I promised that today I will be doing a little recap on what’s been happening with my mental health over the past several months.
Just to preface, I’ve learned so much these past few months, more than ever before, about how important it is to let go and give your burden over to the Lord. In Matthew 11:28-30 it reads
Come to Me, all ye that labour and our heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I’ve learned now more than ever, how much I can and should rely on the Lord and trust in Him. More than anyone, He knows me. He knows my heart. He knows my fears. He knows the burdens that I carry. And He really is the only one that can shoulder that burden like no one else. He asks us to take His yoke upon us and let Him do the heavy lifting. How much easier it will be for us if we trust Him enough to let Him carry us when we can not carry ourselves.
This experience that I had the last few months has been nothing compared to what I’ve been through before when dealing with bipolar. But I have found that one of the most difficult parts of living with bipolar and being on the healthy side, is the fear of falling to the unhealthy side again. It is such a dark and frightening place to be. And there is so much trauma that can come to the surface because of being in that dark place. But sometimes we have to fall in order for the Lord to lift us up again.
When a loved one approaches you and says that things don’t seem right with you, it can be really devastating. And there is a real part of you that doesn’t want to believe it for fear of ending up in the dark place again. But that is when you really need to put your trust in those that know and care about you and especially in the Lord.
Sometimes the burden of living with bipolar becomes extremely heavy to bear. Even when I’m healthy, I worry about becoming unhealthy. I worry that my loved ones are always worried about me and watching my every move just to make sure I’m ok. I hate more than anything for those that I love to worry about me. So it’s become second nature for me to try to appear fine when deep down I may be struggling.
Struggling with just the simple fact of being tired of carrying the burden itself. Over the last few months for whatever reason, I was just really, really tired of carrying it. And I would pray so many nights to Jesus that I was just so tired, please just take this away so I don’t need to worry anymore.
And apparently, this whole time He was trying to teach me the way to ease my tiredness. To let Him take my burden upon Him, even if just for a little while.
So when my husband approached me to discuss what he had seen in me over the last few months, it was really devastating to me. Here I thought I was physically and mentally feeling better than I ever had. And that I was doing great. It was only in the recesses of my own mind that I gave way to my deeper feelings of how tired I was from constantly monitoring myself.
I was very, very emotional that night as we discussed the importance of checking in with my Doctor. I had the biggest knot in my stomach and felt physically ill. I was so scared that if we discussed it and there was an issue, then I would have to go into the deep rabbit hole of going through the process of trying to find a new medication. The thought of that was a pure nightmare for me to think about.
My husband offered to give me a priesthood blessing which I accepted. He went to prepare himself for it and I went into the other room to plead with the Lord. In that moment I realized that I had no control over the journey that the Lord had in store for me. And something just broke inside of me. I remember saying to Him that I was so scared of having to go into the dark place again. I heard Him whisper to me, “Do you trust me?” And I said back, “I do.” And I heard it again, “Do you really trust me?” and again I heard myself say that I did. In fact I said, “I trust you so much that if going back to that dark place is part of my journey, I will do it. I don’t want to do it. But for you, to show you that I trust you, I will do it.” And I meant it. I really, really meant it.
I went into the living room where my husband performed the blessing. He laid his hands upon my head and started the blessing. The first thing he said was “the Lord knows that you are tired of carrying this burden. He wants you to have the courage to continue in this difficulty.” And that’s when I knew that in this journey on Earth, this illness will always be a burden that I will carry. But I don’t have to do it alone. That He is there. And He knows that I am tired. He knows! I hadn’t said those words to anyone but Him. And that was Him telling me that He hears me. And He will help me to shoulder this burden if I will let Him.
I don’t know how else to describe how I felt except that I felt so “held”. That is the only word I could think of. Like I was enveloped in a big warm hug. And I felt that way throughout the rest of that week as I prepared for my appointment with my Doctor. As I sat in his office and discussed our next moves I felt that the Lord was there being my rock to hold onto. As I agreed to tweak my medication a little bit, I just felt so “held”.
And I thought of His hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt of my affliction. Those are the hands that held me in that moment, and let me know that it was all going to work out according to His will. And I trusted Him more than I ever have in my life that I would be able to handle whatever was in store for me.
Just to give you a little insight about me if you’re new to the podcast, I was diagnosed five years ago with Bipolar ll, after having 2 manic epsodes within two months that landed me in the hospital. Although, I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life.
Fifteen years ago I had my first mental breakdown. At the time I wouldn’t accept the diagnosis and kind of set about to prove the Doctors wrong. I was in denial and did not want to be labeled as “crazy”. Because let’s face it, that’s what most people think of when the word bipolar is mentioned. That word is tossed around so lightly these days as people talk about someone else’s behavior that they don’t understand. And to be quite honest, it is really distressing and inconsiderate to those of us who have mental illnesses of any kind.
Anyway, here is my timeline. I had suffered with what I thought was depression from the time my first child was born. I had Postpartum depression. And with each child it would get a little bit worse. With my fourth and last child, I finally realized that it was time to talk to someone about it. I knew from my previous births that the depression usually did not subside for around 9 or more months after the baby was born. I remember the therapist telling me after we had talked, that I had two choices. I could either take medication that would help me feel better within a few weeks or I could go ahead and wait it out and be miserable for the next several months. Well, that was kind of no brainer for me. So I went ahead and went on the medication.
Over the few years after that I jumped from medication to medication. They would work for several months and then all of sudden I would be feeling horrible again. During that time I started researching alternate forms of medication. I realized that there were so many other things that I could do on my own that would affect how I felt. Such as working out, making sure my stress levels did not get too high, making sure I was getting good sleep and good nutrition, and so on. So I started working towards that and slowly weaned myself off the medications for what I hoped would be forever. And I was able to maintain that for probably around 4 or so years.
But when you have a severe chemical imbalance, the chances of it coming to the surface again is quite likely, and may warrant medication.
I have mentioned before on the podcast that I do not discuss any of the medications that I have been on over the years because everyone’s body is different and what worked for me may or may not work for you and vice versa. I think that is a dangerous road to go down. We each have so many different chemicals and hormones that affect how we respond. It’s so important to follow what your Dr. suggests and find something that works for your body. I highly recommend if you have the funding or if your insurance will pay for it, that you get DNA testing to find out what your body is compatible with. I will discuss that in a few minutes.
Anyway,that breakdown 15 years ago, was what started me on the road to finding out what exactly was happening with my body. As I said I was in denial and did everything I could to prove that Bipolar was not what I had.
I went back to my nurse practitioner at the time, and explained what had happened. She knew my history and from what I explained to her about what had happened, we both came to the conclusion that I just needed to get some sleep. I had not been on any medication for the previous 4 or so years which I mentioned earlier, and didn’t believe that I would ever need it again. She put me on an anti-anxiety med that I would take as needed. Just when I felt stressed or a little out of sorts. It would calm me down and then I’d be ok.
At my next yearly appointment I was feeling some depression setting in. I had read about a certain medication in a magazine that had helped someone else. So she agreed and prescribed it for me. I was on that medication for 10 years. Clear up until my second breakdown (or manic episode) that landed me in the hospital.
And that’s where things started to get super out of control. If you want to read more about experiences that I had while trying to find the right meds you can go back to my post Living with Bipolar and several posts after that one.
Luckily at that time I was referred to a great psychiatrist that told me right from the get go. You have Bipolar ll, no arguing whether or not you have it. Apparently that’s a pretty common experience. I wonder why? With such a stigma about it, it’s no wonder that people don’t want to be labeled.
He said, “We are just going to work to get you better. It might take some time. But we are going to find out what “recipe” works best for you.” It was actually so comforting to have someone finally take control of something that I could not. And I also finally accepted the fact that I did indeed have Bipolar.
But it wasn’t a death sentence… this would actually bring me back to who I really was, underneath the mask of Bipolar. He wouldn’t put me back on that medication that had worked for 10 years because he said it was the wrong medication for my diagnosis and it would never work for me again.
Over the next year we were able to find my recipe. And once I did, I felt so much better than a year before when I was completely at my lowest point ever. So I never really questioned whether or not I could feel even better than I did. I didn’t feel completely like myself as I had on the medication that I was on for 10 years. But for me it was so much better than where I was a year before. It was good enough. I did not have a DNA test with that Doctor. He never suggested it, and I had never heard of it so there was no reason to do it.
I had my DNA testing done in 2019 when I was forced to change Psychiatrists because my current one was retiring. The Doctor that I found (after doing my homework to find a good fit for me), recommended it. I didn’t even know that such a thing existed and gladly said that I would. I had mine done through GeneSight Psychotropic and it is called Combinatorial pharmacogenomic test. What it does, is tell you what drugs on the market today are highly compatible, somewhat compatible, and not at all compatible with your individual DNA. So it is very valuable information.
We did that at my second appointment with the new Doctor. I was floored to find out that the medication that I had been on for 10 years (the one after my very first breakdown), was only moderately compatible with my body and the wrong medication entirely for my diagnosis. It was for depression and what I needed was a mood stabilizer since my moods were either really high and things were going great or I would sink into a deep depression. Apparently my first Dr. was right. One of the reasons I will always push for anyone going through mental health issues to find a good psychiatrist.
We also discovered that the medication that I was currently taking was only moderately compatible with my DNA. When we went over the report, my new Doctor suggested that eventually I might want to switch to one that was highly compatible for me. Of course I had been feeling good for 4 years at that time and was pretty gun shy when it came to switching. Why would I fix what was not broken? So I would go to my regularly scheduled 3 month appointments over the next year and we would discuss it again and I always said, “no, I don’t want to mess with what I’ve got going.” And he was very understanding and accommodating and agreeable. Until I started having some pretty severe sleep issues. Which was probably one of the biggest reasons that I ended up back in the hospital the second time. I was under a lot of stress and hardly slept at all for about 5 days. Not good.
I have mentioned many times that getting enough sleep is critical for someone who has a mental illness like bipolar. (Really, sleep is so important for everyone!) So that was a pretty great concern. My doctor mentioned that the other medication had a sedative. I would take it at night and it would help improve my sleep. But I still wasn’t convinced. Finally after nearly another year of not having really good sleep, I was ready to try it.
So that brings you up to date on my timeline. I switched medications at the end of March 2021, right after I started doing the daily podcasts (not great timing on my part). I was terrified of going back into that dark place, but my Doctor assured me that it would be better for me according to my DNA test. The first 4 days were so scary. I started feeling very jittery like I was on speed or something.
Similar to the way I feel when climbing the scale toward a manic episode. A good way to explain the kinds of things that my husband was seeing, is that they were small things that most people would not see or notice. Such as doing simple routine things in a different order than normal. Or becoming a little agitated about things I normally wouldn’t be affected by.
I called my Doctor and he assured me that it was not a manic episode according to what I described and asked me to give it more time. Within a few weeks the jittery feeling was gone and I felt better than I had since 2015 when I had the 2 back to back hospital stays. I finally felt like myself again. I had no idea that I could feel even better than I did. I was sleeping again. I had drive, and motivation. I felt clear headed like a fog had been lifted. I could focus and get things done. I loved it! And I still do. So what happened recently? Well, here’s the story.
Luckily, I am very good at keeping a daily journal. Just a couple of paragraphs of how I am feeling, and what’s going on in my life. It has been very helpful in being able to look back and discover where things started to become a little unbalanced. I had become a little lax on some of my daily habits. I was missing a lot of workouts, and my nutrition was really suffering. I was eating a lot of junk food and a lot of sugar. I was under a lot of stress, because I had to go through several medical procedures in one month. I am 53 and have a lot of hormonal issues as well.
And I got to the point where sleep was starting to become an issue again. So all this comes into play just as I have been working on adjusting to the new medication. When I look at it that way, I think that it wasn’t just the medication switch, it was everything combined. It was like heading into the perfect storm…. Again. And that’s why it is so vitally important to have a good support system in place. Someone who knows you well and can see when things are a little out of order (for me that’s my husband). And also to have a Doctor that is a good fit for you, that you feel comfortable with and who knows your history well.
I started to have what my Doctor calls “outliers”. Which basically means that I was super steady for a period of time and then I would spike and do something that was out of character for me.
What is interesting to me is that these things were so tiny that if you don’t know me well, you would completely miss them. Also, as I said in episode 32, most of the time they are such small things that even I can’t see that it is out of character. Which is quite common according to my Doctor.
So when these things start happening there are two directions it can go. Either someone recognizes it quickly and you see your Doctor and make adjustments. Or no one recognizes it until it’s too late. You have already climbed the scale to a manic episode. Which could mean hospitalization.
In my situation, we caught it very quickly, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in my medication. Remember I had just switched, so we were kind of in the process of finding the right recipe again. We knew it was compatible with my DNA. We just needed to find the right dosage. We made a minor change and since then I have been fine and the “outliers” have stopped.
But this whole experience taught me so much about myself and my illness and the journey that I’ve been on. I have gained an entirely new perspective that I think is really important. Especially when it comes to helping others be able to overcome their struggles. And also to allow me to continue on my journey toward wellness. I know now more than ever that I have to be so vigilant with my daily habits, and be sure I don’t miss days with my medication. That’s why I like to call those who suffer with mental illness, warriors. Because we are in the fight for lives every single day.
Even though this is a sickness that can not be seen by the naked eye, like cancer, or diabetes. It is still life threatening. People who have not been through it or witnessed a loved one going through it, don’t understand that. That’s why we have so many suicides and so many mentally ill people who are not getting the care that they so vitally need. They don’t have a support system in place that can help them. It’s easy to abandon someone when you feel like they are just being negative and difficult.
We need to be better at recognizing and understanding when someone is ill and support them instead of shunning them. There is nothing more frustrating for a person who is suffering than to have someone say that it’s all made up or they are doing things to hurt people intentionally.
It becomes debilitating and demeaning to be made to feel like there is something wrong with you as a person. When the truth is, you are sick. What you have is an illness that needs to be separated from the person that God made you to be. There is nothing wrong with the “you” God made you to be. You are human just like everyone else. Your illness does not define who you are. Just like you are not the cancer or you are not the diabetes. Yes, it is something that you have, that you live it. But it doesn’t make you, you!
So my invitation to all of you today is: If you struggle with mental illness of any kind, find a psychiatrist that comes highly referred and is a good fit for you. Going to a psychiatrist does not mean you will necessarily need medication. There are many behavioral modifications that you can make with their help. Choosing to seek help is not a sign of weakness! It takes courage and strength to admit that you need help!
And then do whatever you need to, to find someone who can be a good support system for you. Someone that knows you and can help assess the situation when things seem out of the ordinary.
If you have no one, seek out a therapist. I know all of this is expensive and sometimes it’s hard to get insurance companies to pay. I won’t even go into my thoughts on that disservice! But if you can find a way to do it, the investment into your health will be worth every last penny.
And if you are a loved one of someone who is struggling, do everything you possibly can to help them recognize how much you love them and support them and want the best for them. Encourage them! Don’t demean them. Don’t minimize their illness or their struggle. Validate their feelings and do whatever you can to help them to know that they can trust you.
And to all of you together, I encourage you to trust in the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and soul . Because He’s got you in the palms of His Hands. You are “held” always! Until next time. Take care.
If you made it this far. Thanks for reading. If you or someone you know has a trial that you/they’ve been able to get through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. My goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of hard things.