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

The Unquiet Mind

gong-meditation_grandeThis weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Gong Meditation at my local yoga studio.  I had never been to such a class, but was intrigued by the summary that was included on the email that I received:

“In this 75-minute meditation we will use sound to regenerate the neurons & their interconnections, create deep relaxation, clear the mind reduce stress related issues such as: depression, fatigue, anger, hostility, fear and loneliness, stimulate the glandular system to a higher level of functioning, & strengthen the immune system.”

 

So, I thought, “clearing the mind from depression, fatigue, anger, hostility, fear and loneliness” all while I am laying on a mat listening to a gong, this def sounds like something I need to attend!  I am all about getting additional benefits from doing simple exercises.

Upon arriving at the class, it was packed… the room is on the smaller size and there was about 30 people squeezed into the room.  I felt like one of many sardines trying to fit into their assigned space in the little tin can.  I knew no one and I was unsure if I was supposed to talk to my neighbors or just be quiet.  I was alone and felt alone.  I thought everyone was staring at me.  I thought that the room was closing in on me.  I wanted to grab my phone and text my partner to let him know what it was like.  Like a lifeline to someone I knew because if I could reach out then I would feel less awkward.  But no, I did no such thing.  I sat there, and I started to participate in deep breathing.

Not long after this little panic attack the session started and yup, we did more deep breathing.  Being in a room where all the occupants were participating in deep breathing was an amazing experience.  It sounded like hundred of bees buzzing.  The room started to warm up just based on the presence of so many people.  I began to calm down.

After the breathing exercises, the main event started.  I laid on my mat and struggled to get comfortable.  I ended up laying half on my stomach with my right side of my face to the ground in a sort of fetal position.  And the gong started…

The instructor started speaking in a different language.  I was at first taken aback as earlier in the month when I was manic, I heard the instructors speak in a different language, but it was a hallucination and not actually happening.  But I was for sure that this time the instructor was speaking in another language and this go around it did not make me paranoid, but relaxed.

With the gong started, I was scared.  It was a loud, heavy sound.  I felt it pressing me down into the floor.  I felt fear and anxiety and I wanted to leave.  I was completely overwhelmed by what was happening.  But, the rules of this studio are once you enter, you remain in the room.  So, I laid there.  With my eyes closed I saw the colors of white and black vibrating before my eyelids and they were clashing into each other in rhythm with the sounds of the gong.  I thought I was tripping out on some major psychedelic drugs!

After a few minutes, my mind decided that it was going to go into overdrive.  I was thinking about what my family might be doing, what was I going to make for dinner, did I do all my homework, is anyone looking at me while I am laying in this weird position.  I kept telling my brain to focus, and focus, to go back to the radiating colors of white and black, feel the emotions, feel the sounds, let my body release.  But it was a tremendous struggle.  It did not help that there was a person snoring a few mats over and that was totally distracting me.  I was deciding whether I should refer them to my sleep doctor, so they can get assistance with their obstructed sleep issues and potential sleep apnea.

I laid there thinking about the mindfulness class that I am scheduled to take in May and how am I going to be able to release my mind, so I can learn the techniques that are part of the cirriculum.  I was thinking why does my brain constantly have to go, go, go?  I also reverted to the Gretchen Rubin book, Better than Before, that I am reading about habits and breaking of habits.  I was thinking about which habits I want to break and how am I going to go about it and most importantly when?

Before I knew it, the class was over.

It was quite an experience, one that I am still mentally processing.  I am not sure what physical changes I experienced since taking the class, although I am not sure I feel better, I know I do not feel worse.  I plan to take the class again when offered next.  I hope that I will be able to disconnect and go to an emptier space in my head (if there is one) the next time that I attend a class.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://gongs-unlimited.com/

anorexia, Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Grandma’s Table

the tableIt’s a very basic, oak, round table that comfortably seats four people, but when extended can seat up to eight.  There are panels that hold up the sides of the table where two people will always hit their knees.  And when the family sits down together for a steak dinner and starts to cut their meat, the whole table shakes.  Most times, the table adorns a hand embroidered table cloth.  While at others, the table is bare and you can see the water rings from cups that the cats knocked over and heat markings from when I left a hot casserole dish on the table without a hot mitt.  I am certain that there is some yellow and black paint on the table from an afternoon of painting shared with friends.

This table was my Grandma Julia’s dining room table.  Part of an elaborate dining room suite set that she purchased many, many years ago.  I spent many nights having dinner at this table when I was a child, and more time having yogurt and shortbread cookies while playing Chinese checkers with my cousins.

I acquired this table when I moved into my grandparent’s condo after I chose to leave an abusive marriage.  I did not have much, so the table was a real blessing.  While living back east, following church on Sunday’s, I would have my family over to my place and we would have a large brunch and circle our hands around the table listening to my brother pray the most entertaining prayers that I have ever heard in my life.

Now, the dining room table fills the center of the dining room and is used nightly for family dinner.  I cannot begin to describe what it feels like to have dinner with my family at the same table that I used to have dinner with my parents and my grandparents.  So much history, so much love and so much joy.  And did I forget to mention, so very many delicious meals!

My grandma died while I was being treated for anorexia.  I never was able to say goodbye to her and that is hard to deal with.  But, I feel like she is still alive within me because I have several of her most treasured belongings, one of those including the dining room table.

My grandmother treasured her family.  Her house was the place we all gathered nearly every weekend.  Every time I decorate the table all fancy, I stare at it and think “Grandma is looking down and she is happy to see that her table is being used in the same way it had been used in years prior.”  And the times I sit down with either my family or my friends and we paint, I know that again she is smiling as she was an artist herself.

I miss her.  I will continue to fight every day to conquer the demons that try and grasp their hold within my life.  I will live a life that I feel she would be proud of.  And I will show her everyday that I am not succumbing.  I will press on, move past, and honor her legacy.

 

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Where I’m Supposed to Be

field-meadow-flower-pink.jpgToday I was driving into work and there was a very bad four car pile up.  I selfishly was thinking, “wow, I am happy that I am safe.  Good thing I decided to change up my hair for the fourth time this am causing me to leave the house late as that saved me from being in that accident.”…  In the same light, when I am stuck in a line at the grocery store, it crosses through my mind that I am being protected from a horrible accident due to being held up in line.  The reality is that the person in front of me has bought 25 cans of cat food for her 8 cats, but none the less, that cat lady kept me safe from something horrible.  So, I think, everything happens for a reason.

I was on the phone with one of my friends after yet another trying day.  It had been a while since we spoke and we were catching up.  She too is a step mom and has a blossoming career, and between that and the fact we live on opposite sides of the country means we don’t chat as much as we have in the past.  At the end of the call, we settled on talking about our families, like we always do.  We both shared the same acknowledgement that we are where we are supposed to be.

See, neither one of us has ever conceived a child.  Just was not in the cards for us, I suppose.  But, we both have teenage step children who we consider to be our kids.  We were sharing about how we both have made decisions in our lives and it brought us to where we are now.  That we have been through some shit and we were brought to exactly where we need to be.  We love being step moms, the kids and their fathers.

After a horrid divorce, following an abusive marriage, I packed up my belongings, my cat, and I drove across the country.  I did not do this on a total whim, I was given an opportunity to transfer to our Southwest office and keep the job that I loved.  It all made sense.  But, I did leave all that I knew, my family and my friends, to go on an adventure.

Within a few months, I was in a committed relationship with the man that I now consider to be my soulmate and I met the children that would, in time, be one of the main reasons I make it through every day of my life.  This was all unexpected and not part of the plan I put together.  I ended up being where I was supposed to be exactly when I was supposed to be there.

Life was nothing close to candy coated living in my new landscape.  Numerous health conditions weaseled their way into my life and wrecked havoc.  I went through the worst of what life had to offer for me.  I was forced to be stronger than I had ever been because that’s what life was requiring from me at the time.

All of the trials and tribulations, from all the years ago, up until today, have brought me to who I am and where I am today.  I am not living the life that I thought I would be living.  I thought that I would have a corner office with a view, and travel on business every week, own nothing but pencil skirts and stiletto heels, but that is not what was intended for me.

I have a family.  I am a mom (something I was certain would never happen for me).  I am loved for me, the all over the place, chronically ill, mentally unstable, filled with anxiety, caring, loving, sensitive, me.

We are all on journeys.  Every day brings us closer to where we are supposed to be.  Each time something happens, it happens for a reason.  In the end, we are living exactly what we are supposed to and it’s up to us to take a moment and look at what our journey has taught us, how it has made us a stronger person and how if we just keep taking one small step at a time, we do get to where we are supposed to be, even if it is not exactly what we thought it would be or where we thought we would end up.

Press on.  Embrace what you have.  Love yourself.  Accept the past.  Live in the present.  Look forward to the future.

 

~Bella

https://bellasbabbles.com/