A New Normal

We are living in a world that is going to have a “new normal”.  As the events of the past few months have unfolded before us, we’ve felt many emotions.  Fear, Shock, disappointment, loss, suffering, helplessness, hopelessness, and many more.  

For some that are single or live alone, loneliness and isolation have been a big part of the past month. As well as those who have had to isolate because of infection by the virus. Or people who have been otherwise hospitalized, who have had to do so without the support of loved ones by their  side.  

Whether for a sickness, or lingering illness, or the joyous event of delivering a baby.  Which has been bittersweet, both joyful and heartbreaking to not be able to share that experience in person with friends and family 

At the same time, as we have practiced social distancing and followed the “stay safe, stay at home”  orders that have been implemented in many states, we’ve felt a closeness to our families that may have been lost.  We’ve been comforted by the fact that we are experiencing the same feelings as people all over the world. We’ve felt joy, compassion, love, tenderness, empathy for those working on the front lines and those who are ill. We’ve mourned for those who have lost their jobs and livelyhood and those that have had to give up dreams that they’ve worked their whole life for. 

Many of us have developed a great love for our leaders.  Whether they be government, church, educators, scientists, healthcare workers, or even company owners who have come forward to help in the face of tragedy.

We’ve felt a renewed love for our Lord and Savior and his atonement and suffering for all of us.  We have realized that we can not carry this burden alone. That nobody should carry these burdens alone. And so we have become united in purpose to eliminate and eradicate this awful virus that has infected not only our bodies, but our lives.

It has been incredible to witness the heroics of so many in our communities as we have faced the pandemic and world calamities (earthquakes and tornados, etc.).  Our hearts fill with gratitude as we see a world come together through something that can’t be seen but only felt.

As someone who already suffers from mental illness and the effects of isolation that it can bring,  I feel a deep compassion for those who have never experienced those feelings who now will find themselves in deep depressions.  Whether from loss, unemployment, isolation, financial struggles or family dysfunction which may have become front and center. Or those who will suffer PTSD from witnessing the most horrible experiences one can imagine. 

But I will forever be an optimist.  I know that we CAN come together as a nation and as a world to fight this horrible disease.  We can make our world whole again by the kindness and love and the attitude with which we choose to move forward.

Will it be easy?  Absolutely not. We have all experienced something that will forever be implanted in our very souls.  Something horrendous. But out of the ashes rises the Phoenix! We can rise as a nation/world. We can rebuild our world and each other instead of tearing each other down.

We can spread love and kindness and come together in a way that no one anticipated a few short months ago. We can find that “new normal” together.  We can build a new world from the love and common ground that we’ve found through the most tragic of events.  

We have been told that it may be much longer than anyone thought that we will be in this situation.  Both fighting for our lives and fighting to stay healthy. But through this time there are still ways that we can reach out.  There are still ways that we can stay healthy and maintain a good attitude. And with the Lord’s help we will conquer this pandemic while simultaneously building stronger families, friendships and communities.

Revelation Chapter 21

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new

A new normal? Yes.  But possibly a better way of life? Most definitely!

All my love,

XO Wendy

 

Does it ever get better?

Heavy laden

Does it ever get better?  Will I ever feel happy again?  Why is this burden so heavy and why was I asked to carry it?  These are just a few if the many questions that you may struggle with.  Some answers may come quickly then there are some that may never come in this lifetime.

Sometimes you may find yourself digging a deeper and deeper hole as you list off all of the negative ways that BPD (Bipolar Disorder) has affected your life. It’s so easy to throw a little pity party and blame ‘all the things’ on your illness.

But the truth is, there is so much more to you than your illness.  You are not defined by it!  There are certainly times in your life that it may seem to control your every thought and move.  And at times,  you feel like others truly define you by it (some probably do). But it is only Satan that will have you believe that you have no control.  He is the father of all lies.  He would have you believe that you can never get well, that you will continue to hurt others in your life, that your life is not worth living, that you are all ALONE.  But Satan is wrong!

You see, God will never ever leave you!  He begs you to come to Him.  He beckons you to lay all of your burdens at his feet.  To let Him Heal you!

One of my favorite songs by Sidewalk Prophets says:

To the thief, to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young, to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last, all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you’ve been forgiven
All who dream, all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained, all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who’s been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who’ve been labeled right or wrong
Everyone who hears this song
Just
Come, come to the table
Listen to the song below.

I am reminded of so many times throughout scripture that the Lord pleads with us to come unto Him.  To let Him heal our broken souls.  He says in Mosiah 24:14

 “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

As we approach Easter this year I hope that you will put the atonement of Jesus Christ to work in your life.  He is there for you.  He loves you.  And He has sent many people into your life to be His hands.  To help you and to guide you and to help you realize that you are not alone!

I sincerely hope that your day and weekend gets better and that the sun will shine over you as you push through the hard days in your illness.  Don’t give up! The fact that you are reading this post means that He does hear your cries.

XO Wendy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

BPD, a blessing or a curse?

Prosper you and give you hope

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

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

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

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

 

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

Have a wonderful day and week!

XO Wendy

Faith, Trust, Courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

XO Wendy

Please stay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all have better days ahead.

XO Wendy

 

5 Things not to say to a person with bipolar disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO Wendy