New Blog

I’m not giving up this blog.  I decided at the beginning of the year to take a step from Mental Health advocacy so that I could focus on my family and my recovery.  When I took a close look my advocacy work, I realized that, although I was making great progress, it was costing me precious time with my family.  That, in turn, was taking it’s tole on my mental health.  I realized that I couldn’t be an effective advocate if I didn’t take care of myself.

Part of taking care of myself was to reconnect with my family and friends.  After some sole searching in Ireland, I rediscovered my passion for cooking and my family has been loving that part of me.  We have been reconnecting and that is always good.  Good food and family and friends at the table is a great equalizer.  I’m still very passionate about helping others and I’m not giving that up.  I’m just taking a step back and letting others take a lead role, others who are better qualified than I.

With that said, I have started a new blog title “The Crazy Cook”.  The name came about because Cook is who I am and I am crazy and I embrace that.  I don’t think crazy is a negative word.  The main focus of this blog is cooking, but I do hope to educate others about mental illness as well.  It’s still developing.  I hope you will check it.  I would welcome any feed back.

Here is the link:  The Crazy Cook

Please stop by and join me at the table.

~Susan

Sanity Break

I haven’t written in quite some time.  I took an unintentional break from blogging.  I won’t go into a ton of detail as it is private, but not bad.  So here goes…

I titled this post “Sanity Break”, but I did not lose my sanity.  I will admit…I was under a tremendous amount of stress.  I decided that I needed to get away for awhile by myself.  I needed to sort through some of my thoughts, emotions, behaviors, just everything.  So, I went to Ireland.  Isn’t that what everybody does?  (insert sarcasm)  I needed to reconnect with a very dear friend I made back when I did charity work for Chernobyl Children’s Project (now Chernobyl Children’s International).  I was there for a week and it was wonderful!  I saw parts of Ireland that tourists don’t see.  I have been before and seen the touristy bits.  I just wanted to explore, work on my book, and think.  Well, I explored.  I didn’t write.  I didn’t do much thinking and that was okay.

This trip was just what I needed.  For an entire week, my mind was devoid of racing thoughts, actually any thoughts at all.  All of my anxiety was gone (expect the usual anxiety before a plane ride).  So, except just before each plane ride, I did not take any anxiety medication at all on this trip…none!  This never happens.  It was wonderful!  What it taught me was a peaceful mind is achievable.  I’m not saying you have to go to Ireland to get it.  I do think a get away by yourself is a wonderful idea, even if it’s just the next city over or a few blocks away.

I do understand that finances can be an issue.  Camping is a great option and can be relatively inexpensive.  You can always stay with a friend.  The important thing is to remove yourself from your environment that is causing the stress.  If an overnight is not possible, try getting away for a few hours.  Plan a nice picnic for yourself with a good book.    Your get-away doesn’t have cost you a fortune.  It just has to get you away.   I do think the longer the get-away, the more beneficial it will be.  However, you have work within your means and your comfort level.

Since I’ve been back, stressful situations have come up.  I have caught myself falling back into my old ways of getting anxious and irritable which leads to arguments and that’s just not good for anyone involved.  Now, I stop myself.  I actively say to myself, “Wait a minute.  You had a week of no anxiety, no anger, no racing thoughts, no jitteriness. Why are you letting this situation get the better of you?”  Okay, so I may not say exactly that, but something like that.  The gist of it is I recall that period of calmness and use it.  I know I can achieve it because I did.  It’s possible.  So I keep using it and I don’t give into the anxiety and anger.  Now that I’ve known that kind of peace, I don’t want to give it up.

The moral of this post, take time for yourself.  It is not only good for you, but the ones around you as well.  My household is a much happier household now that I took a little time for me.  It may seem selfish to someone on the outside, but it’s not.  It’s survival.

Mental Health Advocacy & Congress

This post will be short for now.  I will update you all later today.

First, I would like to thank everyone who has submitted their personal stories for my Congressional project.  Today’s the day!!! I will be meeting (on the phone) with a couple of Congressional members to share your stories, as well as my own.  Today, your voices will be heard.  It’s not the DC round table discussion that I had hoped for, but it is a start and I believe it’s a good start.

There have been scheduling conflicts that have delayed these meetings and have made it so that they are over the phone instead of in person, but that’s alright.  It’s still a meeting with a congressional member and they’re willing to listen.  I’m happy.  I will let you all know tonight how everything goes.  🙂  And thank you again, without your support, I couldn’t have done this.  We Matter!

Now For Something Completely Different

You got it!  This post has nothing to do with Bipolar Disorder this time.  I may be a little late to the game as I’m not on social media 24/7 and I don’t have TV.  I just caught wind of this “controversy” over Starbuck’s red coffee cups?!  As Nell Carter would say, “Gimme a break!”  Seriously America?  Is this what we’re offended by now?  Is it any wonder that we are a laughing-stock across the world?  We are no longer the “great nation” that other countries look up too.  Now some would argue that it is due to our President…I don’t think so.  Well, at least not entirely.  I mean look around you.  We are being offended by a cup now.  What were we offended by last week?  Oh I can’t remember, but I can assure you it probably wasn’t all that important.  It seems these days we have become very thinned skinned when it comes to just about anything.

Let’s get back to “Cup-gate 2015”.  Now people are raising a battle cry that when you go into Starbuck’s.  They want you to tell the barista your name is “Merry Christmas”, since it’s company policy not to say that.  Really?  America is not made up of one religion.  I see nothing wrong with a polite company policy of Happy Holidays.  It covers all of the bases.  If you choose to respond with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanuka” or “Joyous Kwanza” in return, that is your right.  Don’t force everyone else to do the same.  They may not celebrate the same as you…or at all.

Being offended by such trivial matters, I feel are first world problems.  There are so many other concerns that need and deserve our energy and attention:  homelessness, Syrian refugees, fixing the education system in America, relief efforts for disaster areas, grandparents raising grandchildren, even just helping your neighbor, friend, someone in the store next to you.  My point is this:  There is a world outside of us and we need to pay attention to it.  I’m not talking just donating money.  Look to your own community and see what you can do.  I say start at home and branch out.  Yes we do need to fix the problems in our own country, BUT we cannot turn a blind eye to the world.  I feel we are obligated to help our fellow human beings despite borders.

When I look at helping (whether it’s donating money or time), I really investigate the organization.  I look at how much of each dollar actually goes to the cause compared to how much goes to administrative costs.  In the decades that I’ve been doing this, I have found that the local charities are more reliable (and transparent) meaning that usually 80% – 90% will go directly to the cause.  With your national organizations, you’re looking at 20%-40% on average.  Yes, there are some exceptions.  However, I do a lot work with overseas charities as well.  It’s just a preference of mine, but same guidelines apply.   Just do your research.  If you’re going to give your hard-earned money, make sure it goes to the organization that will handle it honestly and will do the most good with it.

Embrace Bipolar

I’ve been writing this blog from the perspective of the positive side of Bipolar Disorder, at least that was my intention.  There were some times that it was difficult to do.  I feel I have grown  in the past year and a half since the start of this blog.  It hasn’t always been easy to see the advantage of having Bipolar Disorder especially when I’m in the middle of an episode.  I can assure you, though, there is…at least from my perspective, a definite advantage.

Let me start with a poem that my doctor read to me during our last session.  It’s called “The Guest House” by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I found this poem so profound.  It really helped me put together all the work I’ve been doing to try to understand the different levels of mania and depression and how to function within them.  I have been working so hard to not only accept these states, but welcome them.  Now, let me explain that last part.  By welcoming the states, I am able to see the value and advantage in each state.  For instance, I’ll start with mania (that’s usually the easiest one).  When I’m in a manic state, but still in control (and not just in my head, others around can see the controlled state) I am able to be quite productive in work, house work, advocacy work, volunteer work, etc.  I, however, don’t stay in this state too long.  I am an ultra rapid cycler and if I don’t watch it, I can cycle out of control rather quickly.  When I’m in a depressive state, I tend to have more empathy for people.  I may not always be nice depending on the degree of depression, but this is when I tend to do more service oriented tasks.  By helping others, it helps to take my mind off of the depression.  This is when I will start more volunteer projects and usually just on my own…not with organizations.

I’m not saying these things to advocate that you should actively stay in either of your states.  I can just appreciate what I learn from each one.  I do learn something each time.  This goes right along with my “Live life with no regrets” motto.  If I learn from each state, how can I regret having been through it?  The advice my doctor gave me for the next time I’m in either mania or depression is to simply say “hello”.  Actually address it and welcome it.  By doing so, I take its power away and empower myself.  I like that.  The whole idea of the online course I’ve been taking (at least for me) is to empower myself.  To not live in fear of my illness.  To not be at the mercy of my illness.  I have by no means perfected the skills yet, but I practice every day. By practicing every day, I grow stronger every day.

This strength I gain means the world to me.  It spills over into other aspects of my life.  Once you can see the value and advantage in something that was once so scary and stigmatizing, it’s no longer stigmatizing to you.  Does that make sense?  For me, that is very empowering.

Emotional Customer Service – The Plagued Parent

Sometimes we get lost, our bearings go askew. The compass in our hearts wobbles as it seeks some emotional equivalent of the magnetic north. As the needle wavers we waver with it wondering how we could have gotten here. How is it, we think, that I misjudged the point of reference, so wrong about the thing …

Source: Emotional Customer Service – The Plagued Parent

Medication, Reflection & Bipolar

I have written a few posts about what I call the “medication rollercoaster”.  For me, it has never been a question of whether to take medications or not.  It has been whether the medications are going to work and for how long.  I wouldn’t say I’m med resistant just yet, but I’m down to about 4 meds that I haven’t tried. It has just been extremely difficult and I know I’m not alone.

I had grown accustomed to a certain quality of care from my previous doctor.  When he retired, I went on a search for a new provider that took well over a year.  I quickly learned just how lucky I was to have the doctor I did have.  Dr. P. would take late night calls if I was in crisis.  He always made time for me if I needed a medication change or a quick therapy visit in between scheduled visits.  That is not the case now.  I don’t say this to complain about my current care.  I have a wonderful care team in place…now.  It took time and few bumps in the road, but it’s not quite the same.  It’s not bad.  It’s just different.

Now, I write all that because the new medication provider I have now seems to be quite good.  I’ve been with her a short time, but she understands my situation well. I’m finally back on a medication regime and, for the time being, it is working.  With caution, I have hope for the medication.  The doctor I see for therapy is just awesome and someone I can trust.  I really think I have a good team in place now.  It’s nice to be able to write that.  For once, I’m not writing about firing my med provider! Hahaha!

With my care in order, I’m able to think clearly and reflect back on this year.  I realize this is usually done at the end of December, but I’m gear up to check off a life goal from list.  It’s seems appropriate for me to do now.  I’ve always said that I live my life with no regrets.   Good or bad, whatever I’ve done, it’s all me.  There are some things I will do differently.  For instance, I think with this blog I might try to more of a conscious effort to improve it.  I think I let more of bad days creep in here than I would have liked.  I’d like to tone down trying to save the world.  Perhaps I’ll just take baby steps.  I’ll take on smaller projects and build up to the larger ones.

Question for the day:  If you were to write a book about your life, what would the title be?

~ Mine?  “If I Only Had A Brain”

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite smart.  I can just be so scatterbrained sometimes.  The title fits me.  🙂

The President “Responds”!

Okay, now I support the President, but I’m not a fan of everything he has done over his two terms.  What President has done everything perfectly well throughout their term?  Anyway, he has done tremendous things for mental health.  For instance, he finally fully enacted Patrick Kennedy’s Mental Health Parity Act of 2008.  So, kudos.  I decided to write him and ask for a meeting. Yes, I know I had a snowball’s chance in hell of actually getting that meeting.  If I didn’t ask, then I would never get it.  I knew this meeting was never going to happen, but in that letter I also let him know what it was like for those us living with mental illness. What it’s like navigating the mental health care system.  The stigma we face in the workplace, home, hospital, school…   I thanked him for what he had done so far.  I urged him to continue to do more.  I did explain that I was also an advocate.  How I have actively helped pass laws locally and nationally.  How I’ve worked with soldiers on and off military bases.  How I work with students.  This was the response…

Dear Susan:

Thank you for writing.  I have heard from many Americans whose lives have been affected by mental health problems, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

As you may be aware, in any given year one in five adults experiences a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress, and many others are troubled by significant emotional and psychological distress—especially in times of hardship or difficulty.  They are our family members, friends, and neighbors, and I believe there are things we must all do to help.  As a Nation, we can strive to eliminate the barriers that still keep people from accessing life-changing treatments.  We can also make sure every person struggling with psychological and emotional pain knows that asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking action is a sign of strength.

My Administration has worked hard to help increase mental health services and improve access to care.  We are working with community health centers to expand the availability of behavioral and mental health services across the country, including in rural areas.  And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, over 60 million Americans now have expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections.  This law also prohibits insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions like a diagnosis of mental illness, and it requires most insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services without copays.  Additionally, as part of the BRAIN initiative, we are supporting innovative research that aims to revolutionize our understanding of how the brain works and uncover new ways to address conditions like depression.

We continue to support our troops and veterans.  I signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act on February 12, 2015, which authorized additional steps to address mental health and prevent suicide.  The year before, I announced 19 Executive actions that make it easier for members of our Armed Forces and veterans to access the care they need, when they need it—including a new policy that will ensure the continuity of medication for mental health problems as service members transition to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The VA has also worked to increase mental health staffing, enhance community partnerships, and expand the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line.

To learn more about mental health assistance and health care reform, please visit www.MentalHealth.gov or www.HealthCare.gov.  Calling 1-800-662-HELP is also a free, confidential way to receive a treatment referral or further information. 

Again, thank you for writing.  Michelle and I—like so many Americans—have known people who have experienced mental health problems, and we understand the effects these illnesses have on their lives and on their families.  We must continue to work toward better prevention and treatment, and as caring individuals, we must do what we can to ensure those with mental health issues get the care and support they need and deserve.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

I do realize that the President did not write this email to me.  I also realize that the person who did, obviously did not read a word of the letter I sent.  Yes, I snail mailed a letter…the old fashioned way.  Although I did expect this, I am a bit saddened by it.  As an advocate, I am well aware of all the stats.  I certainly don’t need to learn to go the .gov sites.  I didn’t expect the President to actually read the letter, but at least a staffer would have been nice.  I know I’m no one important.  I don’t have that much of an inflated ego.  It’s just interesting.  Imagine if we all wrote letters and sent them on the same day.  I wonder if we would all get the same response or if someone would actually take notice.  Hmmm.

*Please do not make any negative political comments.  I know not everyone is a fan of the President.

I Want to Help You Grow Your Blog!

Dream Big, Dream Often

Think and dream big words written on chalkboard Think and dream big words written on chalkboard

Okay, leave me a link in the comments and I will reblog today through Sunday.  One link per post and please, nothing off-color, racist or generally mean.  Some language is okay, but excessive eff bombs will not be reblogged on my page.

Other than that leave as many links as you would like, but remember to return the favor and reblog this link.

Danny

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Question Time!

Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

“Being bipolar is not an illness, but an advantage because both mania and depression give me insights that are not available to those who cannot experience them”  ~ Tom Wootton

I have started an online course called Bipolar INorder by Tom Wootton.  I’m finding it quite fascinating.  I’ve wanted to take it for some time now.  Many of you may have heard of Tom Wootton.  I’m very curious to read your view points to his statement.  I tend to agree with him to the point that those who do not have bipolar will never experience the world in the same way as I do.  However, I’m not quite ready to let go of it not being an illness yet.  Not just yet.  Perhaps at the end of this eight week course I will.  I can see his point.  Once we start seeing bipolar as an identity (like “I am an educator or I am brave.) then the stigma is lost and no longer has any power.  If we keep viewing it as an illness, then the stigma is allowed to exist.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this concept.  I can see both sides.  I do see advantages to having bipolar.  In fact, that is exactly why I started writing my blog.

Well, I’ll stop my writing of this post so I can publish it.  I am anxious to see what all of you think.  Remember, there are no wrong answers to this.  Every opinion is valid.

Thanks for reading!