Category Archives: Random

This is not my legacy….

While a myriad of environmental factors affect and influence mental illness, research shows a causal link between genetics and mental illness. Like many diseases, family history can be a strong predictor of an individual’s mental health. While I do not have any diagnosed mental illness in my immediate family, there is a likely possibility of undiagnosed/untreated illness in extended family. And, there might be individuals that have been diagnosed that I do not know about—how often do we find ourselves hiding from our family more than others?

Because of this link, hearing this song for the first time brought me to tears. The song reminds me I am not doomed to suffer my entire life because of this fluke in my genectic code, but also that I will not be cursing those after me (more on that fear later….)

Family Tree: Matthew West
Lyrics in Italics
Me in Normal….

You didn’t ask for this
Nobody ever would
Caught in the middle of this dysfunction

Caught in the middle, wrapped up in, created the, consumed by, defined by?

It’s your sad reality
It’s your messed up family tree

Why my genes? What about my genetic makeup led to this? Why my branch of the family tree?

And all your left with all these questions
Are you gonna be like your father was and his father was?
Do you have to carry what they’ve handed down?

Can I change? Can I learn to be different? Will I carry the dysfunction my entire life?

No, this is not your legacy
This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you

It’s not my destiny to suffer forever; my disease is not I will be remembered for.

No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be

I am meant to be more than just bipolar. I am meant to be more than burdened or held down by my disease

I can break the chains that bind you

The chains that tie me to these old habits, these old thoughts, these old ideas of who I am and what I’m worth.

I have a dream for you
It’s better than where you’ve been

Can it be worse?

It’s bigger than your imagination

Bigger than just my dream of a life where I’m not anxious everyday. Could there really be a greater plan for me?

You’re gonna find real love
And you’re gonna hold your kids
You’ll change the course of generations

I will change the lives of not just my kids, but other families who have been crippled by this disease

No, this is not your legacy
This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you

It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. It doesn’t matter how many times the waves have crashed over me. Just because I suffered yesterday does not mean tomorrow will not be better.

No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be

I’ll leave behind me hope and encouragement for those who struggle

I can break the chains that bind you
Cause you’re my child
You’re my chosen

Chosen by Him, despite the limitations of my illness, because I am capable of change and influence…

You are loved
You are loved

By God and by my amazing family.

And I will restore
All that was broken

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” …and I will finally know what it is like to live with a healthy brain.

You are loved
You are loved

And I am worthy of their love.

And just like the seasons change
Winter into spring
You’re bringing new life to your family tree now

Just as my mood improves moving from winter to spring, I bring hope and change to my family, future family, and even families I don’t know

Yes you are
You are

Yes I am……

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My favorite thing…

If your house (or apartment in my case) was burning in a fire and you could only grab one thing—what would it be? Any ideas?!

My first thought is Sidney—now I know he’s not a possession, but the man is pokey. (Love him; don’t love that about him!).  So if our building was burning down he’d probably be meandering around the apartment collecting his hard drive, putting on his shoes, fixing his hair, turning off lights.  [Sidney quotes “The victims always get interviewed. I have to look good for it! haha”] But since he would be adamantly opposed to being called a possession (and I’d agree), I have to figure out something else.

These are the first five things that came to mind (I know I said one—but I’ll cut you a break if you cut me one):Yes--there are penguins on it.

My onesie: I bought it when I was still single and was trying to save money on heating bills. Seems like a weird favorite possession. But never underestimate the power of keeping me warm…and it’s fun and ridiculous. Two things I really like. Also, as you can see in the photo—it’s very sexy. And what female doesn’t like an outfit that makes them feel sexy?!

My slushy cup: This is the most amazing thing ever invented—they make enjoying my favorite food even better. What’s not to like? And as you read in the June 11th post, slushies have significant meaning for me. My scrapbook: I’m sure you can understand why this is a favorite possession—especially my wedding book where I stored dried flowers, cards, and decorations.

My rock: Rick gave me this rock during our last therapy session and could probably fill a post itself with its symbolism and meaning in this object. Short story: it represents where I’ve been and where I’m going.

 My journals: I have saved my journals (more sophisticated than diaries) from a very young age. They record girlish crushes, my crazy thoughts, secrets, and anger or annoyance I was feeling towards my parents.

Judge me if you want (I judge myself a little!), but these were truly the first five objects that popped into my mind. While each has a particular reason (some more so than others!) that they were chosen, what I find more interesting than each object alone, is what the objects represent collectively. One fear I have (that is actually legitimate, unlike most generated by my anxiety disorder!), is that my life will be represented or consumed by my mental illness.

Matthew 6:21 “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be”

Are my most prized possessions things like my cocktail (meds!), mood chart, books full of techniques and tips, or even the rock I discussed? Is that “where my heart is”? I hope not. Instead, I’d rather someone look at my life and see my love for my family, good times spent with friends, and even my passion for the color turquoise.

With the exception of the rock, things related to my illness weren’t forefront in my mind. When I realized this, I was rather pleased with myself. But in the middle of patting myself on the back, the other foot dropped. The other four objects are actually intricately connected with my illness.

  • My onesie: It’s warm and comfortable. I feel wrapped up and almost ‘safe’ in it. It can help calm me during a panic or anxiety attack.
  • My slushie cup: See June 11th post for detail, but basically it reminds me of my support team
  • My scrapbook: A great tool to help relax me during times of high anxiety
  • My journals: A detailed and vulnerable description of my life and story

Well crap. Maybe my life IS consumed by my mental illness. Or is it?

One goal of this blog is to spread the word that depression/anxiety/bipolar is a chemical imbalance; truly a brain disorder. If that’s the case, then clearly it is going to influence every aspect of my life. As much as I’ve tried, I have yet to figure out how to take my brain out, put it in a glass jar and come back to it later. So in the same way a pair of hazel eyes reads both the journals and scrapbook, or my sense of humor comes across in all four objects (the onesie in particular!), so my mental illness does as well.

The objects above represent me; all sides, facets, and parts of me. Even the ones I might want to hide, such as my lack of artistic talent in my scrapbook, my addiction to caffeine in slushies, or my illness.

And that I’m ok with. I’m learning to treat my illness so it becomes part of my life, but does not consume it. I’m working diligently to manage my illness so when some archeologist in the future finds and analyzes my belongings and prized possessions—they see not a woman dragged under by her illness, but one with the strength to surf the waves instead.

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Catching the most elusive feeling…

So I wrote this post Saturday evening—hoping that by the time Monday rolled around it would still be true.  Unfortunately it’s not…which actually makes me even happier that I wrote this post on Saturday…continue on to see why!

 

I have AMAZING news! Today my husband and I were outside, and I was just dancing and jamming to some music, when something hit me. I was HAPPY. Not just “not miserable” or “ok” or “manic happy”. But truly happy.

I looked up at my husband and in a hushed whisper (didn’t want to scare the feeling away!) said “I’m happy right now” and his smile just stretched from ear to ear. The last time I can honestly remember this feeling was the end of April during a trip my husband and I took to Napa (and that might have been the wine…). That’s a long time ago.

Now that’s not to say I haven’t had moments I’ve enjoyed since then, or done things I found fun. But in my life there tends to be an underlying sense of anxiety—which doesn’t generate a lot of “happy” feelings. So to feel peacefully happy—even if it was just for a day is amazing (heck, I’d take even half a day or an hour of feeling this way. Beggars can’t be choosy!). And for it to happen so close after a series of bad days made me appreciate it even more.

I’m sharing this for several reasons. First, you get to listen to me complain about bad days—you should get to hear me celebrate good days.

Second, if you’re a fellow consumer, I want you to know that there are good days. I remember one time at support group one guy said, “every so often, you get to get off the treadmill and feel like a normal human being–and it’s amazing”.  It’s so encouraging to hear things like that in the middle of a down turn—well usually it is. Sometimes it makes me just want to hit the person.

And third, it’s for me to remember. It’s so easy to focus on the 50 days that were bad, and forget about the one that was great. My mom often used to suggest I keep a prayer journal….that way I could see when God answered prayer and have a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness. I’ve taken this pattern into my mental health adventure as well. Sometimes I just need to look back and go “Remember that day. Remember how you felt. Wasn’t that amazing? Don’t worry—no matter how unlikely it looks now, you’ll get to feel that way again.”

It’s several hours later now—and I just spent 4 hours of a Saturday night working on my resume which is not that much fun. Unfortunately I will not be singing one of my favorite songs, “We went out last night” (by Kenny Chesney), tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter to me. I felt HAPPY. I felt CALM.

And the best part–I wasn’t even medicated!

 

You can see now why I’m happy I wrote that post Saturday.  Yesterday and today were rough days, and as I mentioned in reason #3—I need to be remember that good days do happen. Maybe (ok certainly!) not as often as I would like, and sometimes it seems a bit unfair that other people experience that feeling more than once every couple of months, but I do get to feel it.  And every couple of months is better than it was when I was younger before I started treatment…so now I’m working toward feeling that way once a month. Hopefully, if I live to be 100 and don’t die of a stress induced illness, I’ll have only one BAD day every couple of months.

Until then—stay tuned.

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Hot Mess

Today at work a colleague told me, “You should write a book titled ‘How to live your life with your head unhinged”.

Everyone I know would agree I’m the SME (Subject Matter Expert—little consultant talk there!) on this subject. Allow me to give you a few examples of why.

I lost my cell phone the other week—I spent most of the weekend looking for it but eventually gave up. So one day, while I was being a good wifey and making dinner…I took the watermelon bowl from the fridge, and to what did my wondering eyes appear?  My cell phone! Apparently it likes watermelon as much as I do. Unfortunately, it ate too much and no longer works. Shocking.

The next morning I left my bowl of breakfast on the top of my car! How did I find out? Well as I was driving to work, singing along to Hot Mess (by Tyler Farr, my personal theme song!), when all of a sudden a bowl started tumbling down my front window, spilling cheerios and milk along the way. Don’t worry, I just used my windshield wipers, rolled over the cup, and kept going.

Then that night, at a big work event I spilled my entire drink on the table. Later, a partner (the big shots in our company!) comes up to me and goes “So…I’m assuming you were the one who spilled the sangria?”

And—well, I managed it all in a 24 hour period. *bow*

But the thing is, I’ve learned to accept it. I recognize my limitations and have learned to not only live with them but find humor in them.  For example, we did not buy me a smart phone—I didn’t graduate to the big girl phone until I won it (and I hear there’s a pool going for how long I’ll be able to keep track of it—contact Sidney if you want in!). I store spare keys for my car in a variety of places. All my bills are auto pay (meaning, Sidney is in charge of it!). And I just accept that I’m going to end up spilling something all over myself by the end of the day (and if I’m being honest, at least twice).

So I’ve been thinking—why can’t I accept limitations related to my illness? It’s basically the same thing right?  I don’t judge myself for being a spaz, so why do I get down at myself when I push up on my mental illness walls?

Instead, I need to take some of the lessons I’ve learned about “living life with your head unhinged” and apply them to “living life with your neurotransmitters unhinged”. I think there’s two key lessons that can be learned and applied.

Lesson One: Live well with your limitations

Identify and accept your limitations. Then you can figure out how to live well with them. For example, keeping track of a purse at a bar—never going to happen. So now, I put my ID and money in a back pocket (or better yet, Sidney’s wallet).

So a mental illness limitation for me would be the intense anxiety I have after an extremely busy day—I know that. So instead of pushing myself to a breaking point, I need to schedule breaks throughout the day to revive myself.

Lesson Two: My limitations are not bad, in fact—they make me—well, me.

While at lunch the other day, I spilled some food on a friend’s book.  He just laughed and goes, “Look now it says ‘Nicole’s been here’—your lack of coordination makes me laugh every time”. My husband constantly cracks up at me and affectionately calls me his “hot mess”.

There’s parts of my mental illness that can be entertaining as well—I can come up with some crazy and fun ideas when I’m on the “hyper bus” (a symptom during a small manic swing).

I’m working to push these lessons into action. I think that’s maybe one goal of this blog—gives me a chance to identify some of those limitations and figure out how to live within them—

Oh! And a final thought: Are organized people just too lazy to look for things?

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Is being politically correct overrated?!

Note: This is not an angry rant post—read with a sense of humor, smile, and a laugh!  That’s the way it was intended.

Now onward….

I’ve always wanted to write a Top Ten list of Stupid S*** people say about mental illness.  It’d probably end up being longer though since I’ve heard so many.  But recently I’ve stopped noticing these types of things as much and been more surprised by the completely ignorant comments people make in passing.  That probably reads harsher than I mean it (I’m smiling as I type this), but there’s really no other word for it.  I’ve listed some of those comments in italics below, with my thoughts on why they are just totally inappropriate.

I’ve been so distracted today.  I’m just so ADD.
First, I know for a fact that you’re not.  Second, you’ve been running between a bunch of different projects which can definitely be exhausting or frustrating—but you’re a really successful employee who normally is pretty focused (I know—I’ve had to work with you!).  Third, are your levels of glutamate off balance (along with several other neurotransmitters)?

I had a panic attack this morning—I couldn’t find my car keys and I had looked everywhere.
I have a medically diagnosed panic disorder and I’ve spent more time looking for my keys than probably any other activity in my life (with the exception of maybe sleep!) and it has never caused a full blown panic attack. Now this did come from one of the most organized people I know, so I’m not discounting that she was probably pretty rattled. Because of their normal personality they likely even had one common symptom of a panic attack—feeling out of touch with reality!  However, they didn’t feel out of their body, short of breath, have chills and shakes, and an intense terror of some unknown.

It’s easy like therapy.  We just let them talk a lot, about the same thing week after week, and smile and nod a lot.
Therapy is exhausting! It’s a lot of work! And it’s way too expensive to talk about the same thing week after week! And if I wanted someone to smile and nod—I’d buy a bobble doll.  Oh! Probably one of someone really cute like Matt Bomer.

I’m OCD—I re-organized my entire closet by color yesterday and it made me feel so much better.
Awesome!  Want to come do mine tomorrow?  See I was so busy trying to convince myself not to go back into the bathroom to pick at my face for the fifth time in the last two hours, and having compulsive thoughts about cutting myself to even hang up my coat!           

I need to get my daughter a new roommate. I think hers is bipolar, and you can’t have a normal life living with a bipolar person!
No comments other than the comeback my mom could have given to her “yeah, my son-in-law is having a hard time with it too”.  Amazing!

To be honest, none of these comments actually offended me.  I was raised in a military household where being PC was highly overrated. I know I’ve made a few (or a lot) of my own non-PC comments and unknowingly offended some around me.  To them I apologize.  I didn’t mean to hurt you and it was out of ignorance not malice. But that’s no excuse.  My own condition has opened my eyes to how comments can affect those around me and that I never know who is listening. Hopefully, now that my eyes are opened I can be more careful and also find gentle non-offensive ways to help others understand how their flippant comments can be misunderstood.

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Rascal Flatts: Easy

Official music video of the Rascal Flatts song mentioned in the blog.

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How hard it is…to make it look so easy….

I’ve discovered a new favorite song.  Have you ever heard the song “Easy” by Rascal Flatts? Not only do they have amazing voices—the lyrics fit my feelings about my illness quite well.

It’s easy going out on Friday night
Easy every time I see her out
I can smile, live it up the way a single guy does
But what she, what she don’t know
Is how hard it is to make it look so easy”

Now—I realize this song applies to a breakup.  I can only wish that I had broken up with my illness (I’ve tried, but it just won’t accept it.  Restraining orders don’t work either—believe me, I’ve tried).

Anyways to the point–how it reminds me of my illness.  Until you get to know me really well, my disorder is often not visible. I make it look like I’m ok. I go out with friends to the bar, watch movies, make jokes, dance (not well or to the beat but dance none the less), and play games.  I’m often even the “life of the party”.  I make it look ‘so easy’.

And you’ll never know just how hard it is for me to make it look so easy.

It’s a balance I’m struggling to find. How much do I pretend? And when do I share how hard it is?

The case for pretending: One, I want people to think I’m normal (but really, who am I fooling? I doubt I’d be normal even without my disorder). Two, I don’t want to burden those around me. And three, alot of times I don’t know if they could do anything to make it better, so why share?

The case for sharing: One: those who care about me want to be involved in my life. Do I have the right to make that choice for them? Two: How can I fight the stigma of mental illness if I hide my experiences?

And three, most complicated of all, sometimes I fear that if I pretend so well and for so long, people won’t believe my disease is real.  When I do finally share, they’ll think I’m making it up.  That they won’t realize how hard being healthy, happy, and calm is for me EACH day.  And selfishly—I like some sympathy once in a while (preferably with some flowers, chocolate, or a slushie!)

It’s one of those questions related to my disorder I’m still working through.  I spent the first 22 years of my life on the extreme pretending section.  Now, I’m slowly learning to open up and let people in.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out, after all the song is being played about once an hour or so.

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