5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” 
― Pearl S. Buck

Finding things to do in a small town is often challenging. However, we live next to a larger town, which has abundant shopping centers, restaurants, and a movie theater. It also has a couple of thrift and consignment stores to help freshen the wardrobe or buy a few $3 DVDs. It’s even more challenging to buy food in a small town, as the only grocery store in town lacks variety and is very expensive. With a little hindsight, I try to plans my trips to avoid anxiety and overspending.

To assuage my anxiety, I shopped, as planned, in the early morning hours today. Like a pro, I dashed effortlessly through the aisles, never once becoming stymied over an unstocked necessity. I checked off all the items on my list and stayed under budget. The best part was having to only carry 3 bags into the house!

While unloading groceries, my cat greeted me and snuck under my feet to sit on the porch. She looked so happy at just sitting there. I paused to look and listen to my environment, as to capture some of the simple joy of existing. Often, we chase unattainable and superfluous things to achieve happiness. Humans have a gift of complex minds, unlike animals, but they might have us outwitted when it comes to being happy in the moment.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

After I tried to capture my cat being “one with nature”, I figured I’d do a few simple things outside. These simple things brought a little light into my life.

Creatures

The cat seemed so determined to get outside- I listened for a moment to the sounds of spring. It almost sounded like a rainforest outside, with all the birds chirping and other creature sounds. Suddenly, there was a woosh sound and the birds all flocked away from the beast below (my cat).

While driving to the towpath, I noticed hens and ducks, fenced in makeshift, backyard barns. Along the trail where my family and I walked, I could hear cows mooing up ahead. We turned just as one of their cowbells rang. There was also one peaceful pony, standing around in the small plot of land.

Many of the farms were vast, however, I did see a few smaller animal sanctuaries next to a children’s swing sets and toys.

Farmer’s Market

When I rolled into town to grocery shop,  I glanced over a parking lot full of cars to see the main attraction. Just a farmer’s market. Then I thought about my new diet that includes more fruits and vegetables. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, and since I was unable to quickly assess an easy parking spot, I drove past. There were swarms of older people, grey-haired grannies bedazzled with sunhats, while their husbands dawdled along in loafers and polo shirts. I felt out of place and intimidated. Also, I didn’t have cash on me and most of the vendors only accept cash.

The sight of such a grass-roots movement of people buying locally-grown veggies appealed to my desire to be healthier. The mere sight and thought of the farmer’s market kind of inspired me. Sadly, I only implemented my newfound attitude by slicing up oranges for my family’s lunch. I did go out in the yard and weed a little bit though.

Water

The sound of the water rushing over the rocks was very calming. I leaned my phone over the babbling brook to snap a photo of the simple scene. My thoughts drifted off to the time I bought a “Sounds of Nature” CD from Goodwill a few years ago. I remembered how the sounds of the storm and rain drowned out the Friday-night noises coming from next door.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

Convenience Stores

In between that long stretch of time from lunch to dinner, we venture to the corner gas station or convenience store. Since pre-packaged, snack-sized goodies are a pricey luxury, my family view such seldom excursions as “treats.” Little nuggets of indulgence and generosity to ourselves. The kids opt for the Icee and I grab a Frappe.

Plants, Trees and Other Scenery

The community works hard to maintain the towpath for both pedestrians and cyclists. The grass is neatly-trimmed, with a few plants scattered among various park benches and picnic tables. Vast, open and welcoming, I’ve never been so pleased to just be outside and breathing air.

I suppose that living with anxiety and depression and so many other negative elements has made me appreciate the good times. Hopefully, I can better learn to make good times out of more of my days.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

10 Reasons Why I Love the Simplicity of Weekends

“Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.” -Paulo Coelho

During another arduous day at work, I was surrounded by a glimmer of hope. That hope came in the form of gazing out the open dock doors, which circulated a faintly sweet smell of fresh, spring air. Yes, that same air that plagues me with overwhelming allergies, also ushered in my delightful mood. I suppose the fact that it was Friday may have contributed much more than I give credit.

This morning, I wanted to “treat” myself to a day of not having to cook or clean dishes, so I pre-ordered a pizza. I like to think of buying fast-food as a legitimate cheat I can offer myself in times of crisis- kind of like “phone a friend” from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” fame.

I often pontificate about the joy of the weekends. In a flash, the weekend whizzes by, yet anticipating the weekend are what often makes people happy.

What is it about my weekends that makes me so happy?

I Get To Decompress

Decompression to me is the gentle art of releasing the stressors that have been building. By releasing these pressure points regularly, I am better equipped to handle additional challenges. My mind has been fully recharged, so I now have sufficient resources to effectively deal with daily challenges, as well as having more resilience in the event of unexpected stress-inducing situations. The way I decompress may be different from the way you decompress, but the theory can be applied to anybody.

Doing Things On My Terms

Although I don’t have many complex projects abounding, I still find joy in doing the most mundane things on my own timeline. For instance, I get panic attacks when I go shopping at Walmart on Saturday afternoons, so I plan ahead to pick up my groceries. I feel kind of special when I can just pull up and have people load my groceries and wish me a great day. This is a far contrast to what I’d experience going inside to shop- crowded aisles, confused and rude shoppers, misplaced items, and long lines. I like that I can go shopping in the early morning hours, while everyone is still at home. It’s a tranquil scene to have an entire store devoid of the flurry of activity that often induces overwhelming anxiety.

Time To Shop More Consciously

When I shop early in the morning or arrange to pick up my groceries, not only do I avoid anxiety, but my mind can focus on making better food choices that are within my budget, instead of mindless shopping. Mindless shopping leaves my wallet empty and my conscious guilty because I have given in to fear and anxiety, instead of using my mind as a tool to provide resources for my family. To be governed by fear is at the heart of many poor choices.

Time To Organize and Declutter

When I bring in stuff, I have to be mindful of what I clear out of my pantry and my house. Again, the principle of mindfulness, as opposed to mindlessness, is one of simplicity. You can see it in the way somebody keeps their house- is this person concerned and mindful of their resources, or do they just view possessions as unimportant. Do they covet their possessions? I am enthralled by how some people are so mindful of their lives- especially, closely-knit groups of people, with strong cultural or religious beliefs.

More Quality Time and Quiet Time with Family

To wake up before my kids and get started a little ahead of them has always been something I’ve indulged in since they were very young. I was able to do this by going to sleep at a reasonable time. I let them sleep in a couple of hours after I wake up. Not everyone can do this, I understand. Some people are not morning people. In that case, there may be other ways to carve out a little time to get ahead of the day.

Sometimes we go to the movies on Saturday afternoons, when the price and crowds are minimal. Less energy is expended worrying about contending with crowded seating and noisy patrons. When it’s quiet and less-crowded, those simple moments with your family aren’t lost on other distracting elements.

Scenic Drives in Town and Country

Early-morning driving into town lends itself to some very peaceful moments for me. Sometimes I see a beautiful scene and I feel inclined to take a picture, but, of course, I don’t stop. There are moments to be shared, and there are moments meant for only you to enjoy. These times might impress something inspiration upon my mind.

Hiking, Being Outside In Nature

In Ohio, there are many scenic walking trails. My favorite park is about 5 miles away and it is home to equestrian trails, canoeing, fishing, and, in the summer, swimming. There is a small pond that is inhabited by the loudest bullfrogs. Just when I think I will be fast enough to spot one, it disappears into the water or beyond.

Reading Lots of Non-Fiction Books

When I pick out books at the library, I grab several because I know some of the books aren’t worth a read. However, I usually pick “winners” when I choose. These books are penned by PhDs, M.D.’s, and best-selling authors and speakers. Usually, my tastes lean towards psychology books, religion, and spirituality, emotional well-being, etc. Much of the information contained in the books is entertaining because the content is presented from a different and unique perspective.

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

A pile of non-fiction books carefully selected at the local library.

Intellectual Stimulation

During the week, I only have time to read news-bites. When I stumble upon important issues, I further research and study them online. If I’m really interested, I find some videos on the subject matter. The weekends are a time in which I can expand my horizons by taking free online courses. Some are interesting enough that I take the time to complete each assignment. (Remember that thing about bipolar? Sometimes it impairs my concentration, so I have to be very selective about what I am willing to commit).

Candles, Aesthetic Design, and Discovering Interesting Blogs

Candles are such a simple way to indulge the senses and create a home filled with warmth. Yes, I’m trying to intellectualize my affinity for Vanilla-scented candles. After I’ve decluttered the pantry, I open up the mail from each day and discard the junk mail, tack-up the important bills and notices, or file in another suitable location.

When the house is organized and decluttered, and the aroma of vanilla-candle is wafting throughout the house, I feel inspired to cast a few glances at the lifestyle blogs at Bloglovin’. My own blog has recently been verified and I’m discovering some other wellness and mental health blogs. While Bloglovin’ is largely known for its Pinterest-like aesthetic filled with beauty blogs, it is very much fertile ground for the unique types of blogs that are featured on WordPress.com. 

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Life Hacks For Staying Productive During Depression

Life Hacks for Staying Productive During Depression

“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne Johnson

Can you recall a time in your life when you were so crippled by depression that you weren’t able to focus on anything but your mental health? There was a time when I was so depressed and unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Sadly, this occurred right after the birth of my children, who are two years apart in age. It seemed as though everything was working against me. Some things I can distinctly remember are:

When Your Family Isn’t Equipped To Help

My mother, stepfather, and sister, lived an hour away from me. They were all pretty absorbed in their own problems. I remember feeling like a wallflower, an invisible entity when I was in their presence. My sister was a single mother at the time. She’d have my stepdad and my mom babysit for her while she pulled side jobs. She had many financial difficulties and often borrowed money from the family. They bickered about the money she owed them and complained about having to babysit so much.

I felt guilty for asking for help with money, but I did seek their advice when I was dealing with my abusive husband. They always told me to get away from him, but nothing more than hollow words to appease their own conscience. It took me years before I attained the wisdom to leave my husband.

I especially desired emotional support. I was too far away from the family members that were able to help us. The church and a domestic violence support group offered me the social support and knowledge I needed to take care of my kids on my own.

I Lacked Self-Worth

After my pregnancies, it was hard for me to lose weight. Here I was, in my early 30’s, mentally and emotionally exhausted from depression and anxiety. The constant chipping away of my soul continued for 4 years. My ex-husband took great delight in berating me when I weighed 160 lbs. He told me my stomach stuck out more than my chest, and he could get anybody he wanted, but nobody would want me ever!

I Lacked Mobility

When you are poor, it’s hard to keep up a car. There’s the car payment, the insurance, the car repairs, and of course, e-check. In Ohio, if you have an older car, you can forget about passing the e-check. In fact, I had to get a waiver because I paid money to correct the deficiencies, but it still failed. Luckily, the county I currently live in doesn’t require e-check! But the car I lease now would pass the emissions test.

When you have young kids, many people run the other way when they see you’re in need. After trying to unsuccessfully find a place to stay, I wanted to see if the kids and I could be part of the transitional housing for the homeless. There were several churches that participated in this project. The only catch was you had to move your family each week to another church “host”. I didn’t think that was a great idea for my family, given the fact we had been through so much already. Eventually, we were approved for an income-based apartment. Many people endearingly refer to these homes as the “projects.” It was the best option for us at the time, despite the fact that there was a lot of shady activities going on in the complex.

How did I ever manage to be productive when all this was going on in my life? Nothing fell into place quickly, unfortunately. It took years, but those difficult years helped me become disciplined, even when I was depressed.

Some things that worked to my benefit during my most difficult times?

Ask For A Flexible Schedule

My employer (NACS) was aware of my situation, to some extent, and allowed me to come into work after my son got on the bus in the morning, and after I took my daughter to the childcare center.

Have A Routine At Home

My kids and I followed a regular routine of when we ate dinner, played, and slept. Going to sleep on time, at the same time each day, helps your body maintain a regular rhythm.

Enjoy Low-Key Activities

When you feel the surge of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to be around large groups of people (especially, confident and happy people). While it’s not good to isolate yourself from people, many times they unwittingly cause more hurt than good. We used to go to the park when very few people were there. I took my kids to the “Book Mobile” to get videos, books, and puppets. The Book Mobile is essentially the local library contained on a bus that comes to your establishment (nursing homes, the “projects”, etc.).

Some other “low-key” ideas to get you out of the house, without throwing you into chaos when you are least likely to enjoy it, would include:

  • Walking around a quiet lake
  • Going to the movies during matinee
  • Stopping for some ice-cream
  • Fishing, boating, camping
  • Visiting a nature center

Write Lists

My ex-husband used to scoff at the fact that I was so mentally burned-out that I needed to write everything down. If I didn’t write down even the most minute task, my brain was too foggy to recall key information. Amid depression, domestic violence, unexpected “guests” showing up to “party” with my ex, and the weekly visits from the police, my mind wasn’t focused on the future. Instead, I was stuck in mere survival mode.

My family could not have moved beyond those ashes of despair, that bleak kind of existence, if it wasn’t for writing down to-do lists, tasks, resources, and even Bible verses on index cards.

Get Up And Dressed

It’s important to give your appearance some hope the better days that lie ahead. When you take a shower and get dressed, it’s easier to be ready for whatever is going on in the day. There may be an expected opportunity waiting for you- an unexpected job offer, an unexpected friend may call and want to have lunch. Taking the time to get ready is refreshing to your body and your well-being!

Discovering Hope in the Midst of Depression

For years, my weight teetered around 150 lbs. I had a two-year “resonance” in 2012 when I got down to 135. My restricted diet at that time consisted of yogurt and no snacks in between meal. A few weeks ago, I installed the MyPlate app. Sometimes I logged my calories, sometimes I felt unmotivated and didn’t log my food. I figured I was eating right, even though I was hungry. To quell the hunger, I drank some high-calorie drinks.

In my mind, those delicious, high-calories drinks didn’t count as “real food”. When I felt those familiar carb-cravings, I succumbed to the urge to reward my brain– and in the process, deprived myself of health for simple hunger “fix.” Each day, I drank soda or an iced coffee. Sometimes chocolate milk.

Instead of choosing healthier food that would help my body work more efficiently, I opted to still have fast food. Then I weighed myself last week and discovered I gained 5 pounds, instead of losing any weight. For a 5’3 woman, my weight was too much. According to Rush University Medical Center, the ideal weight maximum for my height is about 143 pounds. I would love to be at 135, but I could accept 145.

Sometimes, I don’t even care that I am overweight. I say I don’t care because I have confidence that I can conquer the battle of the bulge. I know I can’t lose it overnight. It’s a slow process. When I see little progress, I decide I must not be doing something right, so I might as well have a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino. Or, the family is eating Pizza Hut, might as well “break bread” and have a slice with them.

When I see myself in the mirror, I don’t see an overweight person. It can’t really be me in that mirror! That woman is not really fat, just a little frumpy.

I Have Issues With My Heart

Thump, thump, thump….ever since the doctor asked me if I experienced any heart fluttering, I listen for it more when I am laying down, or when I am at work. I can’t really say much else until I get the Holter device next week.

Anxiety And Panic Attacks

The diagnosis of the “extra” heartbeats (ectopic heartbeats, PVC’s), I’m wondering if I could have something else wrong. I feel as though just thinking about it today at work was making me nauseous and dizzy. In the mirror, I removed my glasses to re-apply fresh eyeliner. My face was as pale as a ghost. Or was it in my head?

Depression

Usually, by now, I’m riding the wave of mania.

No energy, only lots of yawning (despite sleeping 8 hours).

No creativity, no desire, no hope.

I’ve been thinking about how pointless hobbies and writing are to the grand scheme of everything. There is really nothing new, nothing in the world that hasn’t been said, written, painted, or sung about previously. What is life when you take away all the pleasures and activities we stuff into our lives?

Still, I smile at jokes. I enjoy my friends at work. I love my family. There is a lot of brokenness in my family. More significant people in this world have a strong network of caring people. My mother disowned me 10 years ago. There is a brokenness in the relationship, but for me, it is also brokenness about the idea of “motherhood.” Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching.

Last year, I had to leave a church service on Mother’s Day because I couldn’t stop crying. Everybody was watching me too since the pastor called attention to all the single moms in the room. The pain and loss of my own (living) mother affect how I see myself sometimes (for instance, a failure at being a daughter, a failure at not meeting my own expectations of “mother”). Even people that have been rejected or worse, abused, by a mother, still experience a loss when that person is no longer of a part of their lives.

Neverending Worries

Why does it seem as though people like me, people suffering from anxiety or depression, can’t ever take it easy, or enjoy life? Everybody else seems comfortable, quite content and happy in the things of this world.

Here I am in this world. Just like anybody else that you see. A little bit imperfect, no visible clues about the pain inside. Hiding the pain, denying pain, like many people in the world.

Words of Hope

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Matthew 11:28 ESV

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

John 16:33 ESV

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

A woman covered in a blanket sits by the ocean in the morning.

How to Manage the Wave of Depression

A tidal wave- the perfect metaphor for depression. My life seemed like a simple and joyful day at the beach, with no worries. Suddenly, I’m overtaken by this wave of depression, sweeping over me, tossing my feelings around as I clutch to some vague sense of security. Security in what? I try to grab for what I know will calm me in such tempestuous times- spirituality. Yes, at least now when the tidal wave sweeps over me, I can grasp for spirituality.

ben-white-692414-unsplash

I turn my radio stations in between 3 different Christian channels. A renown pastor was preaching on Moody Broadcasting. Air1, the alternative Christian music network, resonated with me as a listener spoke about her personal struggles. On WFHM, I listened to MercyMe and cried as I finished my drive home from Walmart on my day off work. The boss finally gave me a day off after working so many weekends. It was supposed to be so joyful. I went shopping at 7:00 am, right after I dropped my kids off at school. The store was quiet and I was able to shop with relative ease and peace. I spent way more money than I had budgeted!

Signs of Depression

I should’ve seen my depression developing. I was irritable and short with my family last night. After being cooped up every day, listening to my kids chew LOUDLY- the cracking and popping sounds emanating from the bowels of their braces and jaws, I just howled, “Stop!”

For the past week, I’ve felt as though life could never be dismal. My thoughts and ideas swirled around my head- I have felt inspired. Now, I feel devoid of anything.

If only I had been attuned to my emotions better, I could’ve taken better care. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much money at Walmart today.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, as though, no matter what you do, nothing will change or improve.
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that once brought joy.
  • Weight/appetite changes. An increase or decrease of 5% of your body weight in a month is significant.
  • Sleeping too little or too much, or waking up too early, or oversleeping.
  • Irritable and Angry. Your fuse is much shorter, people tend to get on your nerves easily.
  • Self-hate- feeling guilty, worthless, overly-critical of self.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling sluggish, or slow. Tasks take longer to complete.
  • Recklessness- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities or behaviors or abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Unable to concentrate.
  • Frequent physical pains in the muscles, stomach, or headaches.

Risks For Depression

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, have fewer emotional, social and financial reserves. Many people who suffer from mental illness have fragmented social and family ties. As a result of their mental illness, they may be alienated from friends and family. Many of these people may come from an abusive family or have been affected by alcoholism. Certain factors increase your risk of depression.

  • No social support (family and friends, or other support systems)
  • Isolation, lack of mobility.
  • Unemployment or underemployment (not living up to full potential, not being recognized at work).
  • Relationship problems/marital issues.
  • Poverty, crushing debt, not enough money to live comfortably, unable to meet needs.
  • Early experiences with trauma, childhood abuse.
  • Health problems.

Interestingly, this week I’ve experienced several episodes of anxiety. From nearly passing out at work, to the agony of managing my workload, I also recall feeling diminished and invisible at work. It seems everything else is expected to take a backseat to my job. The moments I get to spend with my family seem fleeting, and at times, my aspirations to be a successful writer/illustrator and entrepreneur, seem hopeless. Last week, however, my dreams were soaring. I tried to imagine being successful and getting another job.

Road Rage

Today, I felt an uncomfortable surge of anger when I was driving to Walmart. The car tailgating me rushed over into the next lane when the road changes to two lanes. It had been raining out, my tire treads are choppy (only $500-$600 to get all new tires). When the light turned green, I floored it to prevent the other driver from getting in front of me. The “slippery conditions” icon was activated on my dashboard, yet I persisted. I could see the other driver turned right just after passing through the intersection.

Feelings of apathy, flatness, are dominant when I’m depressed. My body feels aching, my mind is becoming drained. It will soon become that time when I can do nothing more than “reflect”.

On a positive note, my supervisor informed me that he understood my issues because he experiences anxiety too. When I asked him how he manages, he told me he takes Lexapro. He had to stop using Paxil because it made him feel like a zombie.

I think I tried Lexapro when I was in my thirties. I had to stop taking it because I couldn’t afford it. The doctors offered me the generic alternative, Celexa, which upset my stomach. The Lexapro seemed to work okay back then. I didn’t take it long enough to note anything else.

SSRI’s are not effective in treating bipolar depression. I found this out when I went to my doctor in 2017. She prescribed Lamictal, which is used for both bipolar disorder and seizures. The dosing schedule she gave me seemed unusual. I didn’t want to take any more medications, and I failed to follow-up.

I feel drained at the end of the day. It’s after 5:00 pm by the time I remember to call to make appointments. I hate talking to receptionists. So many times, I’ve been talked to in a condescending manner.

I don’t always know when my depression is going to manifest. Who could know, especially when your mind is busy or clouded by other thoughts? Although I feel hopeless, I want to keep fighting. Every battle scar has a story, and every story has an ending. I know I can rewrite it if I make the effort.

References:

  1.  (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm/).
  2. (https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/bipolar-disorder-anxiety-often-follows-mania).
Speeding light corridor.

Understanding Anxiety’s Psychological Effects and Syncope

Every once in a while, something triggers my anxiety so intensely that I become physically and emotionally ill. Yesterday was one such day where I felt like I was going to faint. My skin was clammy, my stomach was churning- I initially thought the fruit I ate at lunch was causing the mild cramps in my stomach. I felt so weak and sick that I had to retreat to the bathroom and rest for a few minutes.

What set off the series of unpleasant symptoms was that I got cut on my finger at work. My co-worker was talking to me and I was feeling a little tired and distracted. This proved to be a recipe for disaster, at least, in my mind. As I was talking and working, the cutters slipped and sliced through the middle of my fingernail, drawing blood and stinging like crazy. I quickly wrapped the finger tightly and tried to continue working.

My co-worker suggested the cut may need stitches. When I told her I had cut through the nail and I didn’t think they could “stitch” my nail, she proceeds to offer vivid details about how the doctor might “rip my nail off”. She also mentioned they may apply “New Skin” to the nail, but since she already polluted my anxious mind with details of ripping my fingernail, I grew weak and dizzy. My skin got colder. I told her I had to go for a few minutes to look at the cut and sit down.

Eventually, I found a more helpful co-worker who provided me antibiotic cream. She told me the doctor might stitch under the nail, and apply the liquid bandage to the fragmented nail. I opted to wrap the finger as tight as possible and deal with a more thorough examination at the privacy of my home later that day.

I’ve had a few times in my life where anxiety- and the sight of blood or other bodily fluids, organs and things of that nature, have triggered the same symptoms.

The first time was when I was in elementary school. Our class had to walk down the corridor to look at the science fair entries. One project appeared to be a mason jar with the contents of an animal’s brain. The kids were enthralled by the “brain”. They kept talking about it, and suddenly, everything looked blue and surreal. The next thing I recall is waiting for my mom at the nurse’s station in the school office. The staff doted on me and seemed concerned.

In high school, my mind was occupied about various issues. At this time in my life (age 17), my grandmother had passed away. The funeral and surrounding events- the drinking binges my mom went on after my grandmother’s passing, may have contributed to my episode. It seems like I started getting more depressed as a teenager. I felt I was losing everybody and everything from my life. My friends were all struggling with problems too. Some of them spoke about their experiences with substances. To compound issues, the type of music I listened to at that time was very dark and depressing. This was undoubtedly a confusing and emotional time.

One day, I started to walk to school as usual. I hoped my friend was going to school that day because I could meet up with her and walk together. I remember that there were a Catholic church and school on my path. Every day, I’d pass and gaze at the statues. They seemed eery to me- they didn’t elicit the same emotions I’d feel when admiring art. In fact, they always gave me a morose feeling.

As I continued past the church, I focused my eyes on the Veteran’s Memorial. Suddenly, everything looked unreal and I felt faint. I kept walking and passed a morning jogger who mouthed, “Good morning!” as I dredged on. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t go to school, and I went home.

The final memory of fainting and dizzy spells comes from when I had an appointment at the doctor. I had blood drawn from that visit and I recall the details of blood work seemed vivid and overwhelming.

So what does anxiety have to do with these fainting episodes? I wanted to understand how something that originates in the mind can cause so many repercussions.

Fainting, otherwise known as syncope, is a “sudden loss of consciousness from a lack of blood flow to the brain.” (www.verywellhealth.com). There are a number of factors they can cause an individual to faint-

  • Dehydration
  • Heart Beat
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety

Before fainting, these symptoms are present:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Blurred or Tunnel Vision
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of Breath

Psychological Triggers

Although less common than other triggers, anxiety, stress, and panic disorder can all stimulate the vagus nerve- the nerve which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. “The parasympathetic nervous system regulates organ and gland functions during rest and is considered a slowly activated, dampening system.” (www.lumenlearning.com).

Hyperventilation and Hypoventilation

Too much or too little oxygen changes CO2 levels in the blood, which activates the feeling of passing out that often accompanies anxiety, stress, and panic disorder. (www.anxietycentre.com).

Our stress response prompts a release of stress hormones into the bloodstream that is supposed to equip humans to better manage threats and dangers. These hormones cause emotional, physiological, and psychological responses that signal us to respond- fight or flight.

Maybe, in the recesses of my mind, I perceive “blood” as a warning because I am not prepared for such accidents (i.e, I don’t usually carry bandages and first aid equipment). Who will take care of me if I can’t take care of myself? The vivid details of cuts and wounds really disturb my mind. Ultimately, I am reminded that this body of mine will eventually perish.

 

How Leaving an Abusive Relationship Helped Me at Life

“One thing I know for sure – this motherhood thing is not for sissies.” -Jennifer Nettles

Working on the weekend while my kids were home without me gave me much time to worry about them. Running parts on a machine weren’t especially challenging, which is why my thoughts drift. While most of my thoughts centered on my family, there were momentary lapses of reflection on my career goals, my limitations, and what topics to write about for my blog.

I’m almost certain that I was experiencing mixed episodes yesterday, and my thoughts continued to race all day. I hadn’t felt depressed much, mostly manic. This made me wonder if I was cured of my bipolar depression. If I was cured of depression, did that mean I was now “unipolar?” I read a little about unipolar disorder, and how it’s sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD. I wanted to write a post about unipolar disorder, then I switched gears and wanted to explore the concept of mood disorders diminishing of changing with various life stages.

Societal Ideals And Social Stigma of Motherhood And Depression

But, when I was considering the components of each life stage in my own experiences, I got stuck on the stage in my life when I suffered from postpartum depression. I never had the chance to talk about that time until now. There seems to be even more stigma attached to postpartum depression than any other disorder. The most obvious reason is that mothers are supposed to level-headed, nurturing, patient, self-sacrificing, etc.

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When a woman feels she lacks in these qualities, she doesn’t disclose such information. In my case, I would ask other women open-ended questions that were loosely related to postpartum depression. If the recipient wasn’t receptive, engaging, or seemed to show an unsupportive attitude, I dropped the subject. I usually moved on from my own issues and start to talk about marriage and relationships- to see if my thoughts about a matter were substantiated by others.

One of the things I would mention was how much my husband drank and how he behaved when he returned from drinking. I was in a fog about my relationship problems because I was so wrapped up in getting help for my depression, and learning how to be a new parent. My husband used to ridicule me because I tried to sing to my kids, and he scoffed at the notion of “real” women having a necessity to read books on how to take care of your children.

Seeking Refuge, Finding Nothing

Sadly, he wasn’t the only unsupportive person during those years of depression. When I had to leave the house because of the violence, I found it very hard to feel supported at the women’s shelter in which I and my kids took refuge. The shelter had very strict rules, which didn’t bother me too much until they showed little compassion for women suffering from depression. Their primary focus was to check-in with me every couple of days to find out how my job search was going.

My kids were still very young (ages 2 and 4), and my mind wasn’t organized at that time. I wanted to spend time with my kids. My oldest showed signs of ADHD or some other behavior disorder. I needed help with my depression, but the shelter lacked knowledge and resources for women needing any type of recovery services. On the second day at the shelter, I had a conflict with one of the staff members who was scolding my son harshly. He had difficulties transitioning and being around new places and people, but they didn’t care.

Like many women entering a shelter, I had no money, but I had my own car. Although I had a little Suzuki that needed a lot of work and I lacked the means to get the repairs, the staff treated me poorly because I had a car. Many of the women that stayed there relied on public transportation. Gas for my car and passes for a bus both required money. The money required a job. To get a job, you need somebody to watch your children. Social Services programs and daycare for women entering or reentering the workforce will give you a voucher for childcare…once you have secured a job.

Living far from my own family and friends- and lacking mobility and social support, it was difficult to get help with brief interludes of childcare to apply for jobs. Eventually, I obtained a job and apartment, though car repairs proved to be devastating to our livelihood for many years!

Bye, Felicia!

We were kicked out of the shelter after a 2-week stay simply because my husband’s process server knew the location of the shelter and came knocking on their door. The process server- the man paid to track me down, block my car at an intersection, and throw the divorce papers at me, was familiar with the staff members, as he had once been an attorney. The location of the shelter was well-known to many people- but the staff insisted that I breached a privacy law and ejected us anyway.

Once my children and I returned home (and until I got my own job and apartment), we lived in the dysfunctional environment a little longer. During this time, a number of things helped me stand on my own, despite my depression and anxiety.

Support Groups

Catholic Charities helped my family immensely when I was living in a domestic violence situation. During their support groups, they offered childcare while mothers had the chance to meet with other women who were experiencing similar situations. Additionally, the groups were led by social workers who not only offered wisdom, they treated the women with dignity and compassion.

Individual Therapy/Counseling

The therapist helped me see my blind spots with regard to the toxic people and behaviors in my life. They also can recommend you to psychiatrists and psychologists if you need to take medication. Sometimes it seemed a little awkward talking to a stranger, but they can offer much-needed guidance, especially if you’re lacking in this area.

Reading/Insight/Learning

A trip to the library often reaps many interesting discoveries. Kids can play with other kids quietly, and you can pick up your books and read a little while your kids are being entertained by storytellers, playtime friends, or colorful puppets and toys. I used to grab a calendar of events and circle the dates when my kids could be entertained for free by the library staff.

Solitude

Take any and every chance you get to enjoy the silence. When babies are young, they often have a predictable napping schedule. I used this time to read about depression, boundary issues (Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend), parenting, and money management. I also tried to pursue creative interests, such as drawing and painting, after my kids went to bed for the night, or before they woke up in the morning. I wasn’t always able to stick to this routine, especially when there were chaos and dysfunction in the home, but I tried to draw and paint with my kids too, and get them interested in art.

Quality Time With Children

Even a simple trip to McDonald’s with a play area can be quite enjoyable for young children! When you have little time or money (or emotional resources), you have to simplify. We visited local parks, the library, kid-friendly restaurants. A few grocery stores offer childcare while you shop- my kids thought it was a treat to go in the “Eagle’s Nest” at Giant Eagle while I shopped for groceries.

Things have evolved significantly since my kids were toddlers. There are probably new and better ways in which to find support for depression, domestic violence, and other issues. Which leads me to one other place that helped me.

Listen To Inspirational Audiobooks

My local library was a treasure trove of learning resources. Check out some audiobooks on self-help, parenting, marriage and family relationships, and much more!

Find A Good Church

And by good, I mean a church that is attuned to the needs of their community. Luckily, our church had many support groups and classes- for Christians and non-Christians alike. DivorceCare offered kitschy videos about life after divorce, but during the times when the facilitator paused the DVD, we had lively discussions and developed strong friendships with others among the class.

 

Regaining Control Over Anxiety at Work

Another anxiety attack manifested yesterday. The sudden bout of nervousness and agitation were precipitated by a few triggers.

  • My workspace was invaded and altered abruptly.
  • Physical discomfort and exhaustion from hormonal changes.
  • Working in an unorganized and moderately hazardous workspace.
  • Feeling overwhelmed with workload and expectations.
  • Embarrassment and feeling as though there was no “escape” from the chaos!

I would feel tears streaming down my face as I plotted what I could say to my supervisor to escape the madness I was struggling to contain. He was pushing me and my coworker to do more work, to work in between the seconds we waited for parts to assemble at my production job.

At first, I adapted my workspace to accommodate the changes implemented. After several minutes, I felt relaxed and I thought I was working at a moderate pace. My supervisor emerged and started piling partially-assembled bins on my table (which cluttered the space that I diligently maintained). I thought if I quit talking to my coworker working next to me I could work faster, but after working 7 days in a row, and battling PMDD (PMS on steroids), I realized despite my intentions and efforts, I couldn’t do the task today. I usually don’t assess myself so clearly and easily, but I’m well-acquainted with anxiety and all the masks she wears- the mask of OCD, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, PTSD…even bulimia, and anorexia!

How I Gained Some Control

My choices were limited in the frantic environment in which I was thrust. The supervisor was hounding me to do more than I was capable of doing. PMS was wreaking so much havoc on my body that I had to sleep with a heating pad on my stomach for the past two days, and I used a pillow to elevate my sore feet at night. My mood seemed pleasant, mostly, until Sunday at work. I haven’t felt this agitated at work for a few months. At least, not so agitated that I wanted to leave for the day.

So I devised a way to tell my supervisor that I couldn’t handle working this day. After many interpretations of how I would elicit some shred of sympathy, I opted to find one of my supervisor’s subordinates. She nodded as I replayed the events in my work area and as I told her about my PMDD and anxiety symptoms. Within minutes she was able to get me moved to an area where I could work alone and in an orderly environment.

After I was situated in at my new station, I put in my earbuds and listened to some motivating music to get me thinking about how I would enjoy the day once I got out of work!

Here’s What Helped!

  • Change of environment.
  • Asking for help/support.
  • Being assertive.
  • Listening to music.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Working in a clutter-free area.
  • Working alone.
  • Finding a rhythm- working by the timer set on my new machine, as opposed to not having any timer/or relying on the timing and rhythms of my coworkers.
A woman sits on top of a on a white sedan.

How Bipolar Can Trigger Other Disorders

Obsessive behavior is one intrinsic element of mania/hypomania in bipolar disorder. The brain is “rewarded” somehow by this behavior, just as an addict’s brain is dysfunctionally rewarded by another hit. Part of recovery is learning how to replace the dysfunctional behavior with an acceptable behavior/reward. Along the way, when I have not been mindful of either my disorder (which has vast complexities) or the nuances of the new “reward”.

All of the various components of this disorder feel untamed during the elevated periods (mania/hypomania). As a creator (all of humanity can identify with the desire to create to some extent), I love the rush I experience from the flight of ideas bipolar disorder bestows upon me!

Obsessive thoughts about clutter do not emerge from a physical craving, but rather a psychological craving. Becoming mindful of the psychological craving that occurs with my obsessive thoughts have helped me to remedy my mindless thought patterns in regards to decluttering. Not all decluttering is “mindless”, however. If I am disturbed by my actions, and I keep re-purchasing the items I have discarded, decluttering in this manner is disordered.

The periods of my “lows”- the depression stage of bipolar disorder- feel like, for lack of a better word, a funeral. I feel like life is dwindling. The melancholy that always follows or precedes my bipolar disorder ushers in feelings of despair, hopelessness. I fail to plan at this point when I am not able to concentrate on the future because I effectively see the future. The moods are always fluctuating. The best I can sometimes hope for is the knowledge that the mania will manifest, and I will be happy once again.

The obsessive behaviors I have experienced along the way include: spending countless hours on the internet piecing together my heritage. In retrospect, this perplexes me since I am isolated from most of my extended family. I have become engulfed in various ideas: the idea of changing careers when I do not have the means or aptitude to pursue continuing my education. I spend money on things that I end up throwing away. For instance, I decide I will start doing handiwork in my house, so I purchase a few tools or accessories. A month later, I become discouraged and the thought of a project or unfinished idea occupying my mental space is unsettling, so I donate or discard the items.

I may decide occasional doodling is not enough, I need to start a business or design a shirt. Soon I learn that there is much more involved at such notions and I abandon my idea, at least for a brief time. Something along the way triggers the desire to create, and in a healthy scenario, I am able to pick up a drawing pad and simply relax, nothing more. Writing has mostly satisfied my desire to express myself without having to spend money on a creative pursuit (which oftentimes leads me to purge items). I find myself “purging” my stories and poems, then regretting my decision to discard.

I was once obsessed with finding a poem I wrote several years ago. It was submitted to a poetry website, circa 1999, and was supposedly published in a poetry book. I have gone to great lengths to contact the Library of Congress and any publisher affiliated with the defunct website. I am embarrassed at the amount of time I dedicated to that vain pursuit of locating the book.

Although I am satisfied with using writing as a coping mechanism, I am unhappy with the times I demonstrate mindless behavior. My spiritual side needs to be nurtured and this is the most integral part of anybody’s journey.

 

A smiling woman, standing near trees.

How I Refresh When I’m Depressed

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”- George Harrison

For several weeks, I have neglected my writing, my drawings, my dreams, and my passions. Why? Because I am depressed. As a result, I feel hopeless and unmotivated. It is the same reason why I buy things and throw them out a week later, I suppose. When I feel ambitious, I buy things to “make changes”, to pursue a hobby or some other “worthy” cause. I become overwhelmed and depressed, and I figure my plans and abilities will fail, I simply discard my purchases.

Writing is my faithful outlet- I won’t throw away my laptop, but I may edit some of my ideas on the computer. I have written essays to process my feelings, to aid in my research and recovery of mental health issues. When I have a problem, I turn to the internet or books to help me understand; I usually feel compelled to write while researching a topic.

But even now, I have only recently begun to feel like writing again. I had hoped to be making progress in composing a collection of essays to be published, either independently, or otherwise. I don’t like waiting months for a response and I feel I want control over my work. I have been feeling like I’m drifting, sailing mindlessly, with nothing to do but observe the grim scenery. I’ve come to realize, despite my depression, bipolar people can still do some things, even when they are crippled by mood fluctuations.

How To Work On Your Dreams Even When You’re Depressed:

Work on smaller tasks that help you achieve your goals.

When I feel too depressed to write, I should accept the fact that I won’t probably compose a novel in that state, but at least I can make an effort to put my thoughts, ideas, or any other “fragment” down on paper. The mind can gather and begin to subconsciously work in a way to move me to write once again.

Peruse the internet to find support groups and tips.

Many people are in the same place, looking for answers and support.

Remind yourself of your dreams and how they are a great part of you!

No matter what others think of me, no matter how lousy life has become, I am grounded in at least one passion. I don’t seek approval from others when I am depressed because people tend to view depressed individuals in a negative way. Thankfully, I’m an introverted person- I don’t need other people to make me feel better. It is a boost to my ego when I do feel accepted by others, however.

Get some fresh air and some fresh perspective.

Maybe circumstances and people are creating a climate that is toxic. Get around new people, go for a walk, listen to music to drown out some of the toxicity.

Read!

Being a writer means I must be a reader too. When  I am uninspired, I read inspirational stories of other writers. In the midst of feeling depressed, I read articles about how to improve my mental health. I understand that with my mood disorder, I am prone to bouts of depression- I have almost accepted this fact of life. Reading about mood disorders helps me to feel less anxious and isolated.

Recently, I bought myself a Kindle and I’ve discovered a wealth of free ebooks on self-improvement, mental health, productivity, and creativity. Every chance I had a break at work, I read a few ebooks, got inspired and more motivated.

Sometimes, acceptance is a great way to overcome depression. When I’m depressed, I tend to consume too much caffeine. I drink coffee compulsively, sometimes to fill the emptiness in my time, or to curb physical hunger. This behavior wrecks my eating patterns, as I often “crash” from this caffeinated-diet and I supplement my diet with junk food. I don’t always accept my poor eating habits- but I make concessions for them.

Acceptance, a positive attitude about something that can’t be changed- but I can change my shopping, cooking and eating habits. There is often an issue with anxiety that I am unwilling to exchange for a healthier habit (such as eating right). With depression, there are often many layers of behavioral issues that need to be managed. If I am too overwhelmed to pursue healthier choices, I have enabled internal and external factors to influence my life. Despite living with unresolved issues, but because one can choose to acknowledge that which is “unresolved”, acceptance is authentic. Choosing acceptance doesn’t mean I am free to mull over poor choices, rather, it is a way a life sometimes.

Understanding the Causes of Burnout

When everything around you seems to deplete you of energy, it’s time to do an assessment of your environment, your mind, and your body. If you suffer from a mood disorder, such as bipolar, you may become manic or depressed as a result of any precipitating factor. Take special care of yourself from the very moment you realize you are becoming stressed or ill.

Your body:

Do you have cramps, have a headache or feel nauseous? If it’s any of those things, plus you feel tired and moody, watch out for PMS. PMS can make a logical person act irrationally. Women feel more sensitive and self-conscious during their cycle.

Your environment:

Being around people that drain you, as opposed to people that nourish and encourage you, can deplete your energies in many ways. I work with toxic coworkers, one in particular who complains when she is directed to do something other than making copies or sweep the floors. She has a penchant for gossiping about me and telling others I’m having a “bipolar” day (I made the mistake of confiding in her that I have bipolar disorder). When I am sick or having my cycle, it is challenging to bite my tongue around this woman. I  find it helpful to meditate and pray when circumstances feel beyond my control.

Your mind:

Have I been neglecting to feed my mind good things? Like the physical body, our minds can only bear good fruit when we feed it with enriching things. When we give our mind a steady diet of garbage tv, vile images, words or music, nothing positive can become of such things.

Others do not need to deal with my crabbiness, either. I must retreat from people when I am being stressed. Solitude refreshes many people, especially introverts like myself. It’s rare that I have much quiet time. Small blocks of time seem to help me quelch the crankiness. A heating pad, good music, and 15 minutes to myself, much needed mental and physical rest not only benefits me, but it helps my family, my co-workers and others.

When I get overwhelmed by stress, my moods or emotions, and I have nowhere to “dump” that which exacerbates my bipolar disorder, I turn to mindless purging- purging of material things, or purging of documents, papers, receipts, and even things I was trying to save (old report cards from my children, school programs, newsletters, etc.). I have not been diagnosed with OCD, but I feel such behaviors are compulsive. These behaviors are rooted in an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes when I do not pay attention to my diet and I drink too much soda pop or eat junk food, I feel ashamed and unhappy with myself. I have wanted to purge on a few occasions, but have avoided this by distracting myself with writing or some other activity.

When we fail to nourish ourselves, our mind and body will cry out for attention. Poor nutrition, overeating, alcohol abuse, and many other unhealthy habits will manifest and cause us more harm in the long run.

A woman wearing dark clothes and hat walks in a field of daisies.

When People Pretend to Understand Bipolar Disorder

Don’t assume anything about Bipolar Disorder.

It is much easier for me to tell people I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder now that I have had an actual psychiatric evaluation. It has taken me years to be led in the right direction for such a diagnosis. Five years ago, I believed I suffered from PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). A few times a year, when I would become so distraught over my moods, I would schedule a doctor’s appointment. I believed my periods were causing me such psychological problems that they were the major culprit in any interpersonal relationship conflict I had with family, friends or co-workers.
In 2016, I penned an email to my family doctor:

“I am no longer taking Lexapro. I tried for 3 weeks and had some nightmares and discovered I grew a tolerance for it. I felt really hostile on it the final week. I was seemingly fine until my period this week.”

She gingerly replied:

“Unfortunately you did not follow-up at your scheduled appointment where we would typically re-evaluate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PMDD, and any side effects. Therefore none of this is actually documented.”

I had been to the same office for “mood” problems since 2012 when the doctor tried to put me on birth control pills. The “pill” was not effective in treating my mood disorder. Each time I visited the doctor, they tried to give me another antidepressant. Mostly, I was given medication in the SSRI class of antidepressants. Then, I was prescribed Wellbutrin, a medication in the NDRI class (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). My doctor determined that I was “sensitive” to medications, which is why she tried me on Wellbutrin.

I was afraid to mess with the new prescription she recommended. Then, my mood would improve, I’d get a euphoric feeling. I felt creative and happy about half of my life, then I descend into depression. It was always with that period of depression that I sought help. My doctor’s office replaced the previous physician with a new doctor. I explained that I was not there for “meds” as the nurse remarked on my intake form. She reviewed my symptoms and gave me a referral to their partner clinic- the clinic that deals with mental illness, therapy and psychiatry. A wave of embarrassment and shame poured over me. The psychiatrist asked me many questions. As I spoke to her, my speech became more rapid. “Do you realize how fast you are talking?” I said I was moderately aware of how my speech changes but nobody else has ever remarked about it.

We talked about my family history, specifically, how members of my family used alcohol to mask what was possibly their own mood disorders. In the past, there was more stigma against mental illness. People kept problems hidden from others, or at least they tried. The alcoholism simply created additional problems. My grandfather was a WWII survivor (USS Indianapolis). He was quiet and held his liquor well. It was socially acceptable to throw down a few beers. He was dealing with traumatic memories that he wanted to suppress. Grandma, on the other hand, was a talker. She was also a drinker, as was my mother. As a child, I witnessed interesting discussions when they all drank together in the kitchen. My grandfather seemed to have much composure. I can’t say the say for the rest of the family.

I told the doctor about my experiences with Lexapro, and how I had very disturbing nightmares. These nightmares dealt with the macabre- death and decay. I found it very difficult to shake these dreams from my waking moments. When I quit taking the medication abruptly, I experienced unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I prayed that I would avoid getting into trouble or jeopardizing any relationship. The other medications made me feel dull but balanced. While on the meds, I was neither happy nor sad. My face felt like a mask. Any creative inclination I had previously experienced during my “manic” episodes had all but diminished.

My psychiatrist said that my periods likely trigger my underlying condition of bipolar disorder. She told me that more than likely, my mother and grandmother had mood disorders and drank to cope with their issues. The nightmares that I experienced while taking antidepressants was common in bipolar patients.

“Your family doctor sent you here because she didn’t know what else could be wrong”, she explained. I read that in order to be diagnosed with PMDD, the doctor must rule out any mental health issues that could possibly be causing the symptoms. Although I was not thrilled with being diagnosed with any mental disorder, bipolar disorder was less-embarrassing than PMDD. PMDD is not socially-acceptable and most people misunderstand the meaning of “being bipolar.”

When I need to tell people about my disorder (so they don’t think I’m speaking rapidly because I’m strung-out on drugs), I am met with a dismissive attitude. The term “bipolar” has become synonymous with being “edgy”. The term “bipolar” is used to broadly define any rebellious, hip, or bold attitude. Mood disorders are NOT attitudes.

Bipolar disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy, and clarity to sadness, fatigue, and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.”-APA.org

As a society, we have all but surpassed the days of unrelenting stigmatizing of mental illness, at least for bipolar disorder. In fact, we now must contend with the ignorance associated with bipolar disorder. Much of this ignorance is due in part from people not recognizing bipolar disorder as a real medical condition.

During a manic episode, people suffering from extreme cases of this illness may indulge in risky, foolish or erratic behavior. They may spend money and put their family in debt. They may become promiscuous and wreck their marriage by having affairs. During a depressed cycle, they may experience psychotic episodes, or attempt suicide and/or self-harm. While I have not experienced those elements of bipolar disorder, I have become so depressed that I have ruminated over my own death. I am certain that such dark moods are not appealing to my family.

Bipolar disorder affects each person differently. My variety of this trendy illness doesn’t involve getting tattoos, drinking and driving, or staying up all night like a rock star. Rather, my bipolar can be managed most days, and I have been given the ability to function enough to hold down a full-time job.

Others are not able to work or even manage to get out of bed and get dressed when they are debilitated by depression. When weekends arrive, I am partially relieved because I can rest at home, or so I believe. Often, I become so manic in the afternoon that I am not able to sit down. Weekend mornings, when the kids are still asleep and my worries are quenched for a little bit of time, are the only times I can spend writing. I “binge,” write during such times, except when I am depressed, or when I am trying a new medication.

When I was in my twenties, I started to become aware that something was not right about my moods. Listening to music from Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana opened my mind to certain mental health issues (i.e., “Manic-Depression”, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge”). I was old enough to drink and I drank exceedingly to suppress or to accelerate my mood shifts. Those were some of the worst years of my life!

When people passively listen to me talk about my mood issues, they appear to be dismissive or they appear to “know it all” about manic depression/bipolar disorder. They do not care or they wish to remain blissfully ignorant. After a while, I let them stew in their ignorance or I pretend to not have a mood disorder. Such people love to use a broad lens when depicting bipolar disorder. The lens they prefer to use, however, does not liberate, it merely conveys a broad, generic perspective of the term “bipolar”.