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.

Reach Out to Love

Many people living with the challenge of a mental disorder suffer from anxiety. I know I do. My diagnosis just rolls off my tongue as if I were talking about someone else: bipolar 1 disorder with anxiety and insomnia.

I wish dealing with it came so easily. Crowds bother me. Sometimes I get paralyzed with fear. Sometimes I panic. Our church grew into a mega church. I now attend in the Chapel, not the big sanctuary that seats thousands. I’m most comfortable streaming it into our living room at home!

Today, Mike and I went to the Minnesota State Fair. I took this picture:

This was early in the morning before the crowd was very large! We were walking to the animal barns. How did I push through? I didn’t. My dear husband did and I held fast to his hand. Thirty nine years of marriage, love and trust led me through. I didn’t have to push through my panic, I was gently led.

I think that’s how all healing happens, love gently leads us through the terror.

That’s what happened the first time I was struck with bipolar psychosis. I was very, very ill because we hadn’t known I had bipolar. I was very sick, and my baby nine months old before my post partum mania revealed the emerging disorder.

I didn’t know Mike then. The baby’s father had left me. My family was there, yet I felt so alone. I felt myself falling into a deep, deep pit. Terrified, plunging into nothingness, dark, empty fear.

I landed and was surrounded by love. All encompassing, healing, warm, accepting love embraced me and led me out of the darkness.

God lifted me. Rescued me. Helped me. Guided me through the terror. When I felt that Love at the bottom of the darkness, I began to get well.

It was a turning point for me. Like today in the crowd. Facing my fears, hand in hand with love renewed my hope for living free from panic. With the right supports we can be led through.

Anxiety is a tough task master — reach out to love to defeat it.

Brainy Book Review (re-blog)

img_20180619_185512_565

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

This quote reminds me of my brain as a person with bipolar 1 disorder!  As a late Read More »

I’ve Got My Mind Back!

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison

I was always a voracious reader until psychiatric medications began to stack one on top of one another. I don’t know which one did it, or if it was the illness itself, but suddenly I couldn’t read. Not like I used to. I couldn’t devour books. I couldn’t read one cover to cover. I couldn’t sit still long enough. I couldn’t concentrate. I could read the bible. A passage here and a passage there. I could read an article on my computer or phone. I could write. Blog. Short pieces at a time. I feel anxious just writing this. It brings me too close to the way I used to feel. Icky.

I’m writing this to celebrate. Six years ago or so, I was hospitalized for depression. I saw a very gifted psychiatrist. He said I was hypomanic. Now, I blurted? I’m always like this. The Abilify I was taking to make the SSRI anti depressant I was taking was pushing me hypomanic. He said I shouldn’t be on an SSRI or Abilify, which I had been on for years! He switched me to Latuda and took me off the others. He also said I would get my mind back.

He was right. I did. It all came back, slowly, but surely. Last week, I told an author, Diane Harwood, I would read her book and review it and I did! I realized today what a big deal that was! I’m very thankful my mind is working again and I was able to keep my word. What follows is a re-blog of her magnificent book, “Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartun Bipolar Disorder.”