This post started in my head as a message to a friend, then turned into an Instagram post, then I decided it needed a whole blog post. I have struggled over the years with “writer’s block,” and I have recently … Continue reading
What a week it has been. I’m sorry if this post is all over the place. I have sat down to write it so so many times and have been up and down and all around. Haha. This week … Continue reading
Last Thursday night was so fun. I was invited to and went to a night where we learned about goal setting and creating vision for our life. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but it was pretty great. I … Continue reading
I’ve been feeling good for about a month now. My “feel good” time started out really strong with lots and lots of energy and motivation. I really thought I was hypomanic but wasn’t sure. I just kept going with it. But also, when I started feeling good was just about 3-4 days after I started a new med. I hoped that’s what was making me feel good. Again, I wasn’t sure.
A month later, and I’m still feeling good. This is just odd because I typically don’t feel good for very long. Either I am struggling with severe anxiety, I’m hypomanic, or I’m depressed. Just “feeling good” isn’t super common. Sure, I have my good days, but this has lasted continuously for a month. I can remember one day where I felt “down,” but it was because I was really tired and slept a lot.
Previous to this, I was pretty miserable. I was pretty depressed. I was sleeping all day, every day. I wasn’t sleeping at night. I was anxious. My house was a complete disaster and there were always piles and piles of laundry. I felt like I had no purpose in life and didn’t know what else to do with myself. I just felt like that was my life from now on.
Part of this is because I put my kids in school and the homeschooling season is just over for our family. Part of this was because I was so, so tired all the time. I also have hypothyroid on top of my other issues. Then I was just in a bad cycle of not sleeping at night and sleeping all day. It’s hard to get out of that. Now if I don’t sleep well, I try not to go back to sleep, and I end up sleeping better the next night. If I do sleep during the day, it’s for like an hour, not 4 hours.
The hard thing for me right now is that I’m scared to hope too much. I don’t want to assume that I’ll feel good consistently if that’s not reality. I mean, everyone has bad days or “down” days, and I can handle that. It’s the debilitating depression and severe anxiety that I cannot handle. Well I guess I can handle it, but I really, really don’t want to.
I do have hope in Jesus, but I am also aware that He has never promised us an easy life and I know that perfection won’t happen till heaven. In the mean time all I can do is take one day at a time and enjoy the good days.
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:
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!)
New, amazing music thanks to a gift card!
Game playing time with my best friend.
A new found confidence.
Organization that makes my days easier (and a notebook cover with my chips in it!).
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.
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.
AA Twenty Four Hours a Day, the Big Book, and AA step work.
A candle that smells like a fresh, new year!
A new Bible study to dig deep into God’s word.
- 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!
- 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?
You would think that the decision to go to a treatment center for my alcohol use would mean that I was willing to admit I was an alcoholic.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
For several days, every single time I woke up, I would think “Why in the world am I here? What am I doing?” I didn’t feel that I belonged. I felt that I was somehow different than the people around me. I mean, I didn’t drink a bottle of vodka a day. I didn’t even drink every single day. I could quit for a time (a few weeks). Surely I’m not really an alcoholic.
It took a lot of explanation from the addiction doctor for me to understand. AND reading the Big Book, the AA meetings, Big Book meetings, meeting with the Big Book teacher, etc. It took a while for me to come to terms with it (which is step 1).
Some quotes from the Big Book that helped me understand:
“Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.”
“But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.”
“Once in a while he may tell the truth. And the truth, strange to say, is usually that he has no more idea why he took that first drink than you have. Some drinkers have excuses with which they are satisfied part of the time. But in their hearts they really do not know why they do it. Once this malady has a real hold, they are baffled a lot. There is the obsession that somehow, someday, they will beat the game. But they often suspect they are down for the count.”
“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice to drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.”
“If you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably an alcoholic.”
This last quote specifically is when I realized I was an alcoholic. I’ve been able to quit for a few weeks at a time, but I have never been able to stay that way. I always pick it right back up and drink more than before. Also, when I start drinking, I don’t stop until I run out. I would drink all the beer that Robert wouldn’t drink. I would buy beer, come home before Robert did, and drink it all before he got home (being drunk by the time he got home at 5 or 5:30). I would drink 12-15 beers at a time some times. If I had rum or vodka, I always started in the morning, not long after I woke up. Well, even beer… I mean, I rarely had any beer left for the next morning. But if I did, I would start early. Again, this wasn’t every day, but it was often enough (4-5 times a week… sometimes more). This has been going on for several years and had just gotten worse over time.
Then… I got out of La Ha and met with my counselor as soon as I got out. She read to me the description of someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says:
“To assess whether you or loved one may have an AUD, here are some questions to ask. In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?”
I literally had every single one of these. So apparently I have severe AUD and didn’t know it!
The beautiful thing is, there is a solution!
The first thing I needed to do was find a sponsor. I had one sponsor, then decided she wasn’t a good fit. I’m so thankful that I went to a women’s meeting and found a new one! She is amazing!
I talk to her every single day and tell her what I’m grateful for (minimum of 3 things, but I often tell up to 10). I meet with her once a week. I’m going through the twelve steps with her.
These are the twelve steps:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The most important thing is connecting with God every day through Bible study (at least for me) and prayer. I am learning to meditate. It’s been life changing!
Self care is also huge. If I can’t focus on my self care, then I have more anxiety, which in turn, makes me want to drink. So I have to be very careful to put that first.
I drive to AA 3 times a week. Twice a week to women’s AA (Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions study) and once a week to the 720 Club Brown Bag group (joint men and women).
This is how I realized I am a true alcoholic, what AUD is, and what the solution is. God is so good!
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.
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.
Like I wrote in my last post, my doctor told me he wouldn’t give up until I no longer have symptoms of Bipolar II. I am so thankful for a doctor that has faith that this is attainable. Until he said that last Monday, I thought I would always live with the symptoms to some degree.
As the new dose and new med are getting into my system, I’m beginning to feel more stable and balanced than ever before. This new stability is helping me see something that I’ve never seen/understood before.
I have struggled with balance in every area of my life for as long as I can remember. Food, exercise, alcohol, weight obsession, and even cleaning and laundry. I’ve had an all or nothing attitude about everything.
I ate perfect (obsessing), or I ate terrible. I exercised 2-3 hours a day (doing exercise that I hated) or not at all. I have been obsessed with my weight since I was a kid. I focused on it completely or gave up. I had too much alcohol too often, or I didn’t have any. I had a spotless house, or I had a house that was trashed.
As I’m becoming more stable I’m realizing that it is possible to have balance in these areas, and I’m finally coming to that balance that I’ve always desired.
Recently, I’ve started exercising 4-5 days a week. Karis and I hike for an hour each afternoon. I love hiking most of all, and even though it’s not strength training, I’m okay with that. I eat healthy much of the time, but I don’t fret over a piece of cake or sugar in my coffee. I eat when I’m hungry. I try not to eat out of emotion. I eat more intuitively than ever before. I eat and exercise for health rather than weight loss. I learned that some of my issue with weight is out of my control because of medication, and I’m learning to accept that. It’s really cool that my Fitbit shows my resting heart rate over time, and it has slowly been decreasing, which is huge! I have beer (or wine) a few times a week, and when I do, it’s just a few. I don’t drink to cope anymore, which was a huge issue when I was in the thick of things. My doctor told me it’s really common for people with high anxiety to drink to cope because it takes it away for a time. But the downfall of that is that it can lead to addiction, and it’s really bad for you. It also doesn’t help with weight issues :-). There are so many more healthy ways to cope and take care of yourself, and I’m learning to practice those things. So, I don’t feel like I need it anymore like I used to. Instead of drinking alcohol, I drink my favorite hot tea or coffee (decaf at night). I play a game with my kids or Robert. I journal. I sit on the porch and enjoy the evening. I chat with friends. I go for a hike. I clean. I spend time planning for homeschooling or researching homeschooling curriculum (the nerd in me enjoys these things). I cook or bake. I write. There are so many more things that I can do for self care and to cope with feeling bad. If none of these things work, I take medication designed to help with anxiety instead of drinking. It’s made a world of difference for me!
My prayer now is that this balance in my moods and every area of my life stays this way. I have heard of many people finding the right combination of medications and things stay great. I’ve also heard of people finding the right combination and it ends up not working as well down the road. So, I’m just taking it one day at a time. If nothing else, I’m learning more about myself every day. I am able to control things better with the wisdom and knowledge that I have gained, and I have also learned a lot about practicing self care… the most important part of my day as far as I’m concerned.
The most important part of all of this is that God has led me to the right doctor, a great counselor, and great friends and family to support me and help me through all of this. I feel that God has a purpose and a plan for all that I have gone through and continue to go through. I have seen Him work in my life and the lives of my friends because of my illness.
Being this open and vulnerable is really hard sometimes. I have the fear of what people will think of me. But I have found over time that vulnerability is courage, and that courage is what helps others. It’s worth it if I help one person to feel encouraged through my vulnerability.
Being vulnerable is hard, especially for someone who is a people pleaser. After I share something deep and hard, I always wonder what people are going to think. I make assumptions of what certain individuals are thinking or will say, and it can cause anxiety. But, I have realized that vulnerability makes me stronger. Over time, I care less and less about what people think or are going to say because I know God has called me to be vulnerable. It’s in the moments of vulnerability that He is glorified through me and lives are affected.
I share for many reasons. The two main reasons are because it helps me, and it helps others.
When I share, it helps me to be me. I am an open person and always have been. As time as gone on, I have realized that it’s okay to be me. I will never change. It helps me because often I have a lot on my mind and I’m able to get it all out. It is therapeutic for me.
It also helps me because others know how to pray for me and encourage me. I will be real here and say I need that.
It helps others because they feel less alone in their struggle. I am often told that I am brave, courageous, and strong; but I just feel like I’m doing what God has called me to do. I am often private messaged and told that what I shared spoke directly to someone and they are struggling. They need to know that other people struggle too. So often people put on a front that everything is perfect in their lives. The “Facebook” or “Instagram” mentality. It makes people feel isolated and alone. When someone shares the “real” in their life, people feel less alone. I only hope that people see Jesus in me as I’m being real. I don’t ever want the focus to be on me but on what He is doing in my life and through me. He allows all of this for His glory.
I would encourage you to be vulnerable today. Whether it’s in a blog or on Facebook, or even with a trusted friend. Be courageous.
I have been wanting to write for a while, but I just haven’t felt inspiration. I tend to find more inspiration when I’m in the depths of depression or the throes of anxiety. I don’t know what it is, but I imagine it’s the same way for people who are artists or song writers.
I decided yesterday that maybe I would write about how much I’m thankful for medication that makes me feel more like myself. I get up each day (6:30) and have the motivation help get the kids ready for school, get them to do their chores (before the boys leave for school and Karis starts school), shower and get ready (all the way to makeup), have time with Jesus (while Karis does), do chores to keep the house clean and laundry caught up, do school with Karis, and even have time to do what I want to online all before it’s time to pick the boys up. Then, I pick them up and do homework with them. Every evening I make their lunches for the next day, make dinner, and sometimes (once or twice a week), I bake bread from scratch. I also often bake muffins or breakfast cookies for breakfast at this time. All of these things that I do daily are typed out on a chart and hanging on my bulletin board (along with Karis’ daily schedule).
Then, today happened. I woke up at 9:00 (Robert wasn’t here… he camped last night). I walked into chaos in my boys’ room. The kids were hanging from the bunk bed; they had made a chain of hangers starting from the top bunk down to the bottom. There were Legos, cars, books, pillows, blankets, everywhere. It was a disaster. All I could do was turn and walk away before I lost it. Then, I waited and waited for Robert to get home while the kids made a disaster on my dining room table with play-dough and all that goes with it.
At that point, I still hadn’t done anything on my routine check-list. I was just sitting on my computer working on a post on my homeschooling blog while the chaos was going on around me. Instead of doing what I know to be helpful, I couldn’t get myself up and moving. I just sat there. The kids decided that they wanted to have a “camping out and watching movies day,” so once Robert got home, we did just that (it was, after all, their advent activity for the day, and since we have an early and full day tomorrow, we decided it would be okay to do during the day). We got the sleeping bags out and let them “camp out” in their pajamas and watch movies. This was really hard for me for multiple reasons; the main reasons being that it meant the living room would be a mess, they were staying in their pajamas (which meant I would probably stay in mine), and it was completely out of my routine.
I began feeling the anxiety build up. I was becoming irritable. I didn’t want anyone touching me or talking to me. I didn’t feel as good as I have the past few months. I started feeling the way I do when I’m super anxious and on the verge of depression. I thought “here we go again.”
I decided at that point it was time to get back into my routine to an extent (as much as I could at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon with all my kids home). I showered. I dried my hair. I cleaned up the living room (the kids decided they wanted to play outside!).
I started to feel so much better just by doing those things.
I realized many things about myself today.
For me, self care looks like a solid routine and schedule. It means that I take a shower and get ready every day. It means that I keep my house clean. It means that I am intentional with my time.
It’s okay that when I’m out of my routine I feel like I’m spinning out of control. That just means I need to stick to my routine as much as I possibly can.
It’s okay that I can’t just have a “lazy day at home” and feel good about it.
I used to think that I wanted to be “normal.” To be able to have a day like everyone else and not have anxiety or emotional struggle. But what is normal anyway? Self care means something different for everyone, and it looks different for everyone. I just need to be okay with the self care that works for me and stick with it.
Self care for some is staying up late and reading a good book. Crocheting. Sleeping in late. Drinking lots of water and eating healthy. Drinking a good cup of coffee. Taking a walk. Spending time with friends or family. Running. Lifting weights. Sewing. Writing. Organizing. Cleaning. The types of self care could go on and on as many times as there are people in the world.
We are all made different for a reason and a purpose. My self care just happens to look different than what I envisioned as “normal” for the rest of the world, and I’m okay with that.
What does self care look like for you?