BPD, a blessing or a curse?

Prosper you and give you hope

Bipolar disorder (BPD), is a big part of my life, whether I like it or not (…Not!).  However  I have to give it credit for being a catalyst for so much good and positive change in my life.  That’s right!  When it all boils down, I am grateful for the disorder for helping me to grow toward becoming a more positive, healthy, empathetic, and gratuitous person.

I still have a journey ahead of me, of course, but I am happy with how far I have come.  When I look back at the road less traveled (or maybe I should say less acknowledged), I can see the many times that BPD has been a blessing in my life.

The annual report of the state of mental health in America, came out today and while I was pleased to see that substance use disorder has dropped some, it is clear that we have a lot more work to do in bringing awareness to mental illness and suicide prevention. I hope that my posts have had some effect in bringing that awareness to others.

Here are just a few of the reasons that I have found, to see my illness as a blessing.  It is worth mentioning there is always the flip side of the coin but in this post I want to stick to the positives.

 

  1. GET Stuff Done! While I had severe bouts with depression when my kids were little (I had four within 7 years!), I credit being able to get A LOT of stuff done to the manic side of BPD.  I remember being called the “energizer bunny” because I could accomplish so many projects in a day.  It probably wasn’t the healthiest way to get things done.  But when my kids were little and required so much time and attention I was able to give them what they needed. And as they got older and all had different schedules and activities, I was able to get them all where they needed to be when they needed to be there, keep a house of order, cook and clean and stay organized.  I often look back and wonder how I did it all!  Now I know.
  2. More Empathetic.  Not that I wasn’t always a caring person, it’s been in my nature to care for others since I was little.  I had a mother that was a great example of this.  However, being diagnosed with a mental illness, especially one as serious as the one that I have, has helped me to recognize the loneliness that people with mental illnesses experience.  We all feel like no one understands and that no one knows what we are going through.  We withdraw and retreat into ourselves because of that.  But I want you to know that you are NEVER EVER alone.  I see you!  And so do a lot of others out there who have struggled with similar disorders. And Jesus Christ KNOWS exactly what you have and will experience, because he descended below it all for you and for me!  Jesus will always have your back.
  3. I Know in Whom I trust. Speaking of Jesus Christ, I would never have come to know my Savior in the way that I now do if it hadn’t been for what I have gone through on my road to better health.  One of my favorite scriptures came to me in a time when I was most in need.  Jeremiah 29:11 says: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and  a future.  Whenever I was down or was having a particularly hard day (which there have plenty of), I looked to that scripture and remembered that my Lord is always aware of me and knows my needs and wants the best outcome for me.
  4. Live in Gratitude Daily.  That probably sounds strange to some people, especially to those who suffer with debilitating illnesses.  But I have learned that keeping a daily gratitude journal is one of the best practices that one can do for physical, spiritual and mental well being.  Sometimes I may have to dig deep to find the tender mercies of a day.  But when I do, I am always filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the life that I have blessed with, illness and all.
  5. Appreciate the Really Good Days.  I’ll be the first one to admit that there are some really, really hard days when dealing with these types of illnesses.  There are days when you feel like you can’t go on, that it is all too hard and you can’t survive another day.  Even though I am on medication and am in a better spot than I have ever been in, I still have bad days.  However, it makes me appreciate, really truly appreciate. Every. Single. Day. That I am alive. That I am here and that I can share and help others who may have similar experiences.  My good days are something to be celebrated.  And celebrate I do, with every day I live I am grateful for having been blessed with BPD.  It has made my life fuller and richer in so many ways.

Have a wonderful day and week!

XO Wendy

Be grateful for today.

Be thankful for how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.  We only have one life!  

Don’t waste it away worrying about what you haven’t yet been able to do.  Make today great and full of gratitude and everything else will take care of itself.

Faith, Trust, Courage

Sometimes, in fact most times, it’s difficult to have the courage to face hard things.  Everyday, I wake up and know that I have to do hard things to keep my health in check. For example, working out (which sometimes I just really don’t wanna!), making healthy food choices, (when I really want something full of sugar, like ice cream) and getting good rest (when what I really want is to stay up late and finish that book!). 

From the outside those may not seem like things that particularly take courage.  Or faith or trust. But living with mental illness (or any illness or hard thing) and knowing that every day might bring something that totally changes everything, takes courage to face.

Especially this time of year when night comes quickly and the weather is gloomy. 

I have been so impressed by Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, even more so than usual as I have begun to ponder and pray about the story of his family this year in the Come follow me manual.

Nephi was courageous this was his reply, “I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands.  I know the Lord provides a way, He wants me to obey. (primary songbook, Nephi’s courage)

I have begun to see an overarching theme within Nephi’s personality, or maybe a spiritual gift that he’s been blessed with.

He has the most incredible FAITH in the Lord and then he TRUSTS the Lord with all his heart.  So much so that it gives him the COURAGE to follow through with whatever the Lord asks of him. No questions.

I want to follow that example of Nephi, I can say with confidence, “I will take on this illness, because I have FAITH and TRUST that the Lord will take me through it.  And the COURAGE to believe that I am going to come out on the other side of this a better person.” Even on the days when it’s really, really hard to see the light.

How would your life be different if you had that kind of faith, trust and courage in the Lord?

And on that same trend of thought; The Lord does so much for US.  I mean, sit down and make a list of all the things the Lord has done for YOU in your lifetime.  It’s a pretty long list.

Now ask yourself, what do I DO for HIM?  Do I love Him? And if so, how do I show it?

Just a few things to ponder about today.  And if you feel like it, go back and read Chapters 4 and 17.  So much wisdom to be gained.

 

XO Wendy

Please stay

I have been thinking over the weekend about what I wanted to write about this week, I felt a great need to express support for those of you who are really struggling right now with some form of mental illness. I see you! 

I have mentioned in the past few posts about how BPD (Bipolar disorder) is under control for me at this moment in time.  And that can be hard for people to accept when they are in the deep throws of it. I know for many of you, it is a constant struggle.  And I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, I have empathy for you. I DO know what you are going through because I have been there.  I know that each and every day is a struggle to merely survive.

But please, please, please don’t give up!  Just stay! Please stay! We need you, we need your experience, your knowledge, your strength, your courage.  We need to band together as warriors in this great fight against the darkness of mental illness. 

Speaking of warriors there is a great youtube channel called Polar Warriors that is incredible in it’s content.  Definitely worth taking a look at. And also very good for loved ones who have a hard time understanding what a person with mental illness goes through.  While it is mostly about BPD, it can be related to many forms of mental illness. 

In Sister Reyna Aburto’s October 2019 talk she says, when we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles. Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.”

Please don’t suffer in silence.  We need your voice to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Though our illness might be invisible to others, it is definitely not invisible to us.  And we need to acknowledge that and give ourselves grace. Open up and be a support to others and help yourself in the process.  We can do this together. I am always here to listen and share my personal experiences and hopefully help you in some small way. Please know that there is always somewhere to turn.

However, there is only one that descended below all, so that he could succor us in our weakness and afflictions. Look to Jesus Christ in times of dispair.  Open your scriptures, there is great power there. That is how he can speak to you! Know that He sees you! He loves you without condition. He suffered so that we can LIVE!

I hope you all have better days ahead.

XO Wendy

 

5 Things not to say to a person with bipolar disorder

Some of you have requested that I post more about my experiences with living with bipolar disorder.  So I figured this year I would try to write about it at least once a week (maybe more depending on the week).

I will say that it is much easier to write and talk about these things when I feel healthy and that the disorder is in control.  The sad part is that just because I’m healthy now, doesn’t mean that I don’t have it or that it will magically go away.  I like to think of it as it’s “in remission”.  Hopefully it stays way but just like cancer, I need regular checkups with my Dr. And for me personally, making sure I take my medication and always strive to keep up the 10 habits.

There can also be many side effects that never go away.   And it doesn’t mean that things that people say (well-meaning) don’t affect me in a negative way.

So today I thought I’d give you an idea of what NOT to say to someone who has bipolar disorder.

1. You seem so normal. This is probably the one that I hear the most and it’s frustrating because just because I look or seem normal doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling.  Plus, you never know if someone is between cycles of mania or depression.  And some people are just really good at hiding it or wearing a mask.  Think about how this would feel if you said it to someone with cancer!  It is a lack of empathy in my honest opinion.  A better way to approach this would be to say.  “You seem like you’re feeling good at the moment, what can I do to support you?”  Just showing you care and recognize it as a disorder, will go a long way.

2. I saw so and so the other day and she was acting so crazy, I think she’s bipolar! First of all, we are NOT the disorder, we HAVE the disorder. Second, making assumptions that someone has a disorder just because of their actions is rude and disrespectful.

Remember how I talked about your manner of language yesterday?  When you say it like that, it makes us feel like if you think that about them then you must think we are totally bonkers!  It’s a generalization that doesn’t help the situation.  And most often just makes us feel worse.  A better way would be to say, “I saw so and so the other day, she looked like she was really struggling, it’s possible she could be suffering with a mental illness.  Is there anything that you would suggest that might help?” Be genuine.

3.  Come on let’s go shopping, you just need to get out. It’s not that easy to just snap out of it.  This is a real honest struggle for those who suffer, and just getting out doesn’t make it go away automatically.  Most often it feels physically impossible to do the easiest of tasks. However, I will say that continued support is extremely helpful.  Check in often ask sincerely how they are feeling that day and if they might like to get out?  And then be supportive and understanding if they decline.  Again a little bit of empathy can go a long way.  Genuinely care about the person and do not make it seem like what we are going through is fake or brought on by something we are doing or not doing.  Don’t give up on us.

4. You are acting crazy, phsycho, deranged, out of control, bonkers, or any other negative terms used to describe someone who is probably really struggling to stay in control.  Again, just be careful of generalizations and assumptions.  Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

A better way to handle this situation would be to gently say, “I feel like you are not quite your usual self today.  Is there anything I can do to help?”  Be prepared for a person to become defensive.  And if that happens, it’s best to just give them time to process your observation.  The last thing they want to have happen is to have the disorder sneak up on them.  Pointing out an observation and then giving them time to adjust and process would be a good way to handle it.  And again, lots and lots of support.  Don’t just walk away and never come back to it. Give it time and then try to sort it out when they are ready.

* A note to the person who has bipolar: Personally, when this has happened to me, I find it therapeutic to document how that made me feel in a journal, just let it all come spilling out on paper.  It saves me from saying something that I will probably regret.

5.  And finally… You’re just making all of this up to get attention. While it may seem illogical to you, it usually makes perfect sense to the person with bipolar.  Bipolar is a disorder of the brain, so it makes sense that sometimes certain behaviors or statements may seem irrational.  When observing behavior that doesn’t seem normal, brushing it off with blanket statements like this is NOT helping. Give the person validation by saying something like,  “I understand that what you are seeing/saying/doing is very important to you, what can I do to help you with this?”  Again you may encounter some defensiveness, but be gentle.  Yelling and trying to make your point is actually just a way of escalating the symptoms they may be experiencing.

I hope that helped a little and made you think about your words and the way that you support someone who is struggling with bipolar.  It’s very difficult for a loved one to see someone they love struggling and not acting like themselves.  Give each other grace and be gentle.  And encourage them in the kindest way, to get the help they need.  They need your support more than ever when times are tough.  Checking in regularly and genuinely is a great way to help someone who has bipolar disorder.  And above all, never, never give up on them!

XO Wendy

2019 has been…

A great year!  I have so many things to be grateful for this year.  Has it been hard at times?  Yes of course.  But I feel so incredibly blessed to have lived this life for another year.  You know, I AM getting up there, haha.  The 50’s haven’t exactly been my favorites.  But I am working on having a better attitude about them :).

So I know it’s only been a few months since I started writing daily but I feel like the holidays are so important for all of us to be spending time with our friends and families.  So I will be taking the next few weeks off of writing to spend building those relationships.  I may possibly write one or two in between (just have to see how it goes), but that is the plan.

I am so appreciative of those that follow me and those that read what I have to say.  I am humbled by those of you who have shared with me your feelings, experiences, emails, comments, and love this past year.

My health journey is on going and something that I will continue to progress through.  I am determined to be able to continue on a good healthy path and hope that I can help any of you along the way who might be struggling.

Mental illness is no joke!  It’s can be debilitating and life threatening.  If you or someone you know suffers with any type of mental illness, please, please, please seek help or help them get the help they need.  It’s out there and it can make your life livable and breathable again.  Please don’t suffer in silence. Make it your goal in 2020 (a new decade!), to get your life back!  Make it your goal to get healthy and happy, make it your goal to not just survive but to thrive!  And above all, have joy!

I love you all.  Merry Christmas!

XO Wendy

Some days we thrive, somedays we survive.

thrive and survive

Yesterday was one such day for me.  Surviving.  I don’t know if it was the weather (regarding seasonal depression), or I didn’t sleep well, or if it was something that affected me in a negative way.  But it was a really rough day.

My daughter always used to say, “a good day always follows a bad one”. So I sort of clung to that idea believing that I’d wake up and I would feel better.  Maybe not significantly better, but better none the less. I also tried to really focus on my self care and tried to figure out what, if anything I’d been missing.

And that’s what got me thinking about these two very different states of the mind.  Having dealt with seasonal depression pretty much every year for my whole life, I know it never gets easier.  But we can become stronger by the habits that we intentionally develop over the course of the year leading up to this time of year.  You’d think that I’d be ready for it when it hits but not so.  It always just kind of smacks me from behind leaving me wondering what hit me.  But that doesn’t mean I have to get knocked down, or if I do, that I can’t get back up again.

I’m sure that may be the same for many of you who suffer with mental illnesses (or any hard thing for that matter).  So I thought it would be great to try to focus on thriving this year instead of just surviving.  Let’s do it together.  I have a friends who I follow on IG that are such an inspiration to me because even in the really tough times, they are very open and constantly trying to practice good self care.  One of them posted this today and I think it is a really good reminder of things that we can do when we are struggling. If we can practice these things regularly through the hard months ahead, we can thrive instead of just survive.

IMG_6662

And if you are barely surviving, don’t be afraid to reach out.  Please just stay.  Don’t quit! I am always here to listen and I know others are there for you too.  Don’t give up.  It will get better.