Being Simply Me

So… I couldn’t decide which pic to represent ME and I decided to show both because I enjoy makeup, and I enjoy makeup-free as well!  I find that there is beauty in both, and my husband and kids prefer me … Continue reading

Wasting Mental Energy and Space

Gosh.  Who knew?  Who knew that I was doing something that affected my mental energy?  Who knew that I was doing something for 8 months that I didn’t actually like?  It was always hanging over my head, and I never … Continue reading

Transformed By the Renewing of My Mind

These past few months have been transformational.  I have grown in so many ways.  The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that what I believe about myself will be true.  If I believe that I can’t handle anything, that I am … Continue reading

Remembering What’s Important

path1

Today as I was looking at my memories on Facebook of years past on the same day, I came across a blog that I wrote a year ago today (It’s Been a While).  It was exactly what I needed to read.

You don’t really have to read it because the important stuff will be quoted here.

A few reminders:

I am unable to work.  I have tried and tried.  I thought an at home, part time, computer job would be the dream job because it’s more simple than teaching, but it proved to be just as difficult for me as my previous jobs.  I have never been able to keep a job because of my mental illnesses, and I just don’t see that changing.  I have been denied for disability twice and am now working with a lawyer to try to get it.  It’s hard because I’m okay when I’m not working, but my anxiety and depression are terrible as soon as I start working!  It’s hard to explain that to social security!

I truly do have a sick brain.  My bipolar has been under control, but I’m still working on managing my anxiety.  I go to counseling once a week for cognitive behavioral therapy (for anxiety), take lots of medications (6 for my mental health alone, plus supplements and 2 other meds), practice lots of self care, daily prayer and Bible study, and go to AA (including meetings 3-4 times a week, step work, meeting with my sponsor once a week, and daily gratefuls) for my addiction to alcohol.  These are the only way I’m managing right now.  Without these, I would be really struggling.  It takes a lot of work!

I am back to the food freedom, body positivity, anti-diet life.  I wish I had stuck with that last year instead of ditching it and dieting again (for 3 months!).  For some reason summer is a huge trigger for me to diet.  I don’t understand why.  I’m hoping that doesn’t happen again this year.  I am now in several groups that focus on these things, so hopefully I’ll stick with it! I wrote this in last year’s post: “I am learning to finally accept my body the way it is.  I am finally DONE with diets and hard exercise programs.  I am learning to eat to nourish myself (and sometimes that involves a doughnut), move for enjoyment, and I am okay with the fact that I may never be the size I once was.  I have kind of become anti-diet industry now and am un-following everyone that focuses on that (especially the pyramid scheme marketing companies that sell stuff for “weight loss”) because I don’t need that un-healthy view of bodies staring me in the face.  It has brought me so much freedom.”

I’m back to this 100%.  Exactly the same thoughts and feelings, unfollowing people, the freedom it brings, etc.

 

My family has been and continues to be my support.  Without them I don’t know where I’d be.  Between being passively suicidal many times, dealing with alcoholism, and my severe anxiety, it’s been a very hard thing for us all to deal with.  I mean, my kids had to live with my parents for almost a month.  They were completely out of their normal routine, not doing much school, and missing me and home (not my parents’ fault at all, just not normal life for them).  Robert has stood by my side in sickness and health.  He supports me at my worst and at my best.  He loves me for who I am, not who I wish I could be.

One of the biggest things that I have been struggling with is feeling like my blogging doesn’t make a difference.  I do blog for myself mostly, but I want to know that I’m not just blogging for myself.  Yesterday I was reminded that I am speaking to people (I received a private message from an old acquaintance).  Even if it’s just a few, it’s worth it.  I want this blog to be full of authenticity.  I will always be open and real.  I may share things that I’m good at, and that’s okay too!  I’m learning to be confident in the gifting that I have.  I pray that it is all used for God’s glory and not my gain.

Last year I wrote: “This blog will never be what is viral out there, and I’m okay with that. If my blog never grows, then I’ll just know it is for the people who need it, when they need it. I trust God with it all. Numbers don’t matter to me. It’s authenticity and depth that I’m looking for. So, my hope is that you will always find that here. I may not always post about mental illness, but that is typically what I post about. Hope you’ll stick around!”

And now I post about alcoholism because I’ve finally come to terms with that (AA step 1!).

In the midst of it all, God is good and sovereign.  He has a plan, and He will be glorified through it all.  I am me, and I am made the way I am for a reason and a purpose.  I am thankful for the freedom that I have in Him to be that person that He created me to be.

Grati-Tuesday, January 3rd

My start to the new year has been amazing!!!  I feel like I have so much to be thankful for.  I’ve already shared some of these pictures, but I’ll share again!

Some important things that I’m learning:

perfectionism-2

Processed with VSCOcam

The ability to buy plenty of food for multiple weeks (besides produce and other items that spoil, we’ll be able to make this stretch for 3-4 weeks).  This is a huge blessing because we have had years in which this was difficult to do.  We are blessed. (some of this we bought to cook for 8 summer staff, but we ended up not having to do that so we have more food for us!)

img_7596

img_7597

img_7662

img_7696

New, amazing music thanks to a gift card!

img_7702

img_7704

Game playing time with my best friend.

img_7705

A new found confidence.

img_7682

Organization that makes my days easier (and a notebook cover with my chips in it!).

img_7680

img_7690

img_7684

img_7707

img_7706

img_7639

My hubby who loves me for who I am (I don’t think I look great in this pic, but Robert always thinks I look great).  The photo bomber cracks me up.

img_7644

Hubby bonding with his kids over our new Wii U (he has never had a video game console before, so this is new).  He has also been playing Nerf gun wars with them :-).

My hubby and kids in general.  I am so incredibly blessed by them.  They are all a person could ask for.  Robert is the most patient, supportive, loving, caring, and honest man a wife could ask for.  He loves with all that’s with-in him.  Karis is creative, caring, loves Jesus, and is loving towards others.  Ethan is passionate, so helpful, and organized.  Levi is a silly guy, loving, caring, and loves Jesus.  I am so excited to see them grow up!  They are amazing people.

img_7670

img_7671

AA Twenty Four Hours a Day, the Big Book, and AA step work.

img_7646

img_7645

A candle that smells like a fresh, new year!

img_7664

A new Bible study to dig deep into God’s word.

img_7686

  • My mental health is the best it has ever been.  THIS IS HUGE.  My medications make a huge difference, and the work I do on a daily basis also makes a huge difference!
  • Coffee
  • Coke Zero
  • I am beginning to be content with my body the way it is, knowing that my body doesn’t let go of weight due to medications, and I’m ready to just live life and not try to lose weight.
  • The fact that the kids are now in school… which means I have less to be anxious about.  I miss homeschooling a lot, but I know that this is what we all need.
  • Healthy food
  • Unhealthy food that makes me happy

I could probably go on and on, but I’ll stop for now :-).  What are you grateful for on this Grati-Tuesday?

My Story: How God Brought Me From the Pit to Complete Joy and Peace

These past many years have been a very wild ride.  A definite roller coaster.  And I have seen God working through every part of it.  Even when I fought and fought.  Even when I wanted to give up.  Even when I was incredibly impatient.  Even when I just flat out didn’t understand.  God had a plan the whole time.  Looking back, I can see his plan unfold over the past several years (and I mean several… like 10 or more).

Life is hard, y’all.  If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that.  It takes a lot of leaning on Jesus and allowing Him to carry you through it, or we wouldn’t make it.  I have had a lot of things happen in my life and I could wallow in it and say “why me?”  But instead, I chalk it up to the fact that God has a plan to use everything for His glory and name.  He also wants what’s best for us at all times, and sometimes we have to go through the yucky times to get there.  We end up stronger in the end.  Scratch that.  We end up realizing we have strength in Christ.

Just over six years ago, my brother committed suicide in a very gruesome manner.  At the time I was 7 months pregnant with Levi (my third child in a little under 4 years).  I had Levi then went through terrible, terrible postpartum depression.  I wanted to run away.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I was put on some medication and it helped me get through it, but I wouldn’t say life was any easier.  I was grieving.  I had three kids 4 and under.  Robert worked every single day.

We moved to Dallas 6 months later and lived with my in-laws.  I knew if I didn’t start working, we would never be able to leave my in-laws.  So, I got a job.  The next year and a half were brutal and I was still struggling with depression and severe anxiety (and panic attacks).  I was still processing my brother’s horrible death.  I quit working because I couldn’t manage anymore.  My dream was to homeschool, so I tried to do that with Karis and it was pretty much a flat fail.  We moved to Frisco a little later and life was pretty good for a few years (the only working I did was part time at a preschool, which was pretty awesome!).  Then, I tried working full time again.  Bad idea.

Just over two years ago I went into the hospital because I was “passively suicidal.”  Truth is, I just couldn’t live this life anymore.  I had nothing left in me to give.  I would go to work, do an okay job (all while feeling incredibly anxious and on the verge of a panic attack), come home, and go to bed.  Robert took care of everything.  He did an amazing job.  Not only did he do the basics, he went above and beyond like keeping up with laundry, keeping the house clean, etc.

Going into the hospital was the best thing I could have done for myself. I was able to process the feelings of grief about my brother’s death that I was pushing back because I couldn’t handle it.  I met other people like me.  I felt for the first time like I wasn’t alone.  I made friends that I still talk to today.  I was able to just rest.  Do crafts.  Exercise.  Do yoga.  Eat really well.  I almost didn’t want to leave.  It was a breath of fresh air.

Going to the hospital led my doctor to a new diagnosis for me: Bipolar 2.

The next two years have been pretty wild.  I worked off and on, always having to quit because of my illness.  I couldn’t handle a job.  It was too much for my mental health.  It led me back to the hospital in November of 2014.  I realized then that working is just not possible for me.

Last year around this time, Robert received an email from the Operations Director (now Site Director) of Camp Eagle.  We were excited but obviously didn’t get our hopes up because it had taken months (from the time he applied) to even receive an email.  Soon after, Robert had a phone interview, then soon after that, we found ourselves at Camp Eagle for an in person interview, tour of the camp, and a chance to hang out with and meet the staff.  It was amazing.  But, we still didn’t get our hopes up because even though we had this visit.  I’m not sure how many weeks went by (it was excruciating while we waited), but Robert eventually received the offer for the Maintenance Director position.  It was official.  We were moving back to camp.

This past year has been so amazing in so many ways!  I would not want to be anywhere else.  But I can’t say the whole year has been perfect.  This summer I made the realization that my medication wasn’t really working all that well.  I had a major hypomanic period, followed by a major depressive period.  Back to not being able to get out of bed.  Back to sleeping all the time.  Back to passive suicidal thoughts.  My life is so perfect, why am I so depressed?

We decided to put the kids in school again instead of homeschooling because I didn’t think I could handle it because of my depression.

It wasn’t until I saw a new doctor in October (November? Somewhere in there) that I felt like I could do this.  He took so much time to get to know me.  He went back to the beginning.  Through my conversation with him, he came to the conclusion that I do in fact have Bipolar 2 and we need to get it under control.  He made it clear that it is possible to get it under control.  His confidence gave me a huge relief.  He weaned me off of two meds and started me on a new one in which I had to slowly increase the dose.

Around this same time, Karis was really struggling in school.  Long story short, we ended up deciding to pull her out of school and homeschool her.

This school year (since I pulled her out) has been amazing.  Homeschooling her has given me a reason to get up every morning.  We have grown together in our relationship.  It has been fun for me to use some of my teaching skills that I haven’t been able to use in a while.  It hasn’t been easy (lots of trial and error with curriculum, etc), but it has been just what we both needed.

I was still having some hypomania episodes followed by depression (though not NEAR as severe), so my doctor increased my medication one last time and this is it.  This is the right medication and the right dose.  I feel completely and 100% normal.  I have good days, and I have bad days… just like everyone else.  But I’m not hypomanic and I’m not depressed.  I’m also not near as anxious as I used to be.

Between feeling really well, the fact that the boys’ school is 35 minutes away, and the fact that at camp homeschooling just makes more sense, we decided that next year we will homeschool all of our children.  I am so excited that I already ordered all of their curriculum (after hours and hours of research… and thanks to our tax refund).

I share all of this because I have realized a few things.  God had a plan from the time I was in college (well, obviously even before that, but this is where I see things start).  I got my teaching degree, and I love to teach.  It just happens to be in a different way than I envisioned.  I have wanted to homeschool since we were at our last camp, and I’m finally able to do this.  He led me to an amazing doctor who has not given up until he found the right medication and the right dose to help me not have symptoms of hypomania and depression.  My anxiety is the lowest it has ever been.  I have the desire and will to keep up with my house (which has always been a point of anxiety for me), keep up with laundry (which I’ve never been able to do before), homeschool, cook dinner (which sometimes means mac n cheese, dining hall, or something really nice and I’m okay with all of that), bake once in a while (but not obsessively), be content with my body (still getting there, but much more content than ever before), exercise for enjoyment, spend time in the word (not out of guilt, but pure desire), enjoy time with our wonderful community (which, being an introvert, this is huge), reach out and serve others, and just enjoy life.  The ups and downs.  The good and bad days.  This life that He has allowed me to have.

We went to San Antonio Saturday and while it was somewhat stressful (San Antonio River Walk on a Saturday was a bad idea), I feel like these pictures show the pure joy that I feel.  I feel like I can breathe.  Laugh.  Enjoy life.

IMG_3149

IMG_3158

IMG_3161

IMG_3174

IMG_3175

IMG_3189

I can’t express how thankful I am.  I tell God every day.  I wonder if he’ll ever get tired of hearing it?  Probably not.  He delights in praises and gratefulness.

Where are you in your journey?  If you’re in the middle of the fire right now, know that God will use this for His glory and your good.  He loves you.  He knows what’s best.  Just hold onto Him.

Food, Exercise, and Balance

freedom-1396714

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve written about this since I started blogging.  Mostly on my old blog Home of the Croslands over at Blogspot.

Many times in my life, actually, for years, it has been an obsession.

First it was eating all real foods and as naturally as possible.  All of the meat that I bought was natural, and even better, grass fed/organic.  I bought all organic veggies and fruits.  All organic eggs, butter, sour cream, etc.  I bought wheat berries, ground my own wheat, and even soaked it.  I even tried making sprouted flour once.  That was really difficult.  This was all very expensive and we couldn’t afford it, but that didn’t stop me.

Then, I tried the Trim Healthy Mama diet.  I obsessed about what I ate for 6 weeks.  If you know anything about this diet, it is very specific, and it is a lot of work.  You have to eat every 3 hours, or you’re messing it all up.  You can’t eat fats and carbs together.  You can have zero sugar, which means using sugar substitutes such as sugar alcohols and stevia.  All which cause me tummy upset.  I had to cut out a lot of things.

The most recent on was the 21 day fix.  The big thing here is portion control and “eating clean.”  I ate the same thing every day, for every meal.  I didn’t eat enough calories and I worked out like 2 hours a day (the 30 minute workout video, then a hike for about 1 1/2 hours every morning).  It was hard for me to eat enough eating so clean (and with very little fat).

My goal with all of these was weight loss.  Did I lose any weight? Not really.  I lost a few pounds, but nothing significant.

I struggle greatly with balance, and I am a very black and white person.

The last time I tried to lose weight (this summer), I went into a hypomanic episode (thanks, bipolar II).  I began to realize that actually, it happened every single time.  I just didn’t recognize it as such until recently because I’ve only recently been diagnosed.  And anyone that knows anything about bipolar or bipolar II, after the hypomanic episode comes the low… the depression.  I was depressed for several months.  It was miserable.  I couldn’t function.  I felt like I was a drain on everyone around me.  I went the other direction and didn’t take care of my body at all.  No exercise.  Eating terribly.

Since then, I am on all new medications and doses.  I feel like a completely new person.  I feel as though I have energy and desire to spend true, quality time with my family.  I color with them, play games with them, take them on hikes.  I’m homeschooling Karis and it’s going beautifully.  I have a daily routine in which I keep the house clean every day and keep up with laundry.  I feel amazing.

So the question comes back in my mind, can I handle trying to lose weight again?  I mean, I am almost 30 pounds heavier than I was a few years ago.

After lots of soul searching, talking it out, and praying, I have decided that I am done with the days of dieting and exercising to lose weight.

I am learning to be happy and content with who I am, right here, right now.

One of the things that I realized is that I care way too much what other people think about me.  Will I be judged for gaining weight?  What will people think?  People obviously think I am a lazy glutton because of the weight gain, right?

It just doesn’t matter.

I no longer have a scale, and I don’t care about that number anymore.

Does that mean it’s okay to be unhealthy?  No.  Healthy=self care.

So what does all this mean for me?

This means that I will exercise for health.  To feel good.  To set a good example for my kids.  And because I enjoy it.  I will take hikes, ride my bike, do some weight lifting.  Will I do this every day?  Nope.  I will be balanced and do this 3-4 days a week at maximum.  And if I miss a day, I will be okay with that.  Gone are the days of obsessively working out to be a certain size.  It’s not about that anymore.

Now food.  This is a hard one.  Robert (my wonderful husband) has told me that if I need something to follow so that I don’t eat terribly all the time (I feel awful when I do and as I’ve said, I’m very black and white), then I need to create my own way of eating.  What makes ME feel good?  What nutrients does MY body need?  What are some goals that I can have that are perfect for ME?

I’ve come up with a  few small steps that I will add to over time.

  1. Reduce sugar.  Have sugar in my coffee (because this brings me JOY), but try not to have sweets often (on occasion… gotta have a Little Debbie snack once in a while).
  2. Reduce Coke Zero.  This is a big one for me, and I have tried many, many times.  I will be gentle with myself.  My goal is to switch over to La Croix waters, which I love as well.  But I will always get a Coke Zero from Sonic when I’m in town (once or twice a week).
  3. Add in nutrients.  When I am eating a meal, focus on what nutrients are present.  If there’s not enough protein, add some.  If there aren’t enough veggies or fruits, add some.
  4. Eat breakfast.  Every day.  Eggs, Greek yogurt, oatmeal.  Smoothie.  Something.
  5. Eat a snack in the afternoon.  Every day.  Preferably a fruit, veggie, whole grain, or Greek yogurt.
  6. Don’t stress about fats.  Eat butter, peanut butter, full fat dairy, hummus.  Even ranch.  Most of those things are actually nutrient dense (minus the ranch, of course).
  7. Cook most meals at home.  But be okay with eating free food in the dining hall here at camp.

This is a new journey for me.  Self care.  No more scale.  No more weight focus.  Just a focus on health and loving my body just the way it is.  Will you join me?

He Set My Feet on a Rock

feetonarock

Psalm 34
“I will praise the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me;
let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him from all his troubles.

The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who delights in life,
loving a long life to enjoy what is good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceitful speech.
Turn away from evil and do what is good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help.

The face of the Lord is set
against those who do what is evil,
to erase all memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.

Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.

He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.”

Psalm 40:1-3
“I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.”

For years I was crying out for help, in a desolate pit, in muddy clay.  With-in the past few weeks, I feel as though God has set my feet upon a rock and made my steps secure.  I cried out, He heard my cry for help, and He delivered me from my troubles.

Did He do it immediately?  No, not at all.  Like I said, this has been a struggle for years.

Did He do it the way I envisioned?  Nope.  I was envisioning waking up one day just feeling more like myself!  I was hoping He would just heal and cure me.

As someone with a mental illness, I am beginning to learn some really important things.

  1. God can cure illness, but He doesn’t always choose to (from what I’ve seen).
  2. Sometimes He chooses to use doctors and counselors to bring healing and restoration.  I have seen a huge shift in my bipolar and anxiety due to an amazing doctor who gave me the right medications, and a counselor who has taught me how to cope and thrive in my day to day life.  Even with amazing medication, it takes a LOT of work and fight.  I would not be where I am if I had just relied on medication alone.
  3. There is a reason and a purpose for that illness.  God has used my illness in my life to reach out to others.  I have been sharing about it through blogs, and now I have a small group in which I reach out every single day to those with mental illness or just plain old struggle.
  4. The other purpose is He has taught me that without Him, I am nothing.  He is the one who led me to the doctors and counselors.  He gives me power every single day to get up and get going.  He teaches me through His word every day.  The Holy Spirit teaches me every day.
  5. He heals so that He is glorified.  I pray that everyone will see Him in all of this.  Without Him, I would not be where I am today.  Glory be to God!

If you are in a desolate pit today, and even have been for a long time, do not be dismayed.  Do not give up.  He has a plan and a purpose for your struggle.  He knows your heart; He loves you.  He wants what’s best for you.  Sometimes what’s best for you doesn’t look the way we would envision it.  I promise He will make the reason known one day.  It may not be while you’re here on earth but He will.

You were created on purpose, for a purpose.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  I pray that He sets your feet on a rock soon and makes your steps secure.  Trust Him.