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.

Where Do I Begin…Let’s Start With Right Now

I often find myself coming here after it’s been some time and I need a release. I know, or maybe I just wish, it was always that way or maybe it’s even better that it wasn’t always that way. Because it often means that I’ve needed a release for some time before I’ve finally sat down at my computer to actually type something out. I am someone who heals in a few different ways. Nature, this is a big one for me. Photography (though not when it’s the midst of busy season which it is right now) when I can do it just for me. Quiet time, no this isn’t just for children. Prayer & meditation, gosh, I need prayer and I need spirituality. Music, it’s so very good for my soul. Reading and Writing, the escape I get from both is just so good for my heart and my mind.

So. Let’s start with right now. Don’t worry I promise I will catch you all up in the coming days. Right now, well things seem hard. We are still in the middle of a pandemic that people seem to fall to either two sides, you’re really worried or the total opposite. I happen to fall on the very concerned side, meaning we have stayed home for the most part, minus my husband and myself working and a few necessary trips to the store. But we haven’t had playdates or done our normal homeschooling co-ops (we home school two of our children and then two of our children go to public school) or gone to museums (we also live just outside of D.C. and have some of the very best museums) or seen our very best of friends. So life as we know it has been quite different and if I’m honest has had many, many ups and downs. Here’s where I’m right now.

I’m struggling… I am having a very hard time wanting to continue to take my medications. Now. I know, I know. How silly and dangerous. I know from own experience this is absurd. I KNOW that I must stay on my medications, yet here we are. My own mind trying to trick me into why it’s completely absurd for me to stay on my medications. There’s so many reasons why I’ve convinced myself I need to come off of them. Currently, realizing that one of the things I do and love most, one of the things that feeds my soul is likely something I won’t be able to do anymore is so hard to accept and so hard to not blame this illness or my medications. And to be honest, some reasons are maybe a little valid…in the sense of I’m not as creative as when I’m manic… or maybe that the creativity presents itself in a much different way and clearly in a very unhealthy way. And of course I can’t get as much done, because I’m not manic. Which is good. But somewhere inside of me I’ve started to hate that I can’t think that way or have that creative part of me at times. And it’s so incredibly hard not to want it, despite knowing that it’s not healthy. And of course, I’m so grateful for the amazing support team I have, I have the most incredible doctors and therapist and my husband and family are truly amazing. But my goodness, the things your mind can make you think. This is something I’ve always battled and is something I know that is apart of the battle for me and apart of my personal journey. So here I am, right now. Struggling with taking my meds, the ins and outs… every.single.day. There’s so much more to it than that. But that’s for another day. Today, I push forward. Today, I choose to take my meds and to keep on keeping on. Today I will choose me.

COVID-19 & Mental Illness…

As I sit here thinking about what I should share with world… I can’t help, but suddenly be slapped with a feeling of complete shock and disbelief. Life has felt that different for us over here, and I’m sure many, many of you. I think we have the ‘normal’ things that feel different… Things like, the kids aren’t in school (we homeschool 2 of our 4 and have loved having everyone home), work is sporadic and I get to it when I can, fear of getting sick, fear of doing the most basic of things. If someone had told me five weeks ago, as I was severely manic and chose to do IOP and try to wait things out at home while medications were changed and I was safe, that this would be what life looked like. I wouldn’t have believed you. Now, let me say, I’m blessed, I truly am. I know there are people out there that have it also have SO much going on. Today, I’m only here to talk about my story and things that are helping me and what life is looking like for me right now. I, of course, hope it’s something you can relate to and also share in helping yourself.

So. To say the least this month at home (so far) has been hard in many ways and lovely in others, while also holding a space of fear. I am find that I’ve been worried about many things, but also thrown into a world of ‘slow down’ with no warning and possibly at one of the worst times regarding my mental health, while also likely saving me from my own mental illness in other ways. You see, something I am learning as I decide to get to know myself better and to become well is that I am not only Bipolar when I’m manic or depressed. I have Bipolar 1, all the time. It doesn’t just go away and then come back. So much of how I live has actually been affected by my Bipolar. I am often what many would say I’ve been all my life… go, go, go! I easily float from museums to museums, to play dates, to art work, to work, to family and so, on. Just prior to this I was really struggling…. I knew I was not doing what I could in some aspects of my life. Several actually. I had taken on some work, that I was directly told I should not do, but doctors, friends, family. And what did I do? I took it…as I was riding this lovely wave of hypo mania that quickly spiraled into mania and then psychosis. I often do this, find a way to basically ignore those around me… knowing in that beautiful moment I should listen, but can’t. Anyways, shortly before we went on lock down I was so concerned and really struggling with how to handle this and it was clear to me the universe was telling me to slow down. That didn’t make it any easier though to have to ‘bail’ in my mind on these clients who become near and dear to me. So, when this happened I was scared for our health and relieved that I was forced to not be able to do this work I’d taken on. But it also came about my second day at IOP and then they transferred IOP to online sessions for the remainder 4 weeks. It came at a time where I was just starting to really want to be fully better, I’d hit what some, myself included, would call a bottom. I have finally come to a point where I WANT help. I WANT to better. I NEED to be. I’m now willing to do what I need to for myself and my health. For probably the first time ever, I’m willing to put the work in. However, that has been hard, and of course ebbs and flows with moods and the amount of work I’m realizing it really takes to be well. It’s work that surprises me and I find it surprises me. But it also comes at a time of high anxiety and the inability to do so much of what would often be normal, self care things for me. So what exactly am I saying? I’m saying that this is a hard time. A really hard time, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not filled with joy and happy moments. I’m saying that this time is hard for everyone. And especially those with mental illness. I’m saying let’s take some time to find some time for self care. For me that means, making sure I’m taking my medications. Making sure I’m getting sleep (this is a hard one for me). It means taking time for myself each day. It means continuing to write and create, which fills my soul. It means praying and meditating. It means listening to others and tracking my moods right now. It means understanding that this will take time and work. It means still doing my therapy and my IOP (thank God for technology). It means being honest with those close to me about everything going on. So I’m here to say this is hard, but it won’t last forever. And there are ways to focus on recovery and to stay well during this difficult time. This is also a time to talk and listen to each other right now. Reach out to friends and family, especially those with mental illness.

Again, this is just my experience and my hope. I hope it helps, not just myself, but anyone struggling. There is hope here, a lot of it.

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!