Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Today is a New Day

IMG_1204Due to the mild winter that this region is having, I was able to go hiking again this morning.  Although I like to sleep in, I have been pushing myself to get up an hour earlier, so I can get out of the house and fit in some hiking before heading off to work.

Yesterday, I also went hiking, but the experience was very different from today.  Due to the mania, yesterday my brain was flooded with thoughts and my body burned with energy.  For portions of the hike, I ran, and I ran like someone was chasing me.  For those that don’t know me, I am no runner, not my thing, even if someone was chasing me, I would probably walk.  But I was brimming with so much fire, I felt like I had to do something to burn off the energy.  Although I was listening to music, I was thinking about all sorts of grandiose matters:  Shopping, painting, part time jobs, transitioning to being a full time student, increasing my hours at work, should I cut my hair, should I have bangs, what color should I dye my hair next…  It was relentless and was incredibly, incredibly distracting.

But today, well today was different.  There was not the feeling of hummingbirds welling up inside of me.  There was a calm in my body.  I was not shaking like a small dog.  I had some peace.  Mind you, I am a little hungover from an increase in the Vraylar, but it was not too terrible, just a bit tired, but not exhausted.  The morning was overcast with some amounts of rain sprinkles.  The cloud cover was ominous, a little scary and amazing.  Very few people were on the trail and I prefer this, I am not all about interacting with people while hiking.  It’s my alone time.  And today it was just that.  I was alone, on the hike, in my mind and in my body.  It was such a gift.  I thought about all the things that I was thankful for and how I was blessed.

I shared with my friend about my positives for today including that I evaluated my credits remaining and I will be able to graduate by May of 2019.  I have been in and out of college for nearing 16 years.  Starting and stopping so many times I lost count due to mental illness.  So, finally getting my Bachelors degree is kind of a huge deal to me.  After I shared, she said “that’s all?” and this made me go into thinking mode… after I got to the top of the mountain I was climbing, I had a list and I sent her a text with the following:

“I didn’t run out of gas on the way here.  I live in a place where the sun shines nearly every-day.  I have medication that can help bring me down off a manic high so I don’t have to suffer.  I have an incredible support group including family, friends, doctors and co-workers.  I am stubborn.  I have drive and perseverance.  I’m forever looking to improve myself for the better.”

When I was young, my mom shared the Bible verse Philippians 4:8 (NIV) that states: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

And this is what I do.  Everyday.  It is a new day.  A day that has provided me with clarity and peace, a little grogginess and just a tad bit of zombieness, but it’s a glorious day and I am blessed.

Bipolar Disorder

What does mental illness look like?

faces of mental illnessDepression.  Is depression only depicted as a person who cannot get out of bed or who cries continuously?

Anxiety. Does anxiety look like a person who is shaking and hyperventilating?

Bipolar Disorder.  Are those with Bipolar Disorder raging, elated, nymphomaniacs that bounce from store to store liquidating the store’s stock?

 

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see what is described above.  I see a woman in a black pencil skirt, black polka dotted shirt, hair in a neat bun, moderate makeup adorning my face and kitten pump heels on my feet.  Most days I see a smiling face, with light and glimmers of sun sparkles in my eyes.  I see a person who is not only a person living with mental illness but a partner, step mom and employee.  And you know, some days, I take a second take, because I swear I see Wonder Woman in my reflection and I think, what’s up good lookin’?

From afar, it is perceived that I am fine.  Dictionary.com describes the word “fine” as an adjective that means of high quality.  And I guess I portray the image of high quality.  But, still waters run deep.  I have been in varying stages of recovery for the Bipolar that I was diagnosed with two years ago.  Most recently, I have far more good days than bad days.  However, I have had some hiccups along the way.

I had a medication change last week due to debilitating anxiety that is far worse when I am driving.  The change in medication has caused numerous side effects that have been hard to temper.  The splitting headache and nausea are getting the best of me.  As the last week has progressed I have noticed that each day I lack desire to perform normal tasks.  I am not performing as well at work, choosing to stare at my computer screen rather than diving into tasks and working towards completion.  When I arrive home, I am tired and don’t want to do much more than to stare at the wall.  I have fallen behind in my college classwork and now am rushing to meet a Friday deadline for a paper that I have had two weeks to work on.

But, I post selfies on Facebook and Instagram and I look happy, so I must be happy, right?  Is it perceived that I am doing well because I am showing up to my job, making dinner each night and being attentive to my family?  Am I just suffering from side effects of the medication change?  Is this depression?  Can I mentally talk myself out of this fog I am currently existing in?  Is what I am going through the real face of Bipolar Disorder?

At every point in my life where I have been on this rollercoaster, where I am experiencing a variety of highs and lows, I pull myself up from my boot straps and I press on.  I persevere through the yuck and the muck knowing that what I am experiencing is only temporarily.  I hold my head up high and march forward.  But some days it is really, really hard.  The depression has taken grasp of my ankles and I feel like I am pulling it along with my every step as if I had a toddler holding onto my legs while they are kicking and screaming about a toy I refuse to buy them while at the store.  I refuse to give in or up.

I cried in the car yesterday because I was so frustrated with the recent events that have taken place.  But when I reached the location for my meeting, I wiped my eyes and stood tall.  I was on point for the meeting and the result was the successful completion of several lingering tasks.

With the weekend approaching, I have much planned, exercise and crafting, two things that I really enjoy doing and activities that bring me happiness and that warmness deep in my soul.  I know I will not want to do all that I have planned, but I hope to hold myself accountable and attend all activities.

If you are struggling, don’t give up.  Remember that this is temporary, and it too shall pass.  You are strong enough to conquer this!

Bipolar Disorder

Day In, Day Out

Thinkstock_rf_photo_of_woman_taking_pill_in_mirror

A large part of treatment for Bipolar Disorder is the use of medication to regulate and stabilize moods.  Many people who are in treatment for the condition take a “cocktail” of medication including mood stabilizers, antidepressants and at times anti-consultants (which happen to work very well for people with the disorder).  It is also quite common for people to go off their medication due to side effects and the cost associated with treatment.

Taking the cocktail that is prescribed to me is part of my routine.  I have a dose at night and one in the morning.  In the evening, I retreat from the living room and grab my refilled water bottle.  In my bathroom I set down the bottle on the counter, crowded with an array of makeup and hair product containers.  I open the medicine cabinet, while taking a quick glance in the mirror.  I look at the bottles, all standing in a row and tell myself, “I need to take these.  These help me stay stable.  My life is better when I am stable.  This is non-negotiable!”  I open each of the four pill bottles and take the prescribed dose.  When finished, I brush my teeth, then wash my face and get into bed.

When I wake in the morning, I remove my CPAP machine mask and take a deep breath.  As I get out of bed, I am again thinking about my medication.  I go back to that same mirrored cabinet and open it.  I look at the third shelf that contains my morning medications and I take a deep breath.  I say to myself, “I need to take these.  These help me stay stable.  My life is better when I am stable.  This is non-negotiable!”  I swallow the two pills and look in the mirror.  I remind myself again that my life is better on medication.  That my brain does not operate as efficiently as it should, and the medication helps it to do so.

I leave the bathroom and head to the kitchen with my boy cat leading the way (I often think that he thinks I may get lost if he did not guide me to my destination).  I pour a hot cup of coffee and grab creamer from the refrigerator.  I carefully walk from the coffee pot over to the chair that is on the right side of the table, the one with the broken ties that is always falling off the chair.  I sit and scrunch my legs up under me and sip the amazing, light brown concoction.  I check my emails, social media accounts and text messages, responding to those that require a timely response.

Over the next hour, I am ready to head to work listening to an audio book or singing along to music.  The commute is between 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.  Most days have similar components, while others are more filled with spontaneity.  At 4 PM I get in my car and commute back home.

I arrive home, put down my things, greet my cats, my children and remove my shoes.  Before you know it, it’s time to make dinner.  Dinner leads to family time, then to bedtime and we start things all over again.

Recently, I have felt like I am on autopilot.  The same things happen every day.  It gets monotonous and my brain gets dull.  Prior to being medicated, each day was unpredictable.  I would be fine one day and a hysterical mess another.  I would be happy in the morning and then so incredibly pissed off I could punch a hole in a brick wall.  I was nothing close to routine.  There was not predicting what each day would bring, and which Michelle would be present.

Much like the self-talk that I engage in when I take my medication, I still need to remind myself that having a routine life is a good thing.  That when I was pinging between depression and mania, that those were times of sickness.  And that my goal is to maintain my stability and with stability comes normalcy.

Am I considering going off my medication? No, it is working, and I have far too much to lose if I make a drastic decision like that.  But, I am looking for ways to change things up, so I don’t self-sabotage.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, I love the people in my life, but when you spend most of your life be bopping along to the beat of your own Bipolar drum, when you achieve recovery, it can feel unnatural and uncomfortable.

I am a better me right now.  But, there are times, when you get to romanticizing about the past and it is hard not to long for the way it used to be.

Being in recovery with any mental illness has its drawbacks.  For those that do not personally suffer, but have family or friends that do, it seems like the most logical choice is to choose stability, but it is far more complicated than that for us.  Be patient with us.  Speak positives to us.  Let us share how we are feeling.  Try to understand that at times we can not process things as rationally as others can.  Love us for who we are.

 

#bipolardisorder #bipolar #depression #anxiety #ocd #mania #medication #treatment #psychiatry #psychology #counseling #routine #life #mentalillness #patience #love #positivity #autopilot

Bipolar Disorder

Reflections

Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed writing.  I have always had grand ideas threflection-in-the-mirrorat crowded my mind and writing was a way to get them out.  But as years passed and my mental health issues became more problematic, I stopped writing altogether.  It was suggested by my partner that I start my own blog so I could get back to what I enjoy, writing.  After much dragging of my feet, in July I started this blog.  I had major anxiety related to publishing my writing.  Doubts filled my head…What if no one reads my blog?  What if I get bad responses from those that do?  What if I am not good enough?  That last one was the clincher.  Much of my life I have feared that I would not be “good enough” and this prevented me from doing things that I really wanted to do.

I started the blog for me.  I have so much going on in my head that having a venue to get my thoughts out was what I needed.  As I began writing, it took me a few blogs to get in my groove.  My first few blogs were lengthy, and my language was like that of a sailor.  And as I kept writing, I was able to be more concise.  My language was more moderate, while some blogs were humorous, many were serious.

With this year ending in a just a few days, it has me thinking about what is to come.  What will 2018 be like?  And that has me thinking about all that 2017 brought into my life.

I celebrated my 32nd birthday in January. It was the first year that I was mentally stable for my birthday.  In years prior, I was suffering from dangerous manic episodes, being impulsive and outrageous.  While in 2016, I had just started on the down whirl spiral of a major mental breakdown that lasted three quarters of 2016.

A few months later in April,  I went on my first ever overnight backpacking trip.  It was glorious and wonderous, leaving me feeling so incredibly alive.  Within days of my return, I found out that I needed to have emergency surgery to remove a large mass from my abdomen.  Within a few weeks I was back to myself and within a little more of month I was back to hiking.

In May, I made the decision to yet again, resume working on my bachelor’s degree.  With only one quarter of the credits I need to graduate left to complete, I was motivated to finally finish, after working on this venture, off and on, for the last four years.  This go around, I have been able to get so much out of my classes and I am soaking up everything I am learning like a sponge.

Due to my success and stability, I came off the mood stabilizer Saphris, and ended up jostling my system and spent most of August wavering between mania and depression.  Starting treatment using a new mood stabilizer called Vraylar transformed my recovery and it restored my stability minus the nasty side effect of weight gain.  With the start on the new medication, I was successful in losing 22 pounds, which was a huge victory for me and helped me to improve my mental health and how I felt in my body.

The last quarter of the year has been uneventful.  Maintaining stability, balance and routine has helped me to remain in a very healthy place.

I am uncertain what 2018 will bring to my life.  I plan to continue living in a way that is healthy and focuses on making my health and well being a priority.  Of course there are plans to get back to the gym, eat healthier and break some bad habits that I have formed, but I know those will resolve themselves as long as I keep the eye on the prize.  I plan to be the most authentic me that I can be in 2018 (hey, that rhymes!)  Staying true to myself is the main thing that I need to ensure that I can successfully achieve my goals.

I wish you well.  That you may be able to look back at 2017 and acknowledge all that has blessed you in this year we are leaving and that you may look to 2018 with hope, encouragement and motivation.

#2017 #2018 #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #anxiety #depression #endometriosis #surgery #hiking #backpacking #stability #saphris #vraylar #weightloss #weightgain #ASU #bachelorsdegree #liberalartsmajor #writing #blogging #journaling #reflections

Bipolar Disorder

Operation: StepMom

hero_wide_640When I moved across the country, I met this guy.  There was just something about him.  Could not put my finger on it, but he captured my heart.  From the very beginning I knew that he had children, a boy and a girl, and they were the most important part of his life.  I met them a few weeks after we started dating.

Over the last 8.5 years we have been through a lot of adjusting, learning and testing things out.  I was not entirely sure what to expect and how I should act.  What was my role in their lives?  What was my responsibility?  How was I supposed to help?  Was I a co-parent or just an extra adult in their lives?  Where do I fit?

The first few years we were together, I went through the motions of needing more than your normal amount of attention.  Which is hard when you are dating a person with children.  It is a challenge because they have limited time and energy, and their kids are bound to come first.  It was hard only seeing him a day or two during the week, and then every other weekend being together all four of us, and me not knowing where I fit into the equation.  I felt like an outsider, and it was incredibly uncomfortable.

I had always wanted to be a mom.  Struggling with infertility was a hard pill to swallow, but I had resided myself to accepting that I would most likely never have a child of my own.  No one who would run to the door yelling “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” and I would not have that unexplainable, unbreakable bond with a child.

Before my mental breakdown and diagnosis of Bipolar in January 2016, I was strict and stern.  I was always stressed out and not that much fun.  I expected the kids to act like little robots.  I was so wound tight that I didn’t let them be the kind of kids that they really needed to be.  I am certain they were not my biggest fan, for a good portion of time.

However, after my breakdown, my time out on medical leave and going into treatment (along with finally being on the correct types of medication) I was able to be me.  I am a fun loving, silly person.  When I was in a stable place, I was able to control my thoughts, process the anxiety, and mind my tongue.  I was able to be consistent, yet loving, structured, yet understanding.  Although now basically teenagers, I could let the kids be kids.

I still struggle at times with the attention aspect of things, I am a bit high maintenance.  But now I can vocalize my needs and ask for what I want.  I still, at times, feel left out and like an outsider.  Because, you know what, I am.  But, I have a very special relationship with my kids.  I am not their mom, nor their dad.  I am their Michelle.  It’s hard to put into words what we have, it’s just what it is.  The role of a Michelle, is better formulated now.  I have a clearer idea of what I am supposed to be to the family.

I am a step parent.  My world changed when the kids and their father entered my life.  I have chosen to give up things and make sacrifices because of the love that I have for this family, just like I would have had I had my own children.  My life has been made better since having this trio in my life.  But, on the flip side, step parenting has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.  But anything worth having is worth fighting for.  And the fight is worth it.  I have the more happiness and contentment in my life, a new purpose, I’m playing the part I feel I was always intended to play.

 

#stepparenting #stepparent #bonusmom #michelle #blendedfamily #adjusting #infertility #endometriosis #thenewnormal #highmaintenance #motherhood #mentalillness #mentalbreakdown #bipolardisorder #anxiety #depression #balance #silliness #sacrifices

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

The Choice is Ours

todays-decisions-tomorrows-impactEach day we are given the opportunity to make choices.  There are the choices of what will I eat for breakfast, and the dreaded, “what will I wear?”  Although these are choices that we make, those are not the choices that I am talking about.  I am referring to the choice of what kind of a day we are going to have.  Are we going to have a positive attitude kind of day, or are we going to have a day that is filled with despair?

When I wake up in the morning, I tell myself that I am going to have a positive day.  That I am going to conquer my fears and not let the negativity of others affect how I feel throughout that day.  Daily we encounter people who are all going through their own trials and tribulations.  There’s a saying that you should be nice to the people that you meet because you don’t know the hell they are going through.  This is a saying that I keep forefront in my mind.  Everyone has bad days, but with a mental illness, they can linger.  I would hope that people would be forgiving and understand that I am going through some challenges and need a bit more understanding than usual.

I struggle with consistently providing grace and understanding to those that act in a way that is not positive or uplifting.  I lose patience with their anger, frustration, verbal lashings and overall negative disposition.  Many days I would like to avoid all contact with people like this, but that is not a possibility.  So, what do I do?  I remember that people who are suffering lash out.  I tell myself that they are using the back part of the brain, the older, more archaic part of the brain, rather than using the front part of the brain that processes things with reason.  I remember that they may have more going on than what we can see at the surface, they are overwhelmed and they just don’t know how to handle their stress.  I remind myself that I am not to blame.  I know that should the situation get too hot, I can leave, as I need to protect myself from harm.  Perhaps the hardest thing that I do, is remind myself that I used to be like that.  I used to lash out at my friends and family (and co-workers) when I was overwhelmed, turning into an ugly person because I was boiling over.  I remain thankful for the progress that I have made and how my life is better.

I go back to the exercise that my therapist taught me about identifying three positives things each day.  My items for today are: (1) Getting to work safely (2) Having a blueberry muffin and hot cup of yummy, strong coffee for breakfast and (3) Being in a place of mental stability for a few months now.

What choices are you making today?  Are you choosing to be positive, uplifting and happy?  What’s standing in your way?  Are the things standing in your way within your control?  How can you be more positive today?

 

Positivity and Mental Illness: Please get help

Being a person who has suffered from depression, I know that there comes a point in time when we are unable to make the decision to be positive.  That the bleakness of the depression clouds our vision and we are not able to see past the dark, lingering clouds, to see any light.  How, if we could, we wouldn’t be down and out, thinking only on negatives and wishing that all the darkness would just end.  When I have been in this place, I sought out assistance from my Psychiatrist and my Psychologist.  With their help, I used medication to regain balance in my brain and learned techniques to help keep the depression at bay.  Having depression is an extenuating circumstance, a medical condition that needs to receive medical attention.  If you are struggling with depression, please seek help.  (In Arizona, Crisis Network  http://www.crisisnetwork.org/ 1-800-631-1314 and Nationwide, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1‑800‑273‑TALK , https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ )

 

#depression #positive #positivemindset #happiness #mental strength #anxiety #bipolardisorder #focus #threepositives #psychiatry #psychology #mindset #mindovermatter #choices #rightchoice #mentalillness #anger #frustration #lashingout

 

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

When the pieces come together

puzzleIn life, things happen and we wonder why.  Why do I have endometriosis?  Why do I have Bipolar Disorder? Why do I suffer with chronic pain?  Why does anxiety plague my brain with relentless questions and worries?  What did I do to deserve all of this?

As time passes, most questions will never be answered.  There’s that saying “everything happens for a reason” but we are never left with the actual reason why.  Is this where the concept of luck falls into place?  Where some people are just luckier than others?  Or on the flip side of the thought process, that some people are stronger than others and therefore more capable of handling the more difficult situations and conditions?

So, is it a blessing to not know the reason why?  The whole ignorance is bliss mindset?  At times, not knowing something is a protective barrier.  You have no choice but to accept what you have been given and figure out the best way to deal with it.

However, there are times when we start to see the reasons why things happened as they did.  I never was able to conceive a pregnancy, even after trying for three years.  I was in a bad marriage that failed two years after we said “I do”.  My husband had a drinking and drug problem.  He was unpredictable and showed signs of Bipolar Disorder.  So, not having a child was a good thing.  When two parents with Bipolar have a child there is a very high chance that the disorder will be passed to the child.  If I had a child while married, I probably would not have left the marriage, would not have taken the opportunity of a job relocation across the country and never would have met my current partner and been blessed with the blended family that we have.  Ok, so I can see how that worked out for the best.

Circling back to the Bipolar part.  When I was trying to have a child, I did not know that I was Bipolar.  I only knew that I suffered from anxiety, but for the most part I could manage the condition with little to no medication.  Now that I know that I am Bipolar, and that I could have passed the disorder to my child, this freightens me.  I would not want my child to suffer through the mental, emotional and physical hell that I have gone through, while trying to obtain balance and stability.  It would have destroyed my heart to know that I gave the disorder to my child and that there was little I could do to help them.  Not having children, prevented one more person who suffers from mental illness.

I recently started participating in an online study for Depression and Bipolar by the organization 23 and me (www.23andme.com).  Part of the study included a DNA, Health + Ancestry test (retails for $200).  By providing a salvia sample, in a few weeks I would get back a detailed report of all things Michelle.  The results were not what I expected.  Unbeknownst to me, that test was incredibly thorough and identified that I carry the variant that causes Cystic Fibrosis.  I am a carrier for the disease and it was made clear that I could pass this onto a child.  No one in my family has Cystic Fibrosis so this came as quite a shock.  I could have unknowingly passed Cystic Fibrosis onto my child, an incurable disease that causes impaired lung and digestive function.  A disease that shortens the lifespan of the people who are afflicted and have a life in and out of the hospital as doctors try and manage symptoms.  Yet another reason that it was best for me and for an innocent child, that I never conceived a child.

More times than naught, we don’t know why things happen the way that they do.  But, when we are given a glimpse into why events happened as they had, it is overwhelming and can be emotional.  All things do happen for a reason.  And sometimes, we find out why and it all starts to make sense.

Life is a journey, there are ups and downs, good and bad.  It is all bundled together for us to experience, and out of the blue sometimes we are given the opportunity to know why.

#fate #bipolardisorder #anxiety #depression #infertility #domesticviolence #cysticfibrosis #why #puzzle #piecestogether #makingsense #reasonswhy #lifeisajourney #itallhappensforareason #makingsense #divineintervention #23andme #mentalhealth #chronicpain #divorce #marriage #hereditary #disease