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The Breakdowns of Everyday Life

I am finding more and more that the world is trying to get the best of me. When I focus on the things that are the most important to me, life feels seamless and easy. Lately, the buses, cars, strangers and even the people closest to me have been driving me ‘crazy.’ Everyone has been in my way, looking at me crossly, and I have been feeling disinterested in things that may have at one time interested me. It is hard. I do not chalk it up to depression, but it is simply my reactions to the breakdowns of everyday life. Frustrations with my partner, my messy house, too much to do, too many people to call, and not enough time to answer every e-mail. I often wonder if I expect too much of myself. I am tired. I need to bring the pace down a bit and look within again. I need to ask myself, “What is the rush? Why are you so damn hard on yourself? Why are you taking so much on?"

I am a people pleaser and this means doing things for others when it may not be in my own best mental health interests. I feel an obligation to show up for other people, so why don’t I do this for myself with similar conviction? I feel like I am shoveling 'stuff' in the back of my mind, not honoring those things that I truly want to do such as spend time with my spiritual self and write my book. Every day the calendar block gets removed for these things and it is time to stop! I need to stop the clutter in my brain FIRST and it is only then that I will be able to tackle the task or organizing and cleaning my house. It is cliché but I need some balance in my life.  I feel the state of things around me such as my dirty house is echoing what is going on in my mind. Sleep is the only thing that makes me feel at peace, and although a good nap once in a while is healthy, sleeping for the reason of avoidance is not. I feel I barely have time to dedicate to good routine sleep these days. I find myself getting up too early and going to bed too late. It is time to force my body to stay in a rhythm so I can feel optimal for what each day brings. It is truly up to me and the choices I make. 

This is not a blog for advice as I often get tired of giving advice on every mental health topic and it is more about where I am at right now. Writing this has given me some perspective and knowing that I can find a way to juggle the everyday breakdowns of life soothes me. I have many tools that I have been using, but could use more. On to another day and I know tomorrow will be much more manageable.

~Andrea xo

 

Finding my Nutritional Core

The past two weeks have opened my eyes to some really important facts about life. It started with a friend recommending me to a Naturopath for a food allergy/sensitivity test. I was curious what foods I could be eating that could possibly make me gain weight and feel completely unhealthy. To my surprise the doctor gave me a two-week meal plan. As I left the office and paid a hefty bill, I was dismayed, thinking I just paid a ton of money for a piece of paper. Little did I know how drastically that meal plan would change my life. It is a structured system that tells me what to eat, when to eat it, and how to cook it. It lists all the groceries I have to purchase but I was a tad frustrated by the amount of work I had to put in to make my shop a success. The plan consists of no dairy, no wheat and no artificial sugars, but the grocery list is very plentiful! I began to get excited and I forced myself to cook for the first time in years as the recipes are very easy. I got into a groove within the next few days and began making meals such as quinoa and bean salad to butternut squash soup. I threw the scale in the closet as I was done with weighing myself every day. I also began to change my personal perspective of myself as I was receiving a lot of spiritual counsel over the past month too.

I began to realize that I was not my weight, and I am beautiful the way I am. I did not concentrate on things like losing weight, and forcing myself to exercise like a fiend. I take long hikes here and there with a friend and enjoy the outdoors like never before. I feel so much clearer and less foggy in my own mind. Although I was done with weighing myself, I was instructed to jump on the scale twelve days after my first meeting with the Naturopath. I actually lost 8 pounds in 12 days and was pretty happy about my body shedding unwanted fat that I just don’t need.  I have realized that nutrition is at the core of our being and everything stems from that core. I am also only allergic to Brewer’s Yeast, red grapes and corn. Good thing I don’t drink alcohol!

I recall only a month ago, I was standing in front of the elevator with my weight watchers meals in my grocery bags and I began to cry. I actually said out loud “I don’t know what to do!” I soon found a path that actually told me straight up what to do, but it was up to me to put the work and dedication into my new discoveries. I am doing just that and have never felt more pleased with my efforts as I am dedicated and willing to change my old habits and create new ways of being. Remember, it starts with you to make the decisions in your life for the better and although they are not easy and will require you to work harder, it begins with steps that assess your nutritional core and the rest will come to you. I no longer look at myself in the mirror and scoff, but remind myself to be gentle to my being and know that I am doing all I possibly can to take care of me. Take care of yourself too. xo

Change

As I drove home the other day on the highway I came to a stop behind a car and tears started to well down my face.  I had no idea what could have been the issue, was it a sad song?  Or a touching commercial on the radio about blood donation?  It wouldn’t be there first time!  Then it struck me that I had been told the day before that my landlords came to the decision to sell their home.  They anticipated that we would come with the house but we cannot risk being asked to leave upon new possession.  This means a move which equals BIG change.  I had a friend who once told me that she liked her life predictable and stable – the same.  I thought “How boring!”  Now I realize what she is talking about.  It jolted some unknown emotion inside of me a day after being informed, but the funny thing is, I never anticipated feeling bad or even sad.  I initially felt kinda neutral and I find it interesting how emotion can stir itself up without even knowing. 

Change.  It can be positive in many senses but for someone with bipolar disorder it can be particularly difficult. I work best in a stable environment, and I do like that I have a committed and consistent relationship with my partner.  I appreciate both places of employment as I am salaried and don’t have to worry about getting paid.   I work best with a schedule in many senses –day and night.  Lastly, I like my home to be welcoming, stable and predictable.  I now realize my home of 4 years is being uprooted and yes it is making me emotional.  As we look for new suites, I feel neutral, even after putting in an application for an amazing condo.  I questioned this but my friend said “Your meds are working or you are reacting in a neutral way that is working for you.”  Regardless, I must look at all of this as an opportunity, a time to celebrate new beginnings and a chance for excitement.  I will try my best to face change with my head up! 

Commit to Enjoyment!

Even though my life is amazing there are still lingering health related thoughts that tend to swell my mind in an overwhelming manner.  I have been experiencing twitching in my fingers, but the neurologist tells me that there is no strength depletion in my right hand and attributes this strangeness to my medication.  I have an enlarged thyroid, however, I have had a clean ultrasound and levels in my blood tests are normal.  I wonder how large my thyroid will grow and when will it finally be a problem.  Lithium has been associated with hypothyroidism but strangely enough it looks as if my thyroid is heading the opposite way into hyper mode.  It is scary enough that my hair is continuously falling out and my skin is always battling a myriad of acne scars.  To add to this, bipolar symptoms have been creeping up on me too lately, having a high feeling that invokes an experience of being extremely stoned.  It is difficult to describe as my vision doubles, I experience feelings of paranoia that tend to cloud reality.  I first started experiencing these symptoms when I was put on psychiatric medication with spells covering months at a time, but now it seems I am often sick and there is nothing I can do but take another pill in hopes that the paranoia and sickness will cease.  How I envy those people that live healthy lives, that have their bodies intact and don’t have to worry about medication or being struck with illness over and over again.   Everyone thinks my life is awesome and worry-free but even bipolar babe is at a loss sometimes, feeling frustrated and let down by my body’s ailments.  How to spin to the positive?  I suppose it could be worse, but it still does not minimize what I am feeling.  I admit our bodies are meant to deteriorate, but I am 35 years old, so why so early?  Questions plague my mind aiming to erase the ‘poor me’ syndrome, and remembering that having an optimistic outlook can spell either enjoyment of the time I do have, or loathing in what I am experiencing.  I worry but I just have to keep reminding myself that I commit to enjoyment!            

 

 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada Brings Hope!

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) brings hope to many today as they release their very significant strategy for Canada and the mental health system.  Did you know that out of the first world countries, we are one of the last to have such a roadmap for mental health?  This is a pinnacle, a definite success for Canada!  Mother, father, neighbour, friend – mental health affects over one in five Canadians and costs our economy over $50 billion every year. We need a national strategy to help combat mental health problems and illness.

Changing Directions, Changing Lives is the first Canadian mental health strategy. It represents a blueprint for change and provides six strategic directions to improve mental health care in Canada. 

The report sets out six key strategic directions:

•Promote mental health across the life span in homes, schools and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.

•Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights.

•Provide access to the right combination of services, treatments and supports, when and where people need them.

•Reduce disparities in risk factors and access to mental health services, and strengthen the response to the needs of diverse communities and northerners.

•Work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights and cultures.

•Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge and foster collaboration at all levels.

Do you feel we are in a movement?  I certainly do!  I am hopeful that the $4 billion allocated over a period of 10 years is a reality.  Although money alone cannot make a difference but it will help the amazing people in the mental health community that can.  Cheers to MHCC!  You are amazing former Senator Kirby for leading such an amazing initiative!  Many hugs from the babe community!!! 

Teens2Twenties is an Amazing Space for Laughter, Friendship and Managability

It seems things have been winding down a bit for the Teens2Twenties Bipolar Babe group.  It is amazing how I have seen these young people grow and move along to new ventures.  One of our teens recently got accepted into the Vancouver Film School while another one is gearing up for an application to Emily Carr.  I have seen youth having to leave the group due to having to concentrate on schooling and others are permanent residents, but only a few remain.  I am recruting new youth for the group for anyone that has ANY mental health condition and is in their twenties or teens. 

Why come to the group?  It is a place of friendship where young people identify and bond with eachother.  We talk about ways to manage eachother's lives and to live healthy while having a mental health condition.  We brief eachother on our past week and talk about the things that have delighted or challenged us.  It is not a place of negativity but instead a focus on the positive things that can make life whole and meaningful.

If you are interested in cheaking out a session at the Blanschard Community Centre, Wednesdays, 7-8:30, please contact Andrea at babe@bipolarbabe.com.  Thanks for reading, we always appreciate your support.

Love, Babe

 

Full Time Life

Here I am…TIRED.  I am not sure why?  It must be from my bustling social life and my full time work schedule.  It’s amazing I am off Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits from work and as I said on ‘full time’.  I am quite proud of myself considering that I was months ago working 3 days a week for 3 hours a day.  I have been so lucky to have wonderful disability case workers both at Great West Life and at the government.  They never rushed me, never contributed to my stress, and were always encouraging me to do the best that I possibly could.  It took a long time to excel at a back to work schedule and for anyone doing this out there, it is possible to return to work – full time.  I know this! 

The President of the Society, Rachel and I recently showcased the Bipolar Babe project at the McPherson Theatre in Victoria, BC.  There was a concert put on by musicians from Africa and they were AMAZING!  They were there to raise $ for the Saanich Rotary Club who funds several international and domestic causes.  They wanted a grassroots organization and the Bipolar Disorder Society was a perfect fit.  We met several good contacts and a potential Teens2Twenties recruit. 

I have been ‘OK’ emotionally, crying a bit here and there over falsified memories, regrets, and pure loss.  I don’t miss who he is, but who I thought him to be.  It is such a shame.  Still, I never faltered and I never broke.  I managed to take on a new job and survive a horrific break up.  I even transitioned to full time during this difficult time.  The bipolar babe does have mental strength – DO I EVER BABY!       

Here’s a clip I like about work and mental health, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30PE-En55Sg&feature=related

Remember you are strong and amazing and never let anyone tell you otherwise.  In time you will heal and so shall I! heart

Catherine Zeta-Jones Unknowingly Stirs up Some Stigma Stew

The hype is out and the world is in mental mayhem!

Another Hollywood starlet is diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.  First, Carrie Fisher from my favourite legendary movie saga STAR WARS, then Britney Spears who melted away in front of the Hollywood Paparazzi while having a nervous breakdown…now Catherine Zeta-Jones has come out as having Bipolar II Disorder.

This is all good publicity, right?  Isn't any awareness, good awareness?

No, definitely not.

I have read numerous accounts today that have been sharing their very brief and non-indepth snap shots of what is happening with Zeta-Jones.  Although, there may not appear to be much to report, why not follow up and ask what bipolar disorder really is.  How does it affect the general population?  Who has bipolar disorder and what are we doing about it?

How do we 'stomp out stigma?'  "Stigma?"..they ask… "What is stigma?"

Catherine has been describing her bouts with melancholy, telling The Sunday Times in the U.K. that "I'm lucky. … But that's not to say I don't get down on myself. I try and stay positive, being negative isn't good for my personality. I don't just bring myself down, I bring everyone around me down. It's like a dark cloud, 'Uh oh, here we go', and I have to snap out of it."

I am a little…no, not a little, VERY bewildered, disappointed and worried by Katherine's commentary.  Using phrases such as "being negative isn't good for my personality", "staying positive", and "snapping out of it" raises huge concerns for myself and the bipolar community at large.  Catherine is influential and people will be listening to her and with these words and I think she unknowingly stirred up a large pot of stigma stew for Hollywood and the world at large!  🙂  Why do I say this?  She has not deliberately done anything 'wrong', but people will now probably misconstrue that having bipolar is a personality disorder due to her response.  Katherine also checked into a treatment centre for 5 days and although she bravely did this to ease her mental health, many will conclude that a short stay at a spa is all you need to get back on your feet.

Now 'they' will say "You just need to stop being a negative person, simply pep up, be positive, and 'snap out of it'."

Phew!  My tummy is turning.  So what do you think?  Stigma stew or something else on the menu?

Mother Mother=Stellar

It has been such a roller-coaster these past few days.  I was severely depressed last weekend and had the most unproductive time EVER!  I discovered NETFLIX and it just brought me down as I watched movie after movie.  I tried to BLOG but my mood was too low.  When will my meds stabilize?  I heard a comment the other day when someone was talking about somebody else who has a mental health condition and they said in a condescending manner "That person well you know…forgot to take their meds."  I thought it ironic as that was a common problem for people with a mental health condition.  Stigma is still so apparent, even in the most common statements, which are blind to the view of many. 

I went to a rock concert last night with the band name 'MOTHER MOTHER'.  A couple of them are old pals from Quadra Island  so it was amazing to see them.  I ran up to Molly and gave her a big hug, it was amusing because I don't think she remembered who I was, even when I said 'It's Andrea'.  Ryan was magnificent, his devilish look was stellar and he played with such heart.  The girls had such personality and the drummer was hidden but not forgotten.  I have become a junkie, a big time fan and I read their BLOG religiously now and I hope that they will read mine at times.  The rest of the band was so talented and the guitarist pulled off a clarinet!  I am impressed. Except I felt really sick during the concert and I had one of my 'acidy feelings', it was back and I knew it would happen because it seems to happen in  loud exciting situations.  All of a sudden I was super paranoid and being around people felt seriously wrong and considering I was around one hundred people, this was not an ideal place to be feeling this way.  I felt like I was out of my skin and I was overwhelmed.   

My vision was even affected.  I just told myself that everything was going to be okay and that nobody would know what was going on with me.  It is very difficult to do when you are also having personal conversations with people and you have to act like you are feeling 'normal'. My body threw itself into manic mode last night and I MAYBE got 5 hours sleep.  Now here I am writing this BLOG a mile a minute because I am feeling quite high.  I couldn't sleep all day and I had to miss work.  I am rapid cycling and that feels just like a roller-coaster, hopefully I can get off soon and resume my awesome life.  One last thing, although I have been on medication for years I still have the temptation to go off.  As I peer at the medication bottles, tons of them, I tell myself "It would be so wonderful to not have to depend on drugs".  Then I am reminded how lucky I am, that even with the kinks and set backs, I have drugs that will help me manage.  It is all about management and I pray that I can continue to do so.  Andrea XO