Hearing and Hindering Part 1

Recently I have been reading a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.   It has been so good to learn more about the importance of creating good and solid habits.  And I highly recommend picking it up if you are struggling with implementing good habits.  

The funny thing is that whenever you are focused on something like that, you tend to notice it or be attracted to it everywhere.  So I have had videos pop up on you tube or seen other information that seems to support what I am studying.  It even came up in a talk from last weekend’s conference (see One percent better by Elder Michael A. Dunn) So I am concluding that this is something that I need to re-evaluate in my own life.  

As I pondered upon some of my “habit stacking”, and the need to apply “the aggregation of marginal gains”. Which simply involves changing something by just 1%, thus changing the previous course that you were on. Which then ends up making a huge difference when put into action in a regular “habit based” routine. As discussed in Clear’s book as well as Elder Dunn’s talk. 

It got me thinking about the habits or techniques required to know and feel the Holy Spirit and how it works for you specifically in your own life.  Equally important is to know how Satan attempts to thwart your progression (usually by invoking the “aggregation of marginal gains” believe it or not. I talked about that in a previous post).  

You see as we have been repeatedly taught there must be opposition in all things.  So as soon as we begin improving our ability to listen to and heed the promptings of the spirit.  Satan will begin to insert his way into that process to keep us from progressing.

So those two things are what I want to discuss today and next week.  And I hope that you will be inspired to re-evaluate your life and your habits to see if you can improve your ability to listen to the guidance of the Savior, Jesus Christ through the conduit of the Holy Spirit.  While at the same time improving your ability to ward off the fiery darts of the adversary. 

So let’s just go back for a minute to “habit stacking” and the aggregation of marginal gains, as talked about in Atomic Habits.  So here is a brief rundown of what habit stacking is. A simplistic way to explain it is, that you often decide what to do next, based on what you have just finished doing.  

Think about your morning routine.  For example, this is a sample of the first things that I do and probably many of you do too upon waking.  First, the alarm goes off, and then after a few snoozes, lol, (no one is perfect right?)  I roll out of bed, pull on my socks (I hate cold feet!), which reminds me that I need to quickly make my bed, which then leads me to the restroom, which reminds me to wash my hands, which signals me to brush my teeth and run a comb through my hair.  See how that works?  One thing leads to another because of the signal that is sent from the prior action.  

Most of us practice these small habits on instinct because you have been doing them for so long that they become second nature.  So how can we apply this to the gospel and how we listen to and understand how the Lord speaks to us? 

Well for starters, we can take a look at our current habits and evaluate how they might be helping or hindering us from hearing and heeding the promptings of the Lord.

One thing that I want to quickly mention is that we are in the last 90 days of this year.  So like me, many of you may have begun new habits or set new goals at the beginning of 2021.  By now those habits or goals may be falling a bit.  Trust me when I say it happens to pretty much everyone.  

But what I am getting at is that instead of giving up and just cruising or coasting to the end of 2021, and starting over again next year. I would like to suggest that you put on your running shoes and sprint to the end of the year.  Although we have lots of holidays and distractions, that is no reason to give up on the goals or habits that you have been working on since the beginning of the year. We still have almost 3 full months. 

In fact, if you are to continue, or start back up where you left off.  You will be applying the “aggregation of marginal gains”.  Remember? improving by just 1% on a regular basis, which can significantly improve your endgame.  In this case, where you would like to be by the end of 2021. So just a little plug there for you to look at what you may have already been working to improve.

Now back to where we were. Looking at our current habits and evaluating how they might be helping or hindering us from hearing and heeding the promptings of the Lord.

So let’s start with habits that are helping us hear and heed.  It’s important to note that this will be different for each of us because we all “hear” the Lord in different ways. For some it may come through thoughts or impressions.  For others it may come through music. Some people have very vivid dreams.  What matters is that you figure out your way and then work to get it to come to the surface more often. And we can do that through implementing specific small habits.

So  just to share an example of how I have learned that the Lord speaks to me, I am going to tell you about a journey that I have been on for most of this year.  Well at least since the end of March. And I’ve talked about it briefly in previous posts.

Most of you know, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, that I have Bipolar disorder. Which is a mental illness and mood disorder.  So I can have extreme highs and extreme lows in my mental health.  However, this can be controlled through various means.  I happen to apply a variety of means or habits, to each and every day to try and stay on top of it, because it can spiral down (or up) very quickly if I’m not vigilant in this. And I’ve talked alot about the things that I do to prevent that.  

But in this example I just want to share what’s been happening this year and how I’ve learned to lean on and heed the promptings of the Lord when it comes to surviving basically a mental health crisis.  

One of the ways that I choose to control Bipolar is to use medication, which usually works quite well (once you find a good recipe).  So why on Earth, you may ask, would I switch medications when what I had been using seemed to be working pretty well?  That’s a good question and one that I reflect on almost daily.  However, I did it at the advice of my psychiatrist whom I have grown to trust with my mental health.  The reason we did this, and we’d been discussing it over several visits, is because I hadn’t been sleeping well for many months.  And that as I’ve talked about before is a strong catalyst for catapulting me into a manic episode.  And that thought just scares me to death.  I have a lot of truama from my past manic episodes. So the thought of being able to eliminate that worry was very appealing.  So in the Spring we decided it was a good time to try. 

As you may have guessed, within a few weeks we learned that it was not working as expected, in fact, funnily enough, it had the opposite effect of what we were going for.  I actually slept like a baby, which was so great!  However over time, in the waking hours, I became like the energizer bunny.  Which is a good and bad thing.  I mean I was feeling great!  But in my case, GREAT is not always a positive thing. 

Long story short, it has been a rough year to say the least!  I was able to get back on what I was previously doing well on.  But sleeping became a problem again.  Although it is slowly getting better. It’s a process, that’s what I keep telling myself.

But what I want to share is what I’ve learned through this process when it comes to hearing and heeding promptings. And it has alot to do with habits and the process of changing by just 1% each day. 

Several times over the past months I have been able to learn more fully how the Lord speaks to me.  But it has not come without work and tears, prayers and reflection. 

And now is where habit stacking comes into play.  At the beginning of the year, I decided to add scripture study to my daily morning routine. I have been reading the scriptures regularly for the past few years.  But this year I was impressed to make it more of a “study”.  So my habit stacking looks like this.  

After I do what I already mentioned in the morning, I go straight to my supplements and take my medication (taking in my first water bottle of the day), to me that is one of the most important decisions of my day and that’s why it comes first!  That then signals me to feed the cat because that is the most important thing for his day!  Plus he whines and whines if I forget, haha.  

My journaling pens are right by the cat food so I am reminded that it is time to journal. But once I set my books at the table, that is a signal to pray so I take a few minutes for that.

Another thing that I started doing this year that’s a bit of a harder habit for me to remember, is after my prayer I put on my earpods and listen to some gospel music while I journal. (Earpods are charging by the pens for journaling so that should be my signal, but sometimes I miss it). This will be important to note later on.

I then begin the journaling process which usually takes about 15 minutes. I journal in the morning because I can report how I slept, record happenings from the day before and also impressions seem to come better to me in the quiet stillness of the morning. 

When I finish with that, I open up my scriptures and start where I left off.  But instead of just reading, my goal was to study.  So I am very conscientious about noticing words, phrases, or footnotes that stand out to me. It takes about an hour from start to finish after getting out of bed to complete my habit stacked routine.  

But then I am on to my day and the habit stacking starts again.  Workout, shower, work, lunch!

You get the idea.  One thing leads to another and once you do them long enough they begin to become habits and can have a significant change on the trajectory of your life.  

I shared all of that because it is through these habits that I have developed the ability to hear and understand the promptings and impressions from the Lord.  It hasn’t come all at once and it continues to develop.  But every day I am progressing toward a greater understanding of how the Lord speaks to me. Which has been very very important this year in helping to guide me through the rough waters that I have been experiencing with my mental health. 

It truly has been such a journey.  And I am one to say that there are no coincidences.  Do I regret swiching medications?  Some days the answer is absolutely!  But most days I am grateful for what I have learned about myself spiritually, mentally and physically over this past year. I believe that one of the reasons that we were so intent on changing my medication was because I had prepared myself for the learning and growing process, through the habits that I had already become good at.  There was a growing, stretching, learning that needed to take place in my life.

It all dawned on me, a few days ago, that the Lord has a very specific process or pattern that he uses when communicating directly to me.  And ironically, it involves my habits in my morning routine.

Why are morning routines so important? We are taught through Elder Dunn’s talk, in a quote from Neal a Maxwell. “Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum.” Truly, it is by small, simple, and, yes, even just 1% that great things can be brought to pass.  

We learn from Alma 37:6  but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;…

And 2 Nephi 28:30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom;

That sounds like a lesson in habit stacking and 1% gains to me!

So I’m getting a bit side tracked but let me just get to the point about the experience that I shared above of how it dawned on me how all of this came together.

Last week I had been having an especially difficult couple of days (down days).  Those are the hard ones for me.  I tend to rather enjoy the up days… but they are harder on the people who care about me, which is a good thing.  On those few hard days, there was a point when I was crying out to the Lord to just make all the bad feelings stop… to help me to feel better, happy, content with who I am.  

During those times, I tend to beg for my illness to be taken away.  I tell Him how tired I am of carrying it.  I am sure I am not the only one that feels this way at times.  We all have heavy burdens that we carry.  

But it was during my pleading that it happened.  I was taught the pattern, or rather reminded, of the way the Lord speaks to me in a way that I can “hear”.  

As I was pleading, I got the distinct feeling that I needed to find a certain song. )Most often music tends to calm me down and allow impressions to come.)  But when I opened my phone to begin searching in my music app I noticed that the song that was next to play (of something I’d been listening to earlier) was flashing.  Well that’s weird, I was thinking, it’s never done that before.  But I continued looking for the song that I had in my mind, but for some reason that flashing made me think, hmmm, maybe I’m supposed to listen to that song.  So I clicked on it.

It is a song called “Fragile” from Hilary Weeks Live All In .  I hadn’t listened to the whole album yet and that’s the song I had left off on.  I basically just sat there in awe of how incredibly omnipotent our Father in Heaven is.  The words to that song just matched perfectly how I was feeling and somehow I just knew that the Lord knew exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed Him to speak to me and let me know that He knew me, and He was very aware of what I was going through at that very moment. 

If you are suffering, trying to put on a brave face every day for any reason, I suggest you go and listen to that song.  It really was a calming balm to my soul.

But the really crazy thing is that I was so stunned and so sure that he was speaking to me that I kept listening, hoping the next song would have a message for me.  Sure enough it did.  The last 3 songs on her album are called Fragile, Someday down the road, and More Mistakes to make. I’ll link them in the show notes.

The reason those are significant is that in my pleading I felt like I had just made so many mistakes over the past several weeks and I felt worthless and like a failure.  Which is pretty typical of someone who suffers with depression.  When those 3 songs played in that order and it was just exactly what I needed to hear, I was thinking how?  How does He know exactly what I need to hear?  Of course the communication continued.  And as I heard the words of each song I began to feel a little better, and the fog began to lift.   

Next, I had the distinct impression that I needed to go study my scriptures.  I felt an urgency that there was more for me to know at that moment.  

In my mind I asked which book?  Where should I search? And I heard the whisper, “the big book”!  I knew immediately that it was my triple combination which holds all the books of scripture.  Just a side note, I like to study from smaller versions so that I can mark up the wide margins. So I don’t typically go to “the big book”.

When this happens I almost always just randomly open my scriptures trusting that He knows where to lead me.  Well, on the first try I got nothing, so I flipped a few pages and opened up to John chapter 10:1-15.  The discourse on the good shepherd. Coincidence?  I think not.

This is the one where Jesus is talking about how he knows His sheep and they know him.  

But one passage caught me.  And that is verse 7 And then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say until you I am the door of the sheep. 

The door?  What on Earth does that mean? 

It had a footnote so I looked it up. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way the truth and the life…

It really felt like He was telling me, “look, I’ve got you!  I know that you feel lost and broken in this moment, but I know how you feel and I’ve layed down my life for you!  Don’t worry, you’re going to make more mistakes and more mistakes and it’s ok, because you are mine.  Look to me… I am the way, the door.

So cool right?!  

So what does this have to do with habit stacking and the 1%?  Well, here’s my little interpretation or lesson that I learned.  Take it for what you will but I do believe that the Lord was telling me, “here is how YOU receive my word.”  

  1. Pray
  2. Music
  3. Scripture
  4. Write down your impressions

I think that my habit stacking or my morning routine of Praying, listening to music, reading my scriptures and journaling my thoughts and impressions is the exact pattern that He uses to speak to me personally.

Now I don’t know why Hilary Weeks wrote those exact words in those songs and then put them in that specific order on her album.  I’m sure there are millions of people that her songs have touched.  But I do know that for me, it was just what I needed in the exact order that I needed it, from the exact source that I needed to hear it from. Jesus!

As I have looked back after having this particular experience, there have been so many times when I have received answers to specific deep questions or trials have been eased.  

Do they always come that way?  No, sometimes it is just an impression or just through the words of a song.  But I did find that through my 1% change of developing a habit stacking routine has significantly improved my ability to #HearHim.

He is the way, the truth and the life my friends!  And I encourage you to take a look at your own morning routine.  Or an evening routine if that works better for you. It’s going to look a lot different than mine. Look at what you can do to change by 1%.  And then work to be consistent with it.  Pray to the Lord and ask Him how He speaks to you.  He will find a way to show you.

As I said earlier, this routine has been in the making for several years.  It didn’t just happen overnight.  It happened in the right place, and at the right time for me to learn what I needed to learn.  Line upon line, precept upon precept.  1% will indeed change your life!

Be sure and tune in next week my friends.  I will be talking about how Satan, unfortunately, uses the 1% as well.  

Choose hope, choose joy and choose to stay! Have a great week my friends! Talk to you all again soon!

XO Wendy

You are held

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. 

XO Wendy

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.

Stories of gratitude

Gatitude what is
Below is the final episode of the season 1 podcast pointing toward hope.  Tune in.  See you there!

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1304677/6552526-episode-12-stories-of-gratitude.js?container_id=buzzsprout-player-6552526&player=small

Take Courage

Take courage

You can listen to this post here

“If I may speak to you individually … may I suggest that your personal struggles — your individual sorrows, pains, tribulations, and infirmities of every kind — are all known to our Father in Heaven and to His Son. Take courage! Have faith! And believe in the promises of God!” —Evan A. Schmutz

The reason I started this blog, Pointing toward hope, was twofold.  First it was a way for me to document my journey through the trials of being diagnosed Bipolar.  But second and even more important to me was that I would be able to help someone else who might be going through similar situations.  I felt that if I could help just one person.  It would be so worth it. But what I have realized along the way is that we all take our turns on the struggle bus!  It doesn’t matter that my particular burden is not the same as yours. We can all help one another to become better, stronger, and most importantly, find hope.  So that is what I want to talk about today.  Hope! 

But first I want to share a scripture that we will talk about a little later but it’s one of my favorites.  It comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88 And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.  

When I was a young mother, I had just had my fourth child.  There were some complications during the birthing process.  Consequently my precious tiny boy was rushed to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City.  For most of the 12 days that he spent in the NICU we wondered if he would be coming home at all.  It was heart wrenching to see that tiny little body lay lifeless in the incubator except for the machine that was helping him breath.  I remember feeling so overwhelmed with heartache, pain and anguish, blaming myself for something that I may have done during my pregnancy.  I had wished so hard for this baby to be born early and now he was, (2 weeks) and at what cost?  What had I done? It was a terrifying experience that many young couples experience when their child is born with medical issues.  Luckily for us, his stay was brief and we were able to bring him home with just a feeding tube, which he was able to go without, in just a few days of being home.

It wasn’t long after that experience that I started to have some serious postpartum depression.  Which eventually moved into full blown manic depression.  I had 4 young kids, all under the age of 6!  I knew that I needed help. I just wasn’t sure how to find it.  And so it went on for several months.  I’d had postpartum depression with each of my kids but it had subsided eventually and I’d been able to move forward with life.  But this time with the combination of having complications and then 3 other very young children.  It just became super overwhelming. I remember one day getting breakfast for my oldest before he would go off to kindergarten.  I grabbed a box of cheerios out of the cupboard and it slipped out of my hands and onto the floor scattering cheerios everywhere.  I was in such a state of hopelessness and despair that it was like the last straw.  I just sat in the middle of the floor and started sobbing.  I was screaming at the Lord in my head.  Why?  Why is this happening?  Why aren’t you helping me?  How do I go forward when everything just seems so out of control?

Finally after what seemed like an eternity (but was probably just a few minutes), my 4 year old daughter came into the kitchen.  She looked at the mess and then she put her hand on my shoulder, she climbed into my lap and hugged me and said “It’s ok mommy.” And at that moment I felt the Lord’s arms encircling me in His love.  In a few minutes my daughter got up and she started picking up cheerios one by one. (lol).  That was going to take a while, I thought.

Eventually I was able to get up and clean up the mess, get breakfast and take my son to school.  Which was another major chore with 3 other littles that couldn’t be left alone.  So I would have to pack up car seats and buckle them all in and just everything that goes along with that.  But it was tender mercies like that little sliver of light that came from a 4 year old that kept me going.  It was around that time period that I realized that I did have a choice.   For so long I had believed that this was something that I just had to endure.  I hadn’t been clinically diagnosed at that point, but I was familiar enough with postpartum and I believed that was what I was still dealing with.  I remember the thought coming to me as clear as a bell one day as I was feeling hopeless and lost.  You do have a choice you know?  I thought about it again.  I do have a choice.  I can sit here and live with this horrible feeling of despair and hopelessness OR I could get up and do something about it!  I don’t know where the strength came from that day.  Maybe it was angels surrounding me bearing me up.  But I do know that I realized without a shadow of a doubt in that moment I DID HAVE a CHOICE.  And despite what you may think about your own struggles and trials, you also have a choice!

I am privileged to be in many facebook groups and I follow a number of people online that are such an inspiration to me.  We didn’t have those back in the day.  One woman that I follow has gone through her own struggle these past several years as she lost her husband due to mental illness.  I have loved seeing how courageously she has faced this gigantic burden head on.  She has since written a book about her experiences and speaks on many podcasts and events.  She talked about choice in one of her recent posts and it went along so well with what I have been thinking about that I was to share it with you.  Her name is Kayla Steck and the book is called fear gone wild.  I haven’t read it yet but I am sure if it is anything like her page, it’s complete inspiration!  This is what she said in a recent post.  And I want you to insert whatever it is that is your particular struggle where she writes the word death.

“Death (insert struggle) sometimes steals our entire life, but when we hang on, when we push through, when we fight to rebuild again and again and again we are choosing to take back our life.”

I love that because it reminded me of that time that I realized, I do have a choice.  I don’t have to live like this.  I CAN and will take back my life!

Anyway back to my story.  The day that I had that thought about choice was the day that I picked up the phone and made my first appointment with a therapist. I pretty much counted down the days until I was able to go.  I was so in need of encouragement and strength.  I felt like my life was hanging in the balance.  I remember waiting in the lobby to be seen and having all kinds of unfamiliar feelings.  Was it going to be good?  What would they say? How long would it take?  And all the things.

She called me back and we talked about what I’d been going through.  I felt strangely comforted to just be able to unload all the pressure and worries and stress that I’d been experiencing to a total stranger who didn’t have any previous knowledge about my life.  No preconceived thoughts.  Her only job was to figure out where I would go next.  

If you have never been to therapy, I can’t recommend it enough.  It is so worth every penny!  I remember her looking me straight in the eyes and saying.  Well my dear, (she called me dear, which I so loved), if you ask me you have two choices. The first one is that you can do nothing (that is a choice BTW) and live with the struggles and challenges and stresses that you’re already well aware of.  OR, choice two.  You can take your life back!  There are medications that are designed to help you with what you are going through.  At that point I never knew that was an option.  I figured we’d just talk it through and be done with it.  Which actually works great for many, many people.  But when she described it like that to me, I knew that in order to continue to survive I needed help as quickly and as easily as possible.  And that’s when I had my first experience with anti-depressants.  Which worked out great for a long time.  It definitely helped to lift that cloud of despair and hopelessness so that I could continue to work on becoming better.

Now to be clear, I am not pushing medication at all.  It was just what I needed at the time to be able to function and work through everything.  But even more importantly than medication and what had started the ball moving for me, was screaming at God on the kitchen floor that day.  You see, God is not the typical caregiver.  We read in Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  That is His only objective. To heal us, to bind up our wounds.  To help us find peace amidst the struggle.  To find light in the deepest recesses of darkness. 

I know right now at this time in our lives, we are all exhausted!  We are over it.  Being stuck at home, kept away from others physically, struggling with work and businesses, just trying to survive.  Having world unrest and calamities come from every angle it seems.  But here is a thought for you. “What if you just tried on “making a choice to find hope in the hopeless, for size?  What if you just tried on “happy” for size?  What if you just tried on “seeing the little sliver of light” for size?  If you don’t like it, you can always take it back off.  I guess what I am saying is  that courage is a choice.

I love my Jesus, He always comes through for me.  When I was struggling with my littles, when I went through depression time and time again, when I went through my divorce.  And even when I walked away from Him for a while.  He never ever abandoned me.  One of my other favorite scriptures that the Lord put on my heart today is Jeremiah 29:11  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!  It hangs in a frame in our bathroom so I get to look at and be reminded multiple time a day.  

But this morning as I was studying I came upon this scripture and it definitely spoke to me as I was thinking about hope and how to help you who may be feeling hopelessness in this moment.  It is found in Alma 22:16 of the Book of Mormon:  If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God yea, if thou wilt repent of all they sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

So this is the way that I interpreted that scripture today.  This is the way that it spoke to me.  Basically there are 4 steps to get the hope that you desire.  1.  You have to want to find it… If thou desirest this thing.  2. bow down before God (in your closet, on your kitchen floor, in your attic, where ever it is that you go to cry unto Jesus) and incidentally I did look up the definition of bow and it said to change in character or form, change of attitude, emotion or viewpoint… so maybe try on something different for size? 3. Call upon His name (cry, kick, scream, whatever it takes.  He is not the typical caregiver.  He is not going to scold us for our tantrum… He is just going to love us harder.  And finally 4. Believe!  Just believe that He can take away your pain…. THEN shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest!

I would love to leave it right there.  But I have one final thought that I think is really important to note.  “It’s ok to not be ok!  It is.  Maybe that is the season that you are in right now.  Don’t let the world add more pressure if you’re already overwhelmed.  It’s ok if all you can do this week is survive.  In fact that’s the most important thing!”  And that is a quote from Bouncing Forward.  

Remember my friends, you are loved!  You are enough!  And you can do this!  Fight on my warrior friend, I love you!

XO Wendy