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 the ONE

Today’s message is short, but sweet.  And I hope one that will resonate with you as you hear these words. “You are the ONE”. 

These past several weeks I have had so many things weighing heavy on my mind.  It all started with an experience that I had a few months ago that will forever leave an impression on my mind and caused me to go into deep research mode in all of the scriptures from the Old Testement in the Bible to the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ we believe that we have many scriptures that have been given to us in these latter days.  And we continue to be blessed with counsel and guidance from living prophets, seers, and revelators. 

As I have struggled through this trial of faith, I have been so grateful that my Heavenly Father and mother and my brother Jesus Christ, see ME!  Who am I, I have asked myself many times,  to receive such love, compassion and understanding? And the answer is always quick and unfailing, “you are mine”.  And you are “one” of my children whom we dearly love.  It almost never comes in the same way.  Most often it comes in the form of others lifting me and sharing their love with me.  Messages that they have no idea, come directly from the Lord through them, to little ole me.  But I see it and I recognize it and give praise for it.  Because without it, I would be like a fish floundering out of the water, struggling for breath.  

You see there are moments in this life, many moments when we need to be reminded that we are the “one”.  The one that He sees and He loves, and He wants the best for.  But it doesn’t come without work.  It doesn’t come without asking, seeking and knocking.  Sometimes we fall to our knees in anguish because it seems so impossible to get through what we’ve been asked to endure. 

But I promise you, that if you will turn yourself over the Lord, if you will let faith lead you, if you will put your trust in the arm of the Lord and not in the arm of flesh, He will find you, the “one” that He has been waiting for to come follow Him.

Today I will be sharing some thoughts from Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s talk from General Conference, October 2000. Incidently, the General Conference will be held this weekend on October 2nd and 3rd.  You can stream from the https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/ and I encourage all to watch, take notes, pray for personal revelation and then watch how the Lord caters to YOU, the “one” amongst many.

In His talk, Elder Rasband shares the following, “Throughout my life, I have come to know through my own experiences that Heavenly Father hears and answers our personal prayers. I know that Jesus is the living Christ and that He knows each of us individually, or as the scriptures express it, “one by one.”

This sacred assurance is taught compassionately by the Savior Himself in His appearance to the people of Nephi. We read of this in 3 Nephi, chapter 11, verse 15:

“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth” (3 Ne. 11:15; emphasis added).

To further illustrate the “one by one” nature of our Savior’s ministry, we read in 3 Nephi, chapter 17, verse 9:

“And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him” (3 Ne. 17:9; emphasis added).

We then read of the special blessing given to the precious children in verse 21: “And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Ne. 17:21; emphasis added).

This was not a small gathering. In verse 25 we read: “And they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.”

Certainly, there is a very profound and tender personal message here. Jesus Christ ministers to, and loves us all, one by one.”

I know that was a large portion of his talk to share but I felt like it so perfectly illustrated how Christ caters to the “one”.  Even in the midst of a sea of people that number the grains of sand on the shores, He sees us each.  He reminds us each that we are important and that He is very aware of the details of our lives that can be distressing for us.

As I said before, these last 2 months have been a struggle, but so many good and precious events have taken place that have reminded me that He sees me.  It did not come without pleading and prayer and fasting.  I was prompted to give up social media for a time. To clear my mind of clutter and unnecessary stress.  I have been guided to the correct people, places and passages of scripture that have guided me on this continuing journey.  

I have not found all the answers.  Far from it.  But I have learned a very important lesson.  That the Lord works in “ones”.  He does not forsake us.  He never has and He never will.  

So if you are having a similar struggle with something in your life.  And you’re just not sure how you will go on or how it’s all going to work out.  I want you to know that you are that “one”.  He sees you, He hears you, and He will come to your rescue.  It might not happen quickly.  It might not happen in the way that you had hoped it would.  But, it will come!  Of that you can be sure!

Thanks for listening/reading.  I hope that you will watch General Conference this weekend and let the Lord speak to you through his anointed ones.  Until next time, my friends, choose to stay!

XO Wendy

Strength through adversity

Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 42 and Chapter 5 of my book Keep up the pace.

Strength through adversity

You never really lose until you quit trying.Anonymous

I would like to tell you about an experience I had that tested my ability to maintain a positive attitude. My husband and I had just given birth to our fourth child.

Because my three previous children had been born with the help of a physician through induction, I had prayed long and hard that I would be able to give birth to my last child on my own. I also dreamed, as every woman does, that I would have this child a little early.

I am sure you have heard the statement, “Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it”, well, I was about to find new meaning to that statement. Two weeks before my due date I awoke to a lower back ache. Having been through the process of child birth three times I knew right away that something was different and so I called my doctor’s office. My Doctor had gone on vacation but his nurse encouraged me to come in and be checked. Upon arrival at the office, the nurse checked me and determined that indeed I was going to deliver a child sometime soon.

After a long day of walking the malls and the halls in the hospital, I was finally admitted into the hospital that was filled to capacity with women waiting to deliver (12 to be exact!). Our baby boy was born at about 5:30 p.m. that evening. Things went relatively smooth with the birthing process considering I had a Doctor that I had just met. But, within minutes the nurse noticed that Cody was not breathing properly.

He was quickly whisked away to the nursery where they began a series of x-rays and tests. There were twelve babies born that night and only two nurses were on duty. The hospital was sorely understaffed, especially with an infant that required minute-to-minute monitoring. Consequently, my Doctor chose to have Cody transported to Primary Children’s Medical Center where he would be able to get the intensive care that he needed.

X-rays had revealed that his lungs were clouded and they seemed to be getting worse instead of better. Before transporting, a breathing tube was inserted and Cody was put on a ventilator. I was actually so relieved to see him breathing normally and finally sleeping, even if it was with the help of this machine. My husband checked me out of the hospital early the next morning and we drove straight to Primary Children’s Hospital.

The doctors and nurses had held a conference and decided to treat our son’s condition as a virus and had already started him on antibiotics. They also determined that because he was a little early, his lungs were not quite developed enough to fight off the infection, so they began giving him a drug called Cerfactin to help his lungs develop more quickly. He was showing improvement and the staff encouraged us to go home and get some sleep. I figured that would be a good idea since we had three other children who were still young and needed our attention.

That evening I received a distressing phone call from the hospital. They informed me that our little boy had taken a turn of the worse and that things did not look good. They felt that we should know that they had tried nearly everything and were not receiving a response. They encouraged us to come to the hospital in case the unthinkable were to occur. I did not feel strong enough to endure the possibility of losing him. I just couldn’t do it. So my husband went with a very dear friend who also happened to be our bishop.

While at the hospital they were able to administer a special healing blessing. They called upon God to heal his little body if it be His will. After standing helplessly by for a little while they decided to return home and hope and pray for the best. As my husband and I cried together that night we felt sure that our son would not make it through the night.

We talked of our great love for this child who was not yet forty eight hours old. We both felt it a great privilege to have him as a part of our little family, if only in spirit, for the past nine months. At about two a.m. that morning, we had heard nothing so we decided to call and see how he was doing. The nurse explained that, as a last resort, they had removed the breathing tube and to their dismay found that the cerfactin (the medicine they were administering to help his lungs develop) was clogging the bottom of the tube. The nurse said that they rarely ever changed the ventilator tube from an infant because it was so hard to re-insert, but they were out of options.

There is no doubt in my mind that angels were watching over our son that night and the Doctors as well.

Over the next twelve days it was a roller coaster ride. One day Cody would be improving and next he would slip back. It was very discouraging but I was determined to maintain a positive attitude. I visited him as much as I could but it was very difficult to see him in that environment.

The doctors had decided to put him on a temporary paralysis drug because he was bigger than most of the infants there and he would continuously pull the monitors off as he moved around. It was very difficult to see him lying motionless in the incubator.

We were unable to hold him for seven days, it seemed like an eternity. I will never forget the first time I was able to hold him, still attached to all the monitors and wrapped in a sheepskin blanket that made it hard to feel him in my arms, but I was in Heaven! The next few days became a sort of game as we would try to get him to eat enough and improve enough so that we would be able to take him home. I felt very fortunate to be able to take him home after just two short weeks, when some of the preemies that were his roommates had been there for months.

It was heartbreaking to see the parents come and go each day looking for any sign that their nightmare would end soon. I know it was hard for them to maintain a positive attitude day in and day out as they would receive the same bleak reports. I was amazed to hear their stories and listen to their determination as they would relive their experiences. “How do you get through it”, I remember asking one couple that had spent the better part of three months living at the hospital, a day’s drive from their home. “You get through it one day at a time . . . and you hope and pray for the best!” was their reply.

Positive attitude changes everything! No, we can not change the outcome of a situation. But we can certainly change the attitude with which we choose to face it . . . one day at a time. Not one of us is exempt from adversity. Every single person, at one time or another in their life, will face an illness, the death of a loved one, a divorce, etc. Granted, some people seem to have many more hardships placed upon them than others, but from my experience these people are the most tender, caring, and sensitive individuals I know. They can relate with others on a level that many of us can not. They help many to overcome and rise above the adversity that is placed upon them.

God gives us these trials to make us stronger and to help us learn more about ourselves and others in the process. We can choose to rise above adversity and be better for it, or we can let it control us and ultimately break us down. Most importantly whatever it is that you have been through or are experiencing this very moment……never, never, never, give up! 

Your challenge this week: Write down your experiences of trial or adversity that you have had or are having in your life. Record your feelings and be blatantly honest.

If this is a past experience, reflect on the things that you learned from the experience and how you re-acted at the time, and what your feelings are now.

If it is something you are experiencing at this moment, record what you feeling and what you hope the outcome will be. Resolve to look at all of your trials as learning experiences. I have started to do that, while it is not easy to say to yourself while you are in the midst of a trial, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”, (or can I learn)it definitely helps you look at things with a new perspective.

By the way, for those of you that don’t know our son is now a thriving almost 16 year old with loads of energy and love to share. We are so grateful to have him in our lives.

Side note: he was 16 when this book was written. He is now a happily married 27 year old!

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

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.