It’s possible to be a little broken and still live out your purpose. I found this mini coffee maker at Goodwill for $3.99. First, it wouldn’t brew. Last night Robert realized that someone had put the coffee grounds in the … Continue reading
I wrote a piece for Juggling the Jenkins blog. If she chooses it, it will go on the blog and in her new book. We’ll see! I thought I’d share it here because it’s a short version of my story. … 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.
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.
Having a stress-free and successful week for me means a lot of preparation on the weekends. Since self care is my number one goal each day (well, sobriety, including self care), I have to work really hard to make that work.
The boys made a fruit salad Friday night with the fresh fruits I just bought :-).
I finished my yogurt. I only have 8 jars this time because Karis and her friends had some while I was putting it into jars :-).
I also made some Elderberry Syrup in the Instant Pot (loosely based off a recipe from Azure Standard). It smelled so good!
Saturday was New Year’s Eve. I desperately wanted to start the new year off right, so we spent the day focusing on getting the house in order. We took down our Christmas tree.
We cleaned bathrooms, floors, the kitchen, got caught up on laundry, and the kids all cleaned their rooms.
Then I went to work prepping.
I cut up veggies and fruits for the week.
Then I packed lunches and snacks for the days I go into town for AA. This is cottage cheese, veggies (bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, orange grape tomatoes, and celery), fruit (grapes, oranges, and strawberries), Triscuits, and mixed nuts for a snack.
Then I baked some Banana Chocolate Chip Power Cake Muffins for the week (and for the freezer). I use Lily’s chocolate chips and sucanat for sweetener. Next time I will add a little more sweetener. They aren’t very sweet. They are good, though!
I’m excited about these because they are full of protein and whole grains!
Karis enjoyed some time with her friend building things out of modeling clay while the boys played outside with their friends.
We spent several hours with our neighbors and had a fantastic dinner of homemade tamales!
We ended NYE early so that we could get up early to go to church!
We got up yesterday morning and went to church… which was a fantastic way to start the new year!
We went to Walmart and the kids spent their Christmas money :-).
The kids had a blast playing the Wii U with their daddy.
We ate roast and veggies for dinner, and ended the night with reading, singing, and praying!
I’m so excited about the new year!
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!
This week has been full of ups and downs. Mostly ups, but some bad days and good days; some good moments, and bad moments. I had a lot of time to reflect on what that means in regards to my illness.
I have had some GREAT moments in my life (hindsight, these times were most likely hypomania that I didn’t know I was having). During these times I felt on top of the world… I felt like I would never have a bad day again. I could bake 10 homemade goodies, make all of my personal care products and cleaning products homemade, keep a spotless house, keep up with laundry, play with the kids, exercise, eat perfectly, plan and prep meals for the week, etc… all in one day. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as a “good mom and wife.” I thought I was amazing. Little did I know, I was living out my illness. This is what hypomania looks like in my life.
This was usually followed by a low period (depression). Those low periods were terrible. Unfortunately I didn’t know what was going on so I thought I was a horrible wife, mom, friend, etc. Sadly I had people on Facebook tell me I was being negative and even had a good friend de-friend me on Facebook because of it (because that helps)… I digress… I couldn’t get out of bed, off the couch, sat staring at my computer for hours and hours, etc. My house was trashed all the time. Laundry would pile up into loads and loads of laundry that needed to be done. My kids were sitting in front of the tv so that I could stay on the couch, on my bed, whatever. I often felt like I wanted to run away and had suicidal ideations (never thought I would go through with anything… just thought that maybe the world would be better off without me).
At this point in my life…
I am considered to be in “remission” from my illness. I’m not having the high moments (hypomania), and I’m not feeling depressed. I still have some anxiety (mainly in the evenings), but it has gotten much better. I was scared to drive for a little while for fear I would get in a wreck, I was scared to let my kids out of my sight, and I would wake up in a panic thinking someone was going to die. All of this recently until the doctor put me back on a medication for anxiety (he had taken me off of it thinking it wasn’t working, but obviously it was).
So the other day I had what most would call a “bad day.” I immediately started thinking, what if I’m going back into depression? What if this isn’t the right dose and medication. I was worried about a bunch of stuff. Then, this amazing thing happened. I dealt with an issue that was bugging me. And all of a sudden I started feeling better. The rest of my day was better. Not amazing, but not depressing. I realized something in that moment. Moments of stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear are normal. It’s just when they last and last that they become a problem. I’m learning that simple problem solving can rid me of these emotions, and I can move on with my day. On the flip side, moments of joy, peace, happiness, being carefree are normal. Ups and downs are normal. It’s the extremes for long periods of time that aren’t.
I have lived in a state of extremes my whole life so I didn’t know what was normal. I’m having to re-learn a lot as I’m in “remission” thanks to the right dose of the right medication. I’m also trying to learn what is anxiety caused by my illness, and what is just normal, regular old anxiety (my doctor reminds me that some anxiety, sometimes is normal).
So here I am, living this life that God has given me. Sometimes feeling joyful, at peace, happy; and sometimes feeling angry, frustrated, or irritable. Ultimately, I’m loving life and this new found peace that I am feeling. I’m still praying that it will continue. My fear sometimes is that the medication will stop working, or that something will happen to cause me to go back into my cycle. So, I’m taking it one day at a time. That’s all anyone can do, right?
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?