We are currently at my in-laws in New Mexico and this is the first time that we have been here that I haven’t been struggling a ton. This past December I wasn’t feeling well. Last summer I was struggling with … Continue reading
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
It’s Good Friday and it’s always interesting to me that they call the remembrance of the death of Jesus a “good” thing. Ultimately it was a good thing for all of His children because He gave His life for us. Because of this we have a new life and the forgiveness of sins. We have grace through faith in Christ. I’m so thankful for His sacrifice.
The kids and Robert have today off. We came to my parents’ for the night and will be going to my Meemaw’s tomorrow to celebrate Easter. Sunday we will be celebrating Easter at camp with a sunrise devotional, some traditions at home that we do every year (The Flowering Cross book and cookie cake, Resurrection eggs, and The Jesus Storybook Bible reading… my kids are growing up and they still want to do these things!), and a pot luck and Easter egg hunt (including a scavenger hunt for the big kids) with camp family. This weekend is going to be amazing :-). Easter is one of my favorite holidays! To remember Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection can’t be bad!
It’s also beautiful this time of year in Texas. It’s in the mid to upper 70s or even in the 80s right now. The sun shines often. Right now there’s a slight breeze, and I’m sitting on their huge covered porch. I had forgotten how relaxing it is here. I know that the kids and I will be back to spending a lot of time here during the summer. It’s much harder to be here during the school year!
I don’t have much to say today! I hope you enjoy this Friday and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us!
Over the years, due to my mental illness, I have had to simplify my life so much.
I have tried working so many times and can’t; I’ve tried homeschooling (many times) and can’t.
These cause severe anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Also, with my bipolar 2, I never know if I’m going to be able to function from one moment to the next. I haven’t been stable for more than a month at a time for years.
Because of this, I am working towards getting disability. I have a hearing soon and I’m using a lawyer.
Simple Schedule and Routine
Recently, I decided to get rid of a lot of things and truly simplify. I organized well in order to keep things easy to keep up with. I take one day at a time. I try not to over-plan because I know that that usually means anxiety.
The only things on my plate are:
- Time with family (though the kids are gone from 6:30 till 4:30 every day, so that means I’m alone a lot)
- Self care
- Bible study (personal daily and women’s once a week) and Church (a few times a month)
- AA (twice a week, at one hour each time)
- Counseling (sometimes) and kids’ counseling (every other week)
- Coffee with friends (when I can handle it)
- Cleaning (I have a daily routine that I keep up with so things don’t get out of control)
- Cook/make simple meals
- A few small hobbies as I can handle it (mostly blogging and baking)
Our kids also have very simple lives.
- Chores (daily they make their bed, fold and put away laundry, and clean up their rooms and living room if they leave things there)
- School (of course, they are gone a long time every day for school)
- Homework (very little… reading for 20-30 minutes and math and/or spelling)
- Play (they spend a lot of time outside and with friends)
- Play games and read
- Electronics, limited
Karis does choir (one hour a week), and Ethan does some mountain biking (a few races a year). No large amount of time doing sports or other extra curricular activities. This isn’t for everyone, but it’s best for our family.
I basically just sit down with my Happy Planner the night before or the morning of and plan my day. It tends to be a lot of the same each day and I’m good with that. Other than that, I go by my daily/weekly routine.
We typically eat a lot of the same things consistently. I try to mix it up sometimes, but pretty much every meal I do is simple. I use my instant pot a lot, and I usually make meals that don’t take very long.
I have a weekly routine to do some food prep so that things are simple through the week. I fill my veggie tray to pull out for lunches and sometimes for dinners. I sometimes make homemade Greek yogurt, but this time around I just bought some.
I try to buy some things that are convenience to be easy to use/eat. For example, I buy already cut broccoli and baby carrots. I buy some granola bars and peanut butter crackers. I LOVE buying pre-boiled and peeled boiled eggs (I hate boiling and peeling them). The boys just grab a bag and eat a few for snacks. And I eat them at lunches often. Sometimes I buy pre-made salads but they are much more expensive than buying leaf lettuce. So sometimes I buy leaf lettuce, tear/cut it, and add some bagged spinach to it. I have taken a break from salads for a while, though.
I meal plan each week so that we all know what we will be eating. It helps keep the guess work out of it, and I am able to do any prep ahead of time (like thawing meat, etc).
We also eat in the dining hall when we can because it’s free, and I don’t have to cook and clean up. Sometimes I can’t handle being in a loud dining hall, but I’m getting to where I can these days.
The Little Things
I try really hard to enjoy the little things each day. I have learned to be content with what we have and where we are in life. I am at peace with where we live and know that this is life from now on (unless God has us move on, but I highly doubt it to be honest). I light candles every day, and start out with a good cup of coffee. I have been slowly decorating our home (on a tight budget) because I want to enjoy being here. Having coffee with friends has helped me to grow closer to others here and it has given me a ministry (other than AA). I enjoy getting up in the morning now and watching the sun rise.
I love hiking and am so glad that we have the hiking trails right outside our door. We live on 1400 acres. We try to take family hikes on weekends as we can. It doesn’t always work out. This is basically the only form of exercise that I like :-).
I love our home. It’s not very big (about 1300 sq ft), but it’s perfect for us. The boys share a room, Karis has her own room (that is so fun and perfect for her), and our bedroom has a comfy love seat in it (that I got for $30 from a Thrift Store). I have an amazing “bonus room” with my office area, a couple of shelves with books, a chair with side table and books, my guitar (that my brother gave me and I want to learn how to play), curtains (that were $20 for 4 panels), a fun rug ($30 on Amazon), and a bunch of art that I already had or got for $1 at Dollar Tree. It’s my favorite room in the house. I also have a succulent plant on the windowsill by my desk :-).
Our living room is so great. The tree wall was here when we moved in.
I spent a lot of time working on the kids’ rooms recently and it’s so much easier to keep clean.
I love our kitchen and our food storage. It makes me happy. I spend a lot of time in there.
This is the view from our back windows/back porch.
My office and bedroom are my sanctuary. I just love them.
I just love life and feel at peace with where we are. I am also excited about our future and what that looks like.
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?
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.