Friday, October 21, 2016

Dear Future Manic Self

This is Part 5 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 Here)

Dear Future Manic Krystal,

Mania and you go together like peanut butter and jelly. After five manias in nine years, it seems pretty inevitable. And this is okay. You have learned how to cope and manage with the episodes. You have a system in place. You have the support, encouragement, and help of loved ones. You are not alone, Darling.

So don’t fear future manic episodes. Yes, an episode can be a bit scary because you don’t know how high you’ll get or how destructive it will be. But, Baby, you’ve lived through this before. Let me remind you. Five. Times. 2007. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016. If you’ve noticed, the last four years have been particularly challenging for you with multiple manias and hospitalizations. But guess what? This mania, you managed without the hospital. This is the first time you have ever accomplished this. This, Baby, is progress. You are learning and growing and maturing in how you handle and manage the mania.

Just relish this for a moment: you are manic but you are not in the hospital. That is huge! Even your therapist recognized it in your last session. You have managed by coordinating care with your psychiatrist, your therapist, and IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). You have recognized, yet again, how important your psychotropic drugs are to your mental and mood stability. Some people can manage without medicine. You are not one of those people. And that’s okay! Really. It is. Everyone is an individual so why wouldn’t their needs be individualized, too?

I think you charged about $5,000. But even that is progress. Let’s celebrate every milestone. Considering that in the past you have charged upwards of $10,000 at a time, $5,000 isn’t too bad. Keep it in perspective. Do not beat yourself up. Despite the high balances, your credit score is over 740. Just recognize that spending sprees come with the territory. In the future though, please give your credit cards to your accountability partner.

Despite the spending, the mania is not an all-bad experience. During your fourth mania (2015), you incorporated two businesses. During this, your fifth mania (2016), you managed to make one of the businesses into something beautiful. You turned the life coaching company you incorporated into a wellness coaching company. While manic, you wrote three curricula for the company, planned a strategic and targeted audience to market to, met with a small business mentor, solicited feedback from your friends and social media contacts via a Google Form survey, and worked with an incredible graphic designer to create a company-specific logo and forthcoming website. In short, you got a lot done. And it’s great work. The creativity and productivity worked in your favor. Yeah, you barely slept and you literally worked around the clock but you created something permanent and important.

Lastly, the mania is not a curse. I know you used to feel like your diagnosis was a source of suffering. But, Darling, do not take such a negative view of the mania. You do not suffer from bipolar disorder; you live with bipolar disorder. You happen to get manic more than you get depressed. Thus, your default mood is slightly more elevated than the average person. That is okay. You are you. Relish in your uniqueness. Bipolar, and mania in particular, have granted you some amazing gifts. Appreciate them. Gifts such as being able to tell your story through blogging, connecting with an international readership, meeting incredible women of color in your social media support group, starting a memoir, and choosing to re-learn to speak Spanish.

Be proactive; choose how you see the cup. Is it half full or half empty? Your outlook on life actually shapes your experiences of life. To live with bipolar disorder is not the worst thing. Always remember that, Darling.


Your current hypomanic/manic self (2016)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pet Therapy and Mania

This is Part 4 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 Here)

I moved back home with my mother a few years ago for financial reasons. Now that I’m back in graduate school, it’s been an even bigger help. My mom has a teensy tiny Yorkie, named Brandi. Brandi can be a handful! She loves to give sloppy kisses and to sleep on top of your head or under your back. She’s also a bit aggressive (aren’t the smaller dogs always are?!) with other dogs and some people. But she can be a sweetheart.

When I started to feel manic, I’m sure she sensed it. She followed me around even more than usual. Most nights, she chose to sleep with me rather than in her own bed or with my mom. And I appreciated every minute of it.

When I have been hospitalized or have attended IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) in the past, we have done pet therapy with dogs. I am no animal lover, but there is something about animals loving on humans when we don’t feel our best. It is an immediate mood booster and spirit lifter.

Or in the case of my mania, it slows me down and takes me out of my head. When caring for Brandi, if my mom forgets, I have to remember to feed her and take her for walks. I have to say that it is nice not to have the full responsibility of caring for Brandi, but I do appreciate her presence in my life.

Brandi’s kisses.      

           Cuddling with Brandi.            

Lounging in the backyard with Brandi. 
I work; she plays.

Out for a walk.

Trying to get a head-on shot with her is so hard!
Brandi – look at the camera!

She loves the sun!
She will seek it out wherever it lands in the house.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Self-Care in Action via Photos: A Bipolar Consumer’s Attempt to Stave off Mania

This is Part 3 in a 5-Part Series: 
When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 Here)

I fancy myself an iPhone-photographer/Instagram-photographer! I love taking pictures throughout my week to document where I've been, what I've eaten, and what I've seen. However, I'm not much of a selfie taker. In fact, if you scroll through my Instagram feed, you'll notice that I post more photos of "stuff" (such as food, places, things) instead of people.

When I noticed that I was becoming manic, I decided that I wanted to document as much of this experience as possible - both through words (blogging) and photographs. What follows are the images of me engaging in self-care in an attempt to stave off a full-blown manic episode and a potential hospitalization. I was overly ambitious with the first two pictures, where I made collages of that day's self-care. However, after the first two days, I no longer possessed the wherewithal to sit still long enough to make cutesy collages of text and images.

This is an old acupuncture picture.
The other photos here are from that first Monday in September 2016.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with a friend and wrote a few mania-themed haikus.
My bedroom always gets extremely messy when I am in the throes of depression or mania.
This day, I took the time to straighten up.

This was at one of my acupuncture sessions. My acupuncturist showed me
a move I could do to ground myself. Mania lives in my head, so I literally have to bring
my head and heart closer to the earth.

These are called “ear seeds.” They are tiny adhesive squares that have a tiny
black seed in the center. The seed is placed over a pressure point. And throughout the day,
I massage the seed, sending pressure to that corresponding point. The pressure points I focus on correspond to relaxation and sleep.

It is extremely important to drink as much water as possible.
One side effect of my psych meds is constipation. Increased water intake
helps to keep my body hydrated and hopefully mitigate the drying effects of the meds.

I have a hard time focusing when I am manic which often translates into 
me not eating enough. So when I am manic and finally do decide/take time to eat, I like to eat meals that I especially like. This is chicken teriyaki with brown rice and edamame. 

Here's another photo of a snack I ate; it is a cored apple with caramel dip. 
I’m sure you can tell that this photo made it onto my Instagram!

My meds are processed through the liver. Once, a few years back, one of my meds caused liver toxicity; I was immediately taken off that regimen.  I like to drink Yogi Detox tea to counteract the meds’ impact. I love colorful and beautiful things, and both the mug and my journal meet those requirements.

Part of my self-care is looking put-together. When I was depressed for the first time in 2006, I did not bathe or groom. When the depression ended a few months later, I vowed to myself that I would always have my hair done and I would always wear clothes that made me feel good.

This is my on-the-go pill box that I carry in my purse. I also have a much larger pill box for daily use. The reason I spiraled into mania is that I stopped taking my psych meds consistently a few months back. As much self-care as I do, it would not matter if I am not also taking my meds. The ultimate self-care for me is: adequate sleep, taking my meds consistently and as prescribed, and managing my stress.  

When I am manic, I am extra spiritual and religious. I feel as if I commune better with God when I am manic. It becomes easier to see His hand in my life. On this day, I went to church with my mother and shared a blogging testimony. One of my readers left a comment on a recent blog post saying that he was suicidal, but because of my words he decided to live. His story was so humbling for me. I never really know if my blogging is impacting my audience and readers. But his comment touched me to my core.

As I mentioned, Instagram is my favorite form of social media. I’ve reposted memes, 
but it wasn’t until this year that I started creating my own memes. I am both a visual 
person and a logophile (lover of words). So memes combine both my loves. 
Here's a meme I created recently.

Tune in tomorrow for part four...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mania Haikus: Using the Heightened Creativity to Process My Episode

This is Part 2 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1 Here)

I recently came across the poetry of Nayyirah Waheed. I follow her on Instagram and she posts beautiful, bite-sized poetry. Reading her work makes me want to write poetry, too.

At the beginning of the month (September 2016), I felt the stirrings of mania. There were no spending sprees, nor hypersexuality, or racing thoughts. Those are my typical symptoms. This time I only noticed two changes: disturbances in my sleep and heightened creativity and productivity.

When I was manic in 2015, I incorporated a life coaching company and a social justice curricular consulting company. I was so excited to go into business for myself. I mean, why not? I had all these great ideas until the mania dissipated. After I came down in 2015, I spent months recovering and settling back into my homeostasis. The two businesses were the last things on my mind.

Yet here I find myself, in September 2016, dusting off the life coaching company and developing curricula for workshop presentations. For the first week of September 2016, I feverishly researched and wrote, and consulted, and designed. At first, I thought it was normal creative frenzy, but when I didn’t sleep one night, I knew I was teetering into familiar territory. Mania is defined by excess. I was doing too much.

Here are five haikus I wrote to process the mania.

Spano excited.
Just like Spano? Yup, Jessie.*

*Jessie Spano from Saved By The Bell

Wrote a business plan.
Conducted a survey too:
self-care consulting.

I’m intentional
about self-care coping skills.
Sleep. Breathe. Eat. Shower.

Be in the moment.
Try to calm the energy.
Breathe, breathe, breathe deeply.

Sleep escapes me, {sigh}.
Too many creative thoughts.
Can I just press “pause”?

Tune in tomorrow for part three in the series...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mania #5: What, How, Why

This is Part 1 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

This is my fifth mania in the nine years since I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, just because this is my fifth mania doesn’t mean that the experience of the mania this time around hasn’t been rough. I have been manic every year since 2013. Yup. 2013. 2014. 2015. And now 2016. My mania manifests pretty similarly each episode. For instance, I typically experience heightened creativity and productivity, a heightened libido, impulsivity, spending sprees, weight loss, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbances.

The creativity and productivity feel incredible. I feel an intense need to create when I am manic. During my third mania (in 2014), I started blogging about my mental health journey. During my fourth (in 2015), I began a memoir and founded two companies. However, this creativity and productivity are not without their share of problems for me. When I first started blogging, I encountered boundary issues with what and whom I wrote about. The two companies I founded set me back about $8,000 in incorporation costs and website creations. I also shop more. Over the life course of my disorder, I have charged around $30,000 on my credit cards. I am currently still in credit card debt. Thus, the temporary nature of my manic episodes have long-lasting consequences for me.

Yet, this is the first manic episode that did not result in a hospitalization. In the past, mania meant being hospitalized. My manias take me so high, so quickly that in order to head it off at the pass, I check myself into the hospital. But for my current manic episode, I am managing with IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) only. I attend IOP two days per week for 3.5 hours each day.

During this current episode, I got the idea to re-brand my life coaching company as a wellness company focused on promoting self-care. I stayed up all night writing feverishly and researching best practices for self-care for the company. I became really excited because I discovered that I could turn what I once perceived as a manic financial blunder – starting a life coaching company in the first place - into a viable source of income. It was almost confirmation that my manic-self knew something my stable-self did not. However, once I was not sleeping through the night, I knew I was in trouble.

I knew the excitement I was experiencing was more than just normal excitement. I was less vigilant than normal about having symptoms of mania because it was not springtime. All of my previous manias occurred between the months of February and June. Now, in September 2016, I exhibited symptoms. I didn’t know what to make of this change to my norm.  

In response to the appearance of symptoms of mania, I increased the number of acupuncture sessions I received from once every three weeks, to two to three sessions per week. I also started taking my medicine consistently once again. Since the summer, I had been inconsistently adhering to my psychiatric medicine routines for various reasons - chief among them, I am just tired of taking pills. I have been a compliant patient ever since I learned of my diagnosis. With the exception of my first mania and my current manic episode, my manias are generally caused by medicine changes my psychiatrist ordered (e.g. one medicine caused liver toxicity so I had to come off it). However, this current mania is my fault and I can definitely say “lesson learned.” As a result of my veering from my medicine routine, I have added an additional year to my graduate schooling since I am currently enrolled less than half-time. There will be no more inconsistent medicine usage on my part.

Tune in tomorrow for part two in the series...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Weight Gain Struggles

One of the enduring effects of my psychiatric medication side effects is the weight gain.

Side effects can occur when one starts a new medicine or when there is a dose change in a medicine one is already taking. I had a medicine dose change, an increase, in 2013, shortly after the picture on the left was taken to control a manic episode. In 2013 I gained 52 pounds over the span of a three- or four-month window of time.

In 2015, while manic again, I managed to lose about 25 pounds or so. I wasn't consciously trying to lose weight, I wasn't exercising, but when I'm manic I eat less. I wrote about my weight fluctuations last year. But since then I've gained all the weight back. I think it partly had to do with my birth control.

I used to avoid taking pictures after I initially gained the weight. I was used to being thin my entire life and to all of a sudden put on so much weight... I didn't like the way I looked in clothes. I felt frumpy.

Now, I make an effort to buy clothes that flatter my shape. And it doesn't hurt that my boyfriend likes my current body. It's a great boost to my self-esteem and body image.

I'd still like to lose some of this weight. I don't need to get back down to 128 pounds (I'm currently 169 pounds), but I want to be smaller. I haven't been exercising consistently. To change that, I signed up for a fitness class held at my town's recreation center. The first class is next week. I'm hoping to attend regularly.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Quick Spring and Summer 2016 Update

I need to be better about blogging more often.

In my defense, this summer was really busy. I took two summer school graduate classes during summer session (May and June). Then, when the classes ended, I started a summer job for July and August. I live in New Jersey, but this summer I worked in Brooklyn, New York. My days were long. Super long. I didn't feel like doing much when I got home.

But I maintained my mood stability! This Spring was the first mania-free one in the last few years. 2013, 2014, and 2015 saw me manic and hospitalized. But not this year :)

At the end of my summer graduate classes, I completed my first year of graduate school for my Master's in Social Work. I'm proud to report that I finished my first year with a 4.0 GPA and I was awarded a National Association of Social Workers (NASW) scholarship in the amount of $5500! My first year was a smashing success. A week and a half ago I started year two of graduate school. (I'm attending part time, so it'll take me three years to graduate instead of two.) And this year I begin an internship. I'll be interning three days per week at a local hospital's adult outpatient substance abuse program. The internship lasts all year, September to early May.

Even though I haven't blogged much on Manic Monique, I was published this summer on The Mighty and the International Bipolar Foundation. The outside sites are where I publish less personal, more broad posts. I'm trying to have a presence on multiple fronts.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Letter to My Little Cousin, Recently Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

Dear Little Cousin,

When your mother told me that you had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I cried.

I wept because I did not want anyone else in the family to walk the road I am on with my own bipolar disorder diagnosis. I wept because bipolar disorder can be more difficult to manage the younger that you are when you are diagnosed. I was 23 when my symptoms surfaced. You are 14. I feel that is too young to have to deal with emotional and mental concerns.

And yet visiting you in the hospital was bittersweet. It dredged up memories of my own hospitalizations – all four of them – but I was glad that you were receiving treatment and on the road to recovery and wellness.

Attending your 8th grade graduation, my heart swelled with pride. And love. And hope. I felt all of this because the last few months were not easy for you. You had more than your fair share of challenges to overcome. Thankfully, you did not have to do any of it alone.

The relationship you have developed with your therapist warms my heart. She has impacted you to your core, so much so that you, too, now want to be a therapist. That would be the ultimate way of paying it forward, of passing on what was instilled into you.

I know you are only 14, but if this career goal sticks, I know that you will make an excellent therapist. You have firsthand knowledge of what it means to live in mood instability and mood stability. You know the impact of a caring adult and professional; and from what you told me about how you relate to your peers, listening and giving advice, you are already honing important skills.

Listening to you talk about your newfound career interests made me beam with pride. I, too, want to become a therapist because of my own experiences with my diagnosis. I, too, have been blessed with great, caring mental health providers and I want to pay it forward.

I hope that I can also be a role model for you in how to live in recovery and instability. I’ve had nearly ten years to learn about my bipolar disorder. I’ve learned to be reflective and proactive. If you ever need help navigating your moods or self-care or high school next year, I’m here.

Love always,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Law of Averages, Mania, and Spring

I survived Spring 2016!

Every spring for the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015) I became manic and was hospitalized for a number of days. I was worried that I'd bat four-for-four and also become manic this year. However, that was not the case. And I am so relieved.

Earlier this year my boyfriend mentioned the Law of Averages to me regarding the streak of manias I had been experiencing. He claimed for me that my luck would change, that after three years in a row I was bound to have some reprieve.

Back in February and March, on about two occasions, I felt the twangs of mania: hyperproductivity and insomnia. But luckily nothing came of it.

To stave off the mania, I continue to take my prescription medications; I see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly; I increased the number of acupuncture treatments I receive per month; and I continue to make self-care and sleep priorities.

I know there's no magic bullet to living in recovery, but I like my system. Every component is important, but perhaps the most important two, for me, are sleep and meds.

Additionally, I am glad that I made it through my first year of my graduate school program without a hospitalization. I experienced my first bipolar episodes (one depression and one mania) ten years ago when I attended graduate school for my Master's in Education. I took a leave of absence from the program to focus on my recovery and wellness and would not graduate until two years later. Now, back in graduate school, this time for a Master's in Social Work, I am happy that the first year is down, and without any mental health crises. Just two more years of grad school to go. I'm claiming that I'll be bipolar episode free for the duration.

I know that relapse is part of the disorder. And I've learned to handle both the depression and mania as best can be expected. But I'm hoping the Law of Averages holds true for the next few years.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mania-Free. So Far, So Good.

Life is really great right now. Like, really great.

I deserve a little bit (or a lot of) goodness right about now. The last three years were rough for me. I was hospitalized for mania every Spring for the last three years. Yup. You read that right. Three hospital stays in three years. However, it's even worse than it sounds. Because after the hospital stay is the recovery window, which can last months to years. For instance, I was hospitalized for 10 days in March 2015. I didn't feel like my whole self until August 2015.

But I made it through this past March with no manic episode! I just gotta get through April and May.

As I said, life is great right now. In the last two weeks I had four interviews for summer employment (like camps and enrichment programs for high school students). I didn't get one, still waiting to hear from the other three. Today I had an interview for my Fall internship for graduate school. It was at my first choice placement. Thankfully, the interview went well; just have to interview with the Director of the department I would be interning with. And graduate school is going well. One of my professors praised my midterm paper in front of the class and declared that I should be in a PhD program. He wants me to present my paper at a conference in the Fall at a college in Pennsylvania.

More importantly, life is going great without the mania. In the past, the mania has given me energy, creativity, and productivity. But I don't need it to be energetic, creative, or productive.

As much as I am pleased to have survived March, I am also not ignorant of my recent track record regarding Spring. So if the mania makes a return, I will deal with it as I have the previous four times. I can't change my disorder, but I can learn to live with it, when I'm in crisis and when I'm in recovery.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Miss Teaching

I have worked with children my entire professional life and even before that. In high school, I volunteered at elementary schools and I taught a Sunday School class for preschoolers at my church. In college, I tutored elementary children as my work-study job. So that's nearly 18 years experience with  K-12 students.

Up until two years ago I taught high school English at a private school. I loved it. I love English and I love that age of kids. I had fun at work. While I don't completely agree with the adage "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life," I understand the sentiment. Teaching was definitely work but it was meaningful work.

Most recently, I taught middle school English at an urban charter school. I resigned after three months. The school and I weren't a good fit. So now I am substitute teaching in my hometown. It's steady work and stress-free; I don't bring any work home.

This week I was in a 5th grade class. It made me nostalgic for my own teaching days. Deciding to go to graduate school for my MSW wasn't an easy decision. I had a career I loved and thoroughly enjoyed. But I felt called to pursue social work. So I don't regret it.

Even though I'll be a social worker in two years, I still have plans in my future to return to an English classroom. Ideally, I'd love to be a part-time teacher and a part-time therapist. Don't know how feasible that is though. Given both fields can be high stress.

I'll figure it out though. I have time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Prioritizing and Cultivating Friendships

In the last two weeks, I've consciously made a decision to reach out to friends I haven't been much in touch with. The results have been quite productive.

I have two classifications of friends: those I know from school or work and then those that I met in the hospital or outpatient therapy (IOP). I appreciate both. But I feel a certain connection to my friends dealing with mental health issues. Unfortunately, we don't speak much.

However, in the last two weeks I either text or called thirteen people. I've heard back from all but three. It was just a check-in text or call. But about half have resulted in plans to hang out. I'm happy. I'm a very sociable person.

One of my IOP friends expressed an interest in having a closer and more consistent relationship. I'd like that. It's nice to be around people who understand your mental health struggles and successes.

Hopefully I can maintain my friendships better. I like having friends :-)

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Schedule for My Time

I need more structure in my life. I haven't been exercising consistently for weeks now and I'm not studying my Spanish like I need to if I really want to be fluent.

I got sick in January with a sinus infection and bad cough. That threw me off my exercise routine. Ever since I haven't been able to get into a good rhythm. And from November to January I was enrolled in a Spanish level one class in New York City. I made flash cards, I did my Duolingo app, I spoke to my boyfriend in Spanish via text and in person, and I studied. I'm now in Spanish level two and I'm not doing any of these things. Sadly, level two is nearly over; there are just three more weeks left. But I'm about to re-implement the habits that served me well in my level one class.

To that end, I've decided to create a schedule for my time. I'm going to set aside specific days and times for the activities I want to prioritize: exercising, learning Spanish, and studying for grad school.

What I want to fit in:
  • Exercise four to five days per week (2 days at the gym and 2 or 3 days at home)
  • Study Spanish one hour per day between the Duolingo app and my flash cards 
  • Attend Spanish-speaking meet ups once or twice per month to get in actual practice with people
  • Read grad school homework two to four hours per day (there's a crapload of reading!) and start assignments weeks before their due dates
I'm only working part time while in grad school, so I have the time to make this new schedule work. Let's hope I can stick to it. I'm gonna start today. 

What do you want to fit into your life? How do you prioritize your time? Got any tips for me? I'd gladly welcome them :)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

If Money Was No Object...

Today in one of my Master's in Social Work (MSW) graduate school classes, we had an interesting writing exercise. My professor asked us:
"If you had ten million dollars, what would you do with your life? What would change? What would stay the same?"
I didn't even have to think about my answer. I immediately wrote down that I would:

  • Pay off my student loan debt and my boyfriend's student loan debt
  • Start trust funds for my nephews and cousins who are under the age of 18
  • Found an all-boys' middle and high school 
  • Found a holistic wellness center that offers mental health counseling, acupuncture and yoga
  • Travel
  • Finish my MSW degree
My professor than told us that what we wrote down is what we should be doing with our lives right now.

I felt great when she said that, because founding a wellness center is one of my social work career goals (the other is to be a therapist for college students on a college campus). I feel like I'm on the right track to actualize my goals. This exercise was a nice reality check.

However, my professor said that just because you write something down doesn't mean it's going to come true. But it can point you in the direction that your life should go.

What would you do if you came into ten million dollars? So, what should you be doing right now?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mania Season

Every year for the last three years I have been hospitalized for mania. That is, three hospitalizations in three years. To put that fact into perspective: I've been hospitalized four times, my first hospital stay was in 2007 but the second stay wasn't until 2013. That means I was stable for six whole years. But since 2013 stability has been hard to sustain.

All four of my manias have happened in the springtime. There's something about the sunshine and flowers blooming that send me into a tailspin. In fact, I wrote about me, mania, and the spring this time last year.

For the past few months I've been apprehensive about spring's arrival. I mean, three for three, what are the odds? And what are the odds that this year won't continue the trend? My boyfriend is claiming the Law of Averages for me. Meaning, my episodes will even out. I've had a crappy run of it the last three years, so my luck must look up soon. I don't know if I believe it, but I'm hoping that it's so.

Knowing that spring is coming and soon, I've been on high alert for warning signs of mania. For instance, twice in the past few weeks I've stayed up writing until the wee hours of the morning, midnight on the first occasion and 2am this morning. I felt incredibly productive and felt driven to keep working even though I know how important good sleep hygiene is. (Decreased sleep is often one of the first signs of mania and depression for me.)

You see, the mania doesn't care about my sleep. The mania is single-minded. But I can't feed into it, which I've now done twice.

However, I am taking care of myself: I take my psych meds regularly, I see my therapist every three weeks, I see my psychiatrist pretty regularly as well, I increased the frequency of my acupuncture sessions knowing that spring is a trouble time, I'm exercising and trying to eat healthy. On the self-care front I've got it covered. If only I could stop giving into the heightened-productivity impulses. I vow to work on that.

I claim that this year I won't be hospitalized.

But if I am, I will commit myself to recovery as I have done the previous four times. Neither mania, nor depression, will bring me to my knees.

I am more than my bipolar label.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss Goals

I want to lose about 10-15 pounds. To do that I've been trying to become more conscious of what I'm eating. I recently started working with a new doctor on lifestyle changes. She believes that there are two types of food. Foods that heal and foods that harm. I can dig that. There is certainly a connection between certain diseases and the foods we eat.

One of the many changes my new doctor suggested is that I stop drinking milk and eating milk-related products. No yogurt, no cheese. This was tough. I used to eat a Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning like clockwork. Well, I needed something to replace the yogurt so I googled healthy breakfasts.


This is chia seed pudding. It's made of almond milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup. 
It tasted okay. But I'll definitely have to get used to the consistency and hopefully I
eat it more, as it is packed with nutrients. Chia is known as a superfood.

These beauties are egg muffins
They were super easy to make and tasted just like miniature omelets.
I put spinach and diced red and green peppers in mine. But you can add any filling you want.
I've seen some with bacon.

Speaking of omelets... 
For about a week I was obsessed with them 
and they were the only thing I was making for breakfast.

In addition to breakfast, I wanted to also make healthy choices for lunch, dinner, and snacks.


I love plantains. I know they're not the healthiest thing I could eat, since they're fried, 
but they're oh-so-good! I paired them with green beans, black beans, and jerk chicken.
I marinated the chicken in a store-bought jerk seasoning,


I made a visit to the year-round, in-door farmers' market. I was impressed with the wide selection of fruits and vegetables they had. I'm trying to snack mostly on fruits and veggies and not junk food.

I've found snack prepping extremely helpful. I measured (literally, with a measuring cup) out a serving size and then put the goodies in Tupperware or Ziploc baggies. Here I have apples, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, trail mix (cashews, almonds, and cranberries), and carrots. Not shown are my red pepper strips. I eat the carrots and red peppers with hummus.

In the past month, I've already lost about 5 pounds, I just want to lose 10-15 more. I have an ideal weight in mind. Last month I tried to do a 30-day fat loss challenge. It included a meal plan and a 5-day per week workout plan. I only lasted a week. Then I came down with a cold and a terrible cough. Threw me off the workout regime. But to be honest, the meal plan was hard to follow. The food was good but the portion sizes were small. I know I have to change my portion sizes if I want to lose weight. But I was constantly hungry that one week I participated in the fat loss program. However, I wish I could have stuck it out. The other participants posted their before and after photos to Instagram and they got some amazing results in four weeks. I need to get back into my groove of exercising. What are your fitness and health goals?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Learning Spanish

I studied French in middle and high schools. Then once I got to college, I switched to studying Spanish. The result was that I knew neither language well. For instance, I would know a word in one language but not the other.

Case in point: I studied abroad the summer before my senior year of college in Spain, Morocco, Egypt, and Italy. While in Spain, some of my friends and I went to a local grocery store to buy sandwich meat, cheese, and bread. All I could think was "fromage." Fromage is cheese. But in French! For the life of me I could not remember the word "queso." And everybody knows queso is cheese, even people who haven't studied Spanish.

Well, when I was hospitalized in 2013, I was highly manic. Somehow I became fluent in Spanish. The Spanish that I learned in college combined with working one-on-one for a few days with my Spanish-speaking roommate worked a miracle. A symptom of mania is pressured speech (aka talking really fast), combine my pressured speech with the Spanish and I sounded like a native. One of the hospital techs thought I was Latina!

However, once the mania subsided so too did my Spanish-speaking ability. Three years later and I'm doing something to reclaim my lost fluency. In November, I enrolled in a 10-week beginner course that I found a $79 Groupon for. (Yay for Groupon!) The class meets in Manhattan once per week for 90 minutes. I'm nearly done with the course. I take the exam this Tuesday to see how much I mastered from Level 1. But I know I'll pass. I feel pretty confident about the basics of Spanish. So I already went ahead and registered for Level 2, for another 10-week course. It starts next week.

Yo quiero hablar espanol. I want to speak Spanish.

Give me time, and I will be fluent again.