Bipolar survivor - I am surviving mental illness one day at a time.
Anne Cain is an Advocate & Blogger for Mental Health especially Bipolar Disorder, & a Volunteer at The Humane Society of Southwest Missouri. This blog is to help people who have or care for someone with mental illness.
I hated working out. I mean, loathed it. The last time I worked out harder than gym class was back in 2006 & my husband, friends, and I did Body for Life. I felt like I was dying inside because of my bipolar and outside because of the exercise. I didn’t achieve the results I wanted and I hated it. I avoided all exercise programs until this past January when I sucked it up and headed to the gym. This time on my own workout schedule but using the 17 Day Diet plan. Now, I don’t know much about exercise but I loved sitting on the bike talking to my friend. I was feeling great mentally but I still wasn’t achieving the physical results I wanted. I had been approached by someone online watching my journey in February and asked if I wanted to be a Beachbody Coach. I told her “No, thank you” but the seed was planted & I did join Beachbody on Demand for the free 14 days and joined her challenge group. I just watched from the background and cancelled after 7 days. I didn’t workout much in April just due to life and I got discouraged that the whole 6 pounds I lost in January were back. I started to go back to my old routine. I still followed the coach online and I knew I needed more. So I asked her about Shakeology protein shakes. She told me how great it was and agreed it was a little expensive but that’s one reason she became a coach. She could earn the money to buy it. Well, that got me thinking. I LOVE helping people. I haven’t felt better mentally and physically since working out and I’m bored. I love social media and sharing my story. This could be part of my story. I signed up. I couldn’t be happier about my decision. I believe things happen for a reason. This was meant to happen during Mental Health Awareness Month. This makes me well again. Now, I get to be a wellness Coach and help people like me!
My love languages are Gifts & Acts of Service. If you ask my friends, they will tell you that I would do anything or give anything without wanting in return. That’s what Gary Chapman says in his book, “The Five Love Languages.” People don’t just want to get love shown to them in these languages, this is how they show their love as well. My “Act of Service” to the mental health community is managing an Instagram account @livingthisbipilarlife to show people with a mental illness that a “normal” life is possible & to show everyone else that it’s not all psych wards & straight jackets. Because let’s face it, if you tell someone you live with a mental illness, that’s what they think of. I did. When I was first told at 19 that I had Manic Depressive Disorder, I about all but laughed at the therapist. I started my denial process. There was no way I was going to have Nurse Ratchet take care of me in a mental hospital. I’d try little remedies here & there for my depression. Some worked, some didn’t. All while my life slowly deteriorated. Most of my good times, I was hypomanic & my bad came with no support because I hid in the shadows & put on a happy face. One thing about mental illness is you can try to ignore it but it will be heard & it will be seen. Finally, after 9 years I was hit with the diagnosis again. This time, it came from my trusted Physician. He started me on a medication regimen & referred me to the psychiatrist I still see today. I would love to say it got better, but it didn’t right away. I was in & out of episodes, trying to be a good mom, a good wife, & a good employee. The first half of my thirties was me struggling to find balance after my marriage ended & I quit work. I thought I was alone. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I felt the courage to speak out. He wasn’t ashamed of me so what did I have to lose. Now, I’m 40. I still struggle, unfortunately that comes with the illness. But I found my balance. For the last 3 years, I have spoken up & put myself out there. Friends of my kids talk to me & friends refer their friends to me. I share my experience (because I’m not a medical professional, that’s all I got!) I share what I know and articles I find. Sometimes it’s boring & sometimes it’s fun. That is pretty much what life is. Above everything, else, I share my love. Isn’t love all you need?
I’m done with negativity. Everyone is negative and everyone complains. Even my own family. Even me. I was out with my husband this weekend and I had had enough. I told him, “for every negative thing you say, you have to follow it up by saying something positive.” I told the same to my daughter yesterday. Negativity fuels more negativity and it spreads like wildfire. This is not good for me, my illness, or anything else. I try to be positive, but I am guilty of judgment and negativity just like everyone else. But we need to call each other out on it. I am a Catholic and some of the worst negativity is coming from my fellow Christians. I told my oldest daughter that even if you don’t believe that Jesus is your savior, she could still learn a lot from Him. He was an amazing person to model your life after. No judgement, no negativity, only love. He saw the good in people and in hard situations. I’m a believer that there is good in every situation. You may not see it at first, but it is there. For example, when I was getting divorced I thought my world was ending. Now, I found the love of my life living happily every after. I love my husband so much more than I ever thought one could one person, children not included. I can’t imagine my life without him. I even find good in my illness. Bipolar disorder royally sucks, but because of it I am a very empathetic person. I know what it feels like inside to not want to wake up, I know what it is like to walk on cloud 9, and everything in between. I am very passionate and because I am I love helping. I dive into charities and I volunteer. I help people, animals, the environment, and anything I can. Change can begin with one person. Start with yourself. Be positive, see the good in every situation, and encourage others to do the same. Let rumors stop with you, don’t spread them. Stop all the negative and be the light you want to see in the world.
Women’s rights are a hot topic right now and I am all for it. I will gladly stand next to my fellow woman and demand equal rights as men, but just because I want things equally for women doesn’t mean I want to be a warrior. I very much want to be a princess and always will. I like to be taken care of. I love chivalry. I will teach my girls that they are every bit as good as their fellow man, they deserve everything men get, and they need to know how to take care of themselves, but it is also okay to want to be a princess. I want to be rescued. Don’t misunderstand, I do not NEED anyone to rescue me. I am very capable of rescuing and taking care of myself. I never imagined that I would be able to rescue myself. I have been crippled with anxiety since childhood and never imagined I’d be strong enough to take control of my own life, not to mention my children’s. I found myself divorced with 2 young girls to raise while still struggling to breath after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly, it was just me. I shared responsibility with no one. I had no one to fall back on. Financially, I had help if I needed it from my family, but no one to tell me to get out of bed. No one to make me go to work. No one to help me to take care of my kids. No one to remind me to take my medicine and to take care of myself. Most days, it was hard. On my days without my children, I would work and sleep. I had friends and I socialized, but it was empty. I was just there going through the movements. After I stopped working, it did get better and I realized how strong I was. I didn’t want to be a warrior, but I was one. I just fought a war for 4 years. I fought for my kids and I fought for me. Then, I was rescued. I desperately wanted to be rescued. My prince swept me off my feet. He spoils me and takes care of not just me, but my girls. He does everything in his power to make sure I never have to go through that again. We are equals and take care of each other. Because of him, I am no longer at war, but I am still a warrior. I am a warrior princess.
If you have wronged me, I have forgiven you. If I have wronged you in anyway, I sincerely apologize and hope that you would forgive me. I hope you forgive me not because I want you to and certainly not because I deserve it, but because you deserve it. You deserve the peace that forgiveness brings and the closure that will surly follow. Forgiveness isn’t about what is right and what is wrong. It’s not about what happened or what was done to you. It’s about letting it go. Forgiveness is about healing. Some people think forgiveness is about forgetting and thinking everything will be okay. It is not. Forgetting means excusing behaviors and no lesson learned. Forgetting means pretending it didn’t happen. I had a friend who had stolen some money from me and I have since forgiven her. I am not her friend anymore because I didn’t forget what she did, but I don’t care anymore because I have moved on. You may think you have forgiven someone but if just the thought of them makes you angry or you hate them and call them bad names, then you haven’t forgiven them. Don’t let someone have this much control over your emotions. Forgive them and let it go. I’m not saying it is easy, sometimes it is hard. Maybe you can’t avoid seeing them again or maybe they are apart of the lives of those who are close to you. Maybe you still care deeply for this person and it is too soon to even try. Letting go is hard for me, not necessarily because I have a problem forgiving, but because I’m a fixer. I want to fix the problem. Now, the situation with my old friend was never going to get fixed, so letting her go was very easy. But some people I want to know why they did what they did. What if I could have done something to prevent the outcome. And if not, what if I could do something to fix it. I am only human like the rest of us. I speak my mind and have been known to be a little judgmental, but I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt. What I do not do anymore is let anyone have control over me but me. I work to forgive so that I have peace, but I’ll always remember so my mistakes won’t be repeated.
I am a petite woman at only 5’3″ tall. I have small feet and hands and I have small bones. I have always been small. Unfortunately, life happened and for the last 10 years or so I haven’t been so small. I used to have the opposite problem. I could eat and eat and never gain a pound, but if something upset me, I lost weight. When I got my drivers license at 16, I weighed 115. That’s a healthy weight for a teenage girl. When I graduated at 18, I weighed 96. Not so good. I looked like a skeleton. I did not have an eating disorder. I was just upset and anxious a lot and when I get that way, I can’t eat. I wasn’t in a good relationship so I cried a lot, in return not eating. Don’t worry, I gained it back. Then, a month before I got married to my first husband, I got tonsillitis. If anyone knows what that is like, it was horrible and I couldn’t eat anything except broth for a week. So I lost about 10 pounds and weighed 106 when I got married. No worries though, I got pregnant on my honeymoon!!! Now I am eating for two!! After my baby girl was born, I weighed around 117 for the next 4 years until baby #2 came along. I gained around 30 lbs when I was pregnant and loved every minute of it! I did not love that I stayed at around 135 lbs for 5 years after. Now, I know that is a healthy weight and I don’t have a problem with the number. I just felt comfortable at 117. I looked good and felt good. I don’t know if it was the depression talking to me but I just felt horrible and fat. And it was only going to get worse. After my divorce, I went from 135 to 174 in a matter of 3 years. I gained 40 lbs in 3 years. Here is my theory on what happened. #1. I was now 32, so my metabolism after having 2 kids was taking a long break. #2. I take Seroquel and weight gain is a side effect. #3. My depression was out of control so I was constantly in bed or eating comfort foods and #4. My new husband ate like shit. I have never had so much fast food in all my life. Once I hit 174 lbs and my wedding dress didn’t fit 4 months before my wedding, I knew something had to be done. I joined a fitness club and watched what I ate. I did manage to loose 10 lbs before the wedding and squeeze into my wedding dress on my wedding day. Then the best thing that could happen to me and my husbands health came when he had a physical and he was put on a diabetic diet to lower his triglycerides. He lost about 25 lbs in a matter of months and I gradually lost 20 lbs over the next year. We only strictly followed the diet for a couple of months, but it allowed us to start planning our meals and eating more healthy. Another thing it taught us is that when you eat like crap, you feel like crap. So now I am on a mission! I have 16 lbs to go before I reach my goal of 130 lbs. I have joined forces with some of my support friends in the mental health community to blog and share our weight loss/healthy eating journey! Follow my journey on Instagram & Twitter @bipolarsurvivor and jump in on the fun! You can be a loser too!!!!
I’ve had anxiety as long as I can remember. I didn’t talk to people I didn’t know and I always stayed by my mother’s side. I was always emotional & couldn’t get control of it. When I started college, I managed to run off 2 roommates the first semester, probably due to my instability. I was all over the place. When the depression started the 2nd semester of my freshman year and didn’t go away, I sought help at the schools counseling center. The counselor told me he thought I was manic-depressive and they weren’t equipped to help me. I would have to see a psychiatrist. I thought they were crazy. No way I had a serious mental illness. A year & a half later I was married and pregnant.
When I was pregnant my moods were all over the place. After my daughter was born I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and given my first antidepressant. I finally got some relief. I went off it 3 years later to have another baby but they immediately put me back on after my 2nd daughter was born. A few months later, after some marital issues, my anxiety got out of control so my doctor prescribed Xanex. The antidepressant stopped working a short time later, so they replaced it with another one that would also help my anxiety. Relief came again for a few years until the insomnia started. My doctor put me on a sleep aid but the insomnia came back after a month or so. When I went back, my doctor looked at my file and I could see in his face that he had a lightbulb moment. He asked a few questions and then gave me his diagnosis, “I think you have bipolar II disorder.” I was 28.
After my diagnosis, I was referred to a psychiatrist and after 7 years, several med changes, a divorce, and a 6 month long, life threatening depression, I made some life changes. I quit work and filed for disability. I also stopped dating for a while, (I did eventually remarry.) I focused on me and my kids. Over the last 4 years, I try to keep my illness under control with the help of my husband and by keeping my routine fairly simple. I exercise and try to stay positive. I routinely see my psychiatrist and take my meds as prescribed. I keep track of changes in my moods and my triggers so I won’t be surprised by an episode. Helping others has been an outlet for me. I help animals at my local shelter and people through my Instagram @livingthisbipolarlife. I want people to see how someone with mental illness can live a “normal” life and to end the stigma behind mental illness because we are just like everyone else.
I realized something when I walked the mall today. I wasn’t walking with overweight individuals who need to get active, I was walking with little old ladies and gentlemen who were skinny and some were using canes. This blew my mind. My generation as a whole is over weight. Where are these people??!! These are the people that need to be walking the mall. I am almost 39. I have had 2 children. I pee my pants when I sneeze and trying to lose any significant amount of weight is a daunting task. But I’ve lost 30 lbs over the last year and it wasn’t from sitting on my butt watching tv. We need to be active. Especially those that are mentally ill. I HATE working out, but I love walking. We have to at least try. Hey, I’ve been so depressed I can’t get out of bed. I was there last week in fact, but it isn’t a coincidence that my depression lasted 3 days. Shortest depressive episodes I’ve ever had. It’s because I make a conscious effort to try. You can’t expect anyone to care care of you. You have to take care of you. So get off the couch, put on your shoes and start trying!
My brother is a sky soldier. What is a sky soldier? A sky soldier is a member of an elite club known as the Army Airborne Unit. He has devoted 20 years to jumping out of airplanes. He has been to Afghanistan twice & has seen terrible things. Now he is getting ready to retire. All he has known is Army life for 20 years. A great organization called GallantFew helps soldiers transition to civilian life. You can visit their website at GallentFew.org. My brother has joined GallantFew’s fundraiser Run Ranger Run to raise money & awareness for this cause. I have joined him as a team member. Together our team (still being assembled) will work to log 565 miles of walking, running, or biking in 28 days!! If you are interested in donating or assembling your own team, see the link below.
Run Ranger Run History (taken directly from their website)
In 2013, 3rd Ranger Battalion combat veteran Cory Smith highlighted the difficult transition so many veterans face by making a very difficult, public and personal transition – he ran home! Columbus, GA to Indianapolis, IN – 565 miles. Now you can join Cory to make a difference right where you are, and bring awareness to the difficult transition many of our honored military veterans face.In 2012, 3rd Ranger Battalion veteran US Army Corporal Cory Smith, having deployed to combat twice, experienced having friends killed and wounded and with his own marriage failing decided to highlight the difficult journey home many soldiers have leaving the Army by undergoing a very public and very difficult journey home himself. Cory decided to run 565 miles in 28 days with holding his daughter Elleigh in his arms the end goal of his run.
Teams of up to ten individuals pledge to walk, run and/or ride bicycles a combined total of 565 miles in the month of February (usually 28 days) raising funds for GallantFew while increasing awareness for the veteran transition issues.
Rebecca Lomadrdo’s book, “It’s Not Your Journey”, is a perfect example of what it is like to live with the reality of mental illness. Not only does she suffer from Bipolar Disorder, but PTSD and Generalized Anxiety as well. It is not uncommon to be fighting many illness’s at the same time. As a fellow sufferer of mental illness, I felt as though I was reading my own story at times. Her story is very raw and blunt. She doesn’t sugar-coat it. She goes after the stigma that doesn’t just affect the public but the healthcare field as well. While she tells of the negative experiences she has had with professionals, she reminds the reader that this is her “journey” and yours may be different. She encourages exploration of different therapies even if it didn’t work for her. It is a dark story, as she describes her bouts with depression. Many know this is a mood disorder, but don’t understand that mania is short-lived and depression seems to go on forever. I see a psychiatrist regularly and still I’ve often questioned, “Maybe I’ve been misdiagnosed.” After reading this book, I know I have not. Her thoughts are my thoughts, her fears confirmed my own. This brave woman pours her soul out to reach other people suffering to prove to them, they are not alone. It will touch your heart. The prologue by her husband may make you cry as he writes about being an outsider looking in. Through it all, she writes, “Most of us try o think positive, and it doesn’t help. This disease is far too strong for that. But if you work at it, a little everyday, and set small, realistic goals for yourself, you will start to feel that sense of accomplishment.” That right there is something everyone suffering needs to hear. It will get better.
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