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!
Hello friends and welcome. I hope you all enjoyed your labor day weekend. I got to spend mine in Houston with my son, my daughter in law and 2 grandsons. Which is why there wasn’t a podcast last week. Family is everything and I’m so glad that I have opportunities to spend quality time with mine. It was such a good time and I’m so grateful for it.
Since I returned, I have had a lot on my mind when thinking about what to share. And here I go again, getting all vulnerable, in a little bit, lol. But, what are our trials for if we can’t share them and help someone else grow from what we have learned and experienced? I believe the quote so much that says, “someday this trial that you are overcoming will be the thing that helps someone else make it through theirs.”
It’s so true, we look to others and their resilience and draw strength from that. I hope you felt that strength in the last few episodes with Catherine, Sarah and Nicole. I hope to have many more examples of people who are overcoming or enduring the struggle in weeks to come. I have a few in the queue that I’m super excited about.
Now let’s get on with this episode. I have been overcome lately with feelings of sadness over friends that are leaving the fold. And while everyone is on their own journey and has to come to their own understanding of where they belong and to whom they belong, I know from experience that the road can be long and weary at times. How do I know? Because I’ve been there. And I’ve come back. And the feeling of joy and love and just pure overwhelm at the Savior’s care for me, the one that left the fold, is something difficult to explain. I just feel so beyond grateful, that I have been given second and third and fourth chances. As we are all given.
But that is only a portion of the sadness that I feel. The other portion comes from the hurt and betrayal, and just plain hardness of the path that some have been asked to walk. My heart breaks in a thousand pieces as I hear story after story of people who are hurting and struggling and feeling lost and alone. I just want to reach through the screen and grab and hold them and tell them they are so loved and so cared for. And though I can’t do that, the Lord can. And He will, if you will reach out and ask Him. It just takes that first step. And He will welcome you with open arms. He may not be able to take your pain away. But He will walk this road with you. In fact, He’s been known to carry a few at times. I know He’s carried me many times.
In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among You” He says, “If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow and every other day is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such, Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be. He wants to bless us! A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of his merciful plan for His children” it is a plan predicated on truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God”. So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow and forever. “
And from the scripture in Isaiah 40:20-28, 31 They that wait upon Him shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…. For the Lord God will hold their right hand saying unto them Fear not; I will help thee.
I know that was a lot from his talk and I encourage you to go read the rest. I will link it! It’s so good.
I know that I can’t possibly know or feel what any of you are experiencing at this time in your lives. But what I can do is share my experiences with you. Sometimes I feel that my trials pale in comparison to some. But that doesn’t diminish them or invalidate them. And it’s the same for you. And that’s why I continue to share.
I talked a few podcasts back about a personal struggle that I am going through, another facet of mental illness, that I wasn’t ready to share yet. But since this is the anniversary of my recovery from Bipolar, 7 years today since I spent those awful nights in the psychiatric unit! I thought it would be fitting to talk about another recovery that I am in the midst of.
As I’ve talked about before, I am pretty good at masking my illnesses. I have had a lot of practice. I’ve been doing it for nearly 40 years. So a lot of people who hear what I’m about to tell you, may be surprised and even unbelieving. And that’s ok. It’s my journey to walk. I only hope that what I share can be of some benefit to those who need to hear it.
So here goes, I have recently been in recovery for an eating disorder. BED or Binge Eating Disorder to be exact. I won’t go into the details unless someone comes to me directly because I think that can be triggering to those that suffer with similar disorders. But what I can tell you is that something like this is usually bigger than you. And while you may try to overcome it on your own like I have for many years. There comes a time when you have to step outside of your selfishness and ask for help. I have been going through a 12 step recovery program similar to AA called Eating Disorders Anonymous. And I think what I want people to know the most is that working through these steps has been one of the most enlightening and fulfilling things that I have done in my life.
I have had to take serious inventory of myself and my life and begin to put things back in order. The serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”, has become a new mantra for me. I struggle everyday as I am finally working through this. And while it is not easy, it has been very liberating. And it has given me the opportunity to grow in so many other ways.
I have learned what it really means to forgive. Not only to forgive myself, but to forgive others. I have learned what it means to fully and completely surrender myself to God. I have thought for a long time that I was doing that. But the truth is, that surrendering is an ongoing process. One that we all should be working at every single day. I have learned that there is more to life than food, which if you suffer with an eating disorder you will understand what I mean by that. It tends to consume your thoughts constantly. And now that I am overcoming it, I am seeing so many parts of my life improve. My friendships, my relationships, my time to explore new talents. To serve more willingly. And to love more quickly.
I don’t want this to be the “poor me” podcast. What I want to do is to shine a light on the fact that we never ever know what someone may be experiencing behind closed doors. I’ve come to understand that everyone has something hard that they are dealing with. And even though they may be good at carrying it, doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.
So as I end today’s episode I just want to say:
We need to be quicker to love. Faster to reach out with love. More willing to spend some time listening and being a shoulder for others. We are all in this life together and sometimes we treat it as if we are on our own little island. There are angels all around us cheering us on. Both here and on the other side of the veil. I’ve come to know that even more these past several months. If you are struggling with anything in your life, please reach out to those around you. Realize that those little coincidences that happen, are not coincidences at all! They are tender mercies from the Lord. We would do well to take what he has so lovingly given us and do what we can to improve our situation. It’s never easy. Never! But it is possible. He sees you, He loves you and He will be there for you. And so will I!
I love you guys so much and appreciate you taking the time to listen to all my ramblings. That’s it for today! I hope you all have an absolutely fantastic week!
As I said in part one of these episodes, I want to remind you that this is a very sensitive and deep dive into my personal life and how I deal with mental illness, so please be aware of that. Because of the nature of the things I talk about, it may be triggering for others who suffer or have loved ones who suffer with mental illnes. The reason I am doing this is because I have had many people that have questioned whether or not they themselves or possibly a friend or family member may need help.
As I said, some of the things that I discuss may be triggering or difficult for those that struggle, so if that is you, you may want to either skip this episode, or come back to it later when you’re feeling up to it.
Also please remember that there is a new nation wide suicide and crisis hotline number “988” that you can call if you need help. If you or someone you know is suicidal or deeply depressed, please seek help from a medical professional, preferably a psychiatrist, who can help you assess your needs.
Disclaimer: I am not a Dr. so I can not speak to diagnosing someone. All I can do is share my experience, what I’been through and what seems to have helped me. With that let’s get started.
Before I jump in, I wanted to make mention of something that I said in the last episode about how I trusted God with all my heart and changed my habits and learned about my illness. It may have sounded that because I had enough faith, the Lord took the illness away. And I just wanted to make clear that I still deal with symptoms and issues with the illness practically everyday. What changed is my attitude with which I choose to face the illness head on, with the help of my Savior Jesus Christ. So now that we have that clear, I want you to know that I am an open book when it comes to talking about this.
In fact, last week as I was contemplating how to enter into this very intimate conversation I came across some videos that my husband took of me when I was in the midst of the manic episodes that I had 7 years ago. I have actually considered sharing them, so people will see how scary it is. But, I think the reason that I came across the vidoes, was to remind me of the trauma that comes from experiences like these. And though I think they may be helpful in some cases, they still bring up a lot of trauma and difficulty for me when I view them. So maybe at some point I will share them. But now is not the time.
But if you do have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to share my experiences on a one to one basis.
In the last episode I ended with the fact that I had been on medication for about 10 yrs that seemed to keep the symptoms at bay. So now we are going to talk about what happened during that time and after, that I can now look back on and see that the signs were there all along that the medication was not right for me.
But first I want to share a quote from a talk given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson that I will be referring to during this episode. It is called The Refining Fire of Afflication and can be found here. He says,
“When we have our Heavenly Father’s help, our adversity and our afflictions will refine rather than defeat us (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–8). We will emerge happier and holier beings.
… “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:13).
We could say that in adversity we come to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent” (John 17:3). In adversity, we walk with Them day by day. Being humbled, we learn to look to Them “in every thought” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). They will minister to us in a process of spiritual rebirth. I believe there is no other way.”
So unfortunately, this life is a probationary time, where we are to learn and grow through our adversities. Because let’s face it, no one gets through this life without affliction. We all have challenges that we are dealing with. And hopefully with the Savior’s help, our burdens can be made light.
I had a dream the other night, as I was trying to decide how to go about this episode. I had struggled with knowing where to start, where to end, and what to include. I said many silent prayers as to what direction I should take. And the Lord did not disappoint. In the dream I was camping with my children when they were young. I used to look for opportunities to teach them important life lessons. We were walking in the woods and I found what looked like an apple. It was freakessly deformed and as I looked at it, I knew there must be a lesson in this. I cut open the apple to find that the core was hard and rock-like. I wonder what this poor apple had to endure that it’s very core had turned hard. And in that, was the lesson.
As Nicole Wiley said in the last episode, trials and adversity can either humble us, or harden us, they can strengthen our faith or cause us to question our faith. They can cause us to become bitter instead of better. And I might now add, they can cause our hearts to be softened or hardened. That is where our attitude comes into all of this. We really do have a choice as to how we will react to difficult things. No one gets through this life without being rocked to their very core.
Now, let’s go back to the time that my current husband and I were rocked to the very core. We had been married for just a few short years before I had my 2 back to back manic episodes and he was a trooper through it all.
It all started when I decided that I felt so good that I was going to go off my medication. I had already reduced it a few years before and had no problems, so I thought that now would be a good time to try. There was another variable that I think contributed to me wanting to get off the medication and feeling like I could.
I have to back up slightly to give you some context. I had gone through a divorce, which I don’t think is a good experience for anyone. But during the time after my divorce I felt ostracized from my church. I felt very alone and forgotten. And so instead of turning to the Lord I blamed the church for some of the things that I was struggling with. So I began to distance myself, little by little. You can read more about that here.
I began to feel like I had been held hostage by the laws and commandments that I had followed all my life. So I began to make choices that took me completely away from the gospel I love so much.
In the LDS faith, we choose to abstain from Coffee. Which as you know has caffeine. I’m not exactly sure why, but one day I decided to check out what I’d been missing. I tried it, and it turns out I loved it. Not the taste so much (although that came with time) but the way it made me feel. I felt like I had more energy and could get more accomplished in a day. Before I knew it I was up to 2 cups of coffee every morning.
Now it’s not uncommon for people who suffer with mental illness to go off their medications. In fact it is far too comman and is a major cause for many problems that can result from that. We get to a point where we are feeling “normal”, so instead of giving that medication credit for that, we tend to overlook that and think that we will be fine without it. It is very disordered thinking. Which I personally believe stems from the stigma put on mental illness. No one wants to believe that they have to rely on medication to be “normal” for their entire life.
I had also tried a new diet pill (which is a whole other issue that I won’t get into, lol), that was also loaded with caffeine. So the combination of going off of my medication combined with the insane amount of caffeine I was taking in just put me over the edge.
It didn’t happen overnight, in fact at first I felt so good. I felt “normal”. I was clear headed, I was getting so much done, I was losing weight. What could be better than that? Well, over the period of the next week, things continued to escalate. I started adding things to my “to do” list, getting up in the middle of the night to jot notes in my journal. I wasn’t eating well, and definitely not drinking enough water. I was quickly escalating into a manic episode and didn’t even realize it.
My new husband had not experienced me ever being anything but “normal” so he didn’t really know what was happening in the beginning. Although he had been apprehensive of me going off my medication. But it wasn’t too far into that week that he began to see signs that I was just not myself.
To me, the beginnings of a manic episode are amazing! I can get so much done! I can run on empty and feel like I’m on top of the world, unstoppable. I start to get into a euphoric state, where I think that I’m invincible and can do anything.
This is where most people who suffer get into trouble. Making big decisions when you are in the midst of a manic episode can be dangerous, expensive, and even deadly in some cases.
Some people spend outrageous amounts of money, or do things uncharacteristic of them like drugs, alcohol, and sex to name a few. Luckily for me, I think due to my upbringing, a manic episode has never manifested in those ways. But I do become extremely and increasingly anxious and agitated. I become very outgoing and exuberant, which I typically am not. I am more of an introvert normally. I become very chatty. It’s pretty hard to shut me up for a second. Even in the middle of the night. Which can be upsetting for your spouse who will also lose sleep.
Go on like that for several days and soon, like I mentioned in the last episode your body just kind of shuts down. For me it usually starts with a terrible migraine headache that nothing will quell. It gets to the point that my body is so tired that begin to grit or chatter my teeth, like I’m freezing cold. I then become more agitated picking fights with those I love for no apparent reason.
That is what happened on that horrible night 7 years ago. I had picked a fight with my husband and it was an all out fight. Which is extremely uncharacteristic of me. I am normally a very kind and gentle soul. But for whatever reason, on that day, I was just mean. I remember yelling profanities at him (words I never use in my daily life).
We had a soccer game that night with my stepson, but I had chosen to stay home. I knew I needed to sleep but I was beyond sleep. No matter what I took or did, I could not go to sleep. I had been this way for probably 3 days. My husband was exasperated with me for good reason. And so angry. He left the house for soccer and even thought about driving around for a while after to cool off.
Meanwhile, back at home, I was able to put on my pajamas, take an over the counter sleep aid and crawl into bed. I don’t remember much after that.
I woke up at the sound of my husband coming home, but I was pretty much catatonic. I remember him asking me if I was ok, and I shook my head “no”. He said do you need help? And I shook my head “yes”. I remember him calling our next door neighbor who was a nurse and she ran over to help. My husband began to describe to her what had been going on. She asked me some questions and I tried to communicate answers, but was pretty unresponsive. It was at that time that my husband thought I was having a stroke and decided to call an ambulance.
The rest of the next few days was filled with anxiety and despair for my husband. I don’t really remember much. Just bits and pieces. Then waking up in the hospital in the psych ward, and knowing that I had to call my husband and my children. I tried hard to remember their #’s. I was hazy from the medication they’d given me. But I knew in order to ever get out of there, I had to prove that I was in good enough condition to do it. Looking back I don’t know how I did it, remembering those phone #s, normally on speed dial. I had to reach back in my memory and figure out what those #s were and call them each and talk to them like I was “normal”, which I was not.
My husband now says that he was so relieved to hear my voice that morning. He still believed I’d had a stroke or something and didn’t know if I’d ever be normal agin, if I’d ever be able to talk to him again. He rushed to the hospital to be with me. From what I’ve heard he broke every rule, or at least sweet talked the nurses into letting him be there as much as he could.
He would show up early every morning. Bring me lunch and spend hours with me. I was in the hospital for about a week recuperating, each day a little better than the last. I still had remnants of the manic episode hanging around, and would continue to do things that were uncharacteristic of me. I remember one day my husband had come down to the hospital to spend some time with me. It was during “gym” time (we were kept on a pretty rigid schedule there). He went down with the group and we walked around and around the gym. I knew I needed to get back into a good workout routine. So I loved gym time. He picked up a football and we began playing catch. I would try to throw the ball hard at him. I was angry that he was not taking me home when he came each time. I was still not quite myself. I would cry uncontrollably one minute and be angry and mean the next. And in the times in between, I was sleeping, trying to “will” my body back to normal so I could go home. I had to do an intensive outpatient program which lasted another week.
I had my busy photography business which my husband was having to deal with rescheduling clients, and a trip to Utah to visit my family planned and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Meanwhile I needed to see a psychiatrist before they would even let me leave the hospital. He gave me the diagnosis of bipolar, which I didn’t believe I had. I mean when we went over the symptoms in outpatient care, I didn’t have over half those symptoms. So I was very hesitant to go on any of the new medications.
One of the meds that he put me on made my skin crawl. I remember telling my husband that I felt like my body was being eaten from the inside out. I just felt so icky. Which is another reason many people don’t take meds. The side effects can be more dabilitating than the disease.
I just wanted to get back on the medication that I was originally on and that sounded good to my husband so we went to a regular family practitioner that we knew and he agreed that it seemed like the best idea.
We were doing the best we could with the tools that we had at the time. We made a lot of mistakes in the time between the first and second episode. Not letting my body fully readjust, trying to get back into the normal routine of things too quickly. Going on my trip to see family, which always has a lot of anxiety, busyness and noise involved. Not things that are good for someone recently recovering from a manic episode. It was all a recipe for disaster.
I made it through my trip to Utah but towards the end (at least looking back now), I had begun to show signs of escalating into that state again. I was super chatty with a hairdresser the day before I came home. And just getting overly anxious. On the plane I visited the entire time with a passenger next to me. Which for a normal person may have seemed fine. But as soon as I got in the car when my husband picked me up, he knew what was happening.
I remember getting home and him just putting his head down on the bar with a big sigh. He did not want to go through this again. But he could see that it was starting. I could not, which is very typical. I was in that “feel good” state again. So we tried over the next several days to keep me calm and do what we could to help me sleep. We made a lot of mistakes that we hopefully learned from during that second episode.
I believe now, that it happened to help us take note of the process that happens before I get to that hospitalization piont. It was like it was happening in slow motion. Teaching my husband, teaching me, that these are the things I do before I get to that point. I believe now that it was God teaching us, teaching me, how to see it coming on.
I am not naive enough to think that it will never happen again. But I do trust God that He has carried us through and taught us the things that we can do to keep it under control. There is no other explanation for how things proceeded over the next weeks and months. From getting the right Dr. to having a priesthood blessing. Prayers were uttered and answered, that were miracles in the making. We were at rock bottom and the only way up was to turn to the Lord with a full purpose of heart. We knew that He was the only one that could help us now. And He did. He is an awesome God. I will never doubt that he was in the details after that last episode. And still is. I know that he hears and listens to our prayers. And answers those prayers on his timing. In his way.
So many things happened that are very sacred and special. Many I have written about in past blog posts. So you can check them out if you’d like. But what I really want to come through with this post is that there is help available to anyone who is suffering in any way.
As Elder D. Todd Christofferson puts it, “Without God, the dark experiences of suffering and adversity tend to despondency, despair, and even bitterness.
With divine help, ultimately consolation replaces pain, peace replaces turmoil, and hope replaces sorrow. God will convert trial into blessing and, in Isaiah’s words, “give … beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). His promise is not to spare us the conflict but to preserve and console us in our afflictions and to consecrate them for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2; 4:19–26; Jacob 3:1).
While our Heavenly Father will not force His help and blessings upon us, He will act through the mercy and grace of His Beloved Son and the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us when we seek Him.
I felt that sustaining power on so many occasionsions since that time. It is unbelievable and amazing to me how constant his care for me has been, since I turned myself completely over to Him. No one will ever be able to convince me that we do not have a loving, kind, compassionate Savior who descended beneath it all on that horrific night in the Garden of Gethsemene. He did it for me, and for you! We owe our very lives to Him.
My husband and I have seen the constant blessings promised for following the Savior. We have had many ups and downs over the past seven years but the Savior continues to astound us with his love and care.
As the hymn says, I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me. I tremble to know that for me He was crucified. That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died. Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful….wonderful to me.
And that’s it for today, friends. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions concerning mental illness. I would be happy to help in any way that I can.
Before I get into this week’s episode I wanted to just express that this particular one will be vulnerable for me. And may be triggering for others. I will be giving a deeper more in depth look at what I have experienced while living with mental illness and what led up to my diagnosis.
I am doing this because I have had many people that have questioned whether or not they themselves or possibly a friend or family member may need help.
It’s important to mention that some of the things that I discuss may be triggering or difficult for those that struggle with mental illness. So if that is you, you may want to either skip this episode, or come back to it later when you’re feeling up to it.
Also please remember that there is a new nation wide suicide and crisis hotline number “988” that you can call if you need help. If you or someone you know is suicidal or deeply depressed, please seek help from a medical professional, preferably a psychiatrist, who can help you assess your needs.
I am not a Dr. so I can’t speak to diagnosing someone. But I have lived with mental illness for most of my adult life. And probably even some before that. My parents always said that I was very moody, so who knows maybe that was an early sign.
I will be doing this in 2 parts, since it has ended up being a little longer than I wanted it be.
Anyway I just want to let you know that this will be a tender subject that affects 1 in every 5 adults in the U.S alone. So I don’t take it lightly.
As I have been reflecting this week on what to share, I have had two scriptures roll about in my mind. A couple of posts/episodes ago I talked about the scripture in Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
I then focused a little bit on the “yourself” part of that scripture. Which I feel is very important, and why I talked about it.
However this week I have been thinking a lot about the first part of that scripture: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; While reflecting on that scripture another thought kept coming to me. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”. As I was pondering that thought I came across the scripture John 8 verse 12: I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.
I haven’t talked about mental health in a while and for some reason I am feeling that I need to share a bit of my story again. There may be people that are new here that have not heard it and maybe I have’t fully shared it the way the Lord would have me do.
In a way that can maybe help others look to another source for help and guidance through the struggles you may be experiencing. That last scripture holds such great promise……he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.
What an amazing promise that is!
I was a young girl when I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was sitting at a youth fireside. My first one. I had recently turned 12 and had entered the Young Women program. I wasn’t sure what a “fireside” was. I think that maybe most people don’t.
“Do I get to go sit by a fire and roast “moshmellows” and make s’mores?”, I asked my mom. That’s the way I use to pronounce Marshmallow… (ok maybe I still do)!
She laughed, of course, and told me no, but not to worry because it was better than bonfires and smores. Well that was kind of hard to believe! “What’s better than smores?”, I thought.
She was right (Big surprise there, moms are almost ALWAYS right!). I sat in that pew just a few rows from the front, on the right hand side of the chapel. You know the one, right in front of the Sacrament table.
I sat mesmerized by the wonderful speakers that spoke of the journey they’d had and the way the Lord had helped them to overcome especially difficult challenges. I felt the spirit pierce my hungry soul, bearing witness to me of the truth of what they were saying.
I was so touched that I wished in my little girl heart that when I grew up, I could be just like them! I wanted to help others feel this special and incomparable feeling that I was experiencing. I felt so warm, so loved, and so seen by the Lord. And all I wanted to do was serve Him by bringing others closer to Him. It left an impression on me that has spanned the years and I often think about that moment.
But I think that the reason that it stands out to me so much is because we all have stories of trials and affliction that we pass through in this lifetime. And I think that we are meant to share our stories so that others can be comforted in knowing that they are not alone, and that there is another source that they can turn to that can bring peace, comfort, and strength and joy to their soul in these difficult times.
So much was in store for that young girl of just twelve years old. I think back and reflect on all that I’ve gone through in my 50 something years. Some experiences were bright and unimaginably beautiful. And some were dark, dreary and heartbreaking. But now I have so much wisdom and many stories I can share about the advantages of turning your eyes toward Jesus!
On many occasions I have cried out to the Lord in anguish, “Why me? Why this? Why now?” I don’t think I am so different from others in that respect. But maybe, just maybe there is a purpose to it all. Maybe that little girl’s need to serve, to help others feel what she had that day, can help you begin to see your light, your purpose. Thereby allowing you to fulfill your mission here on Earth while doing it in FULL color.
Though my life hasn’t been a rainbow of color for the entirety, I have had many glimpses here and there of what living life in Full color can look like. It is something that I strive for each and every day. Some seasons are better than others. And my life ebbs and flows, as does yours, with the constant difficulties and struggles of this life. It was meant to be that way. For that is how we grow into the person that God sees us to be.
My hope is that I can share with you a few of those glimpses, and what I have learned in the process. So you will be more able to begin to see in yourself, the divinity that is there. And the great potential you have to see more and more what living life in FULL color can be like.
Have you ever felt that you were walking in darkness? Do you feel that way now? Have you wondered how in the world you will ever find joy? Peace? Happiness?
I have. For many years I walked in darkness. At least it seemed dark to me. Colorless, lifeless. A fog that could not be budged or lifted. It seemed that no matter what I did, the darkness or fog was always there… waiting. Waiting to engulf me in misery and pain. To fill me with despair.
Each day I would wake up in the haze wondering what the day would be like today. Wondering if I would ever see light again. I pleaded with the Lord to take the darkness from me. To lift what I could not lift myself. It seemed endless. No light at the end of the tunnel.
Would it ever be possible that I could come out of this fog? Would it ever be possible that I could live my life in color again? And not just dull color. I wanted FULL real, vibrant color. I wanted to enjoy my babies in all their splendor. Runny noses, tantrums, bubble blowing, running, playing, and energy spent, beautiful children, that needed a mom who was fully present. I wanted to LIVE! I wanted to live my life in FULL COLOR. I say Full Color because depression and mental illness can kind of feel, at times, like its dull and colorless. Like you are living out your days in a fog.
I think I have hesitated to talk about this in depth, because I worry that when I talk about how hard it was for me, my friends and family will hear “my life was bad”. And that is definitely not the case. I had a good and beautiful life full of a lot of happy moments. But after I had children the illness started to seep into my life and changed who I was in many ways.
Now, as I look back, it was but a short moment in the whole scope of things. A snap and the years have flown by. I had a lot of growing to do in that snap of time. As you know, growth can be painful. It can be long and dreary (and it was). Change did not come overnight. It rarely does.
So what did change? What happened that brought that light and color back into my life?
The truth is I changed. I changed my habits. I searched for answers. I prayed and pleaded continually. And I believed. It took every single ounce of what I had. But I did it. I believed and had faith that things could change.
The Lord had promised me that they could change.
Pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for thy good. That scripture. is found in (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).
I believed with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole strength, and my whole mind.
And He, my Savior, your Savior, the light of the world answered and said. (Verse 28 of Luke Chapter 10) This do and thou shalt live!
Making Jesus Christ the center of our lives is a concept taught often by our modern prophets, seers, and revelators. It is a simple concept. But definitely not an easy one to accomplish. Especially when we are caught up in the rigorous difficulties of life here on Earth.
I was around 29 years old when I had my first mental breakdown. I did not have to be hospitalized at that time. But looking back, knowing what I know now, it was definitely a psychotic break.
I had 4 young children between the ages of 6 and 10. And it was a very difficult and scary time in my life. I remember feeling like I was on top of the world one moment and then sinking into despair the next. And all the while just trying to hold it all together so that I could be the mom I needed to be for my littles. Of course they were pretty young at the time. And that first episode seemed to pass fairly quickly.
Looking back, I was able to hold things together pretty well. I stayed busy and had a great OB/GYN that had helped me tremendously with what I thought was depression. That’s certainly what it most often manifests as, in me.
But about 5 years later I experienced my first full on Manic Episode. I was taking on a lot at the time. I kind of had the “I can’t say no” syndrome. And so even though I had my hands very full, I would continue to pile more things on top causing an extreme amount of stress.
I had a very large event coming up for myself where I would be out of town for a week. My husband had a scout trip with my 2 sons. My oldest daughter had a dance camp and my youngest daughter was going to be staying away from home for the first time with the probability that she wouldn’t have much contact with us as parents because of the nature of our trips.
It was right around the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart (if you can recall that time). And we did not live far from that tragedy. My daughter was dealing with some anxiety because of that and then with us being out of reach, was really worried.
So my mama heart was pulled in so many directions. I wasn’t taking care of myself like I had learned to do to keep the depression under control. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t getting good sleep and the stress was taking it’s toll.
I remember that the night before I collapsed, I had asked for a priesthood blessing because I myself was experiencing some extreme anxiety. And although I still ended up having the manic episode, I feel that deep down I knew my focus was out of balance.
The following day we had big plans for the family. It was Saturday and we had planned on swimming and lunch with friends and then a fireworks concert downtown. I remember that day I was very “off”. Like I was just doing and saying things that didn’t quite make sense. I was super excited to take the kids to the concert, but I was so exhausted having not slept and just trying to make sure that everyone was getting the things they needed to ready for the trips that would happen the following week. Sometimes, we just need to say “no” even to the fun things, in order to preserve our sanity. Especially where our health is concerned.
Well, I don’t remember a whole lot about what happened that night. My brain and body had reached it’s max. I often explain it like a computer who has a number of windows open and soon it gets to the point that it just freezes up and you have to shut it down and reboot it. That’s kind of how a manic episode happens for me. I go and go and go, like the energizer bunny. Trying to do too much without sleep and good nutrition… basically running on empty for several days. And then my body just says,”that’s it! If you’re not gonna take care of yourself, then I’m gonna do it for you!” And it shuts down until I can get medical attention and have a “reboot”.
I have had three manic episodes in my lifetime. Enough to have learned what not to do. The crazy part is that once I move into that state, I have very little recollection of what is happening. I remember bits and pieces, like a puzzle that just doesn’t come together. And it usually takes several days of being heavily medicated to help me sleep and let my body begin to function efficiently again.
And then comes the tough part of trying to find a medication and recipe that puts my body back into a balanced mode.
With the first episode, I was in denial when I came out of it in the hospital. I didn’t want to believe that I had bipolar. Which I think is pretty typical with most people who face any mental illness diagnosis. No one wants to believe that they are broken. That their brain is not functioning the way it should. So not wanting to be medicated and fighting a diagnosis is fairly common.
Most people, in order to leave the hospital, have to agree to be seen by a psychiatrist or therapist. Unfortunately, they are very hard to get into (sometimes over 6 weeks waiting period). And the good ones who will really listen are hard to find. Most insurances do not cover psychiatric care. So that is another obstacle for those that suffer.
For several years after my first episode, I remained under the care of my GYN. With her limited ability to diagnose and treat the bipolar, and knowing my history, I was able to convince myself and her that what I had was nothing more than being over stressed and lack of sleep.
She agreed to put me on an as-needed medication to help me sleep. Which seemed to calm the symptoms for the time being. A few years after the incident, I started to notice feelings of depression coming on and asked her about a new drug that I had read about. She didn’t hesitate to put me on it. And I remained on that medication for almost 10 years before I would have my second and third episodes.
By this time, my kids were grown. I’m so thankful for that medication that allowed me to enjoy and participate in my children’s lives. I don’t know the reasons behind why it worked for so long. Other than the Lord was with me through that difficult time. I tried to focus on the joy in my life. President Russell M. Nelson mentioned in a talk in the October 2016 General Conference, which incidentally was right around the time I was becoming active in the church again (which I will talk more about in part 2), he said, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”.
I remember there were many times that I felt down and distant. But for the most part that medication seemed to work. And I tried really hard to focus on the joy in my life.
This is where I want to end Part 1 of my story. But I hope that just from what I’ve said that you will take a look at your own life. Whether or not you think you may have a mental illness, or you know of someone who might. Remember to be sensitive and give grace to both yourself and your loved one.
Although this may be, or already has been, a long road, there really can be a light at the end of the tunnel. But from what I’ve seen and experienced, no one gets there on their own. It takes a lot of love, understanding , support and grace. And in my case, a whole lot of Jesus!
In part 2 I will talk a bit more about my experience and what it took to accept the diagnosis and be able to move forward in my life. I think it’s fairly ironic that I’m talking about this as I’m nearing the 7th anniversary of those 2 second manic episodes that led me to the diagnosis and ultimately back to the gospel that I love so dearly. I hope you will stick around for that.
I will be referring to a talk by elder D. Todd Christoffersen called The refining fire of affliction. So if you’d like to read up or listen to that, you can find it here.
Thanks for listening/reading my friends. And I’ll be back again soon. Promise I won’t leave you hanging. Have a great week!
Today on the podcast I have a special guest who is in the midst of an extremely difficult trial. She has been gracious enough to chat with me during this very vulnerable time in her life, in the hopes that what she and her family are going through can help someone else who may be in a similar situation, be able to draw hope and strength from our Savior.
Sarah Plauche is a wife, a mother of six, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and one of the most soft spoken, loving, and kind people I know. I am so grateful to Sarah for joining me on the podcast today. Her 4 year old son, Anton was diagnosed with Medullablastoma which is a cancerous brain tumor, In April of 2021.
The Plauche’s have seen many small miracles throughout this trial and have a firm belief that God is in the details of our lives. I am so honored to have Sarah on the show today. Take a listen here or on any podcast platform.
Post Interview thoughts: Such good words of wisdom and advice from Sarah. As she said Anton had a new smaller tumor that the Drs. removed a few weeks ago. Now he will have several weeks of proton radiation and chemotherapy.
I want to thank Sarah again for being so gracious and vulnerable while going through a really difficult time. I loved how she has been able to recognize the Lord in all the tiny details of this journey and how she pointed out the way the Lord has prepared her to be stronger and have a greater capacity to overcome the challenges that lie ahead for her little family.
If you would like to follow Antons journey you can find their caring bridge website here.
Our thoughts and prayers and good vibes go out to them over the coming months as they continue to navigate these rough waters. That’s it for today my friends. Be sure and stick around for more encouragement and upliftment in the weeks to come. Have a great week!
Boy how life just has ways of throwing curve balls at you doesn’t it. You think you are finally in the right position, your feet are squared and your bat is level with your elbow out. Bases are loaded and you’re ready. You’re eyeing the pitcher and you believe with your whole being that this is it. This is the one that is going to be a hit it out of the Park. A homerun for sure! But as you swing with all your might, you hear the dreaded steeerike, you’re out of here!!!
Luckily for us the Lord doesn’t just give us three strikes. He lovingly comes behind us, puts his arms around us and his hands above ours on the bat. He gently sways with us as we eye the challenge at hand. We follow His lead as he gently prods us to try, and try again. And before we know it, we have hit the ball and we are running the bases. Even though it may be slow at times. As we round third base with all our might, we see Him. Cheering us on at the plate…. Come on, just a little bit more. You’ve got this!
Sometimes we make it all the way onto the plate with a steady jog. And sometimes we have to slide in with all our might to make it there before the catcher tags us for the out. And sometimes, oftentimes, we hit a pop fly and we are out before we even get started.
But the important lesson in all of this is that we keep going. We keep trying… keep pushing, even when the odds are stacked against us. With Christ beside us we can do it. We can give Him the yoke and ask Him to help us pull. And He will do it without reservation.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I realized last week that we are already halfway through 2022! Can you believe it? After the pandemic season in 2020 and then easing back into life in 2021. It’s finally 2022… this was going to be the year! The year that everything makes a comeback, right? At least that’s how I felt.
My last official post/podcast was December 7, 2021. My plan was to take the rest of December off and then come back strong in January. But on the evening of December 28th we got the call that my new granddaughter had arrived!
My daughter had a few complications and instead of me coming into town when the baby was 3 weeks old, we decided that she needed her mom there to make up the difference. She was exhausted. So I jumped on a plane and flew to Utah on January 2nd! I skated into 2022 with my sixth grandchild. It was so much fun to spend the first two weeks of the year in Utah helping my daughter with her first-time-mom experience. It was the best! We just did all things baby! And she was able to recover enough to feel more confident in her momming when I had to leave to come home.
And now it is July! As I reflected last week on the things that I had planned to accomplish in 2022, I realized that I am pretty far behind, as far as MY plans and goals are concerned. However, I think the Lord is right on track with what HIS plans and goals for me in 2022.
Shortly after I returned home I woke up with a severe kinked neck. I didn’t remember injuring it. So I continued working out and doing everything that I normally did. Figuring it would go away within a few days. It did not!
Within a week the pain was so bad right between my shoulder blades that I was popping ibuprofen like it was candy. Then the pain started to extend down my shoulder and arm. I still hadn’t had it looked at because I thought it probably was an injury that just needed to heal.
I went back out to Utah in March for the baby’s baby blessing. I was in so much pain that I would lay on a neck stretcher that my daughter happened to have, and that was the only relief I would get. So I determined when I got home that I would have it looked at.
Long story short, after months of physical therapy and chiropractic appointments trying to heal it, my Dr. finally scheduled an MRI and an EMG to check for nerve damage. Turns out it was a herniated disc in the C 6 vertebrae. Great! I was so depressed.
For those of you that know my history with mental illness, know that working out and exercise is key in helping me maintain and balance my illness. So thinking that I would not be able to work out for maybe several months was literally so distressing to me.
I knew I would be able to walk outdoors for a few months but what would happen when the weather got too hot to walk? Here in TN, 80 degrees feels like 100! But the Lord has been watching out for me. There have only been a handful of days that I haven’t been able to get outside due to weather and the trend keeps going.
My back, neck and shoulder feel better every day. And I’m looking forward to being able to work out at home like I’m used to as soon as the heat gets unbearable.
Meanwhile, (sorry this is getting long). With all of the stress, I’d developed another facet to the mental illness that I have. I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet, but feel like I will at some point. I am currently taking measures to get that under control as well.
Now I don’t tell you these things to make you feel pity for me or give you this big sob story of an excuse for not making another Post/Podcast. Although, it is a pretty good excuse, haha.
I tell you because one of the things that I have learned through this experience is that it is so important to give yourself grace in this life.
We just can’t do ALL the things ALL the time. We are not meant to. There is a time and a season for everything.
In church today we had a speaker that talked about the two great commandments to Love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. But he emphasized that he believed that the third commandment is kind of snuck in there. To love your neighbor… but just as importantly, you must love yourself. Because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
We get so caught up sometimes in serving our neighbor, trying to keep all the commandments, go to the temple, take care of our families needs, work, school, cleaning, cooking. And the list goes on and on. Before we know it we are exhausted and feel so much pressure and anxiety that soon we are trying to pour out what we don’t have to give.
I’ve talked about this before here. And it’s important to note that I am not saying quit taking care of everything and just focus on yourself. No. I am saying take time to make sure that you are doing the small and simple things that fill your own cup. So that when it comes time for you to do all the other things you can pour from a full pitcher.
That’s funny I just used a baseball pitcher and a water pitcher in the same post..that’s the English language for you!
Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about I’ll share what works for me. I have a love to create or be crafty. I never really considered myself an artist, but now when I look back at all the things that bring me joy, they are things that I learned how to do. Then created myself, (which makes me an artist, haha).
And then most often I share them with others because it increases my joy and brings a little joy to the receiver as well.
So I started making time to practice the piano again. I focused on my scripture study, and journaling. I dusted off my crafts and started making and sending cards. I picked up a couple of new talents of creative lettering, quilting, and watercoloring. These things have all been so therapeutic for me.
I thought that I was doing all these things for me. But then I started to get feedback from people who had been recipients of my gifts. And it made me realize that as I was filling my cup, I was also pouring out to those whose cups needed filling in some small way.
Now that’s an example of what works for me. I am certainly not saying that you all need to go make a run to the craft store, lol. Although I can show you all the great deals if that’s what you want to do wink, wink.
You do you! Find the things that bring your heart joy and do more of that! Even if you have to pencil yourself into your very busy calendar! You are worth it! And the Lord will support you in your efforts to fill your own cup. So that you can help fill another’s.
Another thing that the speaker in church mentioned in his talk was that not only do we need to fill our cup, we need to realize how far we have come and not focus so much on the things we don’t have or can not do.
As I said I picked up watercoloring in the last little bit. And just like the strokes of paint, you can’t really tell what the finished piece is going to look like from one stroke. But after the work is done and you stand back and look, you can see the character that each stroke ads and builds to the final image.
It is the same with your life, you can’t really tell what kind of stroke each moment is adding to the final image but you can be sure that without those strokes the final image would not be complete. Don’t underestimate or wish away the small moments and details in your life. They are an important part of the image of you that the Lord is creating. And what the Lord sees is always bigger and more grand than we could ever imagine.
I think getting that injury was God’s way of showing me that I was trying to pour from a cup that was quickly nearing empty. It made me slow down. To take it easy and start focusing on the small and simple things.To notice the strokes of paint that He was using to develop me into the woman that He wants me to be. And now that I am getting healthier again, I can see that he was in all the details of what was happening in my life.
I am constantly reminded of the small and simple things and relationships along the way that were put in my path to help me make it through. And not only that, it helped others make it through their challenges too and brightened both of our lives. That is the way that the Lord works… one by one through relationships.
As I reflect on all the challenges over the past few months and growth that I’ve had, I am reminded over and over that “all things shall work together for thy good to them that love God and keep His comnmandments.” Romans 8:28 and D&C 90:24.
And I can see clearly now that although it truly has been stressful and trying. It has taught me new things about myself, the Lord, and others.
So this is my invitation to you in this halfway point through the year. Take some time to evaluate how full your cup is. And if it’s pretty empty, take some time to do the small things that bring you joy so you can start to fill it back up.
Maybe start with a little brain dump into your journal, of all the things you want to be doing now that you aren’t able to at this time. Then you can come back to that when it’s your season.
But, make sure to find a few things that you CAN do now and start filling that pitcher!
And now if you’ve stuck it out this long, here, the big announcement: I’m finally going live on YouTube!
I’ve been wanting to do this since I started photography 12 years ago. I posted a few videos and then just didn’t have the time or resources to do it. It wasn’t my season 😊.
So you can get to the channel by searching “wendy Bertagnolli” or “Learn. Create. Love.” It’s going to be a lot of fun. Short videos on learning new and fun ideas for just about anything.
But don’t worry, there will still be a lot of Jesus along the way. And you can still listen in here to the podcast for more interviews and all of my ramblings. Hopefully it just gets better and better!