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.