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.

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.

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!!

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

The Sweet Spot

IMG_1611Over the weekend it dawned on me that I am in a sweet spot.  This is unrelated to my current preoccupation with cake, although that IS part of it.  The sweet spot is about where I am in my life at this moment in time.

After being on the Bipolar roller coaster filled with dips of depression and curves of anxiety for the last umpteen years, I am finally in a place where everything is falling into place.  I am not too proud to state that I am aware that I am where I am as result of the medication that I am taking and the fact that I am now taking it as prescribed.  (I have fallen prey to falling off the straight and narrow when it comes to faithfully following my prescribed medication regime now and again).  However, this does not change the fact that I am in a good place and it feels simply amazing to be here.

I was telling my spouse on Sunday that I feel like he and I are in a really good place.  We have never been in a bad place, but when one person in the relationship suffers from mental illness it can really put a strain on the relationship.  And when I was in a really bad place in 2016, I was not in a good relationship with anyone, not even myself.

Daily I can see improvements in many areas of my life.  I am no longer having panic attacks while driving.  And this is a huge relief, as I spend at least an hour, if not more, on the road every day, and the whole having panic attacks each time I was in the car was really starting to wear me out.  I also am suffering from little to no anxiety in general.  My brain is far more at ease than it has ever been (and my oh my, what an amazing gift this is).  When something comes up, I quickly process the thought and then release it, let it go and move past it.  I am not sure I have ever been able to do this successfully in the past.

Although there are days that run incredibly slow and I struggle to obtain the amount of mental stimulation that I need to stay focused, I am not depressed.  I still lack some motivation, but I set time limits and at the given time I begin working on an assignment that needs completion.

And then there is cake!  Getting back into making cakes has been exciting.  I thought that I had lost all my skill set due to going on medication for the Bi Polar.  In the past, my best work was completed while I was manic.  Now that I am stable I thought, “I’ll never be able to create cakes the way I did before!”  Well, I was wrong.  It turns out that much like riding a bike, the skill set never went away, if anything, it has improved some during my dormant time over the last two years.  Being stable, and being calm, is a MUCH better combination for creating and decorating cakes.  For one, my hand doesn’t shake and that is a total plus.  I also can keep my stress to a moderate level.  The challenge that I am running into is the thoughts that bounce into my head about being “good enough”.  This is something that I have struggled with for years and years, and each time the negative thought comes through my head, I use an affirmation to dismiss it.

I recall that in 2016 my doctors told me that there would come a time when I would be in a much better place, where there was stability and balance and my symptoms would be slim to none.  I will admit that I did not believe them at the time.  I was so under water that I could not begin to imagine a time when I would not be in a living hell.  But, as always, they were right, and here I am today, in a good place, thrilled as hell to be living a happy life, and pushing aside the little hiccups (like weight gain) that I have allowed to derail me in the past.

There WILL come a time when the good will come.  It WILL arrive, and it will be glorious.  It WILL be treasured and cherished.  It WILL be the thing that leaves an ever-lasting smile on your face…  The sweet spot.

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Strike!

IMG_1816Saturday night we had the pleasure of spending the afternoon and evening with just our teenage son as our daughter was at a friend’s house.  Since it was just the three of us, we were trying to decide what we wanted to do that we normally don’t do when the whole family is together.  As our daughter is not the biggest bowling fan, we chose to go bowling.

At the alley, the lanes were illuminated with black lights and modern music was playing in the background.  Music videos were streaming on the projection streams and you could smell pizza wafting through the air.  Our white, red and blue bowling shoes were glowing, as was the white parts of my t-shirt.  The ball return was filled with bright colored bowling balls, clanging together each time a ball is returned through the chute.  After spending a few minutes deciding on what names we were going to use on the display, we went with Adam, Belle and Clover, ABC.  We set up the game and started to play.  We all have varying levels of skill when it comes to bowling.  I am not nearly as good as I was in my youth when I was on a league with my step-father.  But none-the-less, you can still have an enjoyable time even if you are throwing gutter balls.  At one point I decided at the last minute not to release the ball, my footing just wasn’t right, and boy did I monkey with my elbow.  Bowling has been a challenge since I had an ulnar nerve transposition on my right elbow in 2012. (that’s a fancy word for having my “funny bone moved from one location in my elbow area to another)

My spouse was the person that brought his “A” game and was killing us with several strikes and spares.  By the second game, our son was totally on point and he was throwing strikes and spares as well while putting this incredible spin on the ball.  Although I had one strike, I was not the winner, but in a way, I was a winner.

As we were engaged in the process of the game, I was in the moment.  I was taking in the environment, the sounds, the scenery.  I was enjoying the time I was spending with the most important men in my life.  I was also recollecting on what a better place I am then I had been in the past.  Not so long ago I was in a place where to do anything greater than opening my eyes while still laying in bed was agonizing.  I was miserable every second of my days.  All I wanted to do was to stay in bed and mentally hope that the dark and dreariness would just go away.

But now is a different story.  I can engage in activities and enjoy what I am doing.  I laugh and giggle and bring my sarcastic sense of humor to the table.  I am engaging, and I am happy, some days more than others, but I am just in this wonderful place! (Amazing what happens when you take all your medication, and work against the sidetracking side effects that have been thwarting your previous progress)

It took a while to get here, but my doctors did tell me I would get to a place that life would be good, and they were apparently right and knew what they were talking about.  When I have a down day, as those come now and again, I remind myself that this is temporary, that the clouds will subside, and the sun will come out, figuratively and on some days literally (I struggle on grey and cloudy days).  I always remind myself that the tough times will pass and to embrace the good times, to soak them up and to not spend time worrying over how long the grey days will be here.

May your Monday be blessed and may you find at least one thing in the day that brings a smile to your face and lightness and happiness to your heart.

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Rewriting Old Narratives

pexels-photo-891674.jpegI sat before my therapist yesterday and I listed off several things that I wanted to work on during our sessions.  The two big ones were how my past relationships are still affecting me and my negative body image issues.  We started to work on the past relationships.

I was in relationships where I was lied to, cheated on and treated in an abusive manner.  What was said to me and what happened to me still lingers in my mind.  When the anxiety increases, let’s say when someone decides to not take all her medication for a week, the flashbacks start back up and the nightmares return.  And all of this usually involves the exes.

My therapist suggested that I work on rewriting the old narratives.  She said that although you can’t change what happened, you can engage your brain in focusing on other aspects of what happened and get yourself out of the dangerous, destructive loops.

I sat and stared at her.  I was a little clueless.  I questioned her, and she gave me an example.  She stated that although my husband cheated on me, lied to me, stole from me and ultimately asked me for a divorce because I couldn’t bear a child, I CAN focus on the fact that I stood up to my abuser and I chose to leave the relationship.  That I no longer allowed the abuse to continue and although I was incredibly scared to be on my own, I took that leap of faith and I made a move that ultimately benefited me.  That because of leaving, I was able to take a relocation offer and move across the country to start fresh and to focus on my career, which was my everything to me.  Through the years of being with him and suffering one abuse after another, I generated so much strength that it propelled me forward and I received blessings in disguise.  I also learned how very important communication is to me and how I must have it in a relationship.  Through this I learned that I really wanted a partner, a best friend, an equal.

So, I have been sitting here trying to think of other ways that I can rewrite the narrative.

Although I have previously wrote about this, it is often on my mind, so I will share again.  It was devastating when I found out that I suffered from infertility, and that I would most likely never bear a child of my own.  And it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the real reason behind the words “irreconcilable differences”.  But, recently I found out that I carry the variant gene for Cystic Fibrosis, which occurs in 1 in every 2000 births.  Not having a child, protected me from having a child that could have been born with the condition.  And being Bipolar, that is known to be hereditary, so I very well could’ve passed that on to my child as well.  So, when I rewrite the narrative, I can focus on the good that has come out of this situation.  I have no links to my ex-husband, I was able to relocate across the country, I was able to get away from abuse and find love.

Now, I have a man in my life who is good to me, who loves me for me, despite my various health and mental conditions.  He is my best friend and my partner and we both know the importance of communication in a relationship.  He has two amazing children who get to be in my life!

I am sure that there will be times when I get stuck on the negatives that have happened and how I was hurt and rejected, and I have no idea why.  But, now I am working on focusing on the positives, rewriting the narrative, telling myself over and over again all that I have gained and how going through what I have been through has brought me to the place where I am today, in a place where I am grateful for my life and thankful for all that I have.

anorexia, Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Back in the Day: March 2016

12042724_10100335752533069_4074902909941824340_nTwo years ago, in March of 2016, I was in a much different place than I am today.  Currently, I am working a nearly full-time job, in school as a part time student, a fully engaged step mother and spouse and in a place of stability mentally speaking.  But, two years ago, this was not the case.

As Facebook memories reminds me, I had just finished a visit with my mom.  She flew out to stay for a week, as I was so incredibly unstable, that my doctors were insisting that I sign myself into a mental hospital for 24/7 care, however I refused.

I was not sleeping much and was not sitting still during the day.  I was not hungry, so I was not eating much.  With my mom visiting, I had someone to talk to, although the conversations that we had were me babbling and purposely not telling her how out of control things were in my head.  I was not letting it be known that I was hallucinating, nor that I wanted to die only in an effort to get out of the hell that I was living within my mind.  I spent the week that my mom was with me, as seven days of trying to prove to her that I was totally ok, when in reality I was falling apart, spiraling radically out of control.

Today, I regret not seeking treatment through a hospitalization.  I had spent nearly a year on a ward for Anorexia and Bulimia when I was a teenager and I was scarred and scared that the experience would be the same.  I was incredibly fearful that I would not be able to sleep and what would I do at night if I was not sleeping, but not in my own home where I had things to tinker with.  Many questions flooded my mind: Who would I meet?  What would the hospitalization be like?  What would I eat, especially with my food allergies and intolerances?  What if it doesn’t work?  And my biggest fear, what if they keep me?

Then I thought about my family and what it would be like for them.  How will my family function without me?  What will the kids think?  What will my friends think?  These are all things that went through my head and what I chose to do was to keep my inner turmoil to myself and suffer silently.  I was not able to realize that if I was in a hospital that my family may not be as worried about me as they would know that I was in a safe place, getting care and treatment and working on getting back to a place of stability.  I was just too afraid.

I ended up suffering and being out of work for a total of seven months.  Spending day after day, home alone.  Somedays wearing the varnish off the floors from my pacing and other days being incapable of getting out of bed.  The number of phone calls that I made to my mom crying my eyes out would be lost to anyone who tried to count them.  It was a very dark time.  It was a very painful time.  But, it was a time of growth.

I now can look back at that period and I can see how sick I was.  I have made the pledge that should I ever relapse I would go into a hospital to get the care that I need.  Today I am far less afraid.  I am more educated about the disorder for which I live with (bipolar disorder) and I know what I need to do to remain stable.  I no longer wake up each day wondering what kind of a day it will be.  Will it be a manic day or a depressed day?  I wake up and I think, “it’s going to be a good day”, and “goodness what amazing outfit am I going to wear” and “what’s that smell? Oh yeah coffee, I am so lucky that I have coffee made for me every morning, I am so spoiled.”

I would not be where I am today had it not been for where I was before.  I no longer dwell on this part of my past, but allow it to help me put things in perspective and take pride in how far I have progressed.  I also use the past to help me appreciate where I am, and to encourage me to maintain stability, regardless of the unwanted side effects of my medication.  As with so many other trials and tribulations, I maintain progressing forward, looking and working towards my goals.  I have learned to embrace what I have in the now, but also to keep the momentum going that launches me forward and through the unwanted and unpleasant parts of life.  I press on and move forward, while appreciating what each day brings to my life and how every day is slightly better than the previous.