Monthly Archives: March 2012

Cognitive Restructuring

A great little story to remember as I’m working to “reprogram” my brain! 

A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he announced.

Then, he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed.
“Strike One!” he yelled. Undaunted, he picked up the ball and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” He tossed the ball into the air.

When it came down he swung again and missed. “Strike Two!” he cried.
The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. He spit on his hands and rubbed them together.
He straightened his cap and said once more, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Again he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it. He missed. “Strike Three!”

Wow!” he exclaimed. “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

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Sidney’s a lucky guy….

Life in my house has been a bit challenging recently.  I mentioned in a previous post that one of the most difficult times of the year for me is Jan/Feb, which means it’s been a difficult time of the year for my husband as well.  I’ve been up, down, around, under, over, and through the rapids….  For Sidney, this means I’m more sensitive, irritable, tearful, angry, distant, and depressed.  I can imagine from his side it can be a bit…or more than a bit…difficult. 

I used to feel guilty that someone would have to marry me and deal with my disease…but after being married I realized he can be a pain in my butt too.  : )  But, more than that—I  now realize Sidney is lucky to be married to someone who is bipolar…..

Here’s why:

Number One: I Never Give Up

My husband and I ran the Chicago Marathon last October.  He convinced me to sign up and since I was training for a half at the time, I agreed.  Then life happened and I dropped off the training routine.  Sidney did not train much, but definitely more than I did. I would run the first half of his runs with him then head home to eat some ice cream, watch a movie, and lay on the couch. Since we had already bought the race enteries we decided to go run anyways.  I said I would run about five miles with him then take one of the vans back and sun tan while I waited for him to finish.  Well—since quit is not in my vocabulary—at five miles I just kept going, and going, and going to 26.2, and ended up beating him by fifteen minutes.  Oh—and I was also a little hung over.

Life is tough—and there are a lot of times when you feel like giving up.  But lucky for Sidney, he’s married to someone who has been fighting an illness her whole life.  I know what it means to be mentally tough, to keep going when it doesn’t seem like life can get worse, and pick myself up by the bootstraps when I have too.  And bring him up with me.

Number Two: I See the Silver Lining

One of the tools I work on in therapy is gratitude.  Part of retraining your brain is learning to see the silver lining and positive parts of life.  Even the small things—like warm showers, heating pads, soft blankets, putting cold feet on Sidney during the night (yes, never underestimate the power of keeping Nicole warm).  It’s funny to say you can be depressed and optimistic at the same time, but you can.  Sidney’s lucky to be married to someone who practices gratitude to stay healthy.

Number Three: I know love is not a feeling

In his book “Change Your Brain Change Your Life”, Dr. Daniel Amen discusses the link between an overacted limbic system and depression.  A damaged limbic system is also linked to difficulty bonding and connecting with other people. So many times in my life I’ve felt a lack of connection with people close to me.  While there was nothing “wrong” with the relationship, often they were better than ever, I didn’t feel connected to them.  I didn’t have a desire to be around them or spend time with them.  I used to think about bad things happening to them, and felt no sadness or negative emotion.

I’ve been told over and over the feeling of love will not always be there, and you have to make it a choice.  Because of my depression, I know what it means to not “feel” like you love someone.  When these times in our marriage come around (when he takes an hour longer than needed to do the dishes, comes to bed after I’m asleep because he got sucked into playing angry birds, or the cardnal sin–drinks some of my slushie) I’ll be prepared.  I have practice knowing how to make the choice to love him, and continue to treat him like I have those “feelings”. 

Final thought:

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.
Robert Anderson

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The difficulties of Marriage….

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to explore the ways that marriage makes handling your mental illness more difficult….here are a few of the challenges I have experienced in my past six months of marriage (I’m an expert obviously!)

Number One: Lack of privacy

Once you get married a lot of the privacy you had when you were single disappears.  This can make dealing with a mental illness very difficult.  When I was younger I would come home from school completely overwhelmed from dealing with my anxiety and often take it out on my family.  My parents would send me to my room as punishment—which I secretly always appreciated!  When I was in college I would be able to go to my room and shut myself off from the rest of the world.  Once you get married, those options disappear.  I share a room and a bed with my husband.  Crying myself to sleep (which was a common occurrence before I got married) is now more difficult. I feel bad because I keep him up and I often feel the pressure to continue to “hold it together”.  Life outside of home can be so challenging and difficult that when you come home you often just want to let it all go and release the stress in private.  Being married removes that option. 

Number Two: Responsibilities to a marriage

My mood swings tend to happen in January/February and July/August.  During these times I’m much more sensitive, very irritable, negative, and just plain unpleasant.  Before I got married I would often withdrawal from relationships and unnecessary interactions with others.  This was not a problem because I maintained the relationships enough that when I felt better I could deepen them again. However, in a marriage this is not an option.  My relationship with my spouse is more intimate than any other relationship in my life.  Maintaining that relationship is essential and taking four months off from it a year would be very damaging and unfair to my spouse.  Often, as much as I love him, spending time with him during these months becomes just one more thing I have to “hold it together” for. 

Number Three: Sex

Oh sex—complicates things when you’re having and complicate things when you’re not.  About 40% of people on antidepressants experience sexual side effects from the medication.  For me, when I was unmarried and single this was not a problem.  But when you get married, it can become a huge issue between you and your spouse.  It is a horrible choice to make—do you stay on the medication that works or do you try different combinations in order to increase your sex drive?  I have tried about six or seven combinations and medications in order to handle the sexual side effects of my anti-depressants.  And unfortunately that journey is not yet over.

Like I said—I love being married.  And there’s lots of great things about it, and even things about it that make my mental illness better.  But there’s challenges too!  Hopefully, like anything else—Sidney and I will learn to ride these waves together.  And if nothing else I’ll keep it interesting for him.

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