Hope in Bipolar

My life with bipolar thus far has been an incredible learning experience. Over the course of my formal diagnosis, I have become the most self-aware I’ve ever been in my entire life.

That self-awareness did not happen by chance. The happiness and peace that fill my life today – did not happen by chance. My dad always said to me, “anything worth having is worth working for”, and believe me those words never rang more true than when I wanted to find peace and happiness. I wanted to escape chaos and pain; the demons in my head, the self-hatred, the daily suicidal thoughts. I wanted to escape it all.

I wanted happiness. I wanted a life I loved living.

I am so happy that I can tell you all, I am living that life. I worked for it, I invested time in myself; my mental health, my physical health, my spiritual health, building healthy relationships and removing toxic ones. I often cried from exhaustion because it felt like a lost cause, a losing battle BUT I had a vision of the life I wanted to live. I had a vision of the woman I wanted to become and that woman would not be defined by her diagnosis.

I joined a FB page for women with bipolar, and I’ve since then removed myself from that page. I could not bare the toxicity of the majority of the posts (not all BUT the majority). The negative energy that was being spread and applauded. The women in this group found comfort in comparing their terrible experiences or attitudes. There were no silver linings or learning experiences to be found on this page. They hated their diagnosis and as such it was projected on how they viewed themselves and consequently their loved ones.

My life is NOT perfect. How I handle my diagnosis is NOT perfect. But I’ll be darned to ever let anyone think happiness amd stability is out of their grasp because of a diagnosis. Happiness and stability are available to everyone. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder than others to achieve it or keep it.

I want to be clear and transparent when I say I’ve hated myself. I’ve hated my life. I’ve been in toxic relationships. I’ve felt like I was a burden to my loved ones. I felt like finishing my education was out of my grasp. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve hurt myself intentionally. I’ve spent money to the point I had to declare bankruptcy. I’ve ruined relationships and broken trust. I’ve cried oceans of tears for days and nights without rest.

But I did not settle for that life.

I felt and experienced those things as so many people do with bipolar – there is no shame. I am not ashamed of the life I’ve lived and the battle scars I’ve acquired. I want you to understand, I am not trying to sit here saying I am holy than thou and my life is magical. I want you to understand that there is hope. That if I can find happiness with my life – with bipolar – you can too.

If you are new to your diagnosis. If you are a veteran with your diagnosis, if you hate your diagnosis, if you feel helpless with the cards you’ve been dealt in this life. I’m here to tell you it can get better.

I’m going to be blunt when I say, it doesn’t have to get better. It really doesn’t, your life can be miserable till the end of time – it all comes down to you. You and what you want to work for. I promise you that if you put in the work, even when you don’t feel like it OR feel nothing at all (because let’s not kid ourselves – it happens) you will see yourself and this diagnosis in a way you never thought possible.

Will all your problems go away? Heck no! Will the highs and the lows vanish? Not a chance! But will you feel like you can handle them a bit better than you could before? Yes.

I knew deep down my life was not meant to be lived with all the pain I was living in. I knew that people loved lifè and why should I be exempt from feeling that love of life also? When I was diagnosed my life was in shambles, this diagnosis terrified me BUT it also gave me hope.

When you have hope, your possibilities are endless. The hope I gained from my diagnosis was a tiny seed. However, by reading about this disorder, educating myself, participating in all the therapy available to me – that hope grew day by day. Sometimes it faltered but I nourished it the best I could AND it grew stronger.

Hope and hard work – that is what my reality of living a life I love is made of.

I encourage you to look at your diagnosis not as a burden but as a symbol of hope. Cling to this hope and know that happiness is not reserved for a select few. Cling to this hope and recognize how valuable you are, how divine your potential is. Please recognize that from the depths of despair we can rise into unthinkable joy.

My life, my diagnosis – NOT perfect. But I can say I love my life and I consider myself happy. Yes, I’m sad and I feel empty sometimes but it makes me recognize and value my happiness so much more when I get to experience it again. Silver linings.

Bipolar is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Thinking that bipolar is the worst thing to happen to you – that is the worst thing that can happen to you.

– Steph

Putting On a Brave Face

I hope everyone had a wonderful easter weekend. I was also going to say long weekend… except I feel like with everyone staying home these days it was kind of redundant.

I will try to make this post something you can have a take away with. But ooooo child! Do I have a crazy story about my Thursday and Friday leading into my easter weekend.

I have this weird thing where my heart hurts, it can be fine and then it will be in explosive excruciating pain and I have no idea why. This sensation happened again earlier in March and I went to emergency, because my sister insisted that this was not normal. I have to agree, it has happened one too many times to be coincidence.

Anyways, I go. They do an EKG, the doctor comes in and looks at me and says I’m a healthy young woman and this is nothing to worry about. My EKG was fine and it’s only happened a handful of times, “so don’t worry about it.”

This was not exactly comforting and when I shared it with this same sister who insisted I go to emergency, she followed up with insisting I go to our family doctor (we have the same family doctor) because he is way more thorough and will take it seriously.

So I go, I meet my family doctor and he says he wants to do some bloodwork, a lovely sample of you know what (so I drank water), another EKG and a chest x-ray – just to be safe. I appreciated his thoroughness and with work and life I just managed to go to do these tests at our local hospital on this past Thursday. Well my friends, I got more than I anticipated.

I did my x-ray first and then followed it with all the other fun bits. I cried when they took my blood and nearly hyperventilated because I’m terrified of blood and needles (a winner I know) but I managed. By the time I got back to my car my phone rang and lo and behold it was my family doctor calling me. He wanted to reach me sooner than later because he recieved notice about my chest x-ray and it was a bit concerning. He asked if I’d be willing to go to emergency for the doctor there to check me out and go over the x-ray with me.

So I go, and I wait. Surprisingly, the wait was not that long compared to normal. The doctor talks with me, assesses me and I seem fine (I felt fine), yet my x-ray said otherwise. He wants to be sure so he asks me to go to the larger city emergency. He called ahead, gave me a package of notes and said they’d be expecting me.

I arrive and they put me right thru to a room (this never happens). A nurse comes in and asks questions followed by a doctor. He assess me, again, I seem fine (I feel fine) and he thinks this may just be a blip in the x-ray from a bad angle. He tells me he’s going to review my x-ray and then I should be good to go.

Next thing, I’m told I’m having an iv put in my arm and more bloodwork. Now. Now. Now. Needles for bloodwork are one thing and needles for an IV which is like a permanent needle attached to you is another matter. Additionally, I was by myself because only sick patrons are allowed in the hospital because of covid. So, I was predictably beside myself.

The nurse came in and I felt like I was going to pass out, I stuttered as I tried to talk to her as she tried to distract me and shockingly enough I didn’t cry aloud. I was vibrating at the end and I literally felt like death – I couldn’t look at my arm without tears welling up; and then because life was having a chuckle at my expense I was told I’m going for an x-ray. I go, I have to undress, with this IV in the inside of my elbow. Painful. YES!

Then I get back to my room and I’m told I’m going for another x-ray! Different position. Again, unrobing and more pain and awareness of the IV. And then the doctor comes in and talks to me. He says he can’t explain why, but all 3 x-rays are conclusive and show the same thing. So he’s sending me for a CT scan. So 2 hours later after drinking a medicated beverage I go for my scan.

I’m not sure who has endured a CT scan before, but the injection into the IV made me cry out, so much pain in such an instant. The scan finished and a surgeon was waiting in the results room, he comes to me as I’m getting up and walks and talks with me back to my ER room. He can’t find an explanation in my results, however wants more time to look and asks of I would be willing to be admitted to the hospital.

So my friends, I was admitted. My poor husband who was waiting in the car from 7 pm – 1 am was told to go home. We couldn’t see each other. They gave me medication from their pharmacy at 3 am and I was connected to a drip. I slept the best I could… I tried not to think of the IV but it was so prominent and painful.

Eventually, I was woken up at 7 am by 2 surgeons who wanted to check in on me. They assessed me, I was fine (apart from the IV – I felt fine) and then I was left alone to sleep. So I slept. I didn’t get to take my Latuda because I wasn’t allowed to eat, so that was the one medication I missed at 3 am when they dished them to me… and to be honest I probably needed it the most.

By 6 pm on Friday, I was assessed 1 more time. More bloodwork, another x-ray and then I was told I could go BUT to come back if anything intensified. Also, I was required to book a follow-up appointment.

I was so happy to leave and see my husband! And my dog!

Fear. As I talked with my family (parents and sisters) and my husband I joked around a lot, made light of the situation. But in all honesty, it was really, really, really hard on me.

To be alone as doctors are poking and prodding you, telling you there is something wrong BUT they don’t know how it happened. To be told you need to be monitored. And to be attached to your biggest fear for 24 hrs essentially. It messed with me.

I’m proud of myself for not hyperventilating or crying audibly BUT from start to finish in the hospital I was emotionally overwhelmed and distraught. I essentially cried silently to myself, trying to keep a brave face on.

When I got home, I showered and slept. My husband probably wondered why, because thats all I did at the hospital BUT I was so emotionally exhausted. I had put the brave face on, because I needed to BUT I was terrified the entire time.

At the end of the day, I’m okay. They are calling it spontaneous and so long as their is no pain where they told me I should be experiencing pain – I’m golden. It should all go away with time and I’ll be in mint condition.

I have a follow-up with my family doctor on Thursday, so I’m sure I’ll get to hear a bit more of an explanation and ask some questions.

Life is so unpredictable. It’s so fragile. You can be walking around feeling fine and lo and behold there is something cooking on the inside of you that you had no idea about. I’m grateful for my persistent sister who told me to take my health seriously. I went in for one thing and came out with something entirely different. Who knew?!

A tender mercy, if I wouldn’t have gone for a 2nd opinion this problem wouldn’t have been brought to life and wouldn’t be monitored like it is now. The goal is better, not worse.

Take your health seriously. Go for a 2nd opinion.

Also, recognize that you are braver than you know. And there is a time and place for it and if you don’t back down you can do overcome anything you put your mind to – even a crazy long painful IV aka needle in your elbow for 24 hrs.

Also, after going thru something traumatic give yourself some time to heal. Don’t put pressure on yourself to bounce back and be uppity up. I wasn’t okay for a few days. I felt broken, and that was all from the mental exhaustion of my hospital experience.

We are stronger than we know, be brave when bravery is required and be tender to yourself and your recovery when you are able to put the brave face down for a rest.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and healthy week.

– Steph

What to Say

I don’t feel “depressed”, I don’t feel “anxious”, I don’t feel “unhappy”, yet I feel a sense of emptiness. I feel like I have no motivation to start or finish anything –
I have a tons of things I could be doing during this time of quarantine yet I am complaining I’m bored … because I’m not doing anything because I have no desire to. Heck! I’m working from home so I even have an additional 3 hrs in my day because I am not commuting.

What to do?!

That’s another thing, I apologize for not posting. I’ve had ever intention to write and post, alas I have not had the motivation to. Perhaps I am lowkey depressed. I have things swirling thru my mind yet I’m incapable of formulating sentences. The times I have attempted to write I’ve scrapped the content because it was garbage. I am not even the biggest fan of this post BUT I know I need to let you know I’m still here – I just have writers block.

I feel like I’m on the brink of feeling happy, yet that emptiness is so prevalent. I feel stuck. Perhaps, this quarantine and isolation is doing more to my psyche than I realized.

On a positive note, a perk of working from home is I get to spend the full day with my dog Nutmeg and I’m pretty sure she is enjoying me being with her 24/7 considering she’s on my lap all day and showers me with kisses non-stop. #blessed

Everyone keep your chin up, this is a trying time in our lives but we will get thru it. I feel a bit discombobulated and I think that is why my mood is so hard to pinpoint.

I’ll try to gather my thoughts and compose something a little more insightful next week.

– Steph

Let’s Try This Again

Okay, it is the beginning of March and I should have progress photos to share. Sorry to disappoint but I never had time to get them done. However, I can assure you I look the exact same as February.

My stats are as follows:

Heaviest Weight: 198lbs
Goal Weight: 155lbs

Jan 1/2020 Weight: 172.2 lbs
Feb 1/2020 Weight: 169.6 lbs
Current Weight: 170.6 lbs

Measurements

Jan 1/2020 Bust: 40″
Feb 1/2020 Bust: 40″
Current Bust: 39″

Jan 1/2020 Waist: 32″
Feb 1/2020 Waist: 31″
Current Waist: 31″

Jan 1/2020 Hips: 42.5″
Feb 1/2020 Hips: 42″
Current Hips: 41.5″

So as you can see I’m up a pound, this is most annoying. I have not been able to break away from 169-172 for the past 4 weeks at minimum. I think I need to be laser focused on my nutrition for the month of March. The last few weeks I’ve been off the wagon a bit. Inconsistent gym time based on injury and holidays. The recipe for stagnant weight and inches lost.

I’m going to keep trying though, move forward in March and see what I can do. Unfortunately, my gym routine with my sister is seemingly coming to an end. It is just not working with my new work schedule. We can’t coordinate a time that works for me and my sleep and her having someone to watch her kids so we can go earlier.

This week I’ll be attempting working out during my lunch break at work. We have access to a beautiful gym for free, so I want to take advantage of it. I will be doing cardio in the evenings on Mon, Wed and Fri for 20-30 minutes and my sister and I will keep going to aquafit on Thurs.

I am hoping to get back in the swing of things and hopefully break into the 165 zone. I know it’s possible. It is just going to require a bit of extra work and attention to detail.

Happy workouts everyone. When you hit a wall dont stop, climb over or walk around BUT keep going. I know it will be worth it when I see how far I’ve come at the 9 month mark of my journey.

– Steph

A Cure

Alright. Where to begin.

Over the past while I have been plagued by some memories of my past – in particular a relationship. This relationship extended over years, a brief history to understand the extent of this connection is the fact that I first met this individual in Jr. High School and in later years after keeping in contact we began a relationship (enough said).

The fact that this individual and the memories surrounding him crossed my mind was a constant discomfort to me. I felt guilty. I felt terrible. I felt like I was betraying my relationship, my husband – my marriage. It was something I talked to my doctors about and it was the same old solution – let the memories come – let them go – and do not judge yourself. Yah. No. Not working.

That advice was easier said than done. However, in one session with a random therapist in the new city I am in, something was said and it triggered a series of thoughts that I will get to in a little bit. What this psychologist said was “perhaps the memories are not the problem BUT it is the credit we give them, the power we give them as we try to rationalize them and make sense of why they are happening”. Okay – now I can definitely appreciate that new insight. It was something I had never thought about in LITERALLY countless hours of thinking.

I was adding fuel to the fire as I tried to determine what each and every individual memory meant and quite frankly as was to be determined THEY MEANT NOTHING.

BUT this is where it gets good… the comment the psychologist made was good food for thought BUT what really made me shake my head with a new found outlook on my life was a conversation with my older sister.

I called my sister in a frenzy during a lunch break, I was feeling sick from the amount of memories crossing my mind. I felt like it was getting worse NOT better and that I had no control over my mind anymore. I felt like I was looking backwards despite the fact that I was trying oh so very hard to appreciate and look forward into my bright future with the man of my dreams.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?!

Did I still have unresolved feelings? I couldn’t. I knew I didn’t.

The relationship I was reflecting on ended on bad terms and was over almost 5 years ago, sure we kept in touch but, I AM IN LOVE WITH MY HUSBAND, no doubt in my mind or heart that he is my living heart beat.

So why the chaos? Why was my mind creating a problem where there was none?

Simply for that reason. There is no chaos in my life. MIND BLOWN! That was the insight my sister shared that changed my life. Like the therapist said my constant trying to “figure out” the memories was adding fuel to a fire. The fire set being myself.

For the last 9 years as my sister helped describe to me – my life which has been a roller coaster (excluding the most recent year), I was in one terrible relationship after the other. For may of those years I was undiagnosed and living in a hell on earth. I was functioning in chaos. That was my normal. My normal was to be in defence mode, to be fighting with myself and the men that I loved in any relationship I entered, because they were almost always toxic relationships (don’t ask me why). Associating with people in my past relationships was like a drug addiction. My normal was wayyy up high on the chaos wagon, not down low in a mellow peaceful state.

My husband is the polar opposite of chaos (which was one of the reasons I fell in love with him). He is a calm in the storm. He is peaceful, literally the opposite of anything I had ever experienced since the age of 17.

That’s not to say that I have not enjoyed my life and journey over the past 10 years. There have been amazing moments and serious leaps and bounds of self realization. For instance the memories I was thinking back on were good for the most part BUT deep down I wasn’t reminiscing on the memory; what I now know is that my mind was trying to recreate the chaos and panic I was living in during that time of my life, so for convenience it was bringing up that particular time in my life AND because it was about an ex of course that would create drama in my present life, where there would otherwise be none!

CRUEL BUT BRILLIANT. Just thinking about how my mind when thru all that effort to simulate chaos so that my body could feel like it was in a state of normalcy is incredible. The mind is a force to be reckoned with.

But in actuality, what has this epiphany done. It has calmed the storm my friends. I am no longer plagued by memories, a fleeting one may come and go BUT it is no where near as chaotic as it was. I know what is going on and why it is happening. I have the power again. There is no power in the memory.

I can’t emphasize how happy and at peace I feel. I have been sleeping better, I feel happier over all.

I know. I know. I know. I know that I am adjusting to this new “normal”, this new peaceful relationship – life in a new city, with a new job, away from my family and doctors.

I know that my mind was playing with me trying to recreate a sad excuse of a “comfort zone”, because my new zone was too good to be true. It blows my mind to say that I grew comfortable in my chaos, that is what I knew and expected. Is it what I wanted – NOT AT ALL. However, I was conditioned to normalize the experiences in my life because they were my normal – which doesn’t make them healthy.

I am healthy today. I am happy today. I have been chaos free for over a year and my mind has plagued me the entire time, trying to find a problem where there was none. (the memories were the only thing causing mayhem in my personal life)

All of my memories. All the feelings being brought up had absolutely nothing to do with the individual they were about, rather they about the state I was in at that point in my life. He has no power over me. He has no place in my life. He is in the past.

I am free.

I am not sure if this post captured the essence of this discovery, but if you are being plagued by memories give yourself a moment to ask yourself if the plague is actually about the person or rather the state you were in at that time. Your mind might be playing with you like mine did to me. The memories were a façade for a deeper problem.

But like I said a million times over and I will say it to my grave, once you acknowledge the problem and give it a name, once you know what is troubling you, YOU are that much more capable of resolving it.

Hallelujah and amen! I hope that if anyone is experiencing a similar situation this gave you some insight, and if not I hope you enjoyed the read.

-Steph