Category Archives: Mental Health

Personal: Relieved, Released, Rekindled

Over a year ago I let go of one of the most important things in my life, my best friend. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I thought I could spare her the pain of having to deal with my pain, or carrying the burden of worrying about me, wishing she could fix my problems. I thought it would help my relationship by allowing me to spend less time yearning for the past where I lived close to her and we could go to one another whenever we wanted. I thought maybe removing the one person (outside of Joe and my parents) that I actually confided in, trusted, and truly connected with, would fix the trust issues in my relationship.
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Distance

Last year we packed up and moved away from our town, family, and friends. After some pretty harsh events with family and friends I needed to get away from everyone. I needed to go into recluse mode before any more hurt happened and broke me, again, forever. We needed some distance to stay away from the drama, find ourselves, and grow. We needed space to grow individually, grow our relationship, and grow our family. It’s been almost a year since we said goodbye to that little town in central Indiana and so much has happened in our absence.

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Eight things that help manage bipolar disorder

First off let me start by saying I obviously am not a licensed
psychologist of any kind. I saw a conversation on this photo
of Max Bemis and it made me want to share the top eight things that help me
manage my bipolar disorder.

I used to be completely out of control. In and out of the
hospital, on a bunch of different medications, self-medicating with drugs and
alcohol, and letting my life just swirl entirely out of control. I was screwing
my mind, not sleeping, giving into urges, and pushing myself toward psychosis
daily. I didn’t care if I lived or died, I just didn’t want to suffer any more.
I just wanted to forget about everything and let myself go. When I got pregnant
with my first child I realized I had to get myself under control. So I finally
started taking my mental health seriously. Here is a list of the top ten things
that helped me get my bipolar disorder under control and keep it that way.

1) Removing stressors – The biggest stressor for me (that is
within my control) is mess. I can’t stand clutter, I hate dirt, and I don’t
know how I lived so much of my life in untidy/unorganized/dirty places. I used
to get so overwhelmed by the amount of steps it would take to clean or
declutter that I just wouldn’t do it. Then the mess would stress me out and
every time I walked through my home I felt like pulling out my hair and ended
up sending my mood in a downward spiral. Once I had this revelation I buckled
down and spent a few months decluttering and working out a cleaning schedule
that would ensure mess stayed to an absolute minimum (until I hit the last
month of my pregnancy that is)! I would break each task into multiple smaller
steps, which brings me to number two…

2) Tracking
and making lists
 – By
making lists I am able to battle my apparently lapsing memory, my anxiety about
large tasks, and able to actually get things done. By tracking my habits,
symptoms, triggers, and moods I have been able to learn when and where I’m
headed in terms of my bipolar. Not only has it helped me learn how to better
manage my disorder, but it has helped me become more disciplined.

I used to keep a paper journal, electronic lists, and bits of
this information all over the place. As part of my getting organized focus last
year I started keeping all of my bipolar related stuff in a single book. I made
a binder for all other things I needed to track and lists, along with a daily
time-blocker and task list. This really helped me stay on top of things but I
ended up modifying my huge home/self/school/time management binder. I moved all
of the information to a single moleskine notebook, taped DIY dry-erase pages
into it, then realized that the unorganized layout was stressing me out. So I
searched YouTube for organization and scheduling ideas and found all of these
videos on ring-bound planners and knew it was perfect for what I needed.

3) Creative expression – My Filofax is one creative outlet, but
knitting was my savior. I’ve always loved crafting and creating. However, it
became something more when I got serious about my mental health. Knitting and
sewing became my two favorite pastimes. Keeping my hands busy and mind focused
on a task keeps my mind from thinking too much. The sense of accomplishment and
feeling of joy I get making something and giving it to someone really keeps me
in good spirits too. I used to feel like I was just wasting time when Joe and I
would sit down at the end of the day to watch Netflix together and wind down.
Now I knit almost every day. If I’m stressed or anxious I can just pick up my
needles and the action calms my body and mind down faster than any medication
ever did.

4) SLEEP and
other biological needs
 – I used to stay up
however late I wanted, smoke myself to cancer, do drugs, and consume virtually
no drink other than Mountain Dew and hot tea. I started making sure I got at
least eight hours of sleep, stopped smoking, stopped drinking as much soda,
started drinking at least six glasses of water a day, and began exercising five
days a week. I had been doing yoga for years and occasionally pilates. However,
I started adding some aerobics and cardio which really helped me. I began
looking at my body as a home rather than a garbage can. My goal was no longer
to have as much fun and disconnect as much as possible before I died, but to
tend and care for my body. The biggest thing for me was to stop putting artificial
drugs into my system, both pharmaceutical and recreational.

5) Weaning from medication –
I believe there is a time and place for medication, sometimes it IS needed for
a short period of time. However, I also believe that just dosing a person up
with tranquilizers in order to “help them” become okay for society is
not good. These powerful drugs that are given to people with mental illness
many times end up having a worse effect than the disorder. Their weight
changes, their self-image changes, and they end up being reliant on a
medication that they are building an immunity to meaning more, more, and more
will be administered until eventually they have to switch to something else.
For people with bipolar, the meds often make them gain weight. For people with
ADHD, it’s often the opposite. I personally think the focus should be on
learning to manage the illness, and medication should be a tool; not vice
versa.

6) Shoot for truth with myself and
others 
– I needed to face myself, be honest with myself, and shoot for
truth. I needed to be straight forward and honest with the people in my life. I
needed to stand up for myself and stop just accepting the way things were. I
needed to accept the fact that no relationship was going to turn out well for
me if I spent all of my heart and time focused on someone that was completely
out of my reach. By loving someone that would never love me back in the same
way I was destroying my romantic relationships. I had this idealistic idea of
who and what we were, was in denial about the true nature of things, and needed
to be truthful with myself about the whole situation. I needed to get my
runaway legs and straying eyes fixed on the person in front of me that I had
decided to spend the rest of my life with.

7) Becoming
a bit of a hermit
 – I
would stress out so much about other people, their problems, and their
addictions. I lived too close to much of my family and was always getting
dragged into their drama and beef with one another. I felt as though it was my
responsibility to mediate and fix things for the people I loved. Distancing
myself really helped with that. I also needed to cut ties with the people that
were unhealthy for me. Not that I felt like I was better than anyone, but some
friends were not good for what I was shooting for in life and needed to be let
go.

8) Facing my fears –
The song “Fear” by Blue October explains this 100%. All my life I had
been running from this pain in me, allowing it to hold me down, trying
everything I could to escape myself. I used to fall, now I get back up. I don’t
have to be afraid, fall apart, and let the damage consume me. I don’t have to
be afraid of getting better, or being happy, or letting go of the past. Really
the whole Sway album from Blue October sums up the whole last year of my life.
I just had to face my fears, stand back up, and start picking up the pieces of
me.