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.

Illusions of love

Covid 19 and this pandemic has sparked a weird sense in all of us, I feel. This isolation and never ending feeling of dread has made me search for opportunities to keep my mind at ease.

As the year of 2020 closes, a year with circumstances we never expected, I have to stop & reflect. So many things came into fruition for me that I never thought possible.

We bought a farm house and I rapidly started filling it with my pigs and goats. I also got pregnant. But my one true silver lining in all of this was starting this blog.

How can starting Farmerish be more important than finding out I’m pregnant? It’s not. But it’s given me a therapeutic place to write & moreso- connect with others.

Connecting with others is vital to me. I am a highly extroverted person with extreme empathetic qualities. I let people into my life easily even when my judgement tells me not to. Some say it’s naive, some say it’s having a big heart. I’m sure I’m somewhere in the middle.

Starting this blog, I didn’t imagine the masses of people to reach out to me. It’s amazing how words can resonate so well with others. The messages from strangers, people I know dearly, and even random acquaintances over the years have piled into my inbox.

Reading articles or blogs is entirely interpretive to the reader. But the general underlying theme of my messages is that people are more vulnerable than they appear.

I know by putting myself out there also lets a lot of people with darker intentions into my life, however. Illusions of love, I like to call them. They seem just as fascinated with me but it’s all just a distraction. I can’t let people into my life that aren’t going to return the same investment that I would do for them.

Social media is fascinating to me wherein we can put a different persona out there and only expose our “highlight reel”. I decided to do something different with my blog by keeping it raw, relatable, & most of all- real. The response & validation has been overwhelming. I’ve been featured on a couple popular mental health sites, including bphope.

But the insecurity I have within myself still drives me wild. I have 3 beautiful sons and a husband who loves me. I’m surrounded with a network that supports me. Loves me. Needs me in their lives. So why this constant need for validation from others?

I know deep down it’s just a longing to be seen & heard. A feeling that has been lost inside of me for the longest time. But I need to remember my priorities.

Seeking validation should always start within. By fully loving myself I can get a clearer picture of whose intentions are true and pure.

My family. My friends. My students. These are the true people in my life who love me. Not random strangers from the internet.

To anyone who has read my blog- thank you. I’m always here to listen, give feedback, or just simply be there. It’s not easy to completely put yourself out there for the world & be on display. But to the ones who don’t really care, I see you with a better perspective.

Never confuse the people who are there for you constantly with the ones who are only there when it’s convenient. And remember- the only stamp of approval you need should always be from yourself. ❤️

Demons on Halloween

Today is Halloween. When I was a kid I believed it was a day where all the ghosts, goblins, demons, & witches came out to play. Sounds silly but now living with my own demons I know it’s not just a once a year type feeling.

We all have our demons. If you don’t well then lucky you. And I mean that genuinely. The demons in my head, when I’m manic or even in a depressive state (so pretty much all the time), are loud and feel like they’re in the back of my head often.

I know they are not actual demons. In my case, they are intrusive thoughts that are ruminating and can honestly control my mind if I let them. They bring out the dark qualities that I feel guilty to share. Jealousy. Guilt. Blame. Hatred. Those thoughts are there.

There are certain people in my life that I used to resent deeply. I would think of past negative experiences with them & for the longest time was unable to forgive. I swear, it’s like I wanted to be unhappy. In order to forgive I had to let go.

There are only a few coping mechanisms I’ve learned to deal with my own demons. I still struggle. Feelings of doubt & disappointment still outweigh happiness at times. But here are a few ways to silence or at least try & temporarily mute the demons in our head:

-Practice mindfulness

I am the worst at being mindful. My thoughts are always racing from one thing to the next causing extreme anxiety. However, when I slow down & actually pay attention to what’s happening in the present, I notice a shift in my thinking. I’m so busy being in the moment & soaking up these future memories that I don’t notice the dark thoughts.

-Try to meditate with breathing exercises

I never knew how to meditate. Previously, I had been in an outpatient rehab center where an hour of meditation was required during the day. I didn’t know how to just sit there and clear my head. Since then I have learned that simply focusing on your breathing helps with meditation. Inhale. Hold. Exhale.

-Stay grateful

While in the past it was hard for me to forgive people, I’ve noticed that practicing gratitude has helped with forgiveness. By focusing on what I’m thankful for, its helps disrupt the intrusive thoughts from ruminating.

As I wrap this up, I am looking forward to celebrating Halloween with my family. I’m going to practice mindfulness & truly enjoy this special holiday with them today. The witches & goblins might still come out tonight, but I know the demons in my head will be at bay.

Love is blind

Facebook is funny wherein it pops up memories from the past. Today my cousin sent me a quote I sent her ten years ago on FB. “The only people you need in your life are the ones who prove they need you in theirs.”

I wrote that to her ten years ago. What a profound statement for a 24 year old (at the time). I wish I could say that I held onto that sentiment for the following decade- but it still escapes me.

Why do we make people a priority when they only see us as an option? For me it usually boils down to my low self esteem. I can’t expect people to put me first when I don’t even put myself first in my own life.

Our thoughts create our reality. I have constantly thought so little of myself that in the past I’ve created relationships with people who really weren’t into me. They didn’t love me. They didn’t appreciate me. And they sure didn’t prioritize me.

For the longest time that’s what I felt I deserved. I was so stuck on the feeling of being unloved that I couldn’t fully love myself. I truly thought that I deserved to be treated this way.

They say love is blind. It’s true. A person in love can’t really see all the imperfections that an unhealthy relationship brings. I never wanted to fall in love with someone that didn’t fully love me back.

It’s like we, as people with mental illness, are addicted to the pain. We’re accustomed to it. It’s our life. Our reality. And the pain we seek is usually a feeling we think we deserve.

It’s taken me ten years but I now understand that no one deserves to feel unwanted or unnecessary self-inflicted pain. Why do that to ourselves? Because the heart wants what it wants.

It’s easy to say prioritize yourself. It’s easy to say love yourself. But where do we begin?

Take a look at your life & reflect. What’s missing that we need to fill this void with unreciprocated love? What are the actual needs you want from a relationship? And most importantly, what are your expectations?

I’ve always had low expectations. Living with bipolar disorder I’ve learned to settle when it comes to my own happiness. But that’s not how we should be living our lives.

We deserve to be loved. We deserve to be appreciated. Love is blind but we don’t have to be. Open your eyes to a situation & see it for what it really is. And please remember, don’t allow someone to be a priority when you’ll always be merely an option.

Dealing with Disappointment

It’s been about two months since I started my blog. When I first started I was luckily put into contact with a couple popular mental health publishers. They were looking for potential bloggers & I was so excited to apply.

Unfortunately one of the publishers went with another applicant which I found out this week. I was pretty crushed. Dealing with disappointment can be a trigger for me. It can send me in a tailspin of depressive thoughts.

I learned a few things this week that helped me cope which I want to share with you.

Tips to cope with disappointment:

Rely on your support system

My support system has gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life. Luckily I’m surrounded by people who lift me up instead of bring me down. Their words of encouragement raised my spirits.

Listen

I have a hard time listening & following people’s advice. I usually tend to learn things the hard way. When dealing with disappointment I really needed to LISTEN to what my girlfriend’s were telling me. They’re right when they say better opportunities are ahead of me.

Trust the process

Things happen for a reason. That is something which I struggle to believe. We need faith to believe that when one door closes, another one will open.

Focus on what you can control

It would have been easy to let myself wallow & drown in the feeling of disappointment. I needed to remember all my blessings in my life. Focusing on my family, friendships & work really helped switch my perspective that things will be okay.

Keep trying

I won’t quit writing. It’s something that I love to do & I believe in my heart that it’s not just helping me but others too. We need to keep pushing forward no matter how hard it may seem.

Disappointment happens. Life doesn’t always workout the way we want it to. But who knows what might happen in the future? Rather than focusing on the negative, believe that the beginning of something wonderful & new might just be waiting for us ahead…

Do’s & Don’ts of Dating

Dating is hard for the average person. Add in a mental illness & dating can be even more arduous. Here is my short list of the Do’s & Don’ts of dating someone with a mental illness:

DO: Have complete transparency

When I first started dating my current husband I was completely honest with my bipolar disorder. He was ready to jump in headfirst into a relationship which was terrifying for me. I knew that my mental illness could potentially interfere with any future happiness so I had to make it clear & known. I explained my mania & what my depressive states looked like. I showed him letters from my psychiatrists. I also encouraged him to find resources for support.

DON’T: Ghost someone

The age of “ghosting” someone is here. Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as: “When a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice before hand.” This type of behavior can ruin a person’s self esteem. Communication is everything when dating. Don’t be passive aggressive with someone’s heart. It’s harder on someone to never know what happened, than to just explain to someone directly that you don’t want them in your life anymore. Be honest, open & direct with your feelings.

DO: Be supportive

My husband has always been my rock. This is a tough feat for someone to always to be the strong one. I know that this support has to go both ways however. He supports my dreams & I support his. We are a team. We are there for each other during our wins, losses, and everything in between.

DON’T: Talk disparagingly to them

When I first moved to Seattle I entered the dating world for the very first time in my twenties. I had spent most of my life as a serial monogamist- always in a relationship. I was excited to date & meet new people. Unfortunately one of the first people I met when I was dating was not a good fit for me to put it mildly. He constantly belittled me & went out of his way to make me feel stupid. This behavior would send me on multiple Uber rides home where I’d be left crying in the backseat of a car questioning my worth. No one but YOURSELF should define your self worth. Don’t get trapped in the belief that you deserve to be treated this way.

DO: Know that actions speak louder than words

In the beginning of dating there’s always courtship. Many promises are made during this time. Remember actions speak louder than words. Make sure the person you’re dating is actively showing you they care by not just their words. They’re making time to see you & spend time with you. When someone doesn’t show that they care, believe them the first time.

This list can have a million other do’s & don’ts. But be a good person when dating. Remember you are holding someone else’s heart in your hands. Be gentle with it. We gave it to you for a reason.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.