Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bipolar Disorder and Mental Illness Issues not just for "plain" Folk

Bipolar Disorder and Mental Heath Illnesses not attack only the ordinary people in this world? It doesn't qualify by financial status or popularity. It's a horrible disease that attacks anyone at any time.

God loves all of us. Even those with mental illness. "Beloved, do not think it stage concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." -- 1 Peter 4:12-13

Mariel Hemingway is a prime example of having a family full of mental health issues. Speaks about it in Key West.

Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That's a LOT of people. Famous or not, you may have some type of mental illness in your family.

According to Juhie Bhatia writing for everyday Health in her article The Price of Fame? "The erratic behavior of creative people is often attributed to this condition, since bipolar disorder is characterized by disabling mood swings during which a person goes from a high, manic phase to a low, depressed one. Though it's difficult to verify if this condition actually crops up more often among artists and celebrities, many famous people, both now and in years past, are thought to be bipolar." 

Bhatia picks out only 10 but there are more. Many more famous people with Mental Illness. So many famous people and "not so famous" people try to self medicate their mental health systems with alcohol and drugs. So, those are the FIRST signs seen by the public. A drug addict or alcoholic may just be covering up a deeper problem that deals with their mental health.

We can look back into history and see how Bipolar Disorder affected a twentieth century writer by the name of Virginia Woolf. 

According to Bhatia,"she suffered mood swings and breakdowns throughout her life. An article in the American Journal of Psychiatry explains her behaviors: "From the age of 13, Woolf had symptoms that today would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder; she experienced mood swings from severe depression to manic excitement and episodes of psychosis. In her own time, however, psychiatry had little to offer her."

The poor woman wrote through her moods and produced hauntingly perfect material that cried out for her life. 

We all know about Carrie Fisher, right? You don't? Oh my,
well start reading, Giving Bhatia this credit ,"Carrie Fisher's portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy turned her into a pop-culture icon. However, partly due to her tumultuous childhood, she struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. In her early 20s Fisher was told she was hypomanic, but she didn't believe her doctor. Over time, however, she came to terms with her condition and became a bestselling author in the process, writing books such as Postcards From the Edge and Surrender the Pink. Becoming a mother was the impetus for this change. "Prior to having a child, I really did feel, it's my business if I wanted to stop my medications," she told bp Magazine. "I no longer feel that's so."

I read bp Magazine. Her article in there was absolutely wonderful.

I've given you a link to Bhatia's full article. I suggest you read it. It might make you feel better, that "it's not just you" Bipolar and Mental Illness affects. We all have to deal with something. Having Bipolar Disorder really isn't that bad and I have a full deck of mental illnesses. The most important thing is to stay positive. Take your medications. Have faith in your God. Create and listen to your support group.

I know if you had your choice to have BPD or nothing, you'd choose nothing. But, maybe I wouldn't. It taught me some things about life and friends and family that I may have never learned, otherwise.

Suffering will end. I know this. I believe. I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father, God. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be more more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." -- Revelation 21:4

Think about it.

Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Being Still Amid a Busy Life

A woman has a very busy life. There are kids, family, husbands, bosses, friends, pets, finances, homes and more that take up her time.

Studies show that not only is the average woman busy from the time she gets up to the tie she goes to bed, but she also is reducing her sleep time because she has too much to do.

Does this sound like you?

You must learn to slow down. It takes self-determination and control. But it can happen.

Being busy all the time not only affects a woman's physical life, but their spiritual life as well. I know. It's really hard to slow down for anything, even for God.

God can help put your life in perspective. To do so, you must be still and know God. When you take time to be with God, you can build a better relationship with Him. When you focus on God, you can remember how vast He is. God knows everything. Always remember that.

God is everywhere. He's the focus of the universe. Knowing all of this really puts your life into perspective, don't you think?

When you are still, you are refreshed spiritually. You gain a new sense of how important you are to God.

Just think about it.

Be still. Listen for God's voice. He loves you. God whispers his love, support and reassurance to you.

Can you do it? Can you be still enough to hear God's voice?

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth! -- Psalm 46:10

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Escape from Childhood

The front porch of my childhood home wasn’t a porch at all; more like a stoop or just a step. Concrete, about eight inches high, it separated the front yard from the front door. To everyone else it was just “the front step,” to me it was much more. It was where I perched my bottom on the cold concrete and waited. At first, I didn’t know what I was waiting for, only that I didn’t have it.

I sat on the front stoop and watched cars drive by, restricted from going any further away from the familiar confines of my home. As I grew older, I sat and waited for friends to come over to play or for parents to visit on “their day.” Hundreds and hundreds of days came and went, with visits and later with disappointments when the clock ticked away the minutes, then hours until I could no longer deny that no car would pull into the driveway; no parent would swoop in and take me away. On that stoop I dreamed and I waited. What was I waiting for? I waited for my chance to escape.

With an overwhelming sense of understanding, beyond my young years, I knew I didn’t belong. I didn’t fit into the life I’d been born.  I only existed; floating between the other lives that continued on around me. Born to a mother who couldn’t love my father she married another who gave me his name. Parents and stepparents drifted in and out of my life; so much so that I lost track of their names and faces. Nothing was real, only the cold realization growing inside of me of an unknown desire to escape.

My pursuit for escape took a dramatic turn in the early 1970s. Escape encompassed my desire to disappear; disappear from my family, my school, but most of all, from my life. Unsure of how to fulfill my desire, I searched for a solution to what I envisioned as my problem.

It didn’t take too long to discover the key. It appeared, almost as if by magic.  Eager, excited, and full of anticipation, I watched it take shape. For many months, from the window of my school bus, I kept an eye on the builders as they moved concrete blocks around and poured cement. First the foundation, then the walls, and finally a roof appeared as if right before my eyes. Large glass doors and plate glass windows gave the building a wide, gaping, friendly look that seem to say, “come in, I’m here for you.”

The two small windows from which tickets were sold balanced the smiling face. Unblinking, they beckoned to me, “come in, I’m here for you.”  I knew it was meant for me.

Opening day arrived. I paced, checking the time every few minutes until I could find an excuse plausible enough to satisfy the adults in my life. Rushing to the door, I reigned in my excitement, certain that if my joy were detected, it would be taken away.

As casual as I could, I opened the front door, stepped onto the front stoop, and closed the door behind me. Tense, my spine stretched tight, waiting for any noise from inside to call me back. Nervous, I took the first tentative step off the stoop, slowly at first then gaining in speed as I covered more ground across the lawn. Out of the driveway and finally on the road, I could start to relax. I was on my way.

I walked the two miles from the house with the front stoop to the first walk-in movie theater in our town. The two miles seemed insurmountable, although, with each step, I knew it brought me closer to my destination. I kicked at gravel along the side of the road and swiped at waist-high weeds along the ditch. With each kick I wished I were already standing in line for my ticket. With each swipe I willed myself to already be sitting in my seat.

I spent most of my teenage summers huddled in a soft seat in the darkened theater staring up at the wide screen. Nearly every weekend you could find me in the cool, dark shadows, far away from the realities of divorce, step parents, and becoming a teenager. In the theater I didn’t have to think; only see.

I absorbed every horror film shown, devouring them over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of the creepy, campy horror films of the early 1970s. No matter that I had nightmares every night. I was addicted. They were my anti-thesis. I endured life, knowing the dark theater with its visual trips to far away places would comfort me in times of need.

The characters in the movies became an extension of my identity. In observing their evil deeds I could manifest my inaction through them. I watched a young boy train rats to attack people in Willard and then watched Ben do the same. Not truly understanding the significance, I pretended that those in my life who hurt me would end up in the same predicament. They would pay for their misdeeds.

Trainable animals gave way to intelligent vehicles. My appetite for horror was voracious. Just like the gasoline truck in Duel, I plowed my way through more and more films.  It was when I first saw Carrie, that I understood my reasons for watching these shocking shows. Here was someone that dispensed justice to those who harmed her. I silently rooted for Carrie while those in the theater around me were frightened. 

My life took on a new twist – graduation. I found a new escape from that small house with the small stoop - I lived.

The theater is still there although it no longer shows first run films. Age has caught up with my once favorite refuge, just as it has caught up with me. Wrinkles on my face and the gray in my hair mirror the cracks in the building’s concrete surface as it shines dully in the sun showing pits and broken cinder blocks.

It’s been a very long time since I sought to escape using horror films or theaters. Today I write my dreams in journals. I no longer ache to escape a dreary life, but to embrace its beauty. Every morning I thank God for having one more day to live. Every evening I thank God for giving me that day. Life has become valuable. And I am grateful to a small, hometown theater for rescuing me before I ever got the opportunity to understand that life truly is precious.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Silence - a poem

Such a fickle creature -- my friend, my foe.
I welcome my friend with open arms when my senses overload.
You envelop me in your blanket of stillness, comforting me.
My protector. My safe harbor.
I control your absence of sound, for me, you are my slave.
And I, I am the master.
Mean-spirited you are, my foe, dark silence.
I quiver at your abrupt entry, startling my senses.
You swoop down, blanking all thought, all consciousness, frightening me.
My fears magnify. My terrors grow.
You control my imagination; I am your unwilling servant.
And you, you are my captor
Silence, are you my friend or foe?

Image credit: sziban / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Surviving Hashimoto's Disease

I've known about autoimmune disorders as I've several. However, I was surprised when my doctor recently diagnosed me with Hashimoto's Disease.

What is Hashimoto's Disease, you ask?

Well, I'll explain in lay terms, and then get into a bit more detail.

Basically, Hashimoto's Disease is an autoimmune disorder with no cure. It means I have antibodies in my body that think my thyroid is a foreign object and attack it. So, I have to take thyroid medication for hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism means my thyroid is acting sluggish. It makes me tired. If I had "hyperthyroidism" I would be not sleeping, having heart palpitations, and basically on a speedy high.

First of all, do you know anything about your thyroid? In the picture, you can see where it is located.

From Wikipedia:
The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine which can sometimes be referred to as tetraiodothyronine (T4). These hormones regulate the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3and T4 are synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.

Lots of big words to explain that your thyroid controls your hormones. 

From MedicineHealth
The name Hashimoto's thyroiditis comes from the pathologist who in 1912 first described the microscopic features of the disease. Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in iodine-sufficient areas throughout the world such as the United States. In general, there is a gradual loss of thyroid function, often accompanied by enlargement of the thyroid gland, also known as a goiter. Hashimoto's disease is most common in middle-aged women and tends to run in families.

Some of the symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease don't appear until it has progressed. It takes time to examine all the symptoms and blood tests before making a diagnosis. For me, it's taken about ten years.

Symptoms List
Modest Weight Gain
Cold Intolerance
Excessive Sleepiness
Dry, Coarse Hair
Dry Skin
Muscle Cramps
Increased Cholesterol Levels
Decreased Concentration
Vague Aches and Pains
Swelling of the Legs
Difficulty Getting Pregnant
Slow Heart Rate

Currently, I have about 11 out of the 15 symptoms. Fatigue is hard to combat. I must take each day as it comes and plan accordingly. I have Bipolar Disorder and depression comes along with that. Thank God, since my ECT treatments, I haven't experienced anymore depression. I try to relieve any stress or anxiety that my exasperate my symptoms by meditating, doing jig saw puzzles, watching old TV shows or movies. I read as well. It also helps to journal out my feelings or frustrations. Once they are out of my head, I can move on.

My doctor has suggested that a Gluten-Free diet would help with relieving the symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease. I'm going to try it as soon as I get it cleared with my gastrointerologist. I'm currently attempting to recover from an Intestinal Infection that pretty much has me grounded to home. I also have a lot of TMJ pain and my jaw surgeon has put me on a soft, no chew diet. I pretty much live on oatmeal, smoothies, applesauce, and potatoes and lots of Sobe Lifewater and V8 juice for fluids.

The exact cause of Hashimoto's Disease is unknown. But, scientists may have discovered some contributing factors such as:

Excessive Iodine
Radiation Exposure

One of the things I think contributed to my thyroid disfunction was the Lithium I was prescribed to treat my Bipolar. Lithium use hurts the thyroid. The National Institute of Health report supports this theory.

There is no cure for Hashimoto's Disease but there are treatment protocols. My doctor has prescribe medication to replace my thyroid hormones and regulate my metabolism. I must have quarterly blood tests to ensure the medication is working properly. It also lets the doctor know if my medication needs to be reduced or increased.

If you've looked at the list of symptoms and think you may be experiencing hypothyroidism, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will have your blood tested and evaluate the results. Left untreated hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Disease can lead to an enlarged heart, heart failure, or fluid around the lungs or heart. It could lead to coma or death.

I intend to religiously take my medications and visit my doctor at prescribed times and get all blood work done when needed. 

Hashimoto's Disease is just another disorder added to the already overwhelming list of disorders and diseases that fill my life. It won't get me down. I will continue to write, blog, visit my grandchildren, take care of my house, pets, husband and enjoy life. 

I am a survivor.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Being Happy with Who You Are


It's elusive, in a mysterious kind of way.

Ask yourself, Are you happy?

What makes you happy? Is it your family? Your career? Your friends? Your pets? All of the above? Something else, entirely?

I thought at one time that to be happy I had to have a great career and work a lot and make lots of money.
Thank God, I don't think like that anymore. I had some serious life lessons that taught me that a great career is not the road to happiness.

My faith is my road to happiness. With faith and trust in God, nothing is impossible. I am a very happy person.

I feel that I live a well balanced life. I don't let stress or other triggers get to me and build up until they spill over into a Bipolar episode. I am diligent about tracking my moods and keeping away from anything that might be a trigger.

I trust in God and follow his Word by reading it every day.

So, how are you going to find happiness in your life? What would you give up so that you could be truly happy?

Do you need to find balance in your life? What could you do to help yourself achieve the right balance in your life?

I "gave up" a stressful career as a Technical Writer and now I write whatever I want. Whenever I want. I've had five novels and two novellas published. I'm currently working on a Bipolar memoir. I set my own schedule. I keep up with several blogs, this one, My Balanced Life and Your Writing Coach.

I have hobbies like doing jigsaw puzzles. They're great for relieving any stress and anxiety.

I have two pets that I adore and give me great pleasure. An American Eskimo dog and Sun Conure parrot.

Best of all, I have the love and support of a wonderful husband who understands and accepts me for who I am.

I am a happy person.

Are you?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why It's Okay to Watch Re-Runs

 Do you have a favorite TV show or movie that you love to watch over and over? I do. One of my favorite movies to watch is A Perfect Murder with Michael Douglas. It's suspenseful and a spine-tingling good mystery. Even though I know "who did it" and how the movie ends, I don't care. I start watching it and I get wrapped up in the story. It sucks me in and the world melts away. I feel the same way about The Thomas Crown Affair.

One of my favorite TV shows is Friends. I have the entire series on DVD and it doesn't matter that I just finished Season 10, I'll flip back to Season 1 and start all over again.

But is it a good idea for you to be sitting and watching your favorite movie or TV show re-runs? Is it turning your mind to mush? Is it bad for you?

Not hardly. According to research stated in the Why It's Okay to Watch Reruns article, watching your favorite shows restores will power and self-control.

How amazing is that? No more guilt about snuggling in and watching Friends!

From the article: "Self-control is a limited resource," says Jaye L. Derrick, PhD, a researcher and professor at the University at Buffalo who led two studies reported in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Contrary to what many people think, she explains, self-control — be it to resist an afternoon snack or complete a project — is not necessarily an innate trait or disposition. The amount a person has fluctuates from day to day. "So if [people] do something effortful, they have less [willpower] left over to do other effortful things."

Surprisingly, watching new episodes or movies didn't have the same restorative effect. Probably because you're using your mind to try and figure out what is happening and how the story is going to end. With re-runs, you already know, so your mind is relaxed.

By building close relationships with your favorite fictional characters, you're creating a bonding experience that has a will power restoring effect. The comfort level you have with your favorite characters allows you to say or react in ways that you may not with real relationships. 

Have a favorite re-run or movie? Watch it and let the guilt slip away. Remember, this only works for re-runs, not new episodes or movies. So, don't use it as an excuse to become a couch potato.

Do you have a favorite movie or TV show? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wakernesh & Sephrina - Short Story

I thought I'd share a short story I wrote. Wakernesh & Sephrina. Enjoy. I hope you like it.

Wakernesh stood over the small kettle hanging from the iron rod across the open flame.  Instantly, heat combined with sumptuous odors rushed past his face to escape through the stone chimney above.  He sniffed; his stomach growled in response.

"You old fool.  Get away from that pot!"

Wakernesh shuffled himself around, careful not to trip on the ragged, singed rug in front of the fire.  "Sephrina! Away with you, you old hag."  He waved his hand and flicked his arthritic wrist.  His joints cracked as they attempted to obey their master.

Sephrina, pulling wooden bowls from an nearly empty cupboard, flinched. 

A small spark jumped from the fire and sputtered onto the rug.  It popped and snapped, breaking out into a small flame that threatened to spread across the dusty, twisted rags on the floor. 

Relief passed quickly over Sephrina's rheumy eyes.  "Bah! Old man." She shuffled across the floor and stomped out the small flame.  "Old, good for nothing, lousy broken down . . . "  She mumbled under her breath as she carelessly ladled a portion of hot stew into a misshapen wooden bowl.

Wakernesh carefully lowered himself onto a rickety three-legged stool.  "Watch it old witch," he said with quiet even tones.  "I've warned you before."

"You don't scare me, Wakernesh."  Not anymore, she added to herself.  Sephrina slammed the bowl in front of him.  Spatters of hot stew speckled the front of his torn, threadbare tunic.  "You are no longer the powerful wizard you once were."  She dished more stew into another bowl and sat opposite the old man.  "We have been mortal now for over a hundred years.  We both have suffered because of it."  She ran stiff, bony fingers through her lifeless white hair.  "Just look at me! I can't even conjure a simple beauty illusion."

"Sephrina."  Wakernesh covered her hand with his own liver-spotted, wrinkled one.  "You'll always be beautiful to me."

"Bah! Old man.  What do you know?"  She threw off his hand and turned away.  Hot dry tears wetting her eyes.  "It would take a miracle to make me young again."


Wakernesh stayed awake that night thinking about Sephrina's claim.  She longed to be beautiful again.  A miracle she wanted? A miracle she would get.  He worked through the hours of darkness pouring over dusty tomes and toiling over his mortar and pestle.  As dawn broke, exhausted muscles aching, he was ready.

"Sephrina!"  Wakernesh called with all the excitement he could muster.

"Old man, this better be good."  Sephrina stumbled out of their bed and to their small living space.

"I've done it.  I've created a miracle for us!"

"What are you babbling about, old fool?"  Sephrina peered at him through the early morning light breaking through the small dirty window.  "Have you lost your mind, too?"

"Not at all." Wakernesh carried a small vial to the table and sat down.  "Here, look at this." He pushed the vial toward his wife.

"What is it?" She touched it with a tentative finger, uncertain of its power.

"Our youth, Sephrina! Our youth!"  Wakernesh grabbed her hand with surprising strength.  "Look at me, Sephrina."  He pulled her toward him.  "This is my last spell.  Our last chance at youth.  I've only enough for both of us to regenerate 150 years.  I'm not as strong as I used to be.  That's all I could do.  We'll go back past the 100 years of being mortal and have fifty years as wizards before mortality once more."

Sephrina gasped.

"Think of it, Sephrina.  We can be young again!"

Her eyes held his for a moment then slid greedily to the vial.  "Are you sure it will work?"

"Yes, yes.  Half for you, and half for me."  Wakernesh touched a tender finger to her wrinkled, paper-thin skin along a high cheekbone.  "Are you ready?"

“My darling husband, you’re exhausted.  Why don’t you take a nap and we’ll take the potion after you rest.”

“You might be right.  Maybe just a small nap.”


Sephrina watched her husband shuffle to the small bed in the corner and sigh as he lay down.  She touched the vial.  Did it contain the powers her foolish husband said it did? She listened to his soft snores.

Without a second thought she uncorked the vial and swallowed the contents.  “The old man didn't deserve immortality.  He owed me for living in this squalor for a hundred years.  I will be beautiful forever!”


Wakernesh awoke as the sun settled behind the hills.  He felt a strange emptiness surround him.  Tears sprang to his old eyes.

He found the empty vial on the table.  "Sephrina?"  He whispered.  He searched under the table and behind the vegetable bin.  He crawled on his knees to look under the bed.  He peered behind the pile of wood next to the fireplace.


"Sephrina!"  Overjoyed, the old wizard reached out to pull her toward him.  He pulled his hand back and yelped with pain to find several straight thin red lines crossing the brown patches on his wrinkly hand.

"Now, now, Sephrina."  He gently coaxed her out from behind the pile of wood.  "Come here, little dear."

With her nose in the air, Sephrina left her hiding spot.

"That's a good girl."  Wakernesh lifted Sephrina from her feet and sat her on his lap.  He ran his hands over her thick, silky hair.

Sephrina stared at him with beautiful oval green eyes that seemed to wonder why he wasn't mad at her for taking the whole vial for herself.  She tensed her body, preparing to bolt at the first sign of trouble.

"Oh, Sephrina.  My darling."  Wakernesh fumbled in his pocket and removed another vial of sparkling green liquid.  "If you hadn't been so greedy, we would both be young wizards again."

Sephrina, wide-eyed, stared back, her eyes on the small vial.

Wakernesh plucked the vial’s cork and tipped the liquid toward his mouth.  His eyes twinkled as he met hers.  "Now, we'll just be wizard and wizard's familiar, my darling!"  With a chuckle he swallowed the contents as the kitten in his lap yowled.