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

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

Self-care Sundays

sleepy sundaySunday morning was spent baking up a storm, gluten free cakes, of course.  In previous years I have been known to make castle of cakes and have even completed wedding cakes for a few brides.  But, when the mental break down of 2016 stormed through, the creativity that used to swell within me, dried up faster than droplets of water during the summer in the desert.  The lack of creativity forced me to abandon cake making.  I sold more than half of my supplies and said that there would be no more cake making for Michelle.

Often in my life, I excel at something, but when hardship comes along, I drop it like a hot potato.  In school, I was a flutist, entered into competitions and achieved awards for my perofrmance.  But when the eating disorder blew through, I lost my edge and turned my back on playing.  Following the music, I started working with the high school newspaper and achieved the status of Editor in Chief.  As editor in chief, I won the opportunity to meet Colin Powell as part of a county wide writing competition.  But when college came around and I got involved in a relationship, there went writing and the dreams of being a journalist.  Next was teaching.  It was something that I wanted to do for years, but when He said it didn’t make enough money, I turned my back on that as well and went the business route.  I thrived in the business world and really came into my own, but when 2016 marched in like a lion, my ambitions of having a corner office with a view and an upper management position, leapt away like a little lamb.

Over the last year, I have maintained longer stretches of stability, or the sweet spot as we like to call it.  When I have finally been able to get on the right medication regime, things started to come back.  My fashion sense finally returned, and oh boy did I miss it.  Crafting returned and although it hurts the good ole bank account, I get such enjoyment out of creating and adorning our home with handmade embellishments.  As gifts started to return, I started to feel more courageous and wanted to try my hand at baking.  I figured I would start slow and just do cupcakes, but then if all goes well, I would venture out and take on more challenging assignments and maybe even some cakes.

Today was a day of baking and decorating.  As the cakes were just for practice I dove right into the decorating and worked on my piping as well as experimenting with colors and adornments for the cakes.  With an order for next weekend (gender reveal cake) I wanted to practice piping rosettes, so I have increased confidence in my ability and when I deliver the cake, I can be proud of what I am selling.

After all the baking, I was exhausted, which was nice, because yesterday I was experiencing manic symptoms and was incapable of sitting still.  So today, when I snuck in an almost two-hour nap, I knew that I was back in a better place.  Listening to a book on tape (Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica) I snuggled under my favorite throw and stared at my companion, the twenty-pound feline, Hunter Mahoney, until I fell asleep.

Today was a day full of self-care.  Spending time creating, getting lost in a book, snoozing for a few hours and finishing up some household chores.  I feel well rested and ready to take on the new week.  I feel like I have balance, although a little on the high side, I am not too far from a nice even keel.  Oh, how I love sleepy Sundays.

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Spring Break: Girls Gone Wild

spring break photoOver the last week my college was on recess for Spring Break.  The timing could not be more perfect, as my co-worker took a week of vacation and I was tasked for filling in and completing their job responsibilities during their absence.  It was a much busier week than I am used to, but obviously I survived.

Throughout the last week, my work load doubled, or maybe even tripled, and I still had doctor appointments, off site meetings and family obligations.  There was a bit of back and forth, an immense amount of driving, and numerous deadlines (some of which I totally forgot about).  To say it was a stressful week, would be an understatement.  I made mistakes and had to confront my fear of failure head on, each and every day.

On top of the chaos that was in place, I made the decision to monkey with my medication.  I had been consistently gaining weight over the last few months, and this week of all weeks I decided I had had enough and was going to do something about it.  I did not stop my medication, but decreased the dosage to what I was on back in January.  I was determined to lose the weight I had gained as my clothes were starting to fit snuggly and I was having no part of that.  I knew that messing with my medication was not smart.  I even told my spouse that I knew that I should not make any changes until I spoke with my Psychiatrist, but none the less, my repulsion related to the weight gain was so strong, that it overpowered my thinking.

Almost a week into my cutting my doses in half, I woke this morning and was determined to complete the household chores.  Now let me tell you that I am in no way a Cinderella, waking to the sounds of blue birds singing and immediately starting in on chores.  I am the person that takes an hour to become human, only after consuming two cups of coffee.  But that was not the case this morning.  Within two hours of being awake, the laundry was started, kitchen was cleaned, a month’s worth of clean clothes were put away and the bathroom was tidied.  I stood in the center of my kitchen wondering what else that I could get into.  I wanted to bake a cake, but I was out of eggs.    My spouse asked me what I wanted to do, and I just stared at him.  There was so much running through my head and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.

I chose to confess my sins knowing that I was going to get “that” look and I was going to be asked why I made the choices that I had and I would have to give my lame reason.  I would admit that I was jittery and was in the mood to hike and run in circles, anything but sit still.

One should not alter their medication without the direction of their physician.  It’s not smart and there are consequences for such actions.  I pay good money to work with my doctor and my making changes willy nilly thwarts the progress that I have made.  When will I be able to succumb to this monster demon called body image acceptance?  Why can’t I have my proverbial cake and eat it too, a weight I deem acceptable and mental stability?

I see my doctor on Tuesday and I will be honest about what choices I have made and I will deal with the consequences.  Managing mental health is a journey and there will be ups and there will be downs.  I am on board for the ride, just struggling to keep my hands and feet inside the car at all times.

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/

 

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!