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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Yesterday was one such day for me. Surviving. I don’t know if it was the weather (regarding seasonal depression), or I didn’t sleep well, or if it was something that affected me in a negative way. But it was a really rough day.
My daughter always used to say, “a good day always follows a bad one”. So I sort of clung to that idea believing that I’d wake up and I would feel better. Maybe not significantly better, but better none the less. I also tried to really focus on my self care and tried to figure out what, if anything I’d been missing.
And that’s what got me thinking about these two very different states of the mind. Having dealt with seasonal depression pretty much every year for my whole life, I know it never gets easier. But we can become stronger by the habits that we intentionally develop over the course of the year leading up to this time of year. You’d think that I’d be ready for it when it hits but not so. It always just kind of smacks me from behind leaving me wondering what hit me. But that doesn’t mean I have to get knocked down, or if I do, that I can’t get back up again.
I’m sure that may be the same for many of you who suffer with mental illnesses (or any hard thing for that matter). So I thought it would be great to try to focus on thriving this year instead of just surviving. Let’s do it together. I have a friends who I follow on IG that are such an inspiration to me because even in the really tough times, they are very open and constantly trying to practice good self care. One of them posted this today and I think it is a really good reminder of things that we can do when we are struggling. If we can practice these things regularly through the hard months ahead, we can thrive instead of just survive.
And if you are barely surviving, don’t be afraid to reach out. Please just stay. Don’t quit! I am always here to listen and I know others are there for you too. Don’t give up. It will get better.
…live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you. (Alma 34:38)
First of all, I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving day. I thought it would be appropriate to speak of gratitude on Thanksgiving day! What other time of the year do we take one whole day to celebrate all that is good in our lives, all of our many blessings?
If you have read much of my blog, then you already know how important journals are to me. And my favorite of all the journals that I write in, is my gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive journal with a fancy cover. It can just be a notebook that you can keep inside your purse if need be.
The important part is that you write in it. Not just periodically, but daily. It’s similar to being consistent that we talked about here.
“Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence.” Bonnie D. Parkin
A few weeks ago we talked about joy and I believe that one of the ways that we can find true joy is through living in thanksgiving daily as stated above.
Today you will gather with family and friends to celebrate your love and relationships and all that you have to be grateful for. You will eat a lot of good food, watch football, play games, sleep and love on each other, build on current relationships and maybe start new ones.
I hope that you will take a few minutes at some point during your day to write down all of the many blessings you have in your life.
While everyone’s Thanksgiving might not be perfect, it can be filled with love and happiness. That really depends on you. Sure you could give away your control when one of your siblings or parents says or does something inappropriate. But how much better will your memories be if you can just be filled with gratitude.
I’m not sure who, but someone shared this with me one day, and because I live far away from my family it really stuck with me.
Think about the people in your life, not those you live with daily, but those that you may only see a couple of times per year. Now think about how many times you will get to see and be with them in their lifetime. Usually that’s only a couple of times per year for most people. If it’s a parent, and say they have roughly 10 years more of living, that’s only about 20 more times in YOUR life that you will get to spend with them!
So today, try to make the most of the time you get to spend with all of the important people in your life. Because you just never know when that might be your last time.
And if you live far away from family, CALL them or FaceTime them. It would mean so much to them.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
Have you ever looked at someone that you admire and thought, geez, I wish I could be more like her/him. They have it all, a great job, great family, great spouse, their kids are perfect, they always seem happy. And look at that home…. it’s ALWAYS clean. And so and so on.
You think to yourself, I can’t even keep the laundry folded (or maybe even washed) and dinner on the table. Wait, I can’t even fix dinner because I haven’t had any time to go the store in the last couple of weeks. And pretty soon you’ve talked yourself into such a personal pity party that you’re fighting with your imperfect kids. And you’re short with your husband and friends. You may be fuming about work projects or situations where you just felt that things were dumped on you, or just not fair.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? Me too! We’re so good at finding all of our flaws and imperfections and comparing them to the strengths of others whom you admire. But the truth is, things aren’t always as they seem! In fact rarely are they as they look on the outside. EVERYBODY (at least in my past 51 years of experience) is going through something hard. And to a certain degree, we all try to put on the face that nothing is wrong everything is just rosy! It’s time for us to get real, and quit the fake. That is quite the buzz word at the moment isn’t it? Just quit the fake, right? But it’s not really that easy to do.
Let me ask you a couple of questions that I really want you to ponder. Really ponder.
1.What is it about my life that is sooo horrible that I can’t help but look at others and want what they have? And
2. What good is there in my life right now that others might see as optimal (the blessings you have in your life)?
Sometimes we are so focused on what we don’t have that we forget to be grateful and celebrate the things that we do have!
I personally think that is why it is so important to keep some sort of daily gratitude journal! It reminds you to be aware and mindful of all the little things that are good in your life. It helps you to focus on the positives.
One of the the things in my own life that I could really make into a horrible thing, I can make it a negative or a positive, is the fact that I have Bipolar disorder. It would be very easy for me to look at all the negative that comes along with this diagnosis. And it does get the best of me at times. But one of the ways that I try to make it into a positive is to try and help others who may be struggling with similar issues. I am always amazed that just by sharing what I go through, it always touches someone in some way. Sometimes it is in a big way and other times it is as small as them recognizing that they are not alone. They don’t always reach out and let me know, but when they do, it always makes me feel like what I am struggling with is a blessing that I can use to help others in their own lives.
And lastly, looking at and focusing on the good in your life is a practice that is so easy to pick up and really doesn’t take much. Try recording just 3 things daily that are good in your life that day, that moment. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Sometimes for me it is just the fact that I am here on this Earth living another day!
So with that said, go out and look for the good today! Remember that things aren’t always as they seem when viewing what others are putting out there. And know that you are never alone! I see you!