bipolar mommy

I’ve been struggling with a little bit of writers block. Last night I opened up my WordPress and attempted to write 3 times. Each time I got a few paragraphs in and then deleted the whole post. It’s frustrating & mostly due to my constant need for perfection.

I’m trying to write while Blippi plays in the background. If you’re unfamiliar with Blippi (you lucky person), it’s a popular albeit annoying Youtube kids show.

My kids are my world. I had someone ask me the other day, “Aren’t our kids EVERYTHING to us?” I hesitated when I answered.

Of course my children mean everything to me. But should they make up my whole entire life? I don’t necessarily think so.

I am a mother of three beautiful boys. One is my stepson, but I love him like he’s my own. I’ve always wanted to be a mama of three boys & it’s funny how life works out.

I love my sons. But I don’t think my identity & purpose should solely be a mother. I’ve tried that before when I was a stay at home mom for three years, and I couldn’t handle it.

The long days of isolation when my husband was at work and dealing with two under two dismantled my mental health. I would have to wake up multiple times a night to nurse or pump & then spend the following day exhausted and depleted of any remaining energy. I remember barely being able to keep my eyes open somedays.

Going back to teaching saved my mental health. I was so nervous to join the workforce as I know from experience that teaching kids with special needs isn’t easy. But it was one of the best decisions of my life.

We, as mothers, know that our children mean everything to us. But if you grapple with mental health as well, I know how difficult it can be. I understand the demanding job of juggling motherhood & your mental health. I can empathize with what it’s like to feel like you’re doing everything but not enough at the same time. To wonder if you’re doing a good job or if you’re failing your children by struggling inside.

I found this image on Popsugar.com with this quote by Jessica Lange. While I agree with the sentiments, I don’t think that motherhood should make you completely unselfish.

They say when you’re on a plane and heaven forbid need to use an oxygen mask, you should put your own mask on first before helping others. This doesn’t make you selfish. It means that in order to help others then you must help yourself first.

There’s nothing selfish about that. It’s okay to prioritize yourself. It’s also okay to have an identity outside of being a mother.

Motherhood has changed my life. I’ve never known love this deep before. I never knew how much my heart could explode with LOVE when I see my kids and I still look at them in awe.

But I also know the demands that motherhood brings. Being a bipolar mom I know I need to prioritize my mental heath as well. I also know I need to give myself grace. Bad moments don’t make us bad moms.

So mamas, hold onto those precious moments with your little ones (or big ones). But please remember- it’s not selfish to want to have a life outside of them. We can’t pour from an empty cup.

Proud boy mama

Accepting Bipolar

I was recently asked to do a collaboration on another popular bipolar blog. She’s someone I met via a Facebook networking group primarily focused on mental health blogs. She had reached out to me last week but due to a depressive state, I wasn’t able to respond.

Luckily she reached out to me again to touch base & I immediately apologized for the delay. I explained that I was in a depressive state & wasn’t able to find the motivation to do more than my current obligations.

My life is full of obligations. Whose isn’t? But as someone with bipolar disorder I find myself getting very overwhelmed easily. I know I have responsibilities that NEED to get done. Priorities like feeding the animals, feeding everyone else, keeping the kids alive, etc.

It’s hard when you’re the person that everyone in the family depends on the most. As a mom I know I have to put my children’s needs above mine. It’s exhausting & leaves little time for myself.

This week has started off much better. I haven’t woken up with that empty feeling in my head. That empty feeling where I’m left feeling depleted, worn out, & vacant of any motivation.

My husband has said many times, “When you’re good- we’re good.” It’s true. The whole family can feel the shift in energy when I’m not in a depressive state. It does however make me feel horrible that my mood has such a big impact on my family.

This guilt is something that we need to let go of. We can’t help how we feel or even act sometimes. By accepting who we are, we can then take charge of our lives.

When I explained to my blogging collaborator my depressive state, she immediately sympathized. I almost started breaking down to a complete stranger because it felt so nice to be HEARD. To be heard that it’s okay. To know that she understands because she gets it & goes through it too.

I still don’t know how to properly take charge of my life. The first step I can do is accept my condition. I have bipolar disorder.

This woman’s words gave me so much hope. She told me, “I think we need to embrace that we are wired differently & modify our lifestyle. So we can have as ‘normal’ a life as possible.”

Embrace your differences. My difference between some people is that I have a mental illness that I sometimes feel like I have no control over. The only thing I can control is making sure I modify my lifestyle by taking my meds regularly, checking in with my therapist, & prioritizing the people I hold near & dear to my heart.

It’s amazing how someone’s words can change your perspective. I will probably never live a “normal” life. It will always have its ups & downs (literally). But I know if we accept ourselves & even our mental illness, it makes the fight so much easier.

Thank you Andrea for being the light in my day & giving me hope. Your words meant more to me than you’ll know.

Follow Andrea @ Mybigfatbipolarlife.com. You won’t regret it.

anxiety is real

Anxiety is real. That should be an obvious fact. Many assume being anxious is merely a silly feeling wherein we make up irrational thoughts in our heads.

My anxiety can be nuts at times. Motherhood did a number on me. While I had suffered from anxiety in the past, having the two boys so close together wrecked my mental health & made it more pronounced.

I was the quintessential “helicopter” parent. For anyone without kids & unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically a parent that just hovers. Straight up. Like a helicopter.

(Not pictured is me in the helicopter, hovering over my children)
Photo by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels.com

I used to watch their every move. Any little cry or scream I would be there in a heart beat. It got to the point where it was obvious that other moms were judging me & I really needed to lighten up.

But the truth is, I really thought they could DIE at any given moment. How could I not be vigilant? It was my children’s lives!

Sounds dramatic & looking back I know my thoughts were unreasonable. I was worrying about something so much that it was causing physical stress to my body. I was also not letting my kids & even myself a chance to live our best lives. How could we fully appreciate or enjoy a situation if I was scared something bad was going to happen all the time?

I had to slowly immerse myself in situations even though I knew they would make me uncomfortable. I started by venturing out by myself with the kids little by little. Slowly, my threshold of tolerance got bigger. I was able to withstand events that typically would put me in a tailspin of fear & I’d be packing my things ASAP so we could be home and safe.

But what is safe? Things could happen to us at any moment. No amount of caution can prevent us from things if they were meant to happen anyway.

It’s easy to say live your life without fear. Stop worrying about things. Or my favorite, don’t sweat the small stuff. But anxiety is real.

So please, stop telling us to relax. Or that we just need to get over it.

What we need is a little faith. Faith to believe that things will be okay. Faith to say that it’s ok to worry. Because things might not workout the way we want them, but we still need faith to believe that it happened for a reason.

the voices in our head

Due to Covid, some health plans are offering free tele-health mental health services. I have been fully taking advantage of this by making sure to see my therapist & psychiatrist regularly & it’s been completely free of cost.

Yesterday’s therapy was extremely insightful. While my mood swings are typically triggered by a chemical imbalance in my brain, talk therapy is still very useful for coping strategies & even finding the root cause of our issues.

Our talk yesterday had to do with being alone in your thoughts. It might sound crazy but we all have voices in our head. Voices that tell us positive aspects of our lives & voices so dark that make you want to quiet them down anyway possible.

I have struggled in the past with numbing these thoughts. I thought I could chase happiness in other forms through substance abuse, destructive relationships & other unhealthy addictions. It was always a temporary fix & I would then be stuck again with the demons in my head that had only gotten louder.

My “voices” are typically just manifestations of my negative self talk. We all sometimes struggle with being pessimistic towards ourselves. However, combined with mental illness, these negative voices can lead to destructive behavior that only detriments ourselves in the long run.

My therapists advice usually has the same underlying theme. Love yourself. Accept those voices in your head and try to turn them off by focusing on the good parts of your life.

Well easier said than done. If I have spent most of my life hating myself, how am I going to change this behavior?

I used to believe that people could never change. I work as a special education teacher & often have to collaborate with behavioral therapists (BT’s) for my students. I asked one of the BT’s the question, “Do you think people can change?” He quickly answered, “That’s the whole point of our job.”

I started looking at my students and seeing that yes, they have changed. This behavior has been shaped through positive reinforcement & modeling. What if we could do this with our negative thoughts and reshape the behavior?

I spent yesterday mostly sitting around. I usually try to busy myself with my never ending task list but yesterday I really wanted to see what it was like to be alone in my thoughts. This is something I typically avoid because boredom usually leads to bipolar tendencies.

However, as I was sitting, I was relaying the message that my therapist had spoken to me in our session. She had made it pretty simple- love yourself & focus on the good aspects of your life.

I started looking over a gratitude list I had started back when I first moved to Seattle in 2014. The first thing I listed that I was thankful for was my family. Still rings true to this day. The last was something I wrote a little over a week ago- “grateful for my blog Farmerish which I started on Aug. 11”.

Since writing this blog the negative self talk has gone down significantly. I think the primary reason is because it helps lay down my thoughts & also gives people a different perspective of what life is like with a mental illness. The messages I have gotten from strangers, loved ones, & acquaintances has been powerful. I can’t even thank everyone enough for taking the time to read my stories & it’s comforting knowing that people can relate.

It’s difficult to change behaviors. They can be so ingrained in us that we don’t even know we’re doing them. But I suggest starting with a simple gratitude list. What are you thankful for? And if you can’t think of anything in the moment, remember that some health plans are offering free mental health services right now.

Take advantage of what’s being offered. As much as I know we’re all in this together, it all comes back to how we cope when we’re alone. Silence those voices with compassion & love. Because you are enough. You are loved. And I am thankful for you.

Screenshot of the last thing I wrote that I am grateful for.

Birthday Blues

It’s Sunday and I should be excited to watch football. Instead I’m on the downside of my bipolar mood swings. It seems with every manic or happy moment, the depressive state is even stronger.

Yesterday we celebrated my sons 5th birthday party. It’s amazing how we, as people with mental illness, can mask our feelings so well outwardly. I smiled. Laughed. Tried to be as accommodating as possible. But the feeling of sadness still lingers.

I haven’t found any motivation to write lately. It’s interesting how the manic moments encourage my creativity but when I’m in a depressive state I can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything.

The laundry has piled up. The house is in disarray. This morning was the first time I couldn’t get out of bed to feed the animals. My husband was a lifesaver & after all this time understands my mood swings. He knows it can seem physically impossible for me to do things.

Without our support system of people who empathize with us, it would make our mental illness so much more dire. We already feel hopeless enough & need people who just understand.

I know this feeling of sadness won’t last forever. But it’s so hard in the moment. The guilt I feel for not being able to just enjoy my life fully overwhelms me. I know I have the best support system and the most amazing husband ever but it all still hurts so much.

Sometimes it feels like it’s not enough. We struggle everyday. It’s an uphill battle that I sometimes feel like I’m drowning. But we also know that there are brighter days ahead. Days where the happiness just envelopes us. I wish I could hold onto those moments but they never seem to last.

We need to forgive ourselves. We can’t always be strong forever. But hopefully by forgiving ourselves it’ll make it a little easier to hold onto happiness.

To my birthday boy- I love you. I’m sorry mommy is a little sad right now. But you always make my life brighter & give me a reason to just try and make it through another day.

I just need to keep trying, it’s all we can do.

My birthday boy

Progress not Perfection

“You gotta network to get work.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this expression. But it’s absolutely true. My blog grew primarily on social media because of my network. It’s comprised mostly of people who genuinely have an interest in my life therefore they’ll follow along with my blogging journey hopefully.

I finally found a few people in the blogging world to add to my existing network. The blogging network is an interactive community of people giving unbiased feedback on the layout/design of your site & also the content. One of the ladies reached out to me and gave me some great advice. One piece of feedback that I found really important was, “What is the reader getting out of reading your blog?”

My mission is to normalize mental illness & erase the stigma behind it by reminding people that it’s ok to not be ok. I re-read some of my posts and I almost cringed. Looking back at some of my writing I realize that it’s just telling MY story. I know they can be relatable but I also want to give a take-away moment.

My brother gave me great guidance by offering his input. “Use the word WE more.” It’s true. I don’t want to come off as preachy so I avoid telling my readers what to do with too much “YOU should do this…” advice.

My brother’s absolutely right. Because WE are in this together. It is a constant fight in our minds sometimes and I understand. I truly get it. I know what it’s like to only have the mental capacity to just crawl out of bed sometimes. And sometimes that’s not even possible.

I know what it’s like to have a silent illness that no one around you understands at times. I know the toll mental illness wreaks onto your physical self. WE are tired. WE are here. And it’s ok.

My blog is a work in progress. “Progress not perfection” should be our daily motto. We should focus on how we can improve and what we can do little by little. Take small steps towards your goals. Because WE are in this together. Mental illness can be crippling. But hopefully knowing that there is a network for us in this crazy journey we call life, it’ll help. Little by little. Because like I said, it’s progress not perfection.

My brother Rod. He inspires me daily to be a better person & know that WE are in this together.

Tough times go away not tough people

I have to muck the barn this weekend. I’m dreading it honestly. Manual labor is not one of my specialties but I know it needs to be done.

There’s a lot of work involved with having a farm or small homestead. Getting the fencing up was no joke. Here’s a picture of what we had to work with before.

Before we moved in

Our pasture looks completely different now. Thanks to an excavator buddy & my husband’s hard work we were able to get the blackberry bushes and brush down so we could put up a fence.

I have never lived on a farm before or had a barn. My animal experience has mostly been limited to having a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel & a little hamster (may she rest in peace).

Pigs & goats are hard work. There’s also the scary barn critters that terrify me since I’m a bit of a wimp. I know eventually I’ll find some rodents like rats and we’ve already had our first bat experience (pictured below).

I brushed it with my hand by accident & nearly had a heart attack when I saw it😂

My point is that nothing worth having comes easy. My mom likes to joke when I get another animal or even want another baby. Her favorite comment: “It’s like you picked up a rock and wanted to smash it with your head.” What words of inspiration. Thanks mom.

But I know she has good intentions. She is only looking for my best interests because I get overwhelmed quite easily. Going from one baby to having another one 15 months later is a good example. I ended up having to go to an outpatient hospital stay because of my severe postpartum depression.

You never want to put too much on your plate. It’s hard enough just going through the motions of life without feeling completely swamped. But the heart wants what it wants. And I wanted a farm.

I mentioned in previous posts that I had a lot of naysayers that didn’t believe that we could pull it off. I even wrote for advice in my community Facebook page and I got a lot of miserly responses. It didn’t discourage me but having people who I thought were friends not believe in me did.

Not everyone’s going to have your back. There’s always going to be haters who don’t want you to succeed. But one of my favorite quotes is “tough times go away not tough people.” Hard work isn’t fun. Waking up at 5:30 am downright sucks for lack of a better word. But I do it everyday.

Don’t listen to the cynics. Do what your heart wants you to do. If that means moving across the country and starting over, do it. Our time on this planet is finite. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. So find that strength inside of you because you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.

After pic. Our hard work paid off 💪🏾

Do as I say, not as I do

It is Labor Day and rather than relaxing, I’m feeling remorseful.

Saturday night we had a bonfire celebrating my best friend’s birthday. The following morning I woke up crabby, probably because I hadn’t slept much the night before.

That same afternoon, I happened to be looking out the window and saw a random car pull into our driveway. The car stood in our driveway for about a minute. I finally went out there and said rather rudely, “What are you doing here?” She went on to tell me that our bonfire was still smoldering from the night before. As I mentioned I was feeling crabby, so my immediate response was yelling “GET OFF MY PROPERTY!” She then told me she was our neighbor & drove away.

After my snarky remark I immediately felt guilt-ridden. This person was most likely trying to be a responsible neighbor & wanted to warn us before a fire started. In the moment my ego stepped in because I thought she was bossing me around so I “clapped back” with my spiteful retort.

It’s almost engrained in me to be defensive & assume the worst. I write a lot about being kind and in that moment, I wasn’t kind. I later told my husband our exchange & quickly blamed it on my east coast attitude.

Regardless of where people are from there is no excuse to treat someone disrespectfully. I sometimes find myself doing things that I tell others to not do. For example, my boys are loud. They yell a lot. So often when I get fed up I scream back, “BE QUIET!!!” How am I teaching them to be quiet when I am yelling at them myself?

Words and ideas often look good on paper. “Be a good person.” Yes, that makes common sense. But putting it into practice? Way harder. I always believe that actions speak louder than words. Following through with what you say shows character. It requires discipline & a strong sense of morals.

I can be weak. It’s easy for me to fall into old habits and get defensive or snarky. The remorse I feel afterwards though isn’t worth the ego I think I’m protecting in the moment, however.

Egos can get in the way of our personal success. As a person who in the past has felt unseen or unheard, I can lash out at times. Rather than staying strong & silent in the moment, my ego wanted to be heard instead.

I strive to be confident, happy and proud. But it’s also good to stay humble & practice humility. My pride had gotten in the way that day. After she had driven away my humility came into play and I knew I was wrong.

It’s ok to make mistakes. I don’t want to beat myself up over a 2 minute exchange I had with a neighbor. But next time I see her, I will apologize.

Mistakes happen. But when they do and you know you’re wrong, make amends. So I’m going to practice what I preach and say I’m sorry. Because in the end it doesn’t matter who was right, it matters that I do the right thing.

A letter to my insecure self

I have spent most of my life feeling insecure. This is evident throughout my writing but I finally wanted to address this insecurity with a letter.

To my insecure self,

Over the years I have beat myself up with feelings of little self worth. Continuously I have badgered myself over things I have said, how I look, and how others perceive me. Most of this thinking can be debunked when I look at the myths I tell myself & the actual facts or truths.

Myth: The color of my skin and shape of my eyes makes me different & incapable of finding love.

Fact: While the color of my skin & eye shape may be different than some, it does not make me incapable of finding love. I remember in middle school watching a Janet Jackson video with a classmate. I thought she was captivating and was truly amazed by her voice & beauty. My classmate then chirped in, “You know I don’t think the boys in our school would like her because she isn’t white.” This statement had such a profound negative impact on my way of thinking. Over the years I’ve had to realize that this racist, intolerant remark was just a reflection of one person. Just because I heard it from ONE person as a middle school preteen, does not make it an absolute truth.

Myth: My weight goes hand in hand with my self worth.

Fact: I have struggled over the years with body dysmorphic disorder. I was driving home a few months before I started writing this blog & I remember squeezing the fat on my stomach and hating myself. I was actually saying out loud, “My body is so gross it’s disgusting.” Then I had a moment of clarity a little bit after. This body isn’t gross. It’s strong and has kept me alive for more than 30 years. I have never had any serious problems with my health, thankfully. I needed to appreciate my body and yes, even the fat on my stomach. The fact is I have gained weight since having my two boys. But the fact also remains that it doesn’t make me gross or disgusting. It’s natural and every curve or tiny stretch mark shouldn’t negate that I am still healthy and strong.

Myth: I’m stupid.

Fact: I have said this to myself countless times. It’s usually my first reaction after I do something wrong. The simple fact is that I am going to make mistakes. I’m human. Mistakes are what I needed to find growth and learn from.

Myth: I’m not a good mom.

Fact: My favorite mothering quote is by the author Jodi Picoult. “The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that already are one.” My mom guilt is off the charts sometimes. I always second guess if I’m making the right decisions with them, if they’re not socializing enough, & the anguish I feel when I take time apart from them kills me. But I need to remember the real truth. Self care makes me a better mom. If that means I have brunch with friends on the weekend or occasionally go shopping by myself- that’s ok. I’m still a good mom.

Myth: I’m crazy because I have bipolar disorder.

Fact: Yes, I do have bipolar disorder. I have manic highs & super depressive lows. Am I crazy? No. Do I feel crazy when I’m manic? Yes. But feelings aren’t always truths. I was so nervous to write this blog & put my bipolar diagnosis out there to my professional teaching world. However, I have felt nothing but love and support from my fellow colleagues.

The real fact is that insecurity is a myth we tell ourselves. I needed to grow in my own skin to be comfortable & really love myself. I hope whoever reading this can differentiate between the lies we tell ourselves & the actual truths. I recently saw on Pinterest a quote. “Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.” Let’s change the script. Scream your confidence to the world because I’ve learned to quiet down the insecure voices in my head. Life’s too short to be spent hating yourself.

An unfiltered, makeup free selfie. Because this is me. Imperfections & all.

Give yourself grace

I’m a creature of routine. I love schedules. My daily schedule involves waking up by 5:30 to feed the animals & the kids are usually up by 7 and then my day really starts.

Someone asked me what life is like with three boys. It is LOUD. It is chaotic & sometimes it feels like mayhem. They are feeling the effects of the pandemic as well. We can’t go out as much so they are stuck home & I’m sure feeling restless as well. As I type this I hear thundering of footsteps running in the living room above me. Oh the noise. Coupled with me going back to teaching, it has been a little nuts over here.

I’m on medication for my bipolar disorder. While the effects calm my mood swings, it makes me very tired. It is hard dealing with my boys when I feel so physically & mentally exhausted.

I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday because I was so fatigued. I immediately felt guilty because I wanted to provide daily content but it’s hard when I have so much on my plate already.

My plate consists of wearing many “hats”. Wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter & now a farmerish blogger. How can I find the time to do everything?

I can’t. It’s hard to give myself compassion because I feel like I have to do it all. I used to be obsessed with perfection. I wanted my house to always be tidy, laundry always put away, & I’m especially hard on my writing. Once I let go of the notion that things don’t always have to be perfect, the pressure let go too.

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that everything needs to be done in one day. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental health. Life is stressful enough.

I needed to learn to give myself grace & compassion. To lighten up. To know that what really matters is those loud, rambunctious boys upstairs even though they may drive me crazy.

It’s impossible to do it all. Some days it’s hard enough to just get out of bed. So please, give yourself grace. Give yourself the kindness you deserve. And if that means leaving the dishes in the sink & watching tv instead, do it. Because if we’re very lucky, there’s always tomorrow.

One of my goat girls. I named her “Grace” as a reminder of what I need to give myself.