Friday, July 20, 2012

Depression vs. Sunshine & Fresh Air: Get Outdoors and Get Happy!

Went to the big lake today! It was windy and beautiful, with crashing whitecaps close to shore for the kids to jump.

Although there's a good deal of stressful stuff going on for me, and our entire family, right now, a day outside, in a beautiful place, did a lot to make everyone feel better. It was a bargain too, costing only the gas to get there and the nominal beach parking fee. The grandparents even came along, so it was a multi-generational fun-fest. Going to the beach with little ones is a lot of work, but it makes memories that are well worth it!
If you don't have a lake near you, just get outside and have fun! We have a great nature center nearby. They have a hiking program where you buy a walking stick and earn metal badges to add to your stick after completing certain sets of hiking trails. The badge program motivates the kids to participate, which is very helpful. Fresh air encourages deep, restful sleep, and a day away from all the stress goes a long way to put life's difficulties in perspective. 

I worry about everything, sometimes to the point that I have problems with anxiety and obsessive negative/worrying thoughts. Physical exertion outside is  one of those handy valves that releases stress and worry, and helps me get the deep, restful sleep that anyone with bipolar disorder really needs.

Enjoy summer while it lasts!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bipolar Disorder, Metal Pin Art & Creative Release

Had a bad day today. Lots of stressful stuff going on in my life right now. Feeling very depressed and unstable. Still, I was able to get out and do things. I was gone from home most of the day actually, and even got my workout in, but had that dull, wooden feeling all day.

Spent some time with my oldest daughter at our city's Institute of Arts, and created this metal pin art "ode to depression" in their interactive room. Felt much better after I expressed my trapped, sad feeling.

I'll be be adding this pic to my previous post "Bipolar Art: Creations of the Manic Depressive".

On the way home from the museum, we stopped at Hobby Lobby and got some modeling clay and sculpting tools. I love sculpture. It's one of the art forms that I really connect with. It seems so passionate and emotional. So thought I'd try my hand at sculpting to see if it might function as a release valve to get the depression or mania out of me when I am feeling extreme. 

Do you have an artistic hobby or passion? Leave a comment and share your crazy creative side!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Losing Weight & Getting Fit (Again) - A Bipolar Woman's Fitness Plan

Bipolar Disorder and Physical Fitness
In a recent post on "Bipolar Disorder and Physical Fitness" I confessed to having become sedentary over the past year, while working long hours on an internet project (i.e. sitting in front of the computer for hours on end), and vowed to get back to my fitness level of one year ago--the most ripped I've ever been. Well here is the post where I am going to track my progress and share workout and diet tips on what's working for me.

Bipolar and Fighting Weight Gain
So today I weighed, measured, took some photos and said OMG! While I have retained a bit of the muscle tone and core strength that I worked so hard on last year, there is a big ole layer of fat covering everything! So, while my abdomen does have some muscle tone, it can't be seen. And my arms! So sad. They had been pretty muscular and defined. Now, in that photo of my upper arm, I see hanging skin, not triceps :(.

I have been working out regularly for the past few weeks, so I thought I would look a little better, and maybe I do, compared to when I started. I am sure that I lost weight over the past two weeks, based on how my clothes fit, but when I stepped on the scale and saw the unhappy number, it made we wonder how much I weighed two weeks ago! I guess I will consider today Day 1, and go from here with some solid data to track from. 

I take Seroquel as one of my bipolar meds, and the drug has a reputation for contributing to weight gain. I haven't necessarily seen a relationship between my taking Seroquel and gaining weight.  My weight gain is from eating too much of the wrong stuff and not being active.

I will weigh and measure myself every week on Monday, and post the numbers, as well as info on my exercise and eating habits. I am 5'3" tall, so a little bit of weight gain (or loss) makes a big difference. I am not just doing this to lose weight. I want to be more physically fit so that I can keep up with my kids, feel better, and look better as I age.

Day 1 - 7/16/2012

Weight: 137.8#, Bust: 37 1/2", Waist: 32 3/4", Hips: 39", Thigh: 22 1/2"

Worked out at gym today. It's only been cool enough to exercise outside during the early morning. I usually go to the three times a week, and then engage in other physical activities on other days (gardening, riding scooters with kids, bicycling, running).

At the gym, I currently do:
- elliptical for 30 minutes (15 forwards, 15 backwards) on the interval setting, alternating between incline and resistance of 4 and incline and resistance 6 or 7
- resistance training 30 minutes on nautilus machines for upper body strength

When home, in addition to various activities listed above, I also currently try to do 60 pushups,60 dips and 100 crunches everyday. 

Music helps motivate me to put more effort into my exercise. I will put my main workout playlist in the left margin soon. It really keeps me moving. 

I have made a point to stock up on a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, and to have them washed and handy. I keep a bowl of cherries, grapes, apples or clementines on the counter for a healthy snack, and eat almonds, string cheese or a Kashi bar when I need a little protein in my snack.

I need to get better at eating a filling breakfast with balanced carbs proteins and fats. I did this when i was fit. Eating a good breakfast does help a person eat less throughout the rest of the day. I like to make my own ez egg sandwich with a toasted English muffin, scrambled egg microwaved in a small bowl (to make it the same shape as the muffin), low-fat sliced cheese, fresh spinach and spicy mustard. Much lower cal than a McMuffin.

I'll update this post next week. 

Week 1 - 7/23/2012

Weight: 136.6#, Bust: 38", Waist: 33", Hips: 38", Thigh: 22"
Lost 1.2#

Have been working out most days, and on days when I don't work out at the gym or run/walk 5K, I try to do something active around the house, like ride bikes or scooters with the kids or garden. I know that I am building muscle mass working out now, so not disturbed about only losing a pound. As long as the numbers keep going down, file with me. 
An doing a lot of resistance work to build my muscle mass back up. Muscle burns calories, white fat (all that excess baggage) doesn't. So it is easier to lose weight over the long-term if you develop more and bigger muscle cells. It is also nice to have defined muscle and look fit.
Need to stick with getting my push ups, dips and crunches done at home every day. Have not been consistent with that.
Still been eating too many sweets. Not a lot, but less would help me lose faster.  Am eating a lot of fresh veggies and fruits, and mostly healthy stuff overall. But my portion size is still to large. Will pick up some weight watchers frozen dinners this week to have now, and then. Easy way to control portion size.

Month 1 - 8/13/2012

Weight: 137.8#, Bust: 37", Waist: 33", Hips: 39", Thigh: 22 1/2"

I have been exercising at least 5 days a week with 30 minutes cardio followed by strength training. Am disappointed that my weight and measurements have not changed at all. But I can tell that my body is in better shape and more muscular. I don't feel like I am dragging my body around but am starting to propel it, and being more fit feels good. Need to up aerobic exercise to 40 minutes and reduce the number of calories that I am taking in.

Am still mainly eating healthy food, but too much food in general. Also too much alcohol, sweets, fancy coffee and movie popcorn (no fake butter or extra salt, but still loaded with calories). Now that I am on the right track as far as exercise goes, I need to really focus on food intake. 

I will post my progress again in one month, and my goal is to be below 130#.

Month 2 - 9/17/2012
Weight: 137.4#

Exercising regularly, and in much better shape now, but weight still not budging. I know that I am more fit. I ran 5K yesterday for the first time in over a year, and it took me a lot of walk/runs to increase my endurance to that point. I also feel sexier, more body confident.

Am still mainly eating healthy food, but still too much food in general, alcohol, and sweets. I need to focus on food and booze intake if I want my weight to decrease. 

I will post my progress again in one month, and am keeping the same goal, to get below 130#.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avoiding Cold & Depression by Getting Enough Sleep

Relationship Between Physical Illnesss and Mental HealthSo at least one, but typically most, of my family have been sick with an upper respiratory infection for the past month. This happened last summer about the same time--our summer cold.  

My kids have asthma and allergies, so experience respiratory infections more severely (more frequent and longer) than most other kids, so someone is usually sick around here. Well, last night, my youngest, who has been sick the longest, and was just starting to get better, began showing cold symptoms; snot flowing nonstop from her nose. Then I started feeling it late in the evening, and had a horrible headache this morning.

For me, getting sick with a cold or the flu often precipitates an episode of depression. Physical illness and depression go together, and lack of sleep makes it worse. My husband got up with our sick daughter last night at around 2am. Then, later, when we both got up around 8am, and I started staggering around with a headache and general icky feeling, he said, "Why don't you go back to bed?" So I did, and it made all the difference. I woke up at noon (noon!) and felt pretty good.

So one more experience showing how important getting enough sleep is in battling bipolar depression, particularly when ill (and also illustrating how awesome my husband is about helping me take care of myself...Thank you!)

Are you also prone to depression when you get ill? Leave a comment and share!

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 0
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed): 1
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 forgetting daytime med, Wellbutrin
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bipolar Depression Triggers: A Patient's Example

Things That Trigger Bipolar Depression
Today hasn't been a stellar day for my mental health. The morning flipped my switch from relatively normal mood to depression, crying and negative thought cycles. I have pulled out of it for the most part. Just feel a little down. But I thought that I would record the experience here, while it's fresh in my mind.

In this post, I will be honestly describing my negative thoughts, and sometimes that type of description can trigger depressed thoughts in others prone to depression. I don't want to flip your switch. So if you are currently struggling with depression, or are triggered into depression by other peoples negativity, best not read the rest of this post for now.

A Typical Morning
There was nothing unusual about how the day started. I felt a little disappointed in myself when I woke up because I hadn't abstained from alcohol (2 beers, 2 glasses red wine) the previous night. I even felt a little run down from the alcohol consumption. But I wasn't beating myself up over it.

My husband suggested that the family go hiking in the morning, while the temperature was cool, and we all got ready. But right before leaving, our youngest started up a tantrum--decided she didn't want to go with us after she and her brother had a minor squabble.

The Tantrum Heard Round the World
Both youngest kids are prone to illness and are currently sick and on meds that impact their behavior, making them less patient and more teary. With both sick, there have been a lot of tantrums lately.

After my husband and I each tried to talk to our daughter about going hiking, and the fun we would have, my husband finally picked her up and put her in the car. She was not going to dictate everyone's morning. In the car she wouldn't buckle up, or stop screaming, crying and trying to get out of the car (thank goodness for the lock setting inside the door of cars). It got so bad that my husband did finally turn the car around. We gave her another chance to shape up, she wouldn't comply, and we went home. 

She got balled out on the way home by both of us, but one of the things I said set her off again and my husband immediately said to me, "That was not helpful," which was also not helpful. I very often don't think before I speak, say the wrong thing, put my foot in my mouth...all of that.

Triggers for Today's Downward Spiral
All of this stress presented the perfect depression trigger trifecta:
- incessantly screaming kid
- saying the wrong thing, yet again
- husband criticizing me

And, I suppose, there were actually two more factors, last nights drinking, and my oldest daughter leaving. She is probably going to go live with her dad. She has some spectacular opportunities out where he lives (1/2 way across the country), and she really seems to want to go. But it hurts. I love her and don't want to only see here a few times a year. Plus all of the legal garbage that we will, yet again, have to wade through to make the arrangement official.

Back to the car, and the screaming kid...This is when my intense downward spiral of negative thoughts began: "I always say the stupidest things. I am a social idiot. My husband is a much better parent than I am. I'm a drag on the family. They'd be better off without me. I want to die. I can't die; it would hurt my kids. So I'll be alive, and just suck at being a parent." I quietly cried on the way home, while my kids loudly cried. 

When we got out of the car, my husband was defensive about my reaction. I just said, "My head is not right. I can't talk now," and withdrew to do some cleaning in the basement.

The Zombie Numb Catatonia
When I get emotionally overwhelmed like today, a couple of things can happen. I can slip into debilitating depression and spend the day in bed, or I can function, but I get kind of numb and wooden; where feel like I am removed from the world, kind of looking out from inside my head. I plod along and stare a lot, but at least I can get things done. The latter is what happened. 

After a while, my husband came downstairs to talk to me and hug me. He told me that I was a great parent, and we each have our own strengths that work together. It was very sweet. I was still out of it, not really engaging, but his reaching out to me helped bring me back.

Once I feel a little emotionally stronger (like I did after the hug), I can sometimes think my way out of a negative spiral, recognize the thoughts as being unbalanced and not helpful, and start thinking about positive things in my life. That's what I did, and now I'm okay.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bipolar Alcoholic: I Need To Stop Drinking

Bipolar Disorder and Drinking Alcohol
My husband is out of town for a couple of days. He is the consistent one with routines. When he is here, my behavior is more consistent too. For example, the kitchen gets cleaned every night, counters and all. The kids get put to bed at the same time, with the same bedtime routine.

A Change in Routine
There is an upside to him being gone. The kids get to be part of the "lets have fun and be irresponsible" side of my personality. Like a treat...something fun to have every once in a while, but not all the time. The big downside, when on my own is that I always drink more. And that was the case last night.

It's not as though I don't drink when my husband is here. I do. I drink every single night, a bottle of wine or more, except when I am sick with a cold or some other infection. But when he is out of town, I stay up later, drinking longer and more.

How Alcoholism Impacts My Immediate Physical Health
The entire family is getting over a respiratory infection right now. I am just about better, but still have a bit of a gunky cough. When I started drinking last night (2 beers), I felt fine. Then I switched to red wine, in a little glass intended to slow my consumption, but I filled it up about a bazillion times.

Even after drinking quite a lot, I didn't feel drunk. I imagine that with so much regular alcohol consumption, my tolerance is very high. Although I didn't feel drunk, I could feel the impact of the alcohol in my immediate health. My ears began getting plugged and popping, my throat started hurting. My cold symptoms got worse because my body was working so hard to deal with the alcohol, making my immune system too busy to fight the cold. 

How Alcoholism Impacts My Mental Health
Alcohol can also interfere with the action of bipolar medications. And even the immediate effect of being intoxicated causes a person to be less inhibited, and more of a risk taker. My mind was unhinging last night. I could feel the "crazy" coming and it reminded me of when I needed day hospitalization. Bottom line, I know that alcohol has a very negative impact on my mental health.

How Alcoholism Impacts My Family
In addition to the dangerous impairment of judgement that happens when a person drinks, I just hate to have my kids see me with a drink in my hand all night, every night. It is a horrible example. The little kids aren't old enough to entirely understand, but my teen is getting a very clear message, that consuming large amounts of alcohol is okay. I don't want to keep sending that message.

Long-term Effects of Alcohol Use on Health
I worry about my liver, and sometimes take ibuprofen or acetaminophen pain killers at night, which taxes the liver even more. Alcohol is a toxin, and alcoholism worsens health in numerous ways. When the body is busy eliminating alcohol from the system, it can't devote as much effort to the normal tasks of running the body. In addition to cirrhosis of the liver, chronic alcohol consumption leaves the body vulnerable to numerous infections and certain types of cancer. And like smoking cigarettes, it makes you look older sooner. In short, it disables the body.

So What's My Plan?
I want to stop consuming alcohol, and I understand that, like making good dietary choices, I need to move through this one choice at a time, and try my best to make choices that are good for my body and my family. I wanted to put this all on the blog so that I am accountable to readers, and hopefully more likely to stick to my objective of eliminating alcohol from my life. I quit smoking cigarettes. I can do this too.

Wish me luck! Leave me some good advice, if you have any.

Evening 7/8: I had my first alcohol-related test and failed, but just a little. My youngest kids and I are staying at a hotel with a pool, just for fun tonight. The hotel restaurant is a sports bar. It was a little too tempting, and I ordered a 22 oz beer. But then I drank about 8 oz of it and began feeling yucky and I stopped drinking it. So not too bad. I was able to stop. I'm still shooting for no alcohol consumption, and will keep working at it, choice by choice. Another benefit...think of all those calories I won't be taking in by avoiding glass after glass of wine every night!

Evening 7/9: Failed to abstain my second night as well. But at least I kept track of my alcohol consumption, rather than drinking from a bottomless wine glass all night long. I also paid attention to how I felt when I drank. The two light beers I had in the early evening made me only the tiniest bit buzzed, and gave me a headache. Throat started hurting 1/2 way into first beer, but kept going anyway. Late in the evening, after the kids were in bed, I sat down to watch a movie and had two glasses of red wine. The trigger to drink in the evening is so strong, but at least I am keeping track and drinking less. I won't stop trying to kick the booze.

Evening 7/10: This is hard! Husband asked if I wanted to have wine with dinner and I said yes. (He doesn't know I am trying to stop drinking. I know I should tell him, but he was not supportive when I tried to stop smoking, and I don't want to fail at this with him looking on.) I had a glass before dinner, and then two more. It's good at least, that I am paying attention to how much I'm drinking and am able to stop before late evening, and switch to tea. I'll keep trying.

Afternoon 7/11: We went to a beer garden for lunch and I drank only water. Good choice!

Evening 7/18: Still having about 3 drinks per night, and want to reduce that, but still don't seem to have enough willpower once evening rolls around. But have not reverted to the bottomless wine glass. Am finishing one drink before starting another, so can keep track of exactly what I am drinking. Also starting to drink later in the evening and switching from alcohol to hot tea earlier at end of night.

Any more updates on my struggle to quit drinking will be posted as tweets, in the Big Fat Bipolar Tweets section of the sidebar.

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 1
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 10
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bipolar and Reluctantly Aging

Bipolar and Aging
The title should actually be "Bipolar Me Totally Freaking Out About Getting Old." I don't think about it all the time, obsessively, but seeing all of these changes accumulating is hard...need to get bifocals (this is the hardest one), eyebrows going from bushy and unmanageable to sparse enough to need penciling in,  wrinkles, skin and body parts starting to sag.. I know that this, and many posts on this blog seem very, "MeMeMecentric, but it's a blog largely about my experience with bipolar, so that's kind of unavoidable.

Getting "Work" Done
Back to the subject of getting old. I have gotten Restylane injections once, in the depressions between the corner of my mouth and nose. It really did help, but is temporary. I think mine lasted for quite some time, between 6mos and a year, but it's very expensive, and money is tight. No more Restylane for now.

Getting and Staying Fit
I am now on track for getting back into shape. Being fit again will give me a big fountain of youth injection. Last year I was running 5 & 10Ks. I was in the best shape of my life. Then I stopped working out altogether. I've started back up again, and my next post will be about what I am doing to get back in shape. I even think that I will track my weight in that post (gak!). Any of you who are game, and have doctors okay on getting fit, can join me. I don't necessarily want to run races again, but if I don't get and stay in shape, my body is going to just continue well as the small problem of all the preventable diseases that people can develop especially when not fit (heart disease, diabetes, and, for me at least, depression), understanding that genetics certainly plays a role too.

Sticking to a Beauty Regimen
As far as physical appearance, I also need to get back into the habit of washing my face at night and using nighttime lotion. Using the right products can help even skin tone, and hopefully reduce wrinkles. 

Stay Hydrated!
I also need to drink more water. That is the best way to hydrate, from inside out. I usually start the day with coffee, then have a diet coke, then have some water in the middle of the day, then drink wine at night, quite a dehydrating batch of drinks. 

I understand that my personal appearance worries are a bit superficial, but I do want to look the best I can for my age. I know I'll never be 20 again (and as stupid as I was in my youth, thank goodness). And aging is definitely better than the alternative!

How are you coping with aging? What has helped you feel better about yourself as you age? Leave a comment!

Evening 7/7: At most ages, even when I was a young adult, I had some features I had that I didn't like...knock knees, nose too thin, hair too curly. I've always critical of my appearance, at every age. I think many girls and women are. Today I'm as young as I'll ever be, so I'd better make a point to enjoy it.

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 2
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 10
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer.