Diary of a Self-Help Book Junkie My name is Lisa and I’m a Self-Help book junkie. Yes. There. I can admit it. I’ve read them all, from Dr. Phil to Gretchen Rubin. The Happiness Project, Choosing Happiness, The Joy of Less, The Bounce Back Book, The Miracle Morning, The Motivation Manifesto and many, many more of these “how to” books line the shelves in my home office. I even read How to Finish Your Dissertation Once and For All and Get On With Your Life while doing my doctoral work. (Great book by the way). So, what am I up to now?
I CAN’T DO THIS…BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY Some people refer to us as “bipolar sufferers” and that may well be true. Personally, I like to refer to myself as a “bipolar survivor”. It has caused those that I love and me, much pain and anguish – even costing me my marriage. But don’t count me out yet. After many, many trials of meds over the course of about ten years, I had finally found a combination that all but eradicated my mania (with just a shallow bout with hypomania now and then), and left me with depression that I can usually work through with many strategies and “tricks of the trade”. I have been taking the same combination of meds at very high doses for almost 10 years now with no major changes. Until now.
In talking to a friend of mine who also lives with bipolar about my extreme fatigue and aimlessness, he told me it sounded like depression to him. We discussed it for a bit, the various shades depression takes on from time to time: the listlessness, hopelessness, times when the world just seems to exist in a monochromatic shade of grey. I realized then, that he was quite right. I’m not “unhappy” necessarily, I’m not sleepy per se, but I feel heavy, weighed down, dragging my body from chair to desk to bed, somehow barely making it through the day and thinking, “ If I could just have a burst of energy, If I could only get motivated, If only I could think more clearly, if only…”
Do you ever hear the voices inside your head ask yourself, "What is wrong with me?"
I do. All the time. Especially when I am overwhelmed with tasks, duties, obligations and deadlines. I find myself stuck in a perpetual loop of procrastination-based activities. I Facebook. I Pinterest. I do anything that gives me immediate gratification like answering every email the millisecond it beeps on my computer. I find myself sitting and staring at the...
I just read a great article from Haley on The Tiny Twig on saying "no". She's a blogger and mom of three and busy, busy. In her article she shared that she can't do it all - and that's okay! I began to think seriously about what I say "no" to. Not enough I learned. Saying "yes" out of guilt Maybe it's part of my curious personality, or guilt from childhood, but I really struggle with saying those two little letters to people in my life. When I came into my current position as a college professor, I found there were so many new and interesting possibilities and opportunities that I just didn't say no to enough things. And, when I found myself working 50 hours plus per week, I felt trapped and became so depressed I really struggled to complete tasks for daily living. I found myself going to work with yesterday's makeup touched up and perfume instead of a shower. Taking care of yourself I've learned to check in with myself, but perhaps more importantly, those individuals in my life whose opinion I respect on topics of goals, tasks and projects. I've also learned that when you are a compulsive "yesser", that when you do finally gain the insight to begin saying no to a few things people really find it difficult to accept. But no matter, I must take care of my health and so I'm learning to say no to more and more things in my life. Here are just a few of them.
What Keeps Me Going, Even Though I Live With Bipolar There was a time I could not speak for myself, let alone anyone else. I was too depressed or too manic to even know where I was, who I was and I could barely lift a finger to help myself. Things got worse before they got better. For the ten years following my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I changed doctors 5 times and medication combinations more than 14 times. Shortly after being diagnosed, I was hired as a teacher for a special education class for emotionally disturbed adolescents. Ironic, eh? I’m a pretty smart cookie and a great actress. I can fake it until I make it in almost any situation and that’s exactly what I did. Like so many of my students, I held it together long enough to get through the school day, but when I left the school grounds, I was, well, frankly, a mess. At least I had the education and intelligence to know something was wrong with me and I could keep asking for help – searching for answers – until my last and current pdoc found the combination of medications 10 years ago that I’m still taking today. But what makes the difference for me on a daily basis?
One thing I’ve learned about living life while Bipolar, is, ya gotta be flexible. I mean, you never know when a mood will strike you – good or bad, down or up, fast or slow – and you’ve got to be ready to take advantage of the good, and get through the bad. Tricks and Strategies I’ve written a lot in past articles about my tricks and strategies for living successfully with Bipolar disorder: supreme organization, tight schedules, religious meds and doctor visits, and positive self-talk. I’ve even written asking for ideas for more strategies to get through the tough times. A toolbox full of strategies for anyone living with a mental illness is a necessity, not a luxury.
I rise at 4 a.m. A new year brings many new expectations – by us, for us and from others for us. Living up to these expectations is a painful burden, one we should consider shirking. As a college professor and single mother of three daughters in college, I find I have many demands placed on my emotional energy. This time of year is so hard, the cold, the dreary days, weigh me down until I feel like I am trudging through my day mired in thick mud.
Organization Nerd One skill of mine that has kept me on track most of the time as a person that lives with Bipolar Disorder, is my ability to organize space, paperwork, and ideas. It’s also one of the things I listed on my last article on recovering after a holiday depression that I needed to put into practice. As part of my three-year review at the university where I work, I am tasked with creating a portfolio, which covers the last three years’ worth of work that I’ve completed or participated in during that time. The portfolio is divided into three main areas: Teaching & Advising, Scholarship & Research, and Church & Community Service. Time for QOL Reflection In building this portfolio, I had begun to do some reflecting on the past few years as well, and it being the end of 2014, and heading into 2015, reflection just seemed like the right time to take stock of my Quality of Life (QOL).
Depression During the Holidays I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks. This season with its “holiday cheer” and dark, fog-filled weather, has had me in one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced in over a year. And although my house has been the family hub for celebrations from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, I’ve been struggling to keep my nose above the water. Oh, I’ve played the “I’m fine” card, but my kids know the real me – angry, sad, short-tempered and highly anxious. It’s been a hard thing to get through, even with my online support group – Group Beyond Blue on Facebook. But now that the cooking and baking is done, the wrappings cleaned up, and the house quiet for a few days at least, I am left to pick up the pieces of myself that I’ve left strewn all over the place. Starting Over I feel like I’m starting over once yet again. Picking up the pieces of relationships I’ve broken and damaged and learning to forgive myself again and again for something that is out of my control: my unstable mood.