Willing to change

Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 39.

Chapter 2 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up each time we fail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson —

I want you to stop and think for a minute about all of the people you know that you would define as successful. I believe that you will find, as I did, that one of the common denominators that each of these individuals have, has to do with the pace they choose to set for their lives.

It has been shown in many studies that people who lead a busy life are more efficient and more effective people in general. Why is this? Most people would tend to believe that the opposite is true. But the main reason lies in the fact that busy people don’t sit around waiting for life to happen to them, they go out and make life happen for them!

When I graduated from high school I earned a cheerleading scholarship to attend College as well as a partial academic scholarship. It was my first experience away from home. Granted, it was only an hour drive so I could go home if the need arose. However, I was determined to survive on my own merits and so I tried to go home only on special occasions and when I had free time.

Free time was a rare commodity because I also chose to work as much as I could, to ease the financial burden on my parents. So between school, cheerleading practices, games, dating, and work, there was little time for homework let alone homesickness.

But on one particular day I was feeling relatively “blue”. Had I known what I know now, I would have been able to see this as a clear symptom of depression. It was a gray, and rainy morning and it just so happened that my first class was very early (due to work and practice commitments). To tell you the honest truth, the only reason I kept attending this class was that fact that I was really hoping for a date with a cute guy in the class!

I walked into class that morning ready to sleep through most of it, as usual, but to my surprise found written vertically on the board in huge capital letters the word PACE.

My professor proceeded to ask the class if they knew what this word meant. Most of us yelled out various definitions such as, setting the progression of an event, rate of movement, distance covered by a runner, and so on. Not one of us could give him the answer that he wanted to hear. And so he began to break it down. Positive Attitude Changes Everything! You control the PACE at which you will build your life, one experience at a time. You, and you alone control your attitude. Yes, you will experience ups and downs in this life. Yes, you will have heartache and happiness in this life. And yes, you will always be in control of the attitude with which you choose to face these experiences.

You have the power to learn and grow and become better because of these experiences. You also have the power to use these experiences as a crutch or a thorn in your side. To say, “If it wasn’t for this. . . I could have been this. . .” or “If this hadn’t happened. . . I would have been a better wife, mother, father, husband, daughter, friend, etc.” It’s time to throw out the “should haves”, “would haves”, and “if only’s”!

“Wow!” I thought. The rest of the class was a blur because I knew that with that one important lesson he was talking directly to me! I began to regret the many times that I had slept through the class thinking I “should have” taken a different class, and realized for the first time in my life that I literally had the power to control my own destiny!

Mind you, this was a small glimmer of hope, for there were many events that would take place in my life that would teach me the importance of putting that thought into action. I have to give credit to my parents, because they are two of the best role models anyone could hope for. My parents did everything they could to help me to learn that it was up to me what I would make of my life.

They helped me to build a strong foundation of religious belief, a love of God and family, and strong moral values. For this I will be eternally grateful. There have been many times when I have turned to this foundation of strength and endurance.

But there comes a time in every person’s life when they have to find these truths out for themselves. Some will call this awakening, discovering your identity. I like to call it “setting the PACE”. When everything that you have experienced in your life up to this point comes together like the pieces of a puzzle that suddenly connect.

When you finally realize, “Hey! I can make a difference in this life. I have just as much right to be whomever I want to be as any other person, regardless of what I have had to endure or what I will have to endure in the future!”

But this requires more than a thought, it requires action. Now don’t suppose that after that my life became perfect, full of sunshine and happiness. In fact, this was a small awakening that I would look back on to draw strength from, in my deepest, darkest moments.

NOTE: It’s important to take a breather here and explain that as many of you know, life happens and things can change drastically over the years. In the next section I will be talking about my former husband, who remains a good friend to this day. Was that marriage a mistake? Absolutely not. It was part of my journey and helped shape me into the person I am today. And we got 4 beautiful and amazing children along the way.

Now back to the book.

Shortly after this realization, I decided it was time to set my life on a course that I had always dreamed of. More than anything I wanted to be a wife and a mother. It just so happened that my future husband, had been chasing me relentlessly. You know the statement, “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees?”

Well, in this case that statement rang true. This boy moved into my neighborhood when I was just eight years old and he was eleven. I will never forget my Father looking me directly in the eyes one night over dinner and saying, “Now Wendy, that’s the type of family you want to marry into!” My response was that of a typical eight year old, “Daaaaaad, ewwww!” To this day I still have not figured out how he knew before I did that that boy was the one I would eventually marry.

Our courtship was not easy. To say it was bearable would be a great understatement! My future husband would probably tell you that he would prefer to be hit by lightning than to go through our courtship again! Over a period of about a year and half, I single handedly succeeded in getting him to fall hopelessly in love with me. How I managed to do this I will never know. I think I did everything I could to torture him and drive him away.

We lived just three houses apart from each other on a dead end subdivision. I lived at the top of the street and he lived near the outlet. This put him in the perfect spot to see me drive up and down the street with various dates. Over that year and a half, we dated and then broke it off half a dozen times, and it was during those times that I proceeded to torture him.

I truly did not intend to do this. I felt that we had made it clear to each other that neither of us would have a problem with seeing the other person dating someone else. So you can imagine my surprise when he proceeded to feed me a little of my own medicine. Over a period of three weeks he made sure that I saw him having a great time with three different and very beautiful girls. Little did I know that he had no particular interest in any of them. One was “just a friend”, one was his friend’s date, and only one was actually a girl that he had any interest in. This didn’t matter to me, because what you see and what you feel can be two very different things and I felt jealous!

Not just a little bit, I was extremely jealous! To make matters worse, not only was I jealous, my mother was jealous for me! I knew it was time to make my move I had to reclaim my status with him! Now this may seem egotistical and I assure you that I really had no intention of raining on anyone’s parade, but I had finally realized what I was giving up and I wasn’t going down without a fight!

Fortunately, it never came to out and out combat. Whatever I had done to get him to fall in love with me must have been the right thing because he unloaded her like a bad habit! Lucky for me, he is a patient and very tolerable man. He has been the “wind beneath my wings” so many times I have lost count. To say he brings out the best in me would be a great disservice to him. He has treated me as if I were what I ought to be thus, I have become what I am capable of being. I hope that I do the same for him.

Having related this experience, let’s get back to setting the PACE. You see, I had to tell you a little bit about my husband in order for you to understand what he had to endure for most of the first eight years of our marriage. We brought our first child into this world just ten short months after we were married. Then seventeen months later, we had our first daughter. It was at this point that I realized how hard being a mother really is and I remember looking into my husband’s eyes and saying, “If you want more children, it’s now or never because I am not going through this stage again once I am out of it.”

If you have ever had two children in diapers and on a bottle at the same time you will be able to relate. I was so not independent and I knew if I became independent again I would never want to go back to that lack of independence.

Unfortunately, I was setting myself up for a long and hard battle with depression. First of all, if you have ever had a child or you have witnessed someone who had a child, you know how hard it is to return to pre-pregnancy shape; both emotionally and physically. Following the birth of our second child, I became pregnant again within twenty two months. After eight short weeks of constant questioning of myself, “What was I thinking?”, I miscarried this pregnancy.

Instead of seeing this as a sign that maybe I wasn’t ready for another child at this point, I blamed myself for the miscarriage because of my constant questioning. Consequently, I became pregnant again and delivered a beautiful baby girl twenty seven months after our first daughter. I think at this point I had a “help me make it through this stage Lord, and everything will be ok. ” attitude.

Boy, was I ever in need of an attitude adjustment. And yes, boy number two came along twenty two months later. So if you are doing the math, I had four children under the age five! What a nightmare! Not the children themselves, but my inability to deal with the task at hand and my ever changing hormones.

Now, you can see why I call my husband a patient man! Over the space of about four years I would go in and out of deep bouts with depression. I had a hard time coping with the mundane tasks of the day such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after the kids. Everything seemed overwhelming and instead of tackling one task at a time I gave up. Essentially this created a vicious circle. Not following through, giving up, and then berating myself for being such a terrible mother and person. It would get to the point where all I wanted to do was go to bed and wake up when it was all over. A serious sign of Post Partum depression.

Depression comes in different forms for everyone. So it is important that you understand that my experience with depression may not be what you have experienced but that does not make yours less real. Also it is imperative to understand that Depression is a condition that there is no cure for. Except in some cases of Post Partum Depression or other situational or environmental depression. And even then it’s tricky.

If you have been diagnosed with depression then you have to learn how to manage it so that the symptoms will be at a level that you can function with. There are many great medications available today that work very well and I highly recommend seeking out a professional who is trained in working with your specific form of depression to find out what works best for you.

For me, when a bout of depression is coming on I can actually feel a dark cloud settle upon me. It is so real to me that I feel like I could reach out and try to push it away. That’s when I know that something is out of balance and I need to re-evaluate what I have been doing. For you it might be much different.

The point is that it is important to get to know your body and your emotions well enough that you can manage it when it arises. During that four year period when I really did not know what was going on with my health, and the above situation would start to improve I would think, “Hey, things are looking up!” So what else would any normal person do at that point? You guessed it, I would take on another project. “I am woman, hear me roar”, right? Slowly and steadily, I was leading myself down a path where sometimes there is no return.

I was setting a PACE that had nothing to do with positive attitude and everything to do with lack of control. Because I felt that my abilities as a mother and a woman were out of control, I was looking for anything that I could control. As I sunk deeper into depression I struggled more to look like I was on top of it all, on the outside.

I wanted anyone and everyone to know that I was in control, when I knew full well I was anything but in control. If you have ever suffered from depression or know someone who has, you may be able to relate to this scenario. At home, behind closed doors I was falling apart and yet when I was around people I was very good at concealing what was really happening inside. I would put on what I like to call the “happy face” also known to many as the “mask”.

Of course this is not always the case, a lot of how we act and react has to do with the stages of depression we are in and how many times we have hit the lows. I happened to be very fortunate to have someone who loves me finally pick me up off the floor and tell me, “This is not real life. You don’t have to live like this!” My husband helped me to realize that it was time to ask for help. This disease was bigger than me and it was dangerously out of control!

Over the next few years I began my long road to recovery. It was never easy. My first step was to visit a therapist and talk about my options. This woman helped me to see that choosing to be on medication was not surrendering to the disease, but the beginning of the fight. She helped me to realize what my pattern had been for each bout of depression that I had experienced and what I could likely expect over the coming months.

She pointed out to me the pros and cons of being on medication. This was something that I could not have done for myself because I was not thinking rationally at that point. I feel that she helped me to understand that I needed an attitude adjustment, I needed to be willing to change my lifestyle and I needed to be able to think clearly so that I could set a new PACE.

As painful as change can be there is always growth and opportunity waiting to occur. For me, this meant starting on the road to recovery with what any person should do who has a disease, and that is to take the proper steps to help your body heal.

Even with all the controversy and stigma at that time over anti-depressants and depression in general, I couldn’t justify not taking this chance. It was a badly needed light at the end of the tunnel, it gave me hope! 

Your Assignment: 

Find a notebook or buy a cute fancy journal (whatever helps you want to write), and write down your feelings and experiences. You may think that this is a waste of time but, I can’t tell you how many times I have looked back on what I wrote during those down times.

Whenever I read the words that I penned myself, it helps me to know that things did get better, even when I could see no way out. Generally, I am not one who would push people to see a therapist.

But in the case of depression or the meriad of other emotionally dysfunctioning diseases, I highly recommend talking to someone about what you are experiencing. Even if it is just to sit down and have a real “heart to heart” with your husband, mother, sister, best friend, or clergyman.

Talking things out and getting them out in the open will not only let someone else in on what you are feeling, but it also helps you to sort things out in your mind. Talking it out and admitting that you might need some outside help, that what you are doing is not working, is the first step on your road to recovery. And believe me, what lies beyond that first step is worth the risk of putting it all out there. Hiding behind the “happy face” is no way to really LIVE life!

Author: Wendy Bertagnolli

Welcome to the pointing toward hope blog! I'm so glad that you found me. In this blog I share thoughts about my personal journey of living with Bipolar. I love sharing things that I hope will help you and others in their journey. But I am not defined by Bipolar. I am so much more. I'm a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and so much more! I hope you'll join me on this journey of finding joy in daily living. Though we may suffer daily with various ailments or situations, joy is possible. It's not elusive. We can point our compass toward hope. We can choose to live!

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