My mind is racing tonight.

mcqueen                                                  download

seabiscuit-2-682

Like Steve McQueen in Bullitt, or the Great Escape.

Like Lightning McQueen in Cars 1, 2, or 3.

Or like Seabiscuit running circles around the competition in Seabiscuit.  

I am on fire and flying fast tonight … and I don’t hate it.  It’s been a damn good day for me personally and for me in all aspects of my life and it just has my mind racing.  I haven’t felt this way in a while – being so charged up like this, and feeling like my mind is moving so fast that things around me are almost slowing down.  I am staying indoors and close to my wife though – that’s how I know I’ll be ok no matter how fast I may feel that I’m going tonight.

Here’s the difference tonight in how I feel, versus how I felt back in March and April:  I feel happy.  While I recognize that it’s mania – I feel happy, and carefree, it’s happy.  There’s no sign of self harm, no sign of darkness, or any of the other old clouds from back then.  I am still on meds – haven’t come off of them yet – and still seeing my therapist twice a month.   I’m here blogging, filling up all those Blank screens.  I have been logging more time on my knees recently than in a long time and He is meeting me more than halfway.  I can’t imagine trying to get through this in any way other than the one that involves the power of God working for me.  There are few things in life more important to me than having a solid relationship with my Heavenly Father.

Tonight I feel like Usain Bolt is running laps in my brain, but at least he’s smiling 🙂

 

Blank screens.

Sometimes I feel like I need to fill this screen with words.  My illness makes me watch the word counter in the bottom right and make sure that it goes up and up and up.  That can lead to oversharing sometimes?

This blog isn’t a negotiable thing though … writing, or the written word, has the ability to change the world, and it certainly changes my life on a daily basis.  The (digital) pen is truly mightier than the sword.  This pen has conquered numerous panic attacks, has been directed by the Spirit, with regards to what I’m saying, and is a large part of how I hope to feel like I’m healing.

I’m putting my soul out here though because I have to.  There have been too many blank screens in my life staring back at me through the years, and I cannot ever let that happen anymore.  If this is where I’m putting my emotions – if this is the valve that I’m opening to get the emotions out, so they don’t build up and boil into a manic episode then that’s what I’ve got to do.  Through the course of the last four months since diagnosis and I have realized that I didn’t talk enough during the course of my life – and especially during the last few years as this got severe.  Again, the blank screens.  That’s why this can’t happen anymore.

So … to be concise – I’m sorry if it feels like I write just to write sometimes, or if the words don’t necessarily flow the best.  Know that I’m putting my whole heart and soul into every word I type, and that every word helps me.

Y’all are the best.  Thanks for being here.

Time Away …

So it’s been a week more or less since I wrote last.

I needed some time away, and frankly things have been super busy in my life – both across the mental illness maintenance spectrum, and all things personal, and all things professional.  Most of what’s gone on has been positive – I can’t complain about any of it.

Time away does one good though – it’s good for retrospection, and for time to not just think but really really digest how things are going and what can be done.  It’s a blessing for me to be able to have a time professionally where I can really enjoy some mental downtime.

When it comes to my mental illness management … I’m mostly in a good place.  I saw the new psychiatrist last week, and I really like him.  He’s a straight shooter who told me that of his whole patient load he’s got 2 patients who aren’t doing well, and that I would not be the 3rd.  We talked for more than 30 minutes instead of the normal 10-12 minutes that I was used to getting from the prior psychiatrist.  I felt good after coming out of his office – I felt hope.  That’s been an all too infrequent feeling since February when this whole thing began.

This weekend was rough though, under the surface.  In a page from my past – I’ll use lyrics to explain how I feel when I’m in the middle of a manic or depressive moment.  They’re from Part from Me by the Avett Brothers.  I’ll put the lyrics, and then link the whole video.

I was scared but I couldn’t admit it
Hatred planted out of fear
Fight or flight no choice but to hit it
The road, it calls on me my dear

I was lost as lost can be
Being praised for being found
But all that praise got lost on me
As a mood swing was headed down

Part from me
I would not dare take someone in love with me
Where I’m going
Apart you’ll see
How true it is and how back then
It possibly was impossible for you or me to know it

When I’m in the bad places, whether they be up or down – I need help.  I’ll admit that.  But there’s an internal conflict because I feel like I am dragging down family when I reach out to them for help … so sometimes I don’t.  I’m not saying that’s a smart or wise plan, but it’s my reality.

Most days though, I don’t have to search too far.  My dear wife is less than arms length away, and I can always go to her for the help and strength needed to get through every day.  Most days, I don’t give a second thought to asking for help.  Most days, the medicine and the therapy, and the tools I’ve learned and put in my corner are enough.

The time away is good for that – making sure that I’m ok for myself.

It’s good to be back.

D-day Anniversary 2017 – Celebrated in the Hedgerows of my mind.

dday

73 years ago this morning, the world changed.  Up to that day, the balance of power in the world was very much still in question.  Up to that day, the outcome of World War II was very much still in question.  Up to that day, the western allies were struggling to get any real traction in Italy and as such, weren’t doing much real damage to the Nazi war efforts.

Beginning with airborne combat troop drops overnight, the allied troops started landing on the beaches at 6:30 AM.  There had been a massive naval and aerial bombardment, and it was time to begin.

The history books will tell you what happens next.  Valor, and not just American valor, was the word of the day as men fought against the Germans and won.  It took 11 months to finish the job.  It took sweat and effort and lives and blood, but the job was finished and freedom was restored to the world.

Two months ago, at about 6:30 AM, I finalized my check in at a mental health institution for care of my bipolar diagnosis.  For me, that was my D-Day.   The car ride to the facility was hell.  The walk to the front of the building was the trip up the beach.  Watching a door lock behind me and seeing that I could not get out again, without someone opening the door for me was a scary, stark vision of where I really was and what I was going through.

I’m honest enough to say that I didn’t fight in combat.  I didn’t see anyone around me lose their lives.  But that was my D-Day.  That was my turning point, nonetheless.  I’m glad the move succeeded and paid off.  I hit that beach and took off, attacking my illness and finding ways to work through all that comes with it.  Just like the men on the beaches of Normandy, I had to go 100% at it, or my actions would fail.

So here I am two months later.  If you know history, you know that the Allied forces slowed down after their initial landings.  That’s where I feel like I’m at right now in a sense, stuck in the hedgerows of my mind.  I’ll take it literally though, and say that I feel like I’m due for another breakout.

The morning of June 6 at home in the United States, President Roosevelt gave his now famous D-Day speech and offered his D-Day prayer, which holds a lot of application in how I feel about my situation today:

” … because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips …”

“O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.”

I trust in God, my friends.  I have faith, that though He has given me this trial, and this difficulty in my life, He will give me the strength to overcome and to be a source of strength for others.  I love that last line … let not the impacts of temporal events of but fleeting moment deter us in our unconquerable purpose.  When I focus on conquering my demons – I will win.  I have unconquerable purpose and resolve to be successful here.

With that driving me, I will win.

 

The art of self care.

There’s an art to living well.

Life is an art all on its own – it is an array of colors and forms and movement and music and beauty and tragedy and comedy, all rolled into one.

Personally, there’s an art to finding the balance of being a good dad and a Dad who builds structure and form into his kids life.

Professionally, there’s an art to follow up. There’s an Art of the Deal (sorry not sorry for including that haha!  It’s a marvelous book actually).

As someone who lives day to day with a mental illness, there’s an art to daily living   There’s an art to balancing the mental capacity required to function and taking time for myself.  There’s an art form in balancing the hatred of the medicines and their bad side effects, and then acknowledging the real results of taking them.   There’s also an art form in taking the time to care for yourself.

Self care is the art of taking time for you.

From LDS.org/mentalhealth:  “Practice self-care. Consider making a change in your daily routine or establishing a deliberate habit. Seek pleasure in small and simple things by noticing the texture of a flower, the flavor of a favorite food, or the beauty of a birdsong. Practice mindfulness or another relaxation technique. Allow your thoughts to turn to God as you give your mind and body time to rejuvenate.”

I’ve started walking in the mornings several days a week, and one of my favorite parts had been taking the time to smell the flowers on the path I walk.  It seems odd to get so much relief out of such a small thing but I am tell you – it’s awesome.

As you all have seen the last few posts, I’ve kind been in a ruttier rut than usual.  It’s been interesting to see the difference though that comes as I’ve tried to make time to take time for me.  One of my favorite quotes from recent reading says:

“Old sailing ships had periods when the wind did not blow. They were ‘dead in the water.’ But the wind will return. The sails will fill. You will come into port.”

Thinking about that concept, the idea of filling the sails is interesting.  Given the realities of what I suffer with – manic depression – there will be winds in empty sails at some point.  They may end up being gale force winds, but winds in the sails nonetheless.

The point of what I’m trying to say though, is that we can fill the sails on our own.   Self care is one of many ways to help calm the rough seas of mental illness.    I am becoming an ever stronger believer in the value of self care and what it brings to me mentally and physically.

Heres to rejuvenation and a solid path to recovery.

Smaller and less frequent …

… panic attacks does not less the effect they can have on you.

I’ve found that out over the last few days and weeks as I’ve been seeing panic attacks pop back up.  They’re much smaller and much less frequent than the hell I saw in February and March, but that doesn’t make them any less scary and less impactful on you as the sufferer.

Beyond the physical aspects, I’m now in the place where they are mentally exhausting.  Quite honestly, it’s even more exhausting after the episode passes because I can spend the next 45-90 minutes evaluating and analyzing where I was at and what I was thinking about and trying to find what the trigger was and why it happened and what I can do to prevent it from happening again … you get the idea.

In therapy this week I came to a vocal realization that I’m now (finally, blessedly past the stage that immediately followed diagnosis.  Gone are the days of “Why is this happening to me, and why is what did I do wrong, and will I get through this alive, and what is to become of me?”  The sky isn’t falling anymore.  The world isn’t crumbling under my feet. I will be capable of getting through this, someway, somehow.  The how of that may change on a daily basis, but dammit, I will survive.

I am now into the stage of dealing with the new realities, the “new normal,” on a daily basis.  It’s exhausting honestly.  It takes all I’ve got to be able to function fully, and to make sure that I get through every day with everything that is needed.  My daily issues are just that – daily.  I know how to deal with them on a daily basis, and know that I can get through them.  I’ve got the right tools and right support in place so that I can live, with a smile.  It means dealing with those small less frequent panic attacks as they come.  It means, looking the devil in the eyes and telling him to back off.

My therapist asked me a very frank question the other day during our session – she said: “Will, you will have manic episodes again.  You will get to a place where you feel like you could be suicidal again.  What will you do?”  The answer, after a lot of thought, was that I will stick to my lifelines.  I know what they are.  I know how to access them.  It’s on me to use them to live, and live well.

My goal is to live well, and to know what that means.  Living well … that’s to be happy physically, mentally, and spiritually every day, but ONE DAY AT A TIME.  Can I do that?

Today, I’m on the way to making it happen.

What’s wrong with me?

What if nothing is wrong?  Was anything ever wrong?  If nothing is wrong, then why on earth do things feel so weird?

My world was falling apart when I went into treatment six, seven weeks ago.  I was in darkness, and had no idea where the bottom was.  I am glad and grateful to be where I’m at now – being in the treatment center was the most amazing thing that happened in this whole process.  Physically, I was able to get on the right meds and I’ve finally been on that right mix for more than six weeks.  Mentally, the therapy sessions there were amazing.  I learned coping skills and tools that have helped me keep the panic attacks away.  I have things under control to the point that I have not had to take a klonipin in more than six weeks.  Things are going well …

BUT …

I feel like this is a calm before a coming storm.  I feel like I’m bordering on hypomania perhaps?  I feel like all of this is going away and I imagined it all?   The brain on fire, the hell of the panic attacks, the terror of being scared to leave my own room, the constant crying.  Did it even really happen?

Am I hanging on to my depressive state now, like I was hanging on to the manic state?  Do I want to feel low?  I’m just not sure of what’s going on in my mind and my heart.  My belief in God and how He communicates with me tells me that I will never be given more trials than I can deal with, but man … this one is one that’s making me reconsider everything from the top down.

What am I?

Who am I?

Where did I come from?

What is my purpose here?

Why does this have to be my trial?

I promised my therapist in the treatment facility that I would strive to incorporate more spirituality into my life as a means of keeping myself grounded and progressing.  I’ve been trying to listen to at least one conference talk every morning, and I’ve at least been reading the Book of Mormon with my kiddos every night, but I’m still lacking in just … overall understanding of my path and purpose.  Anyone have a compass I can borrow?

I’ve switched to therapy just twice a month instead of four times, and just completed the off week.  I’m not sure how it felt and the difference it really made – but I am glad that there will be a session this coming week.  I just can’t shake this worry that … poof!  The bipolar was a dream, and none of it ever happened.

It’s been such a painful process reinventing myself and having to figure out who I really am over the last three months.  Do I have to do that again?   I don’t think that’s the reason for this trial, and I hope that I don’t have to walk this road again.  I’ve got a winning family and support system – it may be time to lean a little more, but in a different direction.

Peace of puzzles

IMG_1464So puzzles have always been a fun activity for me.   Growing up, there was frequently a puzzle found on a table somewhere in our house and for Christmas nearly every year the big man in red gave me a new puzzle.  I have to say that the love of those puzzles has not lessened in the 10 years since I left home.

When I was diagnosed initially back in February it literally knocked me upside down.  First there were all the crazy side effects, the immediate worst of them being insomnia.   I went from being a solid sleeper at night to getting MAYBE two or three hours nightly.  One thing that  at least calmed me down was puzzles.  Over the last three months since my diagnosis I’ve done ten  500 or 1000 piece puzzles, and I can honestly say that this one saved my life.  img_1468.jpg

In January after I attempted to take my life I sat down and built this puzzle, all 1000 pieces, in 48 hours.

There are similar stories for every one that I completed … if any of you have stuck with me from the beginning when I began this blog, you’ll know that I posted some pictures of the puzzles I was working at that time.   These puzzles were two fold in their purposes for me: 1) it occupied my mind and helped slow it down at the worst times and 2) it kept me safe and occupied during insomnia so I wouldn’t feel the pull to do anything unsafe.  

Can I be honest and say that while I feel like I’m mostly in a good state and that the bipolar is under control right now, I still have a table with a puzzle I’m working on?  It’s up 24/7 and I can hit it at any time.  IMG_1469

There is peace for my weary mind in the pieces of puzzles.

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Dragon? Nonsense!

“There hasn’t been a dragon in these parts for a thousand years!”

Ill cop to being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and with zero shame too.  It was the series that defined my high school years, as the first movie came out my freshman year and the last came out months before I graduated.   It was the every December event for three glorious years.  In December of 2003, the final movie came out.  It was part of all the fun that went with a senior year – my friends and I were HUGE fans of these movies.

Like Frodo in the movie though, I was fighting my own demons.  I was in the middle of an escalating eating disorder.  It went on to rob me of a lot more of myself physically and also rob me of part of myself mentally that 14 years later I still haven’t found again.

So now, to the point of this post: is an eating disorder a mental illness?  I’ve now dealt with both, and one – the mental illness – is bringing back the other (the dragon of my eating disorder) into my life.  It’s at the fringes of my heart and mind and I can feel it closing in with ever increasing speed.

There was a time when my eating disorder was something that had happened, and it was a badge of honor to have survived it.  Perhaps it was folly, but I also never planned to have to deal with it again.  It was on the shelf, like a trophy. I didn’t plan to have to look the dragon in the eyes anymore.  My bipolar has brought other plans to the front though unfortunately so here we find ourselves.   And I’ll return to my original, sincere question: is an eating disorder a mental illness?   Or am I just someone with enough moxie that life has decided I should deal with both at the same time?  Because they’re here.

And I need help with managing them.

Heres the brutal circle of it all.

– eating disorder under control, I was in a happy healthy place.

– I went on my mission and had the best time of my life.  The eating disorder was under control.

– I came home and started school.  Under control.

– got married, under control

-kids, under control, enjoyed the pregnancy.  Wasn’t even bothered by the weight gain as a “pregnant dad.”

– life for six years, two jobs, ups and downs of life … under control.

-bipolar diagnosis, three months of strong antipsychotics, and the dragon is back.  It’s only been 14 years, not 1000 like Bilbo said.  When I wrote a week ago, it was just peeking around the corner but now he has turned and is looking me right in the eye.

In three months, it’s all been wrecked and I’m ready to go back to eating nothing.  So again, I ask:

does eating disorder = mental illness ??

I feel like I could be on the verge of a hypomanic state, which isn’t a full on manic episode but is almost equally dangerous because it can lull you into a sense of false security.

The body issues seem to have shown up because of the weight gain that’s come with the meds.   I haven’t been this big in 14 years and my mind is particularly weak right now when it comes to resisting down moments you know?

If anyone has thoughts or ideas about this please share.   There’s some genuine concern and curiosity here on my part and I’m glad for a forum like this where I can share and hopefully get some feedback.  In the meantime, I’m glad to have friends and family to lean on in this time.  It seems like we never get to stop fighting, and I right?

 

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