Remember that time…?

Trust hope and love.Remember that time I woke up with tears on my pillow because I felt broken and like our lives would never be the same and you rolled over and put your arms around me and held me until I stopped crying?  You saw me!

Remember that time that I did something so out of character for me, and yelled at you for not listening to or understanding what I was saying, when it made no sense at all?  You left and thought about not coming home, but you did.

Remember that time you came home and found me uncommunicative and pretty much unresponsive and anger turned to panic?  You burst into action and knew exactly what to do even though you were in completely unchartered territory.

Remember that time you sat with me in the ER as I chattered away about randomness and nonsense and was completely out of my mind?  You sat with me and listened and responded and laid your head on my chest and didn’t leave me.  You knew the real me was still in there somewhere.

Remember that time?  The time I kept you up all night chattering nonsense, and the next day you had to take me down to what is known as the transition unit?  I hadn’t eaten in a few days and you had to treat me like a little child because I was still out of my mind. You convinced me that the pineapple in the fruit cup tasted like candy and I should try some.  You sat with me while I ate a few pieces until I finally stopped chattering and fell asleep.

Remember that time when I woke up in an unfamiliar place on an unfamiliar bed and the first thing I did was call you to find out where you were?  And you were so relieved and happy to know that somehow I was still me and I still needed you.  Oh how I needed you!

Remember those days when you brought me lunch and visited me multiple times a day even though it was against the rules?  You walked with me in the gym and I threw the football at you as hard as I could because I was angry that you wouldn’t take me home.  Even though I already knew that I was still too sick to go home.  You did what you always do and made jokes.  You made me laugh until I was in a better mood and everything was ok.  You saw ME.

Remember that time that you came into my room and I rolled toward the wall and wouldn’t talk to you?  I told you I didn’t want to see you until you were there to take me home.  And you laid down on the bed, scooted up next to me and put your arms around me and held me while I cried.

Remember that time that you had to decide whether or not to check me out of the hospital on Halloween weekend?  And you knew you couldn’t leave me there alone another day, so you took me home and took care of me yourself even though you were scared it would all happen again.

Remember that time when we couldn’t find a Dr. who didn’t have a 6 week waiting period to get in to see them?  I sobbed and sobbed because I just wanted to feel like myself again.  You knelt down, held my hand and prayed with me, the most humble and heart felt prayer.  Remember, I fell asleep and then a Dr. called and said they had a cancelation for the next morning?  Remember that?

Remember that time that we woke up at home together in our own bed and you scooted over to me and held me and snuggled me and I knew I was “home”?

Remember that time….?  Oh there were so many times that you rescued me in my hour of need.  You had never done this before, you didn’t know what to expect or how to act.  But you did it all perfectly.  Because you see ME!  You always see the real ME.

Thank you for always seeing me!

XO Wendy

*An open letter to my husband, my biggest fan, my greatest support, my hero. And to all of the loved ones who are  caregivers and a support system for those that suffer with BPD or other mental illnesses.  #removethestigma #letstalkaboutit # mentalillness

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

What does a manic episode look like? Part 1. | Bipolar disorder

I have been putting off writing this post.  It’s not easy to write about something that is so personal and risk being judged or labeled because of the stigma surrounding mental illness that still exists.  However, I feel so compelled to share and educate people on what those with mental illness really struggle with, Bipolar in particular.  Then maybe we can remove that stigma together.  So today I am going to share these deeply personal experiences in the hopes that it can help someone who thinks they might have Bipolar or maybe friends and family who may be seeking answers.

It’s important to understand that this illness manifests itself in many different ways for different people.  I can only speak from my own experience and it’s super important that if you or someone you know, think you might be experiencing some of the symptoms that I am going to share, that you seek the advice and counsel of a trained Psychiatrist or Psychologist to be properly diagnosed.

What I am going to share is the way that a manic episode manifests in me.  The easiest way that I know how to describe what happens for me is to give you bullet points.  So Here are 5 ways that a manic episode starts to show for me.

*One thing that is important to mention about Bipolar and mania is that sometimes the one experiencing it can’t see it when it’s happening, but someone close to you can.  So having support from loved ones during times like these is especially important.  Although, it can also be frustrating and draining for those witnessing it and trying to help.  Don’t give up on us.

So here we go:

  1. Creativity spike or over excitement.  One of the first signs for me that a manic episode is coming on is that I start to feel kind of a pressure build up of creative ideas.  I will start feeling really bold and strong like I can accomplish anything.  Which really isn’t that strange because a lot of people are list makers and goal setters and go getters.  But what this looks like for me is list making and goal setting on steroids, lol.  It’s like I just keep adding more and more to the list and I just feel super powered. And I start attacking each item on my list and I just can’t let it go until it gets accomplished.  I get really exuberant about everything so I talk louder and faster and more excited than usual.  Normally I’m a pretty quiet and reserved person.  So this is pretty out of character for me.
  1. Can function on very little sleep.  I feel like the energizer bunny.  I am so on fire that I can’t shut my mind down at night and I start to lose sleep.  This isn’t just a few hours, this is like pulling all-nighters for several days in a row.  It’s very frustrating because I know I NEED to sleep, but I just can’t shut my brain off.

In one of my recent episodes, when I was through it, I had a huge bruise on my chest from where I kept poking my self.  In my manic mind, I felt like there was a button that I could push that I could just turn it all off.  So I just kept poking my self trying to shut all the thoughts off.  I know it sounds crazy but remember this is a disease or disorder.  So if we think of it like a disease, it would be similar to a diabetic having insulin shock.  It’s very serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

3. Rapid weight loss.  This is caused by a lack of eating normally because I think I have to get so much done I don’t stop to eat.  I actually forget and I am not even hungry.  Normally, I am very aware of when and what I eat and how much water I’m drinking.  I’ve learned to be very careful about this over the years.  I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the brain and the gut are connected. There is so much that happens in the gut that can change the way the brain functions.  So it makes sense that cutting off the nutritional supply that your brain is used to would cause significant changes in your body.

4.  Everything resonates. So this symptom is where it really goes off the rails.  I start to see signs in everything.  I believe the technical term for it is grandiose or delusional thinking.  So for example I might see a billboard and say something like “Oh, I get it now, that’s what this all means.”  Or “Oh my goodness this is so big, it all makes sense now.”  I start to say things that make complete sense to me in my head, but when they come out of my mouth it’s making no sense at all.  At one point I start to think that people can or should be able to read my mind.  So I’ll just look at them like I’m telling them something and expect them to understand. This is when it’s getting really scary and on the verge of the episode.  Usually once it’s to this point, a manic episode can not be avoided.  So the idea is to recognize the early signs above, or someone close to you recognizes what’s happening and points it out so you can bring yourself back down.  Usually you can’t do that on your own, you need the help of someone else making sure that you are getting enough sleep and that you are eating and staying hydrated, etc.

5.  Senses overload.  So for me personally, this is when I’m in full blown manic mode.  It’s like all 5 of my senses are extra sensitive.  I hear everything louder.  Everything around me seems amplified.  From the voices of people around me to the natural noises of traffic and hustle and bustle.  And then I feel like everything is interconnected like I mention in number 4.  I feel like I can see things more clearly.  I feel things more fully.  And my talking becomes very chatty.  I have to talk about everything I’m seeing, hearing and feeling.  So it can be very annoying to someone around me.  I just can’t shut up, lol.  I joke about it, but it’s a very scary place to be.  In fact the other thing that happens at this point is that I get the worst headache.  My head is pounding so hard that I think I’m gonna die.  It’s just like massive overload of all the senses.

The way that I always try to explain to someone what it’s like, is to compare the body to a computer.  When you keep opening window after window and giving your computer more jobs to do, it finally just freezes up and won’t do anything.  The only way to fix it is to do a reboot.  It’s kind of the same way with me.  Once I get to that point, my body just shuts down and has to be rebooted.  I imagine it’s like a short circuit in the brain. My brain is just saying “enough is enough” I have to shut this baby down.

Usually at this point I am pretty much out of it.  I can’t function at all.  It really is like my body just goes into freeze mode and is waiting to be rebooted.  It’s super scary because I literally have no control over my body at this point.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have only gotten this far 3 times in my life where I have had to be hospitalized.  But looking back now I can see many times in my life where I was in the manic zone but then managed to work myself out of it, usually by sleeping it off.

So wow! Yes, that is what a manic episode is like for someone who is experiencing it.  There are many more symptoms that manifest for other people such as uncontrolled spending, excessive drinking, or drug abuse, extreme rage, etc.  But the 5 symptoms described above is how it works on me.  And like I said in the beginning, I can only speak from personal experience. This is why I mention so much that it feels like being “broken”.  It literally is like the brain is broken.

I know this can be extremely hard for a loved one to hear and witness.  But just know that it is even harder for the person who is going through it. I hope this has been insightful and helpful for those who have Bipolar or those with friends or family.  I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get the proper help and diagnosis.

I want to leave this on positive note though, because there is help and a lot of good things that can come from this. I have been so blessed to have had great support in my life and have been able to get the help that I’ve needed.  If you have found this helpful or insightful, please like and share.  And if you want to know more, I am happy to share my experiences.  I believe we are all here to help each other on our journeys through life.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Part 2 coming soon.  A different perspective.

Update:  In this post I talked about how my husband was going to be posting about Bipolar from his perspective or rather what a manic episode looks like to someone who may be experiencing it with their spouse, child, or loved one.  Turns out, it was much harder for him than he originally thought it would be.  It’s extremely hard for family and friends to understand what is happening with you and to see you that way  It isn’t exactly a walk in the park for.  So I let him off the hook.  I think from this post you can learn a lot about what it’s like.  The one conclusion that we did come to is that you really have to learn to trust each other.  The person having a manic episode, usually feels like they are just fine, while the loved one can see it more clearly.  So it’s important to trust your loved one and get help if you can, whether that is through your Dr. or working out a plan beforehand with your spouse of how you’ll handle it.