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

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

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: