Monthly Archives: September 2019

Crash

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The calm after the storm doesn’t really fit. Calm isn’t really the word. The crash after the storm seems more appropriate. After being keyed up for so many days – not able to sleep much, highly-focused energy, hyper-agitation, restlessness, anxiety, etc., the lows that follow feel lower than usual.

For the last several days, I have felt excessively sleepy. I’m so sluggish. It takes me longer to get myself awake and moving in the mornings, and I slow down earlier in the day than I normally would. And in between? I’m slow. I never do make it up to full speed. While everything seemed to move in fast forward for a few weeks, all of a sudden things slowed to a crawling slow-motion pace. Sped up unannounced; slowed down unannounced.

Several months ago, when life moved at normal speed, I agreed to make a wedding cake. But not just the bride’s cake, the groom’s cake, as well. No big deal. They were simple designs, and I had plenty of time. I would pace myself. And I did. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was that the wedding would fall during the crash. No amount of pre-planning or prep work would have been enough to keep me from feeling like I had been hit by a Mack truck while working on the cakes.

I’m not sure what it is, but something physically happens to my body during mania, and it’s after effects. It hurts from head to toe, and I feel like I’m working on my 9th decade, instead of my 5th. Brutal. And the fatigue. Between the pain and the fatigue, there were moments when I could hardly stand, and I wasn’t sure how in the world I could accomplish such a feat.

But I knew I had to. I had no choice. You don’t back out of making a wedding cake at the last minute. I had to rise to the occasion. And I did. Everything turned out fine, thankfully! Mercifully!!

Planning in advance is a tricky thing for me. Sometimes there is no way to get around it. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, holidays, etc. I’ve learned to just make the best of those situations if an ugly mood episode decides to show up. But the rest of the time? I don’t really make plans anymore because I don’t know if I will feel like keeping them. Sadly, many times when I have had plans, I have wanted to cancel them for lack of wanting to socialize. I would rather just be home – alone. When I find that I do want to spend time with friends, I try to plan something at the last minute. This has been one of the biggest adjustments I have had to make in learning how to successfully live my new lifestyle.

At first, I hated it. I felt lonely all the time. But now, it feels freeing! Now I don’t feel pressure to attend everything all the time. I don’t feel judged when I don’t show up. I know what I can handle and what I can’t. And when I have a commitment that I absolutely cannot get out of, it’s good to know that I can easily let go of everything else, if I need to.

So with every episode of mania or the crash that follows, I learn something new. This time, I’m learning even more to listen to my body and to pay attention to what it’s telling me!!

Picture Day

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It’s 6:15, and we were rushing out the door to catch the bus, running late, as usual.  Only then did I remember that it’s school picture day, and we were unquestionably unprepared for the blessed event.  For a few righteous seconds I believed that I would be able to pull off the impossible – get the boy changed into something presentable, fill out the form, write the check, and get him on the bus within the next four minutes.

As you may have guessed, those seconds of wishful thinking vanished, and reality set in in a flash.  Quickly following, were the choruses of “I’m sorry, Moms” that had begun to give me nightmares, and bringing up the rear were the tears that would inevitably sting my eyes and wet my cheeks.

Ah!  Why does all of this have to be so hard?  Middle school is killing us!!  Truth is, it isn’t just middle school – it’s all of it.  It’s navigating middle school as an autistic boy with a bipolar mom, and navigating middle school as a bipolar mom with an autistic son.  It’s getting up at 5:30 and trying to get out the door for the 6:20 bus pick-up, and then getting in bed early enough to get plenty of sleep for that next 5:30 wake-up call.

It’s all just a little too much, and we feel a little bit like we are drowning.  And if we were living this life on our own, with no help, we probably would be drowning, if not already lying listless on the ground.  But we aren’t.  We have a helper.  More than a helper, actually.  We have the creator of the universe watching over us, ensuring us every step of the way that things will be ok.

What in the world?

In the last week, God has been speaking with me so plainly that He may as well be sitting across the table from me, coffee cup in hand, because He is clearly on the opposite end of my conversations.  As many times as I have seen this happen, I never cease to be amazed when it does.  I am simply blown away at the thought that I am important enough for God – THE God – to talk to me, to reassure me, to comfort me, when I really need it.  Well, I must really need it lately, because boy has He been chatty.

I talk to God all the time.  And He talks back, but it’s usually in subtle ways that I can easily miss if I’m not paying attention.  Not this time.  Not with these things.  Wait ‘til you hear what He’s been saying to me – and how He’s been saying it.

First, there was the day that I was just beside myself, and refusing to accept my circumstances.  I sat in my car, and furiously typed out a text message to my therapist about this very thing.  I was not having it that day.  I was stomping my foot in my 42-year-old temper tantrum.  Honestly, I felt like it was very mature of me to be able to recognize, and admit, that I still had days when I struggled to accept the way things are.  Maybe.  I wonder what God was thinking when He sent me these words only a few short minutes later:

“Accept each day just as it comes to you.  Do not waste your time and energy wishing for a different set of circumstances.  Instead, trust Me enough to yield to My design and purposes.”  (Dear Jesus, by Sarah Young)

Then, There was the Sunday that we sang It Is Well during service, and it left me wondering if it really is well with my soul.  Is it?  I mean, is it, really?  I want it to be.  I know it will be eventually, but is it now?  Because sometimes I don’t feel like it is well with my soul.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes I don’t think I can take the pain anymore.  Sometimes I don’t want to.  Sometimes I am angry, or I question.  Sometimes, I believe, yet I don’t.  I trust, yet I don’t.  So I ask, is it well?  How do I know?  Lord, how do I know?  I want to know – how will I know for sure if it is well with my soul?

I wrestled with this for a few days, and then I get a text from a friend that contains a link to a song.  What’s the song, you ask?  It Is Well, of course.  This one is the version sung by Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music, and it has some different lyrics.  I listened to it on repeat for several days as I let its message pour over me.

And through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

And through it all, through it all

It is well

And there is my answer.  My eyes are fixed on Him, through it all.  So, it is well.  It IS well.  He heard me anguishing over this and sent me the answer.  I don’t need to wrestle with this any longer.  What a relief!  Thank you, Lord!

During the last few years you may have heard me say that I just feel unsettled.  Unsettled.  That’s the word I have chosen to use many, many times.  Not sure why other than it just seems to fit the way I feel at times.  Mixed with this unsettled feeling, is this fear of what my future will hold.  Will I always struggle with bipolar symptoms like I do?  Will it always be this hard?  Will I ever be able to lead a ‘normal’ life?

In the midst of a major episode that had already lasted for weeks, I found myself in this turmoil of unsettled questioning again, and do you know what happened?  Yep.  God began talking to me again.  This time, He gave me 1 Peter 5:10 by way of the Amplified version, which reads:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.”

And settle you.  I’ve never even heard of the amplified version.

And so, on picture day, or any other hectic day, I hope I can remember that it is well with my soul, that God is going to settle the unsettled, and that it’s ok for me to accept things just as they are because He can handle it.

Bravery

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This will be probably the bravest thing I will have ever publicly shared. Maybe. It’s at least among the top few.

I am bipolar. Or rather, I have bipolar disorder. I got my diagnosis in November, 2016. There is actually a spectrum of bipolar disorders. Bipolar I is typically what people think of when they hear someone talk about bipolar disorder. I have bipolar II type. This means that I experience hypomania rather than full blown mania. I don’t think I have super powers. I don’t participate in reckless and dangerous behaviors. I don’t lose awareness. Some say hypomania is less severe.

This is false.

It’s very different, but not necessarily less severe. Another difference between I and II is that I doesn’t necessarily involve depression. It can, but it doesn’t always. For II, though, crippling depression is the predominant factor. Statistically, a bipolar II can spend as much as 40:1 time in depression vs. hypomania. That’s a staggering and sobering number if you let it sink in.

I can attest that the depression in II is much more prevalent than mania. And until recently, I always thought it was worse. I thought mania was a relief. But now, I know better.

You see, there are so many ways that mania can manifest itself in this disorder. It isn’t always the abounding energy, hyper-creativity, and euphoria that you may automatically think of. It isn’t necessarily typical manic behavior. For me, and from what I’m learning from my fellow bipolars, for many of us, mania is anything but euphoric. Frankly, it’s hell. It leaves us wishing for the depression to come back. And for me, more often than not, when mania sets in, I experience mixed episodes, which means I have mania and depression at the same time. I can usually feel it coming on for several days before it is full blown, but I can never know how long it will last. Sometimes a week. Sometimes a month.

Here’s a snapshot of what I experience during a mixed mania episode:

Extreme agitation. Extreme irritability. Restlessness. Anger. Sadness. Excitement. Hyper focus. Cognitive dysfunction. Heightened senses. Skin irritation. Insomnia. Heart palpitations and racing pulse. Shakiness. Migraines. Frequent mood shifting, to name just a few things.

I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to deal with anything. I can’t handle any stress. I can hear everything, smell everything. Food tastes weird. It’s sour or tangy. It’s too salty or spicy. Lights are too bright. Please don’t touch me because I will break out in hives. My skin itches all the time. I can feel the hair growing out of my scalp. My head hurts all the time. My resting heart rate tops 100 bpm, and my insides shake, along with my hands. I have difficulty sleeping more than just a few hours each night. After a couple of days, I am exhausted, but still cannot sleep. I have trouble accomplishing even the smallest tasks. Just a few days ago, I wandered around my kitchen for a while before finally realizing that I had no idea how to make tea. I experience those kinds of cognitive deficits far too often. There are days when I enjoy a few hours, or maybe just a few minutes of happiness and extra energy, but as quickly as it comes on, it fades away. What I’m left with is exhausted, tear-filled depression.

Sounds fun, right? You’re probably having trouble believing I go through this because you’ve never seen me in this state before. That’s because I’ve not let you see it. I’m a pro at hiding it. Life doesn’t stop just because I wake up manic. I still have to carry on as if all is well. And so I do.

But not everything is the same. Life has changed drastically for me. I keep a much slower pace these days. If you see that I’m silent on FB for a while, something is probably off. If I normally keep in touch with you, but you haven’t heard from me in a while, something is probably off. If you invite me to something and I tell you I can’t go, it’s probably because I had to say no in order to take care of myself. If you see me at a social gathering and I have my head buried in my phone, something is probably off. If you see me excuse myself from a social gathering, something is really off. If you really pay attention, you will see it.

I could go on for quite a while longer, but I won’t. I just felt like maybe someone might want to know what this is like for me, and for many others. Bipolar Disorder is a beast, make no mistake. If you know anyone who lives with it, go out of your way to love them. They need it.

Trust me.

Change My Mind

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“All this pain and all this grace is gonna be worth it some day. Oh, change my mind. Change my mind.” (Kirby Kaple)

Tell me it’s worth it. Tell me the hanging on is worth it. Is it?

Because if it’s not, let me go. Let me go. Just let me…

Right now it’s not for me. Nothing is for me. I don’t do it for me. It’s for you, and you, and you, and… Will it be for me one day? Tell me it will.

Because if it’s not, let me go.

See me. See the pain. Look into my eyes and see it. I’m hanging on, but just barely. I’m hanging on, but it hurts. I’m hanging on but I don’t want to. I’m hanging on for you. Why are you hanging on? For you? For me? Will it be worth it? Is it worth it?

Because if not, let me go.

Change my mind! Change my mind. Please. I don’t really want this, but my mind – it thinks I do. It thinks this is it. This will make it all ok. Change my mind. Tell me it’s worth it. Tell me I won’t get to the end of this and wish I hadn’t. Change my mind.

Can you tell me? Can you change my mind? You can’t. I know you want to. I see it. The desperation. But you don’t have the guarantee. And neither do I.

So how do I change my mind? How? And why? Will it be worth it?

Because if not, let me go.

But first…

Change my mind.

Skis

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A few years back, my disorder came into full swing, causing a rapid downfall. This led to the near-complete unraveling of our friend group. The community network we had built was almost nonexistent. Amid all else, we were devastated, to say the least, but after about a year, we made a decision that would prove to be good medicine for both of us – Josh and me. Since we found ourselves without plans basically every weekend, we were oftentimes pretty bored. So, we decided to do something spontaneous!!

We bought jet skis!!

We are blessed to live roughly a mile away from some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. Why not take advantage of the time we have here, and enjoy being out on the water? Just because we didn’t have plans with friends didn’t mean we couldn’t make our own plans. So we did. We bought them. And we love them.

The second I leave the no-wake zone, I can feel every part of my body relax, as I start to drive faster and faster. There is something about being out on the open water, wind in your face, water spraying. It’s invigorating. It’s peaceful and beautiful, and somehow empowering. It’s perfect.

I love many things, but two of those things are the ocean and driving fast. Obviously jet skis are the perfect answer. Why had I never thought of it before? Who knows. Better late than never, I say.

The ocean is the place on earth where I feel God the strongest. The water. It’s so majestic and powerful. It’s enormous and unrelenting, yet somehow peaceful and serene. The smells and the sounds of the waves. I get lost in them. And in my lost-ness, I feel God speaking to me, telling me that all is well. Telling me to breathe. Just breathe. If I just keep inhaling and exhaling, He will pick up one foot and place it front of the other for me. And what I really have come to know, is that if I stop breathing, He will fill my lungs, too. The ocean reminds me of these things.

Just breathing.

And while I am just breathing at the beach, I am gulping in every bit of air that I can when I’m going fast. Sometimes going for a drive is so therapeutic. I can roll the windows down, turn up my music, and leave all my troubles behind. Behind the wheel, I’m in control. I take charge. Now, the truth is that God is actually in control, but in these moments I believe He lets me pretend that I am. He is just cool like that. I feel like I’m fully alive when speeding as fast as I can.

Gulping.

I thought we were just buying toys, but really we bought therapy. Water therapy. Speed therapy. God therapy.

So when things are looking grim, and nothing feels right, there are always jet skis.