Mental Health, Routine, and Adjusting Expectations

This past week has been full of reflection. With the high profile suicides that are happening, my friend asked me if I was okay.  She was concerned since I lost my brother to suicide and because of my own struggle … Continue reading

Grati-Tuesday, January 3rd

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

Some important things that I’m learning:

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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!)

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New, amazing music thanks to a gift card!

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Game playing time with my best friend.

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A new found confidence.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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A candle that smells like a fresh, new year!

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

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

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

Hypomania, Depression, Anxiety, and Self Care

IMG_2706 On our hike yesterday on a trail at camp.

This past week was great in a lot of ways, but discouraging in some ways.  I was hoping that by quitting my job my anxiety and depression would just disappear.  That I would feel as I did before I started working.  I was so “on top” of things.  I followed a schedule and specific routine every day.  I got up at 6:15 with no trouble.  I was showered and ready (make up and dried hair) by the time we started school.  While Karis was doing her independent work, I was cleaning and doing laundry.  The house was always spotless and the laundry was always caught up.  I made dinner every night and even baked bread a few times a week.  I also made more breakfasts from scratch.  I was just on top of everything.

This week was not that way.  I found myself taking naps every morning while Karis was doing her independent work.  I was just so tired.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  I did laundry, but I didn’t stay on top of it like I did before.  I cleaned up the house, but it wasn’t spotless all the time.  And luckily we ate all meals in the dining hall or we would have been having easy meals like mac n cheese or a frozen dinner.

I talked to my counselor about it last week and she thinks maybe I was having some hypomania the few weeks before I started working.  And a week into working I went down hill (which is normal after hypomania).  It’s discouraging, but it’s also encouraging in some ways. I’m beginning to learn what “normal” is.  Normal is doing some laundry and cleaning up the house some, but it’s not perfection.  I was feeling like I was doing everything perfectly the weeks before I started working, and that can only last so long.  It’s not normal to do everything perfectly.  And it’s okay that I’m not perfect.  I was trying to catch up on sleep this past week, and I’m feeling better now.  I didn’t sleep much for over a month, so it just caught up to me.  It’s okay.  It’s normal to not have a spotless house all the time.

I want to get back into routine this week (meaning no nap every morning), but I don’t plan on sticking to my schedule completely.  I can chill out a little and still follow a routine.

On another note.  I thought I would share something that I’ve been holding back for a while because I thought it made me less of a person.  I have decided to start working towards getting disability (knowing I will probably have to get a lawyer to do this).  I’m actually already on the second step.  I have an appointment with their psychiatrist on the 19th.  I have tried and tried and tried to work, and every single time I do, I end up having to quit because of depression, severe anxiety, and panic attacks.  These things affect my ability to do my job and live my life.  I am coming to terms with the fact that I just can’t work.  Through this process, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have a debilitating illness that affects my life in every way.  It can be frustrating to say the least because I want to work.  I want to contribute.  I want to be successful at something.  But I’m learning that it’s not something I can do.  I think I’m learning to be okay with it.  I’m submitting to the fact that I have done my best, and now I can move forward.

My goal for the new year is to learn to live this life to the fullest, and part of that is coming to terms with my illness and learning how to take better care of myself.

Self care for me is routine but not a rigid schedule.  It’s hiking sometimes but not obsessively.  It’s showering and getting ready but sometimes just getting dressed and going about my day.  It’s allowing my house to be messy sometimes but keeping it mostly clean (because when it’s too messy I feel anxious).  It’s learning balance.  Eating for enjoyment and for nourishment.  It’s homeschooling my daughter.  It’s baking things from scratch sometimes and buying baked foods sometimes.  It’s drinking hot tea at the end of the day.  It’s playing a game with my family.  It’s being with my camp family even when I don’t feel like leaving my house.  It’s reaching out and loving others.  It’s spending time in the word but not feeling guilty when I miss out that day.  It’s worshipping my Savior out of love and adoration for Him.  It’s realizing that He has a plan and a purpose for every thing.

If I stick to self care every single day (in some shape or form), I am at my best.  I believe that self care is one of the most important things when it comes to mental illness.  If I’m not taking care of myself, I struggle and become anxious and depressed.  It takes a LOT of work to take care of myself some days.  My desire is to reach out to others and love them where they are.  But I must first love and take care of myself.  I used to think this sounded so selfish.  We’re always taught to love others more than we love ourselves.  I’m learning that I can’t pour from an empty cup.  If I’m not taking care of myself then I can’t take care of my family or be there for friends.

I am so convinced that self care is of utmost importance that every single day I ask friends in a small group that I started what they are doing for self care.  It makes every one stop and think about actually taking care of themselves versus just going about the day feeling empty.

How will you take care of yourself today?

It’s Been a While…

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I haven’t written in quite a while, so I thought I’d write an “update” post for those wondering what’s been going on with me.

On December 8, I began working as the editor for a website.  I very quickly realized it wasn’t going to be a good fit.  I was working way more hours than what I was told I would.  I wasn’t posting enough of what they wanted me to post (viral re-writes and viral click bait) because I didn’t believe in viral stuff (I didn’t feel that it was authentic, and as a reader of that website for a while, that was what turned me off).  These things caused my anxiety to very quickly elevate and I began having panic attacks.  My depression was coming on quickly again.  After 3 weeks (which felt like months), I decided it’s just not worth it.  So, on December 31, I wrote my resignation email and they told me to just wrap it up that day (so thankful!).

So, here I am, back to being stay-at-home-mama and homeschooling mom to Karis.

I would love to say that my anxiety is completely gone and I feel so relieved, but that’s not exactly the case.  I feel as though I’ve failed yet again, which continues to remind me that I do in fact have an illness that I cannot control very easily.  I take medication (and really good stuff… I was feeling amazing before I started working), but as soon as I start working, my anxiety/panic attacks, and depression come right back.  It’s very frustrating to say the least.  I spent an hour crying about it with my therapist, and I realized in that appointment that I still haven’t accepted my illness.  I can accept everyone else’s, but I cannot accept my own.

In the middle of my frustration and sadness, I’m happy to say I’m also growing in some good ways and have learned a lot lately.

I am created the way I am for a reason and a purpose.  God did not mess up when he made me.  I am here to help others, and that’s always been my goal.  I hope someone can learn through my life and hardships.

I have an amazing family that I love more each and every day.  They make me laugh, they love me for who I am, they accept me for who I am, they pray with me, sing with me, cook/bake with me, hike with me, and are just always there.  I could not do this life without them.  So even in the moments of self-doubt, I have the understanding that I am not in this alone.  My husband is my best friend and has been there by my side through all of this (hospitalizations, leaving jobs, etc).  I know that I will always have love and support from him and my kids (and our parents, siblings, etc).  I am using this time to really grow closer to them as well as teach them and learn from them.  It takes a lot of my energy, but it’s well worth it.

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 have learned that I desperately need routine to function at my best.  I have not had routine in three weeks and it has torn me apart.  I need to get up in the morning, spend time with Jesus while drinking coffee, help get the kids ready and going, then shower, dry my hair, and put on make up.  I need to do my one load of laundry a day, keep up with the dishes, keep the house cleaned up, and do one weekly chore per day.  I need to be there for my daughter while she is doing her school work.  And frankly, she needs me.  I am her teacher.  We had a good thing going before I took the job, and we’re right back at it today.  It feels so good.  I am learning that teaching her is my job right now, and I can accept that.  It’s a big job!  And soon enough (in a year and a half), the boys will be homeschooled and I will be teaching them.

Most of all, I’m reminded that God truly does have a plan.  Even though the job didn’t go as I thought it would, I learned a lot in my short time there.  I can use what I learned on my personal blog.  I have been reminded of what I feel is important, and I’ve learned what people need.  I am just using what I learned to move forward.

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!

Self care for me looks completely different than I thought it would look

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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?

Full Circle

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I have been blogging for years.  My old blog is Home of the Croslands over on Blogspot. I still keep it because all of my recipes are there :-).  The main reason why I moved over to wordpress is because I wanted to change my focus and felt that moving over would help me do that.  Ever since I moved to wordpress, my focus has been off of natural living, and on to living life with mental illness.

I started blogging for myself.  It is therapeutic and cathartic for me.  It helps me feel like I have a voice.  It gives me a way to empty my brain of all of the words that are spinning around in it.  It allows me to share what life is like for us who have mental illness.

I have found, over this past year especially, that not only do I give myself a voice with my blog, but I give a voice to all of those that are struggling and don’t know how to put it into words.  It reminds/teaches those who don’t struggle with mental illness that those who do are real people, with a real illness.  I have noticed that there are many people whom didn’t know that mental illness was actually illness until I started blogging.  It’s a place for others to come to in order to feel valued and loved.  A year ago, I created a group (mostly consisting of my friends) in which we share our struggles with each other, talk about self care, and ask for prayer.  It has been an amazing journey, and I have seen how God has taken my love for writing and blogging, and is using it for HIS glory.  Not just the writing, though.  I also see how He is using my illness to bring glory to Him through my sharing.  Without this illness, I wouldn’t be able to reach out to so many and love them with the love of Christ.  I know what it’s like to struggle, daily, and I can lend a hand to others.  This struggle, this illness, is not about me.  It’s about Him.  It’s about loving others.

A while ago (can’t remember how long it’s been now), a friend of mine shared one of my blog posts (actually one that Robert wrote and I shared on my blog) with To Save a Life. As of today, I have had four posts come out on there; 3 of the posts have been this week alone.  I can’t say it has been easy.  Brene Brown says “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”  I have been feeling that this week.  There have been some comments that have definitely not been comfortable to read.  I have put my story out there for 823,000 people to read.  It’s terrifying.  But.  I have seen so many comments about how much my post helped people, so it’s all worth it.  I trust that God has my words on this website for a reason.  I’m not an excellent writer, but I have a story to tell.  I know that God has a purpose for my story, otherwise, I would just hide.  It would be easier.

Here are the posts that are on To Save a Life so far:

Finding a New Normal with Bipolar II 

When I am Dealing with my Mental Illness, Sometimes I forget About God

Truth in the Face of Lies

My Bipolar Makes Me Feel Defective

Another amazing thing is that I realized something today: I am an excellent teacher!  I went back to my old teaching website (The Crosland Owls), and I saw how I taught things.  Wow!!  Amazing!!  I learned so much the year that I made that blog!  I realized in that moment that I am a professional, certified teacher because I am good at it!  God has gifted me in this area for a reason!  Am I using my gifting in the classroom?  No.  And I probably never will again.  But.  I can use this gifting at home with my own children.  I am currently homeschooling Karis and I have been frustrated with not being able to find the perfect curriculum.  I realized today that I don’t even need much curriculum.  I can write my own and teach her the way I KNOW is best.  And I can do this without ANY pressure from anyone above me or next to me because it’s just ME and Karis (and eventually the boys…)!

I ended up printing out so many pictures of charts and graphic organizers that I made and will use them with Karis.  I also found many activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers account that I have already paid for and can use for Karis.  They are all from her grade level!

These are the things coming up that I’m so excited about (move on if this isn’t exciting to you 😉 )!

Social Studies: Thanksgiving (from Scholastic), The Mayflower Compact and questions from it, interviews with passengers from the Mayflower, interactive activities on Scholastic’s website, and interview with a Wampanoag Native American and questions to go with it.  Interactive activities about the daily life of a Pilgrim and Wampanoag.  Interactive activities about what the actual feast was like.
When we’re finished with Thanksgiving activities, we are going back to Texas History.  I actually bought the Texas Social Studies book so I had a basis for Texas History, and I figured I would just expand from there.  The week after Thanksgiving we are doing Native American Poster projects covering the 4 Native American tribes that are mentioned: Karankawa, Caddo, Comanche, and Jumano.  Next, we will move on to the explorers.  I haven’t planned much for that, yet.  Stay tuned (if you’re interested).

Reading: Finishing up Mr. Popper’s Penguins with questions and activities.  After this, I will do a lesson on inferencing using Unspoken, a wordless book about the underground railroad.  Then, we will move into a poetry unit!  We will learn the structure, form, author’s message, and discuss the figurative language present in different poems.  We will also learn how to analyze a poem!  I have about 7 poetry books, so we will keep busy!

Math: Continue with our Saxon 5/4 curriculum (I’m NOT a math teacher…).  This is a good, solid curriculum, and I have seen it be really good for Karis.  I will probably continue with Saxon from now on.

Writing: I’m using First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind for grammar, for now.  I will move on to something different next year.  This is a good basis of language, but it’s boring.  It’s not my style.  One thing at a time!
For writing, next week, we will be learning strong leads and how to write an expository piece.  We will be using the prompt: Things I am thankful for and why.  We will be using the pumpkin graphic organizer for now, and then the week after Thanksgiving, we will be using the snowman.  Check these out here: Latest in Writer’s Workshop.  I will model for her how to fill in the graphic organizer and we will begin the drafting process.  Hopefully we’ll even get to editing and revising.  She will publish her writing the week of Thanksgiving.
After Thanksgiving, I will give her a choice of a few different Christmas and winter expository writing pieces.
After Christmas, we will begin personal narratives (which she has done before, but we will re-address this!).  I have an amazing four square graphic organizer that looks like a house!

Science: We’re actually going to be taking a break the next two weeks while we do a Thanksgiving unit in Social Studies, but we will pick back up on Habitats in this curriculum: Elemental Science: Biology for the Grammar Stage. This is an excellent curriculum full of living books and hands-on activities!  Karis has loved it so far!

Handwriting: Karis is learning cursive (again) with A Reason for Handwriting.  The goal is to have her actually use cursive in her writing and spelling, over time.  I know this is kind of a lost art, but I believe it is important.

Spelling: We use the Evan-Moor Spelling program called Building Spelling Skills.  It’s very simple, but I like it because it utilizes different activities to teach spelling.  Editing for spelling, word meaning, word study, then the typical spelling test is done on Fridays.  So far, she has made A’s!

Anyway, I’m obviously, finally very excited about teaching Karis because I have been reminded that I can.  It’s not about relying on a perfect curriculum.  It’s about doing what I love to do and am gifted at.

And one other amazing thing… I have had an amazing week with my routines/schedule! I made a schedule for Karis on Monday, and a routine list for myself, and I have followed it almost completely every day this week.  I can’t tell you how helpful this has been for my health.  I also created a chore chart for the kids, and they have followed it every morning and afternoon this week!

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EVERY DAY this week I have gotten up, showered, put on makeup, and dried my hair.  This is a picture of me today, day 5.  I like this picture because it shows victory!  Before this week, I struggled to get out of bed each morning, let alone shower, put on makeup, and dry my hair!

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Praise God for bringing me full circle and showing me the why of so many things.  These past 6 years or so have been very difficult.  He is reminding me today that He has a purpose in the difficulty.  He can and will make beauty out of ashes!