Thursday, December 10, 2015

Where I've Been

I can't believe I keep forgetting to fill you in on my latest news!  A few months ago a friend asked me to join her team and become a blog contributor on her website, Real Imprints.  I've only written a few posts, but I'm really excited about this new opportunity to contribute to those speaking up about mental illness.

I'm not sure if I will be posting here any more, but you can sign up to receive daily or weekly emails from Real Imprints if you want to be updated on my postings there.

In the meantime, here are the links to what I have written thus far:

Thanks for the support you've given me as you've followed my meanderings throughout the past several years.  I hope you'll keep following me in my new adventure!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

One Size Fits All (But Not Really)

That seems to be the way of most mental illness diagnoses.

However, my experience has been more along the lines of a woman with large hips, a small waist, an extra small bust, and extra large arms trying on clothing at a department store.

Some things fit in some places.  But nothing fits all over.
I may have looked cute in this big boots, but there's no way I was going to get very far in them.
I find myself a bit detached from the bipolar II diagnosis because it was never a perfect fit and seems even less so over the past year.  My psychiatrist and I recently discussed another diagnosis with pretty much the same conclusion--some key aspects are spot on for describing my behavior, others are completely absent.

While I am grateful for the absence of these different mood and behavior issues--none of them are qualities or problems I wish to possess--it is frustrating to feel out of place even in the realm of mental illness.

I want a well-fitting diagnosis so I know how to treat it!

That was a koala bear back pack.  If it had fit better, maybe I wouldn't have lost it at the playground... :(
Sometimes I feel like whatever is wrong with me is like something from a scary artificial intelligence movie.  You know, where the AI learns faster than the humans and eventually takes over and its rate of progression is faster than the humans can control?  It seems like once I think I have something figured out, it either changes or never happens again.

At risk of alerting the potential AI parasite within my brain, here are the things I'm trying on for size right now:

  • Doubting and distancing pretty much all of my thoughts and emotions.  Instead, I am forcing myself to take some deep breaths and look at the facts.  i.e., HH continues to stick around and support me.  Therefore, he probably doesn't hate me but actually loves me and is gaining some benefit from our relationship.
  • Finally (hopefully!) maintaining a regular sleep schedule.  To bed by 10 pm, awake by 6:30 am (hopefully 6 eventually.  The morning person in me seems to be in deep hibernation).
  • Stopping the crazy anxiety-driven thought cycles.  This is kind of like the first bullet point, but it is specific for all the times that I ruminate over something I said or did forever, telling myself what a stupid thing that was to say or do and that now everyone who witnessed it not only thinks I'm a complete idiot, but is also telling everyone else they and I know that I am a complete idiot.  And other things along those lines.
  • Continuing to place one foot in front of the other in all of the areas of my life I have felt I should make progress in.  Even though right now, progress seems irrelevant and everything feels pointless and hopeless much of the time.
And the other big thing I am doing differently right now is trying to spend less time figuring out what is wrong with me.

Three people in three different settings told me last week that I seem more like myself than I have in a very long time.

That really took me off guard because I feel so decidedly not like myself when I'm on my own trying to sort through what is wrong with me and how to fix/cope with it.

At first I thought I should correct each of them and let them know that I am still totally not okay with scary and inappropriate thoughts plaguing much of my time.  But, this was not a very pleasant task.  People want to believe that I'm doing better.  It is disheartening to tell them they are wrong.

And after that third person I began to wonder if maybe I'm the one who is wrong?

Maybe I've just become so used to focusing on what is broken in me that I have failed to recognize the parts of me that are finally in recovery.

Blurry, but you can clearly see that I was not cut out for a profession in business.
Going back to school has changed a lot of different aspects of my life.  For six weeks it got me out of the house interacting with different people.  I made friends relatively quickly and I cannot tell you what a boost it gave me to find people with absolutely no obligation to me (not family, not church, not neighbors, etc.) seeking my company.  Of course, I had a panic every day on my drive home that I had said or done something that offended or bothered someone or everyone.  But, as part of my final grade my professor actually commented on the relationships and leadership position I had developed within the class.

Which brings me to the next point--going to school has provided a place where I get official feedback.  While there is nothing that can compare to sloppy kisses or a "Dude!  Mom, this tastes yummy!" from Darling A, it is also really nice to get consistent positive commentary on my work.

Going back to school has also really helped combat my confidence issues.  I am slowly overcoming my fears about not being able to commit to this.  I received an A in one class already and am on track to receive an A in the other one I'm taking this semester.  I am feeling more competent all the time.

And most importantly, it's helping me to feel hopeful in the future.  Consistent social opportunities are where I am found to be "more like myself".  School provides that (except for right now when all I have is an online class.  Boo.) and will lead to me having a career that will continue to provide that.

This does not fit the way I planned on, but somehow it is still a good fit and the most comfortable thing in my life.
So, maybe I really am more like myself than I realize.

Or, maybe I'm just more on my way to getting there than I have been in a long time.

Feeling like I am a good fit within myself would be a really nice thing.

I don't know if that made much sense to you.  But, that's the thing I'm trying on right now and although it's not a perfect fit right now, I'm really hoping I can grow into it eventually.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Being Afraid

So, I'm back in school.

It's been an interesting journey.  Just a short three weeks, but full of so many things.

Let me back up first.

About a week before school started I facilitated a DBSA group meeting.  The before, during, and after of that each deserve a post of their own.  But life has been so busy, I have written many posts for this blog in my head, but they've never made it to the computer.

So, a quick sum up.

Before:  I was sick with anxiety for about a month leading up to the meeting.  I mean, really really REALLY bad anxiety.  But, after an appointment with my therapist, he helped me see that it was my perfectionism at play again and advised me to begin the meeting by telling everyone how nervous I was and why.  I knew that would be scare in and of itself, but I also knew it would help tremendously.  And that knowledge and plan gave me enough peace to survive the next two weeks until the meeting.

After (I know I'm jumping around here, but there is a reason):  I was on a high.  It had just gone really well.  Everyone had been so kind and positive.  And I was so proud of myself for doing it!

During:  We talked about relationships and commitments.  For the most part, this was good.  But there was one part in the conversation where pretty much everyone who has been dealing with this mental illness for longer than I emphatically gave me the same statement, "Just don't commit to anything.  Ever.  It's too hard to know if you'll be able to follow through or not."

And that was it.  We were mainly talking about commitments to other people, like babysitting someone else's kids, or something.  But, we talked about commitments in general as well.  And this statement was something they applied to pretty much everything.

So, I tucked that in my back pocket, forgot about it, and rode my post-facilitator high for the next couple days.

Fast forward a couple weeks to school starting.

It turns out that being a student again has brought my perfectionism to a heightened state.  I feel like I have to do everything and do it all perfectly.  My online class has several optional assignments.  They are optional because we don't have to do every single one, but we do need to do a certain amount.  I am having a hard time not doing everyone for fear that the teacher will think I'm lazy and a poor student.  Even though she specifically set it up for us to NOT do every assignment.  I missed 1.75 points on the first quiz and I was devastated.  There goes my chance at 100% in the class.

And then there are a few "big" assignments due at the end of the semester, but it's making me crazy that I haven't completed them yet.

I just want everything done.  Done perfectly.  And done now.

But (obviously), I can't.  And so I'm constantly fighting the feeling of being a failure at school.

And that statement from my peers keeps just runs around in endless loops through my brain.  "I never commit to anything ever."

And I just keep feeling like this whole thing is a mistake.  How could I possibly presume to commit to two and a half years of school when I myself avoid commitments as small as "sure, I'll watch your kids for you!"  I'm never going to be able to see this through.

And it's not just the school work.  It's the rest of my life that I was already failing miserably at before I decided that going to school for 10 hours a week, plus at least 3 hours of studying a day seemed like a good idea to add in.

My house looked like a bomb went off and then someone let loose a whole clan of baby chimpanzees to play in the rubble.

Dinner planning happens about 15 minutes after we should have begun eating.  If we have real food on hand, we eat that.  Otherwise, we eat out.  Bleh.

And I'm having to say, "Hold on.  Just let me finish this (fill in the blank) and then I'll listen to your story" waaaaay to often to my kids.

And for the first two weeks I was more of a monster than a mom or a wife or a human being.  I think the only reason I was nice last week was because HH was sick for the first half of the week and it was his birthday over the weekend.

There's a lot of negativity pent up inside of me right now, but it pretty much just boils down to one thing.


I'm so so very afraid.

I'm afraid that taking this on is going to result in the exact opposite of what it's supposed to.  I'm afraid I'm not smart enough, don't have the time, don't have the willpower to make it into and then through the program.

I'm afraid I'm failing my children by not being as available to them and by being so short on patience lately.  I'm afraid they'll take this as a sign that I don't want to spend time with them.

And when I'm being totally honest inside myself, I admit that it's nice to get a break.  To get away and associate with other people and to not deal with their tiresome fighting, whining, and incessant questions.  And I wonder what kind of broken mom feels that way.  And I feel guilty for bringing them into this world if I'm just going to waste these years by trying so hard to get away from them.  And I hate myself for not want to just be with them and soak up every moment of this privilege that I have of raising four beautiful children.

And then I look up from my textbook and see my house and my chest gets so tight I can't breathe.  It's so messy!  What happened to me?!  I used to be obsessive.  I used to have a cleaning schedule that included vacuuming at least twice a week, all of the laundry being done in one day, dusting at least once a week, cleaning out the fridge at least once a week, cleaning out the dryer house regularly, etcetera etcetera.  Now it's whatever HH has time for.  After he cleans up dinner and puts the kids to bed.

So, you can probably guess how I feel I'm doing as a wife.  Epic FAIL.  Not only is he doing everything I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm super mean to him about it too!

Our diet is a mess.  My workout routine has completely fallen apart.  I'm supposed to do a triathlon in 10 weeks and the last time I swam laps in a pool was during the triathlon last year!

Everyone keeps asking me how things are going.  I just put on a smile and comment that school is definitely hard, but I'm loving it!

Because I should be.  Right?

I mean, so many people have sacrificed to help me.  Not the least of which is HH.  And he has so much invested in this beyond his time and money.  This is his ray of hope.  His light at the end of the tunnel.  This is what is giving him the strength to persevere through all my nastiness and drama.

Because he thinks this going to fix things.  To fix me.  (My words, not his.  He is much more delicate and politically correct.)

But every day I'm hearing that voice in my head, "I don't commit to anything.  Ever."  And I'm wondering what on earth I think I'm doing.  How can I possibly do this?  I'm so afraid I'm going to fail.  And think of all the people I'll disappoint.


But even more than that, I'm afraid of what comes next.

This feels like my last chance.  Like if I can't do this, then I'm destined to a life of endless cycles of misery.  With frequent stays at the hospital.  And all of the other mess and madness that comes with my decent into that dark abyss.

Sorry, this one is a bit of a downer.  Maybe that's why I haven't posted in so long.  I've been wanting to have something to say that is inspiring and uplifting.

The best I have is this.  Yesterday, I was driving the kids home from their counseling appointment and we were talking very candidly about life.  I was telling them why I wanted them to go to counseling in the first place.  So they can learn that life is about learning and about making mistakes and about trying again.  And I found myself using me going back to school as the example.  And asking them if it would make any sense for me to drop out of school just because I didn't get a perfect score on my quiz.  Or because it feels hard and I'm afraid to submit an assignment because then the teacher might judge it to not be perfect quality.

All of this kept tumbling out of my mouth effortlessly.  All the while, inside my head I was thinking, "What?  Yes.  Yes.  This is right.  Why is this so hard for me then?!"

So, at least the concept is there somewhere inside my brain.

There may be hope for me yet.

Friday, March 20, 2015

But For The Grace of God

I hope you know that, for your sake and mine, I really try to stick to topics that are either useful to you, or something I need help and reassurance on.  This is by nature a very personal blog, so I am constantly second guessing whether I've been guilty of over-sharing or not.  I am sure that at times I have been.

I keep a personal journal for the things I need to write down either to remember, or to sort through that are more private and not really appropriate for worldwide viewing.  But sometimes after recording something there, I feel quite strongly that I should also share it here.

Such is the case with my journal entry from last night.  All morning I've felt this pressing prompting to share it here.  So, hopefully, this is useful to at least one of you readers.

"I have felt empowered by the grace of God so much this week.

Every day has had challenges--many of them testing my mental and emotional resiliency.  I've had a lot of anxiety.  I've gotten down and I've gotten angry and frustrated.  I've wanted to turn to the coping skills that are easy and familiar, but harmful in the long run.

But instead, I've read my scriptures and the *Ensign.  I've listened to *Conference talks as I make dinner or clean the house.  I've asked for help (so hard!), I've prayed for help to stay patient with the kids and HH.  I've prayed for help in general.  And I've tried to take care of myself by exercising (might've overdone it a bit when the anxiety was really bad) and eating well.

And I've been blessed one hundred fold.  I've been able to stay patient, to return to a positive and cheerful mood, and even to be able to honestly say to HH that not one part of me doesn't want him to go on this "guy's hiking trip" he's leaving for.  I'll miss him and I'm a little worried about being on my own, but he needs this break in so many ways.

And the Lord keeps reminding me that I have enough--because He has given me all that I need."

That's it.  Short and sweet because I was in a hurry to get to bed. :)  But, I've had some amazing experiences this week and have been able to recognize some real personal growth that has been so gratifying and reassuring.  And I know that these steps I've taken are directly related to this added strength I've felt.

*Click these links for more information about the Ensign and General Conference.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Theme for 2015

Remember how instead of New Year's Resolutions, I do an individual theme for each year?

Yeah, I didn't remember that either.

Until I came across this post that I started writing back in January:

So, in 2014 I pretty much forgot that I had a yearly theme instead of New Year's Resolutions.

I looked it up and guess what my theme for last year was?  Hope.

Haha.  That's sort of a slap in the face.

And that's about as far as I got with that post.

But, it was a good reminder.  Mostly, because it reminded me that I had already come up with a theme for this year.  Or, more aptly, I knew what my theme for the year needed to be.

But back in January I was having a really hard time coming to turns with it.  It was so scary, it hurt.

Now it doesn't feel so hard.  And I can see why it is what the Spirit had prompted me to choose.

My theme for 2015 is Learning to Love Myself.

Darling A likes to play a game with me where I ask who I love and lists off everyone, usually ending with herself.  Today she switched things up and added me onto the end.  It gave me a moment's pause, but then I was really happy to realize that I could answer her question in the affirmative, without any doubts.

For someone who has spent a lot of time as a professional self-loather, that is a really big deal.

With the current changes and goals I have set in motion, I have to work on loving myself.  I haven't done fabulously well with our new diet the past few days.  But, I'm okay with that (and even willing to share this "failure" here) because I'm working on loving myself.  And the main reason I let myself slide on the diet is because it was creating more stress than benefit the way I was doing it and it became a matter of what I needed to do to really take care of me.

The funny thing is, my motivation for getting back on the diet (in a new, less stressful, modified way) is because I love myself.  And I love myself enough to not eat the sugar that gives me headaches.  Even though it sounds so good!

More importantly, I'm having to learn to love myself enough to believe in myself.  Because going back to college is really hard and really scary.

And I haven't even registered for classes yet!

So, I know it's going to get harder.  And I'm going to have to remember why I'm doing it--because I can do this and it's going to be the path to a different, better future for me and my family.

Today I worked on loving myself by not getting frustrated when I wasn't the fastest or the strongest in my class at the gym.  I got to the place where I felt good and the workout was putting a smile on my face and then I stayed there.  I didn't pick up an extra weight plate, even though the instructor had two.  I stuck with my one because I knew that it was workout enough for me today and it wouldn't make me so tired and sore that I would be a grump for the rest of the day with my family.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

More on Acceptance, Or Why I Want to Be a Currant Bush

First, I have to share a video story with you.  Many of you have probably seen it.  It's told by Elder D. Todd Christoffersen, an apostle of the Lord.

I love this story.  The very first time I heard it, I knew I'd just learned an important lesson for my stubborn heart.

And no matter how many times I hear the story, it's the same experience over and over.  It makes me want to weep, as I so fully understand how the currant bush is feeling.

Even in this very moment, I am frustrated because the word I really wanted to use in that previous sentence is not coming to me--something I experience frequently in my writing, ever since ECT messed with my brain.  I always considered myself to be a pretty talented writer.  But now, I feel like my ability to express myself has been reduced to the quality of a child.  And I find myself asking, "Why, God?  I know that through your guidance and grace, I have been able to help uplift and inspire others through my writing.  Why can't I have that ability still?"

The day before my most recent stay at the hospital, I sobbed into HH's arms, an utterly heartbroken lament, "I could be so great!"

I don't mean that in a conceited or arrogant way.  What I mean is, I know I have been given talents, as we all have.  And I know that I could accomplish great things, if given the capacity to develop those talents.

I have a willing heart!  I want to do so many things!  I want to do good!  I want to help others!  I want to be strong!

What I lack is the opportunity to focus on developing those talents.

Instead, I spend much of my time surviving.

At the worst of times, this means finding the strength and desire to keep placing one foot in front of the other, to walk away from the dark abyss my thoughts desire to lead me to.

But even now, when things are not so dire, I am rebuilding.  Learning how to be an engaged wife and mother again.  Trying to clean my house without wearing myself out and becoming a rage monster.  Struggling to remember how to make the recipes I've made for my family for years, but that ECT has now mostly erased.  Relearning how to become and be a friend.

And enduring the days when depression welcomes itself back into my life.

People have come into my life who are doing the very things with their lives that I want to do with mine.  And they are doing them very well!  As I believe I could.

And sometimes, it is hard to watch them and keep kind feelings in my heart.  As if their talents somehow detract anything from me and my life.

So, I keep coming back to this story about the currant bush.

And reminding myself that I am shortsighted.  As the Lord is not.  And He knows what I can be.  And what I can be great at.

And that what He wants for me is most assuredly greater than what I can imagine for myself.

For what He wants for me is to be as absolutely great as I can be.

And I can't do that on my own.

And I need to be cut back and trimmed on occasion.  Or maybe, all the time.

And I need to remember that the Lord is not only doing these things because He knows they will prune me into what He created me to be, but that He also knows I will survive every cut.

He knows that what I am learning as I navigate life with a mental illness is ultimately of greater worth, to me and those around me, than what I could be doing without it.

My brother recently told me that he is impressed at the burdens and trials the Lord allows me to have.  My brother is so wise and insightful.  And that new perspective was something that I really needed that day, and has stuck with me since.

The Lord prunes us back so we can grow into what He knows we are created to be.  He allows us to carry the burdens we have so we can develop the strength we need to be whatever that is.

He knows I have a willing heart and He is shaping it into what will ultimately bring me greater happiness than I can imagine.  In His garden, I am not a great big tree.  I am a currant bush.  He sees the big picture, of how everything in His garden grows and comes together and who is needed where.  He is not content to let me just grow haphazardly, as fast as I can.  He knows that becoming something truly useful takes time, care, effort, and patience.  He is the Gardener, not me.  Sometimes I get anxious and frustrated and I think I want to be the Gardener.

But, when I remember this story, I know I don't really want that.  I want to become what He knows I can be.  And that require faith in Him and His plan.  And more willingness to see the growth that having Bipolar II provides.  And less resentment for what I think it is taking away from me.

In life, I am His daughter, with infinite capacities.  I need to trust in Him.  That He knows how to shape and prune me.  And to allow Him the time that requires.  And that I don't have to be a great big tree to be happy.

I can be happy as a currant bush.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Big Deal

So, first things first, I have to share today's exciting news:  I met with my psychiatrist this morning and (drum roll, please) my next appointment isn't for 8 more weeks!  For the past several months (pretty much since I started seeing him), he's been setting up my appointments pretty much every 1-2 weeks because he felt so uncertain of my safety.

So, eight weeks is a really big deal.

It means that we're both feeling optimistic that whether this is just a phase, or whether I've actually turned a corner--it's going to last.  At least for a little while.

In the interim, we're doing a 4-week "detox", of sorts.  No gluten.  No dairy.  No sugar.  It has to do with stuff I've been reading about leaky gut and the GAPS diet.  It's not an exact science.  And it isn't following anything I've read to a 'T'.

It's just following my gut.

No pun intended.

The other main big thing is that I'm looking into going back to school.  Either for my Physical Therapy doctorate, or as a Physical Therapy Assistant.

That's proving to be more complicated than I initially expected.  I have a ton of questions about how to get started and answers are difficult to come by.

But nothing worthwhile was ever easy, right?

At least, that's what I'm going to tell myself.

So, I still don't know if I'm feeling better because of the changes and effort I'm making, or if it's just a phase.  But, I'm going to stick with believing the former and hope that these two big changes will help the goodness continue.