Self-Check

Over the past 4 months a lot has happened, all for the better BUT because of all the sudden change my mood has been affected greatly.

I was married (and started living with someone that I’ve never lived with before – heck I’ve never even had a room mate before, aside from my younger sister), I moved to a new city (in a completely different province), I got a new job (#dreamjob), I lost my medical support that I had built relationships with since my initial diagnosis (they were replaced with a new make shift support), and I moved away from all of my family (whom I am very close with and are another major support system).

Lots of change!

I like to think that I have managed well, but it has been a challenge and my husband has picked up on my mood flux.

Things have been happening that I am grateful for but there has been a lot of change to navigate thru. My husband is beyond supportive, patient and understanding, he has tried to take on the roll of the support team for nearly everyone that I left behind which is a big job to do – dare I say even unfair.

For probably 3 out of the 4 months after my move I was in a low, it was exhausting. I was trying so hard to not let my mental state impact my new job and especially my marriage. I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer- hellooooo my husband and I are still supposed to be in our honeymoon phase. Don’t get me wrong, I have been happy over the course of the 4 months BUT that has been simultaneously been happening while I’ve felt pretty darn low and felt like I was losing my footing. If that even makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I have sought medical support and I am trying to build a support system here (and not pin it all on my husband). I have a new psychiatrist – she is nice enough. However, I am still not overly confident in our connection. Our first encounter she told me I had everything together and was absolutely fine. She told me she wasn’t even concerned about ordering my file from my previous hospital…. okay then. You would think that being the case she would delve in and ask me about my history – nope, that did not happen. I have seen her a few times, the last two were better than the first. I contacted her regarding my sleep, because I wasn’t sleeping (we are talking the entire time after my move) – red flag that I am not okay shall we say. Anyways she prescribed me Zopiclone, I took the higher dose that she offered and it didn’t even make me blink. I tried it for 2 weeks and nada. So I went back to see her, at this point she seemed a little alarmed, because heaven forbid I actually wasn’t a perfect patient and actually needed medical support to navigate my diagnosis of bipolar II.

Anywho, she prescribed me two new medications, one of which is for anxiety and the other for sleep. This concoction in addition to my medication medley that I already take has seemingly given me back the sleep that I needed and consequentially my mood has regained a bit more stability – NEVER doubt the impact that good or poor sleep hygiene can have on your mood.

So where am I now in terms of the medication I take? I will give you a break down, please remember that everyone is unique in terms of what medication they require for their individual case.

120 mg – Latuda – Mood Stabilizer
250 mg – Lamotrigine – Anti-Depressant
100 mg – Trazodone – Sleep Aid (dosage affects the role of this medication) (new)
30 mg – Oxazepam – Anxiety (new)
100 mg – Quetiapine – Sleep Aid (dosage affects the role of this medication)

My medication has been a journey all of its own, being refined and tweaked and changed over YEARS. My medication medley has been consistent the past year aside from the new additions now for my anxiety and sleep, however if we look at all the change that has occurred in my life, it is no wonder my sleep and anxiety were impacted as of late. It is so important for us to be self aware. It is so important for us to hold self-checks, to see what variables have changed and how our mood/sleep has been impacted.

Without being aware of ourselves how can you monitor the impact the medication has or doesn’t have on you? How can you measure the impact your surroundings or peers have on you? Without having a constant which is YOU, how can you measure all of the changing variables in different scenarios. As ironic as it is, you are the constant, bipolar mood changes and all. As you become more adept to your moods, what they look like, what triggers a cycle, then you will realize you are indeed a constant in the equation of life and everything else is a variable. That is powerful information that can transform the way you look at who you are and the life you are living or want to be living.

Also, ***key note*** my medication has changed and has been tweaked and throughout it all I HAVE ALWAYS TAKEN MY MEDICATION. High or low I always took my medication, I can’t emphasize that detail enough! How are you going to find out what medication works for you if you don’t take it. Sure, at times it seems like life would be a heck of a lot more fun without it OR perhaps it’s annoying taking it day in and day out OR alternatively you feel like its not doing anything at all and you are fine without it OR it is making you feel even worse. Let me be clear and say that unless the doctor told me I could stop taking medication during the trial period, I took the medication, I documented side affects, I asked questions, I documented mood changes, outliers and when my doctor received my feedback we made changes accordingly, whether that was with the dose or scrapping the medication and moving onto a new one all together. IF you do not take the medication, how will you know the impact it has on you.

Recovery is a choice, choices require action. Be actively engaged in your medication process – don’t sit back and expect everything to work out without raising a finger or opening your mouth to offer an input about your own health. That my friends is just a cold reality of the recovery process.

I am still adjusting, I am still checking in with myself.

I’ve found a therapist where I live and I plan to meet with her once a month. My mental health is a priority and I hope you make yours a priority too. Sure she isn’t my previous psychologist…. nothing like him BUT I am hoping to gain some new insight about myself and my recovery journey. New perspectives are on the horizon.

I hope you found some insight in this post and are able to reflect on your own journey. Regularly self-check and you will surprise yourself with the difference it can make in your life. Remember the highs and lows will come BUT that doesn’t mean you aren’t stable, it’s all in how we react.

– Steph

It’s Not How Fast That Matters

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Something that I came to realize a little later than I would have liked, is that life is not a race. There is not a perfect timeline that we should all be adhering to. There is not a pass or fail for the accomplishments we attain at different ages and stages of our life. It’s okay if we are not marching to the same drum that everyone else around us seems to be marching too.

My life took some unexpected turns, such as my diagnosis with bipolar, that diagnosis was not something I envisioned as a little girl planning out my family, education and career (I was a wee bit odd and started looking at universities when I was in grade 6). My diagnosis impacted my life drastically, not to mention bipolar in general before my formal diagnosis. At times I felt inferior to those around me, I felt like I was watching everyone pass me by with school, career, relationships, marriage, children and so forth while I struggled just to stay balanced and afloat. At least that was the case until I finally came to the realization that I was on my own path. I was growing, I was becoming better, I was gaining perspective and insight, I was meeting my goals – I was just doing it slower than I imagined I would. And there is NOTHING wrong with that.  So long as you are putting one foot in front of the other you will reach your destination and if you stop harassing yourself, you will probably enjoy the process a whole lot more – smelling the roses instead of rushing past and trampling them.

It’s okay to grow slowly. It’s okay to go at a pace that isn’t the norm. When you aren’t rushing thru life trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing, it will allow you to look at where you are going with more clarity and less time will be wasted tripping and taking wrong turns or ending up at dead ends. Be kind to yourself.

I am 26, turning 27 in a few weeks – I have a diploma, not the degree I envisioned I would have from a young age. I have no children and I am just getting married this October (yes, 27 to some people may seem young to get married however, when your mom and sisters were all married by the age of 20, 27 can start to feel old) Anyways, my point is – this is where I am at and I am proud of myself. I overcame so much to be where I am. I have a diploma – I have succeeded in my education, it took me YEARS, but I never gave up and I achieved something for myself. If you knew my educational struggle with my mental health you would understand why a diploma means so much to me and my family. I have met the most amazing man and I am the happiest I have ever been. I am getting married – and I know that I didn’t just settle with any young bloke, I waited because I knew my worth.  The right things are happening in my life because I didn’t give up. I didn’t let my slow growth defeat the progress I knew I was making.

Don’t wallow in discouragement that your growth may be going slower than you like. Don’t be discouraged about your dreams that have yet to be achieved, because they will be – so long as you are true to yourself and put in the effort. I have no doubt you will accomplish amazing things.

I am so much happier accepting my life at the unique pace that it marches to. Don’t compare your pace to that of your neighbours. Be yourself. Love yourself. Nourish yourself and grow slowly – but never give up and never stop growing.

– Steph

The Upside

What a moving quote. I think that it is safe to say that those living with bipolar quite frequently face various storms.  What a beautiful concept that those storms may have a greater purpose.

Sometimes the storms of life come as a result of choices we make, they are the consequence of our actions. However, sometimes the storms of life come at no consequence of our own –you don’t have to do anything in particular and BAM, you are in a squall – tossing to and fro – hanging on for dear life.

Over the course of my life I have been in countless storms, as I am sure you can all relate. And just as this quote expresses, there have been times that those storms have cleared a path for me, they didn’t just “disrupt my life”.

Sometimes the storm – the chaos – the destruction is exactly what we need in order to find our foundation again – to be grounded – to rebuild. Sometimes the storm gives us insights that we would otherwise be oblivious to. Sometimes the storm thrusts us on the path we so desperately need to be on to continue on our journey.

Storms ruffle our feathers, they make us uncomfortable, they require us to be resilient. But growth stems from discomfort, think back to the timeless expression of “growing pains”. At times the storms seem to take more than we can give, but they never leave us baron. They always leave us with the opportunity to grow. And that is priceless.

Our path isn’t always visible and sometimes through the storms of life we may lose sight of it all together BUT there are times without doubt that the storm makes our path crystal clear. Take a moment to evaluate the storms you’ve gone thru. Have they all helped you grow into the individual that you are today? Have they shuffled you on the path that got you here today.

Sometimes storms are terrible, you are unprepared for them and they take you off-guard, however other times the storms give you an appreciation for life and allow you to dance in the rain.

Storms will come and storms will go. Don’t be mistaken to classify the storms of life as all negative. I am not going to say that all storms are positive experiences that we should all be overjoyed to be swept away in, but I am saying that there can be positive things that we take away from being in each storm. We may not see it in the moment, but once the storm has settled, we may realize that we are exactly where we need to be in order to get exactly where we need to go and without that particular storm we wouldn’t have gotten there.

– Steph

Be The Change

I’ve been on the rise (not in a hypomanic way), I’m feeling a lot better than I have in weeks passed. I think it’s fair to say that I was in a low – everything seemed doom and gloom and my positive outlook on life was overshadowed by negative thoughts that I couldn’t seem to shake. It’s been a while since my mental state has been crippled by my mood so severely. I was getting out of bed in the morning but just barely.

It’s times like these that really make me reflect on my mood management skills.

I won some battles and lost some battles over the course of my low. I didn’t quit my job which was something I would have done in a heartbeat if I didn’t do a self-check. The thought was there and the fuel feeding the fire was real! But I did some self-talk and conclude the cons outweighed the pros. So the job stayed BUT I did give my notice yesterday, because I am moving – there was no need to do it prematurely as I have bills to pay. This is the longest I’ve ever stayed with a job, no need to burn the bridge and end on bad terms. I’m not sure if anyone else with bipolar can relate BUT I never stayed with an employer longer than 6 months prior to this job. I would lose interest, feel like people were picking up on my moods (which cycled a lot more frequently) orrrrrr I was always starting school which would all cause me to quit. I hated being anywhere too long. I’ve never been fired, but I definitely never stuck around.

Another win was I maintained communication with my fiancé, I let him know how I was feeling and we talked thru things rather than me shutting him out. I also talked with my family and doctor, all of which helped me manage my mood.

I didn’t exercise or eat in accordance to my goals for the majority of my low. That was a battle I lost. It happens.

I (and my fiancé) created some plans to overcome my negative thoughts that were on repeat throughout this low, and I think that improved my mental state. I find that if you can pinpoint what your repeating negative narrative is, you can find a way to counter it, which will help your mood improve quicker. There is always a repeating narrative. Something that you repeat to yourself, whether it’s that you are worthless, an inconvenience to those around you, incompetent, a 2 out of 10, not creative, never finishing anything you start, swallowed by debt, etc… It’s safe to say that this low manifested a new narrative regarding my self appearance, lack of creativity and work which all trickled into my self-worth.

I was curious as to what my new narrative would be, because I’ve been so happy and everything seemed to be going well and I have been conquering the narratives that plagued my past. Let’s just say my mind was surprisingly creative when it came up with my negative narratives this time around.

So what did we come up with –

Once I move to Victoria I am going to enrol in a sewing class. Nothing fancy, but something to get my wheels turning again and reintroduce that passion into my life. Next I will be taking classical guitar lessons, I’ve already found a teacher. I am beyond excited to add these dimensions into my life. Lastly, in terms of my style – if you can’t find what you like, do it yourself. We determined that it might become a fun hobby and good motivation to do fashion posts either on my blog or Instagram that adhere to the standards of modesty I have in my life. It may help me find more people with similar styles that I can connect with or inspire other young women to dress modestly while maintaining their own independent style that isn’t cookie cutter.  I am trying to think outside the box. I’m not about to say that my style is going to be off the chain, but it will be a step in the right direction to express myself creatively and will definitely beat wearing gym clothes all the time.

I feel hopeful. I feel determined. And I feel like I’ve got a grip on my self worth. I know I’m not a 2 out 10. I know my worth is far beyond that. I have imperfections as everyone does BUT at the end of the day it’s not about everyone else. It’s about me and the self love and respect I offer myself. I am going to get nowhere fast if I talk with such disdain towards myself. You can only sustain true happiness and change thru self love. I don’t need surgery, I don’t need the perfect body, I just need to love myself as I am and work on being the best version of myself. If you give everything you’ve got there will never be any regrets. My creativity has been hindered – I know this. So, rather than dwelling on it unhappily I will make a change in my life to do something about it.

Anyways, I hope everyone is doing well. The journey to my happily ever after continues, but I have no doubt I’m on the right path.

– Steph

2 Out Of 10

So I had a completely different post ready for today, alas this post came to my mind last night and was written this morning and I’m using it instead.

I have been in a bit of a weird mood lately and I think that has magnified some body issues that I have. It’s no secret I’ve battled with my weight especially since being medicated BUT as I mentioned in a previous post I’ve joined weight watchers and I am down 16 lbs which is huge win because I haven’t been able to drop anything after the 10lbs I lost on my own. You would think I’d be happy with this. Believe me – I am, but I know there is still 10-15lbs to go, thus I am not thrilled with where I am at. It’s not only that. I realized this past month or so that I’ve been killing myself with self talk in the worst way.

Self talk is some thing I’ve blogged about on many occasions and I firmly believe it can make a huge impact on your life. After my engagement photos I ripped my appearance apart. I cried when I saw the photos and I’m not sure if I’ve completely recovered. I’ve never wanted to get cosmetic surgery BUT after that photo shoot the idea crossed my mind on numerous occasions, I even looked into clinics in my city. Furthermore, one of my best friends just a had a minor procedure done. I’m never going to encourage someone to alter their appearance (she is gorgeous without it) BUT it made me want to do it myself.

I look thru social media on the daily and I think that’s also been messing with me. What’s real? What’s fake? What’s photoshopped? Whats not? It’s mind blowing the types of apps they have that alter your appearance. And the types of procedures available to get the “perfect look”.

I feel naive to be buying into the glam that some of these people have but I look at them and I look at myself and I’m like wow maybe I’m a 2 out of a 10. Maybe I’m not, but I’ve been talking to myself like I am.

I used to consider myself someone who was dressed on point, makeup and hair was on point and now – I rarely do my hair in a style, my make up is sub-par and my clothes remind me of a librarian. I think the fact I hate my sense of style is affecting my mood. Heck. I don’t even think I can say I have a style at this point.

To a degree I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity and maybe that’s why I’m so upset. I used to feel so inspired when I put together a look and now I drag my feet because I’m not happy with any of the outcomes. So then I think I’ll look online to find inspiration and BAM it makes me feel like I’m a 2 out of 10 again.

The more medicated I’ve become the less creative flaire I’ve had in so many aspects if my life. I’m calling myself out on it BECAUSE I want it to change. I want to be the girl up till 2 am designing and sewing because fashion was my life. I haven’t sewn in the past 3 years or sketched. Nada. When I go to design I draw a blank. I have no sense of style to build on. I feel like I’ve lost it all.

To add to it…. it’s not to blame but within my religion it’s encouraged to adhere to certain modesty standards and because I want my actions to reflect my faith I adhere to these standards (I haven’t always when I was younger) this makes certain styles and things that I’m drawn towards unacceptable. This is super frustrating and something I’ve struggled with. Like I said I haven’t always adhered to the standards and that’s probably when I liked my style the most as sad as it is to say. Right now I feel so bland. I feel like my selection is limited and consists of the same silhouettes which are boring in my eyes right now – maybe they won’t always be. Maybe it’s my mentality that is preventing me from seeing the style within my limits but I just feel stuck.

I feel like I have a mental block and it’s been there for a while and I’ve been putting it off, telling myself it’s not a big deal or it will sort itself out on its own. It hasn’t. And I’m unhappy with where I am.

At this point I feel like I’ve been a let down for my fiance. He loves me and tells me how beautiful I am BUT he has rarely seen me look completely put together. I think now that I am getting married and in this relationship there is a part of me that is saying “step up your game you have so much more to offer!” I’ve been so numb to expressing myself out side of this blog and writing and even then sometimes I struggle to post because I feel like I have nothing to say.

I feel like I don’t even know where to begin to pull myself out of this bleak hole. I just want to feel creative and comfortable with how I look again. I love me. I love myself. But my agonizing criticism isn’t reflecting that.

It’s important to have an identity with your appearance, and I think that’s why I’m so upset. I feel like I have no identity. I feel so uninspired.

I honestly just don’t even know.

I wish I had some positive outlook to express in this post but I’ve got NIL.

I think I’ll challenge myself to say one positive thing about myself for the rest of the month. I need to get a grip on my self talk and show myself a little more love. Right now my self talk isn’t cutting it. I know it’s a problem that if I don’t face will do damage and potentially ruin all the work I’ve done to have a happy loving relationship with myself. That’s a break up I don’t want.

I always encourage self love and I think that’s why I wanted to make this post. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and this is my journey, I am human and sometimes I fall off the wagon – which I have, and I am presently working to get back on it.

I don’t know my friends.

I guess chin up. I know I’ll come out on the other side. I’ll find my groove I’ll work on my creativity as silly as that sounds. Hopefully sooner than later. I’ll find some inspiration and I’m sure before I know I’ll feel like I can strut down a runway…. or not BUT it’s a nice idea.

I’m sorry if this post seems all over. I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything I’m thinking and I don’t know if it’s translating into a post that makes sense.

I have some serious work to do.

– Steph

A Weed Or A Wish

A wish

I’ve been fairly consumed with planning and preparing for my new future. The wedding is almost in a double-digit countdown which is a surreal feeling.

I’ve been reading more articles about bipolar disorder a well as a book that I was given when I was first diagnosed. Knowledge is power and it never hurts to go over a critical component of your life. I am not nervous about being married. I am very excited about it, I am however nervous about the change that marriage will entail. I am bracing myself for the change, because as anyone with bipolar knows, change can bring on an episode going either direction – up or down. It’s obviously not by choice, it’s just a natural phenomenon. When the change is drastic enough so becomes the mood.

I’ve been doing well so far, my anxiety has been a bit more pronounced but I have still maintained a happy demeanour. It’s so funny how you become so in-tune with your body after years of dissecting your moods, reactions, triggers, and ticks. One of the bonuses of active participation in improving my health is I am always aware of myself. That’s one of the things my doctors have commented on, on more than a few occasions. I am a very self-aware individual. My mentality is the only way to progress is to be self aware, if you are aware of your weaknesses they can become strengths, if you are aware of your strengths you can apply them to your goals. If you are accomplishing your goals you are becoming the best version of yourself. It all begins with self-awareness.

Self-awareness, is something I’ve had to work on. It required a perspective shift. It required me to take control of my life, take hold of my bipolar and to not be a victim of my mental health. Bipolar was initially a curse in my mind, but it has turned into one of my strengths over the course of the past few years. As one of my sister refers to it as a “super power”. Getting to this point of peace with my bipolar has been a journey, but I have grown immensely. I am not a perfect personification of someone with their bipolar under control, however I am someone with bipolar who has found happiness, when it once robbed me of it. Happiness is not something I experience at all times, there are times that I feel alone and like I am trapped in a dark abyss, however I know that the darkness will fade eventually and I remind myself of this and it helps keep my hope alive.

Taking charge of your bipolar is taking the good with the bad, the highs with the lows and everything in between. It’s not picking and choosing parts of it when it is easy or convenient.

This quote is perfect, some people see a weed. I see a wish. Some see bipolar as a curse. I see it as an opportunity. When you shift your perspective, you will find opportunity in more than you could possibly imagine.

– Steph

What Are You Loyal To?

I’ve had the opportunity to stroll down memory lane this past week. Both in terms of old relationships and my health.

It’s unbelievable how far I’ve come in both regards. How different I am.

I am different, and there is nothing and no one in this world that could convince me to revert back to my old ways or days. The past is the past for a reason. You learn and grow and move on from it. I haven’t put all this work into myself to stay the same, or be in the same situations as I was in before.

Don’t get caught up in your past. If you do my chance stroll thru memory lane, do just that – stroll. Don’t stay.

Your past and the things that have happened in your life don’t deserve your undying loyalty. What and who are presently in your life do. Your present day determines where you will be going in the future. Be loyal to that. Be loyal to a better future.

Don’t let your past distract you from where you are going.

Just a little reminder for you and me. Think about where you are going and remember it’s going to be more than your past could have ever offered you.

The only thing that remembering your past offers is thr knowledge not to repeat it. Progress requires change.

This isn’t to say everyone has an unpleasant past but the fact of the matter is you can’t grow if you are stuck on the “glory days” or “better days” or the “worst days” of your life. Whatever the past was for you, it no longer serves a purpose other than growing from it and moving on.

Reflect on your past- because how else can you grow BUT be loyal to your future, that is where you are going. Don’t jeapordize your progress by getting stuck on who you were before.

Enjoy your now and remind yourself that you will have a better tomorrow. Each day is an opportunity. Take it and run with it.

– Steph