Bipolar II, blogging, emotional eating, enjoying family, losing weight, love, marriage, Medical Weight Loss Program, memories, mental illness, optifast, Self-Soothing, setting goals, weight loss journal, Wisdom, Writing

To Dispel the Shininess of the Aha Moment

Years ago, Oprah Winfrey popularized a nearly century-old phrase first coined in a 1939 psychology text-book; the “aha moment.” By 2012, this locution had became so popular that it was officially entered into Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as:

 “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

I somehow pictured the great epiphany of the aha moment to occur in a flash of terrific fanfare and deep connection with the Universe.  Little did I realize that my aha moment would occur in the small hours of the morning, in the pitch-dark of my bedroom.

It was November 12, 2013, and I couldn’t sleep, though I certainly didn’t lack the general feeling of exhaustion. Every joint in my body ached and the only thing more pronounced than the rapid pounding of my heart in my ears, was my labored breathing.  At nearly 230 pounds, I was the heaviest I’d ever been.

The past decade had brought a barrage of changes and strife that began with appearance of my youngest daughter’s bipolar symptoms; psychosis, depression, hypo-mania.  Because she was too ill to attend school and had to be constantly supervised, I took leave from my job of 16 years to care for her. For six months, other than for medical appointments, I only left my home, once every two weeks, go to the grocery store.  There, I would fill up my cart with an oxymoronic combination of extremely healthy foods for our meals, mixed with a plethora of high calorie sugary snacks for me. In those horrible days, food was my replacement for all of the pleasures that it felt like life had taken away; sanity, personal freedom, healthy relationships, and general happiness.  In truth, my youngest daughter seemed like a stranger and my oldest was acting out. She’d shaved her head, pierced her tongue, and even threatened to quit high school.  My husband, who, at that time, had limited understanding and experience with mental illness, was constantly out of sorts.  Add the financial burden from me no longer working, my unexpected isolation as an extrovert, and a family history of addiction into the mix and it’s no surprise that I reached for food as my drug of choice to numb chaos of my situation.

Eventually, our tribulations passed.  My daughter was properly diagnosed and medicated.  Within two years she was back to her old, sweet self. Looking back it seemed that in the blink of an eye she finished high school, then college, and found the perfect job.  She also found a terrific guy.   My oldest, thankfully, decided to stick out high school, then college, and finally medical school; in five months she’ll graduate to be a family doctor. Last year, she married her high school sweetheart.  My husband and I joined NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness) and attended their support groups. The hub became much better educated about mental illness and its effect on the family.  He’s not only one of my daughter’s biggest cheerleaders, he’s my complete partner in our happy marriage.

With the deviation of my tale passed, I return to the night of my epiphany with the thought that perhaps the old adage is wrong.  Perhaps things don’t feel brighter after the storm has passed.  Maybe the storm tosses us about a bit too long and makes us confused about who we are, and what we want, because on the night of my aha moment, I was certainly at rock bottom.  I tried one last time to finagle the mound of pillows behind my head, only to find myself unable to breathe from my suffocating neck fat.

“I hate myself. I can’t live like this anymore!” I mouthed in the dark, as hot tears exited the corners of my eyes and pooled in my ears. I covered my face with my hands to stifle my sobs. I wiped my eyes with the sheet and grabbed my tablet from the bedside table to type this:

THINGS I MUST DO TO CHANGE MY LIFE:

  1. Lose 95 pounds
  2. Regain my health
  3. Find something I love to do

The next morning I called the bariatric center to register for an informational session about Optifast on December 12, 2013.  After that session, I took their first available appointment.

January 16, 2014,  my very first day on Optifast, was the beginning of my new life.   The days, weeks, and months that followed were full of work, discovery, and living.  Nearly a year later, my days are exponentially as filled with happiness, harmony, and health.

My aha moment didn’t occur on the day that I’d won a great prize, or made a deep connection with the Universe, as I’d once suspected it would.  It happened under the shroud of night, on a pile of tear-stained pillows and twisted covers. In spite of my lofty visions of enlightenment, crushingly uncomfortable neck fat was my tipping point, my catalyst, and my spur.   I realize now that aha moments aren’t often those that sparkle.  They’re messy, dirty, gritty, painful, and even, fat. It’s that split second directly after an epiphany that life begins to twinkle, and once you set your change into motion it begins to shine.

Have you had an aha moment that’s changed your life for the better?  If you’ve lost weight, what was the catalyst that set your loss into motion?  Tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂 

 

 

 

Bipolar II, blogging, Building self-confidence, enjoying family, Food Addiction, Having fun, learning, marriage, mental illness, Thankfulness

Gratitude: I’m thankful to be the best me I can be!

 

Life is awesome, and so is coffee, in moderation!  Yes, my hair really is that big! LOL!
Life is awesome, and so is coffee, in moderation! Yes, my hair really is that big! LOL!

Though I’ve had my share of  struggles, I’m a very fortunate person. Life has given me the privilege to meet, get to know, and live with several distinctly different versions of myself as an adult. The first version of me was the wild 18-22 year-old college student who often made terrible decisions based solely on what made the pain of a dying mother go away. Those decisions often involved rather risky behaviors and very little positive cognitive processing. If it felt freeing, fun, or dangerous, I was doing it with little thought of consequences.

My wild years, ushered in the next phase of my adulthood which reigned from 23-30 and involved the birth of two gorgeous daughters, one marriage followed by one divorce, and the joy of living below the national poverty level. (I’m not using the word joy in a facetious manner; an explanation is coming)

Next, came my years of single motherhood from 31-36. These years were marked with fun, adventure, frustration on many levels, loneliness and continuing poverty.

My single years ended when I met the man that I’m now married to. From 37-40 all of our lives became significantly better, fuller, and richer with love.

Then, just when things seemed to be flowing smoothly, my younger daughter’s first depressive episode surfaced when I was 41. Though my daughter was properly diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder within two years of her first episode, and though she was properly treated and doing well, my years from 41-48 were dark. Anxiety and isolation were the central themes of my existence and I spent most of my time compulsively eating to quell my anxiety and waiting for the next episode to happen.

Now, at 50, the past two years of my life have been an incredible period of growth for me. I have two wonderfully healthy daughters and a fabulous stepson. I am married to the kindest man in the world. I have the freedom to be the person that I want to be and I’m finding that the true person that I am is loving, patient, kind, giving, caring, calm, healthy, at peace, and very awake to the possibilities that life has to offer. The amazing thing is, that I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without the contrast of the past “me(s)” that I’ve been. Had I not had a “wild” period would I have been naïve to what my teenaged children could have been up to?  Had I never experienced anxiety, would I now recognize peace? Had I not lived in poverty, would I now appreciate the little things, like having a dishwasher, or my own washer and dryer? Would I have figured out how to make something fun, or useful out of the limited resources that I had? I don’t think so. Had I not witnessed illness, I could now take my own health, or the health of my loved ones for granted.   Had I not known loneliness and lack of family, I might not hold my husband, and the family and friends that I have, so dear.

The suffering that I experienced in my past is only a memory that I can chose to dwell on, or learn from. I’m certainly glad that I’ve finally reached a point in my life that is no longer dictated by the past. Goodness is now and the days ahead are what I choose to create. Do I wish that I could have figured this all out sooner? Of course, but I think we all figure things out in our own time though our own life experiences.

What experiences have you learned from and have  made you appreciate the life you have now?

Bipolar II, blogging, marriage, mental illness, setting goals, Thankfulness, the law of attraction, thoughtfulness, Tips fot weight loss, weight loss journal, Wellness Center, Writing

Using The Law of Attraction to Lose Weight and Other Good Things

 

As a life-long avid reader, I loved to raid my mother’s bookshelf when I was teenager.  Trapped in a crummy marriage and riddled with health problems, my mother had an array of self-help books .  Fortunately for me, a good majority of them were about love and positivity.  Though I remember my mother as an extremely humorous and loving person, positivity and unconditional love from my father were elements that were often lacking in my dysfunctional household.  Because of this, I held the words in purloined books like Dr. Leo Buscalia’s,  Love, and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s, The Power of Positive Thinking, especially close and dear.  While my classmates were devouring VC Andrew’s latest offerings, (which I’ll admit to  also reading), I was a 16 year-old with a stack of  bedside books by two older men who wrote about God, love and positive thinking.  Being only slightly deeper that most other 16 year-olds, I’m not sure how much of their messages stuck with me. However, these books were  written proof  that all men weren’t Troglodytes and that there were people whose lives were changed by simply making the choice to love others, love ourselves, and to think positively.

I’m not sure what happened to my mom’s copy of Love, but sometime after her death, I managed to get her copy of The Power of Positive Thinking and it was often the book I fell asleep to during challenging times.  At times I’ve thrived on Peale’s suggestions of visualizing success and replacing negative notions with positive ones.  Other times, like all humans, I’ve put these thoughts and teachings to the wayside.

Back in 2006, a big deal was made on The Oprah Winfrey Show about Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret.  I usually love Oprah’s book suggestions, so I bought a copy and skimmed it.  2006 was a chaotic year for us, with my daughter’s illness still not fully under control.  The Secrets’ message of using positive thinking and the law of attraction to manifest the things you want in your life sort of seemed impossible to me at the time.   My copy of The Secret was soon hidden away among my massive book collection.

Then, a few years ago, while scrolling through Netflix, I noticed the movie version of The Secret and decided to give it another chance.  While parts of the film were a little campy, the basic message of positive thinking attracts positive elements in our lives reminded me of Dr. Peale’s teachings.  I tend to be a positive thinker, by nature, and the film compelled me to not only gratefully reflect on the wonderful things that I already have in my life, but to visualize the things that I want as if I already have them.

My now 81 pound weight loss is proof to me that positive visualization and thinking puts the law of attraction into play.  Before I even began losing, I began to see myself at a healthy weight.  Day and night, I visualized myself easily climbing stairs and stepping lightly wherever I walked.  I pictured myself not winded and my joints not aching from carrying my excess poundage.  In my mind’s eye I was trim and svelte.  I found clothing easily and when I put it on, it was flattering and comfortable.  While exercising,  I’d imagine that I looked fit and confident and that I was someone who inspired other people at my gym.  Often when I found myself growing tired with still minutes to go on a machine, I’d inwardly recite my mantra, “I’m feeling fit, healthy, energized and beautiful,” over and over until it was all I was focusing on.

My positive outlook with regaining my health, attracted the teachers and people that I needed in my life:  a supportive family; a wonderful, dedicated bariatric doctor; a caring weight loss counselor, and an awesomely positive trainer and gym environment.  Now, when I look in the mirror, I see the person that I visualized all those months ago. When I run up and down stairs and workout at my gym, I feel the health and vigor that I once convinced myself that I had.  The realist in me says my success isn’t a result of “magical thinking.”  It was my own hard work at sacrifice that’s gotten me to my goal weight.  That may be true, but without m positive attitude and approach, would I have lost my weight so easily?  Would I have encountered so many awesome people?  I don’t think so.

This past weekend my daughter and I decided to further test the law of attraction by making vision boards to help give focus to the things that we want in our lives.  I began my board by making a list of “I am” statements that reflect the elements that I’d like to attract.  Using an “I am” statement, puts things in the present and shows that you’re living as if you’ve already met your goal.  It might sound a little silly, but it puts lots of good thoughts in your head to replace any negative ones that might attempt to slip in.

Here are my “I am”  statements:  (They’re not in any particular order of importance)

  • I am blogging several times each week and writing for pleasure and profit.
  • I am enjoying continued physical, emotional and spiritual health.
  • I am enjoying eating healthy foods and exercising.
  • I am a loving, giving partner in my happy and fulfilling marriage. (this one’s already very true!)
  • I am showing compassion to others and making a positive change in my family, community, and world.
  • I am living a life of honesty, and am able to freely express myself.
  • I am earning more than enough money to enjoy life and responsibly take care of our needs and wants.
  • I am keeping a balanced budget and spending wisely.
  • I am finding ways to continue my education, both formally and informally.
  • I am using my creativity, talents, and people skills to have a stress-free career that feels like a hobby.
  • I am living in a 3 to 4 bedroom, 2 to3 bath home, that is at least 1,400 or more square feet, with a pool, in a safe flood zone, in the Outer Banks of NC.
  • I am surrounded by the beauty of nature.

After completing my “I am” statements, I created a board with pictures and memorabilia that reflect my words. Morning and evening, I read my statements out loud and imagine myself in each situation.  I’ll wrap things up with some pictures of my board.

What would some of your “I am” statements be?  What would you like to manifest in your life?  Do you believe in the law of attraction?

05visionboard
Put the things you want in your life on your vision board! (Photo by me)   
(Photo by me)
Reflect positively each day on the things you want. (photo by me)

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

01vision board
Imagine that these things are already true for you! (Photo by me)

 

 

 

Bipolar II, blogging, mental illness, Writing

Thank you for the little slice of hope, Mary Lambert!

 

I’m one of those people who constantly has music playing; especially in the car.  In fact, every year for Christmas, my husband renews my Sirius Satellite Radio subscription because he knows that it’s the perfect gift for me, both for my entertainment and my safety.  I tend to get REALLY sleepy while driving and loud music, blasting cold air conditioning, and a self-inflicted face slap are often needed to keep me from drifting off into dreamland and into the wrong lane.

If you lived near me, you might pass me in my electric blue Sentra, singing my heart out, not caring whether or not I look or sound like a complete fool.  I could also quite possibly be showing off some of my dorkiest dance moves–the kind that used to make my daughters duck down and beg me to “sit still” while we were stopped in traffic.  Now, as adults, they’ve given up trying to tame me, and just dance along with me.

Today, while driving to the hospital to pick up at at-home sleep study monitor, in order to find out if my weight loss has lessened my sleep apnea, I heard THE most awesome song; Mary Lambert’s, Secrets.  It didn’t make me sing, or dance, and it wasn’t even the most inventive style or melody sequence, but the simple lyrics really spoke to me–and I’m sure a lot of other people.

 

“Secrets”

I’ve got bi-polar disorder
My shit’s not in order
I’m overweight
I’m always late
I’ve got too many things to say
I rock mom jeans, cat earrings
Extrapolate my feelings
My family is dysfunctional
But we have a good time killing each other

[Pre-Chorus:]
They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I’m over it

[Chorus:]
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are) So-o-o-o-o what
So what
So what
So what

I can’t think straight, I’m so gay
Sometimes I cry a whole day
I care a lot, use an analog clock
And never know when to stop
And I’m passive, aggressive
I’m scared of the dark and the dentist
I love my butt and won’t shut up
And I never really grew up

[Pre-Chorus]

They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I’m over it

[Chorus:]
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

(I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

(Lyrics Courtesy of AZ Lyrics)

The chorus is spot-on.  Most of us are told from the time we’re young to keep quiet about what society would consider our flaws, our struggles, and the things that make us appear to not measure up to the rest of the general population.  So, the majority of us, live our lives with our story always looking like a fresh coat of paint.  The problem is, behind the shiny surface of the paint we’re crumbling. Secrets hurt and it’s mostly the beholder who suffers.

It would be amazing to make admissions about ourselves without the fear of judgment, or ridicule from others.  Mary Lambert has her rightful share of celebrity and is most likely at a point in her life where she just doesn’t give a flying f*ck about the repercussions her confessions might cause (providing that her lyrics are true).  Most of us don’t have the cushion of fame and fortune to gently fall back on if our peers, or general society, find out certain things about us.  Take mental illness, as an example.

I’ve mentioned before that my youngest daughter has type-two bipolar disorder.  Fortunately, with proper medical care, medication, and the love and support of family, she lives a very normal, nearly symptom-free life. (She has a wonderful job that she’s great at, a loving fiancé, close friends, and is a very independent and capable young woman,)  Yet, I know from the past nine years of experience, since her diagnosis, bipolar disorder is sometimes the crumbling beneath all of our shiny paint jobs, especially hers.   By her choice, only her immediate family, fiancé, and doctors are privy to her diagnosis.  Now, of course, my husband, older daughter and I have talked in confidence to other people about her diagnosis, however, those people are closest friends, counselors, family, (and a few hundred blog readers).   This secret that we keep, isn’t because of shame; we’re immensely proud of her accomplishments.  We hold her disorder close, because we fear the repercussions of society.  Schools require  health information forms,  that include a list of all medications that a student takes and the reason for that medication.  Job applications often ask potential employees to answer this question:    “Do you have any conditions, physical or mental, that would keep you from performing this job?”  Even our state Department of Motor Vehicles requires that a person reveals whether or not  they have a mental illnesses, along with clearance from their physician in order to get a driver’s license.  I realize that the nature of these questions is, in part, to protect public safety.  I also realize that a truthful answer can cause devastating consequences in terms of gaining employment and furthering one’s education.

In a perfect world we could share our secrets about mental illness, and maybe once those secrets are out, a vine of hope and acceptance can begin to grow.  A healthy dose of acceptance would lead to less fear when it comes to seeking treatment, and more people living a healthy, happy life, like my daughter.

This leads me back to my gratitude to Mary Lambert for merely using the words “bipolar disorder” in her song.  Not only does she sing them, she’s singing them with a smile on her face, ( if you watch the video.)  People like me, or the kid down the street, or a person halfway around the world will belt out those words in their car, or shower, or in their kitchen while they’re making tea.  Suddenly, “bipolar disorder” won’t sound as secretive, maybe people will even begin to see that you can lead a normal life with it, and other mental illnesses.   Just my thoughts for today…

Oh, here’s the video!  (You might be redirected to You Tube to watch it)

 

What issues would you like to see become less of a secret?

 

Bipolar II, blogging, Building self-confidence, Mental Health Awareness Month 2014

A Beautiful Post from my Friend Kathy: Leaving the Seclusion Room: A Journey to the Far Side of Sanity and Back Again

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought a reblog of my friend Kathy’s beautiful post and artwork would lend awareness to my readers of the struggles faced by people with mental illness.
Kathy has been such a huge inspiration to me. Though her life has been touched by bipolar disorder, she has still managed to live it to the very fullest with love, travel, adventure, success, and enormous talent. Kathy urges people touched by mental illness to share stories like hers  “with those you love, and encourage others to talk, write, and blog about their own battles. Let those who live with mental illness (and their families) know they’re not alone.”
If you struggle with mental illness, or, like me, have a family member who does, I encourage you to contact NAMI for informational classes and resources. Help is often difficult to find, but NAMI is an excellent resource.

Kathryn M. McCullough

I will forever associate spring with an up-close-and-personal encounter with crazy, with losing my mind in an over-the-top kind of way.   And, indeed, my March Madness of 1990 ended life as I knew it.

Spring brings many forms of madness. Spring brings many forms of madness.

A university writing instructor, I was suffering through what should have been a relaxing spring break, when I began to crumble. In Oklahoma the branches were barely budding, when I started obsessing over trees and their ability to lead me elsewhere, wherever there was. I imagined it was a dimension parallel to the world around me.

A parallel place-- A parallel place–

I wanted desperately to go there, and it was that longing that ached me into action. It muscled me forward, compelling me to bring bare branches indoors and decorate my walls with them. (I kid you not.)  It seemed I was suddenly and acutely aware, as the sculptural quality of those limbs stunned and…

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Bipolar II, blogging, enjoying family, Friendship, Having fun, TBI, thoughtfulness, Uncategorized, Wisdom

The Healing Art of Having Fun

Though this is a random photo of people that I don't know, this could easily have been my friends and I in college! (Photo by Alamy)
Though this is a random photo of people that I don’t know, this could easily have been my friends and I in college! (Photo by Alamy)

A telling statement in our household is the phrase, “I haven’t laughed enough today.”  Just as our bodies need food, air and water to survive, our spirit craves  laughter and fun in order to thrive. When my daughter was in the throes of a bipolar depression, there were many days that we forgot to laugh and many days that we were incapable of expressing the joy of life.  Often, each day was about survival and mustering through medication adjustments, rather than making the most of each moment that we were together.  However, little by little, as my daughter made improvements, and as I began to trust her recovery, the smiles and laughter that usually graced our home returned.

This past Tuesday, was a rough day for my best friend.  She suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident a little more than two years ago and her life is vastly different. I still approach her as the same brilliant person that I’ve always known, but her cognitive and emotional skills have rendered her unable to work for now. Having always been a person who prided herself on her amazing intellect and work ethic, this has been quite a blow to her spirit. After dedicating her life to helping others, she’s now the one needing assistance.

I’ve been helping her organize her beautiful home by getting all of the paperwork that’s piled up since her accident in order.  It’s a daunting task, but one that we’ve approached with much effort and laughter. On Tuesday, the mirth and merriment halted after finding out that she needed to reapply for her Social Security Disability Benefits.  After visiting the Social Security office, we headed to her home to begin the online application. I could quickly see my friend’s spirit tiring as she searched through medical and financial documents.  Her frustration mounted as her internet connection slowed and flickered; finally halting our efforts. I was obvious that she was using all of her mental fortitude to not dissolve, defeated, into a puddle of tears. It felt terrible to leave her in such a downtrodden and exhausted state.

Today, after wellness center and weigh in, we’re meeting up to try again.  I’m prepared for some frustration, but I’m also prepared to lighten the mood.  Part of loving a friend is being their caregiver, at times, but it’s also essential to remember to nurture the other components of a relationship.  My friend needs my help, but her spirit sometimes needs me to take her away from her troubles by our laughter and silliness. Having fun matters.  It normalizes us and presses our reset button.  Having fun edifies us and fills us up.  Having fun is healing, and we can’t let the struggles of life cause us to forget that!

What do you do when you need a good laugh?  🙂