Book Introduction

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I am about 1/3 of the way done with my first book.  Hoping to complete by December 2017.  Just decided on the title…Bipolar is a Bitch: One chick’s journey from Crazyville to kick ass mental wellness.

I found out about my Bipolar Type II diagnosis from a piece of paper.  I had been off meds for about 5 months when I starting having severe anxiety and difficulty sleeping.  I was only sleeping a couple hours a night and was having extreme highs and lows.  One minute I thought I had the solution to all of my problems and the next I felt like I wanted to die.  I was completely freaked out and tried desperately to get in to see my psychiatrist.  Problem is she has too many patients so she is always overbooked.  It took about a week to get in to see her.  I had written down everything that I had been experiencing for the past week and read it to my doctor.  She told me to take a week off work to let the meds get into my system.  As I was leaving I looked down and saw Bipolar II on my visit report.  It was like someone stabbed a knife in my chest.  What?!?  I have Bipolar?  I immediately got defensive.  I don’t have Bipolar!  That doctor is a quack!  For years I had been trying to find excuses for my mental issues.  When my head started to slow down, the diagnosis began to sink in.  As I looked back at my life, I could see the cycles.  It made sense.  It felt so final.  This is it.  I am stuck with this for the rest of my life.  It made me feel separate, different, and even more alone.

From that day on, I have been on a mission to find ways to manage my illness other than just popping pills and praying they work.  By the time I received the diagnosis, I had tried a litany of medications (I could start a side business with the leftovers).  I was even prescribed GHB for sleep (Yes, the date rape drug.  It didn’t help).  I spent a couple years in psychoanalysis which proved to cause more harm than good.   I’ve experimented with alternative therapies as well.  Cranial sacral therapy, reiki, and yoga. All of which did provide some relief.  I was determined to get off meds at one point to start a family so I donated ten grand to a naturopath that promised to cure my illness with high doses of amino acids.  Instead of relieving my symptoms permanently, it gave me nausea and diarrhea for months while I took up to 65 pills a day.  Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially when the runs hit you in the middle of a work meeting.  Good times.  I’ve tried gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, and veganism.  Cleanses are not my friends.  I once eliminated all gluten, sugar, dairy, meat, caffeine, and alcohol.  I became so depressed after three weeks that only a cheeseburger and milkshake could ease the pain.  These restrictive diets caused even more symptoms.  I’ve learned that changing my diet so drastically affects my mood and energy in a big, not so great way.

My search for alternative therapies led me to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I took their year long health coach certification training.  The program taught me ways to bring more balance into my life like focusing on what they call primary foods; healthy relationships, physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spirituality practice.  I learned over 100 dietary theories and studied with the world’s top health and wellness experts.  I gained a wealth of knowledge from this program and it gave me something positive to focus on during a time when I had almost lost hope.  The program helped me discover that listening to my intuition and eating in a more balanced way provides more positive shifts in my health.  It also taught me how to coach others using a holistic approach to health and wellness.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey and my hope for this book is the show others they are not alone and there are better ways to manage symptoms than the standard protocol of most doctors and therapists.  I’ll take you through the ups and downs, the good and the ugly, the road into madness, and the path to recovery.  I spent many years feeling completely alone with my illness and trying desperately to cover it up.  I’ve found that owning it and sharing my story with others gave me my power back and put me back into control of my life.  Shedding light on mental illness, fighting stigma, and showing others how to recover has become my passion and I truly believe it is my purpose in life.  If you are struggling with any mental health condition, I believe you will find my story comforting and helpful in your recovery, and hopefully a little humorous.   

What Recovery Looks Like

shutterstock_578764816I say I am in recovery, but what does that look like?  Recovery takes work.  I still have good days and bad days.  I still struggle with sleep and sometimes don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning.  I still have some anxiety and mild depression.  I still have slight mood swings.  On those days when I’ve gotten very little sleep, I try to sleep in and go into work a little later or work from home.  I am lucky that my boss is cool with that.  I’ve been open with him about my illness and he knows that I will get my work done.  I will put in extra hours if needed to make up my time, but I put my health first.  I don’t push myself because I know that can trigger an episode.  I know my triggers and I’ve learned what I need to do to stay on track.

I take my medications religiously.  I’ve been on the same antidepressant and antipsychotic for the past 4 years.  My psychiatrist had me take a DNA test to see what meds work best for me and it has been a lifesaver.  I have very few side effects from my meds and they help control the majority of my symptoms.  I don’t rely solely on my meds though. I take a lot of supplements.  Currently I am taking a multivitamin, vitamins D and C, a B complex, fish oil, magnesium citrate, 5htp, and l-methylfolate.  I feel like an old lady when I break out all of my pills after with dinner.  L-methylfolate has been a game changer for me.  It helped relieve the lingering depression and fatigue.  If any of you are taking an antidepressant, but still struggling with these symptoms, I encourage you to try it.  The brand name is Deplin.

I also watch what I put into my body.  I drink very little caffeine.  Cutting out coffee has helped my fatigue tremendously.  I’ve found that keeping my blood sugar balanced helps balance my moods and energy.  Coffee made my blood sugar drop which made me hungry and cranky.  Too much caffeine also increased my anxiety and insomnia.  If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or insomnia I encourage you to ditch your cup of joe.  The benefits are totally worth it and if you find the right decaf, it is not so bad.  I’ve recently given up alcohol as well.  I haven’t had wine in seven months and I stopped drinking beer six weeks ago.  Alcohol makes me bitchy and drowsy.  I’ve learned that it is not a good idea to mix booze with meds.  It affects my mood significantly.  It might be fun for a few hours, but the effect it has on my emotional well being is just not worth it to me. I’ve found that I can still have fun without it and I’d rather be sober and completely alert than drunk, tired, and moody.

As far as nutrition goes, I try to watch my sugar intake which is tricky for me since I have a sweet tooth.  Instead of reaching for a cookie or candy bar, I’ve been eating fruit.  My favorites are strawberries, cantaloupe, and grapes.  I do still have the occasional dessert, but I don’t do it on a daily basis anymore.  Most of our dinners are paleo, basically meat and vegetables.  I find that eating this way helps keep my blood sugar in check which balances my moods and energy.  I am getting ready to start a strict paleo diet for three months called Whole30.  No gluten, grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, or processed foods.  My husband and I have done it before, but for only 30 days.  We are doing it longer this time with hope that it will help my fertility issues.  It is not an easy diet to follow, but we are motivated to stick to it.

I also see my therapist every 2-3 weeks just to check in to see how I am doing.  I’ve found that it is difficult for me to assess how I am doing sometimes, especially when I am in the middle of an episode.  My therapist can help me see things that I may not notice day to day and uncover areas that need some work.  When I find myself feeling anxious, I do breathing exercises, a guided meditation, or use my HearthMath monitor to calm myself down.  This usually helps me sleep.  I’ve recently started taking yoga which is also great for relaxation.  I am also in the process of writing a book about my illness and recovery.  This is exciting for me and has given me something positive to focus on.  Working on the book and writing in this blog is a passion of mine and is definitely therapeutic.  My goal is to help others recover and feel less alone as well as fight stigma.

I am by no means perfect.  Recovery is a process and I will be working at it for the rest of my life.  I still stumble and sometimes fall, but I get up, dust myself off, and keep going.