And So This Is It…

I guess as you all know we’re still in the midst of this pandemic. Which let me just tell you, has been well…hard. It’s pushed me to levels of many things. But mostly it’s taught me about patience and it’s taught about self care. It’s taught me SO much about self care and how important it is (which let’s be real, I’ve hear it over and over and over), but this has drilled it in for me. Self care is an absolute must for me right now, and while I still find it hard to practice at a level that I actually need (I have four children, run my own business and have a husband) I MUST make time for me. With all that being said, I’ve also found that right now I’ve come find that I also need have acceptance.

What is acceptance?

Acceptance:

1. the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered;

2. the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group;

I’ve been finding that when I can have acceptance of, not just my mental illness (I have Bipolar 1), but also the ups and downs that come with it and the uncertainty of it, the medications that come it and the everyday trials and tribulations that come with it, life can be much smoother. I’ve also been coming to terms with my myself and knowing that I can’t do everything. This has been life altering. Admitting that I’m human and I’m only one person, especially amidst the world right now, has made life seem just simpler. Not perfect, or even close to perfect, but simpler. I’ve found over and over in my life that acceptance is the answer for me. To all of my problems, no matter how small or how big they may seem.

This brings me to something else that has been weighing heavily on my mind recently… friends. My friends. I’m so blessed to have be grounded with truly the most amazing women. I’m surrounded by love and trust, and I’m grateful that I’ve created this group of women around me. We lift each other and we lean in and we give to each other. We are the perfect mix of exactly what each of us need and for that I am eternally grateful for. BUT I want to say that part of that is because we created that. Friends are a relationship, so that means it’s work sometimes. And that isn’t always easy. It doesn’t mean we see eye to eye all the time or that we talk every single day. It means that we love each other and we support each other. We help each other and we know each other. My friends know when I need help, and more importantly I know that if I need help I can go to my friends. Accept your friends for who they are. AND love them hard for it. I’m so happy my friends aren’t exactly me, because they honestly balance me out. They give me peace and joy and laughter. They give ME acceptance. Find your friends and love on them hard and let them love on you. Reach out if you need help and be honest with them. Find friends that let you be you and vice versa. Find your friends and love on them hard and let them love on you. Reach out if you need help and be honest with them. Find friends that let you be you and vice versa.

My final thoughts for this post are love yourself and accept yourself. Self acceptance is so hard. I’m finding that the more I can love myself the more I can love others. But I must love myself first. I can’t give what I don’t have. For me it is paramount that my children know self love, that they also know self care. It’s such a valuable lesson, a hard one, but one that I believe is at the top of the list. So today, I’m going to do just that. I’m going to love myself. I’m going to practice self acceptance and acceptance of things around me. I’m going to love myself and hard. I’m going to accept myself. And I’m going to urge you to do the same.

Let’s Get Real… Mania Through My Eyes…

So. I want to get really honest. I want to talk about being in throes of Bipolar 1. I mean get really honest about what life has been like recently, as I navigate this slippery, and crazy road. These past few months have felt, well exhilarating (if you’ve experienced that blissful, euphoric, dangerous part of mania then you know exactly what I’m talking about), while simultaneously feeling like a dreadful awful few months. I’ve been riding those insane highs, that then become so sickening and terrifying (often includes severe lack of sleep, ‘pressured speech’, delusions and hallucinations, as well as an uncanny ability to become irritated at my husband and life, spending a lot of money…. you’re likely getting the point) in just a matter of days or even hours… and goes on for unknown amounts of time. I want to talk about what that looks like, and as you know this is just parts of my story. I must say I often can feel that ‘itch’ as I call it or the hairs on my arms start feeling funny, well before I am at the end of my mania. This most recent time something so personal triggered this episode. I had no idea at the time that this episode would lend to so much at one time. After this first event, it was completely out of my control and related to hormones, I knew something was shifting. I’m not sure if I truly felt it right away or just knew I was already so fragile from a recent episode that it more than likely would, but nevermind that. Whether I just had a gut feeling or truly felt it right then doesn’t much matter. Shortly after ( about a week and a half afterwards) I’d flown out to see my mom. Now, a few things were so different about this than every other time. First being that this previous event had just occurred (I’d had my trip booked for a few months prior to that). Second, being that I was still finding my ‘sense of stableness’. And third, last but certainly not least, being that I was travelling alone… NONE of my four little ones were coming with me and my husband was staying with them. This is of course significant for many, many reasons. I was SO excited, but noticed just prior to leaving that I wasn’t sleeping much, I was BEYOND elated and I found myself in this fantasy land of wondering what was to come on this magical trip. Things also started to feel really intense… The type of intense that you can’t quite convey to people…The type of intense where you can feel every. single. emotion. to your bones and core. This is a feeling, as far back as I can remember, that always proceeds a good, solid manic episode. A manic episode that is likely going to take me and everyone around me on a wild ride. Now, I must say I’ve been so blessed with an amazing family and with being treated and with amazing doctors. There has never really been any doubt about what I have and I have a support team that loves me unconditionally and support me. So… moving forward. I proceeded to go on this trip, though I remember vividly mentioning to my mom how wonderful I felt, how good the sun beaming on my skin felt…. And then it happened. The non stop, rapid thoughts. At first it feels so good. I feel my most creative (and seeing as I’m a photographer that matters a whole lot to me), I feel determined and like I can conquer the world. I quickly made plans to go out with my mom, pick up cigarettes (did I mention I don’t smoke unless manic), and contacted a dear friend who lived in the area. I also remembered very quickly how badly I wanted another tattoo; I have several and in my defense I’d been planning this for several months. But what also happened right in that moment was I decided I could maybe even get a few…since I didn’t have the kids with me. I distinctly remember saying out loud to my mom, that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible while I was there and noting what days she had to work. I then remember saying…’Ok, maybe I’ll get another tattoo too… only if it’s easy, then I’ll know it’s ok and ‘meant to be’. And so it continued. …The pure bliss that mania first starts out as.

I often struggle trying to explain what comes next. What comes after this amazing high, this crazy intensity of ALL emotions, and the sense of pure grandiosity. Right around this time, now like I said this is just my story and not all of my manic episodes have gone this way, I start to become very noticeably unwell. I often haven’t slept in quite a few days, and it’s quite possible I haven’t eaten or showered either. My thoughts are usually racing so quickly that I feel I don’t quite have the time to worry about those things. In fact, this last episode I had a close friend over and I remember telling her how absolutely appalled I was that this conditioner was leaving my hair SO greasy, she quickly looked and agreed that that conditioner seemed to have clinged to my hair. What she didn’t know, and what I had completely forgotten (or just didn’t realize) until I wasn’t manic, was that amidst my lovely shower two days prior… I had one of the ‘BEST’ ideas I’d ever had and had to jump out of the shower right that second to act on it. And just like that you have it. The conditioner was in fact still in my hair… there never was any sort of washing it out. So there you have it, mystery solved! So. You see as it progresses it almost evolves. Shortly after this I remember being so insanely frustrated with my husband. What I was frustrated with him about was actual a complete delusion. And boom! Pair that with lack of sleep, grandiosity and anything else, starts the ideas and often times hallucinations. Now, I’m not saying every manic episode I have that I experience hallucinations. BUT this specific time (and others) I did. I came home from my trip and started noticing immediately that things were quickly shifting. And of course, so did my husband. The next week or so proceeded to get worse and worse. For me and for others around me. My spending got worse, my ideas got worse (and increasingly riskier), my sleep continued to dwindle, my delusions and so got worse. Thankfully, like I said earlier, I have such an amazing team of doctors, family and friends. I should add, several of my close friends reached out with concerns. My husband and I quickly reached out to my doctor, even IF at the time I felt like no, I don’t need help (like I said delusional), I took the step with support. My doctors quickly realized I was in a manic episode and adjusted my medications accordingly. Now… many think this means things just go right back to pre mania… I’m here to tell you that is not the case. At least not for me. There have been times where I’ve needed hospitalization in order to come out of a mania phase or because I was in a ‘Mixed state’ (if you don’t know what that is I encourage you to reach out) and suicidal while also completely consumed by mania.

This specific time, took several weeks and things got worse before they got better. Again, this has been different at different times and depending if I’m gripped with depression or consumed with mania. Or again, a mixed state. Almost, always looking back at my manic episodes (since this is what I really went into) I can see where things started going south. I can see that I was hallucinating, delusional and so consumed by figuring out a puzzle, or being my best creatively wasn’t so healthy. I can also see how good that first few ‘moments’ of bliss felt. I can see how much money I spent on absolutely nothing. I often can’t fully recollect things in the correct chronological order, but can have enough to piece it together from others around me. I can remember the intense feelings and then I quickly realize when I’m no longer manic how much I have to put back together. Which is often times so very hard. Putting the pieces back together after a manic episode is hard as hell. Life seems to be a bit of a blur, but most are expecting it to be back to what it was. It takes time, seeing my therapist, my psychiatrist and any other doctors. It takes work and a lot of forgiveness and healing. It takes realizing that my everyday life needs to shift, that I HAVE to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. It often takes a lot of journaling and writing for me, a lot of acceptance and a lot of willingness. Because again, being real, this illness doesn’t discriminate against any one. So. Thank you all for listening and reading. Thank YOU for sharing this bit of space with me!

-M

What Five Days Of Self Care Did For Me…

Late last year my husband and I, and therapists, both decided that taking a trip each year by ourselves would be something nice. It quickly became something we realized we both really needed to do. With four children, one with special needs, and ranging in age from 12-2 years old, owning my own business and my husband working 70 hours a week things can quickly all start to blur together.

SO. A couple of months ago I talked with my husband about scheduling a trip to California (my mom lives there now, as does a good friend I haven’t seen in years). I decided to fly in early on Wednesday morning and leave late on a Sunday night, putting me back in VA very early in the morning. (Which I will chat a bit about as a red eye flight isn’t super ideal for me anymore) I felt this was perfect for me because it meant I could spend the entire day Wednesday with my mama and I’d get to sped Sunday during the day with my mama and stepdad. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved this. I was so grateful my mama also took off work two of the days I was there allowing for just an amazing time together. I had planned prior to coming out that I’d get together with a dear friend of mine on the day my mama ended up working, Thursday. Anyhow, let’s get into what this trip did for me.

1) It helped me to slow down. It showed me that things don’t have to be go, go, go ALL the time. Things can be slow and relaxed and still be good. This is a lesson that comes hard for me. But this trip was so nice in that nothing, absolutely nothing, was a solid yes or no or we HAVE to do it or not. It was just if it’s easy let’s do it. If it’s too much of a hassle let’s skip it. Gosh, how good that was for my soul!

2) It gave me time write with a clear head. If you know me at all, then you know I love to write and read. This time gave me the space to start really writing again and with a clear head. Not only is this extremely healing and therapeutic for me, but it’s something I’m passionate about.

3) I got to spend an entire day doing whatever I wanted. That may not sound like a big deal, but in this house it is a HUGE deal! I was actually able to spend an entire day getting tattoos (yes, that’s right! I have several.), eating with a dear friend and walking the beach. There was no pressure to rush home or worrying about how everyone was holding up while I was gone.

4) It gave me space to miss my dear husband. Now, let me start by saying that one thing about me is that my family is absolutely everything to me. I always miss my husband and my children and I constantly worry about how they’re doing and what else I can do to help them. This trip gave not just myself the space, but them as well. It gave them time together that they otherwise wouldn’t of had and it gave me space to realize it’s ok to not always worry about them constantly. It doesn’t mean I love them any less. And actually, what it did was make me miss them that much more.

5) It made me absolutely realize how important this time to myself is. And how important it is for my husband too. That time where you can just be, that space to clear your head and write, or get your tattoos, or eat an entire meal, like all of it…AND uninterrupted.

So, I know I’ve talked about self care a lot recently. But that’s because it’s SO, SO important. It is also a way to give myself a clear look at me, my mental illness and where I’m at with taking care of myself. My next share will be quite personal. I will talk about a recent event that happened while I was medicated and how it nearly sent me into mania again. I also hope to actually share a picture of myself. I’ve decided that I think it may be time for me to share who I am. There’s no shame in my illness. And I should start acting that way too. Even if it’s scary!

Finding Your Tribe.

‘Diversity creates healthy tribes. And a healthy tribe gives your life resiliency. And richness and flavor. Find your tribe. Love them hard.

I think about my ‘tribe’ and my village so much. I wonder what my life would look like without them. And let me just say it would not look good. And I want to start by saying I feel so strongly that every person should have their village. And if you don’t find it! My tribe has been able to see when I’m starting to become manic even when I can’t. They’ve been able to show up and love me hard. They’ve been able to show up for my four little ones and love them hard. They’ve been able to bring me food. They’ve been a safe place to lean IN. They’ve been able to tell me the truth. They’ve pushed me to be better. They’ve never, ever made me feel less than or not worthy. They’ve pushed me towards my God. They’ve pushed me to be better AND to love me through that. They’ve made me laugh, they’ve helped me see the glass half full rather than the glass half empty. They have most certainly made me a better person, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, a better sister, and a better daughter. And for this I am so forever grateful. I have found that having a village when you have mental illness is so, so important. Truly it makes such a big difference. And the best part is… I also get to be this for them when they need it. These people have truly saved my life and I’m so grateful for that. So, my point? Find YOUR tribe. Love them hard. Let them in on your treatment plan. And let them help, even when it seems hard. Let them do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

A Slice of My Life… Really

‘Owning your story is the bravest thing you’ll ever do.’ – Brene Brown

This. This is so true. Owning your story is healing in so many ways. But also terrifying. As I sit here typing this out (I haven’t blogged here in years) I am thinking about how much has changed. Within my family, my business (surprise I own a business now) and with my health and awareness. Let me start by also saying that I am only one and a half weeks out of a severe manic/manic psychosis episode. Things are incredibly raw right now, though I am healing. And I’m so grateful for that. I want to start with some basics…

First, Bipolar type 1 (the type I have) does NOT discriminate, in fact no mental illness does. I am a mama to four beautiful children, I live in my dream home in Northern VA, I’m blessed with a supportive and loving husband and family and I generally have a life that I love and have worked hard for. And yet, I still have Bipolar. I was first diagnosed as a teenager and have been hospitalized more than once for mania (four times). This is something I struggle with…. Recently I swung into a manic episode that lasted abut 2.5 weeks, thank God my mother came into town and helped and that my husband was aware of what was going on. I am currently on correct dosages of medications and plan to stay on them, though I also know that that doesn’t mean another manic episode or depressive episode will happen again. I guess I’m saying all of this to say, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Which is maybe something I really need to hear right now.

So. Where does that leave me and my family now? Well, we are navigating these waters the best we can. We are picking up the broken pieces and gluing them back together. I am seeing my doctors regularly, including therapy, and I am practicing self care. This means early bedtimes, take my medications and NOT missing a dose. This means being loving and kind and trying to heal wounds caused by my words and actions while I was manic. It means that things just seem really, raw and scary right now. This means being gentle with myself and showing up the best I can. It means loving on my littles and feeling grateful. It means practicing self care. It means taking a step back from things and it means talking to friends I trust and being open about what’s going. And I’m ok with that.

I will be back soon with more thoughts and what this life is like. Today, I am grateful!

Today Is The Day

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When I woke up this morning I stirred around for a few minutes in my comfortable bed and said good bye to my husband as he was leaving for work.  I enjoyed some peace and quiet for a few moments.  Really hearing the birds chirping out of our bedroom window.  Feeling the sheets against my skin.  Smelling the coffee, the coffee I needed to make still.  As I laid there, I remembered that I had quite a busy day.  Including a visit with my psychiatrist and a visit with my therapist.  As I laid there thinking about those appointments I started to think about the past, the present and the future.  I started remembering how just a few short weeks ago I was unable to sleep for days at a time, maybe getting two hours a sleep max, or so depressed that I was suicidal for days at a time.  I remembered parts of those several nights of manic psychosis and remembered the misery.  I also laid there thinking about how much fun my children have, how many places I take them because when I’m manic I plan and plan and plan and get very creative.  I also remembered that moment my daughter came to me and told me that she wanted to just stay home today, that she didn’t want to go to all the places because she was tired.  I remember the pain of that loaded statement from my four year old.  I had been told several times that I’m always on the go, but it wasn’t until she said something that it hit me.  And still I continue because I have Bipolar, things don’t just stop when you’re not being treated.  In fact, most of the time I think I’m somewhat ok, now I know I’m not most of the time.  When I have manic psychosis I know that I’m not ok.  I then started thinking about the present, that in just a few short weeks so much can change.  I have accepted my diagnosis of Bipolar 1, and have decided to be treated.  Since starting the medications I have noticed a few changes, I’m not as manic, and not as aggravated or easily angered.  I have had a few days of suicidal thinking, which still scares me and makes me feel guilty at times, makes me feel like how could I be thinking about this when I have such wonderful children and a wonderful husband and a wonderful husband.  I have to remind my self to be gentle with myself, be kind to myself.  I laid there thinking about how my husband hugged this morning and told me he was proud of me.  I thought about my children’s sweet and gentle hugs and kisses.  I laid there in that moment finding some peace in all of this.  Finding the beauty in this messy thing we call life.  Finding the beauty in my Bipolar.  Finding the beauty in motherhood.  Finding the beauty in being a wife.  And all the other things I get to be today.  I laid there thinking about how blessed I am.   I thought about how I can’t wait to see what God had in store for me.  Today I am grateful.

With love,

Me

My Beautiful Blessings

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As I laid awake last night in my bed, with my husband lying next to me asleep, in the dark with thoughts racing through my head unable to fall asleep I had to remind myself that I had felt suicidal the last three days, despite the beautiful blessings I have in my life.  I couldn’t come out of it.  Then… yesterday, I woke up energized, ready to conquer the world, ready to take my children to school and get packing as we are in the process of moving, then head out to a girl friends house, then to dinner and had seriously contemplated going out after diner to enjoy the weather.  Instead I went out and came home convinced that I should try to sleep as I know that today I had planned a very busy day for us.  Heading to what my children call the “airplane park”, then lunch with my mom, then a festival close to my house, then home to do some more packing.  My husband and a close friend of mine mentioned to me that I was talking a mile a minute and seemed very happy and was planning a lot.  Still, I thought no, this will be great.  So, last night I came home instead of going out to enjoy the weather, I walked into the house at 9:07 p.m.  Once inside I realized I was too excited to sleep, so I made a small snack, came downstairs and did some work from home.  At about 10:15 I went upstairs to take my medicines and to try to lay down.  As I lay next to my husband all I could do was lay awake thinking and counting my blessings.  Yes, I know I was experiencing mania, but I do have quite a bit to be grateful for.  My children are pretty healthy, my son has special needs, but he is happy and doing well in school.  My daughter is also doing very well, she is four and wonderful.  My marriage is surviving mental illness, which is incredible.  My family is supportive, as are my friends.  If you had asked me a year ago if I would be dealing with all of this right now, I wouldn’t of believed you.  But here I am today dealing with Bipolar 1, willingly getting help.  As I laid in bed awake it was hard not to think about that day about 3 weeks ago.  I had been manic for about four days and then I broke.  I snapped and couldn’t control it.  It was an out of body experience.  Which I have had before, but this time I could see it a little bit better.  I knew I needed help.  I am reminded today that I have many many wonderful blessings in my life.  Including the willingness to get help for my Bipolar 1.  I have to remind myself daily, that this is ok, and accept it piecemeal.  It’s hard, some days are harder than others, but it’s doable.  I am grateful for the people who continue to remind me that it’s ok.  Someone reminded me last night to enjoy this one peaceful moment, even if that means it’s only for 2 seconds or 5 minutes.  I struggle to do that.  I hope one day I can learn to pause in those moments.  Right now I am grateful for my beautiful blessings. 

 

With love,

Me

Today Is A New Day

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Today is a new day… As I sit here writing this post, wondering how many people I can help by sharing my story, I am reminded that it is one day at a time.  I am reminded that I should be kind and gentle to myself, as I find this very hard to do.  Recently I as diagnosed again with Bipolar 1.  I say this because I believe that sharing my story, as others have done for me will be good for myself and others to know you are not alone.  I am a mom of two wonderful children who are six and four, and I have a wonderful husband.  Yet, I find myself struggling to be kind to myself.

I’m sitting at a new psychiatrist office shaking and in tears.  I have finally realized that the diagnosis of Bipolar 1 that I have had previously is probably very accurate.  Two days prior I had a manic break.  I got very concerned and paranoid and I locked my husband in our room, I would not allow him to leave.  As he was begging me to please calm down and to let him get some air outside, I stood in front of our door completely driven by fear and delusion.  I was unable to see in that moment how bad things were, yet I knew that it wasn’t normal and that I did not want to be doing what I was doing.  I knew that my husband was terrified and scared for me.  At some point my husband gave up and I waited at the door until he was in bed and asleep, scared and so incredibly anxious I then laid awake in our bed until about 4:00 a.m. thinking about what just happened and some of the things my husband had said to me.  He told me that he was very worried about me, that he has been for some time as he as stated to me before, he begged me to get help.  He had wanted to call 911 that evening, but I wouldn’t allow him to, I took his phone and continued to beg him not to do that, as I knew that I would have to be hospitalized.  I couldn’t help but to feel this deep sense of he is right, as are the other doctors. When he woke the next morning I was already awake.   I apologized deeply, still frantic and thinking about all the things I needed to do that day, and in that moment something hit me.  It was like a wave crashing down on me… I knew that I needed to see my therapist as soon as possible.  I see my therapist weekly, due to child hood experiences.  I called my therapist and requested that I see her immediately.  She got me in that Monday, three weeks ago.  She had been requesting to me for quite some time to see a psychiatrist as I was having suicidal thoughts frequently and manic episodes.  However, I refused to thinking that I had this covered.  This time was different, when I saw her that Monday she told me that I was surrounded by people who loved me and that it was time for me to get extra help, that I had to or she would have to have committed to the hospital for a few days so that I could get the help I needed.  As she said this to me, I said yes, I would go see someone that I wanted to, I didn’t want to live this way anymore.  I also just had these feelings of how can this happen to me, to me, to a mom of to wonderful children, as a wife married to such a great man, to a friend of many friends.  My husband and I just bought a new single family home and we are going to Disney World in June.  I couldn’t understand how this could  happen to me?  How could I have acted this way?  What I soon came to realize was that this had been happening for quite some time.  My husband had been telling me consistently for about a year, that he was concerned about me and begging me to get help, as had my therapist.  The sad truth is that I thought I had this thing beat.  I had been diagnosed three times prior to this with Bipolar 1, but each time was at a point in my life where many things were going wrong and caused many problems.   This time I know, I know that I suffer from Bipolar 1.  I am here to say, that Bipolar 1 or other mental illness does not exclude anyone.  Just as cancer does not exclude anyone.  I am here to say, that this is something people suffer from and that there is help if you are willing to get it.

After seeing the psychiatrist she decided that I should start medications, which I had a hard time hearing.  Still, after  knowing that I need this, it is still no easy pill to swallow.   I am still early in my treatment and I know that there is a long way to go.  Today I have to remind myself that it is one day at a time.  Sometimes even on hour or one minute at a time.  I must remind myself that this is to help me to be the mom I know I am and can be, Be the wife I know I can be, The friend I can be, The daughter I can be, The sister I can be.  I am grateful to my therapist and her help and the psychiatrist.  I am grateful for my family, although I haven’t told everyone in my family yet, and I am so grateful for my husband.  Right now is a very hard time, it is a time of intense sensitivity and change.  It is a time of learning to love myself and accept myself.  I have Bipolar 1, but it does not mean that I have to let it define me.  It’s another piece of the intricate puzzle of who I am.  

With love,

Me