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.

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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.

 

Hard can be good

Some of the best lessons we learn in our lives, come from something that was extremely difficult to get through.  And some of those lessons seem to be ongoing.  In hisOctober 2017 talk Stanley G. Ellis said, “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us, and gives us a chance to prove ourselves.  Hard can be good!”

Hard can be good

As I studied the words from his talk this weekend, I was taken back to many experiences that were extremely difficult at the time, but that now I can look back on and see the personal growth that came through or because of those experiences.  I’m sure that you can too.  But what can we do when we are in the midst of those hard times?

One of my favorite people ever, Zandra Vranes (I got to meet her personally in October this year), gave this wise counsel. “Rely on the lord, for only He can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and whats broken into something beautiful.”  I love that so much! And it reminded me once again of the scripture found in the Bible, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thy own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Very many times in our lives we experience pain, suffering, hard trials, challenges, etc.  that threaten to break us.  But it is through our trust in the Lord that we can become strong.  I know that there are people that will argue the statement “Things happen for a reason”,  but I strongly believe that.  We don’t always see and may never see it in this lifetime.  But God does have a plan for us.  It’s important to note that He does not make or intend for bad things to happen in our lives, but He is definitely there to pick us up and carry us along the way.

I also believe the fact that there are no coincidences. It seems that whenever I feel that all is lost, the Lord finds a way to remind me that He is always there and always will be even when it feels like he is not.

I believe that God is always working behind the scenes to build us and shape us.  Are there things that happen that are horrible in this world and in our personal lives? Absolutely! And sometimes we see people go through challenges that may be completely unbearable.  But if we are always putting a negative spin on things that happen in our lives, we will never truly be able to see the lessons we have or need to learn from our experiences.  And sometimes (a lot of the time) we have those experiences so that we can empathize and have love for and help one another.

Again quoting from Stanely G. Ellis’ talk, “Do we trust His commandments to be for our good? His leaders, though imperfect, to lead us well? His promises to be sure? Do we trust that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do know us and want to help us? Even in the midst of trials, challenges, and hard times, do we still trust Him?”

Hard is part of the plan.  Think of a baby chick who has to break through the shell unassisted.  A seed that has to break through the hard soil to grow into a beautiful tall tree.  A butterfly who breaks free of the chrysalis that binds it.  All of the examples from nature are a beautiful reminder that hard can be good!

I know it’s not easy especially in the midst of something hard, to think about it in a positive light.  But if we can rely on the Lord, trust that He knows what the bigger picture is and then look to Him to help us get through the hard things, we may be able to see that there is a purpose after all.

Please know that you are never alone in your struggles.  And if you ever feel like you are, please reach out. There are angels among us that are meant to help us through hard things.  Please don’t suffer in silence.  God is always there, even when we do not understand the whys.

XO Wendy

 

Triggers and obstacles

trauma triggers

When the physical body goes through something extremely dramatic the after effects can last a lifetime.  Many situations can “trigger” a setback or a fall back into old habits.

First of all the definition of this type of trigger is:  is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback.

Having to be admitted to the psych unit a handful of times over the last 20 years has left a significant amount of trigger trauma in my life.  And while I am learning how to deal with it, it still finds ways to come up and sort of pull me back into those past feelings of reliving the situation.  So I thought I’d give you a few ideas of how I have come to deal with some of these triggers.

Trigger #1. A loved one that was there, makes a comment about something that happened during my past experience.  These are probably the hardest types of triggers to avoid.  Know that it is usually not intentional and the person is not trying to trigger you.  They have memories of the experience too and may be affected in a negative way as well.

I have found for me, that the best way to deal with this type of trigger is to talk openly about the memories.  Not in a negative way, but it a way of “look how far I’ve come”. Talking about it, can be therapeutic for some and definitely is for me.  But I have also found that I need to set a mental timer of how long to talk about it.  Dragging a conversation on for more than, say ten minutes is usually unproductive and can cause you to dwell unnecessarily on the previous experience/s.  That is unless it is in the presence of your therapist or Dr. in my honest opinion.

Trigger #2. Walking into a place where smells or noises take you back to the experience.  This trigger is usually unexpected and comes out of nowhere.  And unless you know that this particular activity is going to be a trigger (for example it’s happened before), it can also be hard to avoid.

One of these triggers for me is a place where there is a lot of noise, distractions, busyness or chaos happening.  For me, when a manic episode starts to manifest, my senses are heightened so big gatherings, or parties, restaurants where there is a lot of loud music and bustling around, or sporting events where people are yelling and cheering and commentating and especially Black Friday shopping haha, all of that sort of thing.

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of those types of events happening, so if your loved one decides not to attend, don’t judge them too harshly.  They are just in survival mode and trying avoid situations that could be threatening to their well being.

Trigger #3. Working or participating in high level stressful environments. This is sort of similar to #2.  knowing that a situation is going to involve a large amount of stress can increase the likelihood of the situation becoming a problem.  Most situations like this can be avoided by simply saying no. Which can also not be easy.  It is simple but still hard to do. Other people have expectations (or at least we think they do) and we feel like we have to live up to the expectations.  But the truth is, our health and well-being is more important than anyone’s expectations of us.  If saying “no” will eliminate the trigger then that’s what you have to do.

I hope these little reminders have helped today, as we move through the busy holiday season.   Happy holidays and stay healthy!

XO Wendy

 

Anchored with hope

Finding hope or having hope can be a tricky job, especially when you are in the thick of something that is really difficult.

“Hope, the anchor, is essential in this world so full of tidal waves. Sometimes those waves slap us from behind; sometimes we see them coming but cannot stop them or get out of the way. In all cases, hope ties us to safety.” Elaine l. Jack

I have had so many days since being diagnosed bipolar that I find myself sinking into despair.  Even now that I have found a “recipe” of medication that works for me, I still have days where it is hard to find that hope.  But in those times I try to remind myself of these scriptures that promise us that though it may feel like a tidal wave slapping from behind,  there will be a brighter day tomorrow.  We can have faith and trust in the Lord that through that faith we will find hope, an anchor for our souls.

Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God (Ether 12:4)

hope anchor for our souls story

and

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; (Hebrews 6:19)

Samuel Smiles wrote: “‘Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.’ … Hope sweetens the memory of experiences well loved. It tempers our troubles to our growth and our strength. It befriends us in dark hours, excites us in bright ones. It lends promise to the future and purpose to the past. It turns discouragement to determination.”

That is a beautiful definition of hope! We also need to remember that we are sons and daughters of God and that our Lord and Savior atoned for us.  For all that we are going through, the good, the bad, and everything in between.  He descended beneath it all. He knows our pain and suffering, our successes and Joys.  We need only call upon Him to receive peace.

If thou wilt bow down before God … and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.   (Alma 22:16)

In a talk given by James E. Faust he says “Everybody in this life has their challenges and difficulties. That is part of our mortal test. The reason for some of these trials cannot be readily understood except on the basis of faith and hope because there is often a larger purpose which we do not always understand. Peace comes through hope.” 

I believe these things with all of my heart.  I have tested and tried them many times in the past and I have always been able to find that hope that I am yearning for.  It is not has not been easy for sure!  But eventually it will come if we put our trust in Him.

I know that these posts are short but I mainly just want to give you something to think and ponder on for your day.  Today, if hope is something that you don’t feel like you have, I urge you to get down on your knees and plead with and for your whole soul.  You will find your anchor and peace.  He has promised that you will.

Let us become firmly anchored to the eternal rock of our salvation.  See you tomorrow!

XO Wendy

 

 

 

Joy and Spiritual Survival

Hi there, welcome back!

Continuing our discussion on Joy.  I came across this talk given by the prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the October 2016 General Conference.  You can find the whole talk here.  Joy and spiritual survival, it’s AMMMazing.  So go read it!

The one statement that stuck out to me was this:

“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 absolutely love that statement.  It’s so beautiful.  you see, we have the power within us to feel joy when we choose to focus on the Savior.  He is the one and only true source of light, love and true joy.  Granted, sometimes we can not change our circumstances but we can choose where our focus will be.  Even amidst the struggles and the trials of life, we can seek to feel joy in the little seemingly unnoticeable things.

I remember several times as a young mother when I was deep in the throngs of depression.  Every menial task seemed like it would overtake me.  It’s so hard to explain to someone who has never gone through depression.  But the feelings of doubt and inadequacy were so real and raw.  It was so hard just to get myself out of bed in the morning.  But I had 4 littles that needed their mama and that’s the only thing that kept me going. That, and my trust in the Lord that He had a bigger plan for me.

One morning everything seemed to be going wrong.  I felt I couldn’t even function normally.  As I reached up to grab a box of cereal, it came crashing down. Cereal scattered across the kitchen floor.  And all I could do was just sit down in the middle of the kitchen and cry.  “I can’t do this Lord”, “Please help me,” I pleaded.

As I opened my tear stained eyes and started to clean up the mess I hear pitter pattering across the floor.  “It’s ok mommy”.  All at once there it was an incredible, indescribable feeling of peace and joy that enveloped me as I scooped my daughter into my arms and just hugged her.  At that moment, I I felt the arms of the Savior around me like a warm blanket.  I know He was sending me a message that if I focused on Him and forgot the little unimportant things, in this case, cereal scattered on my floor, lol, that He would be there to pick up the pieces and help me get my life back.  That simple moment of joy, though brief, carried me through many moments as I learned how to battle my illness.

Life is not easy, all of us have things that we bear and struggle with, but if we can put our focus and trust in the Lord.  He will guide us…. always.  And we CAN have moments of joy scattered across our lives instead of cereal scattered across our floor.

Focus on the Savior.  He is the source of all joy!

XO Wendy