Surround yourself with positivity

Hi friends, and welcome to pointing toward hope. 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 follow 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 43 and Chapter 6 of my book Keep up the pace. Surround yourself with positive energy.

Chapter 6

” Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits.”

One of my all time favorite movies is Forest Gump. If you have seen the movie, you will recall the statement that his mother taught him to help him overcome the teasing and bullying that he endured throughout his childhood. “Stupid is as stupid does.” She taught him very plainly that people will become what they repeatedly do.

For a period of time, I had a quote hanging on my refrigerator that I wanted to instill in myself as well as my children, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I’d like to put those two concepts together and give you a mantra that is super easy to remember and will change your life if you choose to believe it. “Positive is as positive does.”

When I decided to compete in the Mrs. Utah International pageant, I needed positive thinking more than ever. I had been a stay-at-home mom for almost 12 years. After spending my days changing diapers, reading children’s books, and watching Sesame Street and Barney with my little ones, I was badly in need of something to get me out of my comfort zone. My youngest child had recently started school, so I found myself with a few extra hours to myself.

When I first heard about the competition I was still learning how to live with and manage depression. I knew that if I didn’t find something constructive to do during those hours, I could easily fall into some old negative habits, such as sleeping in instead of working out, eating when I became bored, and the worst habit of all, negative self-talk. So the pageant became a vehicle to motivate me to stay on top of my depression, while at the same time, work on some skills that needed to be dusted off a little. If you spend your days talking to toddlers and building bird nests out of play dough, you will understand what I am talking about. Not exactly the best interview techniques!

I am a great believer in mentoring and being mentored, so I sought out previous pageant winners and asked them to share their secrets with me. The positive energy and motivation that I came away with was incredible! Consequently, I had the tools I needed to achieve my goal. I just needed to learn how to put those tools into action. My first task was to post positive quotes on little post-it notes all throughout my home. As I was working out I would read, “Think lean and strong!”. As I applied my make-up, “Believe in yourself” was instilled in my mind from it’s position on my mirror. When I fixed breakfast, cleaned the house, turned on the television or got into the car, there was one positive message after another. Though the changes weren’t immediate, I did find that slowly I was evolving and changing into a more confident woman! Not only were the changes happening on the inside, but on the outside as well. Of course some of the physical changes could be attributed to eating better and exercising. But for changes to become permanent, they must happen from the inside out.

The most remarkable change was what began to happen in my home with my children and husband. They were visibly happier, more confident, and a lot more willing to help out whenever asked. Instead of the usual “Do I have to?” or “I don’t want to!” statements, their answers became “Sure! No problem.” As a family we were constantly surrounding ourselves with positive sources, people, places, things, and habits. Obviously, we all still had our moments, but for the most part our home life became a much richer and enjoyable place to be.

Surrounding yourself with positive energy can be one of the most powerful steps you can take to gain a happier more fulfilling life. Again, there are times when we can not control the experiences that happen to us, but we can control the attitude with which we choose to face those experiences.

The following are a few ideas that can increase the positive energy in your life.

1. Cleanse your inner spirit. If you have things in your life that are bringing you down or have left you with feelings of guilt or resentment, take care of it! Nothing can lift you higher than offering an apology where one is warranted. Let by gones be by gones. Forgive those who have wronged you, even if they won’t accept your forgiveness. Holding on to grudges only brings you and others down. Start living in the present and let go of the past. I know it is easier said than done, but taking that risk will greatly improve your quality of life.

2. Simplify your life! In the world that we now live it is so easy to fill your life with unnecessary clutter. I was talking to my little sister the other day and she made a comment that reminded me of how my parents had raised us. She said, “It just wasn’t a necessary expense.” How many times do we spend “unnecessary expense” on trivial, unimportant things? It’s easy to do. I’m not just talking about spending expenses. Gaining the discipline to free yourself from “unnecessary expenses” whether it be material items, or time-wasting activities, will make your load lighter and your life much more enjoyable.

3. Consistently avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. If you can steer clear of negativity in all forms you will find a change taking place in your life that is very noticeable. You will become more positive, more confident and a lot more attractive (both physically and mentally) to those around you.

4. Laugh often! Zig Ziglar once said “Laughter is the best medicine.” I can’t think of a better way to remove negativity than to laugh.

Laugh at yourself when you do silly things. Laugh with your friends and family and become closer together. My daughter Saydie, was born with an innate ability to make people laugh. She would be practicing her many faces in the mirror behind us as her Dad and I were reprimanding her for something that she had done. We could never keep a straight face and by the end of our speech we would be laughing so hard we would have tears in our eyes. No matter what is happening, if Saydie senses sadness she will do whatever it takes to make you laugh. Laughter definitely creates positive energy!

“Positive is as positive does.” I challenge you to try it!

Your assignment: Get on the internet or go through books of quotes and positive affirmations. Pick out your favorite and make post-its that you can place in conspicuous places throughout your home, car, office, etc. Read them and re-read them until they are ingrained in your brain and have become a part of your life! You are welcome to use the ones that I have used in this book if you like (they are some of my favorite).

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.

Choose to find joy

One of my favorite scriptures comes from the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2: 24-25 

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

In Dallin H. Oakes’ talk “Opposition in all things”  he says

“Our mortal life…. was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”

When sore trials come upon us we are faced with all kinds of new and difficult choices. And many times these decisions and choices that we have to make seem impossible to end up with a happy result.    However, the Lord wants us to have joy in this life.  That is why we were sent here. The choice that Eve made when she chose to partake of the fruit, provided the opportunity for life to begin for us.  In the midst of what Adam and Eve believed was a big failure, God turned into something beautiful and joyful.  

Was that the end of their trials?  Of course not, they had only just begun to learn the answers to the questions that they did not even know they had.

 In order for us to progress and be able to make choices and have agency, opposition has an essential role.  In 2 Nephi 2:11  We read: For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, …. righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one;

Elder Oakes continues: “From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it. As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). That destruction was inherent in the terms of Satan’s offer. He came before the Father and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).

And while that may have seemed like a great plan on the outside, without agency there could have been no joy, because we would have never known sadness there could be no growth because our choices would be taken away from us.  So you can see the importance of our Savior’s plan to give us the opportunity to choose for ourselves.  

Choosing joy is not to say that you are happy every minute of every day.  It is an overarching feeling of peace and gladness that will sustain us through our weaknesses and difficulties.

In today’s changing world we are taught to believe that everything is about equality and to a certain extent that is true.  We are equally all of God’s children, and He equally loves us all. But unfortunately, we are not equally born or raised in the same situations.  God is no respecter of persons.  He loves us all regardless of where we come from or what we do.  In contrast, the adversary is the one that wants to control us.  He has a great hold upon the hearts of people in this world.  He wants us to believe that our choices do not have consequences.  That we can do anything we want that makes us happy, regardless of how it may affect others.   

And that is just not God’s way.  In order for us to learn how to have a joyful heart, we have to make the tough choices and take responsibility for whatever the consequences may be.

When you pondered upon the questions that we talked about yesterday, who am I?  Why am I here? Where am I going? What did you learn about yourself?  Did you get down on your knees and pray to understand?  Those really are some deep questions that many of us struggle with all the time. Finding true joy is a journey but once we find it, we will know.  It will sustain us when things become difficult.

 I believe that there is a difference in being happy and having joy.  There are definitely ways that we can be happy and have fun in our lives.  But happiness is fleeting.  It is not something that we can have consistently with us just because of the nature of how our lives were created.

Joy, on the other hand, is a sustaining feeling.  It can be with us even in the sad times and difficult trials.  But we still have to choose it.  

And the truth of the matter is, we must learn how to discover deep and abiding joy by trying. By making difficult decisions and choices for ourselves.  God will not live our lives for us because he wants us to know for ourselves. And once we know for ourselves where that peace and joy comes from, we will strive harder to make the choices that will ensure that we do live a joyful life.  Even during the hard.  

Have a great day my friends!  Talk to you again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

Choose to be still and know

As you might have guessed from my post yesterday that it was kind of a hard day for me.  Sometimes dealing with a disorder like bipolar can be tricky and hard to navigate.  But so is life in general.  Sometimes we just struggle and there really isn’t an easy answer or way out.  That is when we need to be still and trust,  be still and know that our Savior sees us, that He loves us, and that there may be things going on behind the scenes that He is working out in order for things to fall into place later on and it just hasn’t been figured out yet.

I do, however, want to talk today, a little more about agency.  Because the one thing that I did learn yesterday as I struggled to understand the whys, is that there are very few times in our life that we don’t have a choice.  

Whether the choice is to give up, or keep pressing forward, or to let God help grow us in a way that will help us to progress to a higher and holier way.  Now, I know that some days it is ok and necessary to give up on something for time.  But that doesn’t mean that God is not there, nor that we can never come back to that at a later time in our progression on this side of the veil.

Agency can be a tricky thing.  On the one hand we want it to truly be free.  We want to be able to do, act, and say things, without having to answer to anyone.  I know I felt that way when I left the church for a time.  But no matter what our choice is, it can never be a matter of whether it is FREE or not.  Because there will always, always, be a consequence.  That may be a good and positive consequence or it can be a bad and negative consequence.  But there is never a situation where we make a choice and there is NO consequence.  Whether we like it or not is irrelevant.  For this reason, I believe agency is one of the greatest parts of the plan that our Heavenly Father put in place.  The plan that our Savior proposed.  So that we can develop our hearts and our minds to come to a place where we realize that in this life, it is always, always about where our hearts are centered.  Are we centered in self or are we centered in the love that our Savior so perfectly taught us.  Our choices will always come back to where your heart lies.  

When we are speaking of choices, some of you may choose to disagree.  And that is ok.  That is also part of the plan.  We were put here on this Earth to learn many things.  But I think one of the most important things that we were put here to learn, is how to get along and love even when it’s difficult.  Especially when it’s difficult.  Just because someone is making a different choice than what we would have chosen, does not mean that it is a wrong choice for them.  Unless of course in the case that it is doing harm to someone else.  

I guess what I am trying to say is that having hard days, and having to make tough choices is how we progress and press forward in this life.  It isn’t always easy.  In fact it’s almost never easy.  But it’s important to remember that every choice we make has a consequence.  Even when we choose not to make a choice, that is indeed a choice.

I am going to refer back to a talk given by Russell M. Nelson in 1990.  He suggested 3 questions to ask ourselves to help us when making tough choices or decisions.

 1. Who am I?”

2. “Why am I here?”

3. “Where am I going?”

“I won’t go into the details here, because I want you to go read it and digest what he says,  but these are important questions to ponder when making choices.  

He goes on to say “As you …face many challenging choices in life, remember, there is great protection when you know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going. Let your unique identity shape each decision you make on the path toward your eternal destiny. Accountability for your choices now will bear on all that lies ahead.

May each of us choose wisely and with faith in Him who created us…”

So my invitation to you if you are faced with a difficult challenge is to Psalm 46:10 “Be still and Know” that our Savior is very aware of the things that you are going through.  Don’t leave Him out of the equation.  Pray to Him and be believing.  And He will guide you in the direction that will be best for you and your personal situation.

Have a great day my friends and I’ll talk to you all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

A choice to make

Well hello again! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 months since my life began to rock a little. But I am back and happy to be here.

So let’s start this out right. Good morning! And welcome to the pointing toward hope podcast I am Wendy Bertagnolli and this is episode 32.

I have to say that sometimes when I think I’ve got it all figured out, God steps in and says, no, I have something else in store for you. And when that happens I am almost always caught a little off guard by it. As most of us usually are.

Back in April when I was posting daily, I was on a great run. I was so prepared, things seemed to be flowing freely and I was doing so well with the blog and podcast that I was able to stay a week ahead (which I thought was fabulous). Until that last week. I had completed 3 podcasts for the next week.

But for some reason they just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel good about them and so I decided not to post them and see if something esle came to mind that felt right. Nothing ever did. But I am so glad that I didn’t delete them because now is definitely the time the Lord intended for them to be heard/read.

I have said so many times that I feel like a lot of this process of doing the podcast and writing the posts is mostly for myself. It’s very therapeutic for me. But I also want to extend the things that I learn on this journey with others.

Living with Bipolar, and really, walking this journey of life in general, is much more difficult to do alone. But in this particular case there was definitely something that I was supposed to learn.

Over the past 3 months since I stopped posting it has been quite the roller coaster. If you’d like to jump back to episode 31 and take a listen, I talked about the Lord catching you when you fall. Well I think He was giving me a little heads up. It’s time to practice what you preach! Lucky me!

To my credit, one of the reasons that I let the posts go for a while was because I was starting to become more stressed and worried about it than I would have liked to have been. I was worried about staying on schedule. I would ask myself: Was I getting the right message out? How can I market this so that more people who need it can get to it? And #1 on my mind was how do I find the right people to interview that will be willing to share their experiences with others in the hopes that it might lift and help another. Because I think that’s so important when it comes to the trials of life that we endure. When we share what we’ve overcome, it can be someone else’s survival guide.

All of that was just weighing heavy on my mind and I realized that I just needed to let it all go for a minute and focus on my health.

Stress, as you may recall from episode 6 Habits to adopt for good mental health, is a major catalyst in pushing someone with bipolar ll toward a manic episode so I have to be super careful about that. If you have’t listened to that one, I highly recommend going to check it out.

As I mentioned in episode 31 I talked about trusting the Lord enough to let Him catch you when you fall. But looking back, I may have been a little slow on the uptake of that one! Things started happening that were signals that I was slowly progressing towards the manic side of the scale.

One thing that most people might not know about Bipolar, is that when tiny little incidences occur it is easy for them to go unnoticed. Especially to the person who is experiencing them. It’s quite common that they don’t recogize these things in themselves. But hopefully, they have a good support system or caretaker in place that will likely pick up on these things long before it becomes a problem.

That’s what happened in my case. Now it’s really important to note that when confronted by your caretaker it may come as an unwelcome blow. I mean we already feel that we are “broken” and to have someone tell you that there are some cracks becoming visible, can be hard to take when you think you feel great!

It may seem like they are trying to take that good feeling away from you. And some people become somewhat argumentative, depending upon their nature of course. But, it is in these times that you need to be so full of trust with your main caretaker as well as with your Savior. You have to have so much trust that He’s got you in the palm of His hands. Always!

Having my caretaker (my husband) intervene is where the lesson began for me.

The rest of this podcast and the following 3 (which will be posted every other day) were previously recorded the week that I didn’t feel good about posting them.

The episode after that will be my experience of looking back to what came after that to see where things started to become unbalanced.

I will say that this episode may be a bit of a trigger for those of you who suffer with trauma. I think I did a pretty good job of maintaining composure enough to get the message across. But it was certainly a very down day for me, as you may pick up on.

You might also think (after listening to all 4 episodes) that everything with me seemed fine. Which for the most part it was. But after that last week things began to deteriorate slowly but steadily. And over the following few months it was clear to my husband that something was wrong and it was time to intervene.

I tell you this because, to anyone else (including myself) I would have seemed completely normal and put together. But now, being able to look back, I can see clearly the path that I was on.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I will get into that in episode 36. In that episode I will be as real and as raw as I can about what bipolar and the progression toward manic episodes is really like. So stay tuned for that.

With all that in mind enjoy the next few episodes. Once they are finished my posts will become a little more sporadic. 1x a week to monthly or bi monthly is my goal. Because I have most definitely learned my lesson that self care and my mental health must always be at the forefront of my mind. Ok here we go!

I lay here in the dark and I think of you in a beautiful garden. Exhausted from your work here on Earth. As you kneel near the rock, under the tree, I see you open your hands to the Heavens. And the words start to pour out of your mouth. It’s as if He’s right there, your Father, knowing what has to come next.

I begin to weep as I realize that the pain you must suffer is in some small part, due to me and my choices, to the decisions that I made, that I made a clear choice to create. The tears come freely now as I begin to understand that it is not just my choices, but my pain, my life, my illness that you so clearly will experience in these moments of the most awful act anyone could ever endure. 

 I am torn…on the one hand I feel the utter disgust at the decisions, the choices, I made that are causing you pain in this moment.  Yet on the other hand, I feel the most incredible feeling of love and peace knowing that YOU love ME enough to do this for ME.  Who am I?  I am not learned, or important, or worth the pain that you are suffering at my expense. 

I watch as you begin to cry.  It’s as if I can feel your tears on my open hands.  They fall in great droplets of pain and empathy and I am taken in great waves of grief. How could this happen?  Why is this happening?  Who would allow this to happen?  And then I remember with great clarity, that this…. THIS was part of the plan.  His plan, to save us all.  

I hear the words ring in my ears that you speak aloud.

John 17:1-4

1 … Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

For a moment I am taken back to the fight.  The fight for this plan to save us all. This eternal plan.  And I remember it is in large part about our choices.  Something called agency.  Some call it “free” agency.  But it is not FREE, it comes at a cost.  A cost you so freely give

In the Book of Mormon we read in

Alma 7:11–13

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

In D. Todd Christofferson’s talk Free forever to act for themselves.

He said “It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.”

He goes on to say,

“I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.”

I see Him there.  Bleeding and in pain and I think of the many who suffer due to a choice that they did not choose.  For those that do, it’s comforting to know that we have a Savior, who lives, who loves us, and who suffered the unspeakable, so that we can know joy again, no matter our circumstance.

I turn away as the pain is too much to bear.  And then I am back, in my bed, laying in the dark and my pillow is wet with the tears that I wept.  And I realize that I do have a choice.  In this moment of sadness and pain.  I do have a choice, because of you, my Savior, my brother, my redeemer, my friend.  And I silently thank you, once again for allowing me to remember that I am not alone.

XO Wendy