I started doodling Henri during my two and a half week stay at mental hospitals. After that I went to a three month residential treatment facility where I created daily comics of my mental health journey using Henri. Drawing Henri has given me something to look forward to in my darkest hours. It has also helped me process and communicate what I experience when I so often cannot find the words to describe all of the emotions or lack of from bipolar disorder. It is my art therapy and emotional/mental outlet.
Sometimes things get too intense, too overwhelming and you have to find your way back. It didn’t used to matter (to me) before I was a mother, but now I want to be present for my daughter. This where setting goals and evaluating my expectations for other stuff comes in handy.
I made a daily list of the things I need to accomplish every day to get me in a better place. This includes things like water intake, exercise and what time I take my medicine. Usually I don’t have to write everything down— but I’m overwhelmed and need the daily focus.
I also make sure those closest to me know I’m having an issue. This is always a humbling experience but I need the friendship and understanding.
Recently, in my little funk, I’ve been practicing a lot of avoidance behavior. This means going days without talking to everyone I don’t live with, and a side effect for that is thinking people are mad at me.
I’m talking about believing everyone is actively hating me — from the butcher at the grocery to my best friend from high school.
Other than work through these ridiculous viewpoints with my therapist, it’s up to me to not let these thoughts bring me to my knees.
I’m creating more, I’m journaling more, I’m exercising more and I’m trying correct these thoughts with sane ones.
I know I have a touch of depression when several butterflies hatch at once and I’m not overjoyed. To be human is to have emotions that change, but when you’re stuck with the bummer ones it’s difficult to be active and thoughtful and think that you’ll change back. But if anything is a sign of change it’s the gorgeous caterpillars I love to raise. Here are some things that help me when I’m in a serious funk:
Tell someone. It feels good to be be open and you might hear some great advice. Plus, if it gets worse? That person will be able to advocate for you.
Try to do the activities that you love, just do them super slowly. Instead of flying through my garden or taking thousands of pictures of my daughter I took pictures of what I’m interested in very slowly. I knew I wasn’t going to love it because I can’t really love doing anything right now and that it would be good for me to try it slowly. The slow part of it is to show myself that I’m in some pain and that I’m taking it easy — it isn’t just a normal day, it’s a difficult day. It’s my way of telling myself, “I’m taking care of you.”
I eat a pretty clean diet but these moods make me want donuts. For me, it’s better if I don’t give in. It will just lead to more sadness if I keep eating donuts and fries. So what I do is eat really well. Instead of cheddar I’ll eat ghouda. I do treat myself but just with better products. I can get to the kind of depression where you can’t get yourself to the kitchen to eat so when I’m in this stage I know it will help that from happening if I’m drinking lots of water and healthy foods now.
Try to think of reasons of how this happened. I brainstormed and saw that my sleep has been off so maybe I need to change what time I take my medicine. You might need a med tune-up or to stop drinking or hanging around a particular person. Just try and think of what’s been making you unhappy recently. Look for patterns.
Get professional help. A therapist and a group therapy session are two great ideas for this stage. Maybe I’ll need a psychiatrist visit soon if I don’t start rebounding. It’s all about listening to your body.
I spoke to a woman who was just diagnosed bipolar and doesn’t quite feel like herself yet. I get it. It took me years to end up with the cocktail I have and the last med change was scary because I take care of my daughter during the day and I didn’t feel “right.”
Here’s my advice to people just diagnosed! I also wrote a book on the subject.
1. It’s tough, what you are doing. It can be taxing and problematic so be very kind to yourself.
2. Take a lot of notes! A food/mood journal. Take control of this disease and write down what’s working and what’s not. Become an expert of yourself and your feelings.
3. Always ask for signs to look for. If your doctor prescribes lamictal, for example, she should tell you to look out for a rash.
4. If you’re a woman keep track of your menstrual cycle and see if you find any patterns in your mood related to your period.
5. Stay active.
6. Take a friend to doctor offices if you are unable to take notes.
7. Know that eventually you will get the right cocktail for your mind.
8. Get some child care if possible — even if it’s for a small chunk of time for some “me time.”
9. Join a support group online or irl. I love my support group — I never feel alone.
10. Keep working to improve yourself so you’re not constantly thinking about your meds. Get into podcasts or crafts or podcasts about crafts. You are a person with lots of things that bring you joy, not just a person with bipolar disorder.
This goes to…
11. Make a routine for yourself and make medication time special so it’s not something you dread or forget.
Recently I was at a party and a friend of mine asked me how I was. I told her I was anxious, because I have an anxiety disorder, and she looked at me with zero understanding and asked if I had read the book she recommended.
One read of any book is not going to cure my anxiety. It’s dangerous to believe it could. Today I will see my psychiatrist and hopefully he’ll have some ideas for my next bold move.
It’s #mentalhealthmonth so I’m using this #throwbackthursday to tell you how it felt to become a mom with bipolar disorder. I could not believe my luck. I had a medicated pregnancy and then I had a healthy baby girl. I would take a thousand selfies of us together — partly because of how amazed I was that this was happening, but mostly because it looked so different than I thought it would. “Bipolar” is a scary word and I had been told most of my adult life I might kill my baby if I had one. I had a lot to unlearn. I still do. These selfies will always mean so much to me. ❤️