Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bipolar - Where I Am and Why

For a long time, I've hidden a major part of my life from most people. I have bipolar, also called manic depression. For a long time I didn't share this with anyone other than close friends and family. There's a stigma attached to bipolar, and I can totally understand it. Manic episodes can be especially scary and can include extremely irrational thoughts and actions. In some cases this can lead to things like substance abuse, risky behaviors, and even violence (though the vast majority of people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent acts than those without).

Depression, "mixed states," and "rapid cycling" between mania and depression are also dangerous. Studies have shown a 5 - 15% likelihood of suicide among those with bipolar--incredibly higher than the national average.

But, many are able to lead fairly normal lives with bipolar, and keeping quiet about my bipolar now seems to me to be a way that contributes to the stigma.

Bipolar is a chronic mental illness that can make life difficult at times--difficult on me and difficult for my family. Despite these difficulties, I have a pretty amazing life--a nine month old baby, a beautiful, kind, supportive wife, and wonderful friends, family, and faith community. I could go into great detail and name names, but suffice to say I'm blessed.

It's easy to forget all those blessings at times. It's easy to ask, "why do I have to have bipolar?" or, "where do thoughts and actions I choose end and where do the thoughts and actions from my disease begin?" It's easy to ruminate on these things which can lead to a spiral of depression, anxiety, and mania.

I hear from friends and family that I do a nice job managing my bipolar. While this is good to hear, it's really my friends, family, and faith communities that have brought me to where I'm at today. So any of my friends and family who are reading this, thank you in whatever way you've supported me over the years.

Thank you for kind words, listening ears, and encouragement; for thoughts and prayers; for noticing when I'm not doing well and asking about it. Thank you for bringing me to a doctor's appointment or to the hospital, or for visiting me in the hospital.

Especially, I thank God. At times that have seemed hopeless, I meditate on the person of God in Jesus--someone who although he was perfect chose a mortal life to face suffering and even death in the name of love. Not only that, but he defeated death--and when those thoughts of death and despair come, it's nice to know a God who's experienced those thoughts and emotions as well, and has overcome death.

I could go on with all the many ways I've been blessed, but for now it's enough to just be thankful. I can only imagine where I might be without such amazing people and an amazing God in my life. So many people with mental illness deal with so much--unemployment, homelessness, isolation--these are all things I could suffer as well, but because of the people in my life I do not.

Read more about mental health at Mental Health Myths and Facts.

Thank you, and live well.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Back at Life

I love fall. It's beautiful. I love walks through through parks and neighborhoods where birch, maples, ash, cottonwood, oak trees, and sumac color the paths with auburn, deep red, golden, and all shades in between burst from the changing trees on cloudless days.

The weather cools and gone are the days of hot, humid runs. Though I love the weather and the colors, the shorter days also pose a challenge.

It's no longer  a surprise--October's can be difficult for me. Seasonal changes and the rapid changing of daylight hours can really affect my mood--not the same as daily or hourly moods. Rather, anxiety levels, some depression, and some mood swings.

Looking back on some pictures from past Octobers, you'd never know it. At work and around friends I can usually fake it until I make it. The depression and anxiety really hit when I'm alone or lying in bed after waking in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep.

October in 2011 following the Twin Cities Marathon
My one year anniversary in the hospital came and went. Now, I have a new anniversary--October 9, 2016. Following several sleepless nights intermixed with over a week of poor sleep in general, I crashed hard. My condition and poor sleep do not mix well, and the hospital was the best option for me.

The last time I was in the hospital I didn't think I should have been there (though I should have), and tried to get out as soon as possible. This time, I knew I needed to be there, and it helped. While there, I learned that some things need to change in my life, especially in the way I think and deal with stress.

After leaving the hospital, I saw my doctor to talk about medications. Due to the seasonal nature of my condition, we had a good talk about how to adjust medications before my symptoms of heightened energy, anxiety, and depression hit. After looking at my patterns over the past few years, I'm optimistic that the medications will help.

October of 2012 in Michigan
I know medication is not the only answer, Next week I'll be joining a dialectical behavior therapy group next week to learn some skills in order to better manage stress. I hope that it will be helpful and can change some thought patterns that I'm very much stuck in. When life is going well and fairly stress-free, I do well. When it's not, I have more problems coping than many people -- I'd like that to change.

Running has been a great tool for managing my stress, but when I'm training for a specific race or aiming for a specific goal, it can become compulsive. I'd like that to change as well.

Now is a good time. I'm wrapping up a marathon training program, my son is almost nine months old, and my family is safe and provided for. It's hard sometimes not to feel like it's selfish to spend time and money on therapy, hospital visits, and therapy. I can't, however, be there for my family, friends, and people in need if I'm not doing well. So, to take care of others, I have to make sure to take care of myself.

Be well.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Summer of Semi-Stay-at-Home Parenting - Issue #4

I started this post back in July and stopped working on it in the beginning of August. There are several reason for this, but suffice to say some personal issues turned a summer of stay at home parenting into a summer of part-time stay at home parenting.

Week of July 5
Calvin spent some time in daycare this week while his mommy worked at Children's Country Day and his daddy worked at the Running Room. The week went by quickly as his parents got ready for another family gathering, this time at a lake home near Remer, Minnesota.

Weekend of July 8
Things were packed up for the trip as much as we could on Friday evening--Calvin didn't really help. On Saturday morning, Calvin got to join his mommy for a baby shower where he got to enjoy the company of some other babies.

That afternoon, Calvin rode with his mommy and daddy up to the Lady Slipper Lodge. After a stop for dinner, we arrived and unpacked. After his things were set up and unpacked, Calvin hung out with his mommy, nana and grandpa while daddy worked on catching some breakfast for the next day.

Calvin enjoyed his new surroundings at the Lady Slipper Lodge. He got to lay on a blanket out on a deck, and enjoyed his sleeping space in a large closet (the door was open and he was in a Pack-n-Play, don't judge).

Calvin's closet in back right

Week of July 11
The days blurred together as Calvin spent an entire week at the cabin. He got to spend tons of quality time with mommy, and got to be held a lot by his aunt, uncle, cousin, nana, and grandpa.

He also got to go on his first pontoon ride (he was definitely not a fan of his life jacket, but he did enjoy the breeze and the movement on the water).

I can't imagine why he doesn't like the life jacket

Calvin also got to visit his first state park--Schoolcraft. It was a small park, and Calvin saw just about every foot of trail (there are only about two miles total) as he rode in his Baby Bjorn with his mommy.

His family got to do a lot of fishing, and Calvin watched as they enjoyed fish for breakfast one day and dinner on the last night. He also got to enjoy a visit from his Great Aunt and Uncle.

Week of July 21
It was back to reality for Calvin. He had a bit of a hard time adjusting to not being able to be held and played with all day every day, but by the end of the week he was starting to be able to play by himself a little more.

Calvin's rolling and "crawling" (really it's pushing his face across the floor with his feet) and rolling more than ever. He's also really into textures--he likes feeling and patting all kinds of things--tables, sofas, you name it.

At the Lady Slipper Lodge, Calvin got to try his first solid food--avocado and later, some organic baby food (pear) his aunt brought for him. He's also been eating homemade rice cereal and pureed sweet potato, as well as mashed banana. Finally, his babbling has increased quite a bit, and he's starting to make a "dada" sound, though Laura and I both agree his not actually trying to say "dada."

This month I went back to work more regularly, working some hours at Brightmont Academy and picking up more hours at The Running Room. I spent about a day a week with Calvin, and most days he was in daycare for six hours or less.

We got to see Laura's side of the family quite a bit this month

Calvin started to sit up for longer stretches this month, and his babbling continue to increase.

Calvin's first haircut!

 Calvin was pretty mellow during his haircut. There were lots of movies going and several kids crying, but Calvin pretty much sat in in his chair and took it all in.

Calvin also started army crawling, and could get where he wanted much quicker than before.

September is gone and although this October has been unseasonably warm, fall is officially here. A huge kudos to all the real stay at home parents. I couldn't cut it, and am impressed by those who do it full or part-time.