5 Things not to say to a person with bipolar disorder

Some of you have requested that I post more about my experiences with living with bipolar disorder.  So I figured this year I would try to write about it at least once a week (maybe more depending on the week).

I will say that it is much easier to write and talk about these things when I feel healthy and that the disorder is in control.  The sad part is that just because I’m healthy now, doesn’t mean that I don’t have it or that it will magically go away.  I like to think of it as it’s “in remission”.  Hopefully it stays way but just like cancer, I need regular checkups with my Dr. And for me personally, making sure I take my medication and always strive to keep up the 10 habits.

There can also be many side effects that never go away.   And it doesn’t mean that things that people say (well-meaning) don’t affect me in a negative way.

So today I thought I’d give you an idea of what NOT to say to someone who has bipolar disorder.

1. You seem so normal. This is probably the one that I hear the most and it’s frustrating because just because I look or seem normal doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling.  Plus, you never know if someone is between cycles of mania or depression.  And some people are just really good at hiding it or wearing a mask.  Think about how this would feel if you said it to someone with cancer!  It is a lack of empathy in my honest opinion.  A better way to approach this would be to say.  “You seem like you’re feeling good at the moment, what can I do to support you?”  Just showing you care and recognize it as a disorder, will go a long way.

2. I saw so and so the other day and she was acting so crazy, I think she’s bipolar! First of all, we are NOT the disorder, we HAVE the disorder. Second, making assumptions that someone has a disorder just because of their actions is rude and disrespectful.

Remember how I talked about your manner of language yesterday?  When you say it like that, it makes us feel like if you think that about them then you must think we are totally bonkers!  It’s a generalization that doesn’t help the situation.  And most often just makes us feel worse.  A better way would be to say, “I saw so and so the other day, she looked like she was really struggling, it’s possible she could be suffering with a mental illness.  Is there anything that you would suggest that might help?” Be genuine.

3.  Come on let’s go shopping, you just need to get out. It’s not that easy to just snap out of it.  This is a real honest struggle for those who suffer, and just getting out doesn’t make it go away automatically.  Most often it feels physically impossible to do the easiest of tasks. However, I will say that continued support is extremely helpful.  Check in often ask sincerely how they are feeling that day and if they might like to get out?  And then be supportive and understanding if they decline.  Again a little bit of empathy can go a long way.  Genuinely care about the person and do not make it seem like what we are going through is fake or brought on by something we are doing or not doing.  Don’t give up on us.

4. You are acting crazy, phsycho, deranged, out of control, bonkers, or any other negative terms used to describe someone who is probably really struggling to stay in control.  Again, just be careful of generalizations and assumptions.  Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

A better way to handle this situation would be to gently say, “I feel like you are not quite your usual self today.  Is there anything I can do to help?”  Be prepared for a person to become defensive.  And if that happens, it’s best to just give them time to process your observation.  The last thing they want to have happen is to have the disorder sneak up on them.  Pointing out an observation and then giving them time to adjust and process would be a good way to handle it.  And again, lots and lots of support.  Don’t just walk away and never come back to it. Give it time and then try to sort it out when they are ready.

* A note to the person who has bipolar: Personally, when this has happened to me, I find it therapeutic to document how that made me feel in a journal, just let it all come spilling out on paper.  It saves me from saying something that I will probably regret.

5.  And finally… You’re just making all of this up to get attention. While it may seem illogical to you, it usually makes perfect sense to the person with bipolar.  Bipolar is a disorder of the brain, so it makes sense that sometimes certain behaviors or statements may seem irrational.  When observing behavior that doesn’t seem normal, brushing it off with blanket statements like this is NOT helping. Give the person validation by saying something like,  “I understand that what you are seeing/saying/doing is very important to you, what can I do to help you with this?”  Again you may encounter some defensiveness, but be gentle.  Yelling and trying to make your point is actually just a way of escalating the symptoms they may be experiencing.

I hope that helped a little and made you think about your words and the way that you support someone who is struggling with bipolar.  It’s very difficult for a loved one to see someone they love struggling and not acting like themselves.  Give each other grace and be gentle.  And encourage them in the kindest way, to get the help they need.  They need your support more than ever when times are tough.  Checking in regularly and genuinely is a great way to help someone who has bipolar disorder.  And above all, never, never give up on them!

XO Wendy

Triggers and obstacles

trauma triggers

When the physical body goes through something extremely dramatic the after effects can last a lifetime.  Many situations can “trigger” a setback or a fall back into old habits.

First of all the definition of this type of trigger is:  is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback.

Having to be admitted to the psych unit a handful of times over the last 20 years has left a significant amount of trigger trauma in my life.  And while I am learning how to deal with it, it still finds ways to come up and sort of pull me back into those past feelings of reliving the situation.  So I thought I’d give you a few ideas of how I have come to deal with some of these triggers.

Trigger #1. A loved one that was there, makes a comment about something that happened during my past experience.  These are probably the hardest types of triggers to avoid.  Know that it is usually not intentional and the person is not trying to trigger you.  They have memories of the experience too and may be affected in a negative way as well.

I have found for me, that the best way to deal with this type of trigger is to talk openly about the memories.  Not in a negative way, but it a way of “look how far I’ve come”. Talking about it, can be therapeutic for some and definitely is for me.  But I have also found that I need to set a mental timer of how long to talk about it.  Dragging a conversation on for more than, say ten minutes is usually unproductive and can cause you to dwell unnecessarily on the previous experience/s.  That is unless it is in the presence of your therapist or Dr. in my honest opinion.

Trigger #2. Walking into a place where smells or noises take you back to the experience.  This trigger is usually unexpected and comes out of nowhere.  And unless you know that this particular activity is going to be a trigger (for example it’s happened before), it can also be hard to avoid.

One of these triggers for me is a place where there is a lot of noise, distractions, busyness or chaos happening.  For me, when a manic episode starts to manifest, my senses are heightened so big gatherings, or parties, restaurants where there is a lot of loud music and bustling around, or sporting events where people are yelling and cheering and commentating and especially Black Friday shopping haha, all of that sort of thing.

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of those types of events happening, so if your loved one decides not to attend, don’t judge them too harshly.  They are just in survival mode and trying avoid situations that could be threatening to their well being.

Trigger #3. Working or participating in high level stressful environments. This is sort of similar to #2.  knowing that a situation is going to involve a large amount of stress can increase the likelihood of the situation becoming a problem.  Most situations like this can be avoided by simply saying no. Which can also not be easy.  It is simple but still hard to do. Other people have expectations (or at least we think they do) and we feel like we have to live up to the expectations.  But the truth is, our health and well-being is more important than anyone’s expectations of us.  If saying “no” will eliminate the trigger then that’s what you have to do.

I hope these little reminders have helped today, as we move through the busy holiday season.   Happy holidays and stay healthy!

XO Wendy

 

Changes….

 

butterflies changeIt’s Monday and Mondays are always a good time to renew our promises to ourselves and maybe set some new goals for the week.  Even when things haven’t gone the way we would have hoped in the previous week, we can’t let that stand in the way of improvement.

Today I want to talk a little bit about change.  For one, it is about the only constant that we can count on in our lives.  Situations that are beyond our control can change everything in moment.  Our bodies are constantly in a state of change.  Jobs change, relationships change, and the weather changes.  Some things, like the weather change on a daily basis.  And other things like our moods for example take more time.

We are well into the Fall/Winter season and so many that suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) are probably having some pretty rough days. As the days become shorter and more cold, our moods can become darker and more cold as well.

I was talking to my husband about how MY mood is doing this time around for the Fall/Winter season.  It is probably the first time in a very long time that I am still doing well at this time of year.  Of course we are only about a quarter of the way into the changing of the seasons. 🙂

Some of the reasons for this are very traceable.  I have done a lot of work on my mental health over the past 4 years.  It certainly has not been easy and it has not been quick.  It has however, been extremely worth the effort.  I am much more balanced than I have been in past years as far as the 10 habits that I talked about here and here.

But I think even more than that, I have finally come to a sort of acceptance of what bipolar IS to me and what it IS NOT.  (And this goes for other illnesses and disorders as well). It IS something that I HAVE.  It is NOT something that I AM.  It does not define me, or who I am as a person. There is so much more to me than being sick.  It IS something that changes me mentally.  It IS NOT something that I have no control over.  I DO have a choice.  There was a time that I believed that I didn’t have choice.  That this is just my cross to bear and I have no say in it.

But that’s only partially true.  It is something that I have to bear, but there is A LOT that I can do to change, not only how I view it, but also how I live with it, as illustrated in the links above that I mentioned.  But the first and most important step, is to stop being “stuck” make a choice of where you want to be and then take a step in that direction.  It doesn’t have to be a gigantic decision.  But DO something to move you forward!

I believe one of the most significant changes that I have made in the past few years that has made an incredible difference is that I have learned that there is only one person that I can turn to in my times of greatest need.  And that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the healer, He has transformed me in a way that I never could have managed on my own. But that didn’t just happen either.  It has taken a lot of work and continues to be  an ongoing process.  But I had to make the choice that I was going to TURN (action) toward the Lord.  That I was going to ASK (action) for help.  In the Bible it says:

7  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;  knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK are all action words.  We can not just expect things to happen for us.  It is something that we have to work toward.  And it is an ongoing work that changes every day.  But it is one that we do not have to do on our own.  We will always have the Lord there to support us and cheer us on.  He wants us to be successful and happy and feel loved.  He wants us to know that we are worth it!  And He is just waiting for us to ask.

So today, ponder the word change which means to make or become different, transform.  Then decide to make the choice that you want your life to be different… better!

XO Wendy

Joy and Spiritual Survival

Hi there, welcome back!

Continuing our discussion on Joy.  I came across this talk given by the prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the October 2016 General Conference.  You can find the whole talk here.  Joy and spiritual survival, it’s AMMMazing.  So go read it!

The one statement that stuck out to me was this:

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

I absolutely love that statement.  It’s so beautiful.  you see, we have the power within us to feel joy when we choose to focus on the Savior.  He is the one and only true source of light, love and true joy.  Granted, sometimes we can not change our circumstances but we can choose where our focus will be.  Even amidst the struggles and the trials of life, we can seek to feel joy in the little seemingly unnoticeable things.

I remember several times as a young mother when I was deep in the throngs of depression.  Every menial task seemed like it would overtake me.  It’s so hard to explain to someone who has never gone through depression.  But the feelings of doubt and inadequacy were so real and raw.  It was so hard just to get myself out of bed in the morning.  But I had 4 littles that needed their mama and that’s the only thing that kept me going. That, and my trust in the Lord that He had a bigger plan for me.

One morning everything seemed to be going wrong.  I felt I couldn’t even function normally.  As I reached up to grab a box of cereal, it came crashing down. Cereal scattered across the kitchen floor.  And all I could do was just sit down in the middle of the kitchen and cry.  “I can’t do this Lord”, “Please help me,” I pleaded.

As I opened my tear stained eyes and started to clean up the mess I hear pitter pattering across the floor.  “It’s ok mommy”.  All at once there it was an incredible, indescribable feeling of peace and joy that enveloped me as I scooped my daughter into my arms and just hugged her.  At that moment, I I felt the arms of the Savior around me like a warm blanket.  I know He was sending me a message that if I focused on Him and forgot the little unimportant things, in this case, cereal scattered on my floor, lol, that He would be there to pick up the pieces and help me get my life back.  That simple moment of joy, though brief, carried me through many moments as I learned how to battle my illness.

Life is not easy, all of us have things that we bear and struggle with, but if we can put our focus and trust in the Lord.  He will guide us…. always.  And we CAN have moments of joy scattered across our lives instead of cereal scattered across our floor.

Focus on the Savior.  He is the source of all joy!

XO Wendy

 

 

 

What does a manic episode look like? Part 1. | Bipolar disorder

I have been putting off writing this post.  It’s not easy to write about something that is so personal and risk being judged or labeled because of the stigma surrounding mental illness that still exists.  However, I feel so compelled to share and educate people on what those with mental illness really struggle with, Bipolar in particular.  Then maybe we can remove that stigma together.  So today I am going to share these deeply personal experiences in the hopes that it can help someone who thinks they might have Bipolar or maybe friends and family who may be seeking answers.

It’s important to understand that this illness manifests itself in many different ways for different people.  I can only speak from my own experience and it’s super important that if you or someone you know, think you might be experiencing some of the symptoms that I am going to share, that you seek the advice and counsel of a trained Psychiatrist or Psychologist to be properly diagnosed.

What I am going to share is the way that a manic episode manifests in me.  The easiest way that I know how to describe what happens for me is to give you bullet points.  So Here are 5 ways that a manic episode starts to show for me.

*One thing that is important to mention about Bipolar and mania is that sometimes the one experiencing it can’t see it when it’s happening, but someone close to you can.  So having support from loved ones during times like these is especially important.  Although, it can also be frustrating and draining for those witnessing it and trying to help.  Don’t give up on us.

So here we go:

  1. Creativity spike or over excitement.  One of the first signs for me that a manic episode is coming on is that I start to feel kind of a pressure build up of creative ideas.  I will start feeling really bold and strong like I can accomplish anything.  Which really isn’t that strange because a lot of people are list makers and goal setters and go getters.  But what this looks like for me is list making and goal setting on steroids, lol.  It’s like I just keep adding more and more to the list and I just feel super powered. And I start attacking each item on my list and I just can’t let it go until it gets accomplished.  I get really exuberant about everything so I talk louder and faster and more excited than usual.  Normally I’m a pretty quiet and reserved person.  So this is pretty out of character for me.
  1. Can function on very little sleep.  I feel like the energizer bunny.  I am so on fire that I can’t shut my mind down at night and I start to lose sleep.  This isn’t just a few hours, this is like pulling all-nighters for several days in a row.  It’s very frustrating because I know I NEED to sleep, but I just can’t shut my brain off.

In one of my recent episodes, when I was through it, I had a huge bruise on my chest from where I kept poking my self.  In my manic mind, I felt like there was a button that I could push that I could just turn it all off.  So I just kept poking my self trying to shut all the thoughts off.  I know it sounds crazy but remember this is a disease or disorder.  So if we think of it like a disease, it would be similar to a diabetic having insulin shock.  It’s very serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

3. Rapid weight loss.  This is caused by a lack of eating normally because I think I have to get so much done I don’t stop to eat.  I actually forget and I am not even hungry.  Normally, I am very aware of when and what I eat and how much water I’m drinking.  I’ve learned to be very careful about this over the years.  I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the brain and the gut are connected. There is so much that happens in the gut that can change the way the brain functions.  So it makes sense that cutting off the nutritional supply that your brain is used to would cause significant changes in your body.

4.  Everything resonates. So this symptom is where it really goes off the rails.  I start to see signs in everything.  I believe the technical term for it is grandiose or delusional thinking.  So for example I might see a billboard and say something like “Oh, I get it now, that’s what this all means.”  Or “Oh my goodness this is so big, it all makes sense now.”  I start to say things that make complete sense to me in my head, but when they come out of my mouth it’s making no sense at all.  At one point I start to think that people can or should be able to read my mind.  So I’ll just look at them like I’m telling them something and expect them to understand. This is when it’s getting really scary and on the verge of the episode.  Usually once it’s to this point, a manic episode can not be avoided.  So the idea is to recognize the early signs above, or someone close to you recognizes what’s happening and points it out so you can bring yourself back down.  Usually you can’t do that on your own, you need the help of someone else making sure that you are getting enough sleep and that you are eating and staying hydrated, etc.

5.  Senses overload.  So for me personally, this is when I’m in full blown manic mode.  It’s like all 5 of my senses are extra sensitive.  I hear everything louder.  Everything around me seems amplified.  From the voices of people around me to the natural noises of traffic and hustle and bustle.  And then I feel like everything is interconnected like I mention in number 4.  I feel like I can see things more clearly.  I feel things more fully.  And my talking becomes very chatty.  I have to talk about everything I’m seeing, hearing and feeling.  So it can be very annoying to someone around me.  I just can’t shut up, lol.  I joke about it, but it’s a very scary place to be.  In fact the other thing that happens at this point is that I get the worst headache.  My head is pounding so hard that I think I’m gonna die.  It’s just like massive overload of all the senses.

The way that I always try to explain to someone what it’s like, is to compare the body to a computer.  When you keep opening window after window and giving your computer more jobs to do, it finally just freezes up and won’t do anything.  The only way to fix it is to do a reboot.  It’s kind of the same way with me.  Once I get to that point, my body just shuts down and has to be rebooted.  I imagine it’s like a short circuit in the brain. My brain is just saying “enough is enough” I have to shut this baby down.

Usually at this point I am pretty much out of it.  I can’t function at all.  It really is like my body just goes into freeze mode and is waiting to be rebooted.  It’s super scary because I literally have no control over my body at this point.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have only gotten this far 3 times in my life where I have had to be hospitalized.  But looking back now I can see many times in my life where I was in the manic zone but then managed to work myself out of it, usually by sleeping it off.

So wow! Yes, that is what a manic episode is like for someone who is experiencing it.  There are many more symptoms that manifest for other people such as uncontrolled spending, excessive drinking, or drug abuse, extreme rage, etc.  But the 5 symptoms described above is how it works on me.  And like I said in the beginning, I can only speak from personal experience. This is why I mention so much that it feels like being “broken”.  It literally is like the brain is broken.

I know this can be extremely hard for a loved one to hear and witness.  But just know that it is even harder for the person who is going through it. I hope this has been insightful and helpful for those who have Bipolar or those with friends or family.  I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get the proper help and diagnosis.

I want to leave this on positive note though, because there is help and a lot of good things that can come from this. I have been so blessed to have had great support in my life and have been able to get the help that I’ve needed.  If you have found this helpful or insightful, please like and share.  And if you want to know more, I am happy to share my experiences.  I believe we are all here to help each other on our journeys through life.

XO Wendy

P.S.  Part 2 coming soon.  A different perspective.

Update:  In this post I talked about how my husband was going to be posting about Bipolar from his perspective or rather what a manic episode looks like to someone who may be experiencing it with their spouse, child, or loved one.  Turns out, it was much harder for him than he originally thought it would be.  It’s extremely hard for family and friends to understand what is happening with you and to see you that way  It isn’t exactly a walk in the park for.  So I let him off the hook.  I think from this post you can learn a lot about what it’s like.  The one conclusion that we did come to is that you really have to learn to trust each other.  The person having a manic episode, usually feels like they are just fine, while the loved one can see it more clearly.  So it’s important to trust your loved one and get help if you can, whether that is through your Dr. or working out a plan beforehand with your spouse of how you’ll handle it.

 

 

5 Bonus Habits to Adopt for Mental Wellness | Mental Illness Awareness

As I was writing the 5 Habits for good mental health, I started to remember other habits that I have adopted over the years.  So rather than make one very LONG post, I decided to make these the bonus five!

I call them a bonus because really that’s what you get if you adopt them… a big supply of bonus mental energy, if you will.  Over the years I have adopted each as they have become needed for my recovery and good health and also when I found that I gained so much from them.  I have just continued to try and do them.  Mind you, I am FAR from perfect at any of the habits including the first five that I shared.  But boy, do things look and feel brighter when I’m managing my health in this way.  Also, remember that all of the things that I am suggesting are not easy when you are really struggling, so just take baby steps.  They are not meant to replace medication, that’s something you and your Dr. should discuss.  Just take it one day at time.  So here we go!

  1. Start Journaling– (this one I recommend doing daily if possible) I have been a journal writer for a long time.  Even in my teen years.  I have books and books of ramblings that probably will never make it off my dusty shelves, haha.  But it has never been more apparent to me than it was almost 4 years ago when I had my second Manic Episode* that landed me in the psyche ward, how much a journal can help you through out your life.  I have been able to look back and see patterns and signs that have been especially helpful now.

Your journal doesn’t have to be anything special, most of mine are just spiral bound notebooks that I like because they were pretty or had a nice positive quote on the front.  If you know me, you know I’m easily distracted by shiny pretty things, haha.  I love me some pretty little bling.  But I digress.  The importance that a journal can have in your life in a situation such as Bipolar, for example, is immense.  I wish that I’d done a lot more than ramble in mine. But at least I have dates and times documented that I can look back on.  What I have started doing now that has been especially helpful is first, write a small sentence about how I am feeling maybe even rate how I’m feeling on a 1-10 scale.  One being completely down like the worst of the worst, and 10 is thinking that your on fire (I aim for between 6-8. 9 and 10 are danger zones for me).  Some people have even said that putting a small arrow in the corner.  Pointing up=good day,  pointing down=bad day is helpful.  But for me the scale tends to give me a better idea of where I’m standing.

Second, make a list of 10 things  that you are grateful for that day (If you can only do 3 then do 3 and work up). I write in the morning so I always put down things that happened the day before. But if evening works best for you that’s awesome!  Gratitude is an Attitude and before you know it, the gratefulness and love that pours out of you from this small act will amaze you.  One word of advice, these should not be the exact same things everyday.  Look for small seemingly insignificant things that you can appreciate each day.  Maybe some days the best you can do is, “I didn’t trip over the laundry again today!”  Seriously, if we can learn to recognize that there is good in the darkest of days, we can make it through.  As I said before, I am not perfect at these things and there are PLENTY of days that get missed (usually the days that I’m feeling the worst, but hey that’s a pattern you can use later ;)).  Speaking of days that you feel the worst, if you can make yourself do just a few of the things I’m sharing, you are moving in the right direction.  There’s always a way!

2. Find a Friend – It’s not as hard as we make it out to be, however it is difficult.  Yes hard and difficult are two different things ;).  What I mean is, Friends are everywhere, literally (not hard to find),  we just haven’t done the difficult part of reaching out to those around us that could be potentially the best friend you’ve ever had!  Support when you’re hurting can be the best healing balm you can find.  Even if this friend turns out to be someone you’ve never met that you found through a blog online, haha, that went through the same things you are going through.  I promise you, if they are posting online, they are open and willing to talk with you. However it is much more lucrative for you to find someone near you, and spouses and family members can sometimes be the best.   What ever the case, these people can be there IN PERSON to lift you on days that seem impossible to make it through.  To pop by unannounced with a little treat.  Or be there at a moment’s notice when you’re really desperate. Or just to call or text you to let you know you’re on their mind.

I know I’m making it sound easy, and trust me, I know from experience that NONE OF THIS is easy.  But having someone to talk to is so essential for recovery.  Getting better is never a straight line up.  It is filled with ups and downs and curves and hills and it is so much easier to navigate all of that with someone in your corner to support and lift you.   So make a list of people that you feel close enough that you could reach out to them.  I promise you, there are people waiting for you to ask.  Put away your pride and be vulnerable for a minute.  I believe that there are no coincidences in this life.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that person for you, needs you as much as you need them!

3. Find quiet time– Oh how I wish that I’d known this one years ago.  It’s  hard with 4 littles under the age of six, to find an ounce of peace and quiet.  But it is so essential to good mental health.  If you have to ask your significant other or a friend or family member to watch the kids for a few hours a week, do it.  Ultimately 15-30 minutes a day that you can take time out to refresh would be best.  Whether it’s to read or meditate or just tune out for a few minutes.  It is so good for your mind and body to just get a few minutes to think and contemplate how the day is going.  But like I said, if you are unable to do this daily, at least find time during the week that you can take a time out for yourself.  In general most of us tend to do so much for everyone around us, neglecting ourselves.  However, if you are having a hard time functioning, how can you possibly be 100 Percent for everything and everyone else you have to take care of.  Take care of you, then it is much easier to take care of those around you.

4. Find an outlet or hobby– None of the things that I am listing are easy when you have 900 million things to do in a day.  But if you want to have good physical and mental health, these things are so helpful.  I guess if you wanted to, you could consider your workout as hobby, or your daily walk as you time out.  Getting a two for one sort of effect.  But if you want to be really effective, find ways to work these into your schedule.  Again, some things like hobbies don’t have to be worked into every single day.  Once a week can be very beneficial for your psyche.

So let’s just take a look at some of the things that you could do as a hobby and please don’t say social media!!  I’m talking about things like finding time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read since last summer.  Or working on that creative project that you just never seem to have time to get to.  Or writing that book that you always wanted to start, but something else always comes up.  Maybe you’d like to try something new like watercoloring or hand lettering.  Something that really takes you away into another world for a period of time and gets your mind off of the things that you’re struggling with.  There are literally millions of hobbies that you can take on and try.  You’re bound to find something you really enjoy that gives you something to look forward to.

5. Do something for someone else quietly and Intentionally– This is one that has really helped me when I’ve been at my lowest.  When I’m in that spot (you know the one where you just can’t seem to make your self do anything), I don’t exactly feel like getting out and helping someone move, or making dinner for someone (I care barely get that done for my own family!).  However,  doing small things quietly and intentionally, like sending a card, or sending a text, just to let someone know your thinking of them can take the pressure off of thinking about yourself and how bad you feel.  Believe me, I know it can be difficult.  That’s why I say “intentionally”.  Even when you don’t feel like it, make yourself do it.  Don’t just be random about this, honestly try to think of someone else and how you can brighten their day.  I promise you that in doing it, you will get an instant bump in gratification.  You actually got up and did something really nice for someone else.  And the more that you do things like that, the more it will come back to you and the better you feel.  At least for the moment. The reason that I say quietly, is because for most of us who suffer from mental illness, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves.  So doing small and simple things that you can do by yourself on your own time, without anyone really noticing can be very uplifting and gratifying.  I heard a story of someone that would intentionally place penny on the ground in a specific place that they could follow up on.  knowing that for someone (maybe even a child), it would bring a smile to their face.

So there you go.  5 more habits that you can add to your life to make it better, and to help you be more mentally and even physically healthy.

* One of the first questions that people ask me when they find out that I have Bipolar, is: What is a manic episode like? So I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot and have decided to write a post about it.  It will be  from 2 different perspectives.  Mine and my husband’s (since he has been with me for 2 now).  It will be informative and useful for those who have or are suffering with what they think might be Bipolar.  And also for those of you that have friends or family that you think might have Bipolar and you want to be a support system for them.  So if you’d like to be notified when my posts update.  Just follow me!

 

It’s ok to not be ok | Taking off the mask of mental illness

I’m back! I’m sorry that I have been vacant since last year.  Living with mental illness can be like that sometimes.  It’s been a struggle this past several months. Coupled with time in between where I have felt fine.  Sort of a day by day, week by week adventure, lol.  But today I am good and have been thinking for several days that I needed to do my part in removing the stigma of mental illness.  Hi I’m Wendy, and I have Bipolar II disorder :).  Please take note that I said “have” and not “am”.  Bipolar does not define me!

As someone who has lived with Bipolar for the better part of 25 years I would say that I have gotten REALLY good at wearing the “mask”.  You know the one..I’m always happy not a care in the world.  Most people would never ever know the thoughts and feelings that I fight most every day.  Not even my closest family members.  Because you see, those of us who suffer with mental illness, and I’m talking about ALL mental illnesses not just Bipolar, get really good at putting on a mask, to cover up what we are dealing with.  We do it to avoid being labeled.  We do it to try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a brain that doesn’t  function properly.  We do it so that we don’t make those around us uncomfortable.

But the truth is, it’s time to make people around us uncomfortable!  Heck we’ve been uncomfortable in our own skin for much of our lives.   It’s the only way for others to learn how to GET comfortable.  And I’ll tell you what, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever written.  The other one you can find here.  It’s HARD to take off this mask.  But it’s time.  Really it’s past time.

Those of us who live with mental illness, need to be heard.  Need to be healed.  Need to be loved and treated like anyone else with a disease.  After all, mental illness IS a disease.  A disease of the brain.  We should be talking about our brains and how to find a cure and how to treat something that affects around 45 million people every day.  That’s roughly 1 in 5 people!  Look around you.  That’s a lot of masks.  Not to mention all their friends and family who are involved.  And yet, we are still afraid to talk about it, and to really reach out and help those who are going through their own personal darkness, sometimes every day of their life.

I can only speak from my personal experience but compared to some, I feel lucky (if you can believe that).  I feel like I have had the support, for the most part, that I have needed to try and get on top of this.  But there have definitely been, and still are those in my life that just can’t understand.  And I get it, it’s hard to live with someone that you don’t know who they’re gonna be from day to day.  Are you going to get the “appears to be normal” person?  Or the depressed person that struggles to get out of bed,  that can’t seem to tackle the easiest of tasks.  Or are you going to get the chatty, goal driven, “I have a new idea and it’s gonna be AWESOME” person who is making and crossing things off their list as fast as they can go?  Are you going to get the mask?  It can be exhausting I’m sure.  Try being us, haha!

For me, most days living with Bipolar are fairly normal (if there is such a thing, haha). I mean there are definitely things that I need to do EVERY day if I want to stay on that line between depression and mania.   I touched on that somewhat in this post.  But for the most part if I am diligent at taking my medication and doing these 5 things, then I tend to manage pretty well.

However, the thing that is really tricky about mental illness, is that it can be constantly changing with things in the environment, hormones in our bodies changing (hello! Pre and post menstrual, pregnancy, Post partum , pre and post menopause,  etc. etc.). Of course I can only speak for women when it comes to hormone changes, but I know men go through their own set of hormone changes.  Mental illness is also affected by the type of food we eat, how much exercise we get, and the list goes on.  All of it affects the delicate balance maintained with medication or other ways that we have found to manage our personal illness.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this very short synopsis, is that it is OK to not be OK with yourself, your brain, your situation.  Whether it is you that are suffering or your family and friends, don’t shut the door!  Don’t be afraid to talk about it.  And for friends and family, don’t be afraid to hang out with us.  Don’t gossip about us behind our backs and talk about how sad and awful it is. Don’t be afraid to talk to us about our illness, we need the support. We just want to be acknowledged and loved and supported and treated like anyone else with a life threatening disease.  Yes, I did just say life threatening.  According to NAMI over 42,000 American lives were lost due to suicide last year alone. Of course not all of those were due to mental illness but we can assume that a great number of them are.

So next time you are thinking about your friend or family member that suffers from mental illness, let them know.  Tell them that it is ok with you that they have a defective brain, lol.  Tell them that you want to do whatever you can to help.  That’s really all we want.  Deep down we just want to take off the mask and be seen for who we really are.  Defects and all!

BTW, mental health awareness month is coming up in May!  Maybe you could do something like donate to find a cure. 🙂 .  If so you can do that Here

Oh and if you think someone that you know and love may have a mental illness, please support them in finding the help they so desperately need!

p.s.  I am so incredibly thankful for the love and support that I receive from family and friends.  You know who you are, and I love you all!