Fighting Dirty

For those who weren’t aware, I contribute for a popular mental health website called Bphope.com. It’s geared towards those with bipolar disorder but it’s also a great resource for anyone struggling with a mental illness or involved with someone who is diagnosed.

My piece Marriage Advice from a Bipolar Wife (https://www.bphope.com/caregivers/marriage-advice-from-a-bipolar-wife-relationship-tips-communication/), garnered a lot of attention. My editor emailed me and let me know that it was their “highest achieving” post on Facebook. The post will also be run in Bphope’s print magazine this summer. My first ever paid piece.

Waking up to the comments, emails, and new followers on Instagram who resonated with that piece was inspiring. It was so touching to me that my words help others. But behind the scenes, I also know that my words can hurt. My husband and I had actually got into a pretty intense argument the previous night.

I penned this post “Fighting Dirty.” When I am manic or triggered, I tend to take out my hurt or aggression to the person I love the most. It’s true when they say that hurt people hurt people. How can I stop myself from reacting in the most hurtful, explosive way when I’m upset?

I recently started an online therapy group where emotional regulation is the main focus. A few tips I wanted to share to prevent or deescalate anger when manic or triggered are described below…

Remain mindful

I’m not typically a mindful person. I let emotions sweep over me and take me away. It’s hard for me to be present and actively engaged in a task. Take my writing for example, it’s taken me a couple months to be motivated enough to even want to write another blog post.

How can I practice mindfulness? The easiest way I was taught was to just focus on breathing. By doing so I can regulate how I’m feeling rather than just getting hyped up with emotions and boil over.

Try to be flexible

I’m a creature of habit. I like routines, schedules, and laid out plans. But life has a way of throwing a wrench in our perfect plans and I’ve had to learn to cope with this. By increasing my tolerance to change I’ve been able to lessen my aggression and moodiness.

Practicing empathy

It used to be hard for me to see other people’s point of view. I would get so worked up in my own head and now I know this is a completely selfish behavior.

I think in the end it’s knowing that we are all trying our best. Some days our best is just getting out of bed. Some days my own personal best is just shutting my mouth before I say something I regret. This leads me to my final lesson I’ve learned to avoid “fighting dirty.”

Apologize when you know you’re wrong

I tend to be a prideful person. I don’t typically like waving the white flag in order to surrender or make peace. But I know my words are just as hurtful as physical violence.

Who am I to make someone feel less worthy? We can’t combat our hurt with even more hate.

So to my husband, I love you. I’m sorry. And I truly appreciate all that you do for me and our family. Please remember that I am still trying my best. We’re all a work in progress.

❤️

Lessons in Letting Go

I have always had trouble with letting go of emotions, people, things… the list can be endless. I tend to hold onto things that are beyond my control and it creeps into my mental health causing me to feel this weight of negativity and self-doubt.

I see myself as an empathetic person, meaning I can truly understand what’s causing certain behaviors or aspects within a person or situation. This leads me into hanging onto people who are probably not meant for me in my life. This attitude has creeped into my mental state wherein I cannot let go of self-deprecating notions about myself.

Finally, with self-care and mindful practice, I’ve learned a few lessons in letting go of what doesn’t serve you, appreciate you, or fully deserve your attention & love. Here are some lessons I’ve personally experienced that may help or at least give some insight on what we can do to fully let go of the negative aspects in our life & make room for all the abundance of love we deserve:

  • Remember that the only people you need in your life are the ones who PROVE they need you in theirs.

I’ve always loved this quote. Timelessly in my life I’ve tried to mold myself into the perfect person that people would like. Likability has always been extremely important to me. I would change aspects of my personality and even sometimes my appearance because I thought it better suited someone else needs.

I needed to let go of what of other people thought. This is still something that I constantly work on today, especially with my use of Social Media outlets. I find some people find my blog and expect me to be a certain way. Then they find my social media accounts and I perhaps appear different than what they assumed. I’ve lost followers on Instagram and it used to really bother me. Now I remember that I have to remain true to my authentic self and by exposing myself for who I really am- it will hopefully let in the people who prove they need me in their lives.

  • Never rely on codependency in a relationship

Growing up, I was very coddled. I say this with nothing but love & admiration for my parents who raised me. They doted on me as a child and I’ll forever love them for that. However, it has caused this shift in my relationships with people, including men, wherein I felt dependent on them for their love and support.

I needed to find this love within myself. My husband, my friends, and even my parents cannot make me into the person I need to be. Attaching yourself to a person will never fully make you happy. You cannot rely on someone else to fulfill the needs that need to be met within yourself.

  • Things are just things

I love stuff. The movie The Little Mermaid has always been my favorite because Ariel loved to collect stuff. In her words, “Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collections complete?” I’ve always resonated with that song as childish as it may be. I have finally learned that material objects will never make me happy.

As a person who suffers with bipolar disorder I can get very manic. This mania can sometimes translate in shopping sprees wherein I impulse buy many unnecessary items. I think the temporary joy I feel comes from a place of also trying to find outside outlets to make me happy. However that short lived “high” I feel when I rush to purchase something typically dies moments after I buy it with thoughts of guilt shortly appearing.

Things are just things. I have a beautiful family of 3 boys (soon to be 4) and a husband who is devoted to me and adores me for who I am. They are happy when I am happy. My happiness cannot be derived from physical items.

  • Addiction is just an excuse to escape from reality.

I have an addictive personality. My mania & depression used to be soothed with the use of opiates & stimulants. I needed to learn to accept my reality for what it is and not run away from it. On the outside, my life appears to be full, rich, and rewarding. And it truly is. What more can I ask for?

I tried to explain to someone that while I know there are SO many things I need to be grateful for, my mind just processes things differently. I immediately go dark at times. I’ve learned to let go of negative addictions, especially while I am pregnant, which means cutting out nicotine completely and reducing my caffeine intake. I’ve noticed staying busy and keeping my mind occupied on outlets such as my family, my farm, and this blog has led me to lead a much more meaningful life.

I still have trouble letting go of things I cannot control. Life happens. My anxiety gets the best of me and I always fear the worst. But if we let go of what weighs us, hopefully we feel lighter and brighter. I know it hurts sometimes. But let it hurt. Then let it go.

The queen of procrastination

Procrastination is currently killing my mental health. I am the queen of procrastination. I usually believe I thrive working “under pressure” but somethings in life don’t necessarily have a particular deadline.

Take this blog for example. It is nearly the end of January. I hadn’t posted on Farmerish since sometime mid-December. I’ve been able to continue my work for other popular websites, such as BpHope, but mostly because it’s deadline driven.

I don’t have specific “deadlines” with posting on my personal site. I think the real trick to easing procrastination is one, stop being so hard on yourself. And two- remember your why.

I think dealing with my pregnancy and this seemingly never-ending pandemic I’ve forgotten my “why.” The real question I need to ask myself is, “Why am I doing this?” Find what’s motivating you and work from there.

My second post I ever wrote on Farmerish was titled “My why.” It goes into depth about wanting to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health. I also explained how finding your “why” also means finding what you’re good at. I am good with connecting and engaging with people. I truly love it.

One of the ways I connect & engage is through utilizing social media. Now, I rarely procrastinate when it comes to my social media pages such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. But there are problems with social media and the small “lies” they tell.

Social media only shows our highlight reels. I try to keep it as honest and candid on my blog, but I think sometimes outwardly our social media presence can be deceiving.

It’s easy to forget your “why” on social media. We can easily put off an image for the world to see that may not be entirely accurate. I know one of the reasons I have procrastinated with writing on my own blog is because it’s much harder. I’m much more vulnerable. I expose myself more.

But that’s what matters. I attached the image in the beginning of this post to remind myself that it truly doesn’t matter if you’re rich, popular, or perfect. I have to remember my WHY and know that those are not the reasons I chose to write Farmerish. It truly is about being humble, sharing our experiences & hopefully maybe touching the life of another human being other than yourself.

I share my experiences not to get rich. I didn’t even really want to run ads on this site, but hey I’ve made $5 so far (lol). As I “grow” slowly on Instagram and other various networks, I realize that I’m not writing to be popular either. My WHY on those outlets are more to show that a somewhat “normal” life is possible with bipolar disorder.

But what is normal? It’s not being perfect, that’s for sure. So next time you see a picture perfect image on social media remember that things aren’t always as they seem. But I know that by writing these posts, and hopefully being consistent, I will eventually positively impact the lives of others.

Procrastinating doesn’t get you anywhere. Find your why. Remember your purpose. And know that life is so much more than appearing perfect for the world to see.

Raging Hormones

Holy moly it’s almost been a whole month since I’ve posted on Farmerish. If anyone ever wants to start a blog, which it’s fairly easy to do, you have to remember to be consistent.

Consistency has been a real difficult task for me lately. I just entered my second trimester last week. Officially 15 weeks pregnant.

It hasn’t been exactly pleasant. I know having another baby is a blessing. But my hormones have been RAGING. Like all over the place.

Having bipolar disorder doesn’t help either. My life is scary sometimes wherein I really don’t know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next. I was riding a two week manic high from my birthday until December hit and I knew I was going to drop at some point.

Well inevitably, the pendulum fell. I suddenly felt irritable, depressed, anxious. All those negative feelings I was able to avoid for two whole weeks straight.

I can get easily triggered once I start shifting to a depressive state. I had made plans with a girlfriend to meet her for lunch. I was so excited to finally get out of the house and put myself together.

After I had gotten ready I received a text from her cancelling, saying she wasn’t feeling up for it. Immediately I started boiling. It’s a really terrible feeling to go from 0 to 100 in my opinion. I was so upset.

It’s easy for me for my first reaction to quickly turn to anger. It’s just always been like that. I finally figured out over time that it’s really just coming from a hurt place inside me.

I went for a drive. My counselor always tells me to take a break from a situation when I start to feel elevated. This is really important for me to remember.

I looked back at the message and I realized it wasn’t that she didn’t want to spend time with me it’s that she truly wasn’t feeling up for it. As someone who suffers from a mental illness, I should be able to empathize that feeling the most.

I quickly called her. I asked her if I could cheer her up by coming over. It worked. And it cheered me up too.

My hormones are raging. It’s true. But as someone with a mental illness I need to remember to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see it from their perspective.

Empathy. It’s easy.

My beautiful best friend. I’m so happy you are in my life, and I will always be there for you!

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.

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

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 more than you take

Starting year 9 of teaching

Today was my first day back at school working remotely. I’m a special education teacher & I’ve worked with countless students with ranging disabilities. But my favorite type of teaching? Working with behavioral students.

There’s something satisfying about shaping behaviors from inappropriate to engaged & suitable conduct. The most important lesson I learned from teaching is to build relationships first. Without that established trust & rapport, learning will be near impossible.

When I first started blogging I barely knew anyone in the “blogging world.” So I figured, just like when I started with my farm, I’ll start by joining blogging Facebook groups.

It was an unenthusiastic start. I noticed that most people aren’t interested in helping others. They seem more interested in promoting their own “brand”. I contacted numerous people for insight & had dismal success.

I think that’s the reason most people don’t ask for help in general. Some people seem too busy to be bothered which can really be demoralizing for someone with bipolar disorder. It’s hard enough to put yourself out there & then have a negative response. That’s how I felt after I joined the blogging groups. What’s the point if they won’t take the time to help a stranger?

I needed to overcome my fear of rejection so I put myself out there again. I tried a different approach. Rather than ask them for help directly, I became genuinely interested in their blog first. Then the conversations starting happening and I started getting the feedback I was originally asking for. Just like in teaching I needed to create a relationship by establishing trust & rapport.

Rejection will happen. There will always be selfish people out there looking out for only themselves. But the real people you want to hang onto? The ones who offer their help when you have nothing to give in return.

Thank you to the random strangers who have gone out of their way to help a new blogger. Thank you to the people I haven’t connected with in years that have taken the time to read & shared their thoughts. And remember- relationships don’t happen overnight. But when they do, give more than you take. It’ll come back to you in the end.

Hanging on to Hope

According to the national alliance on mental illness (NAMI), almost half of people who die by suicide had a known mental illness. The stats surrounding bipolar & suicide are terrifying to me. Another study done by Cambridge University revealed that 30% people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide once in their lives. The suicide rate is twenty times that of the general population.

2013 was when I got my first diagnosis. It was the roughest year of my life so far. I was struggling with addiction to suppress my internal, emotional feelings. I kept chasing happiness even though I knew it wasn’t there.

I remember driving home on a wet, rainy day that year. I was bawling my eyes out because life seemed so hopeless at the time. My first marriage was crumbling & the addiction was tearing my family apart. I truly wanted to die.

I remember rounding a curve and all of a sudden I just let go of the wheel. The next few moments after that are fuzzy. But I clearly remember letting go and not wanting to live anymore. My car then crashed into a telephone pole going 45 mph.

Luckily I was wearing my seatbelt. I don’t remember anything much after that but seeing glass everywhere. I had nearly cracked my windshield in half with the impact.

My brother took me to see the car a few days later. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like the car was split in half. I shouldn’t have survived let alone walk out of the car completely unharmed.

I knew it was time to get help. I went to an inpatient center and got my first diagnosis. Bipolar disorder. “No that’s impossible” was my first thought. I was so embarassed and felt so shameful of this disorder that I didn’t tell anyone for the longest time.

I’m finally opening up because life isn’t easy. I’m not an expert in mental health, I just know my own experiences. I never thought that I would attempt to take my own life.

Looking back, I am grateful. It woke me up to knowing that I needed help. I couldn’t do this on my own. My parents & brothers did everything they could for me. The best choice was for me to move to Seattle with my brother and start over.

Starting over was scary. But what’s scarier was knowing that I probably should have died in that car wreck. I was given a second chance. It was up to me what I was to do with it.

I have been clean for nearly 7 years. I chose to live my life with intention and purpose after that. It hasn’t been easy and life isn’t always perfect, but by finding hope- I found myself.

A wife’s perspective on being bipolar

It’s not always rainbows & butterflies it’s compromise that moves us along.

Maroon 5

It’s been one of those days. You know, the one where you wake up filled with hope that today is going to be the best day ever! I frequently wake up feeling this way. For me it’s that I’m going to change, that I won’t be filled with despair at the end of the day, that I won’t feel the weight of the sheer exhaustion of just being me.

It’s only the afternoon but I already feel defeated. This is what life is like being bipolar. My rapid cycling of feeling manic and excited then shifting to easily irritated and triggered has already reared its ugly head.

Sadly the person I take it out most on is my husband. He doesn’t deserve my manic shifts. He doesn’t deserve the outbursts that come with it. But what he doesn’t understand- I can’t help it.

I have seen psychiatrists, therapists, and checked into outpatient centers. I take my meds regularly and I have a fantastic support system of friends. My mood swings still happen and it’s taking a toll on my marriage.

All I want is for him to understand that I cannot help that I have a neurological brain disorder. My actions and emotions in the moment are out of my control.

The lack of empathy is what triggers me the most. I understand being with someone diagnosed bipolar cannot be easy. In fact, I imagine it can be heartbreaking. However, without empathy you’ll never be able to give the grace and love that people who are suffering with mental illness really need.

I hope by writing this blog it will provide a place for people to understand what it’s like. What it’s like to have no control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and even your actions.

I want to bring awareness on a topic that’s sensitive for some. I hope people gain knowledge on bipolar disorder through my experiences- good or bad. With awareness and knowledge, empathy can be found.