I’m Doing It Wrong

I talk a good game when it comes to battling mental illness.

I have a lot of tools in my toolkit and I know how to use them. I am also medication compliant, participate in individual therapy, see my psychiatrist at least once a month and participate in group therapy weekly. But there’s also the stuff I don’t talk about…like my actions and behaviors that are detrimental to both my physical and mental health.

I ain’t perfect. Far from it.  

For example, I currently don’t exercise.

I am very aware of how physically and mentally helpful it is to exercise. But this is one habit I have not been able to start and maintain. I see people exercising and I want to be one of those people. But, for some reason, I immediately find something else to do if the idea of exercise pops up.

I also smoked from age 15 to 30, quit for 10 years and then picked it up again five years ago. I have a lot of shame bout this. …and I have physical symptoms, too. I cough. My nose runs. I am easily fatigued. Not to mention that I have a 16 year old son that I am setting a TERRIBLE example for. I never smoke in front of him and we both pretend that I don’t smoke.

It’s really hard to admit that I am a smoker.

I’m also not so good when it comes to keeping a schedule every day.  My psychiatrist, numerous books I’ve read and the occupational therapists at Mayo recommend having a schedule for each day.

I’m sure this isn’t everything that I’m doing wrong, but it will have to do 🙂

Would you share with me some of the things that you find difficult to do?  What would you like to be doing different in dealing with your illness?  Please write it in the form below.

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Three For One Rule

One of the most difficult things to deal with is the constant flow of negative self talk that most of us engage in.  We are constantly judging ourselves, calling ourselves names and, in general, not being kind to ourselves.

When you recognize that you’re making a negative/derogatory comment about yourself, stop what you’re doing and come up with three positive things about yourself that negate the nasty talk in your head.

This is called the Three For One Rule and I learned it from my therapist.

For example, if I hear myself say, “I’m Stupid”, I stop, recognize the thought and come up with three positive statements that cancel the negative thoughts: “I’m intelligent”, “I have a Master’s degree”, and “I am a good problem solver”.

The trick is catching yourself using negative self talk.  Most of us have become so accustomed to it that just noticing it is a real eye opener.

So listen to how you talk to yourself and be kind.What are some things you tell yourself that aren’t true?  Please let me know in the Comments below.

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Post Partum Disaster


The sounds of his six-week-old cried filled me with terror.  My brain had yet to reconcile itself after his birth.  A screeching noise bounced around my head.  I was so desperate for quiet. I clapped my hands over my ears.

As I alluded to in https://www.mentallyinteresting.com/shit-just-got-real, it did not occur to me that it would be wise to take an anti-anxiety medication and “pump and dump” breastmilk for a couple of days while my son drank formula.  I was locked into “no formula–no meds” mode.  I was so out of my mind–I’m lucky I didn’t hurt myself.

I was very lucky that my husband was able to take three months paternity leave and stay at home with us because I was not capable of taking care of a newborn.

I saw my psychiatrist when Jonah was three weeks old.  I remember how strange it felt to have a newborn in a psychiatrist’s office.  I listened desperately as my doctor told me there was nothing he could do so long as I continued to breastfeed.  He also gave me a new diagnosis–pregnancy-induced Bipolar Disorder II, rapid-cycling.  I was blown away by this diagnosis.  I had watched my Grandpa struggle with Bipolar Disorder but I was surprised that I had it too.  Up to this point, my diagnosis had been Major Depressive Disorder.

I breastfed for a year and my illness continued to get worse.  It morphed into an awful cyclical beast that produced symptoms during the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle.  Every two weeks, I would get agitated and irritable followed by several days of anxiety and depression and then, finally, relief when my period began.  I was given an additional diagnosis–Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD).



My gynecologist and psychiatrist agreed that a full hysterectomy would be a good way to stop the PDD.  So, in 2012 we scheduled a hysterectomy.  I waited nervously in the pre-surgery area with Jesse and Judy.  We joked and kept things light.  I was given something to knock me out and the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery area and Jesse was trying to explain a hitch in the operation.  “They accidentally knicked your bladder so you’re going to have to wear a catheter for a week until it heals.”   They did what?!  I kept rousing from the anesthetic and asking about my bladder.  I was terribly concerned with having to wear a catheter.  But it really wasn’t bad.

Unfortunately, the operation did not stop the rapid-cycling.  I think my body needed time to adjust and I wanted to see results NOW.  My gynecologist put me on hormones and we waited for things to get better.

The cycles are gone now, wiped out by the hysterectomy and psychotropic medications. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not rapid-cycle any more. It was so exhausting and disheartening. I only got brief periods (a day or two) where things went well. As of today, I have been stable for four years (with some minor hiccups…more on that later).  But that stability has been eroding over the last year.  I typically have an episode every 3 years. I have to take a lot of medication and participate in therapy weekly to stay semi-stable.

I also was unable to have more children because of the way my brain reacts to hormonal changes.  I had already bumped things up from depression to bipolar disorder and I did not want to explore any other mental illnesses.  I had a really hard time with this decision and shed many tears over my son being an only child.  I had always pictured having two children, but that just wasn’t meant to happen.

It took me about five years to get over the fact that I couldn’t have more children.  Every time I saw a pregnant woman or heard that a friend was pregnant, my heart filled with jealousy and I would often cry.

I’ve accepted it now and love our family of three.

If your hormones interfere with your functioning, contact your gynecologist to see what can be done.  

Let me know what, if any, problems you’ve had with your hormones in the Comments.

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Walking the Ledge

Sixteen years ago I was barreling down I-29 in North Kansas City.  My husband of 10 years and son of three weeks were in the back seat.  I was in the grips of Post Partum Psychosis and I was filled with dread.

I looked at the odometer…60 mph.  The voices that had popped up in my head roared, “Hit the abutment!” over and over.  I felt myself drifting away from reality.  My husband asked, “Are you OK?”, fully knowing that I wasn’t.  But his voice was enough to ground me for the moment.

I just had to make it home so I could break down in privacy.  I gripped the wheel until my knuckles whitened.  Not today, motherfucker…you will not kill me and my family today.

I had been doing great for the first five days after I gave birth to my son.  I was deliriously happy.  Then my hormones started shifting around and things went from fine to fucked in a hurry.  I began to panic.  I couldn’t stand the sound of my new son.  I was locked in terror, made all the worse by hearing and seeing things that weren’t there.  It felt like my fight or flight mechanism was jammed in the “ON” position.  All I could do was sleep and breastfeed while my husband took care of our baby the rest of the time.

I couldn’t take anything stronger than an anti-depressant without having to “pump and dump” breastmilk and I had gotten it in my head that my son could only have breastmilk.  No formula. Period  This is a common pattern for me, getting an idea, whether its right or wrong, firmly embedded in my brain.  Ideas get stuck in my head and, whether they are rational or not, they stay.  I have engaged in irrational behavior a number of times because I couldn’t escape the thought that I had to do something.  This is why its so important for me to pay attention to what I’m telling myself and question whether it’s valid.

I tried to shove the roaring voice to the back of my head and not think about driving into a wall.  My shoulders ached from gripping the wheel so tightly.  I was so relieved when I finally pulled in the driveway.

Have you had dangerous thoughts when you’re in a potentially bad situation?  What do you do to keep yourself from acting on those thoughts.  What happens if you do act on your thoughts?  Please let me know in the Comments section below.

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