Manic Monday

Manic Monday: From Diagnosis to Acceptance

Today I'm honored and excited to have my friend Kimberly from All Work & No Play here on 'Confessions! Raw, authentic, honest, sweet, and full of saucy humor, she easily became one of my favorite people when we "met" nearly a year ago.  Reading about her diagnosis and experience with bipolar disorder led me to seek more aggressive treatment which eventually led to my own diagnosis of BP.  Please give her a warm welcome as you read her beautiful words, y'all.

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The nurse directed me back to a small room in the ER where Dr. B, my psychiatrist, was waiting.

I flashed a nervous smile, pulled my sleeves over the self-inflicted cuts on my arm and said, “I’m not doing good.”

He motioned to the chair and I sat.

“I think we need to change our plans Kim. I’m going to put you on a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic, ones that we use to treat people with bipolar disorder.”

“What?”

“Kim, you are bipolar.”

The magnitude of the diagnosis forcefully shook the smooth path of life that I was desperately trying to get back on.

I watched as it bent and curved and crumbled.

It grew hills and jagged mountains.

The path, once full of promise, now looked vapid; felt hauntingly uninviting.

It was too loud and too quiet.

It was too bright and too dark.

It felt too euphoric and too depressed and too angry.

It was too peaceful and too whimsical.

All at the same time.

And that light I’d been trying to reach for with all of my being, the end of my battle against postpartum depression and anxiety, was thrown so far at the end of the confusion.

I let my hope drop over the ledge of the path.

*******

Bipolar 2 disorder was devastating diagnosis and at times, I refused to believe it.

I remember walking into Dr. B’s office numerous times and asking him if I was still bipolar.

Each time he nodded his head yes.

Each time I said “damn” under my breath.

For days and weeks I kept the diagnosis a secret.

I felt very ashamed of it. So much so that I dissociated myself from the people I needed most at the time.

Even my friends from a postpartum depression support group.

I felt that I just didn’t belong there.

I felt like a freak.

Through Dr. B, I’ve learned, and now believe, that there is nothing wrong about being bipolar.

There is nothing to be ashamed of.

You have cancer.

You have diabetes.

I have bipolar 2 disorder.

So what?

I’m not my illness.

My illness isn’t me.

My name is Kimberly.

I am somebody’s sister, aunt, daughter, and granddaughter.

I am a friend.

I am a Mother.

I am a wife.

I am a nurse.

I am creative.

I am sassy.

I am ridiculously funny.

I am smart.

I am compassionate.

I am in love with Chuck Norris.

I am me.

And that is beautiful.

Just like anyone with any type of medical condition, I still struggle with my illness.  I have bumps and bruises and scars from navigating this bipolar road to prove it.

But it gets better.

And I have hopes that I can live a normal life just like the rest of ‘em.

I know I can.

I just have to keep fighting every day to get there.

And I will.

Manic Monday: Updates and My New Love

WHEW! It's Monday! I can't believe it, seriously. It's MONDAY, people. I have so much going on it feels like it's the middle of a grueling week, and it's only Monday. So much to tell you where do I start? Hmmmm.....

My head is spinning. I can't tell if it's from everything that's going on or from the medium iced coffee I now regret ingesting. Note to self, no more caffeine. If any of you fine readers have alternative solutions for trying to stay awake amidst medicinal side effects such as fatigue, please let a sufferer know....

Ok. So what is going on? SCHOOL. COLLEGE. MIDTERMS. Seriously, this semester took a sharp turn into WTFville very quickly and I've had more than I think a human can handle due daily for the past week and a half or so. Seriously, I know my profs are Christians, but between you and me I think they're smoking something because who assigns this much work? Clearly my profs do. It hasn't been fun, to say the least.....

But fun IS on the horizon because SPRING BREAK IS NEXT WEEK! I know understand why students go to Mexico and lose all inhibition and get wasted for 5 days in the middle of March. You've gotta release the pressure and tension somehow, right?

How am I going to release the pressure and tension during spring mini vacay? First I'm going to have a margarita. Or ten. On the rocks, none of that fru fru frozen nonsense. Next I'm going to board a plane and head to my dream city: Austin, a city I hope to one day live in, even if it's just for a year or two. Yep that's right, Brennan and I are heading cross country to the Lonestar State. It will be my first vacation, my first real break in over TEN (count em, TEN!) years. I think its long overdue don't you think?

I'm very excited because I will be away from the East Coast and seeing some family I haven't seen in years, so I'm sure it's going to be a swell trip. And I'm only kidding about the ten margaritas, I'm on meds, so I will of course be responsible and only allow myself one, two maximum.

Speaking of meds, guess what? I've jumped out of the dating game and into what I'm hoping is a long term relationship with Lamictal. Y'all I've been on it for a solid month and that's how I feel: solid. Still hypo manic, still a little (tiny) bit depressed here and there but it's finally manageable. I feel like my mind and emotions are in a checks and balances system that works. I don't want to jinx myself but I really do think that between Lamictal, Abilify, and my anti anxiety meds I've found the right cocktail. So I think I've found "the one," and I'm so in love, I can't believe it ;)

Speaking of my illness, I was asked by my professor to speak to her abnormal psych class about living with PPD and BP. I did and even though I cried, it went very well. It felt good to be able to be open and transparent with others, especially Christians, and I'm do glad I did it. I hope I eliminated some shame and stigma by speaking out....

And speaking of shame, there will be no shame in my game when it comes to Dance Party Fridays, people, because I've kicked it up a notch. I ordered some dancing scarves...

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And can't WAIT to use them in a video! They came in the mail today and made. my. Monday. So pumped, I think my first song with them will be some Florence and the Machine...what do you think?

So in a nutshell that's my life at the moment. On this Monday.

How was your Monday? Any Spring Break plans with your kids or vacations lined up in the future? Feel free to dish in the comments ;)

(is it Friday yet?!)

On PPD & Mental Illness: What Would You Say?

This morning my Human Development professor asked me after class if I would like to speak to my classmates about Postpartum Depression. Is my name A'Driane?

Did I spend all of 2010 and 2011 living with and battling PPD?

Yes. Yes it is, yes I did, and hell yes I will speak to my classmates about such an important topic.

As soon as she finished the question my ear worm immediately started playing the opening lines & notes to "Lose Yourself" by Eminem....

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFYQQPAOz7Y]

A chance. An opportunity. To own a part of my story. To speak openly and honestly about something that leaves most women feeling ashamed and reeling from the effects it has on their lives. A chance to educate and share the facts, not the myths, misconceptions or misleading information that perpetuates the stigma.

I've been given another chance to take what I know, what I've learned and what I've experienced and share it with others, and while I'm humbled and grateful for this opportunity, I don't want to choke. I don't want to back out of it. I don't want my anxiety and fear to get the best of me and push the mute button on my voice. I know it's just a class and not some big speaking event, but I still feel a huge responsibility to do it well and help people be informed.  I'm learning that when it comes to owning your story, recovery, and healing from pain, taking advantage of the opportunities to speak about what you went through is really important. I'm learning that doing so helps strip shame, pain, and what you're battling of its power. So even though it's small, I want to make sure I do that here.

So I'm reaching out to you all. I need your help. If you could say anything about PPD or mental illness to a group of 18-22 year olds, male and female, what would it be? What would you want them to know? What should they know that you didn't? What do you wish someone had told you?  What has helped you get through it whether you've recovered or are still trying to recover?

If you would prefer to email me your response, feel free to do so: bconfessions (at) gmail (dot) com

Whether you're battling PPD or are a survivor, please help me educate and inform. Your feedback is tremendously appreciated.

Thank you.

Manic Monday: Full Disclosure

"Mommiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee!" (little arms wrap themselves around my legs giving them tight, loving squeezes)

Hey sweetie are you ready to go?

"YUP. " (grabs jacket & my hand) "Who's in the car with us today, Mom?"

No one sweetie, it's just us, c'mon. (I pull  him thru the door and out into the brisk cold where the late afternoon sun greets our faces with lazy kisses of sunlight)

"It's Monday, right Mom?"

Yes it is. Do you remember where we're going?

"To the therapist. You see the therapist on Mondays after school.  Every Monday, not Saturdays anymore, right? The therapist is like a doctor who helps you fix your mind and 'motions, right?"

Right. But first we have to go to Target to buy you a coloring book and a toy.

"A toy? Why? What kind of toy?"

Any kind of toy you want as long as it's not too expensive. We have to get you a toy because I forgot to charge the iPad and you need something to do whi-

"While you talk to the therapist?"

Yes.

I'm not perfect. I haven't been anywhere close to a Stepford Mom and that is why I believe in having full disclosure with my son about the fact that I see a therapist...a "doctor who helps (me) fix (my) mind and 'motions." He's seen my at my worst since Alex was born nearly 22+mos ago and if it's one thing that being in therapy has taught me, it's that full disclosure helps paint a clearer picture for people to see and try to understand. So with Brennan, I don't hide or keep from him the fact that I need help with certain parts of myself. He understands that there are parts of me that can be out of control and need help or "fixing" so I can be a "healthy Mommie," as he puts it. He's only going on 5 but he gets it or at least what he needs to at this stage and that eases the tension on the pressure valve of motherhood to appear like I have it all together. Cause let's face it-I don't, and after the past 2 years we've had I know he can see and understand that I don't, so why try to hide it from him? I can't. I refuse to. I refuse to perpetuate any kind of shame, negative stigma or unhealthy association to this. Even though mental illness runs in my family, it's something my family sucks the big wad at, talking about their problems, their malfunctioning parts, and seeking solid, effective treatment for them. And besides, it wouldn't be fair of me to tell all of you the down and dirty 411 of my life and illness and not tell him would it? Me thinks not.

Full disclosure. I give it to my son. In return he gives me the space I need to spend an hour untangling myself from the web of chaos that is my mind and digging myself out from underneath the plethora of emotions buried behind doors I have to learn how to unlock.....

I'm pretty sure the toy bribes make it an hour worth spent for the both of us.

this post is a link up!  Click the button to read more awesome posts and read the creator's blog....

Manic Monday: Speaking Up & Reaching Out

Rethink Mental Illness

 

As most of you know I'm currently a full-time student at Philadelphia Biblical University.

 

While the curriculum strives to be interdisciplinary and their intent is to educate progressive, forward thinking human beings, the culture is.....conservative. Afterall, it used to be a very conservative institution, so it's fair to say that the majority of students who attend come from conservative, evangelical backgrounds. Not all, but a good majority.

Today I stood in front of that majority and spoke about topics rarely discussed in an evangelical, conservative culture: Postpartum Depression, Bipolar Disorder, mental illness in general and a side of motherhood rarely touched upon. I even said words like "rape" and "sexual abuse." In chapel. In front of at least 150-200 students, faculty & staff members. People who see me on a regular basis, I attend class with, people who at a minimum know me as the black chick with the wildly colorful afro who wears bright clothes....

But today? Today I was the black chick dressed like a highlighter in my neon pinks, oranges & blues, with my rainbow faux hawk'd hair, mic in hand, telling my story about navigating motherhood while living with mental illness. Today I wasn't just a sufferer, a victim...today I was a voice speaking up and speaking out into a culture that stigmatize and silences the voices of those who live with mental illness. Today I stepped on stage and owned another part of my story, smacking stigma square on the jaw, knocking it out cold-if for at least during those few minutes I held the microphone.

And the result? I was too nervous to look up from my sheets of paper and out into the crowd often, but afterwards a couple of friends told me people were touched. I spent the rest of the day being hugged by students & professors I had never uttered a word to and being walked up to and told that my story helped them in some way...that they too had a mother who struggled with PPD...a family member who was living with a disorder....that they themselves dealt with crippling anxiety...

It was a moving experience...not so much the part where I shared my story because let's face it-I was an anxious wreck til it was over. But the rest of the day...very moving. Empowering. Freeing. Encouraging.

It gave me enough courage to walk into the department chair of the counseling department's office and ask him what he thought about myself and a few other students starting a NAMI on Campus chapter at PBU. It gave me the drive I needed to finally get in touch with a local area support group through DBSA and make plans to attend their next meeting.

It helped me realize that advocating and speaking out, sharing my experience is not only something that I really want to continue doing, but that doing so helps me just as much as it may help the person hearing they aren't alone in what they're facing.

I felt whole today. For the first time. Really. WHOLE. Complete. ME. I wasn't born to just suffer through life and mental illness and neither were you. We were made and born for more. Take a cue from a person who vomits at the thought of speaking in front of people-SPEAK UP. Somehow, in some fashion. Start anywhere. It's the smallest changes and things that have the most impact.

Share your story. You never know who may need to hear it.

Manic Mondays: Mood Charting...There's an App for That

When I first started learning about rapid cycling BP, nearly everything I read mentioned mood charting as an effective tool to understand the fluctuations in your mood. Every article I read listed it as a way to help see any patterns in your mood cycling, frequency, and help in constructing a suitable treatment and management plan. Feeling desperate to try anything to help manage this dragon I was now living with, I was eager to give it a shot...but I wasn't so eager or disciplined to stop and journal every time I felt a shift in mood.

Lucky for me (and you!) I'm a techie by nature-gadgets and gizmos a plenty bring out the tech geek in me. (so do who's it and what's it galore-quick name that movie!) So imagine my delight when my fingers gracefully typed in "bipolar mood charting" in the iTunes App store search box and up popped a few apps.

Yep. APPS. For MOOD CHARTING. (just typing that got me excited)

I perused a few, reading reviews & ratings, looking at screenshots and reading descriptions...and then I settled on this one, which I've been using since November....

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Price? $3.99

You might wince at that and decide paper and pen are cheaper, but we're talking easy convenience here my mood shifting friends. Playing around on FB or Twitter and notice you're feeling edgy? Slide a few apps over, and quickly annotate it. Just got off the phone and had a conversation that triggered ya? Pull up your handy dandy app and make note of it!

It's easy to use, which is why I love it. When I notice I'm overly happy or talking as fast as a roadrunner I simply pull up this screen:

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Select how I'm feeling and if I need to leave a comment about it...

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BOOM.I can. And in less time than it takes me to bust out a status update or 140 characters. Easy peasy folks.The only complaint I have about the comment section is that sometimes it would erase my comment before I was finished writing it, and I'd have to start over. This might be a bug the developer can fix with an update or it might be my clumsy touchscreen strokes. Either way I emailed the company, so we'll see.

Other than that small hiccup I love using this thing because it really does help you see what your cycles look like over a period of time:

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The best part? YOU CAN EMAIL your chart to your therapist, psychiatrist, Facebook friend list, whoever, comments included:

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See? Isn't that awesome? When I saw my psych two weeks ago, I was able to just whip out my phone and show this to her...and it enabled both of us to see exactly how I've been. No need to fumble for words or memories-it was all there for her to see.

So. There you have it. Mood charting. There's an app for that. If you're not bipolar, maybe just dealing with depression or anxiety, check out this app

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And this one for anxiety...

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If you don't have an iPhone, iTouch, or another Apple device, definitely check the Android store or Blackberry's market to see what they have.

If you ARE an Apple product collector and could use an app like this, leave a comment. I'll select 2 people to gift this to and I'll even throw in a subscription to either bpMagazine (www.bphope.com)

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or Esperanza (Anxiety & Depression) Magazine (www.hopetocope.com)

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Why? Not because I was paid to review this app or sing these mags praises. They don't even know I'm doing this. I just believing in paying it forward. ;)

(If I were richer I'd offer to gift these to everyone, but until then, only 2 randomly selected commenters)

Love y'all.

Manic Monday: Zoom a Zoom Zoom...

Have you ever been to a NASCAR race or any kind of speedway? If you haven't, imagine a bunch of cars going at speeds only professionals can safely maneuver...imagine the sounds they generate as they whip around the track....

Loud... Roaring... Rumbling.... Constant... Far then near, near then far.... Obnoxious...

And every now and then, a driver miscalculates, something in the car's engine or gas tank misfires, and there's a crash...an explosion...

Now imagine all of that-the speedway, the cars going at top speed,the sounds, the vibrations, the crashes & explosions-imagine all of that compressed and confined into, oh let's say the Lincoln Tunnel (or any tunnel for that matter), and then imagine that tunnel with everything I just mentioned, compressed and confined in your own mind.

Congratulations you now have an inkling of what it's like to experience racing thoughts.

To even label the mental chaos that coincides with a hypomanic or manic episode as "racing" seems to be a gross understatement at times. Sometimes it's not too bad, focusing on one task, concentrating, and clarity of thought are capable...doable.

Others it's terrifying...the lack of control over their frantic pace unnerving...the incessant spinning and looping nauseating...

It's like being permanently stuck on the spin cycle-only instead of your clothes it's your mind and you have no idea when it will stop.

Do I hear voices? No. But that doesn't mean my thoughts aren't loud, rambunctious chatterboxes who fly from one idea to the next in the time it takes one to blink.

On the outside I look quite fine...quiet, demure, composed...smiling & laughing, even...

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But it's during these episodes when I feel the most unraveled, the most undone. Living life during these moments is hard only because it's hard to grasp a thought as it flies past...

But I do...because I know it's temporary. Feels like an eternity, but I know relief is on the way...

I just need my pills to get here.

Has anyone seen the mailman?

Manic Monday: Side Effects

Confession: I'm typing this from my phone while I lay on my bathroom floor....and this isn't the topic I was going to write on today. Why, you ask? Well because it's the coldest floor in my apartment and my queasy stomach is more tolerable when my face is pressed into it....and getting my laptop to type out my original content is just impossible because that would require me to lift my head up and that only makes the room spin faster...so, the floor and from the phone it is.

I hate days like this, the ones where side effects from medications take the wheel and dictate where your body goes. In my case, for the past hour it's been to the floor. I started off in my living room....crawled to the kitchen to get the boys a snack....stuck Brennan on the XBox, stumbled to their room where I placed Alex in his crib with the iPad, and did the deadman's crawl across the hallway to the bathroom. Sounds dramatic, but I wish it were an exaggerated description of how I ended up here...

...on the floor ....sipping on ginger ale like it has healing power .....shaking ....begging Jesus to kill the medicated squirrel going ape in my tummy

Ahhh medication. Compliance. Side effects. It's not an easy tightrope to balance on. It's the nausea, headaches, tremors, fatigue and other side effects that make you question why you even decided to walk it in the first place.

Then you look back behind you and see your life without the meds, and you see THOSE side effects: the hypomania, the OCD, the anxiety, the irritability and edginess, the fatigue that comes from just forming a thought, the lack of focus and disoriented mental state....and you look at the line in front of you and keep walking, keep trying to balance...

At least I do. I have to. For me, life without medication isn't possible, at least not right now. And I'm okay with that, even of it means I have to spend some time here on the floor while my body adjusts to everything.

I may not like them, but I'll take the side effects of the meds that help me be ME over the ones that let the worst parts of me rage out of control.

So could you be a dear and pass me another bottle of ginger ale? I've got like a lifetime supply ;)

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I've ever written here on 'Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often 'taboo' subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that's why I'm writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts. Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive - Bipolar Disorder Center - Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I'm in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it...

...or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God...

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn't something I dream about normally, that's not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks...or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I'm being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn't have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I'm not the type to have "friends with benefits," one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don't know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn't last very long). The only other person I "casually" had sex with was my ex...but I had known him for over a year. We were friends....and then we were dating...and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I'm sharing my cookie jar with you, it's because I know you, I trust you, and we're in a monogamous relationship.... and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I've never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a "take it or leave it" attitude concerning sex...if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other...if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don't mind exploring my sexuality, I've never been a slave to it...or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires....until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it's all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn't even think about it, or it didn't feel like a need that just had to be satisfied...and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas....dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers....and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you're reading this and you're a woman, I'm sure you know how um...aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it's ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don't know, maybe a thousand or so and you'll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, "uh...yea...NO!" and would ask if I was okay. You know it's bad when you're so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner's desire for it.  Yea....ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I've known other women who do it and it's not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren't just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I "liked." It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh...satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn't really understand what was going on....

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I'm an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt...dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn't control herself. I didn't know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I'd find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control...

Since my diagnosis in July, I've learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what's causing it. Learning that it's a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don't beat myself up over having them anymore...

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I'm rather frank with Him about it and I believe He's far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I'm not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don't crucify me. I'm also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all "A'Driane Gone Wild." But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn't "taint" my relationship with God.

I'm also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don't think enough of us Christians do...

I'll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then....any thoughts? Feel free to share...

Manic Mondays: Training My Pet Dragon

You know those wild fires that burn out of control every year here in the U.S. ? They rage for days, possibly weeks, while firefighters and rangers work overtime to try and control the blaze, possibly contain it so it doesn't spread. They cost millions of dollars worth of damage and alter the lives of those affected forever.

That's what Bipolar Disorder is like.

Especially rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder type II.

It's a fire, full of unconstrained emotions and hormones that rage like a wildfire, consuming your entire being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sometimes it's triggered by an external source, others it's something internal that ignites the spark.  Much like the wildfires that burn across the West, it's a fire that can burn out of control...it's takes finding the right combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to put the fire out or at a minimum help it die down to a manageable state. If it rages too long, it can cause damage to the person suffering from it and to those around them. It burns. It's painful. It's a hard battle to fight.

I've been referring to BP lately as a dragon. Ironically, I happen to LOVE the movie "How to Train Your Pet Dragon" and when I think about living with this disorder, that's what I envision: A roaring, raging, fire breathing, dragon that can thrash around and cause chaos and destruction in my life if I don't learn how to  do the following:

  • Find out what triggers her (yes, it's a she....cause I'm a she. Duh)
  • What stirs up the fire in her
  • What she likes/dislikes
  • What helps her stay content in her cave...asleep, dormant
Remember the scenes in the movie where Hiccup and his other Vikings in training are in the ring, trying to battle the baby dragons? Each trainee was expected to know everything about the dragon they were to face-it's strengths, weaknesses and how to defeat it.  Remember how when Hiccup befriended Toothless and learned what made him happy versus what freaked him out? Remember how Hiccup took what he learned and applied to the other dragons?  That's how we've gotta handle living with something like this. Learn everything you can about it, what triggers it, and adjust our lives accordingly. There are times when no matter what preventative maintenance we do, our dragons will rage and breath fire...but if we learn how to train them? They can stay in their cave more often.
I've been reading numerous posts, articles and even had a conversation with someone who gave me hope that  BP is NOT a death sentence. It may be something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, but it doesn't have to destroy or even control every aspect of them. From what I've been reading and hearing, manageability is attainable-and for a person with BP, that's recovery. Finding what keeps it manageable and in the cave is tough, it's a battle. But once we do, and once we know what even causes it to rage,  we are then properly equipped to fight the battle....and WIN.
Bipolar Disorder doesnt' have to be a big, scary, fire breathing behemoth that rages out of control in our lives....and it's kinda like a "pet" we're stuck with.  Just gotta learn how to train it. 
**Manic Mondays is a new series here on 'Confessions where I hope to share more insight on what it's like living with Bipolar Disorder. The goal? Raise awareness, increase understanding and help erase the shame and stigma surrounding this form of mental illness. If you'd like to guest post or share your story, email me at bconfessions (at) gmail (dot) com