Imagine for a moment, a medium sized moving box, (maybe one that you could put a couple loads of old clothes in). Dingy, old and worn, smelling musty from being stored for a long period of time. Maybe even a little water damage can be seen in the ripples of the beat up box. Dust has begun to collect from the years of being untouched. An ordinary storage box by outward appearances.
Ok. Do you have that mental picture in mind?
Now let’s take this imaginary box to a new level. Though ordinary, there is something different about it. This box can not be seen by the naked eye. Beat down, worn out, and barely noticed anymore. But….YOU CAN see it clearly now. And It is time to open this box and discover what is inside. For some reason, you are a little afraid of what you might find, but you decide to open it anyway.
To your astonishment, as you open the box, familiar things begin to suddenly appear in your minds eye. There are loads and loads of memories inside. Good ones, bad ones, happy and sad, success and failure, adventure, and despair. But wait. Some of these memories you recognize, and some you have never felt or seen before. How can that be? It is YOUR box, right?
Then you realize deep in your soul that these are ALL of your memories! A Lifetime’s worth! All of your emotions, your hopes and dreams, your adventures, your experiences! Even those you haven’t had or seen before. All of them trapped deep inside this box never to be found. And then it hits you!
It comes to you with great force, like a huge punch in the gut. You feel sick to your stomach as you realize that this box was created FOR YOU! Not only that, it was built BY YOU!
You suddenly realize that there is one emotion that is not trapped or missing. It is the very same one that kept you from opening it to start with. The very one that you are feeling right now. It’s Fear! Fear of what might have been inside. Fear of what might have happened if you opened it. Fear of the unknown. Plain and simple, the emotion is Fear. And you realize that you have been filled with fear for a very long time.
Ok, snap out of it. Back to real life? How do you feel?
No worries. The great thing about imagination is that it is just that, imagination! And that means that you can change the way this story ends!
And you know what? It is time! It is past time for you to take control of your fear. Kick it to curb. Release all of those past experiences and failures that have made you afraid to experience your life. Afraid to try new things, to take risks, to become more than you are and learn something new.
Because no one wants to look back at their life as they take their last and final breath and see that there was so much more that could have been. If only they would have opened the box!
Break free! Your life is waiting for you!
What prompted this post: I realized that since I was diagnosed with Bipolar 5 years ago, I have been so afraid of what might happen. It took several years to get meds right and get my physical, mental, and spiritual balance back.
But since then I have been somewhat paralyzed by the worry that it will happen again (meaning I would end up in the psychiatric ward again). So what if it does? It wouldn’t be the end of the world. I mean, I do NOT want that to happen for sure! However I have survived. I’ve been surviving it most of my life (with the help of my Savior and redeemer carrying me every step of the way).
But the difference now, is that I am so much stronger. Because I know. I know what I am dealing with. I know what triggers me. I know what precautions I need to take. There is absolutely no reason to remain stuck in this place. It is way past time to see what is on the other side of fear!
And if you have similar feelings of being stuck and unable to progress or move forward. Maybe it is time to take a good look at what is holding YOU back. I’d be willing to place a bet that it is the box of fear that you have been hiding in.
I know it’s not easy to break free from. Believe me I have been trying for nearly 40 years. Do not let this be your story. There is ALWAYS hope!
P.S. If you have not yet heard of it, check out the book Limitless by Jim Kwik. I haven’t finished it yet but it has made me realize that my brain is not broken. Just untrained, underused and misunderstood. A work in progress, but truly limitless!
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.
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.
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!