Balancing Your Bipolar

My book Balancing Your Bipolar is now live on Amazon! It has been a crazy few months and many things have changed since the last time I posted. I have been busy with the book but I hope to be posting more regularly here now that the majority of the work is done.

I am learning a lot about myself and how to push out of my comfort zone. Publishing a book has been very exciting but very scary as well.

It is nerve-wracking and stressful to put myself out there. I also hit a depression cycle right after I finished final edits of my book. Talk about bad timing!

I have had to put the techniques I wrote to work on myself and I have seen great results. It is not perfect, nor easy but it is completed and I keep telling myself I can do hard things.

Now a little about the book:

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Balancing Your Bipolar: A Holistic Approach to Living a Life You Love helps loved ones and people who have bipolar to work to have a life of balance and learn to love their life. It also shares my story, to help you know what is possible and that I have been there.

Some of the tools you can learn in the book include:

  • managing activity level
  • managing food issues
  • building a basic exercise routine
  • dealing with other’s perceptions
  • managing your expectations

You will also learn the basics of bipolar disorder, and how it can really feel to be trapped inside a body that won’t always cooperate.

 

I hope you will check it out! I would love to hear what you think let me know in the reviews or comments below!

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My Book Cover and Title

I would love feedback on my cover and title. What do you like what don’t you like and what could be more clear.

The book is a memoir of my life focusing on my diagnosis of bipolar and creating balance with my new self and how others with mental illness can accept their diagnosis and create balance too.

Also if you would like to be part of my launch group and receive a free copy of the book and help promote please join me here: https://m.facebook.com/groups/772839569583820

EDIT: I should mention my amazing cover artist is my sister in law Ariel Edwards.

Also I’m considering other sub titles such as replacing “ups and downs” with bipolar or mental health.

A Hilarious Afternoon with Love and Logic

Friday I went shopping with all of my available kids twice! I forgot that my friend who can’t drive a car right now needed to go shopping too. When I got home she texted me and even though I was just done shopping, I piled the kids in the car and headed back to the store with her to go shopping.

Before leaving, I finished up balancing my budget and entering my receipts in Ibotta. I got back $16.25 and only spent $80!!!! That part was awesome.

So I piled my three girls in the backseat and went to pick up my friend and away we went. I had bought the girls new water bottles that day and they were guzzling down water on the way there. As soon as we got there Taylia asked for the bathroom so we split up and I took her to go. We then met back up and here comes the love and logic piece. I told my girls “I let girls stay in the store with me who don’t cause problems”. It was a perfect opportunity for a lesson in store behavior since I didn’t need to be in the store. I had already shopped.

Addison tested first and I warned more than is advisable but as soon as she started screaming we took off outside. Taylia was upset saying but I didn’t cause problems but she needed to come with me. I took her hand and she was calming telling me “I’m going to bite you if you don’t let me stay!” I eventually let go and she followed me luckily. Addy of course screamed bloody murder the whole way.

As soon as we got to the car I buckled up Addy and waited outside for a bit. I then discovered Rachel had had a blow out. So I changed her diaper on the front seat and then threw it away. I had been smart and parked by the cart collection which had a trash. Then Addy said “I won’t cause any more pwobelems (problems)” I had the presence of mind to say “I know you won’t and I’m happy to let you try again next time.”

Then after letting Addy out she wanted to change her wet diaper so back to the trash I went all while the women in the car across from me is watching me I’m sure thinking I’m crazy. When I get back Addy had peed on her pants. So I put them aside and put on a diaper for her. Then Taylia says she has to pee again. There is no way I’m going back inside so I give her a diaper and help her put it on. She pees in it and I’m out throwing away yet another diaper.

By this time we have run into our bishop the leader of our church, his son and family, the relief society presidency member who is my friend and my other friend texted she was there too and she is my visiting teacher. They of course are all asking if I need help lol. “no, I’m just having a Love and Logic lesson.”

So then my poor friend has trouble with her transaction and it takes longer than anticipated but we make it home and after dropping her off my daughter goes into manipulation 101 saying how it’s not fair she can’t go to her school carnival and I’m saying “I know…” My Love and Logic brain dead parent phrase to avoid arguing. Then come to find out later the carnival was cancelled due to weather.

I just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the day. But I came out in one piece and I didn’t lose my temper or yell! Progress!!

Quick, Easy, Outfit Choices

I have been so amazed by project 333 in the last month! I started on July 19 officially and I just barely went through all of my clothes. I did some laundry in between but not too much. I am just amazed how many outfits I got out of that few of items. Plus I used every single item! No way I would have done that in the past.

I really enjoy each outfit and it has been so easy to pick just like all the minimalist posts about paring down your wardrobe say. It makes it easier not harder to pick your outfits because you love all your clothes. There isn’t a single clothing item that I kept that I hate or even mildly dislike.

I haven’t even wanted to shop all that much because I have what I need and want and each day is fun. It might be nice to have one or two more nice shirts for Sunday, because I don’t have many plain white or light shirts that go well with my skirts. Other than that though really no complaints. I think I have a good mix of casual and dressy at about half and half. On the whole I think I have looked a lot nicer.

Another added bonus is I have gone up and down and haven’t needed to change my whole wardrobe. What I have works for both ups and downs at this point. It was comfy enough for the dreary days and bright enough for my bold days.

Today’s outfit was a quick pick that took about thirty seconds altogether. I grabbed a shirt and grabbed pants and I was done. I’m going to a doctor’s appointment so I skipped leggings or pajamas like I was wearing earlier.

I love this outfit. It is bright and cute and casual all rolled into one. The pants stand out but the top is simple and comfy plus it has an added bonus of being very easy to nurse in. It also doesn’t need an under shirt which is nice both because of the weather and because of the hassle an undershirt adds to nursing.

My wardrobe will change again most likely when I stop nursing. I tend to lose 10-15 lbs when I stop and that changes my size dramatically plus I don’t have to worry about easily moving shirts to nurse. I have kept a large box or two of clothes in lower sizes for this reason. Eventually I hope to have a nursing 33 items, a post nursing, pregnancy and winter and summer. I hope there is a great deal of overlap in these as I don’t want to keep 150 items always. I also don’t want to have to buy all new clothes in these different phases either. Although I can get them cheap I can’t always get exactly what I want when I want it.

I think once my oldest girl is in school next week I should have a little more time to sort these different wardrobes at least the winter one that is coming up. I will be the same size so I can go through and get rid of the excess. I’m sure I have a ton.

One struggle I have found is my husband still has tons of clothes and when I ran out of t-shirts I did use two of his before doing laundry. Really this is just laziness. I can’t wait though until he will go through and at least get rid of the items he no longer likes. I have found though and it is recommended on many minimalism blogs to worry about you first and let others follow at their own pace.

For now, we have the storage space and a great deal to spare so we can afford to keep his clothes without getting a storage unit or anything. We don’t even have a basement or garage but we do have two rooms basically dedicated to storage.

The rest of our house is getting leaner though and I enjoy getting rid of a box here and a bag there as I slowly trim the fat.

Shift in Direction

I have decided to make a shift in how I will be running my blog. Instead of writing my blog and then coming out with a book I’m going to start writing my book now. I think because of this that I will be mainly focusing on my project 333 posts and my side posts and holding off on my memoir post for now until I have a better idea what direction I want to take with them.

 

I would like to get the book written and then be able to take a chapter or an idea from the book and elaborate some from it. I don’t want to duplicate content too much but I would like to make some of the content free if people want that option.

 

I will continue posting on a weekly basis and maybe twice weekly sometimes. I have been thinking about the book and waffling with what to do about the blog. Now that I have decided how I want to move forward I’m hoping I will be able to do so with confidence.

 

I would like to make my first food post soon. I think it will be when I make my keto enchiladas for Conrad. I have been eating about half keto half regular recently. I am not ready to take the full plunge, especially while nursing. However, I enjoy cooking that way and I think it can be a great option for many people.

 

When I do make the enchiladas I will get footage for a video. Until then I will have to figure out a logo for my videos and how I want them to look.

 

I love cooking and it is definitely something I want to share with you all.

My Experience with Project 333

I just noticed this as I posted the feature photo at the top of this post, we can play a game of where’s the baby :).

 

I have a friend who gets a shipment of second-hand clothes in good condition about every month or so. She then sells the extras for $1 an item or $20 for a 13-gallon trash bag. It is an awesome deal but it also leaves me with a very full wardrobe. I decided recently to pare it down so I went to the extreme as usual and I will only have 33 items in my wardrobe including shoes!

 

I have been researching minimalism for a few months. I love the idea of having less to clean up and a less cluttered space not just from organizing but also from simply owning fewer things. In this research, I came across project 333 which is basically 33 items including shoes and accessories for three months.

 

My goal is to refrain from purchasing any new clothes for the three months and see how it goes. So far it has been awesome. It’s been about two weeks. After the three months, it will be time to go through my clothes for winter and see if I have any missing items and how much more I can get rid of. I already have taken six small bags and two big ones to second-hand stores.  

 

I started mostly with clothes as it is easier to quantify and account for what I needed. I also have a cheap way of getting clothes where I live so I had too much by a lot and it would also be easy to replace if I got rid of too much.

 

So I started by going through and putting away anything that wasn’t my size or nursing friendly. This got rid of a ton of my current clothes actually leaving me with holes. So I shopped at my second-hand supplier a few times to fill those gaps with a few items.

 

Then I went through and pared down to 30-40 items. My goal was 33 like project 333. I made it very close and had another half trash bag full of clothes in my closet to donate if I didn’t use them. I haven’t touched them. However, I did cave and go shopping once more. It’s tough when it’s so affordable. My new idea though will be a one for one trade if I can’t help shopping. But for these first 90 days, until Halloween is my goal, I won’t shop for clothes for me at all.  

 

So two weeks ago I went through what I put out the last time but kept in my closet and I donated all of it there wasn’t even one item I missed and wanted to pull out. This isn’t winter gear it is all summer stuff. This, of course, doesn’t include undergarments or socks or pajamas although I minimize that too. I only have two robes and 2-3 pairs of pajama pants. It’s too hot for that right now anyway.

 

I will take a picture most days of my outfit and we shall see how many different outfits can be made.

 

It is a fun project and takes some discipline but I’m hoping to do this again in the winter so I only have 50-55 total items. I figure some will transfer seasons.

 

So far I have had some fun outfits and I found a great app called Smart Closet that makes the process of keeping track of my outfits and what I have much easier. I took a picture of each item I own which isn’t too hard when it’s only 33 photos. The app then does an okay job about half the time of Auto cropping the item. It’s pretty quick to crop manually too.

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I have been amazed how much I have loved getting dressed! It has significantly cut down on my debating time and I really can just pick something and I love it. The fewer options make it easier rather than harder to choose what to wear. I wore just about everything before I was ready to wash clothes so that was new not having oodles of clothes to wear. It’s good though I need a kick in the pants to do the laundry occasionally and I love that there aren’t tons of items in my closet that I never wear.

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I’m excited to see how I feel after the full 3 months. I have already had urges to buy clothes but that is normal and I have successfully resisted so far.

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.

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.

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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The Reality of a Bipolar Kitchen