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!

You are held

I promised that today I will be doing a little recap on what’s been happening with my mental health over the past several months.

Just to preface, I’ve learned so much these past few months, more than ever before, about how important it is to let go and give your burden over to the Lord. In Matthew 11:28-30 it reads

Come to Me, all ye that labour and our heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I’ve learned now more than ever, how much I can and should rely on the Lord and trust in Him. More than anyone, He knows me.  He knows my heart.  He knows my fears.  He knows the burdens that I carry.  And He really is the only one that can shoulder that burden like no one else.  He asks us to take His yoke upon us and let Him do the heavy lifting.  How much easier it will be for us if we trust Him enough to let Him carry us when we can not carry ourselves.

This experience that I had the last few months has been nothing compared to what I’ve been through before when dealing with bipolar.  But I have found that one of the most difficult parts of living with bipolar and being on the healthy side, is the fear of falling to the unhealthy side again.  It is such a dark and frightening place to be.  And there is so much trauma that can come to the surface because of being in that dark place. But sometimes we have to fall in order for the Lord to lift us up again.

When a loved one approaches you and says that things don’t seem right with you, it can be really devastating.  And there is a real part of you that doesn’t want to believe it for fear of ending up in the dark place again.  But that is when you really need to put your trust in those that know and care about you and especially in the Lord.

Sometimes the burden of living with bipolar becomes extremely heavy to bear.  Even when I’m healthy, I worry about becoming unhealthy.  I worry that my loved ones are always worried about me and watching my every move just to make sure I’m ok.  I hate more than anything for those that I love to worry about me.  So it’s become second nature for me to try to appear fine when deep down I may be struggling. 

Struggling with just the simple fact of being tired of carrying the burden itself.  Over the last few months for whatever reason, I was just really, really tired of carrying it.  And I would pray so many nights to Jesus that I was just so tired, please just take this away so I don’t need to worry anymore. 

And apparently, this whole time He was trying to teach me the way to ease my tiredness.  To let Him take my burden upon Him, even if just for a little while.

So when my husband approached me to discuss what he had seen in me over the last few months, it was really devastating to me.  Here I thought I was physically and mentally feeling better than I ever had.  And that I was doing great.  It was only in the recesses of my own mind that I gave way to my deeper feelings of how tired I was from constantly monitoring myself.

I was very, very emotional that night as we discussed the importance of checking in with my Doctor. I had the biggest knot in my stomach and felt physically ill. I was so scared that if we discussed it and there was an issue, then I would have to go into the deep rabbit hole of going through the process of trying to find a new medication.  The thought of that was a pure nightmare for me to think about.  

My husband offered to give me a priesthood blessing which I accepted.  He went to prepare himself for it and I went into the other room to plead with the Lord.  In that moment I realized that I had no control over the journey that the Lord had in store for me.  And something just broke inside of me.  I remember saying to Him that I was so scared of having to go into the dark place again.  I heard Him whisper to me, “Do you trust me?”  And I said back, “I do.”  And I heard it again, “Do you really trust me?”  and again I heard myself say that I did.  In fact I said, “I trust you so much that if going back to that dark place is part of my journey, I will do it.  I don’t want to do it.  But for you, to show you that I trust you, I will do it.”  And I meant it.  I really, really meant it. 

I went into the living room where my husband performed the blessing.  He laid his hands upon my head and started the blessing.  The first thing he said was “the Lord knows that you are tired of carrying this burden.  He wants you to have the courage to continue in this difficulty.”  And that’s when I knew that in this journey on Earth, this illness will always be a burden that I will carry.  But I don’t have to do it alone.  That He is there.  And He knows that I am tired.  He knows!  I hadn’t said those words to anyone but Him.  And that was Him telling me that He hears me. And He will help me to shoulder this burden if I will let Him. 

I don’t know how else to describe how I felt except that I felt so “held”.  That is the only word I could think of.  Like I was enveloped in a big warm hug. And I felt that way throughout the rest of that week as I prepared for my appointment with my Doctor. As I sat in his office and discussed our next moves I felt that the Lord was there being my rock to hold onto.  As I agreed to tweak my medication a little bit, I just felt so “held”.  

And I thought of His hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt of my affliction.  Those are the hands that held me in that moment, and let me know that it was all going to work out according to His will.  And I trusted Him more than I ever have in my life that I would be able to handle whatever was in store for me.  

Just to give you a little insight about me if you’re new to the podcast, I was diagnosed five years ago with Bipolar ll, after having 2 manic epsodes within two months that landed me in the hospital.  Although, I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life.  

Fifteen years ago I had my first mental breakdown.  At the time I wouldn’t accept the diagnosis and kind of set about to prove the Doctors wrong.  I was in denial and did not want to be labeled as “crazy”.  Because let’s face it, that’s what most people think of when the word bipolar is mentioned.  That word is tossed around so lightly these days as people talk about someone else’s behavior that they don’t understand.  And to be quite honest, it is really distressing and inconsiderate to those of us who have mental illnesses of any kind. 

Anyway, here is my timeline. I had suffered with what I thought was depression from the time my first child was born.  I had Postpartum depression.  And with each child it would get a little bit worse.  With my fourth and last child, I finally realized that it was time to talk to someone about it. I knew from my previous births that the depression usually did not subside for around 9 or more months after the baby was born.  I remember the therapist telling me after we had talked, that I had two choices. I could either take medication that would help me feel better within a few weeks or I could go ahead and wait it out and be miserable for the next several months.  Well, that was kind of no brainer for me. So I went ahead and went on the medication. 

Over the few years after that I jumped from medication to medication.  They would work for several months and then all of sudden I would be feeling horrible again. During that time I started researching alternate forms of medication.  I realized that there were so many other things that I could do on my own that would affect how I felt.  Such as working out, making sure my stress levels did not get too high, making sure I was getting good sleep and good nutrition, and so on.  So I started working towards that and slowly weaned myself off the medications for what I hoped would be forever.  And I was able to maintain that for probably around 4 or so years.  

But when you have a severe chemical imbalance, the chances of it coming to the surface again is quite likely, and may warrant medication.

I have mentioned before on the podcast that I do not discuss any of the medications that I have been on over the years because everyone’s body is different and what worked for me may or may not work for you and vice versa. I think that is a dangerous road to go down.  We each have so many different chemicals and hormones that affect how we respond. It’s so important to follow what your Dr. suggests and find something that works for your body.  I highly recommend if you have the funding or if your insurance will pay for it, that you get DNA testing to find out what your body is compatible with. I will discuss that in a few minutes.

Anyway,that breakdown 15 years ago, was what started me on the road to finding out what exactly was happening with my body. As I said I was in denial and did everything I could to prove that Bipolar was not what I had.

I went back to my nurse practitioner at the time, and explained what had happened.  She knew my history and from what I explained to her about what had happened, we both came to the conclusion that I just needed to get some sleep.  I had not been on any medication for the previous 4 or so years which I mentioned earlier, and didn’t believe that I would ever need it again. She put me on an anti-anxiety med that I would take as needed.  Just when I felt stressed or a little out of sorts.  It would calm me down and then I’d be ok. 

At my next yearly appointment I was feeling some depression setting in. I had read about a certain medication in a magazine that had helped someone else.  So she agreed and prescribed it for me.  I was on that medication for 10 years.  Clear up until my second breakdown (or manic episode) that landed me in the hospital. 

And that’s where things started to get super out of control.  If you want to read more about experiences that I had while trying to find the right meds you can go back to my post Living with Bipolar and several posts after that one.   

Luckily at that time I was referred to a great psychiatrist that told me right from the get go.  You have Bipolar ll, no arguing whether or not you have it. Apparently that’s a pretty common experience.  I wonder why?  With such a stigma about it, it’s no wonder that people don’t want to be labeled.

He said, “We are just going to work to get you better. It might take some time. But we are going to find out what “recipe” works best for you.”  It was actually so comforting to have someone finally take control of something that I could not.  And I also finally accepted the fact that I did indeed have Bipolar.  

But it wasn’t a death sentence… this would actually bring me back to who I really was, underneath the mask of Bipolar. He wouldn’t  put me back on that medication that had worked for 10 years because he said it was the wrong medication for my diagnosis and it would never work for me again.  

Over the next year we were able to find my recipe.  And once I did, I felt so much better than a year before when I was completely at my lowest point ever. So I never really questioned whether or not I could feel even better than I did.  I didn’t feel completely like myself as I had on the medication that I was on for 10 years.  But for me it was so much better than where I was a year before.  It was good enough. I did not have a DNA test with that Doctor.  He never suggested it, and I had never heard of it so there was no reason to do it.

I had my DNA testing done in 2019 when I was forced to change Psychiatrists because my current one was retiring.  The Doctor that I found (after doing my homework to find a good fit for me), recommended it.  I didn’t even know that such a thing existed and gladly said that I would. I had mine done through GeneSight Psychotropic and it is called Combinatorial pharmacogenomic test.  What it does, is tell you what drugs on the market today are highly compatible, somewhat compatible, and not at all compatible  with your individual DNA.  So it is very valuable information.

We did that at my second appointment with the new Doctor.  I was floored to find out that the medication that I had been on for 10 years (the one after my very first breakdown), was only moderately compatible with my body and the wrong medication entirely for my diagnosis.  It was for depression and what I needed was a mood stabilizer since my moods were either really high and things were going great or I would sink into a deep depression. Apparently my first Dr. was right. One of the reasons I will always push for anyone going through mental health issues to find a good psychiatrist.

We also discovered that the medication that I was currently taking was only moderately compatible with my DNA.  When we went over the report, my new Doctor suggested that eventually I might want to switch to one that was highly compatible for me.  Of course I had been feeling good for 4 years at that time and was pretty gun shy when it came to switching.  Why would I fix what was not broken?  So I would go to my regularly scheduled 3 month appointments over the next year and we would discuss it again and I always said, “no, I don’t want to mess with what I’ve got going.”  And he was very understanding and accommodating and agreeable.  Until I started having some pretty severe sleep issues. Which was probably one of the biggest reasons that I ended up back in the hospital the second time.  I was under a lot of stress and hardly slept at all for about 5 days.  Not good.

I have mentioned many times that getting enough sleep is critical for someone who has a mental illness like bipolar. (Really, sleep is so important for everyone!) So that was a pretty great concern.  My doctor mentioned that the other medication had a sedative.  I would take it at night and it would help improve my sleep.  But I still wasn’t convinced.  Finally after nearly another year of not having really good sleep, I was ready to try it.  

So that brings you up to date on my timeline.   I switched medications at the end of March 2021, right after I started doing the daily podcasts (not great timing on my part). I was terrified of going back into that dark place, but my Doctor assured me that it would be better for me according to my DNA test.  The first 4 days were so scary.  I started feeling very jittery like I was on speed or something.  

Similar to the way I feel when climbing the scale toward a manic episode.  A good way to explain the kinds of things that my husband was seeing, is that they were small things that most people would not see or notice.  Such as doing simple routine things in a different order than normal.  Or becoming a little agitated about things I normally wouldn’t be affected by. 

I called my Doctor and he assured me that it was not a manic episode according to what I described and asked me to give it more time.  Within a few weeks the jittery feeling was gone and I felt better than I had since 2015 when I had the 2 back to back hospital stays.  I finally felt like myself again.  I had no idea that I could feel even better than I did.  I was sleeping again. I had drive, and motivation. I felt clear headed like a fog had been lifted.  I could focus and get things done.  I loved it!  And I still do. So what happened recently? Well, here’s the story.

Luckily, I am very good at keeping a daily journal.  Just a couple of paragraphs of how I am feeling, and what’s going on in my life.  It has been very helpful in being able to look back and discover where things started to become a little unbalanced.  I had become a little lax on some of my daily habits.  I was missing a lot of workouts, and my nutrition was really suffering.  I was eating a lot of junk food and a lot of sugar.  I was under a lot of stress, because I had to go through several medical procedures in one month.  I am 53 and have a lot of hormonal issues as well.  

And I got to the point where sleep was starting to become an issue again. So all this comes into play just as I have been working on adjusting to the new medication.  When I look at it that way, I think that it wasn’t just the medication switch, it was everything combined.  It was like heading into the perfect storm…. Again.  And that’s why it is so vitally important to have a good support system in place.  Someone who knows you well and can see when things are a little out of order (for me that’s my husband).  And also to have a Doctor that is a good fit for you, that you feel comfortable with and who knows your history well.  

I started to have what my Doctor calls “outliers”.  Which basically means that I was super steady for a period of time and then I would spike and do something that was out of character for me.  

What is interesting to me is that these things were so tiny that if you don’t know me well, you would completely miss them.  Also, as I said in episode 32, most of the time they are such small things that even I can’t see that it is out of character.  Which is quite common according to my Doctor.  

So when these things start happening there are two directions it can go.  Either someone recognizes it quickly and you see your Doctor and make adjustments.  Or no one recognizes it until it’s too late. You have already climbed the scale to a manic episode. Which could mean hospitalization.

In my situation, we caught it very quickly, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in my medication.  Remember I had just switched, so we were kind of in the process of finding the right recipe again.  We knew it was compatible with my DNA. We just needed to find the right dosage.  We made a minor change and since then I have been fine and the “outliers” have stopped.

But this whole experience taught me so much about myself and my illness and the journey that I’ve been on.  I have gained an entirely new perspective that I think is really important.  Especially when it comes to helping others be able to overcome their struggles. And also to allow me to continue on my journey toward wellness.  I know now more than ever that I have to be so vigilant with my daily habits, and be sure I don’t miss days with my medication.  That’s why I like to call those who suffer with mental illness, warriors.  Because we are in the fight for lives every single day. 

Even though this is a sickness that can not be seen by the naked eye, like cancer, or diabetes.  It is still life threatening.  People who have not been through it or witnessed a loved one going through it, don’t understand that.  That’s why we have so many suicides and so many mentally ill people who are not getting the care that they so vitally need.  They don’t have a support system in place that can help them.  It’s easy to abandon someone when you feel like they are just being negative and difficult.

We need to be better at recognizing and understanding when someone is ill and support them instead of shunning them.  There is nothing more frustrating for a person who is suffering than to have someone say that it’s all made up or they are doing things to hurt people intentionally.  

It becomes debilitating and demeaning to be made to feel like there is something wrong with you as a person.  When the truth is, you are sick.  What you have is an illness that needs to be separated from the person that God made you to be. There is nothing wrong with the  “you” God made you to be.  You are human just like everyone else.  Your illness does not define who you are.  Just like you are not the cancer or you are not the diabetes.  Yes, it is something that you have, that you live it.  But it doesn’t make you, you!  

So my invitation to all of you today is: If you struggle with mental illness of any kind, find a psychiatrist that comes highly referred and is a good fit for you.  Going to a psychiatrist does not mean you will necessarily need medication.  There are many behavioral modifications that you can make with their help. Choosing to seek help is not a sign of weakness! It takes courage and strength to admit that you need help!

And then do whatever you need to, to find someone who can be a good support system for you.  Someone that knows you and can help assess the situation when things seem out of the ordinary.

If you have no one, seek out a therapist.  I know all of this is expensive and sometimes it’s hard to get insurance companies to pay. I won’t even go into my thoughts on that disservice! But if you can find a way to do it, the investment into your health will be worth every last penny.

And if you are a loved one of someone who is struggling, do everything you possibly can to help them recognize how much you love them and support them and want the best for them.  Encourage them! Don’t demean them.  Don’t minimize their illness or their struggle.  Validate their feelings and do whatever you can to help them to know that they can trust you.  

And to all of you together, I encourage you to trust in the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and soul . Because He’s got you in the palms of His Hands.  You are “held” always!  Until next time. Take care. 

XO Wendy

If you made it this far. Thanks for reading.  If you or someone you know has a trial that you/they’ve been able to get through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast.  My goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of hard things.

Ha! Didn’t see that coming.

I was looking back on some of my posts from this year and boy oh boy, did I NOT see all of this coming in 2020.  I’m sure that we can all say that, unfortunately.

But I am an eternal optimist, and although this year started off with a bang, I am determined to make sure that the experiences that we’ve all been through this year don’t end up without a lesson learned.

So tell me what lessons have you learned this year?  Here are a few of mine (in no particular order).

  1. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.  I believe this has been a tough one for all of us to learn.  Especially if we may not have heeded the warnings over the years from our leaders. We have been exhorted to keep several months worth of food storage.  To have a 72 hour preparedness kit on hand should the need arise.  Unfortunately the need has arisen this past year.  Not only have we needed to be physically prepared, this year has given us great cause to be spiritually prepared as places of worship have been unable to operate and social distancing has precluded us from spending time with our fellowshipping communities.  We have been counseled to be spiritually prepared in probably the most often quoted passage from President Russell M. Nelson this year.  He strongly admonished us to be ready.  He said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”  I trust that we have all learned this great lesson to be prepared both physically and spiritually.
  2. Family and friendships should be first on the priority list, ALWAYS.  We have really learned this lesson the hard way!  Around the world we were/are all asked to social distance to keep Covid-19 from spreading.  So no more hugging, shaking hands, going to lunch and just plain hanging out with friends.  We have been limited to spending time in our homes with our immediate family members with limited resources for entertainment.  With schools and entertainment venues being closed, we have had to go back to a former time when riding bikes, doing puzzles, playing games and being bored sometimes, were the norm.  I think we have realized that all of those things have great value and importance in building and strengthening our relationships as we slowly return back to a new normal.
  3. Human life is fragile and can change in the blink of an eye.  So many of us (if not all) have been forever changed by tragedy this year.  From tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods,  to sickness, depression, loss of life, and loss of celebration of our most precious moments.  I think it’s safe to say that we have all been affected in some way or another. Not being able to be with someone in the hospital and them having to shoulder something horrible all by themselves, has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences to witness.  The importance of being with our loved ones in hard times and in times of great joy have new meaning now.  Leaving this Earth, coming into this world, and loving while here on this Earth have hopefully been deeply ingrained as the most important elements of our life here on Earth.  That lesson has been deep and hard in so many ways.  May we be forever grateful for all the life we have been given, and not take another single minute for granted.  It can all be taken away from us without a moment’s notice.
  4. Stillness is a practice to be appreciated.  For the Bertagnolli household, all of the craziness of life, work, school, running kids to and from activities and practices, all came to a screeching halt when the tornado hit us on March 2-3rd (in the middle of the night).  The boys’ school was destroyed.  So the focus became, where and how are the boys going to have school?  The first 2 weeks of March (approximately) that was our primary focus.  Thank goodness we did not sustain damage to our home but many, many of our friends did.  Not only did they have to worry about school, but how and where they were going to return to normal life?  And then, within days of decisions being made as to where the boys would be going to school and cleanup and repairs being made to homes and businesses, BOOM, shut down the world!  And suddenly life how we knew became very still.  Most of us are not used to being still, running around crazy all the time from one activity to the next.  And suddenly we are completely compelled to “be still”.  If ever there was a time that God spoke to us, “Be still and know that I am God”- psalms 46:10,  it has been in the year 2020.  We have had to turn our hearts to God to merely survive all of the craziness that has been thrown at us this year.   And if you haven’t learned that lesson yourself, I highly encourage you to make the time to be still, to meditate, to pray and then listen.  God knows you, He hears you, and trust me when I say you are never ever alone.  Be still and know!
  5. Good health is everything. Being a self proclaimed expert in the field of mental illness (joking), I have been reminded over and over again of how important it is to stay mentally, physically and spiritually healthy.  I am so grateful that 2019 was year of  improved mental health for me.  I think had it not been, I may have been one that succumbed to the pressures and stresses of living with mental illness create. I sincerely hope not, but you just don’t know do you?  I am torn apart to hear about friends and family that have not been able to cope with the sudden changes that have taken place.  I am heartbroken to hear of illness and loss of physical health due to the effects that this year has brought on.  I am distressed by the number of people that have walked away from God during this time when we should be seeking Him for deliverance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .                                                                                                                                                                                                 I will be forever changed (hopefully for the better) because of the events of 2020.  And I know you will too.  How can we have a year like this and not be changed for life?  Only time will tell if these lessons will be ingrained within us.  I fear that as time goes on and life returns to somewhat normal, hatred, fear, and anger will return with a vengeance (as we have already seen politically speaking).  It is Satan’s way.  But as I said in the beginning, I am and will always be an optimist and I choose to remember and retain the good lessons that I have learned.  And I will more wholey choose hope and joy every day of the week.  I hope you will too.   Let me know in the comments what lessons you have learned this year.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Pointing toward hope is now on podcast!  Just search for Pointing toward hope on most podcasting platforms. Instagram, and Facebook.  I hope you come and follow me in pointing toward hope every day.  If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to share that will lift others in meeting life’s challenges, please contact me.  I would LOVE to reach out and have them on the show for an episode.  Choose joy!

Refresh and reframe your mindset

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At the beginning of the year 2020 we had such a positive outlook on the year ahead!  After all it was the year of “perfect vision”.  Now we are 8 months in, and as I’m sure you will all agree, it has been…. well… a year of some unmet expectations. Ok maybe a lot of unmet expectations! But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the rest of year. And neither should you. Let’s finish out this year STRONG!

So that all sounds great right? But it’s not so easy to do. Especially in our ever changing world filled with uncertainty and fear for what the third quarter of 2020 might bring. I mean I have started and stopped my goal of recreating my relationship with food (hello Covid-19), every time I read something else in the media that produces anxiety.  Maybe it’s time to step away from social media for a while (that’s why I’ve been missing in action for a hot minute, lol).

I’m not suggesting giving it up completely (thats just crazy talk), I mean we have to stay informed. Just choose wisely what you choose to fill your brain with.

Here are a five ways other than going easy on social media, that I have found to deal with the anxiety and hopelessness of the future. And to reframe thinking in a positive and productive way.

  1. Brain Dump Sometimes feelings and emotions can really become too much to bear. A practice that I have found helpful is to get out a journal (you know how I love journals!) and just “dump” all of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and scenarios that you are creating in your mind on to a blank page. You don’t even have to keep it if you don’t want to. I find that just releasing all of that emotion from your head and your heart is truly cathartic. It can be a form of therapy to just let your heart and soul out in words. Words that you’ve been tossing around and around inside your brain, creating all kinds of awful scenarios. Just get it out so you can let your brain rest.
  2. Breathe There are moments when I’m working on something whether it be at work or at home even hanging out at soccer game (yes we just started back up again, yay!), when I notice that I have been holding my breath.  It’s really a common practice to tense up when we are deeply engrossed in something. You may even be doing it at this very moment.  So stop right now and do it with me.  Close your eyes and take a big inhale through your nose (really fill up your lungs).  Now let it out slowly through your mouth.  Now do that 2 more times as you let your body just relax.  Hopefully that will help you feel a little less anxious.  Just breathe.
  3. Kill the ants automatic negative thoughts (thank youJim Kwik). Negative thoughts rob us of joy and kill our hope and steal our happiness. We’ve all heard the quote by Henry Ford,  “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Our thoughts are so powerful!  As Jillian Michaels from biggest loser always says, “If you fight for your limiting beliefs you get to keep them. ”  Don’t get caught in the trap of telling yourself that you are not (smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, motivated enough, old enough, young enough etc).  What you tell yourself you are, is what you will become.  Practice self love on a daily basis by being kind to yourself.  Don’t let the “ants” keep you from thriving
  4. Drink yo’ water!!!! I know this might seem like a crazy thing to add in this post. And I will harp on this forever (see more here). There are so many benefits to getting your water in daily (at least half of your body weight in ounces).  And so many negatives to not drinking water.  Being properly hydrated is so important.  Here are just a few benefits:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  When we become dehydrated it can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, weakened muscles and lack of motivation.  Do yourself a favor and fill up your cup!
  5. Get out of your space Sometimes we get so caught up doing things in our own little world that we forget how much of a breath of fresh air it is to get out and see others.  Being with people who love us and support us and laugh with us, might be the most useful and important activity we can do for us and for them!  I can’t wait to be able to hug big again!  Granted this has been especially hard during 2020 with Corona.  But it is not going to last forever and for the time being, we can still get out and walk our neighborhood and wave at others as they drive by, or talk and laugh 6 feet apart.  And sometimes playing games and visiting with your own family in your own home can be such a ray of sunshine. 
  1. I hope that these ideas will help you to find some ways to destress and decompress and refresh and reframe your mindset with everything that is going on in our world.  If you are struggling, please know that you are NEVER alone! 

Isaiah 52:12  For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.

The Lord is always by your side with His angels to assist you.  I know this because he has been there for me over and over again.  Love to you all, have a wonderful weekend.

XO Wendy

P.S.   Big News!  Something fun coming soon!!!

Make sure to enter your email above to be alerted!  I promise you won’t want to miss it!

 

 

Letting go of the ruin

 

When I was fifteen years old, my dad and I bought an old beat up 1976 Camaro from the high school auto shop.  I was going to be driving soon, and if things worked out I’d have my own wheels and freedom!  I was so excited.  

If memory serves me right, we paid about $300 for it.  It was in fair condition.  It could be driven.  But there were several things wrong with it, including it was in bad need of a paint job.  Of course I only noticed what it looked like on the outside and I wasn’t so sure that the $300 was well spent.   But it had good “bones”.  And the interior was still pretty nice, although stained a bit.  But my dad could see something in her that I couldn’t.

My dad and I spent the better part of a summer working on that Camaro, and bringing her back to life.  He on the mechanics of it, and me helping with the stains on the interior and the frame.  I remember spending hours sanding the metal down by dipping the sandpaper in water and then removing every bit of remaining paint left.  We rubbed putty (or something of the sort) in every dent and then sanded that down.  It was a grueling process that required attention to every detail.  But that was the process that was required to make her new again.  To repair the damage that had been done and make it whole once again.

Then finally… one day she was ready to paint and get the finishing touches put on.  I had saved all summer long to be able to pay for the parts and the paint job that went into her (candy apple red!).  And I couldn’t have been more proud of the work that we had done.

The day that we put “Old Red” on the road was one of the most exciting days of my life!  All of our hard work had finally garnered the result that  I craved.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was mine, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

As I reflected on that restoration process these past few months, I have been reminded of all the processes of restoration that we all have to go through during our lives on this earth.  We are all broken down, with a few stains here and there, in bad need of repair or “restoration”.  And although we may feel like we are barely getting by, the Lord sees our “good bones”.  He sees what the outcome can be with a little sanding here and a little putty there, and maybe a shiny new coat of paint.

I have spent a lot of time pondering and asking the Lord why?  Why do I have to live with a bipolar diagnosis?  Why is it that my body is broken down, stained and dented?  What good is meant to come out of this?  What’s the purpose?

And then I remembered the story of the Old Camaro and it came to me with perfect clarity.  We come to Him (our Lord Jesus Christ), broken, beaten down, full of sorrow and He “restores” us.

When I was diagnosed bipolar, my life as I knew it ended.  Everything changed.  I went from feeling like nothing could stop me.  To feeling like a broken shell of a person.  I was struggling with finding the right medications, the right Dr., the right plan for recovery.

It was only when I laid all my fears at the feet of my Savior that true restoration began.  Where I saw a broken shell, He saw the good bones. It has not been easy.  It’s a long grueling process.  From waiting for 6 weeks just to get into see the right Dr. and then ending up in the hospital again right before that appointment.  Then waiting another 6 weeks to finally get in again. Then trying different medications, behaviors and habits that work for me and my body chemistry.  A little sanding here and a little putty there.  He truly has been my source of restoration.

Elder Holland, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, once said, “I think of that night when Christ rushed to the aid of His frightened disciples, walking as He did on the water to get to them, calling out, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Christ’s answer to him was as it always is every time: “Come,” He said. Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waters. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea. In newer terror he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Undoubtedly with some sadness, the Master over every problem and fear, He who is the solution to every discouragement and disappointment, stretched out His hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:27–31

If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.” (May 2006 General Conference address).

We just need to reach out to Him and then keep our eyes fixed upon Him.  He can restore us.  He can bring us hope and peace and comfort.  If we will let him.  Because He loves us.  Because He broke the bands of death.  Because we are His!

We need not be fearful of the changes and trials that come into our lives.  We need only to believe.  Believe that He will come to us in His infinite power to restore us to our former state.  Believe that He will bring us back to a state of health, soundness and vigor.  It may not happen now, it may not happen in this lifetime.  But it will happen.  One day we will be restored in all our glory.  Just like my dad and I restored Old Red.  Our Savior will restore us, and He will take us out for a spin on the road and we will be His because that’s all that really matters to Him.

XO Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

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