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Happiness is as Happiness does: Musings from a Bipolar Brain

Happy is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Happiness is a state of being and takes work.

The experience of Happiness is more challenging for some more than others and may seem impossible to achieve.

That’s because Happiness isn’t a goal or destination, but a byproduct, a side effect of the combination of our genetics, circumstances, beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

For many of us coming from lives filled with trauma and/or mental illness it will look different than it does for neurotypical people. We have to work through the trauma and confront ourselves to heal and grow. These are our prerequisites to Happiness.

There is no set formula for experiencing it. However, common and necessary elements include self-care (nutrition, activity, personal hygiene, etc.), engagement in healthy community, gratitude, service, and passionate purpose.

Pain, loss, grief, and other feelings and experiences, often considered “negative,” may suppress Happiness and cause us to lose it. But, what is lost can be found again. The negative doesn’t necessarily negate the ability to experience Happiness.

Of course, I could be way off and this is hypomania talking…but, I don’t think so.

What say you?

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My WW Story

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. “Wellness that works.” What finally drove me to sign up for a weight loss program after decades of self-sufficient obesity?

Pain.

Not just any pain. A very particular kind of nerve pain. Specifically in my left foot. More accurately, the top of my foot…with periodic zaps of electricity pricking the sole of my foot from the inside out,

The top of my foot is so hypersensitized right now that the hem of my pant leg feels like a jagged, splintered shard of glass scraping across it.

Fun stuff.

According to the doctor it’s a rare condition called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Like Carpal Tunnel, but, in the foot.

Yay me! I have a knack for the unusual when it comes to pain and injury. A few years ago, I fell and gave myself a spiral sprain. That’s usually something athletes get, not the general population. But, that’s another story for another time.

The doctor laid out my options:

Gabapentin – an anticonvulsant sometimes used to treat a wide array of mood disorders with some extreme (but rare) side effects like agitation, increased libido, and mania…Sounds like it could trigger a manic episode and I’m already taking four different psych meds to manage the bipolar, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. No. Thank. You.

Surgery – I’m a single mom, struggling to parent my High Functioning Autistic child who also experiences ADHD. I also live upstairs. I can’t afford an extended recovery period from surgical intervention.

Weight Loss – the universal answer to whatever ails you if you carry excess fat on your body, Don’t EVEN get me started! However, it was the most viable of my three options.

Initially, I doubted I could effectively transition from a life so sedentary that my spirit animal could be mistaken as a sloth. After all, WALKING HURT! So, I decided nutrition was the key.

I have lost weight before, using activity and nutrition. As a matter of fact, I lost 20 lbs at the beginning of this year with walking and changing to a healthier diet. Then, I transitioned from my manic state to a bad depressive state, stopped moving, and switched to a fast food diet. The 20 came back and brought a few friends. Five to be exact.

So, here I was – a 49 year old, medically obese woman of 265 lbs with hypothyroidism, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and, now, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

I also have the child I’m parenting, a 25 year old daughter, who is also parenting three littles, who (whom?) has me as her primary emotional support person and occasional baby sitter, and a son turning 32 in three days.

I have a lot of healing to do and a lot to live for. Also, I’m finally reaching the point in life where I believe I’m worth taking care of, too.

I needed help.

So, I searched Weight Watchers. They still had their Labor Day Special going on. It was barely something I could financially afford.

I’m destitute. Between my youngest daughter’s issues and mine, I am not currently able to sustain employment. Her dad pays for electricity, internet, this miniature hand-held computer I use to blog aka cell phone, and pays for all she needs. I live in public housing, survive on $352/mo of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), and a $72/mo stipend.

I committed close to half my stipend to the first six months of my Weight Watchers lifestyle.

Since I also experience a hitherto undiagnosed Binge Eating Disorder, I decided to approach this like a recovery program and committed myself to attend 90 meetings in 90 days.

Today, November 6, 2018 is my 53rd day and I will be attending my 55th meeting.

If you’re curious about or interested in how this part of my journey has gone, you can find it on my Instagram, humaninrecovery. Start here.

Addendum: I’ve lost about 20 lbs and I have walked daily for the past several weeks and can now walk two miles at a time…sometimes in under 20 min/mile. Yes, the nerve pain is still there.

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Sleep…or lack thereof

Back in September, immediately prior to the rebranding, I joined Weight Watchers (more about that later. Or you can head over to IG @humaninrecovery and see what’s been happening.)

Every week is a new topic of discussion about mindset, behavior changes, and achieving goals. I call it DBT Lite. This week’s topic is sleep.

Sleep doesn’t love me as much as I love it. It seems as if it never has…at least not since adolescence. I mean, I’m writing this at 2:45 A.M. because sleep abandoned me.

Correction: my lovely, not so little, daughter chased it away and it’s eluded me ever since, four+ hours now. Now, she’s sound asleep and I’m wide awake. *sigh*

Supposedly, not having my phone in the bedroom with me would help with getting back to sleep. I’ve tried. Can’t do it. It’s my alarm. It’s my fidget. It’s where I do the brain dump. It’s how I run my brain down until sleep is possible again.

I have horrible sleep hygiene…always have. My room is a cluttered mess. My bedroom & bed are multipurpose locations. My bed is shared with a growing, nearly 10 year old child with sensory issues and needs. So, she’s either burrowing into me, flailing arms in my face, and/or hogging the covers. Occasionally, she snores and breathes through her mouth…Her dad sent me an article yesterday which suggested an exam with an ENT could turn up some medical condition causing sleep disruption which can present like ADHD. More on that later.

In addition to clinging to me like a baby gorilla, she insists on listening to “girl music” when she’s ready to go to sleep. Read: female pop artists. She goes to sleep fairly easy once the music is going. Not me. For someone who has words constantly flowing through her brain, pop music is especially unhelpful when trying to go to sleep. Any music with words is, including what she calls “God music,” my CCM Pandora channel, heavily salted with music by MercyMe.

Then there’s temperature.

I can’t sleep if it’s warm…she freezes and turns into a heat seeking baby gorilla. I like it cool enough to want my feet under the comforter…yeah, I know, weird. The problem with that is the baby gorilla blanket thief.

Let’s see, what else?

Oh, yeah. My body & brain. I’m a premenopausal spoonie with Bipolar 2 Disorder & PTSD. If the nighttime neuropathy doesn’t get me or the busy brain, the night sweats and apparently shrinking bladder will.

And, so, I guess it isn’t that sleep doesn’t love me. It just doesn’t feel welcomed or wanted. *sigh*

The kicker is that I don’t even drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to get and stay functional. Apparently, I’m a deceptively alive and youthful looking zombie vampire.

Yes. I’m 49.

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NanoPoblano – November 2018 Daily Blog Challenge

🤔 You’ve probably noticed, or maybe not, how dormant my blog has been for a long while. Periodically, I try to jumpstart my writing by doing a daily blog post challenge. This is another such effort.

The past few times I started a challenge, I haven’t been able to do the full month before…life. My hope and my plan is to incorporate my life into this month’s effort.

By that I mean I’m going to bring y’all up to speed with the things that have been going on in my life this year, especially the past couple of months:

• Parenting
• Autism
• ADHD
• Bipolar 2 disorder
• PTSD
• WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
• Binge Eating Disorder & Compulsive Eating

are among the things I’ll write about. There may even be a haiku or two and other poetry tossed into the mix.

Welcome and thanks for joining me on this journey.

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Writing Prompts: August Scrawls, Days 1 & 2

I was stymied after prepping Thursday’s post on Wednesday. I had run out of the current prompts available on the social writing app I’ve been writing on – intermittently – for well over a year now. I needed more prompts, until either new prompts showed up on lettrs or my own ideas started flowing.

Did you know there’s a whole community of writers using Instagram? #writersofinstagram and #amwriting are a great way to locate fellow word warriors…but, you probably already knew that.

Nowadays, there’s a hashtag for EVERYTHING under the sun, on God’s green earth…(had to do it once “nowadays” showed up). So, I searched #augustwritingprompts. Lots of options popped up. Several set up scenarios and situations to write about. Not for me. I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to prompts. Give me something to interpret and write my own scene about, in my own voice.

I found such a prompt! It’s called August Scrawls and is hosted by @hopelessperriott on Instagram. A word a day! I can work with that. I hope.

Here are my first two days’ efforts:

Hunger

He hungrily watched her lips wrap around the oblong orb. His mouth went dry with thirst as a tiny drop of clear juice slowly meandered down. His pupils dilated as she captured it with her tongue. He longed to wrap his hands around the soft, golden skin. Mouth watering at the thought of tasting the firm flesh, he asked…

“Do you have another apricot?”

Gotcha! At least that was the idea. The word for Day 1 was “apricot.” How’d I do?

Here’s Day 2:

A Spectrum Moment

“Children, it’s time to work on your spelling words. Jennifer, will you please hand out this week’s practice sheets?”

Mrs. Vee, the teacher, surveyed her overly full classroom. Her eyes rested on the student in the far back corner, Shandi. Shandi was seated on a stool at the science workstation. Her head was bent as she intently stared down at the paper in front of her. She reached for a black marker and began drawing.

Mrs. Vee watched as Jennifer cautiously approached Shandi. Jennifer attempted to hand Shandi the paper. She kept looking at her artwork, seemingly oblivious to Jennifer’s presence. Then, Jennifer bravely placed the paper between Shandi’s face and the paper she was drawing on.

She reacted as badly as expected. The crumpled paper plummeted to the floor.

“Shandi! That’s enough. It’s time to work on spelling. You’ve had your art time. Now it’s work time.”

Defying her teacher’s authority, Shandi climbed down from her stool and stormed out of the classroom, disappearing down the hall to the CBC, Contained Behavior Classroom, where her IEP, Individual Education Plan, said she could go in times of distress.

Mrs. Vee sighed, then called the office, alerting them that Shandi had left the room, once again. “We really need more support from the District’s Autism Specialist,” she thought to herself.

Resigned to the status quo, she turned and addressed the classroom, “Who has completed writing five of the words?”

The word was “authority.”

This scenario is taken from the pages of my life as the parent of a child who interfaces with the world through the Autism Spectrum and experiences ADHD. There were a lot of these kinds of incidents over the past two school years. It’s felt good to interact with and try to support and encourage teachers who care. Most General Education teachers don’t receive much training or education in supporting kids with various special needs. I’m grateful my daughter is where she is.

Anyway, days 1 & 2 down. Hopefully, I’ll catch up with 3 & 4 tomorrow.

The Liebster Award: Celebrating noteworthy bloggers

I have been blogging here at Human In Recovery, on and off, since December 2011. During that time I have participated in The Ultimate Blog Challenge, as I am doing this month.

Something which seems to happen during these challenges is bloggers giving each other blogging awards. These awards build community and networks. It boosts traffic and is an opportunity for bloggers to connect to a greater audience. It’s a way build their platform.

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award, both when I participated in my first UBC (read about it here) and again during this cycle, by Vidya Tiru at Lady in Read Writes (read about it here).

The Liebster’s criteria and process has evolved over the past five years. Here’s the details of its current incarnation:

  • Acknowledge the blog(s) that gave it to you and display the award
  • Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 blogs and notify them of their nomination
  • Give the bloggers 11 questions to answer

I will name 11 noteworthy blogs to explore. However, I am not requiring or expecting a Liebster acceptance post.

Noteworthy blogs:
Marc Alan Schelske, “a writer, speaker, hobbyist theologian, recovering fundamentalist, tea drinker & motorcycle rider.”
http://www.marcalanschelske.com/

Sean Paul Mahoney, “a writer, playwright, blogger, tweeter, critic, podcaster and smartass for hire.” https://seanologues.com/

Sarah Fader, “the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. “ http://www.sarahfader.com/

Dan, “Having written his whole life, he blogs because he has to write…he can’t help it.” https://dan4kent.wordpress.com/

Mary, “a music lover who finally got off her duff (or on it, I suppose) and started sharing her opinions about music.” https://myelectronicjukebox.wordpress.com/

Robert Kennedy III, he loves “helping people create hope, generate excitement and belief in their capacity to change lives, starting with their own.” http://www.robertkennedy3.com/

Steve Austin, “focuses on everyday faith, mental wellness, and embracing wonder to encourage, educate, and empower audiences from every walk of life.http://iamsteveaustin.net/

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur, Founder and editor of The Might Women ezine is “a Brazilian who adopted Wales as “home”’
http://www.themightywomen.com/

Martha DeMeo “writes product and book reviews” at http://themarthareview.com/

Sovann Penis a licensed professional counselor, who loves “counseling because it offers healing and freedom” by “helping families with parenting challenges and with the stresses of communication, conflict and disconnection in marriage.”
http://www.sovannpen.com/

Steven Shomler, a Pyrocatalyst, Author, Culinary Storyteller, Consultant, Entrepreneur & Speaker
https://www.stevenshomler.com/

If they choose to participate, here are my questions:

1. Is your blog personal or professional and what is its primary focus and/or topic?

2. Do you have a YouTube channel or podcast? If so, please provide the title or link.

3. Are you a contributing blogger/writer elsewhere?

4. What is the most valuable, free product/app/service you have found as a blogger?

5. What piece of information or advice would you have found invaluable as a beginning blogger?

6. What social media sites do use use for public interaction and how do we connect to you?

7. Are you an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert (both to varying degrees)?

8. What core value do you try to live by?

9. If you had to choose an anthem song, what would it be? If possible, please provide a YouTube link.

10. If you had to choose, would you consider yourself an advocate or activist?

11. What is your favorite quote?

Now, for those interested, we enter the “All About Me” part.

* If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Australia

* What is your favorite food to eat?
Depends on the moment.

* What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time ten years?
This line from the song, Dear Younger Me, says it all: “do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make ‘cause they’re choices that made me.” What I want to say would change my life in unimaginable ways. However, it would also cost me my youngest child and my grandchildren. So, I have no advice, just, “you’ll get through this, too.”

* What would be the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?
Pay off my student loan.

* Night owl or early bird?
There’s a difference?

* What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to clone myself and experience the memories of all the clones while they share each other’s and mine.

* Your favorite way to relax?
Water aerobics or swimming followed by a soak in the hot tub, chatting with the people around me.

* eBook or the printed book or audio book or no books at all?
If conditions allow a book at all, paper.

* What four words would you use to describe yourself?
Survivor, empathetic, committed, wounded

* Who is the most influential person in your life?
Currently it is my youngest daughter, in the sense that pretty much all my decisions and conditions are made with her in mind and affected by her.

* Do you make resolutions? If yes, what is your top resolution for 2018?
Not anymore. However, my personal goal is to transition my eating to be primarily whole food, plant-based by 2019.

11 random facts about me:

1. I am a 48 year old grandmother of three.

2. I have three children ages 31, 24, 9.

3. I am parenting a child who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum.

4. My 31 year old stopped being legally my child in 2012. He went through an adoption process, as an adult, and legally became another mother’s child. Our estrangement has been reconciled.

5. I earned two diplomas and a GED.

6. I have the debt of one who earned a Bachelors degree.

7. I have no college degrees.

8. I have experienced two major nervous breakdowns.

9. I have a Bipolar brain impacted by PTSD.

10. I am married but have not seen my husband since December 12, 1988.

11. I am half Mexican.

It takes a village: I can’t do this alone

I have a lot of complex issues and the conditions of my life aren’t exactly conducive to accomplishing self-care activities.

Here’s the laundry list:

  • Single parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum
  • Dependent on ex to pay the bills and basic necessities
  • Subsisting on less than $100/mo and $350/mo SNAP benefits, aka food stamps
  • A support person for adult daughter and her family with three children under four – depending on availability
  • In treatment and recovery from PTSD & Bipolar Disorder
  • Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, diabetes

As you might imagine, I feel overwhelmed and isolated much of the time.

The isolation exacerbates the intensity of the overwhelm from all the challenges.

In the past, I lived by the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I became the go to problem solver and rescuer of those around me.

A lifetime of living that way is what led me to where I am…a 258 lb woman under 50 with diabetes, high cholesterol, unable to maintain employment, dependent on government assistance and the ex.

I have very good whys for changing my health style by exercising and improving nutrition.

However, those whys aren’t motivating when the overwhelm kicks in and takes over my brain. They just add to it and make it worse.

This is where I need community. I need a village of support people. I need a network and a safety net for the times when I’m going to backslide, cheat, or start to give up.

I need to feel the hope and inspiration from the success stories of others who’ve gone before me. I need the camaraderie of those in the trenches, marching beside me. I need the cheers of those who believe in me. I need others not yet where I am who I can offer my experience, hope, and strength to.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with these needs. I’m almost positive that we all need these kinds of connections…which is more than challenging in the culture and society we live in today.

Everyone has their own laundry lists, their own challenges, and maybe even their own sense of being isolated.

What, then, is a person to do, especially when making the kind of changes I am making and can’t afford to join the weight loss programs and organizations?

I started online with my social networks on Facebook & Instagram.

I also did a little research and discovered Spark People. In the two days I’ve been engaged on the site, I’ve discovered tools (food/exercise tracker), information regarding making the healthy changes and sticking with them, as well as all the things I listed above. All for free.

I’ve found my tribe in a virtual village.

What does your tribe look like?