About Suicide… Addressing Matt Walsh on Robin Williams

I have to say that I have never liked Matt Walsh’s blog. Hesadness-701907-m comes across as so very unforgiving and uncaring about people who do whatever it is he’s currently bashing. He seems so black and white and hateful in his rhetoric it is irritating. I seriously feel upset and sick inside when I read his blog, even though I might tangentially agree with what he’s talking about. I just can’t handle it. (I feel this way about a lot of talking heads.) His experiences seem to be the only ones that matter and mean anything; who cares about what others feel and think and have experienced on the subject? There’s no leniency from him.

It really upset me when I saw his blog about Robin Williams though.

Yeah, I guess you have a “choice” when you commit suicide, but when the choice seems to be between a world where you are a burden on people who seem to no longer love and care for you, where you are in agony and despair because you know you are useless and can’t do anything right and everything is going wrong and it all seems like it will never get better … While on the other hand you have what seems like a way to release your family and friends from having to deal with you and your uselessness as well as have peace in your mind… The choice is distorted and weighted the opposite way you would think. It takes immense strength to choose not to die in that moment. Everything seems to tell you it’s the right thing, to leave this world, and it can be incredibly hard to not go through with it.

downloadOn top of that, Robin was believed to have bipolar disorder, which carries somewhere around twice the risk of suicide as unipolar depression, a different beast than Matt intimates he suffers from. There is a much higher risk (as we see in Robin’s life) of substance abuse and such things that bring even more crushing guilt and feelings of uselessness and impaired judgement.

Just because Matt has in the past chosen not to commit suicide doesn’t mean he will always be that way. When an episode is bad enough, a person who has been lucid and had time to think enough to say no in the past may drop past the level where they can no longer make any sort of choice and, unlike in depression where often people don’t have the drive to carry anything out and so have time to talk themselves out of it, people with bipolar in a mixed state feel a pressure from their mind and an energy (it’s almost a compulsion) to do something about their agony. But, you know, since Matt hasn’t committed suicide yet, I guess nobody has a real reason to do so. It’s just cause, y’know, they don’t have joy in their soul.

Ouch.

Yes, I have a soul and it has its own unique qualities and abilities and my soul has power over my body and mind, but it doesn’t have complete control over my asthma, my hypothyroid or my bipolar disorder. My asthma could kill me just as certainly as my bipolar disorder could in the right circumstances, but with both I do my best to use medication to keep them from taking over my body and doing so. 

I don’t expect everyone with cancer is those peppy happy fighters we hear about all the time, where nothing ever gets them down and they pass away with a smile on their face. Just because some people with cancer live their lives that way doesn’t mean that those who don’t, haven’t tried or can’t or aren’t as good of a person as the ones who do. We all struggle differently and we all have circumstances and turns of events that others don’t know the full extent of. I try my best never to judge people for this reason. I have no idea what’s going on in their hearts and minds.

Anyway, people who are in the depths of depression should certainly not get the impression that suicide is the answer. It’s not. (And if you are one who is struggling with it now, don’t do it. Things will get better if you wait it out. Someone does love you and will be crushed if you were to die. The world does need you and knows you more than you think it does.) The idea comes from distorted thinking that is yes, chemical (as a person with bipolar disorder you can see the chemical pattern more clearly, it is like a light switch on a timer going from light to dark rather than a random event), though you can sometimes teach your brain to rewire to an extent with therapy and practice but sometimes/often needs augmentation with chemicals.

When someone is depressed, they don’t need to buck up and see the blessings they have and just “be joyful”, they need to be looked at in the eye and told they are needed, loved and that you would personally be crushed if they were lost, and they need to know you are sincere. And then they need help from a professional, if they are contemplating suicide… And hopefully you will try to help make sure they follow through if you really do care. Stay with them if you can.

All that said, if someone does commit suicide that you love and you didn’t stop it (it’s ok if you were fearful or didn’t know or couldn’t be there or think you said or didn’t say something), you can’t hold the blame. You did the best you could and you can’t force people to do what you want them to do, especially when they aren’t thinking right. 

That’s all of my ramblings for now! Just had to get that off of my chest.

Just for reference, my grandmother suffered from bipolar disorder (she did not stay on medication) and crushed everyone when she committed suicide despite seeming to “have it all”.

Realistic Weight Loss

Image Before I even start, read this article: http://m.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/incredible-weight-loss-myths-exposed?page=single

This information is really good and really accurate. Keep it in mind as you read on.

Having been successful at weight loss in the past, and being an obsessive researcher, I thought I’d share with all you all New Years Resolutioners how to do this thing. Not through magic diet pills, detoxes or juice cleanse, just through old fashioned work.

I’m working on weight loss myself again. With my recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder, came a lot of lack of motivation, fogginess in the brain, hard time remembering and sticking to things and lack of energy. I was put on a medication called Lithium, a natural substance that generally works very well at helping bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of this medication came in the form of TSH (Thyroid hormone) levels three times what they should have been, putting me in the unfortunate position of dealing with the effects of hypothyroid. These just added on to the effects of my bipolar disorder. In the end, it means I gained a bunch of weight and wanted to be a slug for the rest of my life.

Anyway, long story short, longer – I’m on thyroid medication now and on a different mood stabilizer and anti-depressant (Geodon and Wellbutrin, for those who care) and sugar makes me want to vomit(?!?). It seems to be a weird side effect of one of the meds, and I’m not complaining complaining a lot. My brain is finally starting to feel better. I can tell because I’m making something called Bouillabaisse for dinner this week, I’m writing a blog post, and I started writing my novel again. Yay for that!

I also learned this week that all forms of hormonal birth control turn me into a really aggressive person who wants to punch people. I don’t know why, since I’m pretty much a very passive person that hates yelling and violence and anger, but BC turns me into the Hulk, except for I’m not green and bulky. Sucky. My only other options, besides the old standby, are sterilization and Paragard, both of which cost way too much money. Thanks, Obama (sarcasm).

Ok, I swear, I’m done with the life story.

Before I start this, I must note that I am a cheap person. And this is why I use this as opposed to going to a crossfit box or whatever. I would love to do crossfit, but it is REALLY expensive.

So, on to HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT FOR CHEAP ACCORDING TO ME AND SCIENCE:

Commitment

is the number one thing. You need to make a plan, then commit that you’ll do the steps no matter what the results. It’s the habit that matters, the weight loss sometimes takes quite a while. Don’t plan to lose 30 lbs; plan to run for 30 minutes 3 times a week and lift weights and count your calories. Specific habit goals. Set a reminder on your phone. I know you have one that will let you set alarms. I use an app called “Life Reminders” which is ugly and makes awful alarm noises (which, I suppose I could change, but the awful noises make me move faster and also I am lazy), but which reminds me on a schedule that I need to take my meds, set up appointments, go to the gym, whatever.

Smart Workouts Where You Push Yourself

I’ve recently discovered a thing called HIIT which when I started doing it was the worst thing ever, it seemed like, but now I realize that it’s actually really awesome. Instead of plodding along at an 11 minute mile pace for time immeasurable, I warm up for 10 minutes, jog slowly for 90 seconds and then run as fast as I can for 30 seconds. Then I repeat until 20 minutes is up. Then I cool down. I’ve done HIIT twice and I’m already seeing that my jog speed and my fastest run speed are going up. And it is WAY more interesting than endurance running, though it is tough to get used to. HIIT can be done with the cardio activity of your choice, not just running. Jump rope, cycling, etc all work too.

Treadmills at the gym usually have an option to do speed training, which is what HIIT is. It will let you put in your jog speed (you can even walk instead of jog, it’s still ok) and then your run speed (as fast as you think you can run for fifteen seconds when you’re starting out) and you just press the button to toggle. There are some HIIT apps that will tell you when to press the button (or run faster/slower if you’re outside) and now that I think about it, I should get one so I don’t have to stare at the time display while I’m trying to watch Firefly on my phone. Hmm.

ImageHere’s an article, geared toward guys, but still good info, about how HIIT helps you burn more calories than endurance running EVEN WHEN YOU’RE DONE EXERCISING FOR THE DAY. This is something that really does “kickstart your metabolism” (unlike a juice cleanse… yuck.) It also builds muscle, where endurance running does not. And also, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn walking around. It’s fantastic.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ultimate-8-week-hiit-for-fat-burning-program.html

The website has a nice program for beginners, intermediate, etc too. It’s geared toward men, but don’t let that put you off if you’re a woman. You’re not going to turn into a creepily muscular woman if you do HIIT. You will never produce enough testosterone to look like a man just because you ran too much or lifted too heavy.
If you choose to endurance run, which is fine, just make sure that every day you are pushing yourself and increasing your speed or distance, whatever suits your fancy. Otherwise your body stops burning as many calories as it was when you first started running and the fat burn stops.

This will help you lose more fat than running in the supposed “fat burn heart rate zone”. That does indeed use fat as fuel, but in higher intensities, your body burns the carbs you’ve eaten instead as fuel, then later moves on to the fat. You will lose more fat by burning more calories through the same amount of HIIT, than by running in the “Fat Burn Zone”. See this article for more info.

http://m.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/incredible-weight-loss-myths-exposed?page=single

THE MYTH:
EXERCISE IN THE FAT-BURNING ZONE

THE TRUTH:
The “fat-burning zone” lies between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. When you exercise at this low intensity, your body draws energy from fat. As your heart rate goes up, more energy comes from carbs. So it seems logical that to lose fat you should keep your heart rate low, says Jason Karp, Ph.D., owner of Runcoachjason.com. But that’s not the case.

“Running at higher intensities causes you to burn a lower percentage of fat calories in favor of carbs,” says Karp, “but you use more total calories.” And that’s the key to slimming down. Plus, since you torch more total calories, the absolute amount of fat burned actually increases, too. So it pays to pick up the pace.

Of course, lower intensity exercise still has its place. Long, slow runs build aerobic fitness and endurance. But to kickstart a pokey metabolism, you need intensity. Karp suggests interval training (condensed runs that mix in intense efforts with recovery) because studies have found these workouts burn more calories during and after exercise (see “Torch Calories” below for Karp’s interval workout). “It also cuts down on boredom,” he says, “which makes it more likely you’ll stick with your program.”

 

Weight Lifting

ImageIncorporate weight lifting into your routine. It strengthens and builds your muscles, which help you burn more fat and helps you look toned. Lift as much or as little as you want, you’ll never look like a manly woman by lifting weights. You have to take testosterone supplements to look like those people. It also strengthens your bones, which is good for when you are old and whatnot.

This website is my favorite for weight lifting info. You can read through all the information if you want to learn how weight lifting affects men and women and what benefits it has, or you can just look at this page that I’ve linked to for a good beginning routine. This is the routine I use and I like it a lot. He has intermediate and harder ones set up as well. You will want to look on Youtube to see how to properly lift and start with low weight while you’re learning proper form.

http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-beginner-weight-training-workout-routine/

Eating Right

ImageI have a huge amount of disdain for “diets”. They are generally fads that will, in ten years when we look back, be silly. Yes, even you, Paleo. People latch onto diets, juice cleanses, detoxes, etc because they are in vogue, not because there’s actual science behind them. I know, high protein diets are fashionable right now, but low-fat ones were fashionable ten years ago and now most science tells us that was stupid. And we all know what happened with the cabbage soup and grapefruit diets… (My mom made us do the grapefruit diet eating as a kid because it was “healthy” and I will never forget the horrificness of it)

This page again:

http://m.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/incredible-weight-loss-myths-exposed?page=single

THE MYTH:
TO LOSE WEIGHT, CUT CARBS OR FAT

THE TRUTH:
Most get-thin-fast plans revolve around the idea that restricting your intake of one particular nutrient, usually carbs or fat, is the best way to lose weight. But the results of a 2009 New England Journal of Medicine study suggest otherwise. For two years, participants followed one of four calorie-restricted diets with varying amounts of carbs, protein, and fat. After 24 months, all participants lost about the same amount of weight (just nine pounds). “This study proves that calories are the most important factor for weight loss,” says Tara Gidus, R.D., a Florida-based sports dietitian and marathoner. “To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn—regardless of what percentage of carbs, protein, or fat you’re eating.” Gimmicky diets just distract us from this simple truth. Here’s how runners can learn to reduce their total caloric intake to kick start weight loss—and still have energy to run their best.

1 FIND YOUR CALORIE BURN
To estimate the number of calories you use during daily living and exercise, go to nutritiondata.com/tools/caloriesburned. Plug in your sex, age, weight, height, lifestyle (meaning, you’re deskbound, or you’re always moving at work), and exercise regularity.

2 START SUBTRACTING
Trim 10 to 15 percent off of that calorie total—but don’t cut more than 500 calories per day. “This is conservative compared to most diets, but it’s realistic if you want to sustain training,” says Gidus. Record what you eat, and tally your calorie intake with the huge database at nutritiondata.com.

3 KEEP UP THE EXERCISE
A recent study reported that subjects who cut calories or cut calories and exercised lost the same amount of weight. But the diet-and-exercise group improved their aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, and blood pressure—without having to go into starvation mode.

4 BE PATIENT
Gidus says a healthy weight-loss goal for overweight runners is one to two pounds a week. “Trying to drop more than this can eat away at muscle, leave you fatigued when you run, and slow your metabolism, making weight loss more challenging,” she says.

 

Cut calories. That’s IT. It’s a simple as that. Eat fewer calories than you are burning and your body will use fat as fuel. I use MyFitnessPal on my phone to keep track of my percentages and vitamins and calories. There are other good apps though, or pencil and paper if you don’t want to be fancy. Get a food scale to really help you learn how to measure calories in a portion.

And carbs are not your enemy. There’s a reason why the top athletes out there (Michael Phelps… boy, he’s sure a fatty) eat lots of pancakes on race day. Carbs are fuel for your muscles. It’s the calories that matter for weight loss.

If you want to cut calories by drinking juice or taking detox pills, I guess you can, just realize that juice/pills do not “detox” your body or “kickstart weight loss” (please, find me an actual scientific study that says it does. And no, an article on Natural News doesn’t count as a scientific study.), it deprives your body of important nutrients and makes you feel sick and makes you lose water weight, which they call detoxing, but is not. It’s a placebo. And no, that weight you lost was not sustainable. It’s also really bad for your insulin levels. Sugar from any source without fiber and fat to temper it will cause your insulin to spike.

Here’s a great op-ed on the whole detox thing:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-detox-scam-how-to-spot-it-and-how-to-avoid-it/

Now, this does mean you can conceivably lose weight by eating only a half a box of Oreos every day and nothing else. (I have done this.) But you won’t feel good.

Feeling good is a different thing entirely from weight loss and what you eat doesn’t help you lose weight, it’s really really how much you eat. IF you want to feel good AND lose weight, then follow this plan:

ImageYou generally want to try to cut out sugar entirely if you can, or to a reasonable amount every day (this is my biggest hurdle. It’s easier for me to cut sugar out and get it out of the house than to limit it, honestly. Sugar is really really a useless empty thing that just makes you gain weight and makes you feel happy temporarily. And it’s SO ADDICTIVE). Then, according to reliable sources (including, but not limited to, the government’s and any real nutritionist’s health guidelines as well as http://m.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/incredible-weight-loss-myths-exposed?page=single) , eat 50-55% of your calories in healthy carbs, homemade whole grains, beans, VEGETABLES, FRUIT, etc. (Unrelatedly, did you know apples have natural fluoride in them and keep your teeth healthy and the fiber cleans your teeth off? This interests me, so I thought I’d share. Apples are nature’s toothbrushes.)

25-30% of calories in fats. Nuts, extra virgin olive oil, some saturated fats like butter, egg yolks, whatever, as long as it’s within your calorie goal. No trans fats.

15 to 25% of calories in protein. Protein is good for you, but too much is not good for you. Keep it in range. Some people have good results with higher amounts of protein, but really, you don’t need to eat a whole ton of meat to be healthy. I’m a mostly non-tofu-eating vegetarian and am able to lose weight and build muscle just fine (you should try leg wrestling me some time. Also, I can lift a lot more than most of the women also lifting at the gym). I eat about 15% protein through occasional eggs and dairy, mostly beans and quinoa and stuff like that, without even trying. My levels of iron, b-12, etc, etc (‘cept my thryroid) are fine, even when I’m not on supplements.

If you are a meat eater, try venturing into the scary land of making bone broth (bone marrow is really good for you and if you don’t think about it too much, it tastes good) and eating occasional organ meats, which are also very good for you. Of course, eating fish (best for you) and chicken is good, and red meat is fine too. It doesn’t really matter because you shouldn’t be eating a lot of meat every day so it doesn’t make that much difference what type of meat you eat. I mean, really, cut down on your meat consumption. Especially if it’s fast food meat. Yuck.

And those are really my points, here. I hope this helps someone out there. 🙂 Good luck to you! Stick to your goals no matter what! You can do this!
Cheers,

Christina

 

My Bipolar Experience – World Mental Health Day

I’m not especially good at writing personal narratives, but I feel like I should share my experience with bipolar disorder. Today is World Mental Health Day and as I’ve considered writing this blog post in the past, today seemed like a good day to do it. I am hoping that it will help you to understand bipolar disorder a little better. Maybe get rid of some stigmas. Maybe help somebody who has been struggling with something similar. Or maybe none of these things will happen, because I’m just a romantic.

People tend to skip over things on their Facebook feeds about mental health, I’ve noticed. It’s easily dismissed in our culture for some reason, like it’s imaginary or as ridiculous as the ideas of the wingnut birther friend you have. It’s sad that we feel this way, as 1 out of every 4 people has at least a brush with a mental health problem. From anxiety to schizophrenia, you know someone who has one of these issues of the mind. And they’re not imaginary.

I’ll be telling you about just one of these mental illnesses. Bipolar Disorder.

Let me give you some background here. The earliest advent of bipolar disorder in my family, that I know of, was with my great-grandmother – Sylvia. She was committed to a mental hospital at a young age, so presumably she had Bipolar I, perhaps with psychosis, if it was bad enough to be committed. I don’t know. Apparently, back then there wasn’t good enough treatment for her to remain free. I can only imagine how hellish that was for her, as being committed was pretty much like being in jail. For the rest of your life. Her daughter, also named Sylvia, was adopted to another family. I’m not sure if it was related to great-grandmother’s mental illness or not, but probably.

My grandmother, Sylvia, was diagnosed bipolar as well. She took lithium for it, but either it didn’t work well enough or she went off of it, as she had some troubles with the disorder (she was bipolar I, I will explain more about what happens with the disorder later) and eventually, when I was a young girl of about 4 years old, took her own life. Devastating to everyone.

My own mother went through much of my young life thinking she had depression. She took medication for it, but this did not help very much. When you have bipolar disorder, taking depression medication alone can aggravate your condition, instead of helping it. She was often tired, she had a hard time dealing with it and was eventually hospitalized for it several times. Finally, when I was a teenager, they put her on lithium (a mood stabilizer) and it helped a lot. She eventually went on to have ECT and has changed medications and is just now starting to feel completely better.

Now here’s a description of bipolar disorder.

There are two types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I and II.

Bipolar means that your moods have “episodes” that are manic or depressive. For most people, this means a few times a year, they will have a period of a few weeks where they are manic and a few more weeks where they are depressive, or for most of the year they are depressive, with bouts of manic moods, or vice versa, but their moods don’t swing often. If they aren’t having an episode they are normal. For some people, like me, who have rapid cycling bipolar, they have mood swings every few weeks or days. For a few days, I would be manic, then for a week, depressive.

Here’s a good description from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

Signs & Symptoms

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below.

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:

Mood Changes

  • A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extreme irritability

Behavioral Changes

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being overly restless
  • Sleeping little or not being tired
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors

Mood Changes

  • An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.

Behavioral Changes

  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.

Bipolar disorder can be present even when mood swings are less extreme. For example, some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomania, a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, you may feel very good, be highly productive, and function well. You may not feel that anything is wrong, but family and friends may recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.

Bipolar disorder may also be present in a mixed state, in which you might experience both mania and depression at the same time. During a mixed state, you might feel very agitated, have trouble sleeping, experience major changes in appetite, and have suicidal thoughts. People in a mixed state may feel very sad or hopeless while at the same time feel extremely energized.

Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression has psychotic symptoms too, such as hallucinations or delusions. The psychotic symptoms tend to reflect the person’s extreme mood. For example, if you are having psychotic symptoms during a manic episode, you may believe you are a famous person, have a lot of money, or have special powers. If you are having psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode, you may believe you are ruined and penniless, or you have committed a crime. As a result, people with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

People with bipolar disorder may also abuse alcohol or substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. It may be difficult to recognize these problems as signs of a major mental illness.

Bipolar disorder usually lasts a lifetime. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, but some people may have lingering symptoms.

For me, a stressful period of time just this last year triggered it, so I’m a late diagnosis. One day I would feel great. I would be super happy and excited and the world would be beautiful and my kids so cute and I would get a hundred things done and I was super mom and I loved everyone and I’d buy all the things that we needed and I’d try to get Andrew to let me do things like renovate the kitchen and I couldn’t sleep at night because my mind was going a mile a minute and I was obsessed with researching random things and yes, maybe TMI, but sex was prominently on my mind and every man was attractive (yes. this is embarrassing, but now that I know that it was the manic period talking, I will share this even though it’s hard to. I felt extremely guilty about this, but couldn’t seem to make it go away, no matter what strategies I tried. 😛 )

Then a few days later, I would be so tired and the day would drag. I’d want to sleep all day and I’d take several naps if I could get my children to play outside. I seriously hated my children, my life, and sometimes my husband and would think about things like adopting out my kids or divorcing over Andrew not doing the dishes (WHAT????? YES. IT MAKES NO SENSE.) I’d want to disappear or in some cases, think about/plan suicide (not every time I had a depressive period, just sometimes). I couldn’t remember common words that I knew that I knew, 4 or 5  or more times through the day. I couldn’t remember names of people I knew. I had a hard time explaining anything or staying on track when I was describing things. I couldn’t remember hardly anything about the day previously. I couldn’t focus on reading. I would be mean to everyone and snap at them or spank them for things I normally wouldn’t. I did force myself to take care of my kids with food and diaper changes and stuff, but beyond that hardly anything. I would read my scriptures and pray a lot during the depressive periods, but heard nothing. Felt nothing. Was pretty sure God hated me or, more probably, just didn’t exist since I was doing what I was supposed to and there was nothing. I was praying to figure out what was wrong.

And I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I kept researching brain fog and thought maybe my eating or exercising habits needed to be changed… I was exercising three days a week though, eating a healthy vegetarian diet, and had been for a year. And then, one day, after book club, I was chatting with my friend about things (I was in a depressive period) and the subject of bipolar disorder came up, as she was dealing with it. I asked her some questions about how she felt during the episodes. A light dawned. Waaaaaaaiiiiiiiit a second, my mom has bipolar disorder. Her mom and grandma had bipolar disorder. My sister and brother had bipolar disorder. OH. Yeah, your brain does not work or make connections very well, when you’re in the midst of the disorder (it felt like my problem solving abilities had gone out the window). I looked it up on the internet. Check. Check. Check. Yep, bipolar II (that means your episodes aren’t as extreme as someone with bipolar I. Like, I didn’t go seek out an affair, or spend $1000 on a dress or actually carry out my plans for suicide or anything. Instead, I just was eyeing random guys despite the fact that I adore my husband and he’s fantastic, and spending hundreds of dollars on things we “needed” for the house and planning suicide). Also, this was a direct answer to my prayers. I seriously was getting to the point where I was for reals done with it all and just at the right time, my friend helped me see what I needed.

And this is why watching your friends/spouses for signs of disorders is important. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when you’re having mental problems. You feel like it’s probably something you’re doing wrong, that you can fix without help. You feel guilty about your behavior and worried. You know that most people think that people just don’t try hard enough to self-help and they just go on meds for a crutch. A simple word from a friend, a kind suggestion to “have you seen a psychiatrist to see if they can help you out? My friend knows a good one…” can go A LONG way. Or if you struggle with a disorder, not being afraid to mention it. So others know they’re not alone.

So anyway, now came the hard part. I didn’t want to have bipolar. I thought my mom had it because she didn’t exercise, or eat right, or go outside enough or cooperate with the therapists she’d seen. Or she didn’t read her scriptures and pray enough. Or whatever. It was totally curable with fish oil, sunshine, exercise, therapy and proper food intake, right? And it went away, right? After some research, I realized that it was actually 99% a lifetime disorder. That people get the idea after they’re on medication that they don’t need it anymore because they feel fine. And then they swing into a major depressive episode and kill themselves. Yeeeeaaah. Never ever ever ever ever imply that anyone on medication should go off it. Their doctor and them alone are the judges of that. It’s ok to make suggestions of augmentation (Do you want to come running with me? This MIGHT make your medicine work better!) but you can do some real damage implying that something will “cure” what they have or they don’t need the meds.

And so, I learned that having a good diet will help some medications work better, but not all. Exercise just means you need to make sure you drink more water so you don’t get a lithium overdose. That therapy is nigh on useless (yeah, that was upsetting) because bipolar depression has to do with your prefrontal cortex being small. With salts and neurons not working together right. With circadian rhythms being off. Not hormonal imbalances and things happening in your life to make you depressed (like most unipolar depression, for which generally the things I’ve listed help.)

Here’s a comparison for you.

Regular depression = broken leg

Bipolar = missing leg

Broken legs are put in a cast (medication) to help support the leg as it heals. For some, the cast comes off after a period and the leg is healed. For some, they need physical therapy (… therapy) to strengthen the leg. Some few may need pins/metal put in the leg permanently or never be able to fix the leg entirely and so need crutches/wheelchair (permanent medication). They eat good food to help the leg heal. They exercise to keep it strong. Their leg can be healed permanently sometimes. They might get a broken leg again in the future of course, because you can’t always fix it forever. But often, there is some relief and some hope of never having it again.

Missing legs are gone. You cannot use physical therapy on a missing leg. You cannot exercise a missing leg. You cannot eat good food and grow back your missing leg. It will be gone forever. You have to find a prosthetic (medication) if you want to walk. You will try on several prosthetics. One might be too short. One might be too long. One might give you a rash. One might make you fall down every three months. One might fit just right, but it falls apart after a little while. You might have to put it on while laying on your back to make it fit. Once you find one that mostly works, after a while you might think, I don’t need this prosthetic! And then you fall down and break your other leg.

So anyway, that’s why bipolar is a different beast than depression. My doctor and a few of his assistants were talking to me about therapy, because I was like… wait, can’t I get therapy, just like with unipolar depression? Who’s a good therapist? And they all said, no. You can go to understand the disorder and to recognize when you’re having an episode, but that’s it. One of the assistants told me that in school, a psychiatrist came to talk to them and he was explaining that even as a psychiatrist you can talk to a bipolar all day long, run through exercises and stuff and it changes nothing. They’ll still basically go home feeling the way they did already and kill themselves.

I really really want to mention that telling someone with depression or bipolar disorder that they would feel better if they read their scriptures and say their prayers is a cruel cruel thing to do. It makes them feel like they’re just not good enough for God, and that’s not the case. And you do not “feel better”, by the way. My mom had a doctor tell her this once, and that was devastating (she was already doing those things). For me, the help came from a friend, not any sort of spiritual revelation while praying, and also, when I needed it most, a talk in General Conference about mental disorders that was exactly the right thing. And a Priesthood blessing, coupled with medication, pulled me into a good place. But it had to be direct, because it seems like that spiritual reception antenna is broken in the midst of these episodes. And not everyone will even have that sort of thing happen.

Currently I’m taking lithium (a mood stabilizer) with wellbutrin (an anti-depressant… ok, when taken with a mood stabilizer). Luckily, they seem to mostly be working. They might work for a long time. They might not. It’s really hard to say. They don’t permanently fix the problem even if they are working, because you can still go through depressive/manic cycle… it generally makes them milder and further apart.

One thing that sucks is considering having a baby when you have bipolar disorder. Going off your medication is a bad idea. The stress the bipolar cycling puts on the baby is not a good thing, along with uh, yeah, the chance of suicide. If you’re not on meds after you have the baby, you can have postpartum psychosis (people with psychosis are generally those mothers who end up killing their infants. Yes, they generally have a treatable disorder that no one noticed or was too scared to do anything about. Not to say everyone with psychosis does that… the lady on the news who thought President Obama was talking to her and rammed into the barrier probably had bipolar with psychosis, and she had a one year old.) You need to stay on meds. However, many of the medications can cause problems with a developing baby, so you have to switch to a safer one – which may or may not work as well. Being on an antidepressant while I’m pregnant scares me, as there is some evidence that it is linked with autism (which also appears in my family). And nursing while taking medication is a worry too, as is waking up with the baby every night, which can trigger manic episodes. Also, passing on bipolar disorder to your children is a worry, but I’m glad I was born, even if I do have bipolar disorder to work through. Every child you give birth to will have challenges of one sort or another and at least this one is treatable.

So anyway, be aware that mental illness can seem bizarre and scary and untouchable by you, but we need your support. Your love and help. We don’t know what’s going on either, and so a kind word and a helping hand can be such a comfort when everyone seems to draw away. And I hope this doesn’t scare you away from me. I’m much better now that I’m on meds, and I’m happy again. 🙂 So please be my friend, even though I’m crazy!

Kitchen Upgrade!

Before I start, I wanted to make a shout out to my brother, Zen, who helped me figure out the hard parts of my kitchen. He helped frame and drywall the pantry and helped put in the cabinets and counters and did all the lighting and outlet wiring installaton. We couldn’t have done it without him. I’m lucky to have such a smart brother!

And thank you to the rest of my family who came down and helped with various projects and especially Kyrra who came down everyday for like two weeks to help me do stuff (so much caulking…) and take care of the kids. I have the best family ever!

And last but not least, my husband did a lot of the really dirty work of crawling under the house and in the ceiling and of course helping with everything else. He’s super awesome (and handsome.)

And now on to the pictures! 🙂

So when I bought my house five years ago, the biggest thing that I loved was the kitchen. It was huge compared to other homes we had looked at and it looked like luxury to me. Here is a picture of it:

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Well anyway, over time I realized that the kitchen was REALLY OLD (the hood vent didn’t work, the fan was falling off the ceiling, old chipping laminate countertops and a chipped cast iron sink and there was a thirty year old compactor in there) and so I convinced Andrew to let me rip it up.

And we really ripped it up… We tore out everything except the stove. And now I really do love it. 🙂 I’d say 70% of the work was done by me alone. I dragged cabinets in and out. Ripped them off the wall. Painted. Put in the floor (I had to level it with self-leveler and that was a giant, fun, mess). Mudded the pantry (WORST. THING. EVER.) Cut shelves and supports and trim and drilled and screwed and glued and cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. The pantry was the hardest and most expensive thing, but it is SO awesome. However, pretty much everything was really hard and had complications. So worth it though.

 

But anyway, THE KITCHEN.

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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 Things I love about my kitchen: My microwave is in the pantry instead of taking up counter space. Pantry. Tall new faucet and deep single basin stainless sink. Pot rack. Island counterspace! No more gap between the stove and the counters! My stick-vac is also in the pantry. And also it’s just brighter and nicer and stuff!

Where did I get things?

Pot rack, all countertops – IKEA
Lights – Home depot and KSL
Cabinets (solid maple!) – used KSL
Cabinet pulls and knobs – Somewhere on Ebay
Everything else – Home depot
Paint – Behr Premium Ultra. I used Subtle Touch for the walls, Powdered Snow for the white cabinets and trim and Silver Hill for the dark cabinets.

Finding My Feet

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At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Every time I would try to run or play for extended periods of time, I would be left gasping for breath and feel tingly and panicky from the lack of oxygen. I was given a “rescue” inhaler, told to use it when needed and was left to figure out the details. From that point forward, it was a struggle for me to exercise and maintain my weight. At school, when we were required to run the mile, I would give up after 20 seconds because of the wheezing and it would take me the rest of the mile to get my breath back, even with my inhaler. My mile time was somewhere around 18 minutes.

In February 2012 (at age 26), I started having severe asthma attacks in response to my cottonwood allergies and I had to go see the doctor for help. He prescribed me a daily steroid inhaler and my attacks diminished. I was 60 lbs obese at the time and had just had my third child. Around this time, I heard about a program called “Couch to 5K”. Up to this point, I had made the excuse that I was too tired to exercise and my asthma just wouldn’t allow it. I was too exhausted mentally and physically after taking care of my three children, all age 4 and under, to waste my relaxation time on exercise. However, one day I realized that I didn’t want to wait until I was old and my children were gone to take charge of my health, as my parents had done. I had steroids to keep my asthma from flaring now, so that wasn’t an excuse anymore. I realized that my children were impressionable and the example that I set for them now is the one that they will follow. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just for my health, but for my children’s health that I needed to lose weight and start exercising and that I needed to make time.

A few months later, in early June, I started the couch to 5k program. I told my husband that I would be leaving at 8 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and I would be going running for half an hour, so if any children were still awake or if anything was left undone, it would be his responsibility to take care of them. I looked on the internet for a 5k that I could run in three months that would be my “goal” (a goal is so important, I really think!) and I chose the Racing with Passion 5k in September. My first session of training was tough. I was tired after running for the 60 second spurts and I was slow. I had a hard time breathing, even though I was using the steroids and my rescue inhaler. I just had to keep in mind that this was important and that I could do hard things. That if I gave up, nothing would change and I would end up being like other family members. And I perservered and I made it through that first time. And then I kept working.

The first time I had to run for a mile straight in the program, I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. But I tried it and I did it. And then that mile became two miles and then three miles. I discovered that instead of being more tired and grouchy during the day, as I thought would be the case after adding running into my regimen, I was actually a lot happier and more kind to my children and somehow, I had more energy. (The only time I skipped running was one week with a health problem, I stuck to the training nights that I said I would and I knew that if I made an excuse for “just tonight, I will not run” that I would stop running and my hard work would be for naught. If I came home from something late on a night that I was supposed to run, I went running anyway.) I lost 30 pounds over those three months and I’m working on the other 30.

When September came and it was time for my “goal” 5k, I didn’t know what I was doing, so I lined up with the other people near the front, with my regular running clothes on – an old tshirt, a pair of red yoga pants from a thrift store, my dollar store “athletic” socks and my $20 Champion running shoes from Payless – and a camelbak on with my music player in it and my earbuds in my ears. It was cold and I hadn’t brought a jacket, but figured I would warm up after running for a bit. I felt discouraged as I took off running with the other front runners, because I didn’t know at the time that the faster people start in the front and if you’re slower you should be nearer the back. However, I figured I would just run at my regular pace and keep going, even if I was dead last (which is what I thought I was as so many other people passed me at the start.)

I ran and I ran and I ran and I didn’t stop. I ran the whole 5k without stopping. As I neared the finish line, my husband, my three children, my mom and my brother all stood waiting and cheering me on. My kids were so excited to see their mom running the race. I finished with a time of 35:34.8 (11:26 min/mile), a personal best for me and 39th out of the women which was somewhere in the middle and 6th in my age group. When I hugged my husband after finishing, my four-year-old daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes and asked with excitement:

“Mom, did you win the race?”
I smiled and answered, “Yes. Everyone who finishes wins the race.”

I WILL BE FAT NO MORE

I’ve started running lately. My husband got an awesome Cricket smartphone for $20 (we don’t have it activated, we just want to use the wifi) and so I installed this great app by RunDouble for their Couch to 5K program. I’ve been running for 6 weeks now and I’ve decreased my mile time from around 14 minutes per mile to 12 minutes per mile. I have also lost 15 pounds. Of course, I also have been calorie counting using MyFitnessPal. Technology is awesome!

In other news, I had another baby in November, so I figured it was time to drop the weight. I am 7 pounds away from being at my lowest weight ever since being married and only 45 pounds away from being a normal weight. I am shooting to lose 55 pounds total though. I WILL DO THIS THING. I’m also trying to run a 5k in September (this from a girl who has never run a whole entire mile in her lifetime. Mostly because of asthma, but also because I am lazy.) Fitness feels great and I’ve discovered that when I run, my stress goes out that way and I don’t feel the need to stress eat. Stress eating has been my biggest downfall and I didn’t realize that running would solve that problem, so that has been a pleasant surprise. 🙂

Anyway, I will maybe update a little in the future. In the meantime NO MORE FAT WOMAN. I’m almost down to being just overweight and not obese. Yeeeaaahh!