Saturday, September 24, 2016

What does isolation look like with bipolar disorder?

Imagine a desert. A hot, empty desert. A hot, empty desert full of sand and mirages. Nothing else.

And you're there. Struggling to find the oasis. But there's all these mirages throwing you for a loop.

What do you do?

Do you curl up and assume all is lost, or do you press on, trusting one of those mirages will end up being the water you so desperately need?

This is my life with bipolar disorder. And those mirages are the voices in my head telling me I have no-one, and I shouldn't even try reaching out, because even if I did have someone, no-one cares anyway.

When I'm feeling alone and like I need to reach out for help, suddenly I'm thrown into the desert. And I can't find an oasis because I've curled up and assumed all is lost.

Fortunately, I'm not really alone. And people do care. A search party has been enlisted to find me in that desert, and the oasis I need is super close by. Even if I've laid down belly up, the people around me haven't.

Isolation in the real world, desert aside, doesn't look like it does in the movies. There's no freedom there, no moving image of me high in the mountains, all alone, breathing in that crisp mountain air, being rejuvenated. In all actuality, I'm trapped. Trapped in my head. With the negative thought distortions there to make sure I stay put.

And to stay trapped, my body cooperates with those evil thoughts telling me to not reach out. I become a recluse. I stay under the covers of my bed all day reading Orson Scott Card novels. I listen to Tori Amos. I don't hold my morning socials at my house. I stop doing the chores that need to be done to keep my house clean. All minor things in and of themselves, but when combined, it's a sure sign I'm isolating.

How can I stop this from spiraling from simple isolation to full blown depression?

For one, people notice when I start isolating. And they don't let me mull with my thoughts very long. My support team, the one consisting of my family and close friends, force me to go out and do things, even when I'd rather do anything else in the world than be with company.

And for another. I reach out in small ways. I don't lie when people ask me how I'm doing. I let them know that I'm struggling with the 'voices' in my head.

My one random thing I do, is when I start isolating and feeling like I don't matter, I read this list of wonderful things about me, that a friend and I compiled several months ago. It makes me smile every time I read it, and it reminds me that I do have worth, and don't deserve to be alone.

And lastly, I accept people's concern for me, and recognize that even if I don't want to do what everyone is inviting me to do, I know deep down I'll feel better for having gone out and done it. So I force myself to do hard things.

Letting people close to you know that when you start isolating it is a red flag for more a downward spiral, can help a lot. It's what I've done, and now my husband s very vigilant in helping keep me afloat, even when I want to submerge below the cool waters. I know for a fact that he's helped keep a minor hiccup from turning into a major episode.

So, when you find yourself in that desert, hold on fast to the knowledge that there is a search party that's been deployed. And you will be found. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Struggling with winter

When the seasons change, what do I do with as a person with bipolar?

Seasons changing is a dangerous thing when you live with a mood disorder.

When the weather gets colder, and it starts getting darker earlier, there is a good chance your mood is going to shift as well.

I know this because I live it every year. I don't struggle with Fall, or Spring, but I'll be damned if I don't get knocked down every Summer and Winter...especially Winter.

There's just something magical about the dark nights, the bitter cold, and the holidays arriving. Something magically dark and dangerous, much like the Nothing from the Neverending Story.

I do wonderfully up until Halloween, and then on November 1st, it's like a switch goes off in my brain that says 'Holy shit! You're doing awesome! Let's wreak some havoc!'. And then I spiral downward, in a rapid succession.

How can you prevent the most tragic of spirals during the winter months? I don't have all the answers, but I have discovered some techniques that have really helped me the last 3 years.

First of all, I discuss it beforehand with my therapist. We know what to watch for with me months in advance. I don't surprise her with my internal struggles once they're at a crisis level.

Second of all, I have a game plan that my entire support team is aware of, and on board with. My therapist knows what my psych is thinking, and my husband knows what everyone is thinking. And vice versa. There can't be deep dark secrets when it comes to staying safe during a potential time of difficulty.

Third of all, I make time to do things that I value, and decide (before the crisis hits) that I will do them no matter what obstacles I may throw up. For example, it's a very important tradition to me to take my kids to go see the lights at Temple Square in SLC each year. It's one that me and my kids both treasure. We make the journey no matter what. Since that is such an important tradition to me, I make the decision beforehand that no matter how I'm feeling, or how my husband is feeling, the kids and I will make it there.

Fourth, I extend myself some leniency from the hustle and bustle that can happen during the winter months. I know that I'll need to take it slower than the average person, and might have to risk offending someone by turning down an invitation. But that's okay. It's me practicing self care.

And fifth, I try to go with the flow. I can't control everything. And that's okay. I want to control everything, that's something I'm aware I struggle with, so I fight it. The kids don't want to go caroling around the neighborhood? I'll sit down with them and color some cute pages out of our coloring books instead. I can't fight my 4 year old into her adorable new Christmas jumper? I'll softly sigh, 'Let it go" to myself.

Although this won't work for everyone, following this suggestions kept me out of the hospital last year for the first time in 3 years. It was beautiful. I fully plan on doing this again this year. In fact, preparations for my sanity have been underway for the last month now.

Of course, if you find yourself in a crisis situation, don't bother with these suggestions, seek medical care immediately. There are people who care, and want to help. Seek them out.

I wish all who struggle with mood disorders the best of winter seasons. Let's all make this year the best one yet!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thank you to the therapist who really saw ME.

I was recently hospitalized for suicidal ideation, for the fourth time in 2 years. I was really struggling with myself, with my identity, my values, my beliefs. I didn't like myself. I honestly thought the world would be better off without me, and especially that my family would be better of without me. I live with bipolar disorder type I, and I go through some extreme mood swings because of it.  I had also made the poor decision to quit my medications because I was so sick of the way I looked. I was doing phenomenally mood wise. but I hated the way I felt about myself physically.

I was rather bitter about this hospital stay because my individual counselor had sent the Sheriffs out to find me, (I sent her a suicide note by text), and she responded appropriately by doing a welfare check. I didn't want to be found though, I really wanted to be dead; at least I thought that was the case. So I spent my first couple days sulking about how miserably unfair my life was. The therapist in the hospital was amazingly kind those first few days. I thought he was great until we had a therapy session with my husband. That's when he seemed to turn on me and laid it all bare just what type of person I really was.

He told me in no uncertain terms that I had a problem with always having to be right, and that I was annoying, and he thought I'd be almost impossible to live with, and that he didn't know how my husband did it.

He also told me though, that I had something innately likeable about me, something that made all those other qualities seem to diminish, and make me a wonderful person. He also said that even with me being a incredibly difficult person, there was something that was just charming about me, that radiated from me, even when I annoyed the hell out of people.

Of course, all I heard from that in those first few days was that I'm a terrible person who doesn't deserve to have anything good happen to her, but eventually it dawned on me that he had basically seen my soul, laid it bare, put words to it, and still found me a good person. And that changed my life.

Once I got through the processing of the hurtful things he said, I realized that he had said some wonderful things about me as well. And that was incredibly freeing.

The shocking thing about all of this is that I believed him. I honestly believed what he had told me because he was one of the most genuine people I'd ever met. I knew he wouldn't say something if he didn't think it to be the truth. And because of that, it sank in.

I changed because of that comment he made to me in our therapy session that day. I began to believe that I have value, that I have worth, and that I'm a good person. I know deep inside that although I can be an incredibly difficult person to handle at times, I'm still innately likeable. And that's enough for me. It doesn't matter if everyone doesn't like me, I still believe and hold onto the thought that I'm charming. Of all things, charming! I'm someone that deserves to be treated well and treated with respect because I am worthy of those things.

I don't know if this therapist will ever know how much of a profound effect he had on me, and how much he's changed my life, but I want to thank him. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for seeing ME, the real me, the me hiding behind my layers of sarcasm and mean words.He had the audacity to tell me straight like it really is, and I admire that kind of bravery. He has given me the backbone to be myself, in all things, at all times, and in all places. I don't have to people please anymore. I know that I'm enough, just as I am. And his words helped make that a reality for me. And I am so grateful. So grateful. Thank you dear therapist, for giving me the courage to be authentic myself.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hi again!

I don't think I'm ever going to be a completely regular writer. It's nigh on impossible to keep my blog updated, work on my book, and write articles for The Mighty. Not to mention cleaning my house, taking care of my kids, and taking care of me.

That's right! I've finally started on my book, for reals. I've got the whole first paragraph written out. I've also written my autobiography, which is the template for my book. I need 50,000 more words for my book, and I really feel I can do it!

Life is going. I went back into treatment in May, and quit my job too. It was a painful decision, deciding to quit my job, but I had to focus on me, and I couldn't do treatment and work anymore. It was too much.

Summer was great. We went to Disneyland, taking the kids for their first time ever. That was quite the experience. I really struggled with being there. I finally broke down after that trip, and recognized that my anxiety was bad enough that I really needed meds for it. My psych out me on Neurontin for it, and honestly, it changed my life. I'm so grateful.

I'm working on going to Haiti to serve orphans there that need our help. If anyone is interested, my daughter and I have a gofundme for this project. Here is the link if anyone is interested in helping us achieve our goal.

The kids started school, and this is the first year all four of the kids are in school. It's been so nice to have a few hours to myself everyday, except I've barely had anytime to myself really. It feels like every day something comes up to keep me from getting what I want done.

Josh and I are doing fantastically. In fact,we're doing so well we're no longer in marriage counseling. It's a Saturnalia miracle.

Mostly thought, and the most important thing, is that I'm doing well. I write about living with bipolar disorder, and right at this very moment, I have my bipolar doesn't have me,

Life has it's struggles, for sure, but I'm content. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

I'm doing it!

Hi everyone! I know, I'm a total slacker when it comes to my blog...but it's for good reason! I've been super busy writing my autobiography, doing IOP, and...getting articles published on news sites! It's hard for me to blog when I wonder every time if what I'm writing could be an article instead.

But anywho, IOP. It ends tomorrow, and I'm super nervous about it. I've spent the last 8 weeks working my ass off in intensive outpatient therapy, and I'm really scared that the progress I've made in there is going to fade once I leave. It's been an  incredible experience. I first started out nervous as hell because I was surrounded by recovering drug addicts, and I felt completely out of my element. But I stuck it out, and I'm so glad I did. Many of these people were awesome human beings that I just had to get to know to help me overcome my bias towards addicts. I've learned so much about myself, and feel really good about the path I'm taking in life.

And my articles! So, Josh signed me up for an online course taught by Brene Brown, and I reluctantly started it. It's all about daring greatly, and stepping into the arena and being seen. I've worked so hard on me, and learning about me, and dealing with my inner shit that I've stuffed down for years and years, that I finally felt like I was in a good enough place to start writing again, And it's been amazing! I've written 4 articles since I discovered Daring Greatly, three of which I've done in the last 2 months. If you're interested in reading them, they are here, here, here, and here. I've also written another article and submitted it to the Huffington Post for consideration. I've got my fingers crossed that they respond favorably.

Speaking of daring greatly, and stepping into new arenas...I applied to be a speaker at the TEDx conference here in SLC. I'll know something by the end of April. I really hope I at least make it through round two of evaluations.

So good things are happening, even though I don't post blogs as much as I used to. I'll try and post at least once a week from here on out, just to give updates. We'll see who's reading, eh?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Broken, again

I've got writer's block.

And I'm on a precipice.

I'm always on a precipice; it feels like.I'm constantly walking this edge between stability and falling into oblivion. I'm getting so sick of this constant battle between staying sane and letting go. You've no clue just how much I want to let go, and let the chips fall where they will sometimes.Every time I get into an argument and I feel myself getting closer to snapping, I wonder, 'Is this it? Is this going to be the final straw?'

Although I really took what Finnick Odair said to heart, 'It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.' God knows I've fallen apart and put myself back together enough times to know picking up the pieces frickin blows, but this staying strong when it feels like agony is for the birds. Endure til the end. That's what I'm taught. But this just feels like it's never going to effing end.

I'm trying so hard to feel things, and I get awful close to an emotion, and I almost feel it, but then I recoil, super fast. It's torture.

So my blog is struggling, once again. I want to write, every day. But because I'm having so many issues with my emotions, and being vulnerable, the words can't come out of my brain onto the keyboard.

In exciting news though, one of my articles is going to be published! I dared greatly, and The Mighty picked it up to feature! I can't wait! Well, I can wait, I'm terrified, but I'm so excited at the same time! And I'm continuing to step out and be seen, although Scary Mommy rejected my other article, I submitted it to HuffPo this morning, and I'm nervously waiting to see what happens there.

I think I'm going to start my book. I've got a few chapters outlined. And I've got my journals from my teens out in my garage. I kind of want to go through them. I'm not sure if I'm in a good spot emotionally yet to handle that or not, I'm going to talk to my therapist about that, but I know I'm getting closer to being ready. That's always good right? I want to get my charts from my hospital stays from the last decade, and go through them, and start writing. This is the closest I've ever been to being really serious about getting it done. It feels scary, but doable now. And that's huge for me! Wow.

Hopefully this writer's block lifts soon and I get my ideas back. I've got so many ideas I want to touch on, but the words just won't come. I'll get there though, I'll get there. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gratitude in all things

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me. I made it through though. I had the support of some really incredible people, and I was able to avoid a potential disaster. I can't even put into words just how blessed I feel I am. I've never felt this surrounded by love and oneness by people in my life.

What made this tumultuous struggle different than any other time when I've slipped into a depressive episode? Well for one, I reached out immediately. I reached out to the right people. I didn't call on a poor unassuming friend who loves me, but has absolutely no background in mental health and is hopelessly out of her element when it comes to dealing with a friend who is suicidal. So I called my therapist. And when I couldn't reach my therapist, I called my religious leader (who happens to be a therapist) and didn't mind helping me out in a crisis.

For another, I opened up. I didn't shut down and let the voices in my head rule the day. I admitted that I was having some serious problems, and that I was scared, and I didn't know what the eff was going on. I talked even when talking was the last thing I wanted to do. Even though I wasn't great about keeping people updated, I didn't turn into a hermit completely, I forced myself to go out of my shell and talk, talk, talk.

I talked to my boss and told her I was having a bipolar episode and that I was trying to keep it under control, but it was kind of kicking my trash at the moment. That was one of the best things I could have done because she normalized it for me. She said everyone there needed time off to get their heads on straight, that I wasn't alone in this. She pretty much told me I was having a mental health week and getting myself some help and gave me a week to do whatever I needed to do to without the stress of work on my back. Have I mentioned before how much I love my job?

The hardest conversation was telling Josh that I was suicidal because well, that's never a fun conversation, now is it? He handled it so well, and that was really the turning point for me. That was when I really felt like I might make it through this without needing to off myself. If I can keep talking, I might be able to talk myself out of this.

I used the crap out of my coping skills. I took it hour by hour some days. Minute by minute some hours. Second by second some minutes. It's just so hard. Being bipolar is so hard. You feel like you're on this cliff. And you're balancing there, so precariously balancing. Waving one foot in the air, scrambling for purchase with other, not sure if you're going to be tossed into the insanity below, or if you're going to be able to grab and hold onto the cold ground of reason you're so desperately reaching for.

I want to say that I was so incredibly lucky to have such a great support system surrounding me, but well, it wasn't luck. I've worked my ass off to surround myself by loving people who care for me and have my best interests at heart. That's not luck, that's me making progress to being a healthier person. I am blessed though. So blessed to have met the incredible people who are in my life now.

And I'm grateful. I'm grateful to have gone through this past experience. It's the first time I can recall where I've been suicidal and not have made an attempt nor have landed in the hospital. I feel humbled to be sitting here sharing this experience with you because it's an amazing thing to have gone through. It really puts into sharp relief where I was a year ago and where I am now. I might not see it, but the work I'm doing in therapy is truly making a difference in my life. And for that I can only be grateful.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gotta stay pumped for the cold lonely days ahead...

And how do we do that? That's right! With good music! And you're right, good music is totally subjective, so right now, this is my idea of good music. I told you I was trying to blog more. I'm running low on good blog ideas atm, so I'm sharing the songs that are running through my head. I don't think I can share the insecurities that are going through my head with all of you loyal readers just yet, not til I've had the chance to process them with my trusty therapist, lol, so this is what you're getting from me today :)

I'm absolutely in love with these three songs right now, I can't stop listening to them, my family is so sick of hearing them on repeat. I'm practically sick of them myself, but I'm addicted. Ah well, I suppose there are worse addictions, right? The first two pump me up, especially Elle King's 'Exes and Oh's', it reminds me of my wilder days. and brings back some fond memories, lol. I miss some of those moments. And the Offspring's 'You're Gonna Go Far Kid', encourages me, even if that's not the intent, that's what I get from it. I should probably reread the lyrics on it. And the Hush Sound's 'The Lighthouse' is a favorite of mine because I bonded over my oldest over it, and that's always a good time right? 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stepping into the arena and being seen...

I'm daring greatly. Today I took a leap. Of faith, And I'm kind of scared. I'm almost talking myself out of it. Of what I'm sure you're asking, lol.

Today I decided that I'm going to get my writing published, or epically fail in the attempt. No more holding back just because I'm scared. And if I do fail, well I'm going to keep on trying until I get the right thing that is noticed.

I wrote two different pieces, that I thought were really good, about bipolar disorder (of course), and I'm going to submit them to a couple of bigger news publishers next week, once I've had a couple of friends critique them for me.

I was feeling really good and optimistic about my odds, but now all my negative self talk has come in and is eating at me, so I'm really wondering if I'll even follow through and be courageous enough to follow through and be willing to be seen and step into the arena and submit these articles for consideration.

I can do this! I can do hard things. I do them all the time, right? And I'm not scared to fail. Failure is a part of life. I did my best, and if I fail, it means I learned on way of what the publisher isn't looking for. I just edit and try again.

I'm kind of getting pumped again now. I've just got to keep using my positive self talk, and I'll make it through this next week while I wait to see if they accept or reject my article! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Daring Greatly

I read Daring Greatly by BrenĂ© Brown this week for therapy, and omg, I think my life has been forever changed. I can't shut up talking about it.

She explained so much about the deepest things about my life that I've never been able to put into words, ever. And to know that I'm not alone, wow. I'm inspired. She talked about vulnerability and how it's intricately tied to shame, and explained how shame is simply the fear of not being worthy of real connection (although it's so much more than that), and how we have vulnerability armor we wear to protect us from being vulnerable at all costs.

She talked about how we need to develop shame resilience and that there are two types of people in the world, those who know that they are worthy of love and belonging, and those who feel that they aren't worthy of love and belonging. The only thing that separates these two groups is that the ones who have the deep sense of connection and feelings of love and belonging feel worthy of that love and belonging. That's all. 

She also said there were 12 categories where shame could rear its ugly head, like body image, motherhood/fatherhood, money/income, sex, addiction, aging, parenting, family and others. She also talked about the scarcity effect and how people in our culture felt like we we never enough, we were never thin enough, never rich enough, never good enough, and that the opposite of this was not abundance, but instead it was simply feeling good enough. I could not put this book down.

I was spellbound from start to finish. I was starving for the knowledge I got from her words. If you need a book to read, check this one out. You will not be disappointed, I promise!

I realize that I totally made a mess out of this review, writing book reviews is not my forte. If you'd like a clearer, more concise review check out amazon readers reviews here!