Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As One Story Ends, Another Begins in 2014!

Here we are ladies and gents.  New Year's Eve, 2013.  For many, this is a time of reflection on the year past, while others focus on the year to come.  I prefer to do both.

Looking back on 2013 requires revisiting both the bad times and the good.  It was my first full year in San Diego.  The holiday season of 2012 came at the same time as my move to San Diego, making the start of my life here very turbulent.  To say the least, I was utterly miserable at the beginning of 2013.  I was exhausted from school, from student teaching, from hosting holiday dinners and traveling for others.  My poor health management caught up with me and I came down with a nasty bug that felt like it was the end.  I had no friends here, no job, and no motivation.  After living on my own for 18 months, I had to acclimate to sharing my living space with my husband again.  It wasn't just my way anymore.  I had to consider someone else again.  It was a rough adjustment.

Somehow though, that low point merely acted as a springboard for a phenomenal year.  My incredibly patient and loving husband did not fret when my moods were all over the place.  Never one did he falter in his support.  When I finally figured out what I thought I needed to improve the situation, he did not hesitate to help make it happen.  He was there holding my hand the whole time.

As I navigated this new territory, I found myself as a long-term substitute.  Although the experience was challenging beyond imagination, it was also extremely rewarding.  However, the job had to come to an end.  I continued to substitute with various schools and tutor on the side.  I met amazing people and fostered valuable network connections.  Yet I still felt disconnected from the life I was living.

I found myself traveling, a lot.  Traveling  is not a bad thing.  In fact, it is amazing if done for the right reasons.  My best friend helped me realize I was not helping myself though.  My travels weren't just for vacation and to visit friends.  My travels were more about me running away to more comfortable situations than trying to build my life in San Diego.  I realized if I was ever going to be happy here, I needed to dig in and make it happen.

Then came kickball.  I never thought that a schoolyard game could change my life, my outlook.  Kickball filled that vital piece I needed to grow...friendship and community.  I had a reason to leave the house.  I had people to celebrate accomplishments with.  I made some wonderful friends.  I didn't feel so alone and isolated anymore, and this gave me strength to launch into the world here.  Even when things were rough, I had people I could call on now.

Now, I have opportunities to give back to my community and charity.  My tutoring business has continued to grow and my network grows more every day.  As 2013 comes to a close, 2014 is shining bright ahead.  My chapter of emotional struggle is giving way to a chapter of motivation and determination.  This new chapter will bring many challenges as I work to start my new school, increase my fitness, and continue improving my diet and overall being.  I look forward to more opportunities to give back to my community and neighbors.  And hopefully, I look forward to welcoming a child into our home.

2013, Thank you for the lessons you taught me and the strength you built in me, but our time is now down.  2014, Bring it on!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Straight to the Point or Clarity?

As I am responding to emails, chatting with friends, and perusing through Facebook, a thought crosses my mind that *insertname* types way to much.  Just get to the point.  I don't need all the details.  Then, just a couple minutes later, I stop myself as I am typing a response to someone.  I begin to question myself: Do I type too much?  Should I be more straight to the point?  But I feel this information is important to understand what I am saying.  But what if it isn't?  What if my reader sits on the other side of this screening thinking, "Get to the point!"?

Perhaps, when we are beating around the bush, we are simply trying to buy ourselves time.  We could be buying time for any number of reasons, but either way, we are trying to put off the inevitable.  Staying in that sense of limbo, never having to learn what the response will be to your statement or question. Right now, I sit in that very spot.  I have news that I want to share, but I fear the response.  I obviously fear the response of negativity, but I also fear the positive.  If I am supported, it would be even more humiliating if this project did not go as planned, I stumbled or failed.

For better or worse, I can be extremely sensitive and take comments to heart that shouldn't matter in the scheme of things.  There are soooooooo many things that could go wrong and I have never tried something like this before.  As the people of Oz would say, this is "a horse of a different color."  Quite frankly, I am elated and absolutely terrified at the same time. It has me wanting to bolt forward with confidence and excitement, while also wanting to say "Oh, HELL no!" and running away.  Do I take the risk?  Do I share this new, little seedling with the world, or do I let it grow a bit before bringing it out into the elements?  There is no obvious answer.

So now, I have decided to have confidence in myself.  I will make this work.  If I don't have faith in myself, how can others have faith in me?  Have confidence in my product?  So now I will get to the point.

I am a teacher and a damn fine one. I have found so much joy in my work that I have decided to take this to the next level.  I am creating my own school and tutoring center.  I'm building a freakin' business y'all!!!!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Christmas! Flashback Cafe Style

As I begin this post, it is 10:20 pm in California on Christmas Eve.  I am lying here in bed, looking forward to the day ahead, and I begin picturing Christmases past.  Some are just little moments in time, while other recollections are long and elaborate.  These are some of my favorites:

The first one that comes to me takes place when I was a kid. We had Oma at our house for Christmas.  We began a game of Monopoly that went on for three days!  It was cutthroat mayhem!  Adults selling privileges, children selling chores, all to pay rent or buy properties.  The first year that board games were a major part of our Christmas traditions.

The next is just a picture and a feeling.  The single image of my dad leaned over a table struggling to put together my brother's new remote control car.  It was so awesome and I was so jealous, but it made that Christmas amazing!  And dad was SO frustrated.  Hehe.

Then I remember our Christmas dinner.  Oh that heavenly seafood!  See, most people celebrate with a ham or turkey.  Our family celebrates with this wonderful concoction that I don't even have a name for.  It has crab, shrimp, lobster, and it is similar to a chowder texture.  We pour the seafood over toasted, buttered bread cups and it is a match made in heaven.  Partnered with green beans almondine and cheddar bay biscuits, the meal is perfect.

Then I would think of Oma. She's been gone 5 years now.  We still talk about her when we are playing the games.  She cheated all the time and we just loved trying to catch her at it!  She always liked to have a fire going in the fireplace and had 3 blankets on her.  We still go to ask her what she wants to drink sometimes when setting the table.

Finally, I settle on last Christmas.  D's family came to visit for Christmas and it was awesome!  We took them to see San Francisco, had Christmas at my parents, went hiking, and played a LOT of card games!  It was stressful at times, but it was so totally worth it!

I am looking forward to adding more memories this Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Spirit of the Season

We can argue from here to eternity about what holiday we are celebrating and what day it should be on, or for once, we can step back and look at the bigger picture.  To me, it does not matter if it is Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, The Solstice, Yule, or anything else.  To me, it is all in the spirit of the season.  The spirit of the season should be love, kindness, helping those in need, treating others better than you treat yourself, and simply connecting with the rest of you community.  So much of that spirit has been lost. 

But we can fix it.  A dear friend of mine made her Christmas wish tonight.  She is one of the strongest women I know.  When asked what she wanted to Christmas, she said this:

"I can always answer a cure for Cancer or more time with my beloved husband, kids, family, and friends but we all pretty know that the third time is not a charm in my case. I want presents from ALL of my Facebook Friends both near and far and it won't cost you a thing. Go out of your way to do something nice for someone, stranger even, for no financial gain. This is your challenge! It can be as easy as taking a elderly person's shopping cart back. My [XX]st Birthday is Saturday so you have until them."

I have taken on her challenge, and now I challenge anyone who reads this.  Saturday is December 28th.  Go out of your way to do something nice for someone for no financial gain.  You know the acts of kindness we are looking for. Share your experiences in the comments!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Honoring my Mind and Body

The last couple weeks, I have been trying to force my body and mind to conform to the way I want to be during the winter - the woman who is there for everyone, on top of all the "to-do's," working regularly, cooking fresh dinners, having a clean house, and still participating in all the events of the season.  Essentially, I have been pushing myself to be perfect.

This morning, I realized I have not been honoring who I am.  I am NOT perfect, and in reality, do I really want to be perfect?  I think of perfect and I see no room for fun or spontaneous actions.  I see stiff, prudish, and boring.  I don't see the crazy fun antics I like to incorporate into my life.  No, I am not perfect, but I keep punishing myself for not being perfect.  I chastise myself when I cannot fall asleep at a decent enough time to work the next morning.  I think poorly of myself when I can't bring myself to run the dozens of errands that need to be completed.  I wonder what is wrong with me when I simply don't have the energy to cook or clean house.  I mentally abuse myself with my negative self-talk.

Today, I am going to try a new approach.  I am going to practice being perfectly me.  If I do not get everything done, so be it.  As long as it isn't going to literally kill anyone and we have the necessities, it isn't the end of the world.  Lately, I have been exhausted during the day, but wide awake at night.  I will honor that by resting when I am tired, and being productive when I am awake.  Housework can be done at any time of day or night (except vacuuming when others are sleeping).  Bills, emails, warranty registrations, even grocery shopping can be done in the middle of the night.

I will honor my body cycle.  I haven't been able to wake up before 10am lately without being a zombie all day.  This means I haven't been taking any substitute jobs because I want the full day of work which starts at 7:30am.  I will change that.  Instead of trying to force myself to work "like a normal person," I will start taking half day jobs that start at 11:00/11:30am or I will take on more tutoring clients, scheduling appointments when I know I will be functional, and discontinue substituting until spring.

I will honor my mind.  If I just can't focus or concentrate, then I will give my mind the break it wants and play games, visit with friends, exercise, or cook.  When my mind is a little less turbulent, I will focus on the "serious" stuff, like studying, building my tutoring website, adoption paperwork, etc.

I have bipolar disorder.  I have anxiety.  In the winter, I can become severely depressed.  I thought I had fully accepted it a long time ago, but last week, my therapist asked a very pertinent question:  "Have you really accepted your disorder?"  Now, I am not so sure.  Yes, I admit I have it and I will always fight against the negative stigma of bipolar disorder, but I have always expected myself to "find a way" to prevent the winter depression.  I expect myself to find a way to "fix" it, like I am a toy that just needs some super glue or batteries, but I am realizing it is not that simple.  There is no cure.  There is only management of the disease.  My mind and body has needs unique to the time of year, and it is high time I give myself what I need.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pick Me Ups!

I spent the last week super down.  Once again, I felt miserable and found it difficult to really do anything at all.  On Wednesday, I literally stayed in bed all day.  After that, I knew I had to force myself to do some stuff.  I knew that being productive would fight against my depression.  I knew just getting out of the house would help elevate my mood.  I knew contact with the outside world would feed my soul.  The rough part is when you know all that, but your body does not want to move.  Sometimes it feels like you are almost paralyzed.  Other times, it feels like you have 1,000 pounds pressing down on you.  Getting out of that state can happen dozens of ways, but once you do, you are so grateful.  

For me, it was commitments.  No matter how depressed I was, my drive to keep my commitments was stronger.  For me, it was pre-planning.  I knew that sometime around the end of November, I start to take a slide.  The amount of daylight greatly affects my moods (SAD).  Armed with this knowledge, I purposely made commitments around this time of the year that would maximize my chances of fighting off the depression.  

So Thursday, I had an appointment that I simply would not cancel.  I went to that appointment, and even though I seriously struggled through it, I left just a little less depressed.  My first step to make winter easier.  Since I was already out, I decided to run some errands because I knew the second I got home, I was not going out again.  This resulted in me being productive, which increased my mood more!  Friday, I had an appointment with my therapist, another pre-planned strategy.  I would not cancel that appointment either.  

Finally, my cake topper.  When I was given the opportunity to join a kickball charity tournament 5 weeks ago, I knew this was on my list of things to do more of and I knew I would never cancel the opportunity to give back.  That event was this weekend.  Friday, I drove to the hotel and got settled.  Then the awesomeness began.  Saturday was the tournament.  Saturday brought rain, including a few downpours and butt-puckering cold wind.  Simply put, it was miserable.  The turnout was amazing though!  Everyone brought their A game. 
That's me with the clipboard. I had on tights, two pairs of pants, three shirts, a sweatshirt, the jacket, and two pairs of socks.  I'll be damned if I am going to let the cold keep me from playing.
Rain!  Rain!  Go Away!
"The Bench"
  Then, the clouds parted.  Literally and figuratively.  The sun shined on through and we flipped!  Everyone started having a blast and there was so much laughter.  The cameras came out and all craziness broke loose!  It was just what this soul needed.  By the end of the festivities, I had risen money to give back to my community, had a blast, felt productive, loaded up on vitamin D while outside, and tied it all together with soul-renewing friends.  My weekend was complete. 

                           Chicks with Kicks!                             Suspender Hotties!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life Isn't Always Sunshine and Rainbows

...and neither am I.  Granted, I try really hard to stay positive and keep all my social media stuff positive and upbeat.  After all, no one wants to hear bad or sad things all day every day.  Not to mention that negativity feeds on itself.  The problem is that not everyone can stay positive all the time and sometimes, trying to force it just makes the situation worse.

Today is one of those days where I just can't be positive all day.  I hurt.  Physically, my body is screaming.  This cold front is just killing my joints and I have a headache.  Emotionally, I just don't have it right now.  Every winter, I fight it with all I have.  I fight the negative thoughts, the self-deprecating, the crappy esteem, the "nobody loves me" mentality.  I fight the thoughts that say "why bother?"  It is hard because I know better.  I know that it is just the depression lying to me, and the last thing I want to do is make my friends and loved ones think they don't matter when I make comments like "nobody loves me."  I know better, but right now, my emotions don't feel it.

Sometimes you just have to feel what you feel and do your best to push through to the other side.  I can only hope that my friends and family can understand and remember that when I get angry, sad, depressed, pissy, or irritated, it really isn't me talking.  It is the depression talking.  I am fighting it with all I have, to hold it back, to lock it away, but this beast is big and breaks down my walls with ease.  But this will pass, as it always does.  Come the end of February/beginning of March, the clouds in my soul will begin to part again and my cheery smile will come more easily.  Til then, I will do the best I can, and I hope you will continue to stand by me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Coping with the Holidays

Don't you just love seeing all the holiday decorations around town?  Everywhere you go, there are Thanksgiving and Christmas themes.  A blowup turkey here, a Christmas tree there, the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas debate.  Then there is the endless ideal image of what the holidays are supposed to look like, including the red and orange of fall, the bundled up kids, snow on the streets, a long table lined with family down either side, a lighted Menorah, and the presents under the tree.  These are all images that are meant to evoke the emotion of happiness, thankfulness, and content.

However, many people struggle with the holidays.  Some struggle because they recently lost a loved one and the table feels empty without them.  Others become overwhelmed with the crowds and noise.  Whether you find yourself depressed from the season change or you simply have no positive memories of the holidays, we all have a choice in how we react to the negative emotions.

For me, I dip in and out of depressions throughout the year, but they are typically more severe and persistent during the winter months, beginning about mid-November.  As you might expect, this frequently affects my ability to enjoy the holiday season.  I look forward to seeing my family and having that break, but many times it comes with unreasonable expectations.  Though the last few years have been much better, I am going in prepared this year!  I choose to do all I can to ensure I engage in practices that help maintain a positive mood and environment.  Here are a few things you might consider as well.
  1. Enlist support
  2. Make a plan. Options include (but not limited to):
    • Enlist the help of loved ones. In my case, my hubby is helping me in this "quest"
    • Brainstorm ways to fight depressive situations.  In my case, I am not allowed to spend hours in front of the TV.  Yes, I can have football on, but actively staring at the screen for 12 hours only fuels depression. 
    • Keep occupied/busy, but not so busy that you overwhelm yourself.  It is a fine balancing act to find just the right amount of activities to keep you positively stimulated, but not so much that you can't take a break if wanted. For me, this includes things like playing card/board games, helping* prepare the meals, plenty of reading material, and adoption paperwork.  These are all activities that can be stopped somewhat easily.  Note: helping means not being the sole person responsible for the meal.  You are simply helping when comfortable but not the main chef. 
    • Plan a couple activities that require leaving the house.  Even if the weather is chilly, leaving the house is huge.  For me, I am planning on attending a T-day lite-up downtown event and checking out a food truck faire!  Two events in 7 days is enough to keep me motivated, but not overwhelmed, turning fun activities into work. On the off days, I will plan to talk a walk around the block, through the neighborhood, down the schoolyard, or basically anywhere else.  The walk can be as long or as short as I want, with a minimum of "to the neighbor's house." The simple act of leaving the house helps to awaken your senses, increase your vitamin D levels, combats SAD, and increases blood floor, all of which fights depression.  
    • Most importantly, be gentle on yourself.  I don't care if you are having a Thanksgiving dinner for work, with loved ones, or by yourself, be gentle on yourself.  You do not have to meet someone else's expectation of you.  You do not even have to meet your expectation of what you should do.  All you have to do is show up. Showing up is half the battle; you have already beaten one symptom of depression - isolation.  For the rest of the visit, accept your needs and honor them.  If you need to sleep in, do so.  If you need to cancel a dinner date, do so.  If you need to go out, do so.  If you need to read a book, do so.  If you need to take a break and hide in the bathroom for a while, do so.  You have to take care of yourself.
  3. Be flexible.  If you are one of those people who need to plan everything out, go for it, but also plan in some extra wiggle room.  In my case, I have blocks on my mental plan.  Drive days, scheduled events, then I have generic blocks.  One says "game of choice" and the other says "other home activity" (which includes walking since it is around the neighborhood) and they both exist on every day during the visit.  If you want more details, feel free to message me.  If you are the type that plays it by ear, set an alarm in your phone to ensure that you take some required fun/take care of you time. 
Finally, if none of that helps and you still find your thoughts/feelings going to dark places, accept it and talk about it.  It doesn't matter who.  You might call your psychiatrist or therapist, or talk to your best friend, family member, spouse, parent, God, journal, blogger, or stranger.  Talk to someone about it and really listen to any legal, reasonable suggestions to help elevate your mood.  They may be something you try or not, but at least you have options now.  

I didn't mean for this to become so long, but if you stuck with me, Congratulations!  We are almost done!  Remember, everyone has their own battles to fight.  Do not assume yours is greater than another's.  Do not assume yours is insignificant.  So this season, smile a little brighter, be a little more kind, be a little more gentle.  You never know when your smile can make or break a day for someone. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finding the Support that is Right for You

Some days, the world just doesn't level out in the morning the way you would like it to.  Maybe you didn't sleep we'll the night before or you woke up feeling cruddy. Maybe your body has aches or pains somewhere or the fog of depression or anxiety settles over you. Or maybe things just don't feel right. Not because something is actually wrong; just things don't feel right either. 

Now, it is true that thinking positively can help elevate your mood and get you through a rough day, but what about those days when you just can't see the positive?  The days when the fog is so thick that you can't see the good ahead of you? That you can't see the potential the day holds?  That is when you need your circle of support. 

Everyone's support circle looks different. For me, part of my support comes from a handful of friends who I know I can turn to. I know they will call me out when negativity is eating me alive.  I know I can call on them to vent my frustrations, opening the path to see good again. I know they will ask me that difficult question that we rarely answer honestly, especially to strangers, "How are you today?" They don't buy into the standard automatic response of "fine" or "ok."  

Yesterday, as I whined about my headache and lack of sleep, my support circle stepped in and reminded me to stop, take a breath, and observe all my blessings. Yesterday, I found out my little circle had grown. A new friend stepped up and reminded me that not all was lost and there were things to be thankful for. She cleared the fog from my vision and reopened my eyes and I am grateful for her friendship. 

What does support look like for you? Is your support friends? Family? Medical professionals? Strangers? Coworkers? Maybe even a pet? All of these are acceptable. Everyone's support looks different. There is no magic formula for what helps you keep going every day. What is important though is that you have that support. If you don't have anyone you can trust to be honest with you or that you can confide in, find someone.  Join a support group.  Find a recreational sports group. Recruit friends and family that you are comfortable with. Explore the option of a therapist or counselor. Find that safe haven where you can let your guard down and be brutally honest with yourself and/or someone else.  Then, expand from there. After all, we don't want to overwhelm our support. One person can only carry so much of your load.  Spread it between multiple people and everyone is more comfortable and productive. 

And if you don't know if you can venture out and start your support network, start here, with me and my readers. This is a no judgement zone. Ask questions, share your feelings, needs, and struggles. If posting in the comments here is too much, send me a private email.  We all need someone sometime. Let's help each other. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

To Feel Your Heart Break

Today, I have found myself incredibly distracted by all the things in my life that remind me we don't have children yet, and suddenly I am flooded with emotion.

D and I started trying to have children 5 1/2 years ago.  4 years ago, all the tests said our parts were working fine.  Unexplained infertility.  3 years ago, we decided to adopt instead of doing invitro.  2 years ago, we began researching.  1 year ago, we submit our first applications to a few agencies.  6 months ago, we decided to swallow our pride and start shamelessly asking people to help us realize our dream of giving an awesome family to a child in need.  Today, I cried.

I cried for the love that is just waiting to create a home for someone.  Infant, toddler, teen?  We would love them all.  I cried for the money we don't have to finance adopting.  It's not cheap.  Paying the lawyers, the social workers, the facilitators, lodging and expenses from the birth mother, and more adds up quickly.  It just doesn't seem right.  But I want a child.  I want to be that parent that loves and protects a child for the rest of his or her life.  But I have to wait.  I have to be patient.  Save up the money.  Collect donations if you can.  Take extra jobs if you can, either substituting or tutoring.  Keep expenses under control.

I have to be patient.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Love My Job!!!

Do you love your job?  If you don't, you should find what you love and turn it into a career.  My husband does what he loves - designing games.  I finally get to do what I love - teaching.  Why do I love teaching though?  Because I understand what it is like to learn in a different way than what mainstream school usually uses.  I understand what it is like to try and find different ways of understanding when the spoken word just doesn't work for you.  I understand how some topics just seem so overwhelming, you can't move forward.  This is what I work around every day when I substitute, tutor, or teach a friend something new.  And I absolutely love it!

I love it because I helped keep someone from giving up.  I helped build someone's confidence to try something they didn't think they could do.  I helped make our future inventors and philosophers be a little more creative, think a little differently, and understand the seemingly convoluted concepts a little bit more.  But most of all, I love it for the look on a child's face when everything suddenly makes sense - that lightbulb moment.  I love the excitement in the student's face when they discovered how awesome reading really can be.  I love the feeling of accomplishment when just one or two slight misconceptions are corrected and everything else falls into place.  I love moments like last night and this morning, when I help someone figure an assignment out just by explaining it in different terms...

Original comment and assignment:  I cannot write compare and contrast essays for the life of me oh my ...... I am having the hardest time. So here is what we did. We wrote sentences and my teacher split us into groups based on the same sentences and we had to read ours aloud to our group. So i have to compare theres to mine lol.   How do i introduce 3 different topics and say "im gonna compare and contrast these k".   im gonna be up all night.

My abridge response:  slow down. you will have 3 paragraphs. one for each opposing paper. so you are only comparing your paper to one at a time in structure.  paper 1: this paper was similar to mine because _____; it was different from mine because _____.  paper 2: this paper was similar to mine because _____; it was different from mine because _____.  paper 3: this paper was similar to mine because _____; it was different from mine because _____.  Add examples for each.

Resulting comment: I THINK ID DIE WITHOUT YOU

This morning's text exchange:

Student:  Guess who gets to help  me write another paper?!
Me:  No problem!  Email me the assignment and we will explore what it wants tonight.
Student:  You are a life saver!
Me:  Nope, just a teacher.
Student:  The best f*cking teacher
Me:  LOL.  Thanks.  :)

Talk about a great start to my day!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Taking Care of Yourself First

I honestly don't know what it is, but people love to talk to me.  They come to me with their dreams, their fears, their problems, and their celebrations.  They come to me when they are sad and no one else understands or they can't figure out what it is they are feeling.  What do I do?  I listen.  I take it all in, then I respond.  This response may simply be a hug and a reassurance that I am always there to talk to.  It may be a vote of support or encouragement, or I may give some advice, but I rarely sugarcoat things.  In return, I now have several close friends who I trust to tell me the truth, even when I don't like it.  It is especially frustrating when they use my own advice against me.  In this case, the advice is:

"You have to take care of yourself if you want to care for anyone else."

This is one of the pieces of advice I hand out on nearly a daily basis.  So many times, we put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. The result is exhaustion and illness which manifests in the inability to take care of those things you saw as more important.  For example, you have to work to pay for the house over your family's heads and to put food on the table.  You are super stressed out and tired because you have been losing sleep over an important project or task.  In fact, this task is so important, that you can't possibly consider taking a couple hours off work to refresh yourself and relax.  After all, you have to bring home that paycheck and those 2 or 3 hours just can't be sacrificed.

The problem is the stress lowers your immune system and lack of sleep only exacerbates the problem.  Guess what happens next.  If you thought "you get sick," you are right!  You didn't take care of yourself, so your body couldn't maintain peak efficiency and now you are sick.  Only, an illness rarely lasts a mere 2 or 3 hours.  Instead, that time you were afraid of "wasting" has now become 2 or 3 days instead of 2 or 3 hours.  I don't know about you, but even when I push through illness, I am rarely more than half as productive as I am healthy.  So instead of losing 2 or 3 hours for refreshing and relaxing, I am losing the equivalent of 2 or 3 half days by being sick.  Assuming you work 8 hour days and your production is about half what it should be, you just lost 8-12 hours of production compared to 2-3 hours.  Congratulations!  You quadrupled your down time!

Well, running the numbers, it makes sense to do the 2 or 3 hours.  So what is the problem?  Emotions.  Feelings of guilt, longing, sadness, jealousy, and fear keep up from doing what we know is healthiest for us.  Fear of disappointing a boss, coworker, or family member; guilt from not helping a friend in need; sadness that you might miss something fun or exciting; jealousy that someone else can just go and go and never wear down; a longing to meet an unhealthy version of a perfect you.

Today, I stayed in bed all day and played on the internet and studied.  I pushed my body farther than normal the past 4 days and I could feel the results in stiff and sore joints.  Emotionally, there was a lot of crappy news that hit also.  I knew my body and mind needed the break to recharge, but when a friend called on my help, I found myself torn.  One of the things that I both love and hate about myself is my incredible desire to fix everything for everyone.  That quality directly conflicts with my need to rest.  Though I believe I did the right thing in taking the day to recharge, I feel incredibly guilty I was unable to help that friend today.  Taking care of yourself is not the easiest thing to do, but it is something that has to be done and I am actively trying to live my own advice.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What "just be there" looks like

...and why my husband is my savior.

Friday, October 25, 2013

13 Ways to Help

When I first started this blog, it was with the intention of recording the life of a person with bipolar disorder (me) so that other can see not all people with bipolar disorder go off doing horrible, awful things that lead to death or dismemberment.  I wanted to help erase the stigma of mental illness.  However, I have another chronic, life-long ailment.  I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  As the symptoms progress and regress, I find myself wanting to advocate for RA patients too.  Funny how that happens.  ;)

Well, I stumbled across a blog article today for RA and 13 ways you can help people living with RA.  They are GREAT suggestions for how to help an RA patient out, but they can serve a duel purpose.  Most of these tips are great for how to help a bipolar patient also so I am including a list for Beepers (as a few of us fondly call ourselves) as well!  So here we go!

13 Ways You Can Help People Living with RA

  1. Ask, "How are you doing?"  Really listen to the answer. 
  2. Bring a meal.  Breakfast... lunch... dinner...
  3. Open doors, cans, jars, soda pop, plastic storage containers... without being asked. 
  4. Don't hand them something heavy.  Most things are too heavy. 
  5. If you notice an RA'er is having trouble walking, offer to walk the dog or get the mail...
  6. Notice whether or not an RA'er is having trouble walking. 
  7. Send a "Thinking of You" card.
  8. Run an errand.
  9. Do a household chore or give a gift certificate for a maid service. 
  10. Read a blog about RA, so you can learn about what your loved one is dealing with. 
  11. Go to doctor's appointments as moral support, witness, driver, or physical assistant.
  12. Exchange jokes.  Be funny.  Pain is a big downer.
  13. Ask an RA'er to tell you her/his story.
13 Ways You Can Help People Living with Bipolar Disorder
(Note:  Bipolar associated mania manifests in every person differently and is often mistaken by outsiders as either "That person is really happy today" or "That person is really pissed off today."  Others attribute it to a fun, outgoing personality.  The problem is it can be really hard to tell if a Beeper is manic or just a "normal" happy/mad.  THEREFORE, this list focuses more on the depressive side of Bipolar.)

  1. Ask, "How are you doing?" or "How many spoons today?"  Really listen to the answer. 
  2. Bring a meal.  Breakfast... lunch... dinner...
  3. Open windows and blinds... without being asked.  Any natural sunlight helps fight depression.
  4. Don't assume a Beeper will remember a list.  Write it down.
  5. If you notice a Beeper is feeling down, offer to walk the dog, sit and chat, or get the mail...
  6. Notice whether or not a Beeper is feeling down. 
  7. Send a "Thinking of You" card.
  8. Run an errand.
  9. Do a household chore or give a gift certificate for a maid service. 
  10. Read a blog about Bipolar Disorder, so you can learn about what your loved one is dealing with. 
  11. Go to doctor's appointments as moral support, witness, warden, driver, or physical assistant.
  12. Exchange jokes.  Be funny.  Laughter is a huge weapon against depression.
  13. Ask a Beeper to tell you her/his story.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Grand Re-Opening!

I know I have been gone for a while.  Things got a little crazy in the last year or so.  Hopefully, I am back and I can start sharing my journeys and experiences with you all again!  To begin, let me give you a little recap of the last 14 months.  Yes, yes.  I know you know the general events, but rather than you refreshing your memory by looking at past posts, I will just do it here.

At this time last year, I was wrapping up my student teaching in Arizona.  Student teaching was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done.  It truly tested my limits and forced me to think outside the box.  I had bad days where I seriously doubted I would make it through, and I had great days where I was in awe at what my students could do.  With my classmates and my mentor teacher, I laughed, I cried, I pulled my hair out, and I loved.  Despite my fears and inexperience, my students thrived and I finally graduated.

With graduation, I finally got to be back with my husband again.  18 months of living in two separate places takes a toll on a relationship.  The transition back to living together and being a team was rough.  I had gotten used to depending on only myself.  I had gotten used to cooking for one, worrying about only what I needed to do and accomplish.  Suddenly, there was another person in the equation again and I had to relearn how to be a partner instead of the boss.  It was a long process that I was not able to solve myself, but it took me time to accept the help from my partner.

While this was all going on, my body was adjusting to the new climate.  I went from hot and dry to cool and humid and my body did not agree at all!  I spend months achy and depressed as I worked with my docs to adjust my meds accordingly.  Eventually, the Rheumatoid got used to the weather and I was able to function better and summer came along, improving my mood.

Now, I have settled into my life here in So Cal and I am working toward new goals.  My husband and I are trying to raise money to adopt, I am studying for my secondary certifications for teaching in California, I am substituting and tutoring privately, and I am looking into opening my own private school.  That doesn't even count all the plans I have for this house and yard!

So as you can see, I never seem to let myself slow down, but I feel that not only do I need to start blogging again for my own sanity, I also need to put my thoughts, feelings, and solutions out there for others again.  I  may be dreaming, but I believe my words can help others work through tough times in their own lives.  As I get back to blogging, I will continue to put coping strategies out there, share my own experiences, delve into more detail on some of the past events, and express new dreams.  Please feel free to give your input and suggestions.  I want this to be a community where we all help and share with each other.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Just Give a Little Boost

Rant Warning:  I know, I know.  My first post in what feels like forever and it is a rant.  If you don't want to read this, guess what.  You don't have to!

There once was a time when my dad and I were at odds over how to handle my Bipolar Disorder.  He was of the belief that all you have to do is think positive and you will be positive.  Although this is an excellent starting point for most people, it is not always the end all, especially for someone with an invisible illness.  It doesn't matter if the illness is something like bipolar or depression, or if it is physical like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Plain and simple, mind over matter does not cure everything, and quite frankly, it is one of the quickest ways to piss someone off when they have an invisible illness.

Think about it.  Have you ever had something happen to you physically or mentally that nobody else could see, but it was still there, hurting?  Maybe it was when a close friend or family member died.  Maybe you were sick and someone said you were faking it and no one could figure out what was wrong for a while.  Maybe it was a migraine. How about those with nerve pain, muscle weakness, or even cancer?  How did you feel when someone told you to just snap out of it or think positive and it will get better?  I am betting it felt pretty crappy.  And if you have never felt this degrading feeling, just take my word for it and shut your trap.  You don't know every person's journey.  You don't know the baggage they carry.  Stop being so damn cynical and believe someone for once when they tell you they don't feel well.

Now I bet you are wondering why I am ranting about this.  Well, I made a comment about how I will always be at doctor's offices until they find a cure for my illnesses.  The response asked why do I bother if it can't be cured anyway?  Well because I have to be able to function every day.  Then this person blew me off and said that I can function just fine.  What people don't see is how I let myself wince when they can't see me; how I hobble across the room in the morning because my body is so stiff until I shower; how tears fill my eyes when I once again can't open my own damn jar; how I cry myself to sleep sometimes because I feel lonely even when I am surrounded by my friends; how I take a handful of pills every morning and night just so I can put on that brave face when it hurts so bad to move but I make myself walk normal; how when I stop taking those pills, I literally cannot get out of bed, even if the damn house was on fire; how I recite positive mantras to myself every morning and night to help maintain my mental abilities.  Yes, I function damn well on most occasions, but it is because of a million little things I make sure to do each day to make sure I can at least fake it every day.

So before you reply to me after I mention some ailment I have, consider this.  Either 1) this load is just too much to handle on my own right now and I have to let some of it out or I will completely lose it, or 2) I consider you a very close friend that I can trust to handle me with care when I let my guard down and let you see the real me. So don't feed me crappy lines like "Think positive and you will BE positive!"  I've tried that shit and sometimes it just doesn't work.  Instead, stop listening with your ears and start listening with your heart, like my dad did.  After a particularly rough night when my dog ran away, my dad and I had a very intense and passionate conversation.  He finally listened to the message behind the words and not just the words.  He realized that I am not motivated the same way as my mom and brother.  He has to take a softer approach with me.  Instead of going drill sergeant, offer a helping hand and encouragement.  Chances are all I need is a small boost.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Help Us Start a Family!

I know I haven't posted anything recently and I apologize for that.  With work and school, I just got out of the habit.  A quick update on things.

D has been working with a new startup computer game company and things are going great!  He is loving his job and the process is really starting to ramp up now.  As for me, I have been substituting like mad!  I have had work every day I have wanted it.  For the last 9 weeks, I have been on a long-term substitute job teaching 8th grade physical science.  It has been a mix of amazing awesomeness and incredible WTF moments.  I am telling you what.  Middle school kids have some very strange logic.  But the teachers I work with and the administration have been nothing but supportive and it has been a wonderful experience!

Next week is my last week as a long-term sub.  I am then giving  myself a much needed week off and going back to Tucson to see my girls receive their diplomas and visit my friends, one of which has this adorable little girl that I must cuddle and snuggle and sniff and quite possibly steal away!  Hehe.

Speaking of little ones, I wanted to share our latest adventure with you.  Hubby and I are officially working on the adoption process.  The problem is that it is soooooooo freakin expensive.  As such, we are doing everything we can to try to raise the $20k+ we have to come up with to start our family.  If you are able and willing to donate to our cause, we would greatly appreciate it.  Even a dollar helps us get that much closer.  Thank you for being such loyal readers and friends!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Honoring the Past, Looking Forward to the Future

Today, I finally put away the Nativity Scene.  I know Christmas is long gone, but having it up gave me a sense of closeness with my Oma.  My brother and I would help her set it up every year we were near.  Carefully we would place each piece in whatever arrangement met our fancy that year.  It was always set up on this long, dark table that sat against the wall in the formal living room. It was one of the first things you saw when you entered her house.  Setting up the Nativity Scene was one of many traditions we shared with Oma.

As I wrap each of the pieces in gobs of tissue paper, I try to be as gentle as possible.  Most of the pieces are in excellent condition but a few are chipped and worn.  In particular, poor Joseph's paint is cracking all over the place.  He gets the most tissue and the least direct handling.  Each piece is placed carefully inside the handmade manger before wrapped carefully in plastic and stored in a plastic tote.

As I wrap, I notice a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of one of the figures.  It has the shape and texture of one of those cheap sticky price tags you might see in the dollar store but it is worn and faded.  On it is typed two letters and three numbers - DM 2, 50.  Five of the figures have this same stamp.  Another is marked DM 2, 25 and three others are marked DM 2, 75.  Knowing my Oma came from Germany, my assumption is these are prices: Deutsche Marks.  For these figures to come from Germany means my Oma either inherited them from another family member or she bought them herself.  If she bought them, it would have been long ago since I remember this Nativity Scene from my very young childhood.  I can only assume these pieces are at least 30 years old.

I also know my Oma came from Germany when she was a young girl, a teenager I believe.  She was in Germany during WWII.  After she came to the United States, after the war was over, Oma went back to Germany to visit family several times and sometimes they would come visit us.  Despite knowing of her visits, I like to think this Nativity Scene came over with Oma when she was a girl.  Maybe it is the faded paint on the figures or the style of artwork and craftsmanship, but it feels old.  These figures are potentially 60 years old - or more. A piece of history, a time when things were both simpler and more complex than today.

I cannot thank my Oma for all the Christmas memories she gave me.  I cannot thank you for showing me the importance of tradition.  All I can do is honor the past and pass these memories and traditions on to my own future children.

Danke schön, Oma, und gute nacht.