Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love and Hate 
 I watched the movie Stardust last week and fell in love; what a quirky and perfectly lovely show (minus the un-shown pre-marital sex).  While the fallen star was explaining to the man-mouse what she knew about love and then confessing her love for him, she said that love can be easily mistaken for loathing.  Many times when depressed we can mistake others' efforts to show their love, concern, and support for us as judgement and loathing.
 We ruminate on others' perception and treatment of us and wish we could do something about it or that they would love us for who we are.  The truth is that some have no empathy and think that mind over matter is enough and people who are depressed are just weak minded.  While mind over matter helps, it does not take away the whole problem.  You can't just tell your cancer to go away, but positive thinking does help you, almost magically sometimes, to get well.  The same goes for depression.
 If we think positively about the people we want to love us then, when we are depressed it is easier to see others' actions for what they are:  loving attempts to help us.
 A deeper problem arises when people do not try to help us out of love.  They react in anger or guilt, and that always produces the opposite effect desired.  Getting angry at us because we do not do what you expect of us will not ever help.   Guilt tripping will only make us hide further and wallow more deeply in our self loathing.
 The solution:  Charity never faileth.  Love is always the answer for both sides.  No matter the action, if it is motivated by love, it will be the right one.  Holding on to that love when things do not go as well as either party wishes is the best thing for everyone.  Hard to do, yes, but possible and practice makes perfect.  Good luck with the positive thinking and holding onto that love.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heavenly Cures

 Our Bishopric has issued a scripture challenge--They want us to have family scripture study every day and for every 7 consecutive days read we can give them a blue B of M paper for them to hang on the wall of the Bishop's office.  The kids love it and it has wrought a great change in our thinking.  How does this relates to mental illness?  Well, while reading last night I came across a verse that ties into my last post and gives a little bit of an answer on overcoming obstacles.  1 Nephi 14:1 says that if we "harken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks--"  So what does that mean for us?

 In comparing stumbling blocks to obstacles, we find the answer.  An obstacle is something that gets in the way or hinders your progress, but a stumbling block is moveable and usually put in someone's way to trip them up.  Typically, an obstacle is something like a mountain or fence (i.e. an obstacle course).  The obstacles make to journey more difficult, but are not in your control and not intended to make the task impossible.  Basically, the obstacle is not partial and "out to get you."  A stumbling block, in theory, is usually in your control.  You, or someone else is, trying to sabotage your progress.  In that sense, then if you are faithful then those things that are intended to make you fail are removed and just the things that are intended to make you stronger, the obstacles, remain.  So the journey is supposed to be hard, but    complete-able.

 A mental illness is an obstacle.  We can make it over them and become a better and stronger person in the process.  If we allow ourselves to be bogged down by mental illness, to make depression a bad habit,  then we place stumbling blocks in our path.  Those can be removed so that we can succeed if we turn to God in everything we do.  So let's brave those obstacles and be faithful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bad Habits

 A long time ago--okay about a year and a half--a wise man once said to me that mental illness can be a habit once the chemical imbalance has been corrected.  He is right and I am having difficulty being wise now.  To me, wisdom is putting your knowledge into action.  So far my bad habits developed over 31 years of hard work are not willing to disappear as fast as I would like them to.  Go figure.  I am discovering, now that I know what is a bad habit and what is truly still a problem, that I prefer on most days to not try.  How sad.
 Habits are difficult to change, especially if you are afraid of hard work.  Bad habits are usually the easy way out and not beneficial in the long run.  So, staying in bed when you feel overwhelmed--bad habit.  Reading instead of doing laundry or cleaning--bad habit.  Children often help the staying in bed all day thing.  Feeding people who come up to you every two minutes and ask for a snack is very difficult to do for underneath a warm and cozy bedspread.  I have recently discovered, thanks to my sister, a way to work and be immersed in literature.  Borrow books on tape from the library and listen to them on your ipod as you do what you need to do.  You do need to delete them when you've listened to them because we do not want to break any federal laws.  Prison or incurring hefty fines are not my idea of overcoming the difficulties in your life.
 Not exercising is also a very bad habit that is so easy not to replace with a good change.  Solution:  get a friend or six to exercise with--but make sure one of those friends has a key to the church so that you can still work out when the weather is bad or cold.  Having support from other people helps when you are having trouble staying motivated.  Especially when you only feel like exercising two or three days of the month and then are sore for a week after you do finally get up the desire to get off the couch.  Those are not helpful ruts to get into.

 Changing your thinking is possible, but again it takes lots of work and consistent effort.  Trading pms for a pma is harder than I thought it would be.  Thinking good thoughts helps with motivation because what you think is what you become.  So, now that I have more control over what I think, I now realize how far I need to come before I automatically think what I want to become.  The ability to clearly see the path ahead, or the consequences of choosing that path, is slowly coming back to me.  I'd like to make the right choice, but feel unable to climb the mountainous obstacle I created stone by stone with past behavior.  Any specific suggestions on how we can trade negative thoughts for uplifting ones?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What, That Was Today?

 One of the most difficult things I deal with, almost on a daily basis, is remembering scheduled appointments.  Yes, I know today is Tuesday.  Yes, I know I have an appointment at 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday. But, when 10:30 rolls around I have trouble realizing that the date and time and my actions are connected.  Hard to explain and hard to understand, yes.  For example, tonight is pack night.  That means I have to get myself and my kids ready, go early,  help set up, participate, and clean up.  But, as the day goes on I forget so, when 6:30 arrives, do I realize that I need to do something?  No.
 Many people who suffer from mental health issues often have this same problem.  Memory troubles are common with bipolar disorder and manifest themselves differently in individual cases.  We may seem confused, forgetful, irresponsible, or inconsiderate.  Yes, that is true, but we have a real excuse.  Connecting time and place with action is a skill I have to constantly work on.
 Do you have funny memory issues?  Most women with children have them.  But that does not mean you have mental health issues.  Good luck remembering today and may pleasant memories fill you day. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Signs and Symptoms
 In the future I will not predict my posts.  Sometimes, when the time comes, I don't want to write about the things I said I would.  Living with bipolar disorder is like riding a roller coaster.  The ups re so much fun, if not embarrassing, and productive.  The difference is that the downs are not fun, but the are scary.  Most of the time the ride fluctuates quickly and suddenly.  I never know what I am going to wake up to--if I ever slept.
 In an effort to help everyone understand more fully about bipolar disorder, here is a list of symptoms of manic episodes and depressive episodes.  Please, no self diagnosis from these lists.  If you are worried about yourself or someone you love see a mental health professional or your physician.  The list is from

Symptoms of a Depressive Episode
Persistent sad, down or empty moods
Feeling helpless, hopeless and pessimistic
Feelings of guilt or being worthlessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down"
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Restlessness or irritability
Sleeping too much or excessively
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Increased appetite and weight gain

Symptoms of a Manic Episode
Increased energy, activity and restlessness
Racing thoughts and rapid speech
Denial that anything is wrong
High risk behavior
Impulsiveness or reckless behavior
Excessive "high" or moderately positive feelings
Poor sleep or decreased sleep
Unrealistic beliefs in one’s ability
Poor judgment
A sustained period of behavior that is different from usual behavior
Increased sexual drive
Abuse of drugs and alcohol
Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Can We Do?

photo credit:
 I was asked after the first post what friends and family can do to help and if time will make it better or are there other factors.  I can only speak for me and what helps me.  If you have other suggestions let's hear them.
 My ups and downs are linked to my hormone levels as well as situational factors.  I can push through the lows if I have something really great to motivate me, i.e. people.  I am as extroverted as you can get, so I love company, visits from friends and family, walking group, craft day--you get the idea.  I scoured my whole house for Thanksgiving because my parents were coming.  Anything less special couldn't get me to do it.  It helped that I was on the up part of my mood cycle.  If I am down I will not perform if I do not feel loved, supported, or understood, which drives my husband to distraction.  I just want to stay in bed and sleep or read.  It takes a huge amount of mental effort to get out of bed and get dressed.  Showers are optional and aren't taken.  I use the excuse that my skin just comes apart if I bathe too often (which is true), but showering for church is not often enough.  I have goals that never seem to get met.  Time does not heal all wounds, it just passes.
 If you would like to help, be there for me.  Ask me how I am and really want to know.  Be patient with me.  Encourage me.  Support me; love me.  Invite me places or come visit me.  Do not cover my responsibilities for me or I will never try.
 Next post I will do some research and find out what helps others with their bipolar disorder.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is more common than we realize.  Millions of americans suffer in one way or another.  Most families are not given the tools necessary to properly support their mentally ill loved one.  Most aren't even aware their loved one has a treatable problem.  Sometimes families and friends think that the loved one's behavior is just their personality, that their illness isn't a disorder it is a character trait.  In some cases that may be true, but in someone suffering from mental illness those personality traits are disruptive.
 According to
"A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. 
There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal."
 Many other problems can result from a mental illness and your mental health can be caused by physical and emotional problems.  Stress can cause a temporary change in normal behavior, or it can bring out a more serious problem  Physical illnesses may bring on mental health issues and may continue to be a problem after physical symptoms are cured.  Our bodies are inseparably linked; when one part is affected the whole body is affected.  Genetics are also a major factor in the presence of a mental illness.  Chemical imbalances may be corrected with a variety of treatments, medical and non-medical. 
 Becoming more educated about mental health issues helps the individual and their families and friends cope better; knowing what you are facing helps considerably.  Sharing your experiences with each other helps as well.
 In a future post, I will offer some of the warning signs that you or a loved one has mental health issues and not just an extreme personality.  I warn that self-diagnosis is a major problem and you should never self medicate.  
 Seeking professional, competent help if suspicious that a mental illness exists is imperative.  You or your loved one can never get better without proper treatment.  Trying exercise, eating healthier, and involvement in enjoyable activities is one way to treat the problem yourself without danger.  If the problem persists, then seeking medical advice may be necessary.