On Bipolar Disorder

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I originally posted a much-shortened version of this to instagram. Shortened only because of word limit, and unfortunately I was unable to really share my full message/story as a result. When I discussed it with a friend, she suggested I post this in its entirety to my blog.  It’s nine weeks late (what else is new with my blog? Lol), but I think it’s important for these words to be here.  People need to know exactly what Bipolar is, because it is often so misconstrued!

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Credit for this image goes to Ellen Forney. This is a page out of her memoir, Marbles.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet (I want to!) but this page describes something so important that people miss.

For World Suicide Prevention Day, I wanted to take the time to share about mood states. I mentioned in my last post about the struggle of having to explain that having a different way of thinking one day to the next doesn’t make a person “bipolar”…

Why focus on Bipolar?  It’s part of my story, and honestly there’s a lot in the way of suicide risk that comes with this illness.  I’ll only focus on the “main three” mood states (Depression, Mania, and Mixed Episode), though there obviously many in between.  This post will probably be long, so please bear with me!

I live with Bipolar Disorder.  Actually, this page feels even more representative of “me” because I also have type I Bipolar.  I’ve been hospitalized for it.  I’ll tell some of my story as I go along.

It may seem obvious that in a depressive episode, a person would behave similarly to a person with Unipolar Depression/Major Depressive Disorder.  That means the risk of suicide in a “down” phase can be quite great.

For many years, I was actually misdiagnosed and I later found the antidepressants were what made my manic episodes worse!  But for whatever reason, professionals didn’t catch the mania to treat the real problem until many years later.

Then there’s mania…the mood state that makes you feel “GREAT” — you don’t have to sleep and have so much energy and creativity and just want to gogogo!  It means impulsivity and risk taking behaviors are much more likely.  It means the inevitable crash of this “up” phase hurts like hell.  If it gets bad enough, there’s the awful paranoia and hallucinations and for some people: psychosis.

I’ve met fellow sufferers in the hospital who really believed they were, say, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary or that the FBI was out to get them.  Mania is not pretty and it certainly isn’t fun.  But wrap these things together, and there can be a significant risk of suicide.

Lastly, there’s the mixed episode.  This is the most dangerous of the three.  Toss in symptoms of Mania and Depression together and there you have it. Impulsivity with self-injurious behavior?  Paranoia with thoughts of worthlessness?  Mood swings with racing thoughts?  It makes suicide risk very high. Top it off with sleepless nights, and perhaps that gives you a glimpse of how miserable it can be.

When I received my official Bipolar I Disorder diagnosis, I was taught how severe it is. Coming into treatment directly out of psychiatric inpatient care, I found of 4 qualifying symptoms for mania, I had 9.  I was also very depressed.  It was an extremely tough time. I didn’t think I could possibly swing back, let alone be accepted for it.

Those thoughts were wrong. And within a year and a half, I began dating the boy who reached out and asked me to seek help, and we have been happily married for 9 months (now 11! :D).  I am much more stable now, and I have his constant, loving support.

Things get better. If you’re struggling right now, please know this. Please know that you are not alone. Reach out. Seek help.  You are not alone.

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Life Update and Suicide Prevention

Well, hey, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve blogged.

But this week is an important one. One that I’ve written on before in years past.

National Suicide Prevention Week. And World Suicide Prevention Day is this Thursday, September 10th.

You know, I’ve had three suicide attempts.   Three that I will fully admit to, anyway. They happened many years ago back in high school. I am still struggling to accept that a traumatic flashback turned cutting episode in February 2014 that left me hospitalized was (…probably…more than likely…) another, fourth, attempt on my life.

It amazes me that about a month later I would begin to date the man who saved my life by a text during that episode. Convinced me to seek help…again. That I was hospitalized for the third time in a year. That that man became my husband as of last December.  That I’ve been married 9 months come this Sunday…

I’m sorry my thoughts are disorganized right now.

I guess this is to say that it gets better. Life can really, truly suck sometimes, but it gets better. It may get worse again, but these are only seasons. We see the seasons change every so often, every few months. Perhaps we should expect that of life, too.

My Bipolar Disorder goes through those same seasons. Up to manic, down to depression, mix it all up and UGH.  It’s tiring. But that’s just life for me. And now I have this incredible guy next to me willing to fight my illness with me. To let me know I’m not alone.

Isn’t that crazy?  Just that….that this is the way God made things to be. I wonder, was this a grace of after the fall and sin entered humanity?  I assume it was in part, to save us from ourselves and the despair. To let us know that there is always still hope.

Hope is real.

If you’re struggling right now, today, this week please know that things can change.  I and many others have experienced it.

In this season away from my little slice of internet here, I’ve had both good and bad times. Illness, bad episodes, faith and walks and sunsets.

Most recently I’ve been trying to teach someone the importance of Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness…trying to get them to understand that it’s okay to seek counseling and resources and that DBT skills are a good start for what they’re going through.

I’ve been walking with some others through their illnesses and anxieties.  Encouraging where I can. Just…doing life with others and let them in, love me where I’m at, too.

Because my life isn’t perfect. My marriage isn’t perfect. There are struggles and failures and I am weak and soulsick. I understand pain, too.

Regardless, I press on.

I hope this week leaves you encouraged. Lets you open your heart to vulnerability. To seek help if you need it.

Talk and listen and share if you need to. You’re worth it. And you’re not alone.

Self-Injury Awareness Day: Seasons of Change

We get a few amazing chances in the year to make decisions.  Decisions that could be made any given point, but that society as a whole (or part, depending how you look at it) takes the time to come together and make changes.  The end of December and beginning of January marked yet another new year, where so many pondered yet again if this would be “their” year.  A year of change.  And right now we’ve entered into the season of Lent.

This is a time of year dedicated to looking forward to the Resurrection.

And, yet again, we have the opportunity to give something up and make changes.  I never used to celebrate this time of year until college.  And truth be told, I didn’t give anything up this year or change anything, at least, not consciously.

But still I look towards all Christ has done for me.  What God Himself has done… And even now I am on the verge of tears writing this in gratitude.  There’s hardly the words to know such a grace as salvation.

So March 1 in Self-Injury Awareness Day.

One of the days I look forward to writing about every year.

But what does this have to do with the days and seasons of change I mention above?  Grace and forgiveness are huge keys in the struggle against self-harm.  I know it well.  I have scars on my body – ones that will never go away.  Grace and forgiveness and mercy…Jesus, carry me through.  I can’t do it on my own.  But I have a God bigger than the pain, and a husband beside me every step of the way, alongside friends and family who support me with those I am covenanted with; I am grateful.

I am not perfected in my struggle with bodily harm.  Every once in a while it rages within me and I am forced to fight it.  And sometimes I am not so strong.  Long story short, I relate to the struggle.  I know it all too well…eight years in the making makes for an intimate sort of fight.  Perhaps, as my Bipolar illness, I will fight it for the rest of my life, the way the chemicals in my brain are not quite right and need tweaking with medication.

Jesus died so I may live.

I am soulsick.  And though this may be, with this life I pray I help those who have been where I have been; those deep dark places are not meant to be lived alone, after all.  You are not alone.  You are not alone.  I am not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

So what can you do to get help?

For those seeking to be of help, what can you do to support?

For those wanting to support: please don’t judge.  These scars and wounds you may see are a coping mechanism.  Not a very productive one, as those of us who suffer often hate the outcome of self-harm, and it leads to a vicious cycle of self-loathing and more wounding.  But it’s still a coping mechanism.  Rather than judging, be a reminder of the grace, forgiveness, and even mercy spoken above.  Be a voice of reason: “You are loved.  You are not alone.  I’m here for you.”  Sometimes just a presence goes a long way.

For the sufferers…Counseling goes a long way.  Perhaps it freaks you out to step into treatment.  I know.  I’ve been there, too.  I don’t write the way that I used to, but it certainly does give a sense of relief.

Find something to bring a healthier release, an alternative to the pain.  There is always purpose for the pain.  Try to find the root cause.  Why do you need to hurt?  Continue to seek healing.  It may take a lifetime.  Don’t let that overwhelm you – one step at a time, be that a moment or a minute.

We beg for life.  It is full of tension.  God gives us freedom from lies and spurs us towards the truth.  You’re worth it.  You’re worth more than a life of pain.  He died to take that burden and give you one that’s light.  I’m not saying I have it figured out.  I’m not saying it’s a quick fix and an easy one, at that.  It takes surrender.  You know what else takes surrender?  Quitting.  Putting down that blade.  Take a minute to consider it.  Perhaps you’ll save a life.  Perhaps it will be more than your own.

Grace and peace to you,

Kady

http://youtu.be/HqOkZiOb9u0

A New Chapter

Ten months ago I lost control to trauma.

Nine months ago the boy who saved my life became more than just a friend.

Six months ago that boy became my fiance.

One week ago he became my husband.

I look back on that day in February. The flashback happened just after midnight. I was manic. I was depressed. I dissociated, the blade to my wrist.

Time and again I was unable to explain what happened. I tried to take the pain away.

God had other plans.

I’m a housewife now. I can’t say I’m content, however, as my mood states are in a slow process of recovery towards stabilization. It’s been a long, long ten months.

There’s a blessing in this that I can’t quite comprehend. That in the midst of a deep emptiness and fear of abandonment would come a love only second to the one I have for Jesus in all His glory.

The man I’ve come to love has walked with me every step of the way, dedicated to my accountability and follow-through, keeping me on track.

The professionals sometimes try to force answers to the unknown. Psychology runs deeper than that. The spirit aches with intensity for companionship. And though it’s not perfect, my marriage has brought me a partner.  Words continue to fail me as I’ve struggled to write for months.

Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind:  God gave me him.

And So the Journey Begins

“She is delightfully chaotic; a beautiful mess. Loving her is a splendid adventure.”

– Steve Maraboli

Huddled together, we watched the sun fall. The array of color bursts forth from surrounding clouds, capturing yet another moment. It was a night of laughter, conversation, photos, and kisses. Another night watching these colors of God’s creation descend upon us.

Magical.

Though we’d seen the painted skies many times before, the air was different. I could feel it. It had been there and I was left to wonder. Is this it?

I didn’t want to psyche myself out or get my hopes up. At this point in the month, I had already given up on something I’d wanted to be a reality.

We had talked ourselves in circles on so many different occasions. Some didn’t understand. But that was okay. We were content with each other: that was all that mattered under those colors of the night.

As evening fell, the air felt increasingly heavy. My thoughts fell back to a simple sentence said earlier in the day, “Happy fifth month anniversary!”

I had forgotten. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

Yet…wait…aren’t we a few days off? I check my phone, unsure of the day. August 31, 2014. But that would have been the 28th… Oh well, close enough.

There we sat on a small ledge of sand, overlooking Lake Michigan in all its splendor. That night in Grand Haven I was reminded of our first trip to the white sand, similarly watching the colors over the lake on Muskegon’s Pere Marquette beach.

The tension of a heart full of love rested within me, yet again.Sunset

That had been four months prior. Now we rested upon each other’s shoulders, vulnerable but stronger than we’d been.

Other sunsets came between those. Silver Lake. South Haven. Each painting captured, cherished.

We stand, watching as the sun takes its final few moments. One last photo as hues continue to fill the sky.

He had fought so hard to make this happen tonight. As if life itself depended upon it. All the while, I wondered.

As I fight back negative thoughts on how I’m wrong and therefore basically worthless, he counteracts with words. I love you. The words continue. Stories. Memories. Possibilities.

A slight fumble. He’s on one knee. The tiny wooden box opens as he makes a proposal using my full name; “Will you marry me?”

He knew the answer two months beforehand. All the mock proposals through Taco Bell sauce packets… Still my “YES!” choked out, resounding as I tackled him into a hug. He slipped off the ring we’d used as a placeholder. At last, as he replaced it with the diamonds and gemstones, I couldn’t help but gaze in awe at the detail put into my custom-designed ring.

Love is a weird thing.

The Song of Solomon states, “I have found the one whom my soul loves.” (3:4)

I never really understood before now, that phrase that says “when you know, you know”…but now I know it is true.

The woman I am becoming makes a younger me foolish.

Love is an all-consuming fire, a piece of God Himself in splendid glory.

Let us not forget.

“For better or for worse”

December 13, 2014 is coming quickly.

Let’s Talk About Suicide

I think people often forget that mental illness can be debilitating.

I’ve lived it. Been there, done that.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week.  Every year I try to write something, to speak up – last year, I wrote this.  I am a writer at heart, even if I don’t get to do so as often these days.  I choose to believe that perhaps my words could be powerful.

Look around. Suicide is the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15-24.

The.
LEADING.
cause.

It’s tragic. How do we forget? Something as simple as a smile can change a life.

It’s all in the little things, and we forget.

I forget.

And I’ve lived that hell.

And if I’m honest, I might never be rid of those thoughts on this side of eternity.

For me, I have this illness that requires medication in order for me to function. It is very much so real, and left untreated not only are the thoughts and threats of suicide there, but the possibility of attempts and my life ended.

I must not forget what it is I deal with.

To do so could mean my life.

And I’m not alone. The statistics prove that. But what if we were the change? The voice for those who have no hope?

I have it inked on my left forearm: HOPE IS REAL.

Let us not forget.

We should never be blind to the pain that surrounds us. It may not be physical. It may not even be visible. It may come up in those who appear to have it all and/or have it all together.  But that pain can be alleviated.  It is found in support, in community, in trust.

Regardless of who you are or where you’re at, you’re stronger than you think. Keep going.

We can be the change.

This world is comprised of more than just all the broken pieces. In the cracks there is beauty, there is hope. There is love. And if we’d open up our eyes to see, then perhaps we could be the start to the change we long for.

You are not alone today.

Suicide doesn’t have to be the answer. We could be the ones to be the answer to a broken and desolate generation. Reach out, have a conversation, be a friend, share a smile…in the end, it might just save a life. That’s the power of your story.

Grace and peace to you,

Kady

A Learning Process

One of the hardest things I’ve found is to simply let go.

And as weird as it sounds, many times these days I forget that I suffer from being mentally ill. Oh, it carries me through everywhere I go, but life has been too busy for me to simply be still.

So at the cross of Christ, I find my surrender.