Does it ever get better?

Heavy laden

Does it ever get better?  Will I ever feel happy again?  Why is this burden so heavy and why was I asked to carry it?  These are just a few if the many questions that you may struggle with.  Some answers may come quickly then there are some that may never come in this lifetime.

Sometimes you may find yourself digging a deeper and deeper hole as you list off all of the negative ways that BPD (Bipolar Disorder) has affected your life. It’s so easy to throw a little pity party and blame ‘all the things’ on your illness.

But the truth is, there is so much more to you than your illness.  You are not defined by it!  There are certainly times in your life that it may seem to control your every thought and move.  And at times,  you feel like others truly define you by it (some probably do). But it is only Satan that will have you believe that you have no control.  He is the father of all lies.  He would have you believe that you can never get well, that you will continue to hurt others in your life, that your life is not worth living, that you are all ALONE.  But Satan is wrong!

You see, God will never ever leave you!  He begs you to come to Him.  He beckons you to lay all of your burdens at his feet.  To let Him Heal you!

One of my favorite songs by Sidewalk Prophets says:

To the thief, to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young, to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last, all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you’ve been forgiven
All who dream, all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained, all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who’s been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who’ve been labeled right or wrong
Everyone who hears this song
Just
Come, come to the table
Listen to the song below.

I am reminded of so many times throughout scripture that the Lord pleads with us to come unto Him.  To let Him heal our broken souls.  He says in Mosiah 24:14

 “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

As we approach Easter this year I hope that you will put the atonement of Jesus Christ to work in your life.  He is there for you.  He loves you.  And He has sent many people into your life to be His hands.  To help you and to guide you and to help you realize that you are not alone!

I sincerely hope that your day and weekend gets better and that the sun will shine over you as you push through the hard days in your illness.  Don’t give up! The fact that you are reading this post means that He does hear your cries.

XO Wendy

Remember that time…?

Trust hope and love.Remember that time I woke up with tears on my pillow because I felt broken and like our lives would never be the same and you rolled over and put your arms around me and held me until I stopped crying?  You saw me!

Remember that time that I did something so out of character for me, and yelled at you for not listening to or understanding what I was saying, when it made no sense at all?  You left and thought about not coming home, but you did.

Remember that time you came home and found me uncommunicative and pretty much unresponsive and anger turned to panic?  You burst into action and knew exactly what to do even though you were in completely unchartered territory.

Remember that time you sat with me in the ER as I chattered away about randomness and nonsense and was completely out of my mind?  You sat with me and listened and responded and laid your head on my chest and didn’t leave me.  You knew the real me was still in there somewhere.

Remember that time?  The time I kept you up all night chattering nonsense, and the next day you had to take me down to what is known as the transition unit?  I hadn’t eaten in a few days and you had to treat me like a little child because I was still out of my mind. You convinced me that the pineapple in the fruit cup tasted like candy and I should try some.  You sat with me while I ate a few pieces until I finally stopped chattering and fell asleep.

Remember that time when I woke up in an unfamiliar place on an unfamiliar bed and the first thing I did was call you to find out where you were?  And you were so relieved and happy to know that somehow I was still me and I still needed you.  Oh how I needed you!

Remember those days when you brought me lunch and visited me multiple times a day even though it was against the rules?  You walked with me in the gym and I threw the football at you as hard as I could because I was angry that you wouldn’t take me home.  Even though I already knew that I was still too sick to go home.  You did what you always do and made jokes.  You made me laugh until I was in a better mood and everything was ok.  You saw ME.

Remember that time that you came into my room and I rolled toward the wall and wouldn’t talk to you?  I told you I didn’t want to see you until you were there to take me home.  And you laid down on the bed, scooted up next to me and put your arms around me and held me while I cried.

Remember that time that you had to decide whether or not to check me out of the hospital on Halloween weekend?  And you knew you couldn’t leave me there alone another day, so you took me home and took care of me yourself even though you were scared it would all happen again.

Remember that time when we couldn’t find a Dr. who didn’t have a 6 week waiting period to get in to see them?  I sobbed and sobbed because I just wanted to feel like myself again.  You knelt down, held my hand and prayed with me, the most humble and heart felt prayer.  Remember, I fell asleep and then a Dr. called and said they had a cancelation for the next morning?  Remember that?

Remember that time that we woke up at home together in our own bed and you scooted over to me and held me and snuggled me and I knew I was “home”?

Remember that time….?  Oh there were so many times that you rescued me in my hour of need.  You had never done this before, you didn’t know what to expect or how to act.  But you did it all perfectly.  Because you see ME!  You always see the real ME.

Thank you for always seeing me!

XO Wendy

*An open letter to my husband, my biggest fan, my greatest support, my hero. And to all of the loved ones who are  caregivers and a support system for those that suffer with BPD or other mental illnesses.  #removethestigma #letstalkaboutit # mentalillness

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Trust, Courage

Sometimes, in fact most times, it’s difficult to have the courage to face hard things.  Everyday, I wake up and know that I have to do hard things to keep my health in check. For example, working out (which sometimes I just really don’t wanna!), making healthy food choices, (when I really want something full of sugar, like ice cream) and getting good rest (when what I really want is to stay up late and finish that book!). 

From the outside those may not seem like things that particularly take courage.  Or faith or trust. But living with mental illness (or any illness or hard thing) and knowing that every day might bring something that totally changes everything, takes courage to face.

Especially this time of year when night comes quickly and the weather is gloomy. 

I have been so impressed by Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, even more so than usual as I have begun to ponder and pray about the story of his family this year in the Come follow me manual.

Nephi was courageous this was his reply, “I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands.  I know the Lord provides a way, He wants me to obey. (primary songbook, Nephi’s courage)

I have begun to see an overarching theme within Nephi’s personality, or maybe a spiritual gift that he’s been blessed with.

He has the most incredible FAITH in the Lord and then he TRUSTS the Lord with all his heart.  So much so that it gives him the COURAGE to follow through with whatever the Lord asks of him. No questions.

I want to follow that example of Nephi, I can say with confidence, “I will take on this illness, because I have FAITH and TRUST that the Lord will take me through it.  And the COURAGE to believe that I am going to come out on the other side of this a better person.” Even on the days when it’s really, really hard to see the light.

How would your life be different if you had that kind of faith, trust and courage in the Lord?

And on that same trend of thought; The Lord does so much for US.  I mean, sit down and make a list of all the things the Lord has done for YOU in your lifetime.  It’s a pretty long list.

Now ask yourself, what do I DO for HIM?  Do I love Him? And if so, how do I show it?

Just a few things to ponder about today.  And if you feel like it, go back and read Chapters 4 and 17.  So much wisdom to be gained.

 

XO Wendy

Please stay

I have been thinking over the weekend about what I wanted to write about this week, I felt a great need to express support for those of you who are really struggling right now with some form of mental illness. I see you! 

I have mentioned in the past few posts about how BPD (Bipolar disorder) is under control for me at this moment in time.  And that can be hard for people to accept when they are in the deep throws of it. I know for many of you, it is a constant struggle.  And I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, I have empathy for you. I DO know what you are going through because I have been there.  I know that each and every day is a struggle to merely survive.

But please, please, please don’t give up!  Just stay! Please stay! We need you, we need your experience, your knowledge, your strength, your courage.  We need to band together as warriors in this great fight against the darkness of mental illness. 

Speaking of warriors there is a great youtube channel called Polar Warriors that is incredible in it’s content.  Definitely worth taking a look at. And also very good for loved ones who have a hard time understanding what a person with mental illness goes through.  While it is mostly about BPD, it can be related to many forms of mental illness. 

In Sister Reyna Aburto’s October 2019 talk she says, when we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles. Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.”

Please don’t suffer in silence.  We need your voice to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Though our illness might be invisible to others, it is definitely not invisible to us.  And we need to acknowledge that and give ourselves grace. Open up and be a support to others and help yourself in the process.  We can do this together. I am always here to listen and share my personal experiences and hopefully help you in some small way. Please know that there is always somewhere to turn.

However, there is only one that descended below all, so that he could succor us in our weakness and afflictions. Look to Jesus Christ in times of dispair.  Open your scriptures, there is great power there. That is how he can speak to you! Know that He sees you! He loves you without condition. He suffered so that we can LIVE!

I hope you all have better days ahead.

XO Wendy

 

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