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.

 

 

5 Habits to adopt for good mental health

In the last post I promised that in the next one I would be sharing the 5 things that I try to do EVERY day, that I have found really help a lot when trying to balance and maintain good mental health.  This is not meant to replace medication (if needed) or other forms of therapy.  And if you think you may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, I highly recommend seeing a Psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate a good plan of action.

This is certainly not just for those who suffer with mental illnesses.  These habits are great habits to adopt for anyone who wants to improve their physical, mental and emotional state. So please don’t click off now, I promise this will be worth it.

So let’s just jump right in! I am going to go in specific order of importance as they apply to me and my mental health, but I’m sure it may be completely different for others.

1. SLEEP- At least 6-8 hours of good solid sleep per night.  It might seem crazy that I put this as the number one habit to adopt, but it is so so important!  Sleep is when your body recovers, rejuvenates and repairs itself. If your not getting enough, your body can’t function as it properly should.  Besides the obvious negativities like poor focus, fatigue and lack of concentration, poor sleep is linked to overeating, a greater risk for inflammation, depression, a greater risk of heart disease and stroke and it affects your emotions and social interactions.  It also contributes to lower glucose metabolism and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and those are just a few of the negative effects.  So it makes so much sense to give your body what it needs so that it can function as efficiently as possible.

Everyone is different and requires different amounts to  be healthy but at least 6-8 hours per night seems to be a sweet spot for most people.  There are so many benefits too. It can improve concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories.  And it can improve immune system functions among many other benefits.  For me it is paramount in keeping my mental health balanced and stable. Also one last word of advice for sleep is that if you find that you have lost sleep for a few days, try to catch a few extra winks as quickly as you possibly can.  Sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for mania or manic episodes.

2. MOVE. YOUR. BODY.- At least 30 minutes daily of some form of movement.  I notice a significant drop in my mood within a couple of days of not working out.  It’s really kind of scary for me because I can feel depression settle in almost like a big black storm cloud if I go more than a few days without my regular workouts.  I personally do my workouts at home so I don’t have to get dressed up and wear makeup (cause I don’t go anywhere without makeup, haha), or worry about others critiquing what I’m doing. Plus it saves money on babysitters and gym memberships.  I have been working out consistently for over 25 years and have learned specific workouts that seem to have a greater positive effect for me.  Over the years I have collected quite a variety of videos, and equipment to keep me from getting bored doing the same workouts.

But whatever works for YOU is great!  As long as you are moving your body regularly.  Some people love the gym.  Some love to get outside and run or hike, and some enjoy the calming effects of a good yoga session.  It doesn’t really matter what, where, or how you move.  Just move and get those endorphins flowing!  Not only does it benefit your mental and emotional health, it makes you look and feel better.  And who can’t appreciate that?

3. HYDRATE- Drink at least half your body weight a day in water.  I’ve been doing this for many years now and it might seem funny that I rated this more important than a healthy diet (spoiler alert, lol).  And this is on purpose their are so many benefits to being properly hydrated.  Here are just a few:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Hello!  Who doesn’t want to be more fit and have less wrinkles?  (I attribute looking as young as I do at 50 to drinking a lot of water every day for the past 20 something years). Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  It’s just a good solid healthy habit to adopt.

4. Eating a Healthy Diet. – Try and stay away from sugary processed foods.  And, I’m sorry for this one but, ABSOLUTELY no caffeine. Disclaimer, this is what I have found that works for me.  I am not a Dr. so definitely consult your physician on the best diet for you and your body type.

I have personally found that cutting back on carbohydrates and cutting out sugary foods and drinks does wonders for my mental state.  I know when I’ve gone to far with the trips to the ice cream store, because I start feeling lethargic, run down, lacking on focus and concentration and it’s easy for depression to set in.  And as for caffeine, this was a hard line that my Dr. set with me first thing!  I wasn’t thrilled about it for sure!  But it has had a huge effect on keeping me out of a state of mania.  When I’m entering a manic state of mind it feels almost like I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee or shot of caffeine.  So it makes sense that this would be something important to implement.

I’m not going too far down this road because it can be a loaded topic.  There are many options when it comes to healthy eating and different diet plans.  If you want more info on what I DO eat, please DM me and I’d be happy to chat about it.  Again this is what works for me.  The side benefits are many and your brain and body will love you for it.

5. CUTTING DOWN ON HIGH PRESSURE STRESS- Stress affects your body, from your brain to your digestive system!  This habit is probably the hardest one to maintain for most people.  We have so many things going on in our lives from work and family to school, and outside activities.  And that’s just naming a few.  These are just some of the many ways that stress can affect us negatively.  Headaches, muscle tension, chest palpitations, feelings of depression, ravenous hunger, and the list goes on. I have learned over the years that a good practice to adopt is that it’s OK to say ‘no’.  Don’t feel like you have to do all and be all just because you feel like everyone else is doing it.  Or that you just won’t measure up if you don’t.  Your good health is more important than anything else.  Even if it’s something you feel is really important! If you feel your body ramping up or getting anxious, it’s important to follow those signs it’s giving out.  If you are overwhelmed and over stressed to the max and you don’t heed the warning signs, your body will do a mental re-boot without your permission.  Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.  Bottom line, down time is important and good for your body.

So that is a brief run down of the 5 habits that I promised to share with you.  I thought of at least 5 more that can be helpful as I was writing but I’ll save that for a later post.  Just one last final disclaimer:  Don’t just take my word for it.  If you are having warning signs, do yourself a favor and visit with your Dr.  You only have one body.  It might have come damaged somewhat, but there are still things you can do to keep it as healthy as possible.

p.s.  Not one of these habits is a fail safe.  You can’t just be one and done.  Of course each one is very beneficial and if you can’t do them all, start by adapting one at a time.  But they definitely work better in combination with each other.

If you made it this far, I hoped it helped and please share with anyone you think this might help. XO Wendy

 

 

It’s ok to not be ok | Taking off the mask of mental illness

I’m back! I’m sorry that I have been vacant since last year.  Living with mental illness can be like that sometimes.  It’s been a struggle this past several months. Coupled with time in between where I have felt fine.  Sort of a day by day, week by week adventure, lol.  But today I am good and have been thinking for several days that I needed to do my part in removing the stigma of mental illness.  Hi I’m Wendy, and I have Bipolar II disorder :).  Please take note that I said “have” and not “am”.  Bipolar does not define me!

As someone who has lived with Bipolar for the better part of 25 years I would say that I have gotten REALLY good at wearing the “mask”.  You know the one..I’m always happy not a care in the world.  Most people would never ever know the thoughts and feelings that I fight most every day.  Not even my closest family members.  Because you see, those of us who suffer with mental illness, and I’m talking about ALL mental illnesses not just Bipolar, get really good at putting on a mask, to cover up what we are dealing with.  We do it to avoid being labeled.  We do it to try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a brain that doesn’t  function properly.  We do it so that we don’t make those around us uncomfortable.

But the truth is, it’s time to make people around us uncomfortable!  Heck we’ve been uncomfortable in our own skin for much of our lives.   It’s the only way for others to learn how to GET comfortable.  And I’ll tell you what, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever written.  The other one you can find here.  It’s HARD to take off this mask.  But it’s time.  Really it’s past time.

Those of us who live with mental illness, need to be heard.  Need to be healed.  Need to be loved and treated like anyone else with a disease.  After all, mental illness IS a disease.  A disease of the brain.  We should be talking about our brains and how to find a cure and how to treat something that affects around 45 million people every day.  That’s roughly 1 in 5 people!  Look around you.  That’s a lot of masks.  Not to mention all their friends and family who are involved.  And yet, we are still afraid to talk about it, and to really reach out and help those who are going through their own personal darkness, sometimes every day of their life.

I can only speak from my personal experience but compared to some, I feel lucky (if you can believe that).  I feel like I have had the support, for the most part, that I have needed to try and get on top of this.  But there have definitely been, and still are those in my life that just can’t understand.  And I get it, it’s hard to live with someone that you don’t know who they’re gonna be from day to day.  Are you going to get the “appears to be normal” person?  Or the depressed person that struggles to get out of bed,  that can’t seem to tackle the easiest of tasks.  Or are you going to get the chatty, goal driven, “I have a new idea and it’s gonna be AWESOME” person who is making and crossing things off their list as fast as they can go?  Are you going to get the mask?  It can be exhausting I’m sure.  Try being us, haha!

For me, most days living with Bipolar are fairly normal (if there is such a thing, haha). I mean there are definitely things that I need to do EVERY day if I want to stay on that line between depression and mania.   I touched on that somewhat in this post.  But for the most part if I am diligent at taking my medication and doing these 5 things, then I tend to manage pretty well.

However, the thing that is really tricky about mental illness, is that it can be constantly changing with things in the environment, hormones in our bodies changing (hello! Pre and post menstrual, pregnancy, Post partum , pre and post menopause,  etc. etc.). Of course I can only speak for women when it comes to hormone changes, but I know men go through their own set of hormone changes.  Mental illness is also affected by the type of food we eat, how much exercise we get, and the list goes on.  All of it affects the delicate balance maintained with medication or other ways that we have found to manage our personal illness.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this very short synopsis, is that it is OK to not be OK with yourself, your brain, your situation.  Whether it is you that are suffering or your family and friends, don’t shut the door!  Don’t be afraid to talk about it.  And for friends and family, don’t be afraid to hang out with us.  Don’t gossip about us behind our backs and talk about how sad and awful it is. Don’t be afraid to talk to us about our illness, we need the support. We just want to be acknowledged and loved and supported and treated like anyone else with a life threatening disease.  Yes, I did just say life threatening.  According to NAMI over 42,000 American lives were lost due to suicide last year alone. Of course not all of those were due to mental illness but we can assume that a great number of them are.

So next time you are thinking about your friend or family member that suffers from mental illness, let them know.  Tell them that it is ok with you that they have a defective brain, lol.  Tell them that you want to do whatever you can to help.  That’s really all we want.  Deep down we just want to take off the mask and be seen for who we really are.  Defects and all!

BTW, mental health awareness month is coming up in May!  Maybe you could do something like donate to find a cure. 🙂 .  If so you can do that Here

Oh and if you think someone that you know and love may have a mental illness, please support them in finding the help they so desperately need!

p.s.  I am so incredibly thankful for the love and support that I receive from family and friends.  You know who you are, and I love you all!

 

 

 

Though We are Broken…

Though we are brokenAs Easter approaches, we get to take a tiny moment in our busy lives, to embrace and remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He suffered unbearable pain in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we can be healed from all of our afflictions.  He died on the cross to complete the act of His infinite atonement so that we could once again return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 25:8

Several years ago when I was diagnosed Bipolar disorder, I didn’t want to accept it.  That wasn’t who I was I told myself.  I’m not “broken” I’m completely normal.   I don’t need to be on medication when this is something that I can manage on my own.  In fact, I thought I could do it ALL on my own.  Not just manage my mental state, but everything that was going on in my life.  I was a busy stay-at-home mother of 4 with a home business, trying to run a household, and several other plates that I was balancing, including the state of my mental health.  I told myself, “I’m not so different than everyone else, that I can’t do it just like everyone else”, (at least that’s what I was thinking.  Now I know better, that no one is really doing it all).  What I was forgetting is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.  It is, in fact, the only way.  And it took me a long time to really figure that out.  It is through His Atonement that we can seek to heal our broken souls.  It is through Him, that our burdens become light.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

He is the one that we can run to when we are broken, the one who heals us and makes us feel whole again.  He does what none of us can do for ourselves.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Mosiah 14:6  

He mends our broken souls and minds and his only plea is Come…. Follow ME.

This past couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to attend mid-week worship services outside of our normal Sunday worship.  In my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better know as Mormons), we have a building that is called the temple and there are many throughout the world.  Going every week is quite a commitment as it takes up several hours of the day (especially since it is about an hour drive each way), but it has been such a huge blessing in my life and has taught me so much about myself and about my Savior and the Gospel.  As I have witnessed the people who come each week, I am deeply impressed by the commitment that it takes for some individuals to be there.  At this time in my life it is relatively easy to rearrange my schedule to make time for it.  And my health and situation allow for it.   I don’t take for granted that it may not always be like this.   When my children were little, I was not able to have this opportunity so often.  But for now, I rejoice in the opportunity to serve, that the Lord has allowed me at this time in my life.

On one particular day, I was deeply touched by one woman that had obviously gone to great lengths to be there.  I was late getting there.  I had felt an unusual pull that I needed to be there at that particular time.  The weather was terrible and thus, traffic was a nightmare.  I became extremely anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make it.  Normally, I would not have been too stressed about it.  If I didn’t make it in time it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But for some reason on this particular day I felt extremely drawn to be there.  I made it, though almost too late.   I ended up being one of the last ones there but still in time for a few other latecomers to make it in.   And then a certain woman came into the room.   There was a hush as she struggled to her seat.   She was wearing the kind of crutches that attach to your arms and she hobbled precariously to her seat.  Her hands were deformed and her breathing labored.  It was not easy for her to be there.  Several times throughout the service she struggled and it was obvious that this was very difficult for her.  I could tell that she felt “broken” as it shown on her face.  Though there was something else that shown even more and that was sheer determination and love for the Lord and this Gospel!

I learned something that day that I will carry with me always.  Never, ever, take for granted how easy it is for me to serve so often at this time in my life.  And second, it is not about me!  Yes we serve God to get closer to Him and to learn and grow.  But this life is not about us.  We are here to minister to one another, to look outside ourselves for opportunities to help others in their quest for truth and light.  It doesn’t take much for us to fix a meal, or write a card, or telephone someone we’ve been thinking about.  It doesn’t take much for us to give a little bit of ourselves to help someone’s burden become lighter, to help someone feel a little less “broken”.

I read a recent article by Carole M. Stephens entitled The Master Healer in it she says, “As we increase our understanding of the doctrine of Christ, we soon discover that we are developing a deeper understanding of “the great plan of happiness.” We also recognize that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the very heart of the plan.”

She continues, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows. And we recognize “that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement.” We realize that He is our foundation—“the rock of our Redeemer, … a sure foundation … whereon if [we] build [we] cannot fall.”

I have often thought about how God made each of us as individuals, unique in our own special and eloquent ways.  We each have our own set of behaviors, character traits, problems, talents, trials, successes and failures. Not one of us alike, and yet not so different in so many ways.   Although, sometimes we feel like we are totally alone and that there is no one that feels the way we do about what is happening in our lives.  I am sure that is the way this woman felt that day.  But, God also gave us each other, to help us along in our journey through this mortal probation.  We are not alone!  He also gave us a gift that is beyond our comprehension.  He gave us his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world.  A Savior who loves, cares, and suffered for us, so that we can overcome all that this life throws at us.  I am eternally grateful for that!  Let us turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow.  Let us glorify him in times of health and prosperity.  He has given us so much, even our very lives.  Though we are broken… He is the Healer!

Look Inward, Then Look Upward

man-person-people-trainOn one of my many trips to Utah, I sat on a delayed airplane outside the Denver International Airport.  A storm was pushing through and there was no way that plane was going to get in the air any time soon.  Sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like hours, I had an experience that I know now, was not a coincidence.  I chose the window seat (I always fly SouthWest so I get to choose), and a young man about the age of my oldest son sat down next to me.  We didn’t converse much at first, he seemed to be exhausted and wanting to sleep.  But after the captain came on for about the third time to let us know that we would not be getting off the plane or in the air for at least another 45 minutes, he struck up a conversation with me.  He started by asking questions.  And in a round about way we began to talk about marriage.  I think I must have told him that I’d just visited my boyfriend in Nashville and was going home to UT.

When I told him I had 4 children, he asked what happened with my previous marriage.  I explained the situation as best I could, and then he started to tell me about his family and how his parents had divorced.  He was not so long married himself, I think about 10 years, and he wanted to find a way to stay married to his wife and not let that happen to him.  So we discussed various reasons why divorce happens.  And so the conversation went….then the captain came on and said we’d be in the air soon.  We’d already sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half.  I watched out my window as the storm clouds rolled in, menacing and gray.  And thought about this chance encounter with a young man half my age, who seemed to know more about life than I did.  And I realized that is was not by chance.  You see, I believe that God places people in our paths for a reason.  And depending on where we are at spiritually or otherwise we can see those encounters for what they truly are.

Before I knew it, he was telling me about his life long use of drugs and his road back to the LDS church.  THE church, that I was in the process of leaving.  He told me of an experiences that he’d had with God.  Mind you, during this time in my life, I didn’t really want much to do with any church.  I was perfectly happy where I was.  He asked me about my boyfriend and we talked about him not being a member of the LDS church and that I was currently not active.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized this young man was a messenger  sent by God and he was there to give me a message.  I began to listen intently to what he was telling me.  It was incredible, the life he’d been through at such a young age.  But what he’d learned and was able to share was truly extraordinary.  After telling me pretty much his whole life story, he said that one conclusion that he’d come to after being at rock bottom and then working his way back up, is how important CPR is.  Not the traditional CPR but CHURCH, PRAY, READ.   EVERY DAY!  He said that he felt like he’d found the solution to most of life’s ups and downs and that was CPR.  I thought, ok I can see how that has worked for you in your life and I’m happy for you.  But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me.  And that was that.  We had arrived in Salt Lake City and we said our goodbyes.

When I got home, I pondered on that conversation several times.  I began to think, maybe I didn’t use CPR like I should have. Was I attending CHURCH ever single week (well yes, but was I REALLY doing the best I could to get everything out of it…probably not)?  Was I really PRAYING?  Or had my prayers become routine and repetitive?  Probably somewhat.  Was I really READING my scriptures every single day? No.   Did I have a lot of work to do?  YES!  And slowly….. VERY SLOWLY…. my heart began to turn back toward God.

Now, it was a super slow process turning my heart back.  It really took me getting to MY rock bottom, before I realized what a big part that chance encounter had played in my life.  And this past 2 years since I came back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been 2 years of extreme spiritual growth.  We have gone through temporal trials that have caused us to look inward and upward.  We have struggled with questions like, why did this happen?   And how long will it take to get through?  And what did we do to get here?  And where do we go from here?  Questions that I think many of us struggle with.  And I certainly don’t claim to have any of the answers to those questions.  All of our trials are different, with different time frames, and different variables.  But I do believe that they all have one thing in common.  God knows us!  God LOVES us and He knows, HE KNOWS what is best for us.  Whatever we think is good for us in our life, God’s plan is better!  It’s so important for us to look at where are hearts are and then to look upward.  To look to God, He knows the way!  His hand is in every facet of our lives and all He asks of us is to “remember HIM”.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Remembering him when our hearts are hard is not easy.   When our hearts are hard we are far from him.  We look to the world for our answers and not to our Loving Father in Heaven.  It is only when our hearts become softened that we are able to hear and heed the voice of the Lord and remember Him always.

There are many other practices that we need to be doing to stay close to the Lord and keep our hearts soft.  But CPR, CHURCH, PRAY, READ, is a pretty good recipe for success in the process of softening our hearts and learning to look inward and upward.

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good…  Doctrine and Covenants 90:24

When we are struggling, when we are having success, when we have doubts, when we have joy, our God ALWAYS, ALWAYS remembers us!  Is it too much for Him to ask that we ALWAYS remember Him? Look inward and then ALWAYS remember to look up to that God that LOVES you!

I will be forever grateful for young man on a plane, that took the time to tell me about his life and his struggle to find life’s meaning.  For having a soft heart and the courage to listen and act on the Spirit’s prompting, to teach a total stranger about CPR!

 

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “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” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!

It Takes Courage to have Balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it…

balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it.

I was always running way faster than I had the strength to do.  I was afraid, yes afraid, of what might happen if I let my guard down for half a second.  Where would I be?  How would things work out?  If I didn’t do it, who would etc., etc….. And then I crashed…. and it wasn’t pretty or fun for me or my family or anyone else.  It was scary and foreign and something that unfortunately, would happen again.  Luckily, not too often, but I have had to go through that process several times.  And it has definitely been a learning and growing process.  Finally being diagnosed (and accepting that diagnosis), was a major step forward for me.  And I giant leap towards achieving balance in my life.

One of the things that I have realized about Bi-Polar and, it makes sense really, is that you have to maintain a pretty steady balance.  You don’t want too get to far to the high, energetic, motivational, hyper, side.  And yet you want to stay away from the low, depressed, bored, emotional side.  And apparently, from my experience it takes a lot of courage to do that.  Especially in today’s world of social media mania!  It’s crazy how we are programmed to think, through social media, that we have to do all, be all, make all, spend all, and not drive ourselves crazy while doing it.  Because…. everybody is doing  it right?  So why shouldn’t we?

I have to think about this from a Bi-Polar stand point.  But as I examined it more closely, I realized that it is not just a Bi-Polar problem.  Yes, it is a bit harder for me to find my balance and stay there, and medication is required.  However, you can be completely normal (not mentally ill, lol) to suffer from this “condition” of having to overload your plate and not have any down time.  But down time is good! It is really, really good! Haha, who knew?  I was so busy trying to stay busy that I didn’t even know how to do down time!

That’s where the courage comes in! That may sound trite, but it’s true.  If you are so busy all the time and you never make time for down time.  Or you feel like you have to be a certain way to be “enough”.  Then being thrown into a whole new way of life that just doesn’t feel “right”, that takes a lot of courage.  So then, to not be thrown in to it, and to stop looking around at others and what they are doing, to try and gauge what your life should look like, well that takes courage too.  To let the calm be ok.  To be able to “be still” and be ok with that.  That takes courage!  And what we find therein is the “balance”.  We have to have down time to match the busy.  We have to have calm to recognize the crazy and that’s hard sometimes.  But so necessary to maintaining or finding a balance in our lives.

I guess you could say that I have grown to love this new me.  It’s a lot different from the old one.  And sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin.  But I’m definitely liking the feeling of being “enough”.  Crazy that it took a mental illness to make me feel complete.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  And sometimes we just need to trust that he knows what he’s doing and “be still”.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts, than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

courage