- Getting good sleep: This is probably one of the most important aspects of staying healthy with mental illness. Have a good sleep pattern. Don’t sleep too little and don’t sleep too much. Try to find a regular bedtime and a regular wake up time and then try to stick with it. We all require different amounts of sleep and figuring out what is best for you body is optimal. Sometimes a mid afternoon catnap can do wonders. However, oversleeping or not getting enough sleep both seem to affect my morale in a negative way. So the old adage “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man health, wealthy and wise.” seems to apply.
- Working out regularly: Working out is my most noticeable way of keeping on top of my illness. For me, I can physically feel the cloud of depression start to settle in if I miss more than 2-3 days of working out. Because it is so physically noticeable for me, it’s made it easy…. easier (let’s face it, it’s never easy!) to force myself to do it on a regular basis. Find a program that feels right for you and then stick with it. Not only will it help you mentally, but it will show in your physique as well. I have found for me that its easiest to work out at home. I don’t have to see anyone and I don’t have to answer to anyone. But for some people going to the gym or getting outside works better. Just experiment with it and find what works for you.
- Pray or meditate regularly: Recognizing that there is a power greater than yourself is such a good practice that you can do for your mind, body and spirit. In your “daily routine” (see below), be sure to schedule in some alone time to pray or meditate. Hand all of your problems, cares, and worries over to a higher power than yourself. You don’t have to do this on your own. God (or that higher power if you don’t believe in God) can pull you through it if you let him.
- Eating a healthy diet and Drinking lots of water: It seems like it would be a “no brainer” to eat a healthy diet. But I find that this is one of the hardest things for me to do. I can go days at a time of eating healthy and doing great. But then I cave and it’s like a vacuum, nothing seems to fill me up. But there is something so empowering that comes from mind over body discipline. If you can find a plan that works for you and stick with it (or at least 80 percent of the time), it not only helps your body but it does wonder for your brain. Drinking water is just a good positive practice. Staying hydrated is so important. I’m not sure about all the science behind it, but I’ve been drinking a lot (8-10 glasses a day) of water for as long as I can remember. Not only does it help your brain function better but it makes your skin, hair and body look better as well.
- Journaling: Keeping a personal journal of your ups and downs is such a good way to keep track of your how your illness affects you. It can help you develop strategies to work through the hard times and enjoy the better times. I even put a daily number rating at the top of journaling to keep track of my how I’m feeling. That way when I really need a boost I can go to the really good days and read over them and sometimes that can help elevate your morale. It’s also helpful to see what your triggers are when your ratings are lower. You learn to know what to avoid to keep from falling into the low times.
- Try to stay busy: If you find your self with “free” time. Which you probably never do when your raising a family, haha. But if you do, try to fill it with good positive activities like reading, writing in your journal, or going for a walk. Staying busy is important because too much time can lead to feelings of self doubt and depression which will aggravate your condition.
- Don’t over schedule yourself: On the flip side of that, it is SO important not to over schedule and overwhelm your self. It’s ok to say no. The world will keep turning. Your life will keep going, your family will thank you for it and so will your body! Adding too much in to an already busy life can lead to anxiety and stress related reactions. So just try to recognize those signs in your body and don’t overdo it!
- Regular routines: It is so helpful to have a routine to your life and week. I know that’s not always easy. Especially when you have little children and a family. Life can be quite unpredictable. I always found that I did better during the school year than in the summer, mainly because of the regular routine schedule. Now that I don’t have a “school” routine, and I don’t have a 9-5 job, (Being a photographer can be it’s own kind of stress!) I find myself needing to schedule at least one or two things during the week days to keep me on track. For example my grocery shopping days, and church service days as well as photo session days are always scheduled on the same days so I know exactly what to expect for my week.
- Educate yourself: There is nothing more empowering than to arm yourself with knowledge about your illness “knowledge is power”. There are so many good resources available to help you both online and in good books. Just take a look around and you will be amazed at how much information is out there. My only caution is to beware of the negativity that sometimes comes from comments etc. You want to stay way from anything that can bring you down.
- Stay Positive: This is probably the hardest challenge when it comes to living with any type of illness. It’s so easy to have a pity party or ask “why me”? Trying to focus on the positive in your life and all the blessings that you have can really help lift you and ease the pain that you are feeling. It’s way easier said than done. Believe me, I know! But one practice that I have done is have a mantra or a quote that you can run through your mind over and over when you are feeling negative or down. This is mine. I started it during my pageant days but it still applies and I love it. You’re welcome to adopt it if you want. “Take control of your destiny. Believe in yourself! Ignore those who try to discourage you. Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. Don’t give up and don’t give in! And you will always be a winner to the person that matters most… YOU!”
It’s hard to believe it is already Friday. I stewed about my previous post all week and wondered if it was the right thing to do. But I absolutely feel like it was. I read this blog today and it made me realize even more, how lucky I am to have found the right Dr. Truly an answer to humble, fervent, and maybe even a little frantic prayer. God know us, and he loves us each and every one! I am so grateful, at this time, to be living on the healthy side of mental illness.
It’s been 8 months since I was admitted to the hospital, in a full on Manic Episode mode. Several days later, I was diagnosed for the second time with Bipolar Disorder. I say for the second time, because I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, in a similar, but less severe state of manic episode. However, when all was said and done, I couldn’t accept the diagnosis. I told myself and everyone else that it was a stress related reaction. And I convinced my doctor to believe that theory. She knew my history… it was stress, or depression, or just overdoing it, (or maybe she just wanted to believe that theory too). I didn’t want to admit that I was broken. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t normal (whatever that is). And so I lived with this silent monster in my life for all those years, on the wrong medication. A medication that would finally take me to the brink, with my second and more severe manic episode, which would then lead to a second diagnosis and to me finally admitting that yes, I am Bipolar. And yes, I do have a mental illness.
It’s taken 8 months (plus 10 years) for me to be able to talk about this openly. But I know that there are so many people that suffer silently. So many people that may not even know that BiPolar Disorder is what they have. Or like me, maybe they are just lying to themselves about the reality of it in their life. Nobody wants to be broken. Nobody wants to admit that they need medication to make them “normal”. But the reality is that we need to start talking about it. We need to share our experiences with mental illness, so that we can help each other and our loved ones understand these horrible disorders. And that there is hope. There is a path to wholeness again. We must not be afraid to take it. The Lord said…“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:26
It’s taken 8 months (plus 10 years) to find the right medications, and it’s still a work in progress because our bodies are ever changing. But I feel so blessed to have found a Dr. who from the get-go, understood what a hard diagnosis this is to accept, and wouldn’t let me NOT accept it. A doctor who has helped me work through it, and listened to me and really knows about mental illness and how to treat it. I feel like that was divine intervention and I’ll have to share the story about how I found him, sometime, but not today. Today I just wanted to say, this is where I am in my life right now. This is why I have not been as active on social media over the past several months. But it’s time! It’s time for me to put myself out there… even though it’s scary and I risk having to undergo the judgement of imperfect people. But this is not for those people. This is for the people like myself, who suffer in silence. The people who feel broken or not “normal”. This is for them and their loved ones. Hopefully we can help each other. Give each other a voice. Russell M. Nelson said in the 2015 October conference in his address “A Plea to my sisters“, “… we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous…. women who teach fearlessly.”
It’s been 8 months, and today I am speaking from my heart and mind, full of faith, hoping that the breadth of my influence can help others who are going through what I have been through or a similar mental illness. I will try to post a couple times a month to talk about this disorder and how I am learning to live with it. I even have videos of myself (that my husband took as a documentary of that time), that I could possibly share at some point. I watched them before I sat down to write this and I cried, because some days… many days, I still feel broken. But I’ve realized, it’s ok to feel broken.
I have been meaning to blog this session for a couple of weeks now. But alas, time escapes me! It’s crazy how fast time flies, especially once school starts and you have to get back in the routine of homework and sports and all of that. I love it, but it definitely fills up your empty time very quickly, lol. So here is a recent cake smash session along with a video. I have started offering live video DVD slide show with my sessions and my clients are loving it, so I thought I’d share little Terran. His turned out great! And I just can not get over his curly hair and long eyelashes! Oh to have eyelashes like that! Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to sign up for my mini sessions, they are filling up fast!
These two have been clients of mine for the past year and I am super excited to show you their 9 month photos. Can’t wait to see them again in a few months for Cake smash/one year photos. I think it’s awesome how one has bright blue eyes and the other has dark brown. They won’t be able to switch places too easily when they grow up!