Five Years it has Been

Patrice will have her kindergarten graduation at homeschool co-op next week.  I truly cannot believe it.  She is my baby.  How can she be knocking on the door of 6 years old?  That seems so old, so grown up.

Right now, she still has the pudgy little fingers that wrap around mine.  She still makes up words or stumbles upon her own pronunciation of those I say effortlessly.

But I suspect a lot of that will fall away this summer as we get closer to that big 6 birthday.

And I am sad.

I am also sad that it has taken until this month–April–to get to a point where my Bipolar seems to be under control.  It seems the meds might finally be right, though tweaking is still being done, I like the therapist I am working with, I am finally getting stronger.  I still feel fragile and I am scared every day that things will get bad again, but so far, I am holding my own.

It has taken 5 years.  Five years it has been since we brought home baby Patrice and my personal descent into hell began, and a myriad of struggles for my family also commenced.

Thankfully I feel like I remember those 5 years, they are not blanked out; unfortunately, they are muddied with the depression, mania, anxiety, and medication side effects.  There is a veil, a haze, I can never un-remember.  Five years it has been.

I am thankful for the time now of clarity and “stability”, I am, but I am sad about the last five years.  There is no cleaning them up, they will always be muddy, but they are mine and my family, part of the fabric of our 5 years .

Checking it Out

Our zoo membership is one of the best investments we make each year.  We live very close to the zoo and love taking a couple hours at a time to check out parts of it at a time.

Last night we checked the long awaited, all new penguin exhibit.  And to say it is spectacular is an understatement.  Check out these pictures to see it through the eyes of 9 year old Caitlyn and 8 year old Sue.

2016-04-19 18.44.58 HDR-2

*very realistic picture

2016-04-19 18.45.21-1

*very realistic picture, not an actual animal

2016-04-19 18.45.28 HDR-2

*very realistic picture, not an actual animal

2016-04-19 18.45.30-1

*very realistic picture, not an actual animal

2016-04-19 18.42.45 HDR-2

*very realistic picture, not an actual animal

2016-04-19 18.42.50 HDR-2

*very realistic picture, not an actual animal

2016-04-19 18.50.57 2016-04-19 18.37.11 2016-04-19 18.40.19 2016-04-19 18.40.14 2016-04-19 18.40.08 2016-04-19 18.40.03 2016-04-19 18.39.57 2016-04-19 18.39.52 2016-04-19 18.39.05 2016-04-19 18.44.42 HDR-2 2016-04-19 18.44.39-1 2016-04-19 18.48.24

The entire experience was phenomenal, minus the grumpy 5 year old.  It was truly an experience, not simply a display.  When you were walking from area to area, it was built to be like a ship, complete with the waves misting on you and the ship “tossing” around.  We had to leave early, due to said 5 year old, and the 9 year old was so upset.  I had to remind her a few times that we were going to go back…I promise!

The zoo really did a fantastic job with their newest display!

Reclaiming Me

All to the Glory of God–that is why I blog and share my story so openly.  I want others to know it is possible to live and parent well with mental illness.  This, by necessity, causes my posts to be brutally honest, and that is not always pretty. 
I have always endeavored to live by the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Depression is like other illnesses; the longer it goes on, the worse the symptoms are.  There are lots of twists and turns when it goes on for a long time.  For example, when this last depression started, it was like my others in that I fought it with exercise and movement.  Unlike many other people dealing with depression, I didn’t sleep more, if anything I slept less.  I didn’t move less, I moved more, I struggled to stop.  But, as it continued, the depression wore me down, until I found myself hating the thought of the exercise, and especially the energy it would take from me.  I slept more and more as my brain was less and less capable of doing things I once did with ease.

But then my new medication started to work, and layer by layer the depression began to fall away.  I found myself setting aside some activities that I had clung to during the depression and I began picking up things I had lost in the darkness.

I started with walking.  A bit at a time.  Outside.  And then back on the treadmill for miles at a time.  I felt myself reclaiming me…bit by bit.

But there was one activity I still hadn’t tackled–my beloved exercise PiYo.  I kept it at arms length for reasons I can’t explain…until Sunday.  I found myself reaching out my my friend who has encouraged me and taught me so much about exercise.  We decided to restart the program Monday (yesterday) and we did!!!

And I started singing this.

Mania–My Facts

All to the Glory of God–that is why I blog and share my story so openly.  I want others to know it is possible to live and parent well with mental illness.  This, by necessity, causes my posts to be brutally honest, and that is not always pretty. 
I have always endeavored to live by the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Recently a therapist did something no one had ever done before.  She asked me what depression and mania looked like in my life–not the books, not the articles, not the assumptions, but my life…what did I walk through.

That last notable mania spell was a couple years ago, but there were a number of things I could tell her about mania looks in my life.

My mania doesn’t haunt me very often.  It, unlike depression, is easily controlled by medication.  But it does peek through sometimes.  This last Thursday was one of those times.  I noticed later in the day that my brain was getting noisier and it was harder to sit still.  I was constantly looking for something to do.  And it was harder to keep track of my thoughts.  They weren’t fragmented, they were just a little harder to keep up with…each seemed to jump to another topic.

Friday morning, it felt like the mania was coming, a wave of it would broadside my mind, but then it would recede.  As the morning continued, the waves were coming and staying.  The waves of busyness were not going away of their own accord.  I reached out to a friend who advised me to contact my doctor.  I heard back from my doctor in record time.  She increased one of my medications and offered me an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I took both.

And then I started moving.  Mania comes with a lot of energy.  And grumpiness.  I repeat to myself over and over what I should do next to channel both…first, must clean house…all laundry must be done and folded.  Kitchen must be cleaned up, sweeping must be done.  When all house tasks, including homeschooling, were done, I started walking.  A lot.

2016-04-08 20.47.05

Saturday, I continued with the energy.  I am tired, but it feels like something is chasing me–if I stop I will fall apart, so no stopping.  It’s only been a day, but I can’t really tell you what I did.  My feet were protesting the walking of Friday, so my steps were a little slower, but I still made my mark.

2016-04-09 20.42.15

I did clean the fridge and I am so proud to say Caitlyn came in and offered to help me.  She cheerfully scrubbed shelves and drawers as I emptied areas and refilled places as she cleaned them.

Today my mind has been quiet.  I sat calmly through an hour+ service, I sat in a chair to help the girls with their Bible verses for AWANA.  I am sitting here typing this post.  That is something I could not have done the last few days.  I still did pretty well on my steps…I decided to keep one thing of this last mania stretch…an hour of walking…

2016-04-10 19.02.31

Mania does not look like the tv shows.  It is different for each and every person that lives with bipolar.  Mine tends to be shorter and easily treated.  It does not come with giddiness or an overly joyful persona, it tends to come with a fair amount of anger.  There is an increased desire to spend.  I try to stay away from stores (and amazon) when things are moving too fast.  If I absolutely must go to the store, I have a pre-made list in hand and focus all my energy on staying as close to the items written down as absolutely possible.  My mind comes up with a million projects I want to do.  I used to drag the girls into all those projects, but now I try to let them direct what they get involved in with me.  It does get harder and harder to control all of these areas as the mania continues.  I get grouchier, staying with the list seems impossible, and I lose my ability to complete any of my projects, but I do try.  I really do try.

Again, mania is different for each person.  I have a team of people that know what mania looks like for me, and how they can help me to keep everything as even keeled as possible.

Those people make all the difference.

Easing Back In

As you know, I dealt with months and months  of a depressive episode of bipolar.  Praise the Lord, I am coming out of it.  My mind is quiet–there is no depression or mania.  Just quiet.  And it has been beautiful.

But there have been some things that surprised me.  I have found I am not jumping back into activities that I did before or during the depression quite as easily as I thought I would.

In previous depressions, exercise has been one of my main weapons to fight the darkness, but as this recent one wore on, I lost all interest in the treadmill, any classes at the YMCA, or videos I had been doing at home.  I went from exercise, exercise, exercise, to nothing–absolutely nothing.  I assumed that when the depression ended, I would get right back into all of it–but I have found it to be a very slow process.  I, just a week ago, started walking again, shooting to get my 10,000 steps in daily.  I have not yet popped in any videos and the social anxiety is keeping me from going to the Y.  My first time on the treadmill brought up all kinds of emotions.  I was excited to reclaim this part of my life, but at the same time I felt like I was walking back toward the depression.  I am beyond pleased that I did not walk back into the familiar darkness.

Also, during the depression, I knitted hat after hat.  It was my fallback activity when I couldn’t face the world.  I was making up to a hat every two days.  I haven’t touched the one on my loom in weeks.  Not one single stitch.  I’ll get back to that…someday.

The social anxiety has gotten a little better.  I can go out of my house, and grocery shopping isn’t quite as terrifying, and I have made it to church the last two weeks, but at the same time, phone calls are still excessively difficult, going to stores continues to be an ordeal, and talking to people still brings physical pain, but I am working on it, bit by bit, I am working on it.

I am surprised at how much I am still sleeping.  It is not as bad as with the depression, but I guess more of the sleeping was from medication side effects than I thought.  Oh well, if my mind is quiet, it is worth needing to nap every day.

Little by little, I am easing back into life.  It doesn’t look quite like I remember it before the depression, but it is mine, and my familys’ life and we are embracing it.  We are blooming where we’re planted.

Grammar and Bipolar

Grammar.  I helped with grammar today.  I am getting a refresher course on prepositions, prepositional phrases, and objects of the prepositions.

And I’m still, if I do say so myself, pretty good at them.  I have always found it fun to find prepositions.  True story.  I may not always use proper grammar, but hunting for it is a bit of a hobby of mine.  I am kind of geeking out over teaching the girls grammar.

Oh, and I have Bipolar.  I do.  But finally, for the first time in a long time, it does not have me.  I am more than a diagnosis today, World Bipolar Day.

I am a grammar nerd.

I am a FitBit walker (this means, if I don’t have my FitBit on to track my steps, then I see no point in walking).

I am a Diet Coke fanatic.

I am a blogger.

I am a theatre mom.

I am a Murder She Wrote watching laundry folder.

I am an Easter grass hating floor sweeper.

I am more than a diagnosis.

2016-03-22 13.49.15

A Quiet Mind

All to the Glory of God–that is why I blog and share my story so openly.  I want others to know it is possible to live and parent well with mental illness.  This, by necessity, causes my posts to be brutally honest, and that is not always pretty. 
I have always endeavored to live by the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

One thought at a time comes.

It is unclouded by depression and thoughts of personal destruction.

I don’t need music or social media to drown out the torture.

I can have one thought at a time.

One

Thought

At

A

Time.

It has been months since I could say that.  I find my thoughts come fast and furious at both parts of Bipolar Disorder–regardless of whether it is mania or depression.  There are so many thoughts.  So many.  And they are so loud.  Drowning out those things I want or need to think.

I have been fighting the thoughts of depression for months, with a crisis coming in January.  For the first time in four years I knew I had to check myself into a behavioral health hospital if I wanted to be alive for all my tomorrows.  So in I went–for 8 days.

In-patient care is not really a cure.  Little is done to get you better.  The focus is on keeping you safe and getting you stable enough to continue working with your regular doctors.

We made a couple medication adjustments in the hospital, and I hoped it was enough, but in actuality, I was worse when I left the hospital to come home than when I had left home to go in the hospital.  My mind was completely overtaken by suicidal thoughts.  All of my energy was invested in ignoring these thought trying to destroy me.  I was overtaken with fear that there was no hope of ever getting better.

My doctor continued to urge me to consider a partial hospitalization program.  I turned her down many times because I didn’t see anyway of getting someone to watch the girls for multiple days while I went each day, Monday through Friday, for six hours of treatment over two weeks.

But finally, I had run out of options.  I had to go if I was going to fight for me and my family.

And the Lord had His hand in it.  Family and friends were able to watch the girls for not just two, but THREE weeks while I learned new coping skills and got medications adjusted by a very skillful doctor.  He even got my insurance company to approve medication they had previously said they would not pay for!!!

I have been back in my life since March 16–and it is a beautiful place to be.  My mind is, did I mention, quiet.  My smile is back, and anxiety is quite manageable.  I am learning what I can eat with the new medication–it has made my stomach very sensitive and I am slowly becoming reacquainted with my emotions, and adjusting to the new demands for sleep that my body has.

It is not an overnight process.  Life is not immediately perfect, but it is mine and it is lovely.

Annie and Palm Sunday

We had a lot of fun this past weekend with family seeing Sue in the play Annie, but it left us ready to pass out tire by Sunday morning, so Palm Sunday Service was at home.

Annie Sold Out hard knock life 2 Cana hard knock life Cana

2016-03-20 10.39.31 2016-03-20 10.39.56 2016-03-20 10.40.10 2016-03-20 10.54.59 2016-03-20 10.55.00

Patrice Got My Phone

I discovered today, while needing to delete photos to make room that Patrice had gotten a hold of it at some point and had fun posing!

2016-03-11 09.36.08 2016-03-11 09.36.13 2016-03-11 09.36.15 2016-03-11 09.36.19 2016-03-11 09.36.29 2016-03-11 09.36.34

All to the Glory of God

Please read all of this.

All to the Glory of God–that is why I blog and share my story so openly.  I want others to know it is possible to live and parent well with mental illness.  This, by necessity, causes my posts to be brutally honest, and that is not always pretty.

I have always endeavored to live by the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I have never been the strongest cookie.  I wasn’t good at physical things growing up.  I wasn’t a strong kid.  And then the Multiple Sclerosis came and I became even weaker.  My needs grew exponentially as my body failed me.  It wasn’t easy, but I had this verse to cling to.  Then I went into remission from the MS.  I thought I was free from weakness.  I guess I thought I would be able to stand on my “own two feet,” but even during this time of apparent strength, that was not the case.

I have always needed Him.  I have always needed to rest on Him, the Solid Rock.  Personally, I believe we all do, that is where true peace comes from.  Now, I am also aware that may sound ridiculous coming from a woman who is on anxiety medications.  If true peace comes from Christ, shouldn’t I be without anxiety?  I can’t completely answer that.  To my satisfaction, or likely to yours, but I know it to be true.  I also know that I have a few illnesses, which happen to be messing with that peace and, at times, my mind, just like diabetics have an illness that mess with their pancreas.  And just like a diabetic, there are medications and tools out there to help me live a strong and healthy life.

Every.single.day I utilize those tools.  I take my medications as prescribed, I work with my doctors, I work with my husband, and I take care of myself.  Some days, that taking care of myself looks scary as I end up in the hospital or I blog something really dark, or reach out to others for help.

It may look scary, I’ll give you that, but it is never without hope and it is never without utmost care for my husband and children.  I hate taking my meds, I hate going to the hospital but I love Caitlyn, Sue, and Patrice enough to always be working toward strength and wellness for them.  I love my hubby enough to take the steps I need to every day to be here every day.

Those days sometimes look messy, and just reading a blog may make them scarier, but know my husband and girls are always safe.  Always.

I share my journey here in hopes of showing others they can live and parent well with mental illness. That may open myself up to a lot more questions about my health and well being than I might have if I kept my journey quiet and that’s okay.

Please, if you ever have questions or concerns about my journey, my family’s journey, or what you read here, please feel free to contact me.  I would be more than willing to share with you how we promote and protect the health of our children, our marriage,  and our family.

All to the Glory of God.