Explaining Bipolar Disorder in Two Easy Steps!

Were you recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you’re not sure how to explain it to your friends and family? Or maybe you’ve been managing your bipolar disorder successfully for some time now but you find you’ve got to tell your new romantic partner why you’re bringing a bag full o’ prescription bottles on your first mini vacay together. Whatever your super fun circumstance, you’ve found yourself inadvertently in a “mental illness closet” and you need to get out! Help!

Don’t worry, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve got your back though, because explaining your bipolar disorder can be easy peasy with these two simple steps!

(please tell me the sarcasm is reading and y’all don’t think I’m just being a complete ass hole. . .)

 

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  1. Tell your friends to do their own damn research online! It’s called Google! Yes, there’s tons of misinformation out there, but you can nudge them in the right direction. I recently asked my boo to check out the following because I felt they most accurately described my particular experiences with bipolar.

    – A helpful gathering of responses from people with bipolar disorder trying their best to explain it on themighty.com
    – A similar list from buzzfeed.com, yeah yeah, I know, it’s buzzfeed – but it really is helpful!
    – And this one I used personally to explain to the boo my occasional tendency to latch onto an irrational thought and convince myself that it’s true (see: this post, side note – we’re still going good!)

  2. Have a sit down chat with your friends after they’ve done their internet digging so they can ask you any and all questions about your bipolar – like a real, live FAQ page. Because your bipolar disorder is not like mine, or anyone else’s,

 

Ok, ok, I’m sorry to have used a very click-baity title for this post. And I’m sorry if I sound a little bitter / sarcastic but “coming out of the mental health closet” and worrying about losing peoples’ respect has gotten OLD. Going into a depressive spell and not having friends understand why you JUST CAN’T (like literally just can’t, not even the joke “can’t even”, the real “I’m staring at my phone trying to text you back but my brain chemistry won’t let me do anything other than stare right now” kind of even) is getting old. Having to explain that you don’t want to smile (when you’re usually the one who’s smiling and excited) simply because you feel nothing – and then watching as the person who asked quickly regrets ever talking to you.

Truly though, bipolar disorder is a health condition – there shouldn’t be shame associated. Friends and families of those with mental health conditions should do what they can to educate themselves, take the burden off of us. Then come to us with questions, help us break down assumptions and stigmas together.

 

Oh and ya know, sorry about not writing in forever, I promise I’m getting my poop in a group! But hey, that’s why this blog is Jessiedoeslife and not Jessiemasteredlifeandhasherpoopinagroup100percent. You get the behind-the-scenes hot-messery that is me dealing with my bipolar disorder and trying to take on the world!

Cheers,
Jessie

 

Redirecting Negative Thinking – 10 Questions to Challenge Your Inner Negative Nancy

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY!!! The fight of the year! Negative Nancy vs Logical Linda!!!

You’ve been there, we’ve all been there, faced with a situation that truly could go any which way yet our brain immediately imagines the worst and off we go into the depths of despair. Now, how often has this situation ended up in that worst case scenario you imagined then brooded on for hours, maybe even days? Very rarely.

I know I’m guilty of letting my internal Negative Nancy take the wheel while Logical Linda and Positive Paula are pushed to the backseat (sometimes even locked in the trunk, that Nancy can be wicked). These negative thought patterns usually happen when a supervisor asks to speak with me (always at a LATER time. . . why???) or my partner is constantly texting someone else while we’re together one afternoon (it HAS to be another woman, it simply can’t be that they’re coordinating something with their family), or even when someone just compliments my new hair color (do they REALLY like it black, did they HATE it brown, or what are they really after here?). My Negative Nancy’s current internal monologue: I won’t be able to find another job, I’m under-qualified for the jobs I really want, over-qualified for the ones that I can get just to pay my mortgage, I won’t be able to “sell” myself as a valuable employee, SWEET BABY MOSES I WILL BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER!!!

It’s toxic. It’s pointless. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest.

Let’s not dwell on that though (you shush it, Nancy, I’m busy channeling the good vibes right now), let’s get to work changing our mindset so we can deal with these thoughts productively. The next time you find yourself spiraling into a negative thought pattern try asking yourself these 10 questions to redirect your inner Negative Nancy and let logic (maybe even positivity!) have a go at the wheel.

 

10 Questions to Challenge Your Inner Negative Nancy

1. What am I saying to myself?

How am I evaluating the current situation? What story am I telling myself? Am I seeing it from all sides?

2.What unhelpful behaviors am I engaging in?

Recognize the actual behaviors. Are you doubting yourself, expressing low self esteem, worrying, acting differently in your personal relationships as a result of these thoughts?

3. What is the evidence FOR my evaluation?

Be sure to consider if the evidence is an actual fact, or opinion? If you’re making this a written exercise draw out two columns, one for the FOR and one for the AGAINST. Only include facts if you can. If you’re like me, however, I feel better after writing EVERYTHING out so be sure if you write out opinions you clearly mark them as such. You might even end up with a nice visual of 10 opinions in this column to 2 facts. . .

4. What is the evidence AGAINST my evaluation?

Just like your “Evidence For” column, be sure differentiate between facts and opinions. Don’t favor your Negative Nancy just because she’s your loudest voice right now, try to give Logical Linda some room to talk.

5. How much do I believe my evaluation of the situation (0-100%)?

Spend some time and really think about this one and assign a hard number. If you think you’re getting fired, what is the exact percentage of that likelihood? How did you come up with it? Do you think your beau is being unfaithful? Is that 75% likely or 95% likely? What makes the 20 point difference? Write it out in a sentence. If writing out “I am 95% certain that my partner is cheating” seems like a ridiculous thing to do, perhaps you aren’t 95% certain that thought is valid.

World Blood Donor Day 2017

6. How is it helpful for me to think this way?

What is your current thought process gaining you? Where is it getting you? How is it helping the situation?

7. How else could I view the situation? What other perspectives are there?

Think of all the different ways that you could interpret what’s going on. The boss wants to talk this afternoon. . . Maybe you’re getting a raise, you’re getting fired, the company is merging, you’re being given the opportunity to move up, the boss just wants to check in with you, you’re being given more responsibilities, the boss is leaving the company, you’re being reprimanded for never making more coffee, you’re hard work is being acknowledged. . . The list could go on. Whatever your situation, I’m guessing your list could be infinitely creative as well. Think about it and let your mind wander to possibilities on all sides of the + / – scale.

8. What advice would I give to a friend in the same situation?

This one is my favorite. I am constantly giving people advice, even when they don’t ask for it. So if my best friend came to me and said she thought her husband was cheating because he was texting a lot, or spending time away, I know a MILLION potential reasons why that might be because I know them both and I know her husband’s a good guy and she’s likely having a moment of doubt for an underlying reason. Now, if I was doubting my partner, wouldn’t it be easy to do the same after thinking like that? It’s easy to see the positive paths in other peoples’ lives when ours can be cloudy. Practice getting outside of your own head for a minute then reflect that back on your own thoughts.

9. What are healthier thoughts/behaviors I can respond with?

Be honest. Call yourself out on the negative thought patterns and then “treat yo self” by replacing those with healthier thought patterns. If you’ve been acting out because of perceived slights against you, think about how you can rectify that and move on with healthier behaviors. If the situation is with someone you’re close with, talk to them and bring them in to the solution stage for helpful input if you’re comfortable with it.

10. A healthier evaluation of the situation is:

And now we bring it full circle. Considering the previous 9 questions, what is a healthier thought pattern to follow in this situation? What is the most probable reality of the situation and how best should you react to it? Even if the “most probably reality” is a perceived negative one, like a massive company-wide lay off that’s been looming for months, the best reaction is probably not to fret over it for weeks and lose focus at work. Think and respond with a healthy dose of logic and positivity – if you’re facing a potential lay off you can clean up your resume, keep up the good work on the clock (having those references is important!), save up some money, and/or consider possible new career moves. Don’t just spend your time worrying, drinking, showing up late to work, neglecting to prepare for the worst case scenario – that will bite you in the butt.

Asking yourself these 10 questions when under the duress of a stressful situation can seem like a big ask, but if you practice and have patience with yourself you’ll find it gets easier and you can eventually learn to replace your instinctively negative thought patterns with more constructive ones. I’m not saying Positive Paula is going to take over and make you some giant ball of sunshine or anything, I’m just saying that training yourself to take the time to reflect is an invaluable skill that will save your (and probably your loved ones’) sanity!

 

*The infographic has my new (and not even remotely developed) website listed instead of this one. Jessiedoeslife will move into a more personal blog and Offbeat Endeavors will be my new foray into coaching! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Farewell, 2017, you were. . . you just were. (part II)

wishing you a very

Where did I leave off? Ahh yes. . . August. . . (part I)

August. . .
Nothing terribly exciting happened in August. I kept up with physical and mental health therapy. Thanks to the mental health therapy I was better able to navigate the hiccups of early relationships – or at least, the hiccups I seem to have (seem to create, maybe?). Therapy has given me a lot of room to think in my head – in the good way. I’ve always thought too much but now therapy has helped me pause and challenge those thought patterns. Though I just recently realized I could use some more work with negative thought patterns. . . I should look into that when I get health insurance again.

September. . .
September was more of the same with a work trip thrown in. We had corporate training where I expressed my fair share of common sense and equality-promoting ideas which didn’t seem to jive well. I had gotten to the point of being fed up with the injustices I was seeing across the company and couldn’t really bite my tongue any more.

October. . .
One of my fellowship fellows somehow managed to get a comped ticket to a local women’s conference and the caliber of the speakers was PHENOMENAL. It was an energizing experience and helped boost me back up to previous levels of excitement about my creative goals. I had been wavering since the end of the fellowship in June and being surrounded by these women was SO GOOD. The boo and I threw a Halloween party at my house! We had to postpone it from one weekend to another, which I think threw people off, so attendance was kind of low (only one of his friends showed up, and only a handful of mine) but we decorated the house TO THE NINES. It was SO GOOD. I’m super excited for next year’s party! Also, the boo said “I love you” – yay to that! We took a composting class together and though I haven’t set it all up yet, I’m excited to eventually get a little garden out back.

November. . .
Turkey day!!!! I hosted Thanksgiving at my house for the first time. The boo, my ma, and my brother all spent the day together. It was quite nice. I went to the boo’s Thanksgiving as well, his family did it on the weekend after. So I got to meet his family! It was fun, I like them.

December. . .
And now to today, the last day of December. I have to admit, I have a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth about December. Glass is half full: I’m travelling with the boo for New Years, currently beside a fireplace (because it’s freezing here and we’ve got Florida blood) and writing on my blog because I want to actually do something for myself this upcoming year as a potential career. I did 3 mind mapping sessions with facebook friends (so two I don’t really know at all, one I do know pretty well) to help them identify and plan out goals for the new year. It was a lot of fun – in a challenging and rewarding way. I gave them all homework and will be following up in two weeks. I’ve been painting a lot more and am working on another website to cater to selling to corporate clients (you can check out my attempt at a stop gap measure here!). Glass is half empty: I was “laid off” from the company and job I had been with for just a month shy of 5 years so I’m existing off of my paltry savings (remember when I bought a house 7 months ago, that was a lot of money down) and a meager “reemployment” contribution from the government. I interviewed with a dream job and am waiting to find out if I made it to round two of interviews. I’m applying left and right to other jobs – both potentially dream jobs and the “holy crap I have to pay a mortgage so I’ll take whatever I can get” jobs. This went down on the 8th so it’s been a shit-tastically tainted Christmas (thanks, bossman) but I’m hoping the new year will wash away bad vibes and I can start accumulating the good ones again. Fingers crossed!!! I’m terrified of not having health insurance, I’m trying to get over being mad about the “lay off”, I’m working on keeping my stress levels low about being unemployed, but I’m very grateful for my tribe – my family, friends, and boo – they’re all cheering me on and offering to help. I’m excited about the prospects of bigger and better things – even things like becoming a life coach or artist – OR BOTH!!! But that excitement is punctuated with moments of panic and depression – so, ya know, one day at a time.

2018 summary. . . bought a house, got a good boo, lost my job. Weeeeee!!!!!!!! Oh! I forgot that an old friend and I joined forces to challenge each other in losing weight – and we did really well for a while. I lost 15 pounds and looked and felt SO GOOD. But then, not so much. So I’m back up like 9 pounds but I know I can get to where I was before, and she does too, so yeah, we’re gonna be two more of those “New Years weight loss” people. But we did a trial run this last year!

If these wrap up posts sound a little robotic it’s likely because I feel a little robotic at the keyboard. I haven’t had the drive to write, to publish my feelings, in a very long time (obvs!) but part of having a blog and wanting to get better at writing is JUST WRITING – even when you think it’s crap or you’re dragging your feet to do it. If you read all of this, thank you for sticking with me. I’m hoping this year will bring more dynamic posts with life coaching and mental health posts meant to help the reader as much as they help me. I can’t tell you how good it felt when I got texts from the women I mind mapped with saying that I had helped them tremendously and was genuinely good at it (they’re my guinea pigs so I told them to give me honest feedback on how I do, the worksheets and homework I give them, and their experience overall). I love love love enabling, encouraging, and empowering others to be their best, happiest self.

I hope y’all have a great New Years Eve!!!!! 2018 should be. . . . (you fill in the blank with what YOU want it to be!). . . .

Respond not React – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 01

Safe space honesty time. . . I’m a little defensive. Ok, super safe space real talk time. . . I’m super defensive. Like, all the time. I take things personally that have nothing to do with ME as a person. A recent example: I’m buying a house and it’s in a neighborhood that some people find uncomfortable – that’s a whole deal of its own – and I was explaining this to someone who was asking where I live. Rather than simply explaining where my house will be I started becoming defensive (this was via messenger) and my tone was combative as if where my house was WAS ME.

The person I was messaging didn’t respond for a bit and I had a chance to read back through what I had hastily written then wrote one more message: “not that I’m defensive or anything”

A lot of my recent efforts in my personal growth have been recognizing where I am being less than a stellar human being. My defensiveness is definitely off-putting which pushes people away and rightfully so. I believe it’s another one of my attempts at keeping myself behind a wall of self-preservation so that no one can hurt me. Not a good thing if I ever want to find my partner in crime.

I brought this up with Ms. Therapist yesterday and she had some wisdom to share that I’d like to pass on to you!

A few things. . .

 

Don’t Take it Personally

Seriously, if my group of friends decide to go to a restaurant other than the one I suggested, this has NOTHING TO DO WITH ME! That thought is paranoid and self-centered (my critique, not Ms. Therapist’s). If I’m talking to someone about my house, I am talking about my HOUSE and not me. These seem like super obvious statements but alas, not to my brain. I will be working on this. Within relationships I realize that I would take feedback from partners personally – when truly their feedback is on my BEHAVIOR and not on me. Really, that just feels like getting my head out my ass and being a grownup – which I believe I’ve been getting better at. (maybe?)

 

Respond NOT React

When I’m in a situation or a conversation that has the potential for me to take something personally I will try to respond to what comes up rather than react. A response is something that is thought out after a momentary pause. A reaction is an immediate kneejerk blurting out of whatever is coming out of my brain first. If I know that my brain is (for the time) wired to fire off a defensive reaction then I can put the effort in to retrain my brain to pause for a minute, ignore that defensive voice, and formulate an appropriate response.

 

Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

I’m pretty sure there are elementary school teachers with this saying on a motivational poster hanging up in their classroom somewhere. I can be REALLY mean. When I REACT (rather than responding) I can go low which is something I am not proud of and aim to improve in myself. In the heat of an argument (which is all reaction and seldom ever response) mean things are said that cannot be un-said. In the last long-term relationship I was in I did VERY well with biting my tongue during arguments because for once it was my partner who had the loudest issues and they were the one reacting so I had to be the one responding so that it didn’t turn into a shouting match. This sentence of sage advice is a skill for sure though – I know we’re taught the Golden Rule and all but I think a lot of kids forget that once they hit middle school and it’s “bully or be bullied” (I was the one being bullied).

 

So there you have it. This week’s takeaways from therapy. And look, it didn’t even cost you a copay!

good-luck

The Danger of Perceived Security

During my business conference an instructor quoted Helen Keller and it struck a chord.

There truly is no such thing as security. My life right now is about trying to build myself up to be as solid as possible – independent from codependency, debt, possessions, and the need for approval. During this time I’m also prepping for that big jump, whatever it may be, so that I’m completely ready to face my fears. I’m open to any and all opportunities because, like Helen Keller alludes to, there is no such thing as a safe bet.

I hope you can find courage in this quote rather than fear. Embrace the fact that in the end, there’s only you and you’ve got to make the most out of that.

 

announcement

Super Sage Relationship Wisdom – Before the Beginning

So maybe I don’t know a WHOLE lot about SUCCESSFUL relationships/dating, but I’ve been doing it for a while now and I’ve learned some things so. . . here they are.

 

Before you even decide to BEGIN a new relationship there are a few key ingredients you should be looking for before you make the leap.

Start with the Self-Love

Before you even consider entering into a romantic partnership with another human being, you should be pretty well comfortable with who YOU are as a human being FIRST.  Ain’t nobody got time to be fixing you up, honey!  That’s your own job!  If you’ve got any lingering “issues”, please, for the sanity of yourself and your soon-to-be sweetie, DEAL with them!  Of course, I understand that we all have our issues and the mountain of minor ones will never ALL be resolved, but I’m talking about the big ones here.  Sort out those skeletons in the closet so that when those little minor issues come up in the relationship, they just seem like adorable little quirks for you and your partner to figure out together.

If you notice a trend of going from one relationship to the next, pause for a minute next time to give yourself time to reflect.  It’s very easy to fall into the ebb and flow of “serial monogamy” but if your last relationship dredged up anything that might need some processing, you should consider taking a step back and focus on yourself for a bit.  Work on who you are outside of the “relationship equation” so that you can be even more solid the next go around.

My point is, you’ve got to do this hard work to be able to begin a relationship as a whole person.  If you don’t absolutely LOVE who you are, how will anyone else?  This doesn’t have to be an unconditional 24-7 kind of love, I don’t even think Oprah’s capable of that, but if you can’t look at where you are in your life and be happy with the person you are and the path you’re on, perhaps YOU should be your top priority for now – not someone else.

 

Que sera, sera

“What will be, will be” I swear this is my mom’s favorite piece of relationship advice to me on any given day.  I will admit that this broken record approach of hers might be merited. . .  If you find yourself being impatient, always acting as “the first”, or perhaps your friends have told you to chill out over a person a few times – you may need this sound bit of advice.  Yes, there is a time to act, and no, I can’t say with certainty WHEN that is, but if the potential for a relationship is starting to break ground – give it room (and TIME) to grow.  According to my mom, if something is meant to come of a connection between two people, it will happen inevitably.  This is easy for her to say, having been married to my dad for 42 years at the time he died in 2011, because she’s had that ONE partner, nearly her entire life – but I’m trying to apply it to my own life as well (easier said than done!).  I don’t know about the concept of fate, but somehow I can reconcile the belief that things happen for a reason – and I apply that here.

So if you’ve got a potential partner, or maybe some missed connection, just wait it out.  Keep yourself busy with activities/people/places that make you happy.  Don’t just wait around.  Now, if you’ve given the relationship in question a good amount of time, space, whatever, and there’s still inaction – I don’t know what to tell you then.  You can try to “act first” but beware that you may get hurt (this has been my M.O. most of the time, and it does hurt when the answer is “no”, but then you’re not left wondering “what if” – I HATE being left in the “wondering” way more than I dislike dealing with the “no”).  Keep in mind that once you receive a “no” in any way, shape, or form, you had best respect that and move on.

 

Know Your Non-Negotiables

A friend of mine once pointed out that with each newly ended relationship, we come out with at least 1-2 more “non-negotiables” which we can use to more easily sort through potential partners.  A “non-negotiable” is something like “they’re voting for Trump and that’s not cool” or “they have to be ok with two babies, three cats, and 5 goldfish” – whatever those MUST HAVES (or absolutely cannot haves) are to you.  From the 2.5 year relationship I learned the non-negotiable of “trust without thinking” (see below) and “must be a feminist” – these things may change definitions over time and from person to person, but if there is something that REALLY matters to you, you should not give that up for someone.  If it’s something like “must have a nice car”, well now, perhaps you could look at their other attributes and see how much that single one really does matter to you.  If it still REALLY matters, then put it on your list!

I’ll admit here that there’s some grey area with this.  Ok, A LOT of grey area, read my post on Negotiating the Non-Negotiable here.  As I said, these can be flexible and they can change over time.  If you want someone who doesn’t smoke for instance, perhaps you’ll consider someone on the premise that “one day they’ll quit” – that’s all your call.  Maybe use some of the point above and give the new relationship a little “que sera, sera” treatment to see how things shake out those first few months.  You may just find out that your own non-negotiable is in fact, 100% opposite of what you thought!

 

Trust without Thinking

DO NOT ignore your gut!  So many times I have seen friends ignore their initial instincts “Yeah, they seem a little off, but they’re super cute so it’s cool, yeah?” only to have it bite them in the ass shortly after (and by friends I mean myself included).  Use your own initial reaction, as well as that of your friends (TRUST THEM! They’re thinking way more clearly than you are!), to gauge potential partners.  If you get the sense of “red flags” please for the love of your heart, pay attention.

The best relationships I’ve had are the ones that came from either friendships or the “refer a friend” method.  Either way, these partners were vetted – I knew they were legit GOOD people.  That’s part of the reason I dislike the idea of online dating so much, you have NO IDEA who this person really is, and even your gut can lie when it tells you to trust someone implicitly.  But when you’ve been referred by a friend, that potential partner usually comes with some recommendation and at least a little backstory.

With any new relationship it’s important that you are able to trust that person outright.  If there is any cause at all for you to doubt that person, what’s the point of letting yourself open up to them?  That’s why I call it the “trust without thinking”, it’s on some subconscious level that you instinctively know you can trust this person with your personal stories, and eventually your heart.

 

Obviously that list isn’t exhaustive, just a brief collection of my most recent lessons.  What have been your most valuable lessons in relationships recently?

-The Flutter-

BONUS to look for:  “The Flutter”

My mom’s pretty adorable sometimes and recently she outdid herself.  We were talking about relationships (in which she gave me the que sera, sera speech) when she asked me if I felt “the flutter” with someone.  I asked her to clarify, thinking I pretty well understood what she meant but I really wanted to hear the “mom” explanation.  She went on to describe how she felt every time she saw my dad (and then any time she sees someone who resembles him from afar now after he died – which is heart-breaking) when she would get this feeling like a breath caught in her chest from excitement.  Or when you smile just thinking about someone.  The heart skipping a beat feeling.  I think it’s a universal feeling, maybe all just a little different from person to person, but for my mom it’s that breath of excitement caught in her chest for just a moment.

Of course, it’s very easy to start a relationship this way – there’s almost always an initially exciting attraction that causes your heart to race when you think about that person.  But my mom’s point was that her feeling STAYED, through 42 years – 2 kids, countless arguments, deaths, moves, 9/11, and into the aging process when your metabolism slows and your wrinkles get deeper.  So if you’ve found someone, dated them for a bit, found out that maybe they snore or quote cartoons more than most people, and you still feel “the flutter”, then you might have someone worth keeping around for a while.