2018 in Review

This past year has been an eventful one for me with my health. I am thankful that a long standing sleep disorder was resolved by finally having a sleep evaluation at my plan’s sleep clinic. I resisted being tested for years for fear I would test positive and be required to use a CPAP machine. The very thought made my claustrophobia go wild. This proves the maxim of how fear can hold us back and keep us from resolving the very things in life that will make our lives much better.

The results showed my breathing was restricted when I slept, but not enough to require a CPAP ~ because it only happened when I slept on my back. This was finally resolved by my sleeping semi upright with a wedge in my bed and keeping me on my back. This changed my 1-1/2 to 3 hours per night of sleep to 7-8 per hour a night of quality sleep! Restorative, beautiful sleep brought on by the courage to move forward and be tested!

The second medical problem I faced is still unresolved. The past 8 months I’ve battled an insidious and unidentified incredibly itchy rash on my back. I had it on both arms for a while, but those areas resolved. My back area continues to break out, most recently with welts. Since I’m allergic to most steroids it’s very hard to treat. I’m seeing a new dermatologist January 31st and praying for new light to be shed on the problem. Please join me!

The two things I am most thankful for in all of this are first the support of my dear husband who has been my partner in all things and helped treat my back where I couldn’t reach part of the problem. Not very romantic!

Secondly, my bipolar 1 disorder has remained very stable throughout all of this. I was shaken when the sleeplessness hit, but managed enough rest with naps not to get manic. I ate right, took my meds, prayed, tended to my anxiety. I did all I could and left the rest to medication, my doctors, and God. I cannot stress enough how thankful I am for staying mentally well. It’s my miracle of 2018.

I rejoice in the blessings of this year. My family is well. My husband and daughter are both happy and well. My Dad is healthy and celebrated his 89th birthday two days ago! I hope you all had a 2018 you can be thankful for and wish gratitude and happiness for you in 2019! God is good!

Joy, Friendship, Laughter, Tears…All To Be Found In My Twitter Stream

I made an incredible discovery today while tweeting…I was feeling true joy! I’m reminded of a quote as I reflect upon the #mentalhealth community I’m involved in on Twitter:

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance. Henry David Thoreau

Friends/Sisters for 64 years!

This photo is of my sister and I. I can tell her anything about my struggle with bipolar 1 disorder. That is also true of the mental health sisters I’ve made on Twitter. The biggest challenge of having a mental illness is isolation and stigma.

We’re bringing our illnesses into the light of day. We’re learning more about mental health and the processes involved in getting better and living healthier and the pitfalls to avoid.

There is a lot of love and sharing in our streams because of this. And encouragement, and validation, and understanding, and compassion, and insight and laughter and tears. Lots of tears and sorrow some days.

Today I felt joy. One of my very favorite emotions. Joy runs deep. A chord deep within you has been touched when you feel joy. Two of my most encouraging friends: @DyaneHarwood gifted Author of “Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder ” a life changing book, comprehensively dealing with her journey through the jungle of the onslaught of postpartum bipolar disorder following the birth of her second child. The same way bipolar hit me! And Brandy @WellMentally another gifted writer relatively new to Twitter and the blogging world, tackling both voraciously and with great talent and passion like Dyane does her writing and her life. They were both encouraging me by pushing like on most of my tweets and I began to beam, smiling ear to ear with abandon and joy.

Not often does anyone with bipolar disorder 1 feel that abandon to self love that brings joy. Not often does anyone meet with so much approval on an ordinary day! Yet I did and do feel happiness and fun often … thanks to many amazing friends I have made in the mental health community and on Twitter, including @BipolarBattle, @bipolar_story, @bipolarnana1, and a dear friend from the fitness community who always supports: @planetshark.

I edit an internet paper. li daily called “Mental Health/Living Above the Madness.” It consists of different articles from various media sources that have been shared on Twitter. I spend a bit of money on it monthly so that it doesn’t just go out automatically based on the content sources and subject matter I’ve chosen. This way I can go through it manually before publishing and rearrange articles and take out any that are irrelevant or too dark, or mean, that I don’t think will help anyone. This subject matter can get very dark. Some days I read things I definitely wish I hadn’t!

The purpose is to educate, to beat the stigma, and to highlight some of the terrific information in the blogs being written daily.

Joy! Encouragement! Validation! Understanding! Compassion! Humor! Insight! Laughter! Tears of joy and sorrow! All can be found in the #mentalhealth community on Twitter. Please join us. Oh, and last, but not least…love, friendship and fun. So, come and learn with us RT and like what you read. #KeepTalkingMH #mentalhealthadvocacy #BipolarStrong

Thanks, @libbytalks (Libby Baker Sweiger)

Time to Remember: Smile Through the Tears

November 24, 1976 my son Davey was born. He was a beautiful fair haired doll with dark, dark eyes and the face of and angel.

I miss him every day and treasure every moment we spent together, because his destiny it seems was not to be lived out on this earth, but rather to touch our hearts and in October of the following year begin a new life in Heaven and in our hearts and memories until we see him again.

It was very hard. Losing Davey. And the little girl who was stillborn the year before, Shirley Deborah. Many moms would have lost their minds and in a way I did. In Davey’s ninth month of life my ugly postpartum bipolar disorder hit me full force.

I quit sleeping. I lost all ability to rest. My mind was racing. This was scary, because I was still caring for Davey. Still driving. Living in our new apartment alone. My ex had left. Flown home to his home town. Far away from us.

Fortunately, my family was tuned in. My Dad was worried. He got me to the hospital. My stepmom was watching Davey. They sent for my ex. I was frantic. I couldn’t bear being separated from my son. I was terrified my ex, one I no longer trusted, was his caretaker. I had no idea how sick I was. My doctor’s analogy to me without the protection of meds and the hospital was akin to running on a badly broken leg.

My worst fears were realized. While I was still in the hospital, Davey died. It was no one’s fault. He didn’t have a spleen. We didn’t know that. Complicated heart defects, we knew about and were treating. A baby can’t live without a spleen without treatment. He got his first cold. Without a spleen to produce white blood cells to fight the infection…he died.

Little Davey, angel that he was, became a real Angel. I still miss him. My heart is bigger now with love for my dear daughter Abby, 35! And sweet husband Mike of 39+ years, but it has a couple of holes in it named Shirley and Davey. Holes filled by God, yet deep and sensitive. Soft spots that can begin crying out of the blue.

What happened to the 23 year old me in the hospital? I began to respond to treatment. They found a couple of meds that worked. It seemed I could focus on my recovery a bit more knowing my Davey was in God’s hands. I mourned more later when depression hit me outside of the hospital, eventually sending me back.

I lived. I lived to love again is the smile through the tears. I give the credit to God. He’s my reason for living, for going forward. My reason for smiling is faith in a new day. That’s all we have in this life, but it’s quite a lot!

Bipolar Disorder ~ A Gift or a Malady?

Or something in-between?

We live in a culture that doesn’t like to speak about harsh realities. No one likes the words mental illness, they prefer mental health. However, it is clear that many people’s lives are left in tatters by the ravages of these disorders we don’t want to call illnesses.

Right now I’m very ill with rashes covering a good portion of my largest organ: my skin. They itch like crazy. Even if I control my urge to scratch them during the daytime, I will tear into them at night.

I’m still undiagnosed after many months of suffering. Steroid creams have been somewhat successful in defeating them. Prednisone, oral steroids would have stopped the inflammation in its tracks. However, due to bipolar, they are out of the question. They used to bring on mania when I had to use them for asthma years ago. Now my asthma is under control and I thank God, because when I tried them for this rash they brought in depression so severe, I was battling suicidal thoughts within a few days!

Now the steroid cream is bringing on depression in the strength needed to kill the rash. So I went down to a lower strength and proceeded to exacerbate the rash. Now I am back on the stronger cream, gambling that I can get rid of the rash before depression comes back too strong for me to deal with.

You may guess where I stand on the subject that has been debated on the blogosphere and on twitter lately… is bipolar a gift? Absolutely not. Nor is cancer, or autoimmune disorders which may be the cause of my rash… we’ll soon know…or any other malady that plagues humankind.

The in-between is the person involved. We’re all learning. Many from our maladies. We are the gifts. Our beautiful hearts are gifts from God as I see it, and they shine light and love and hope to others. That’s the gift. Friendship, caring, wisdom, love.

This makes all we are going through more bearable. Even though the price we are paying is very high for having a mental illness. The illness itself has ruined jobs, stressed marriages, hurt our children, cost us hours, days, years of suffering, lost time spent in hospitals…

,,,It’s a tremendous gift to know we’re not alone. Hearing other people’s stories gives us a will to go on like they are, courage to speak up too ~ and best of all ~ makes new friendships!

#KeepTalkingMH

Love you ALL! Libby

Bipolar: Flying Without A Net

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

Last night I was filling out a form for my new acupuncturist. One of the questions under mood had a selection for stressed. Not been terribly introspective by nature, I turned to my husband of 39 years and inquired if stress was a primary state of mine.

He replied strongly in the affirmative! I said my life is pretty balanced right now. He said yes BUT the anxiety and bipolar you cope with daily brings high stress to you constantly.

I realized how right he was. The hours of dealing with #mentalillness takes its toll daily, stressing my system, energy, emotions, psyche, heart and mind! Anxiety and worry are exhausting. Maintaining balance with swinging emotions takes the wind out of my sails!

It’s scary: maintaining control when control is an illusion. Trying for mindfulness on days when you can’t “choose one thought over another” because your thoughts have sprung loose and they’re running off on their own!

These are daily challenges I face. I’m excited about acupuncture for anxiety. My therapist says its had a high rate of success with his patients. I guess my stress level tends to run high.

Admitting it will help. Not pushing myself will help. Exercise, taking my meds, good sleep all help. Having bipolar 1 disorder has forced me to take better care of myself! I will let you know if acupuncture helps too.

Stress and worry to me is like flying on a trapeze without a net. You are forfeiting your protection; the cushion good, positive thinking provides. Positive, hopeful thinking feels like flying and provides a safety net if you fall. You don’t get hurt. You don’t hurt yourself. Stress and worry feeds anxiety and depression and hurts. Fixing your thoughts (when you are well enough to do so) on positive things dispels stress and anxiety.

If you’re not well and cannot do this, buddy up with a friend or family member who can. Surround yourself with positive people who can help you with your thinking and your outlook who is sensitive enough to know when you need help with your illness!

We need each other so much. We have to fight our overwhelming impulse to isolate and reach out. Our lives are at stake! Their quality for one, sometimes our very existence! Reach out for your safety net.

Hope and Happiness

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Tom Bodett

Riley, Abby and I

You see a lot of writing about bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and other forms of mental ill health. Few mention happiness. It’s true, it’s a tough taskmaster mental illness. Months can go by where you’re feeling pretty bad, definitely not worried about happiness, just trying for not bad.

But, deep down, the quest for happiness stirs. Everyone truly craves happiness. If the quote holds true, love is a component. I’m blessed there. I have a loving husband and daughter. Something to do? That can be hard. Meaningful work. I have forfeited many jobs due to anxiety. I have one current client in my social media business: an author whose book I’m promoting. I’m also typing his next book. Everything else, I’m doing on my own: social media, blogging, and of course housework, grocery lists, cooking all that fun stuff. Everything counts, because it helps bolster your self worth. Praying for people isn’t work, but it does make me happy!

I have hope. That’s my first priority because without hope, there is no way to carry on. People need hope. Whether they have a chemical imbalance in their brain, are crippled in one limb, or have no apparent symptoms at all. Maybe you are almost 100%, you still need hope for tomorrow to be truly happy. Hope begins and ends with being positive in your thinking. Depression kills hope. That’s why it can kill the people who suffer from it. It’s so crucial to treat depression and to reach out to people in the throws of it.

Here’s hoping that your tomorrow brings you something you find happiness in! If you can’t ~ reach out to someone else who can help you find hope in your life again. You need hope for life itself, not just happiness.

I Have Bipolar Disorder AND Gratitude!

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ”

~ Melody Beattie

Melody Beattie is 5 years older than I, from the Twin City to mine: St. Paul, Minnesota the author of many books including “Codependent No More” the book that introduces the concept of codependency. It’s the idea that people surrounding an addict become just as sick asthe addict by adapting to their crazy behavior.

I knew it must be a wise woman to write such an insightful quote on gratitude. I have found in my life that gratitude is key to living with and overcoming any difficulty. The harrier the problem, the more gratitude required.

Not everyone knows my story, but I was reminded of it today at lunch with some dear High School girlfriends. Some I had known since grade school. I was talking about typing my Dad’s memoirs and got sidetracked talking about my own.

I told them that in my unfinished book I hadn’t leaned too hard on how very sick I was when first hit with postpartum bipolar 1 disorder. My son was actually nine months old. I had postponed the onset by caring for my son who was born with complicated, multiple heart defects. One year earlier I’d had a still born baby girl at seven months gestation. Because I had depleted myself, when the mania hit, it was very, very severe. It took a lot to contain in the hospital setting. While I was in the hospital, my son died. Sometime after that ~ the depression hit with the same ferocity ~ and lasted for much longer. That’s the part that almost got me. I came very close to killing myself and it took electro shock therapy to pull me out of it.

To this day, I am grateful to the doctor and staff, family and friends who saved me. They literally walked me through the pit, with the Lord’s help.

My psychiatrist believed in exercise. I ran whenever I could. My knees are arthritic now, but I am thankful for the pounding they took on behalf of my brain.

My Dad stood by me in everything. He got me a good lawyer when the time came to acquiesce to my ex’s demands for a divorce.

He also introduced me to my beloved Mike! Mike’s Dad was a long-time friend of my dad. Dad had watched Mike grow up at the Minneapolis Athletic Club. Our dads were locker buddies and played handball together. Unfortunately, Mike’s Dad died young, age 56, Yet, Mike inherited his locker and our connection was born. Dad kept literally bumping into Mike. He finally asked each of us how we’d feel about meeting and had us over to his place for spaghetti dinner! It was March. We were married before summer’s end!

Gratitude. It’s a way of looking at life and seeing it through the eyes of all the infinite possibilities.

Bipolar disorder has been a rough thing in my life. Because of it I’ve grown in ways I would have never thought possible. I’ve become a writer, when I might otherwise only have been a talker. I’ve learned to reflect, listen, slow down, when otherwise I might have raced blindly through life.

I have become more empathetic and made friends with people who are suffering. Am I grateful to have bipolar disorder? It is hard to say. I am grateful to have my life! My marriage of 39 years to the sweetest, funniest guy ever, my 35 year old daughter who is my dearest prayer.

Having gratitude helps me keep my balance, keeps me from negativity and despair, and gives me hope for the future.

I have had many more health challenges than bipolar disorder. Most of them I regard as inconveniences rather than full blown problems. Sometimes they are annoying enough to take over my life for a while. Sometimes they make me cry. But, I try not to let them get me. Our lives are filled with infinite possibilities. I try not to miss too many of them.