Bipolar Disorder, endometriosis, Uncategorized

Earth Day Adventures

pexels-photo-167706.jpegThis time last year I was preparing to embark on my first backpacking trip.  The excitement swelled inside of me.  To be out in the wilderness for a weekend, carrying only what I needed on my back was something new to me and it was adventurous.  And this made it something that I really wanted to do.

The trip was a success, minus us forgetting bug spray and a deck of cards.  I slept in a small tent, with a thin mat separating me from the brown, dusty, cool earth.  We sat around a fire pit eating a dehydrated meal from a pouch, it was delicious.  When we consumed all our water, we went to the nearby body of water and filtered our own water, yes you read that correctly, we filtered pond water and drank it.  I was in pure heaven.  Every moment that I was in this oasis I was soaking in all that my eyes and ears were experiencing.

Sadly, upon arriving home, I had a horrific, yet recognizable pain in my lower right abdomen, and within less than two weeks I was having my, um I think 7th, surgery to remove an endometriosis mass.  So, the whole having surgery was less than desirable, but the thing that I was so upset about was having to cancel our couple’s retreat to Zion National Park in Utah that was supposed to happen the second weekend in May.  To say I was pissed, was an understatement.

 

Today, I sit impatiently waiting for the afternoon hours to roll by, so I can leave work and begin running my errands.  Errands for what you ask?  Well, it is finally time for another backpacking trip, and I think that I have more excitement today than I did this time last year.  I know what to expect now, and this adds a greater level of anticipation and less stress and anxiety.  We have additional gear that we were lacking last year, and it will better prepare us for an enjoyable weekend away (including bug spray).

The biggest thing that differentiates this year from last year is where I am with the Bi polar.  I am stable, stable.  Like pyramid constructed by Egyptians thousands of years ago that are still standing, strong.  So, when you add in that I am in decent shape (not hiking as much this year vs. last year because of working more hours and being in school) and that I am mentally in the best place than I think I have ever been, this makes a tremendous combination.  Never-the-less, I do still have bruised toes and a large blister on the foot from the last few weekend adventures that I have undertaken, I am incredibly ancy for tomorrow to roll around, so I can start my Earth Day Adventure filled weekend.

To make this trip even more special, we are going for two nights.  And this girl right here, has never camped for two nights in a tent.  My hair is bound to get greasy and I know I will get sweaty (gotta love those menopause symptoms), but you know what, who cares?  There will be no makeup, no belt that accessorizes my outfit or shoes that increase the perception of my height.  I will have hat hair, from my handy dandy new wide brimmed, sun protecting cap.  I’ll likely be a hot mess.

April has been a month of adventures for me.  A twelve mile hike a few weeks back and swimming in my skibbies and now a weekend away in the mountains with only the bare necessities.  I am thrilled with where I am.  I feel accomplished.  I am so happy that I have listened to my doctors and that I have been fighting through the weight gain side effects, while continuing to take my medication as prescribed regardless.  I want to share with others that suffer with Bi polar that stability is possible, but yes it can take time to achieve it.  With all that I have been through, I now feel that I have a greater appreciation for what I experience in my life, that there are so very many gifts that we receive during each day of our lives.  That each day is filled with so many positives, should we just take the time to identify what they are and appreciate them.  Blessings to you and may you have peace that fills you.

Uncategorized

Letter to 65 Year Old Me

This was an assignment for my Developmental Psychology class and I had FAR too much fun writing this letter…

 

old michelleLetter to Self

Dear Michelle,

Have I told you lately how much I love you and how awesome I think you are?  I haven’t? Well, let me correct that.  You are an amazing, encouraging, charismatic individual who is loved by your family and who has never, ever, let anything hold you down or keep you from doing what you need to do.  You are resilient and stubborn, but in a good way.  Your perseverance has catapulted you through so many extremely unfortunate events and you always end up standing with a smile at the end of each adventure.

But let’s get real for a second.  You are old, and we need to talk about some stuff.

It’s like a broken record playing here, but you know you need to take all your medications, as prescribed, each day, even if you are feeling better.  You no longer have youth on your side sweet cheeks.

And let’s not get all caught up about how your body is changing.  Your hair is greying, and knowing you, it has fallen out and you are all self-conscious about the balding spot you have at your widow’s peaks.  But the reality is, that it doesn’t really matter and doesn’t define who you are.  Nor does it matter that your face is speckled with age spots and more wrinkles than the Grand Canyon has caverns.

What DOES matter is getting your butt moving and grooving.  Exercise is so incredibly important, it was when you were young, and it is still important now, if not even more important.  Walking is gentler on the joints than hiking, so just face the fact that you can’t hike like you used to and enjoy walking the way you used to enjoy hiking.  Try that water aerobics class that you saw posted on the gym’s calendar.  It really doesn’t matter that you are so incredibly uncoordinated, you will be fine and if people laugh at you, just splash them in the face, they too will get over it.

I know I really don’t have to say this but keep that brain of yours active.  We know that you love your job teaching art to the seniors, which is funny because you too are a senior and you refer to the people that you teach as “the old folks” but that’s you too, although for some reason you just can’t get it through your thick skull.  Get back into reading.  You know that audio books are a short cut, spend time actually reading a book.  Sit in the back yard and let the cats frolic (all six of them that you own now) and soak up some rays (after you put on your sunblock) and recline in that faded chair that you have had for twenty years with a book between your fingers.  We know that you like those mysteries and thrillers, how that is good for your mental health is beyond me, but it’s what you like, so be it.

And for God’s sake, get out of the house and socialize.  Get someone to look after Adam for you and join some kind of a group.  Like a group for people who are Old Cat Lady’s who love to read Karin Slaughter Thrillers.  Or perhaps a cooking class where they let you drink red wine while you prepare the dish (you know they say that red wine is good for longevity).  You need to interact and have good social relationships and support.  I would recommend a gardening group, but your knees just couldn’t handle that, and you really can’t keep a plant alive to save your own life.  The library has a few classes, but that whole being quiet thing has always been hard for you to obey, so perhaps that’s not the greatest idea, we don’t need you getting banned from yet another facility for not being able to hold your tongue or temper.

Listen to your doctors.  If they tell you to get a shot to help diminish your risk of contracting some flu, like purple speckled pig flu, then for heaven’s sakes, please listen.  You no longer have the immune system that you once had, and as each year passes you become more fragile even though you don’t want to believe it.  Your strong will can only carry you so far.  See the doctor and listen to the doctor, I know that this is hard for you, but people depend on you and we need you to be well in order for everything to be what it needs to be.

Continue pressing on, like you always have.  Don’t let anything, even that big mean C word, extinguish the flame that flickers so brightly inside of you.  You are a beautifully and wonderfully made creation.  Stay strong, both in spirit and in body.

All my Love,

Thirty-Three-Year-Old Me

anorexia, Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

The Waredrobe: Out with the Old

IMG_2088It was time.

I have postponed this for long enough.

There was no more room left for excuses and wishful thinking.

I stood in my walk-in closet and looked at my extensive collection of clothing.  Shirts all organized by style, followed by skirts, then dresses.  There are so many items on the rack that it was hard to add anything else.  Many items that should be hung, are neatly folded in the dresser that is outside of the closet.  My numerous pairs of jeans are in the cube bookcase that sits below my large bedroom window.  I have quite a collection of clothes, I am definitely not in need.

Over the last two months, the weight gain has resurrected, and I am officially up ten pounds. (le sigh) Therefore, the amazing, beautiful, wonderful, soft, LuLaRoe dresses that I bought during Michelleapoolza in January, no longer fit.  They are tight on my arms, and my chest.  I do this dance, jump, karate chop maneuver to get the zipper up the back of the dresses.  It is time that I say, so long, not goodbye, because this is not permanent, just so long for now.  I remove them off the hangers and put them in the large tub that I retrieved from the garage.  I lay the dresses in the box and tell myself that this is just for now.  That history has shown me that my weight fluctuates and decreases over time.  I remind myself that I am in the best place I have been since I can remember, mentally speaking.  That these are mere clothes, they do not define me.  I have a fleeting idea of putting the scale in the box too, but I shake my head as that is far too drastic of a move.  Once the LuLaRoe’s are in the box I go for a second pass through the closet.  I remove another five dresses, numerous shirts and before I know it, I need another bin.  And off to the garage I go…

I wrongly associate my worth by my size.  As my weight increases, my perceived self-worth decreases.  I look at my body and I can see some changes, but not that big of a change.  Therefore, I work to challenge the thoughts that cross my mind.  With summer fast approaching, I fear the swim suit, I fear what others may think of me, and how I may be judged.  I feel like I want to create a sign that says “I gained weight because I am on medication for bi polar disorder” just because I wrongly assume that people are wondering why I look the way I do.

But, in the back of my head, I have the verse that my mom told me repeatedly growing up (and still tells me today) … I am beautifully and wonderfully made… She also has helped me to focus on what is true, and praiseworthy.  I am not defined by my size or shape.  My mental stability is far more important than the number on the scale.  I will focus on what I have gained and redirect my negative and destructive thinking.  I will not resort to old eating disorder behaviors, laxative abuse or over exercising.  I will focus my attention on maintaining stability and consistency.  I will press on.

 

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

What I’ve gained: Part Two

birth-control-implant-weight-gain

I see my psychiatrist this afternoon after a month since my last appointment.  I do not clearly remember the last time I was able to go an entire month without seeing my doctor.  For the last two years, I have seen her more than I have seen my friends and family, nearly every one to two weeks.  We have had to meet more regularly because the Bipolar was out of control and we were constantly modifying my medication to try and stop the swinging between depression and mania.

I spent the last fifteen (15) minutes writing a two-page document with updates about the last month.  I do this every time I see her, so I can provide as much information as possible to her within the short 30 minutes that we have together.

The biggest point on my document for today is that I have achieved stability, and it’s been a very stable month for me.  I have done as I have been told and taken my medication as prescribed, regardless of the weight gain that has been present since increasing a few medications about two months ago.

Anxiety

For the first time ever in my life, I have little to no anxiety.  This is an amazing transition for me.  From being in a place where I was having panic attacks daily while driving, to a place now where I am far calmer, is such an amazing blessing.

Depression

Other than suffering from a bit of lack of motivation, especially in the morning during the week, I have not noticed any signs of depression creeping in.  I do not feel like I am mentally receiving “bad data” (or as my mum calls it, stinking thinking).  I am not dreading to complete normal daily tasks like showering and making dinner.

Mania

When I am manic, I liken my state to that of a hummingbird.  Constantly moving, never sitting still, flitting around like I must get where ever I need to go quickly.  This has not been me.  I am not engaging in manic behaviors such as acting in impulsive ways, spending money on things I do not need, and I am not lacking in sleep.

Sleep

As mentioned a second ago, I am not lacking in sleep, nor am I oversleeping (except for the weekends when I thoroughly enjoy lounging in bed, being snuggled up in the blankets on my incredibly soft bed as I don’t have any place I need to be at any given time).  On average, I am getting 7-10 hours of sleep, waking refreshed, and falling asleep at night without assistance.

Weight

Dun, dun dun… so I gained between five to ten pounds over the last two months.  I am far less than thrilled with this change as I already weighed more than I had wanted to, so this is the preverbal icing on the cake.  However, a friend of mine suggested that for each pound I gained I think about a positive thing I gained with that given pound.  And I think this is a phenomenal idea.  Overall with the weight I have gained, I have achieved stability, and that is a blessing in disguise.  With one of the pounds, I gained relief from anxiety, another pound allowed me to be freed from depression, and that other one prevented me from sky rocketing into mania.  I’d say my good, balanced sleep is probably worth two pounds in itself.  I love her idea and will remind myself of these “gains” each time a crappy thought about weight gain pops into my head.

For now, my mood swings are in the rear-view mirror, and that is such an amazing accomplishment, as any person with Bipolar or any mental health condition can relate, that when you are in a good place you just want to cherish that time you are in this place, as it is not known how long it will last.  As always, I will keep pressing on, perhaps skipping along in my cowboy boots and paisley dress, embracing everything that this given day has provided to me.

Uncategorized

Communing with Nature: Fossil Creek

30411734_10100752817172189_4174089388052517552_nPrior to the temperatures hitting the 90’s towards the end of this week, we ventured out this weekend on an adventure.  Well, it was an adventure for me.  Unbeknownst to me, the hike that I was embarking on would be a twelve (12) mile round trip hike with more elevation gain than I have ever experienced before.

Fossil Creek is part of the Tonto National Park and is in the Camp Verde area of Arizona.  Just far enough outside of the city that there are no good places to eat and not a Starbucks in sight.  The trip to the turnoff took about ninety (90) minutes but passed quickly.  With our permit in hand, we made our way down a fourteen (14) mile dirt road.  The road was so rocky that my Fitbit assumed that I was mountain biking based upon how I was being jostled about in the cabin of our Subaru.  When we arrived at our assigned parking lot, we had a good one (1) mile hike to the trail head.

At the trailhead we had to cross part of the creek.  And there were no rocks to hop on.  This meant that we needed to remove our shoes and go barefoot.  In my head I was starting to panic.  I had not brought a towel to dry my feet, and after walking through the water my feet were bound to be dirty, and gosh how am I going to put my socks on.  I told myself to woman up and recalled I had a handkerchief in my bag that I could use.  The water was chilly and refreshing.  I made it across the creek and sat on a rock and dried my cold to the touch feet.  I was able to get most of the crud off my feet but there was lingering dirt.  I just bit the bullet and put on my socks.  What’s a little bit of dirt between my toes?

30443118_10100752817237059_1051701259973592773_nUp the first incline, something happened to my right lower back and pain started to trickle down into my hip socket and the back part of my thigh.  There was no turning back, so I just powered through it.  The sun shining down on my skin that was lathered in sunblock made me feel like a snake sun bathing on a large rock.  There was a gentle breeze that brought a nice cool relief on my warm to the touch skin.  The lack of rain this season was evident as much of the scenery could be described as dull and muted browns and yellows.  There was only a sparing amount of green in the landscape and that was near the areas where the creek was rustling through the forest.  As we marched through the trails it became known that it would be five miles until our destination.  This was hard to swallow as I had pain with every step that I took, but I had made the commitment so there was no turning back.

Upon arrival at the watering hole, I thought that I was in Fern Gully.  Lush, magnificent green, surrounding a pool of crystal clear water.  Holy Jesus and Moses, this is breathtaking.  After much debating while hiking to this point, I made the decision that I would swim.  I was not prepared, I had not known that there would be an opportunity to take a dip, and therefore did not bring a suit, or shave my legs (gasp!) But after the trek that we took, and the amazingness of what was sitting before my eyes, I said, I’m doing this.  In just my under garments I propelled myself into the water and it was the most refreshing moment I have experienced in my life.  There were fish swimming around me and my eyes were taking in the pure, unedited beauty as I tread water and hollered at the men to jump in.  The thirty minutes or so respite was rejuvenating, but all good things had to come to an end.

The hike back to the car was a long six miles.  Although not as much incline and elevation gain as the first half, there was still a bit and my body were screaming in pain.  I think that the only reason I did not cry was because I was too dehydrated and had no tears to cry.  The pain was taking my breath away, however, there was no other option but to persevere and power through the discomfort.  I will also admit that I was focusing on the cheeseburger I would inhale once we got to town and just how amazing it would taste.

30412195_10100752817187159_4068198364431447917_nWhen we made it back to the trailhead, we spent a few minutes just standing in that original creek.  That cold, icy water was like heaven on our aching, blister ridden feet.  I no longer cared that there was dirt on my feet and in my socks.  Nor that there was dirt on my legs, that I had sweat through my shirt and was wearing clothes that I had gone swimming in (something I had never done before and found that it was incredibly liberating and freeing).  The walk from the trailhead back to the car was long and agonizing.  I think it was that I knew we were close, but just not quite there.  And oh, how I wanted to sit on the heated seats and get relief for my back and my right hip and knee that were now screaming like an infant at 3 am.

When we stopped for a burger, I could hardly walk.  The time spent in the car, was a wonderful respite, but it allowed the pain to really set in.  I was moving like a 90-year-old woman, I very well could have used a walker with no shame, or even a wheelchair.  But goodness, that time in the creek, the way it felt, the calming, the communing, the amazingness, made the pain just a little less severe.

And then there’s the way I wrap it altogether.  In life we at times embark on adventures and we don’t know all the details of what we can expect from the trip.  We make decisions along the way and do the best with what we have and challenge ourselves to move outside our comfort zones.  At times, through this, the moving outside our comfort zones, we experience something new, something that stays with us, that shows us we are stronger than we thought we were.  We create memories of these experiences and even though we can barely walk the following day, we smile.  We look back and say, I did something I never thought that I could do, and I am stronger today as result of yesterday.

Press on my friends, regardless of what it may be, move past the tough times, knowing that there will be light at the other end.  Persevere.

Uncategorized

Michelle’s Makeover

IMG_1981

It’s been nearly six months since I sat in the hair stylist chair.  My hair has grown quite a bit and it, in my opinion, resembles that of a poodle that was washed and dried with high heat.  My hair is large and in charge.  Like a mane of a lion.  It’s thick and wavy and well over due for a trim.

I met with the stylist and I explained what I liked about my hair, the length, and what I did not like, the thickness in the back.  I showed five or so pictures of what I liked and what I appreciated about each picture.  The goal was to have full bangs cut (I have not had those for years) and layers cut in my hair while framing around my face.

For the first time in a long time, I did not have that feeling in my gut that I was doing something impulsive.  I did not worry that I would regret what I was doing.  I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my hair for more than a month now and was certain I knew what I wanted.

On top of the stress of getting my hair cut, I saw a new stylist today, someone I have never met, at a salon where I have never gone to before.  This was a tremendous leap of faith.  I did remind myself that it is JUST hair and it WILL grow back, no matter what should happen.

I paid extra to have my hair shampooed and a deep conditioning treatment.  This equated to multiple head massages and I was in heaven.  The warm water flowing over my head, her perfectly manicured nails scratching across the surface of my scalp.  It was probably the most enjoyable part of the time I spent at the salon.

Post wash, while sitting in the chair, with the uncomfortable cape around my neck I just looked at myself.  I challenged myself to silently speak positive affirmations to myself.  I noticed that I have very, very green eyes.  After having the bangs cut, with my deep brown hair now grazing my eyebrows, my eyes really started to stand out.  I also kept coming across my freckles.  I have a TON of them and even having foundation covering my face, you can clearly see the discoloration of my skin.  I looked at my hair, the color to be specific.  It is varying colors of brown.  This is a result of time I have spent over the last two months playing with hair dye with my kids.  They wanted to bleach their hair, so I added some highlights to my own hair, they wanted to have red streaks, so I dyed the bottoms of my hair red.  My multicolor hair brings a smile to my face as it brings up these wonderful memories.

An hour later I lost more hair than I had wanted, but it was thinned out and much healthier feeling.  The stylist completed the tasks that I had asked, and I now had the hair cut that I wanted.  I had to fight the temptation to ask if I could dry and style it myself, as I never like the way someone does my hair.  Not sure why, but it has been this way for years now.  I forced myself to enjoy the pampering.  To pay attention to the heat of the hairdryer on my hair, the feeling of the brush working through my hair, and the weird sound that the hair straightener was making as it was pulled through my now, much shorter hair.

And today, I walked into work, with my head high, showing off a new hair cut while wearing a new dress that complements my newly fuller figure and a smile on my face.  I feel pretty, and boy that makes today, a wonderful day.

anorexia, Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Better than Before

51RivppusfLOften, I get these grand ideas.  Ideas about all the wonderful things that I can and should do.  To be honest, I am not sure what exactly it is.  Excessive motivation?  Obsessed with improving my overall well-being?

I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, twice. (https://gretchenrubin.com/books/better-than-before/about-the-book/ ) It was an informative read the first time, but the second read was even better.  I was insanely motivated to work on my habits, as many of my habits are destructive.  So, coming off reading the book, I was super charged and, in a place, where I was ready to make some changes.  The changes that I have aimed to make are below:

  1. Limit alcohol intake
  2. Implement exercise regime
  3. Improve body image
  4. Increase overall productivity
  5. Migrate from a “B” Student to an “A” student
  6. More involved parent
  7. Reduce sugar intake
  8. Decrease weight
  9. Eliminate multiple weigh ins per day
  10. Start meditation
  11. Cut back on shopping
  12. Change my attitude towards prescribed medication

 

Yeah, twelve things to change, that’s not too much, nor excessive, totally doable.  Or is it?  Have I set myself up to fail because I have made a list of modifications that I want to make that will require too much from me?  Is this the same as having twelve new year resolutions? What will my therapist think?  Am I manic?  Is this delusional behavior?

Let’s take a peak:

Limit alcohol intake

The first thing I started with was limiting the alcohol intake.  With the support of my family, this one has been successful.  I am now in a place where I promised my doctors that I would get to and now to stay there.  In the book, Gretchen spoke about how one’s will power is the weakest as the day progresses.  So, at the end of the day, we have the least amount of will power.  Ok, so knowledge is power, it will be the hardest at night.

Implement Exercise Regime

The grand idea was to take a walk around the neighborhood when I arrived home from work.  At this point, this has not happened.  Not sure why, but it hasn’t.  I have been successful in hitting my daily goal of 2,500 steps (low I know, but achievable with the fact that I have an office job).  Per my activity tracker, I participate in “exercise activity” twice a week, whether that is a hike, or pacing the parking lot while on the phone.  Improvement is needed, but there is progress in motion.

Improve Body Image

Every morning, as I get ready to get into the shower I tell myself that I am beautiful.  That my body is exactly what it is supposed to be.  I also remind myself that my body does not define me.  I have a note on my computer monitor at the office that says, “You are beautiful” and per a comment left on one of my blogs by my boyfriend, “beauty is in the eye of the behold, and I behold you as beautiful” (God, I love him so!)

Increase Overall Productivity

Yeah, this one needs some work.  I make a list every day of what I need to complete, and I strive to check off every item.  I have worked to be more engaged at work, as well as at home regarding housework, parenting, spousing, and my college education.

Migrate from a “B” Student to an “A” student

Nope.  This is not happening.  I might as well just mark it off the list.  Being a “B” student for me is just fine and dandy.  I have quite a bit on my plate, and if I were to work harder to achieve all A’s that means I would lose out on:

  1. Sleep
  2. Time with my family
  3. What little exercise that I complete
  4. Self-care

I have made the decision, that continuing to be a “B: student with a 3.0 GPA is good enough for me.  If I do happen to get an “A” that is fantabulous, but I will not lose sleep over a “B.

More Involved Parent

When I arrive home from school, I touch base with both the kids.  I ask after their day with some kind of a peculiar question that I come up with out of the very deep part of my brain, like “What was the second best part of your day?”, “What made you wrinkle up your nose today” “Did you ever think about your socks while at school today”  You know just to keep things interesting.

Reduce Sugar Intake

See item one.  Work on number one and you have success on number seven.  Nothing better than killing two pterodactyl with one boulder.

Decrease Weight

See item one and item seven.  Although I have not seen any success, and I have gained weight due to not successfully completing number two, I must set some realistic expectations.  A very wise man reminded me this weekend that yes, I have gained ten pounds, but I have also gained ten pounds of mental stability too (have I mentioned how much I love this guy?)

Eliminate multiple weigh ins per day

Have not started on this one yet.  But set a small goal to reduce weigh ins to three a day.  And decrease one weigh in per week that goes by.

Start meditation

I signed up for a Mindfulness class that will begin the first week of May.  I count this as a win because the money has been paid, therefore the line is drawn in the fast-drying cement.  I will attend and hopefully I will learn how to quiet this brain of mine.

Cut back on shopping

Define “cut back”.  Weight gain has caused a delay in implementing this initiative.  I will never again get rid of clothes that I outgrow as I always end up either gaining or losing weight and needing to buy more clothes.  When will I learn?

Change my attitude towards prescribed medication

Every time I have a smile on my face, I remind myself that my smile is brought to me by Lithium, Vraylar, Lexapro and Hormone Pellets.  That if it were not for my prescribed medication, I would either be stuck in bed, or up on the roof dancing a jig.

 

My number four goal of being more productive is apparently in full swing, I’ve made more progress than I thought.  Thanks for reading this as it helped me see that I am kind of kicking ass, which makes me smile, and that makes me be more thankful for my medication, which causes weight gain, thus providing motivation for exercising during the time that is permitted due to being ok with being a “B: student, but not sacrificing time away from my family.  You are the best!!