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!

 

 

 

Though We are Broken…

Though we are brokenAs Easter approaches, we get to take a tiny moment in our busy lives, to embrace and remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He suffered unbearable pain in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we can be healed from all of our afflictions.  He died on the cross to complete the act of His infinite atonement so that we could once again return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 25:8

Several years ago when I was diagnosed Bipolar disorder, I didn’t want to accept it.  That wasn’t who I was I told myself.  I’m not “broken” I’m completely normal.   I don’t need to be on medication when this is something that I can manage on my own.  In fact, I thought I could do it ALL on my own.  Not just manage my mental state, but everything that was going on in my life.  I was a busy stay-at-home mother of 4 with a home business, trying to run a household, and several other plates that I was balancing, including the state of my mental health.  I told myself, “I’m not so different than everyone else, that I can’t do it just like everyone else”, (at least that’s what I was thinking.  Now I know better, that no one is really doing it all).  What I was forgetting is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.  It is, in fact, the only way.  And it took me a long time to really figure that out.  It is through His Atonement that we can seek to heal our broken souls.  It is through Him, that our burdens become light.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

He is the one that we can run to when we are broken, the one who heals us and makes us feel whole again.  He does what none of us can do for ourselves.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Mosiah 14:6  

He mends our broken souls and minds and his only plea is Come…. Follow ME.

This past couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to attend mid-week worship services outside of our normal Sunday worship.  In my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better know as Mormons), we have a building that is called the temple and there are many throughout the world.  Going every week is quite a commitment as it takes up several hours of the day (especially since it is about an hour drive each way), but it has been such a huge blessing in my life and has taught me so much about myself and about my Savior and the Gospel.  As I have witnessed the people who come each week, I am deeply impressed by the commitment that it takes for some individuals to be there.  At this time in my life it is relatively easy to rearrange my schedule to make time for it.  And my health and situation allow for it.   I don’t take for granted that it may not always be like this.   When my children were little, I was not able to have this opportunity so often.  But for now, I rejoice in the opportunity to serve, that the Lord has allowed me at this time in my life.

On one particular day, I was deeply touched by one woman that had obviously gone to great lengths to be there.  I was late getting there.  I had felt an unusual pull that I needed to be there at that particular time.  The weather was terrible and thus, traffic was a nightmare.  I became extremely anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make it.  Normally, I would not have been too stressed about it.  If I didn’t make it in time it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But for some reason on this particular day I felt extremely drawn to be there.  I made it, though almost too late.   I ended up being one of the last ones there but still in time for a few other latecomers to make it in.   And then a certain woman came into the room.   There was a hush as she struggled to her seat.   She was wearing the kind of crutches that attach to your arms and she hobbled precariously to her seat.  Her hands were deformed and her breathing labored.  It was not easy for her to be there.  Several times throughout the service she struggled and it was obvious that this was very difficult for her.  I could tell that she felt “broken” as it shown on her face.  Though there was something else that shown even more and that was sheer determination and love for the Lord and this Gospel!

I learned something that day that I will carry with me always.  Never, ever, take for granted how easy it is for me to serve so often at this time in my life.  And second, it is not about me!  Yes we serve God to get closer to Him and to learn and grow.  But this life is not about us.  We are here to minister to one another, to look outside ourselves for opportunities to help others in their quest for truth and light.  It doesn’t take much for us to fix a meal, or write a card, or telephone someone we’ve been thinking about.  It doesn’t take much for us to give a little bit of ourselves to help someone’s burden become lighter, to help someone feel a little less “broken”.

I read a recent article by Carole M. Stephens entitled The Master Healer in it she says, “As we increase our understanding of the doctrine of Christ, we soon discover that we are developing a deeper understanding of “the great plan of happiness.” We also recognize that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the very heart of the plan.”

She continues, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows. And we recognize “that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement.” We realize that He is our foundation—“the rock of our Redeemer, … a sure foundation … whereon if [we] build [we] cannot fall.”

I have often thought about how God made each of us as individuals, unique in our own special and eloquent ways.  We each have our own set of behaviors, character traits, problems, talents, trials, successes and failures. Not one of us alike, and yet not so different in so many ways.   Although, sometimes we feel like we are totally alone and that there is no one that feels the way we do about what is happening in our lives.  I am sure that is the way this woman felt that day.  But, God also gave us each other, to help us along in our journey through this mortal probation.  We are not alone!  He also gave us a gift that is beyond our comprehension.  He gave us his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world.  A Savior who loves, cares, and suffered for us, so that we can overcome all that this life throws at us.  I am eternally grateful for that!  Let us turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow.  Let us glorify him in times of health and prosperity.  He has given us so much, even our very lives.  Though we are broken… He is the Healer!

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!

It Takes Courage to have Balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it…

balance

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately.  Being diagnosed with Bi-Polar almost 2 years ago now, has definitely been a learning and growing process.  I used to just try to be Super Woman all the time.  I would throw more and more things on my plate and if someone asked me to do something else, I couldn’t say no (can you say mania? haha).  If my plate was loaded and I had no extra seconds in the day then I wouldn’t have to deal with the down side of my life.  I would try to stay so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it.

I was always running way faster than I had the strength to do.  I was afraid, yes afraid, of what might happen if I let my guard down for half a second.  Where would I be?  How would things work out?  If I didn’t do it, who would etc., etc….. And then I crashed…. and it wasn’t pretty or fun for me or my family or anyone else.  It was scary and foreign and something that unfortunately, would happen again.  Luckily, not too often, but I have had to go through that process several times.  And it has definitely been a learning and growing process.  Finally being diagnosed (and accepting that diagnosis), was a major step forward for me.  And I giant leap towards achieving balance in my life.

One of the things that I have realized about Bi-Polar and, it makes sense really, is that you have to maintain a pretty steady balance.  You don’t want too get to far to the high, energetic, motivational, hyper, side.  And yet you want to stay away from the low, depressed, bored, emotional side.  And apparently, from my experience it takes a lot of courage to do that.  Especially in today’s world of social media mania!  It’s crazy how we are programmed to think, through social media, that we have to do all, be all, make all, spend all, and not drive ourselves crazy while doing it.  Because…. everybody is doing  it right?  So why shouldn’t we?

I have to think about this from a Bi-Polar stand point.  But as I examined it more closely, I realized that it is not just a Bi-Polar problem.  Yes, it is a bit harder for me to find my balance and stay there, and medication is required.  However, you can be completely normal (not mentally ill, lol) to suffer from this “condition” of having to overload your plate and not have any down time.  But down time is good! It is really, really good! Haha, who knew?  I was so busy trying to stay busy that I didn’t even know how to do down time!

That’s where the courage comes in! That may sound trite, but it’s true.  If you are so busy all the time and you never make time for down time.  Or you feel like you have to be a certain way to be “enough”.  Then being thrown into a whole new way of life that just doesn’t feel “right”, that takes a lot of courage.  So then, to not be thrown in to it, and to stop looking around at others and what they are doing, to try and gauge what your life should look like, well that takes courage too.  To let the calm be ok.  To be able to “be still” and be ok with that.  That takes courage!  And what we find therein is the “balance”.  We have to have down time to match the busy.  We have to have calm to recognize the crazy and that’s hard sometimes.  But so necessary to maintaining or finding a balance in our lives.

I guess you could say that I have grown to love this new me.  It’s a lot different from the old one.  And sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin.  But I’m definitely liking the feeling of being “enough”.  Crazy that it took a mental illness to make me feel complete.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  And sometimes we just need to trust that he knows what he’s doing and “be still”.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts, than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

courage

Living with Bi Polar

It’s been over a year since I was admitted to the hospital, in a full on Manic Episode mode. Several days later, I was diagnosed for the second time with Bipolar Disorder. I say for the second time, because I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, in a similar, but less severe state of manic episode.

It’s been over a year since I was admitted to the hospital, in a full on Manic Episode mode. Several days later, I was diagnosed for the second time with Bipolar Disorder. I say for the second time, because I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, in a similar, but less severe state of manic episode. However, when all was said and done, I couldn’t accept the diagnosis. I told myself and everyone else that it was a stress related reaction. And I convinced my doctor to believe that theory. She knew my history… it was stress, or depression, or just overdoing it, (or maybe she just wanted to believe that theory too). I didn’t want to admit that I was broken. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t normal (whatever that is). And so I lived with this silent monster in my life for all those years, on the wrong medication. A medication that would finally take me to the brink, with my second and more severe manic episode, which would then lead to a second diagnosis and to me finally admitting that yes, I am Bipolar.  And yes, I do have a mental illness.

It’s taken over a year (plus 10 years) for me to be able to talk about this openly. But I know that there are so many people that suffer silently. So many people that may not even know that BiPolar Disorder is what they have. Or like me, maybe they are just lying to themselves about the reality of it in their life. Nobody wants to be broken. Nobody wants to admit that they need medication to make them “normal”. But the reality is that we need to start talking about it. We need to share our experiences with mental illness, so that we can help each other and our loved ones understand these horrible disorders. And that there is hope. There is a path to wholeness again. We must not be afraid to take it. The Lord said…I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:26

It’s taken over a year (plus 10 years) to find the right medications, and it’s still a work in progress because our bodies are ever changing.  But I feel so blessed to have found a Dr. who from the get-go, understood what a hard diagnosis this is to accept, and wouldn’t let me NOT accept it.  A doctor who has helped me work through it,  and listened to me and really knows about mental illness and how to treat it.  I feel like that was divine intervention and I’ll have to share the story about how I found him, sometime, but not today.  Today I just wanted to say, this is where I am in my life right now.  This is why I have not been as active on social media over the past several months.  But it’s time!  It’s time for me to put myself out there… even though it’s scary and I risk having to undergo the judgement of imperfect people.  But this is not for those people.  This is for the people like myself, who suffer in silence. The people who feel broken or not “normal”.  This is for them and their loved ones.  Hopefully we can help each other.  Give each other a voice.  Russell M. Nelson said in the 2015 October conference in his address “A Plea to my sisters“, “… we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous…. women who teach fearlessly.”

It’s been over a year, and today I am speaking from my heart and mind, full of faith, hoping that the breadth of my influence can help others who are going through what I have been through or a similar mental illness.  I will try to post a couple times a month to talk about this disorder and how I am learning to live with it.  I even have videos of myself (that my husband took as a documentary of that time), that I could possibly share at some point.  I watched them before I sat down to write this and I cried, because some days… many days, I still feel broken.  But I’ve realized, it’s ok to feel broken.