have to be adopted from our local RSPCA Animal shelter – not bought from a store or from a private seller/breeder for profit. This means that the cats that come home with us will be saved from possible euthanasia if they couldn’t be found homes. They will also already be desexed, de-wormed, vaccinated and microchipped.
  • We have to adopt two at the same time – So they can be friends and not feel lonely for other cat company.
  • They have to be over two years old – Apparently older cats aren’t as adoptable as kittens so they are more in need. As a bonus, older cats tend to have grown out of their need to destroy furniture.
  • They are preferably short-haired for ease of grooming and cleaning.
  • And lastly, they have both have to be affectionate (Read: borderline clingy) rather than a snooty kind of personality.

The big decision was made, but unfortunately has to be delayed as we are planning to move within four weeks and don’t want to uproot the cats so quickly. So we wait until June 2017 to bring them into our lives. So much excitement. Stay posted! (=^o^=)


*Update June 2017: My partner and I have finally adopted our fur baby! Yay! ^_^” There were a couple of unexpected deviations from our plan though but here’s what happened.

The adoption process: One cat or two?

Last Saturday afternoon, my partner and I visited our local RSPCA animal shelter and said hello to all the cats that were looking for their ‘furrever’ homes. The cats were sectioned apart from each other into those that had been exposed to cat flu and those that hadn’t. All the cats and kittens had already been desexed, microchipped, vaccinated, and de-wormed (or in the treatment of).

The first thing I did was check out the personal information on each cat such as their age and if they had any special needs. The younger kittens were super cute but wasn’t what we were looking for.

The first problem was that I had initially chosen two cats that were in separate areas i.e. one had been exposed to cat flu and the other had not. Adopting them together would mean that I would be purposely exposing one cat to the illness, which is something I didn’t want to do. After all, their health comes first before my wants.

I later had my eye on one black three year old cat who was super affectionate and curious as well as a five year old tabby who was quiet but had special medical requirements, while my partner had his eye on two young two year old cats who were already litter mates. The animal attendant that was helping us reasoned that the two younger cats were already friends and in the same pen, while the three and five year old hadn’t met yet and we didn’t know if they would become friends or even tolerate each other. So the easy choice would be the younger cats. Or just one of the other cats.

We went home that day and discussed our options. It made sense to adopt two cats who were already socialised, especially since it would be our first time having cats as pets. The easier things were, the better. But something in my mind told me to keep pushing for the older cats. After all, the older they are, the less likely they get adopted, right? Would I still be okay adopting two cute two year old cats out of convenience knowing that the three year old or that five year old might never get adopted?

The very next day on Sunday, my partner and I returned to the RSPCA shelter. We debated with each other and even got the three year old cat and the five year old in the same pen to see how they would get along. We were told that there were two types of cats: ones interested in human contact and the other more interested in cat company. The three year old cat appeared to prefer humans over other cats, while it was obvious that the two two year olds preferred each others’ company. That was probably the deciding factor as my partner was insistent that the cat we adopted had to always love me, keep me company when I was alone at home and he was at work, and hopefully, eventually help me overcome some of the difficulties that my mental illness challenged me with.

In the end, my heart won out over the reasoning of our animal attendant and we adopted just one adult cat instead of two as planned.

Her name is Neko, which is the name she was given at the shelter and that we decided to keep (it means “cat” in Japanese). She is three years and three months old; a beautiful black domestic short hair cat.

Neko RSPCA profile pic
Neko the cat, adopted from our local RSPCA shelter

She is slowly and surely burrowing her way into my and my partner’s hearts.

Our new nest population: 2 humans, 1 cat.

^_^” ^_^” (=^.^=)

Thanks for reading.

Why I choose not to have my own children

It is a strong belief in most cultures that women only become truly fulfilled in life once they become mothers and that it is unnatural, even shameful, to be childless, whether by choice or otherwise. This is an idea that is further perpetuated by the media as women are widely depicted as these innately nurturing, motherly creatures with no other dimension.

I’ve grown up with the impression that all women should eventually desire to experience pregnancy, have babies, and choose the path of parenthood. It is expected that being born a female, I would eventually use my womb to nurture another living being and embrace that part of my genetic destiny.

This is fine in itself if you fit into that category and find yourself wanting biological children of your own, your own mini-me if you will, but I found myself questioning, what if you don’t?

I am a woman and I have made the conscious choice not to have my own children. This is a big statement that I feel raises many questions that need to be addressed.

It’s not that I necessarily dislike children (I actually think they’re adorable). I have just never felt the desire to have a baby or be a mother. I like the idea of being a mother with all the love, sacrifice, and nurturing involved, but I feel I cannot personally commit to rearing a tiny living human of my own with all the immense responsibilities that come with it.

So where does this leave me? 

Amongst my reasons for not wanting children, I believe many of them are practical and based on personal health grounds. Firstly, I was born with a congenital birth defect and also have a mental illness upon which many studies have shown both have hereditary genetic components. This means that my children may inherit the same physical and psychological struggles I have had, which I think, although has given me strength and made me the person I am today, would also mean that I knowingly risked putting my children through physical pain and mental suffering. To me, this feels like an unreasonable gamble on the lives of my unborn children just to allow me my chance at being a mother, especially when all I would want is the very best that I could give them in life. I honestly do not know if I could look after a mini-me as I am still learning to take care of myself.

A personal risk for me would involve the pregnancy itself. I take various medications for my mental illness which I would have to cease upon conceiving a child. This could lead to psychological instability and at worst case scenario, potential suicide risks. I know that this is a rather black and white depiction of possibilities, but to bring a child into the world it would be important to me to assess all the risks and educate myself on the realistic possibilities, because it’s not just me that would be affected.

My mental illness limits me in many ways, and in knowing my limitsI believe I do not have the full capacity to be the parent I would need and want to be. A mentally ill parent is a difficult thing. I’ve mentioned my own personal barriers, but I want to clarify that people with mental illness can be extraordinary parents. We have the ability to see the world in all its different shades and have a deep understanding that only those who have suffered and struggled truly know. We are able to provide our own unique perspectives based on our experiences and allow children to understand the wonderful differences that can make up humanity.

I have often been asked, “But what if your partner wants kids?” My answer is, that my partner’s desire for children should not be my primary reason for actually having children and is actually not enough of a reason to have children. I have to want children to have children. Children need to be loved unconditionally, so if we can’t both meet that bar then we have no business being there. I was extremely transparent on my childless stance with my current long-term partner when we started dating as I felt it was important to set expectations right at the outset. If he wanted to continue being with me, he would know that biological children wouldn’t be on the cards, but I also made it clear that pets, plants, and maybe even the possibility of adopting children could be discussed in the future.

The most common judgement I have received about choosing childlessness is being told that I am selfish for not wanting children or that I will regret it once I’m older. I don’t think it is necessarily selfish. I think in many ways it is actually more selfish to have children when you don’t want them or are unable to care for them. It is not selfish to want autonomy over your own body. It is not selfish to recognise that you are unable or unwilling to bear the responsibility of a child. 

Choosing to not have children is a very personal, conscious choice, but because it seems to fly in the face of acceptable cultural norms it is also a controversial choice.

I believe that everyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, should have the ability to make the conscious choice to have children, and to not have children. Whether that be their own biological child or by adopting, if you are sure that you have the immense love and commitment inside of you to share the rest of your life with a child and to help them find their path in this confusing world, then you should be able to make that choice. It is a courageous endeavour and I imagine, a wonderful adventure awaiting you both.

All women are equal, and all men are too, which is what feminism is all about, right? It’s okay to break away from the mould if you find you don’t quite fit. You don’t have to have your own children to be fulfilled in life. It is the path that many take, but we don’t all have to. I am not less of a woman for refusing to have children of my own. I have found a myriad of ways to be a “mother” on my own terms.

I should mention that I am soon to be the loving parent of two cats (to be adopted from our local shelter in June 2017). My partner and I are more than excited after making this decision together to adopt, and we believe that we will be the best parents to our cats and give them a warm and loving forever home. So I am/will be a “mother” to my cats, my house plants, and even to my little worms in my compost.

I am certain of my choice in not wanting my own children and am even considering permanent sterilisation in order to match my values. For females, it is known as tubal ligation or “getting your tubes tied”. I am not sure what the process/barriers are here in Australia. Stay posted for updates as I need to discuss options with my doctor at my next checkup.

Thanks for reading.