College and Acceptance

Shortly after coming to BYU I made an appointment with an on campus psychiatrist for a second opinion. I was convinced I was not bipolar. I sweet talked my way into hearing what I wanted to hear before he received my medical records. He said I could go off cold turkey from my medications and that they were basically just making me fat and tired, and to contact him with any troubles. I took that and went cold turkey and never looked back even when he called my apartment worried after receiving copies of my records. I still feel bad about that sometimes but I am glad that I got off the mood stabilizers when I did. I don’t like the side effects.  

 

I did well the first semester at BYU, but then the fall semester I crashed. I had broken up with my boyfriend and I had very few friends and I was struggling. My best friend was deferring a semester and out of the country for some of that time, and I really didn’t have anyone else. I dated and went country dancing frequently and I went to the classes I was liking and doing well in. I ended up failing one, getting A’s in two and a C- in the other. I failed half my classes the next semester as well and ended up on academic probation for the spring.

 

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That first fall semester I dated quite a bit. I went from having kissed three boys to 11 in 4 months. Some were innocent and some were more questionable morally but I was very hypomanic for those times. A classic sign of the hypomania is hypersexuality. Luckily because I don’t have mania I got the mild end of that. Between that and my upbringing, I didn’t do anything too life altering.

 

The winter term I swore off boys and then met the man I would later marry. I got to know him better but still hadn’t told him about the mental illness in my life. I have only recently accepted my diagnosis fully, but at that point, I was flat out hiding it from everyone around me. I did my best to hide it and he was none the wiser for months. I was failing my classes however and didn’t reach out to my professors for either pride or fear.

 

I did eventually tell him at least the basics although I don’t think he fully understood what we are dealing with until the last year or two. I told him when we were engaged which is what I would advise others to do as well. Either then or before then, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting until after you’re married as I believe it can be grounds for an annulment.

 

I was hiding it from everyone including myself and didn’t let him help until recently. We became really good partners when I crashed the summer of 2015 and hit low enough to finally accept the diagnosis and start trying to manage it rather than run from it. Before 2 years ago, we were good partners during the lows, when I had to accept that I had a problem, but when I was up I was constantly running from ever going down again.

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The problem with running from going down is I would distance myself from my husband who could tell when I needed help. Another problem is the more I run from going down the longer I stay up. This tends to make my downs worse. It’s like the downs are a direct reflection of the ups.

 

Recently in the past few years, I have found that when I recognize that I’m hypomanic and limit myself and regulate my activities the downs are much better. I have a number of strategies that I have tried over the years to help make the downs better but none of them helped with more than the short term until I started going to the root of the problem. The problem I thought before was the depression and keeping it from getting too deep during the depression. I have come to realize though that it is much more effective to limit the height of the ups to limit the depth of the downs.

 

So far I haven’t had a big down in about a year. We will see how that continues but at the time I was pregnant which is another factor all in itself.

 

I have made huge progress however by accepting the diagnosis and I would never go back from what I have gained from that. It is such a better place to be. I now have hope and empowerment rather than fear and pessimism.

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My Healing Fitness Journey

After having my third baby, R this year, my back was in a ton of pain. It didn’t go back together correctly after the stretching from the relaxin hormone in my body. I tried to have it adjusted by my DO, but after trying three times he said I was too flexible and it was too hard to isolate the one vertebrae. He gave me some stretching ideas and sent me on my way.

 

I had been having this pain since day 1 postpartum. It had caused sciatic pains shooting down my thighs and when I leaned backward like in the shower to rinse my hair it would be excruciating on just the one spot. After a few weeks of inconsistently trying the exercises, it was a little bit better but still hurt. The sciatic pain was gone but I still had the pain in my back.

 

At about four months postpartum I decided to consistently start doing my body weight fitness workout, the stretches, and planks from the fitloop workout. It only takes about 10 minutes or less three times a week which works well since I didn’t have a lot of time with a newborn. After three to four weeks the pain was gone except when I would try to see if it still hurt. After a few more weeks the soreness had healed from the rest and it no longer hurt.

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I found out that my upper abs had not been engaging (they were squishy postpartum)and it had been putting extra pressure on that vertebrae. I noticed after that three weeks that my upper abs were way harder. Not that I had made gains that soon but it had been tightened. My stomach was flatter and everything was held in better.

 

This was such a relief to have the pain gone. It had been so frustrating. My husband couldn’t hug me without accidentally putting me in a spot where my back hurt so badly. It had been affecting many aspects of my life including holding my three-year-old A, who is a snuggle monkey.

 

After this success, I was researching one day and found an article about knee pain too. I will write more about that after I have actually healed that. For now, I am using exercise to try to strengthen my hips and relieve the inflammation and tightness in my knees that are probably from overuse.

 

Pregnancy is hard on women’s bodies no matter whether it is a perfect pregnancy with perfect weight gain and moderate exercise or if there are more extenuating circumstances. I never gained more than the recommended 25-35 pounds for my weight group. However, I still had troubles with my first and third pregnancies with knee pain.

 

I have incorporated about a once a week walk into my routine as well, but I don’t want to overdo it before my knees are healed. I would like to get back into running and work up to a 5-10k or so per day once I’m ready.

 

I lose about half the weight I gain from pregnancy very quickly within the first week or so. It takes until I stop nursing to lose the other half. I don’t mind, I prefer to be slightly heavier but I can’t keep weight on me very easily. This time I would like to try eating keto and working out to shift my weight to higher muscle mass and less fat like I had in high school.

It will take a lot of work but here are the steps that I would like to take in the next six months or so:

  1. Planks all at 60 sec each.
  2. Full fitloop workout including handstands
  3. 15 min on trampoline 3x a week
  4. 5-6 30 min walks a week with my girls picking up trash
  5. Eating low carb 50g or so net carbs

With this workout, I will hopefully be more in control of my body and be able to see strength gains and maybe maintain my weight above 120. I know many people want to lose weight and keto is great for that. I’m hoping to test it out for maintenance and mood benefits for bipolar. I am not interested in losing weight on keto. My journey will be more like the reappropriation before and afters where they are the same weight or close to it before and after but they are much stronger. So shifting fat to muscle.

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I am so excited to no longer have pain in my back and to hopefully get rid of the pain in my knees. I would love to be able to do an L-sit into a handstand but that is a longer-term goal I’m thinking maybe by the end of 2018.

 

My Diagnosis Age 17

The winter before I graduated high school it all came to a head. My parents left the state to take care of grandkids for three weeks, my mom for 4 weeks. I lived with my brother and did well I think but when they came back I felt overwhelmed and trapped. I spiraled into some kind of mixed depression state and became extremely paranoid and increasingly unable to function. In my opinion, the final straw is all tied to my wisdom teeth removal:

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When I was 17 we found out I needed to have all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed. So we were referred to an oral surgeon or whoever it is that does that. When we met with him I had a lot of questions ready to ask him but he mentioned that if we changed the date of the operation we would save a lot on insurance. It threw me for a second and I started asking questions and my mom I think got embarrassed or concerned and overrode me and basically told me to stop and that is how it had to be. I didn’t really care so much about that change as much as I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to ask the questions that I had planned.

I didn’t get to ask anything about what medications I would be administered during or especially after the surgery. I was rushed out before I could do any of these things. I felt out of control and like I was treated like an out of control child. Needless to say, after that I changed my medical forms so that my mom could no longer make final decisions for me so I would be treated more as an adult. It didn’t always end up working that way but it made me feel better.

After the surgery, I was prescribed oxycodone which I took the first day or so. It was causing strange distortions at night that I would see almost like nightmare hallucinations. It also brought back a very real fear of drowning that was triggered by my swishing my mouth with salt water to kill bacteria. I stopped taking the medication and rinsing very quickly. Luckily I was given a syringe to swish with which helped keep off the infection that started to cause pain. My mom didn’t know or hear about the problem I was having with the medication and she tried to force me to take it to get sleep once I stopped sleeping well. I was barely sleeping at all and going into a full blown mixed state of some sort. I was somewhat depressed but also paranoid and manic. Experiencing hallucinations and OCD cleaning habits and paranoia that my parents were trying to kill me.

This time got really scary really fast. My parents had already helped me drop some classes at school and rearrange my schedule. I also had an appointment I believe in February to see a psychiatrist whom I had seen in my freshman or sophomore year who dismissed me as a normal teen in one of my up cycles. Now she diagnosed me bipolar in early 2008. I was 17 and put on the lowest dose possible half a rhysperdol. A quarter of the normal dose. I don’t remember being informed of any side effects or being told to have regular checkups for my health. I should have been. I got one of the rare side effects which are bleeding with bowel movements a problem that still flares occasionally 9 years later.

Also from what I understand this is a heavy duty mood stabilizer that can greatly affect health. I should have been monitored and it was rough on me. It basically made me sleep and eat which was good at first but then made it hard to function. I got a D in one of my classes for the first time. Mainly this was due to absences. It was my last class and I would frequently skip and go eat and then go home and sleep.

I was eventually able to graduate a trimester early in mid-March and quit my job and moved to Provo Utah with a job interview at the MTC bookstore lined up. I got the job and lived with my brother and his family until my room opened up on campus in April and I could start classes and living there. I never walked for my high school graduation although I did graduate. I was already in college.

The Reality of a Bipolar Kitchen

I decided to make a video to make sure I’m not adding to the negative talk in your head. Maybe I will anyway but I want to be real with you and not come off as all the perfect online people who let’s be honest aren’t real and make us all, bipolar or not, feel like failures. I don’t want to be a source of further depression. Quite the opposite I would like to be a source of balance and understanding.

So here is my kitchen in all its horrifying glory. I wanted to start video posts for recipes like all the ones you see on Facebook. But I wanted a cute new background instead of my ugly pink tiles. So enter Miss Madi a cute online shop. She sells the cutest decor. She also sells strips and washi tape. You can check them out here.

So first I had to clean my entire kitchen. Luckily I’m not in the depths of depression although I’m not sky high either I’m definitely in some form of hypomania. I’m irritable and wanting to go all the time whether mentally or physically or both. So it took me a number of hours to get it clean. You can see that process here. (Click on the photo to see the video).

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Now it is all clean including those darn tiles and I can start laying out the entire decor. It is a nine tile pattern so you have to vary it a little to make it look cute but I am loving the results. I ran out ⅔ of the way through but luckily it is easy to get more here.

So I had enough for the place I want my background to be and I’m ready to go. I’m so excited to share my recipes with you that I have found. I love cooking but unfortunately only when I’m hypomanic. I am pretty good at choosing tasty recipes but unfortunately, my texture preferences and needs change dramatically from when I’m manic and get depressed.

One time a few months ago I made a white chicken lasagna and I loved it! So cheesy and delicious I was in heaven. However, I had been making freezer meals for days and going much faster than I should have. I think over the course of three days I had made 6 chicken enchilada casseroles 60  bacon cheddar meatballs 2 pepperoni pizza penne casseroles and 30 or so keto breakfast burritos and then I made these 2 chicken lasagnas. I cleaned up the best I could as I went but it definitely got out of hand and I crashed.

So the next day I go to heat up the lasagna for lunch and I couldn’t only gag down about 5 bites before I just tossed it. Luckily my parents came to my house the next day (they come once a week)  and they had no problems with the lasagna, which is a relief that it didn’t suck and sad and frustrating that things change so quickly for me.

So this is where my recipes come in. Often when I’m depressed and hate cooking I resort to things like corn dogs, taquitos, chimichangas, and pizzas to survive those times. It is unhealthy and I have guilt over that since I know proper diet is so essential for balancing my bipolar. However, I am the type that if I don’t eat something easy and simple I wouldn’t eat at all and something is better than nothing.

Enter my solution, homemade freezer meals. This serves as a three fold solution:

  1. It allows me to heat up easy healthy meals when I’m depressed and have zero desire to cook.
  2. It allows me to release some of that anxious energy when I’m hypomanic and obsessed with cooking and consumption. Instead of having a fridge full of leftovers that my young family of 5 can’t eat before they go bad, I am able to stock my freezer and double cook (cook some for now and freeze some for later).
  3. It ensures I have meals on hand so if I am called on to serve my neighbors I can take a meal easily even if I am depressed and feel good about myself while serving others.

I will be making these videos of my favorite go-to freezer meals that always taste good to me. You can also find a board on Pinterest with a few ideas if your tastes are different from mine with ideas for other similar meals that could work.

I am in love with the background. Don’t you just love how it turned out? If you love the look you can duplicate it here.

If you have found strategies that work for you with this shift in textures or had a different experience, please let me know in the comments or shoot me an email :).

Blythe

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