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For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

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Where do you focus your mind?

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

-Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Bipolar Depression feels like a black hole; sucking you in and smashing your thoughts into an abyss of darkness.  In my years since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I have learned to focus my thoughts for my mental health.  Focus on the positive, you’ll get more positive.  Focus on the negative, you’ll get more negative.

Black Hole

Black Hole Corona

It seems simple enough, but for somebody in the throes of Bipolar Depression, the task seems insurmountable.  Depression has a way of messing with our minds, making us feel that everything is going wrong, and that there is no light ahead.  I have been blessed with several bouts of Bipolar Depression in my life.  I say that this depression is a blessing, because it has taken several depressive cycles to learn how to combat the dark, seductive side of Bipolar, and it has made me a stronger person.

Several years ago, I recorded a video of myself in the middle of a Depressive episode, which was eye opening and healing for me.  I would release the video three years later, in January of 2017, in order to share with those struggling with Bipolar Depression and their support systems (friends, family and colleagues) what happens to an individual experiencing the low side of Bipolar Disorder.

What impacted me most about the video I recorded, three years later, was the belief that everything around me was so dark.  My prospects seemed non-existent.  I was newly-divorced, I had ended a relationship with the man who was the catalyst of my divorce, I had lost my house, and lost a tremendous amount of money due to two manic episodes two years prior. Everything was a loss, everything was destroyed and burnt to the ground, and the fire had been caused by my own doing, under the influence of Bipolar.

That bout of Bipolar Depression would last for almost a year, which was a devastating loss of life and time. It ended with a visit to the hospital, which was both healing and revealing.  I had spent a year mourning my losses, with little light and joy permeating the darkness.

One thing I’ve learned about Bipolar is the cyclical nature of the disease.  Which means that it will end, eventually.  Another thing I’ve learned is the fact that you can see it coming, with prodromes like those of a migraine headache, warning you that darkness is ahead. This is when I go into triage-mode, and nurture myself and invoke a regimented self-care routine to ensure that I can dodge the bullet.

Here are seven steps I take to stay positive and focus on the good things in my life, in order to lessen those pesky depressive episodes:

1

Remember that this too shall pass.  It always does; just give it time.

2

Be gentle with yourself. Avoid judging yourself and your diagnosis.  With Bipolar Disorder, there will always be ups and downs; allow them to come and go without judgement.

3

 Take time for self care. Getting good sleep, for example, is key during a depressive episode. So is eating healthful foods that will nourish the body and spirit.

4

Ensure you are drinking enough water.  You should drink half of your body weight, in ounces, daily.  This will ensure that your body and brain are well-hydrated, avoiding any side effects of dehydration that simply exacerbates depressive episodes.

5

Take time to do things that you enjoy. You deserve it.  Invest in your hobbies, and get out of the house often when you feel a depressive episode coming on.  Those who practice this important step report shorter bouts of depression.

6

 Focus “out”.  When you are experiencing depression, it is easy to become self absorbed and focus on yourself.  To avoid this, I strongly recommend taking time to volunteer for an organization you have a passion for.  Take a friend to lunch, call your family members on their birthdays, and let the focus remain on others.  This isn’t to say that you can’t ask for a little support yourself when needed, but focusing on others will keep you from miring in the depths of despair.

7

Get moving.  Take a walk, stretch, go to the gym for a power session.  The more depressed you feel, the more important it is to get moving and get the blood flowing.  You’ll experience greater clarity and focus, assisting you to counteract your depression with positive action.

Do you have other ideas that will support individuals experiencing a depressive episode? Please leave your ideas in the comments!

 

Just Let Me Sleep: Sleep Disturbance and Bipolar Disorder

When you lie down,

you will not be afraid;

when you lie down,

your sleep will be sweet.

-Proverbs 3:24 (NIV)

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about my sleep patterns and how important my sleep was to me.  I was met with a number of responses and emails from several readers who were having problems getting enough sleep at all, despite their best efforts.

According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep disturbance is a core symptom of bipolar disorder. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder indicate that during manic episodes there may be a reduced need for sleep and during episodes of depression, insomnia or hypersomnia can be experienced nearly every day (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

What’s at stake for an individual with Bipolar Disorder or disorder who is struggling with sleep? The National Institutes of Health cites seven key reasons why sleep disturbance in Bipolar Disorder matters:

  1. Sleep Disturbance Impairs Quality of Life
  2. Sleep Disturbance Contributes to Relapse
  3. Sleep Is Critical for Mood Regulation
  4. Sleep Is Important for Cognitive Functioning
  5. Sleep Impacts Health
  6. Sleep Deprivation Is Associated With Substance Use
  7. Sleep Deprivation Contributes to Impulsivity and Risk Taking

Man Asleep at Computer

How much sleep should I get each night?

Adults should get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Generally speaking, when I’m manic, I get more sleep, even enforcing a mandatory bed-rest period for two to three days. When depressed, I aim to sleep less, with a focus on getting up early.

Obviously, sleep quality is core to the disease, so what’s to be done when sleep eludes an individual who is working so hard to stay well?

Uncovering Sleep Issues

  1. Attempt to discover all the factors that are affecting your sleep.
  2. Discuss your sleep issues with your doctor right away.
  3. Keep a sleep diary. Include:
  • How long it takes to go to sleep;
  • How many times you wake up during the night;
  • How long you sleep all night;
  • When you take medication or use caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine;
  • When you exercise and for how long.
  1. Certain bipolar medications may affect sleep as a side effect, by disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. Discuss this with your doctor.
  2. Consider any other drugs or medical conditions that may be affecting your sleep (arthritis, migraines, or a back injury).
  3. Are you using alcohol, medical marijuana or other pills/street drugs to manage your moods/self-medicate? These substances will interfere with your body’s natural sleep cycle.

Take steps to restore sleep

  1. Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on the weekend. This will support your circadian rhythm to get in sync with a normal schedule.
  2. Limit daytime naps, if not sleeping well at night.
  3. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  4. Avoid electronics in the bedroom, including smartphones and ipads. (They are proven to stimulate the brain and keep you awake.) Keep them charging away from your bed, preferably in another room.
  5. Adjust medication dosage times with the assistance of your doctor (do not take stimulating drugs at night).
  6. Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, heavy or spicy foods late in the day.
  7. Keep the bedroom as dark and quiet as possible and maintain a temperature that is not too hot or cold. Use fans, heaters, blinds, earplugs, or sleep masks, as needed.
  8. Talk with your partner about ways to minimize snoring or other sleep habits that may be affecting your sleep.
  9. Exercise regularly, but not too late in the day.
  10. Try visualization and other relaxation techniques.
  11. If hungry, eat a snack an hour before sleeping of complex carbs and protein (a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with cheese).

What else can be affecting the quality of my sleep?

Water and Hydration Are your brain and body well hydrated? According to Dr. Joseph Cilona, dehydration can have very serious neurologic effects and disrupt cognitive functioning, even while sleeping.

Sunlight There’s wisdom to mom’s urging when we were young to go outside and play. Many of us are stapled to our desks or locked in fluorescent offices during daylight hours and aren’t getting to see the sun on a consistent basis.

Spending time daily in the sun also helps to set and support the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which are “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes (National Institutes of Health).”

A healthy circadian rhythm with help you to sleep regularly at night, but it is critical to go to bed at roughly the same time each evening and wake at approximately the same time each morning.

Exercise Are you getting enough exercise (or experiencing enough activity), so that your body is tired at the end of the day? If your 9-5 is spent in a chair or glued to a sofa, it may be difficult to force your body to rest after such a sedentary day. You may need to increase your daily activity to include a 30 minute walk mid-day, or a morning workout could do the trick.

Relationships Are your relationships stressing you out and adding unnecessary anxiety and angst during the evening hours? If so, it’s time to rebalance the relationship(s). Relationships should bring us joy and contentment, not distress and lost sleep. If you are tossing and turning over a relationship in your life, it’s time to address the issues causing harm and make some immediate changes.

Quality Calories Are you eating whole, nutritionally dense foods that sustain you throughout the evening and night? Or are you a sugar junkie who wakes up with a carb craving around 1am and indulges nightly? That midnight snack could be causing your body multiple problems. First, by training your body to wake each evening for a snack, you are interrupting your body’s natural circadian rhythm and natural tendency to sleep all night. Second, depending on your snack of choice, you are spiking your blood sugar levels at precisely the time they should be stable, which triggers a whole set of chemical reactions that are best reserved for daytime hours. Third, you’ll be experiencing weight gain which doesn’t do your body or your self-esteem any favors.

If you have problems sleeping, your first step should be to discuss the issue with your doctor. Don’t attempt to handle the problem on your own or self-medicate, as many over the counter sleep aids may exacerbate bipolar symptoms or cause secondary problems. See a doctor, be patient, and be prepared to live (and sleep) according to a firm schedule that will reset your body’s circadian rhythm to support your body in setting regular sleep hours.

Kelley is now Blogging with Bipolar Magazine!

Just wanted to let you all know that I’ll be blogging with Bipolar (BP) Magazine, found online at http://www.bphope.com!

It is an honor to be writing with the magazine’s website, and I look forward to reaching even more of our bipolar community online.

Here’s my first blog post, entitled Bipolar Disorder and the Pattern of Self-Sabotage.

Thank you for being a reader and such a great fan of our work at www.BipolarBlessings.com. Our weekly posts will continue here as scheduled!

Enjoy!  With love,

Kelley

Experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Spring

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

So, I’ve been a little concerned about my Bipolar diagnosis as of late. Spring is here (yay!), but with it, in my medical history, usually comes a manic upswing. There’s a few things I’ve been noticing as of late that I’m a little cautious about as well… Could this be experiencing Seasonal Effective Disorder, with symptoms in the spring, as opposed to just winter? (more…)

Don’t Compare Yourself To Others… You’re Doing Just Fine

“Don’t compare yourself with others…

take responsibility for doing the

creative best you can with your own life.”

Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)

 

Where you are, right now, is perfect.
Oftentimes, we want to judge ourselves for not being healthier, more stable, more successful, or more _______ than we are right now. Stop for a moment and acknowledge where you are right now. Because where you are, right now, is perfect.

You are exactly where you are meant to be in your journey called life. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the progress we make in a year, a month, much less a day. We’re so busy telling ourselves everything we didn’t accomplish, we forget to praise ourselves for everything that we achieved in the hours we were beating ourselves up.

We all start somewhere. In the game of life, we recommend that you begin it in a space of gratitude toward yourself. The way we see it, you need to be your own best friend; your biggest hero, your gentlest confidant and most enthusiastic supporter.

Mental Illness is a hard battle. Whether you are battling the illness personally, or are supporting someone who has a mood or personality disorder, we all must begin by donning the armor of love and acceptance of where we are, right here, right now. We all have to begin somewhere. Need inspiration for your journey? Here’s a video that features “40 Days to Wellness” creator and the founder of BipolarBlessings.com, Kelley Thorpe Baker. She and countless others have learned to accept their diagnoses in faith, and that prepares them for each step ahead.

We encourage you to watch this video, and consider where you are in your journey of acceptance. Remember, you are a Child of God, and mental illness does not define you. You are defined by His Love and His Grace.

A (Bipolar) Gal’s Guide to Being (Newly) Single: Bipolar and Relationships (Part II)

Love never gives up,

never loses faith,

is always hopeful,

and endures through every circumstance.

-1Corinthians 13:7

 

So, it’s been two weeks since I determined to end my relationship. I attempted to call, text and send smoke signals to my (then) boyfriend, who went MIA. His responses were sparse, he broke a phone date, and I resorted to breaking up via text. This move was a first for me, actually. I suppose it’s the kind of thing that will get funnier with time, rather than excruciatingly painful, as I don’t really know if I was the dumper or the dumpee. Yeah, stop laughing, you meanie.

Even though the decision to break up seemed obvious, the last two weeks have seen a blend of emotions, but I’m doing remarkably well. Despite the obvious lack of closure, I’m pretty confident I did the right thing, though I still just don’t understand what went wrong. If you recall from my earlier blog post, this was my high school sweetheart; and this was our second chance at love. He knew me then, when I was young, free, innocent and pre-diagnosis. Being with him was reliving those days again, and they were glorious. We talked about marriage; a future that seemed so bright and cheerful. Yet as the year went on, reality set in, and the truth of the matter was, we were not ideally matched.

So after I sent THE TEXT, I decided I would give myself a chance to grieve. Of course, I waited for his reply, and received none. Not a call, a text, an answer to what was actually a mature recognition that we were growing apart. It seemed he would be relieved that I was giving him an “out”, and I would get a call with some type of acknowledgement that yes, we should go our separate ways. But all I received was silence.

So I grieved in silence. And proceeded to heal.

A (Bipolar) Gal’s Guide to Being (Newly) Single

Step 1: Alert those you love of your life change.

I gave those around me a heads up to what was going on, and I let them know that I might be a little quiet for a few days. Roommates, parents, best friends should be notified of such happenings for someone with Bipolar Disorder. These folks are my support system, and if this life change was going to hurl me into an abyss of despair, I needed someone looking out for me. Just in case.

Step 2: Treat yourself as if you have the flu for the first three days after a breakup.

Life changes can trigger a great deal of emotion, with or without someone with Bipolar Disorder. In my case, I opted to treat myself as if I had the flu. I got lots of extra sleep (and I mean a LOT of extra sleep), going to bed early and allowing myself time to nap during the day. I have the luxury of working at home, but if this means taking a sick day, I encourage you to do it. I indulged in herbal tea, hot baths, and drawn curtains, making my room a quiet, dark refuge to avoid allowing my emotions to keep me up at night, hence bouncing into a hypomanic angry breakup girl.

Step 3: Take long walks, and listen to yourself think.

I am blessed to live next to a beautiful park with acres of trails and pathways. I enjoy the park daily, but added in a walk each day, especially when I was feeling anxious or lonely. Getting out into the sunlight and allowing myself to feel my emotions in the fresh air allowed myself to ground my emotions and realize them for what they were. It is critical for those with mood disorders to not be overtaken by their emotions, but to recognize them, acknowledge them, compartmentalize them, and move forward with grace.

Step 4: Talk to a trusted friend about what you are going through.

For me, my mom will always be my number one, my best friend, my “person” when times get tough. And boy, did mama get to hear everything I was feeling those first few weeks post-breakup. Sometimes the calls were painful, some were humorous.

“Did you hear from him yet?” mom would ask.

“Nope.” I would reply.

“Too bad,” mom counseled. “I expected more from him.”

“So did I…” I answered.

And the conversation would continue about the day, our to-do lists, our tasks at hand. No man-bashing, no over-focusing on the lost relationship. Just acknowledgement of where I was at, what I was feeling, and where I was going from here.

“Did you take a shower today?” mom inquired.

“No,” I answered honestly, “I know, I know.”

“Well, you know, there is this health and wellness coach I know who says to shower daily despite what you are going through in life…” mom would jest.

Point taken. Which takes us to Step 5.

Step 5: Take care of yourself.

After the first week of my breakup, I realized that I had about an inch of silver roots forming around my hairline. I realized that I’ve been so focused on my relationship, I had failed to actually look at myself in the mirror and take a stone-cold assessment of my own appearance.

I looked myself up and down from head to toe.

I hadn’t shaved in three weeks.

My third and fourth toenails were missing polish.

Needless to say, I looked terrible.

Get thee to a pedicurist, I demanded to myself. I also headed to the drugstore to get a box of hair color and took care of the silver linings issue, STAT.

I didn’t beat myself up for the beauty slip up, though. Part of taking care of yourself is being gentle with yourself. And it was what it was. But now I look great. And I’m considering highlights for the spring.

Step 6: Eat well, drink well, and eat something sweet.

Listen, you’ve got to eat. Regularly, healthfully, and with abandon. Don’t do the starvation thing, the diet thing, or make any major changes to your routine when you are going through a breakup. Keep your food choices healthy and eat regular meals. And definitely don’t skip dessert. In fact, have two on occasion.

Step 7: Trust yourself in making your decision.

There will be times that you will want to doubt yourself, times you feel lonely, and times you feel sad about what has transpired. Allow yourself to feel these emotions, but as stated before, feel them, let them pass, and allow yourself the grace to know that you’ll be okay. Life get’s “lifey” sometimes, and this is just one of those occasions. If you were the dumper, know that you made a solid decision, and the feelings of loneliness will fade. If you were the dumpee, it’s OK, too. You have to get through these moments to find the right fish. If you are a dumped dumper, like me, have faith. You might not have the closure that you hoped for, but know that any person not willing to give you a few moments of their time is certainly not worthy of having you for a lifetime…

Bipolar and Sleep: The Key to My Stability is a Good Nap

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

Genesis 2:2-3 NLT

Years ago, I saw strength in the fact that I was a complete workaholic. I ran circles around my colleagues. There were times that I didn’t go home for three days straight, willing myself to work throughout the night, and patting myself on the back for my ability to stay awake for days at a time, as if it somehow made me a better worker than my peers.

In hindsight, I realize that I was simply going through the manic periods of my bipolar disorder; unable to stop myself and working myself into a frenzy deep in the night time hours. To stop these patterns would have meant weakness to me in my hectic and frenzied mind. Somehow, I would not have been “strong” enough or committed enough to the task at hand had I stopped. Sadly, I exhausted myself on many levels, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. If only I had stopped to sleep.  I wonder how many less episodes I could have put myself through… (more…)

Breaking Up is Hard to Do… Bipolar and Relationships (Part I)

I fell into pop culture phenomena this season and ended up watching The Bachelor. Well, I watched the first two episodes and the last three, so technically, I watched the highlights. I’ve been a romantic as of late, as I’ve been muddling through my own love life, attempting to navigate a new relationship of my own, and trying to determine if he’s the one for me.

My relationship, in reality, is not that new, as I’ve known him since I was 14 years old. It’s part of the romance; the story of us. But lately, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been more influenced by our story, and my concept of him, that the actual reality of our relationship. It’s a sweet tale: high school sweethearts reunited 20 years later for another go at love. But after the story is told, reality sets in. Compatibility, availability, and sensibilities are tested just with any relationship, and I’m left wondering if there will be a happier ever after.

I expected my mood disorder to have more of an influence on this relationship in the last year. Interestingly, it has been less of a factor than I anticipated it would be. This is most likely due to the fact that I have been very stable, emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the last 12 months. Alternatively, I have experienced tumultuous pairings in my past, where I could not claim such stability, where my bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder drove the outcome of my relationships.

There are times, however, that I feel the traits of my disorders driving my emotions. There are the days I am left clutching my iPhone waiting for him to return a text (hello, Borderline). Then there are the long weeks where I go without seeing him during our long-distance romance where I start to doubt my own self worth (am I worth taking the time to see??). And there are the moments where I painfully real from rejection with each unanswered phone call (my co-dependent heart can take over my brain when my loving messages go unreturned).

Rather than putting myself through more heartbreak and uncertainty, I turn to the Lord for guidance, and ask, what is Love? What is it that I should be looking for in this relationship? So I turn of course, to the classic verse from I Corinthians…

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

always trusts,

always hopes,

always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

It has taken me two days to complete this post as I’ve taken to prayer over the last several days since writing the beginning of this blog. I was taken to sadness after meditating on this verse, realizing that the love that I want to have isn’t necessarily the love that is developing between my boyfriend and I…

This of course, makes sense, with all the doubts I’ve been having as of late. I see how both of us are falling short of loving each other biblically, and wonder where the gaps started to form. I, for example, see how I have been keeping record of perceived wrongs toward me (calls not returned, missed dates), and I see clearly that my significant other simply doesn’t have the trust or hope in our union that I have anticipated that he would this far into our relationship.

Most important, I know that in my soul, my boyfriend is not protecting my heart spiritually by his actions toward me, and that is something that I must come to accept and realize, and take action on… Is this truly the man for me?

For now, coming to this realization is painful and I am grieving. I am grieving a future of what I thought would be, but I have been avoiding the truth for far too long. And as love rejoices with the truth, I must realize what I must do, which is most likely to end the relationship.

Now if only I can get him on the phone…

Coming Up: A (Bipolar) Gal’s Guide To Being (Newly) Single

Hitting the Professional Sweet Spot: Create a Stress-Free Work Environment

Timely advice is lovely,

like golden apples in a silver basket.

To one who listens, valid criticism

is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.

Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.

They revive the spirit of their employer.

Proverbs 25:11-13

Ah, work.  We get to spend 40-55 hours a week in the workplace, investing full time hours for employers we can either love, hate, or feel indifferent toward.  Isn’t it lovely when we hit that sweet spot at the office when we are in partnership with our employers, fulfilled with our work, and experiencing genuine growth in our jobs?

For many people with depression, bipolar disorder, or other mood or personality disorders, holding and keeping a job can be one of the most challenging aspects of their disorder. And those with a mental health disorder certainly aren’t alone (or shouldn’t feel alone), according to this 2010 article from Harvard:

Researchers analyzing results from the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative study of Americans ages 15 to 54, reported that 18% of those who were employed said they experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder in the previous month.

There are a variety of issues facing us in the workplace, such as:

  • Stigma associated with mental health disorders
  • Whether or not to disclose a disorder to an employer
  • Loss of productivity and absenteeism due to symptoms

This week, our focus is on creating a stress-free work environment, to enable you to focus on your job, stay on task, and communicate more powerfully at the office.

9 Ways to Create a Stress-Free Work Environment

      1. Add personal touches to your work space and make it your own: photographs, inspiring artwork, books, a special lamp, or a decorative accessory in your favorite color.
      2. Keep your workspace clean and organized. Organized space reflects and organized mind. (Mental health note: if you find that you are becoming increasingly messy or on the opposite end, particularly organized to a fault, this could be a sign of an oncoming episode.)
      3. Learn how to handle or ignore interruptions. (Mental health note: If you find yourself being agitated or annoyed by regular office interruptions, you may be experiencing hypomania, or moving into a manic episode.  Watch your behavior and responses closely during the day.)
      4. Learn to adapt to changes quickly, whether they be physical changes (office layout), new software or technology (printers, computers, etc.). (Mental health note: It is critical to react to change with openness and ease. Don’t give yourself more stress than is necessary by fighting the new office copier… go with the flow and realize that it is just a machine.  You are a person and your health is more important than the speed/features/failures of a machine.)
      5. Add plants to your desk, office or cubicle. Plants clean the air, add warmth, and are a beautiful addition to the workspace.
      6. Be a good communicator. If those around you aren’t communicating well, ask questions, make suggestions and do whatever else you can to improve the situation.
      7. Incorporate relaxation exercises into your workday. Play soft music, stretch occasionally or go for a walk. It’s very important to move throughout the day, rather than sit still and remain seated. (Mental health note: Don’t close yourself into a cubicle all day.  If you notice yourself isolating or locking yourself in your office for long periods throughout the day, this could be a sign of increasing depression.)
      8. Change the layout of your workspace, if possible, to work for you.
      9.  Redecorate. You might not realize that little things like lighting, colors and décor are causing you stress, but it’s possible. Paint a wall, invest in an office chair, an ergonomically correct desk, and ditch the fluorescent lighting.

-Adapted from Forbes.com

Here are some more resources to support you…

8 Career Success Strategies for Bipolar Disorder

Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder at Work

Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace

I’m a Rapid Cycling Sugar Junkie. I Need a Sugar Detox.

Do you like honey?

Don’t eat too much, or it will make you sick!

Proverbs 25:16 (NLT)

So, my Bipolar hasn’t gone away.  Nope.  Still have it.

It has followed me into February and here we are, in the middle of the season of love.  And I’m not feeling so amorous toward myself, or anyone for that matter. I’m having difficulty expressing any appreciation these last few days for my bipolar disorder, as these last few weeks, I’ve seen a downturn in my mood, an increase in my weight, and a flatline in my sex life.  OK, maybe I can’t blame Bipolar for my sex life, but it was worth a shot.

But it’s the season of love, and love is not circling me like little cupids with arrows waiting to shoot me up with potions and love darts and chocolate and whatever they shoot you up with when they shoot you.

But why am I so grumpy?? And feeling low? It seems like I should be doing pretty well lately, all things considering.

Aha.  I’m experiencing agitated depression…  the glorious mixed state of the individual who trends toward depression while simultaneously experiencing racing thoughts, restlessness, irritability and a side of anxiety.  OK, I’ve named it.  It’s familiar.  And I’ve been here before.  Now, what do I do to get back to baseline?

Before I eat another box of Girl Scout cookies and call it a night (hello, weight gain), I need to think this through.  I get to seriously examine my lifestyle choices these last few weeks, and months, and figure out what I’ve been doing differently, causing myself to rapid cycle this way.  I rest my head on my computer’s keyboard and attempt to wish away the sleeve of Thin Mints I just inhaled. The Thin Mints aren’t making me thinner, contrary to their name.

My mind is buzzing.  I can’t concentrate or focus.  I can’t think straight.

Buzzing.  Buzz.  Sugar buzz.  It’s the sugar.  This rapid cycling episode is being triggered by a sugar buzz.  Yet another sugar buzz.  Darn.  I did this to myself. Arg! I’m such a bad example for my clients, I bang away, as the “g” and “h” keys imprint squares on my forehead.

Quick pause on the self-flagellation.  I’m giving myself a break.  At least I’m stopping long enough to figure this out.  I’m worth it.  My health is worth it.

I think back to all the cookies I’ve consumed in the past month.  Those sneaky little triggering Girl Scouts.  I’ve been paying them $5 a box to trigger rapid cycling episodes, I realize. $5 a box of cookies = $5 an episode.  Plus the lost time, the frustration, the headaches.  The headaches!  It was the cookies.  Ug.

So what’s with all the cookies anyway?, I ask myself.  I’ve been stuffing myself silly with anything sweet for months now.  The scale doesn’t lie, there’s a measurable weight gain.  There’s no running from the truth; my cookie fetish is causing me serious issues.

Sugar.  It’s so good, and it’s so bad.  Functional medicine guru Dr. Mark Hyman says sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. I’m a Rapid Cycling sugar junkie. But that’s all going to change.  I can’t love sugar more than myself, or my health.  First, I need a sugar detox. But it’s not going to be one of these crazy detoxes where I only eat egg whites and kale juice.  As a certified holistic health coach in integrative nutrition, I know what to do, how to do it, and I’m sharing my strategy with you.


Kicking the Sugar Habit in Eight Easy Steps
with Kelley Thorpe Baker

1.  Go all out.  If we are going to cut out sugar, we are going to cut out sugar.  No cheating, no half-hearted attempts.  Let’s do this!  You will most likely feel grouchy the first week (that’s why folks call this a DETOX) as you get used to not indulging your cravings.  Get over it.  You’ve done harder things.

2. Clean out the house.  Clean out the pantry, the fridge and freezer, the “special cabinet” where you hide the treats from the kids.  You know all your hiding places, so don’t bother keeping your junk hidden.  Bring all your sugary treats into the open and place it onto the counters.  You are going to rid yourself of any processed food item (packaged in a bag or a box) that has at least one of the following ingredients in the first five ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Cane Sugar
  • Cane Syrup
  • Corn Syrup
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Don’t cheat.  If it sounds sweet, trash it.

Next, dump everything in a huge garbage bag and trash it all.  ALL.  Note:  I have simultaneously binged on all my sugary treats while cleaning them out of the house until I was so sick, throwing them away was easy at the end.  While I don’t recommend this strategy, it is possible for you.

3. Plan out a menu for success.  Now that you’ve gotten rid of the junk, let’s brainstorm all the good stuff that you should be eating. I, for example, binge on Lucky Charms under stress for breakfast. (I have an eight year old, remember?)  I need to switch my palette over to some healthy protein at breakfast to keep me going throughout the day.  For now, I’ve decided my breakfast choices will be:

  • Scrambled eggs with diced ham and a bit of shredded cheese, along with a piece of whole fruit
  • Steel cut oatmeal or quinoa cereal topped with walnuts or almonds and unsweetened dried fruit
  • Greek yogurt with fresh, whole berries
  • Vegetable juice or a high-protein smoothie made in my Vitamix (almonds, kale, a banana)
  • Gluten free, whole grain cereal with almond milk

For lunch, I’m going to keep it simple, light and quick, focusing on increasing my protein intake:

  • Turkey sandwich with spinach and tomatoes on whole grain bread
  • Healthy frozen meals that are organic and natural (Kashi, Amy’s Organics make some good ones)
  • Soup
  • Huge spinach, romaine or kale salads filled with chopped veggies, topped with chicken or turkey

For dinner, I’m planning out my menus on Epicurious.com.  One of my favorite cooking sites, I love to explore all the awesome dishes I can prepare and enjoy with my family.  I’ve got my eyes fixed on some great roasted chicken recipes, along with an asian-themed salmon dish I’ll try, and a pot roast that sounds super good.

4.  Think in advance about snacks.  I love to snack.  Plus, studies show that eating smaller meals throughout the day may be better for your health. Between meals, you’ll be more successful eating small snacks and maintaining regular blood sugar levels by choosing smart items in advance to nosh on.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fresh whole fruit
  • Trail mix made with raw nuts and unsweetened dried fruits
  • Raw cashews, almonds, and walnuts
  • Vegetable juice (a GREAT energy boost – and so healthy for you!)
  • A cup of tea with milk (Makes me feel so British)
  • Fresh veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
  • A glass of nut milk (unsweetened almond milk is a fave)

5. Go shopping.  Now that you’ve gotten rid of all of the junk in your kitchen, it’s time to replace it with good food that will take care of your cravings once they strike. Fill your cart with healthy goodies.  As I read in “The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life” (co-written by Drs. Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman), if it was grown on a plant, eat it.  If it was made in a plant, keep it on the shelf.

A note on fruit:  No fruit juices allowed, sweetie.  Whole fruits are welcomed in your shopping cart, and so are dried fruits (unsweetened only).

6. Enjoy going out to eat.  I like to think about cutting out sugar as a lifestyle choice; not as something that I’m choosing to do for a few weeks to drop a few pounds.  So, of course I am going to go out to eat and out to friends houses! Just keep your goals in mind and don’t forget your long term vision.

7.  Share your goals with your friends.  You’d be surprised how many people have the same goal of eating healthier.  Sharing your goal to cut sugar with a friend or colleague you are enjoying a meal with may lead to an interesting conversation and a great supporter who will encourage you in your efforts.

8. Give yourself a break. Enjoy dessert every once in a while.  And I mean every week or a few times a week, not every few months.  Celebrating a friend’s birthday?  Of course you’ll have some cake. Just have a small piece.  Out to dinner?  Indulge in that delicious dessert – just order to share with the table.  Craving M&Ms? Ask a few friends to split a bag with you.  Use your best judgement and you’ll start learning how to enjoy treats in moderation.  And of course, there’s going to be a major breakdown somewhere in your future, where large quantities of Easter candy magically disappears from the basket into your mouth.  Give yourself a break and recognize that you’re human.  Tomorrow is a new day, and we always have the ability to make a better choice, beginning with now.

Ten Step Guide to Meditation for a Scrambled Mind

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Mark 1:35 (NIV)

When studying the brainwaves of meditating monks, scientists found that brain circuitry is different in long-time meditators than it is in non-meditators. 

Brain researchers have discovered this: when you are upset – anxious, depressed, angry – certain regions of the brain (the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex) become very active. When you’re in a positive mood these sites quiet down and the left prefrontal cortex – a region associated with happiness and positivity – becomes more active. In studying meditating monks, scientists found they had especially high activity in this area.

One of the things that is so amazing about this finding is that for a long time, scientists thought that each individual was wired with certain “set-points” for happiness, depression, and so on. This study shows that the brain can rewire itself and alter its set points – simply by the self-healing power of thought.

As Christians, we can equate the power of meditation with the power of prayer.  A moment of quiet, peace, and self-reflection can do wonders for those who are experiencing the heights and depths of a mood disorder, or a mind that is wrapping itself around its own thoughts in a flight of ideas and thoughts and images.

Meditation and prayer can be amazing tools for those experiencing mood and personality disorders; if you’d like to dedicate yourself to the practice of meditation on a more consistent basis, read below for my Ten Step Guide to Meditation for some helpful (and fun) steps to get you in the “ooooooooohhhhhmmmmmmm” mindset.

God Bless You.


 

Kelley Thorpe Baker’s Ten Step Guide to Meditation

Would you like to re-wire your brain and alter its set points? Then follow my “Ten Step Guide to Meditation” for some simple steps to a meditation or deep breathing routine. It’s easy, fun, and the benefits are amazing.

1) Release self-judgement. We all begin somewhere, so don’t judge yourself during the next nine steps.

2) Wear comfortable clothes. Don’t attempt to get down with the yin and yang of life in the work day’s suit and tie or pantyhose and heels. Take time to change, get comfy, and wear loose, comfortable clothes that allow you to focus on your breathing (not your inability to breathe).

3) Select a location that brings you peace. Attempting to meditate while your kids are knocking on the bedroom door won’t get you anywhere. Perhaps a few minutes at the park down the street will be a better location for this little experiment, eh? Take a blanket…

4) Take some music on your journey. Try some of your favorite slow music (create a playlist), or try the Reiki channel on Pandora. We swear by it. Music helps the mind to focus and just . . . let . . . go . . .

5) Start with a brief stretch. There’s nothing better than releasing physical tension before a meditation or deep breathing session. Take time to stretch out your limbs, your back, neck, waist, toes and fingers. Do you carry tension in your face? Then go ahead, stick out that tongue and open those jaws wide – like a huge yawn. (It’s called Lion pose in yoga. Really.)

6) Smile. Your next step is a time for gratitude. As you start this exercise, begin in gratitude, being thankful for all of the lovely people and blessings in your life. Keep smiling, and think of at least ten things that you are grateful for today.

7) Take the deepest breath you possibly can – In, then out. Now take another one (In, then out). And another one. Take ten of these deep, cleansing breaths.

8) Allow your breathing to become even and measured, and clear your mind of random thoughts. If you find your mind wandering back to the grocery list, your spouse, the kids’ homework, or neutering the cat, simply notice the thought, put it on an emotional post-it, and allow your mind to clear again.

9) Focus on your breath, and on emptiness. Some people focus on brightness, or a color, rather than emptiness. Whatever is clearing for your mind is what is going to work for you, so go to town. Do what works. Just focus on being, rather than doing.

10) If you fall asleep, no problem. You were tired. But as you come to the end of your session (start with meditating about 20 minutes or so), do some light stretching to come back “into your body”. Get up slowly – you may be light headed. Take your feelings of peace and gratitude with you into the remainder of your day, and remember – you’ve just rewired your brain for happiness, according to the most recent scientific evidence we have on meditation and deep breathing. Congratulations!

Nature vs. Nurture

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

Proverbs 17:22 (New Living Translation)

I think, at this point in my life, I’m pretty comfortable admitting that I’ve become a pessimist. Not sure when this happened. I always thought of myself as the bright cheery type. But for a good part of my life, I’ve been the type of person I’d typically avoid. You know, the one always complaining about petty stuff. Always bitching about what I haven’t accomplished. Always frustrated by relationships that didn’t stand the test of time. It seems that I’ve started seeing the world from a negative slant, and a world unfairly pitted against me. Yeah, I’d stay away from me.

Then, I had a son. A beautiful boy named Adam. And this last year, my awareness of my sourness really came into the forefront. As I watch my son interact with life, I realize I’ve never met a happier, more content, more selfless person. So sweet. So kind. So willing to forgive his friends for throwing sand in his eyes. And there is always smile on his face, looking forward to his next great adventure with his tour guide of life, his Mommy.

This fact makes me take a pause. If I have managed to raise such a child, isn’t this joyful optimism my true nature? And why, all of a sudden, did I go from a forward-thinking optimist to such a self-deprecating grouch? And, if I have the ability to raise a child so great, do I not have this ability to make myself great, once again? I’ve really started thinking about this whole nature vs. nurture question and have asked myself: Am I a true optimist, simply soured by the troubles of life?

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Oy, vey. Is it Yom Kippur yet? Let’s talk Atonement.

“A person’s wisdom yields patience;

it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

-Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)

 

Oy, vey. Is it Yom Kippur yet? I have some serious atoning to do.

I’ve been investing in some significant personal growth work these last few years. The outcome is a more connected, generous and self-aware woman. Yet the benefit of my newly acquired yin/yang balance is the clear and ever present viewpoint of the broken relationships strewn across my random history.

One call, and all would be healed… or on a path to the love, admiration, and respect we once at least hoped to share. But for now, my ruthless carnage leaves me breathless with sorrow.

And as I look back, the realization of how many apologies I expect in return shames me. I’ve always known how one-sided my obsessions are. And I allow myself to wallow for a bit, pitying my own self for always wanting more – from others, from life, from myself, from God. And for this, I am truly sorry.

I come to the realization that apologies have no date. ‘I love you’s’ have no deadline. And tomorrow sometimes just can’t wait.

I breathe deeply, into knowing and accepting that my urgency is my act of love, in my very own way, and in my very own language.

I vow to be calm, thoughtful, expressive and quieter. And as for my broken bodies and hearts, I pray for restoration. I put more effort toward the love, admiration and respect I hold for those in this instant around me, I pray for those who’ve broken themselves for me or from me. And I love in a deeper way that I ever have before — restored — with no deadlines and with less need for apologies.

Hunt That Gazelle: Exercise and Bipolar Disorder

 “For physical training is of some value,

but godliness has value for all things,

holding promise for both the present life

and the life to come.”

1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)

 

I love the quiet promise of the morning.

I love looking out the window as I wake, watching the world go by, like a cat who observes the outside safely from the confines of its home base.

My future self will be that stunning tall beauty that dons matching workout gear and runs like a gazelle throughout the streets of my upscale neighborhood. Her hair gently wisps behind her in the wind, her glutes flexing with each stride she takes forward with ease and grace. The wolves will watch me from their windows, salivating, wanting me for breakfast, or lunch at least.

But in reality, I stay sequestered in my bedroom, typing my dreams away furiously in mismatched clothes, my hair a mad tousled mess as I drink yesterday’s coffee warmed up and disguised with too much half and half. I am more of a grumpy little feline than female, having recently learned my happiness requirements from Jackson Galaxy, media’s hot new “cat whisperer”. Sleep, play, hunt, eat, poop, groom, sleep, and my cycle continues.

For now, my cycle is in sleep, and I allow myself the freedom to imagine a future life of what can be if only I leave this perch — if I leave the safety of what is.

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Confess Your Sins To Each Other (Before the Grungies Get You!)

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16 (NLT)

Oftentimes, when I talk about the actions I have taken in the “moment” of a bipolar episode, or the emotional outbursts I have experienced in the depths of pain of my borderline personality disorder, I refer to those moments as sins…  Because oftentimes, they result in actions that are in fact, sinful.

Take, for example, the affair that I engaged in at the height of a manic episode.  (Thou shalt not commit adultery. Sin. Check.)

Take, as another example, of the time I lunged out and slapped my husband across the face in the middle of a fierce argument.  We had never before been physically violent with each other; yet at that time, I was out of control of my actions and my emotions. Was this a sin, or was this my illness simply acting out against me?  Well, this is when we, as Christians, get to be responsible for our behavior.  Was I out of control? Yes.  Was my illness in control? Yes.  Was striking my husband a sin? Absolutely.  He didn’t deserve to be hit, no matter the intensity of our fight that day. So, while my mania was likely the cause of my physical outburst, I get to be responsible for my actions and be accountable for my physical violence.

Likewise, the affair I engaged in was not a momentary lapse of judgement (it lasted for several weeks before I told my husband the truth about my behavior).  It was a bona fide sin, and certainly a symptom of out of control, hypersexual behavior that is common for those experiencing a manic episode.  While I was not fully in control of my body and mind at the time, I again, get to be responsible.

Likewise with the spending sprees.  Likewise with the clusters of little white lies.  Likewise with the poor job performance that got me fired from that job that I really, truly wanted to keep.

In our mental illness, we all walk a fine line of giving ourselves grace in knowing that our embarrassing, out-of-control moments aren’t really the actions of our authentic selves, but the actions of a grungy little buddy that lives inside us. And in our wellness, we all get to deal with the havoc that the little monster created during our medical distress.  And it sucks.  It really, really does.

But, again, we get to be responsible, because the grungy little buddy is part of us.  Maybe not by our own choosing, but nonetheless, a part of us that we must live with and learn to tame.

So how does The Grungy get tamed? By acknowledging it, first and foremost.  And second, by taking responsibility for its actions.

For years, my little Grungy grew and grew into a huge monster that intensified each and every manic episode, and each depressive regression.  The cycles of self-sabotage would snowball around my Grungy, and it would delight in the disastrous outcomes that it would be a part of.  My dalliance with another man snowballed into an affair which snowballed into the loss of my marriage.  My Grungy was delighted.  Spending sprees at the mall snowballed into a half million dollar loss on a business I had no business starting, which led to my financial ruin and loss of my retirement and financial stability.  My Grungy leapt for joy.

I realized that my Grungy was a monster of horrific size and energy when I acknowledged that I had relinquished control of my life and decided that my illness would be in control, instead of me. And at the same time, I realized that I had stopped accepting responsibility for my actions; I didn’t want to be accountable for all of the little choices that fed my Grungy daily, living a life of instability and exhaustion and poor choices so that there was no taming the beast.

Taking responsibility for my choices and actions, even in the throes of my disorders, was not an easy task.  Who wants to admit responsibility for losing a marriage? A family? A job? A life? No, we would rather say that these things happened TO us, rather than admit that we were key players in the game.  I was a player, as was my disorder.  So there we were, equal partners, but with an important distinguishing characteristic.  We were NOT one and the same. I began to see my role in each event, and I began to see my disorders’ role.

Hence, my Grungy started to lose its grip on me; and started to lose its edge.

As I started becoming increasingly responsible for my illness, I would see more positive trends that were a result of my greater accountability.  For example, if I noticed an “emotional downswing” – the beginnings of bipolar depression – I would ask myself key questions: Am I experiencing self-isolating behaviors? When is the last time I took a shower? Am I taking my meds regularly?  Am I sleeping regularly? My responsible self acknowledged my role in my health at last, admitting (in this example) that I had stayed up past 2:00am on several occasions the two weeks prior (Breaking Bad can be sooo addictive), I hadn’t been out to walk for the last week, and I hadn’t showered in two days.  Prior to my newfound accountability, I would have allowed my Grungy to be fed by my isolation, snacking on my laziness and withdrawal, and most likely would have skipped a shower and brushing my teeth for at least the next three days.  But if I want to be well, I get to be responsible…  so back to a normal sleep schedule and back outside for my daily walk, and back into the shower I went, even if I had to force myself to complete these seemingly normal tasks. You see, bipolar depression is a slippery slope.  It doesn’t take but a few days to bring the whole house down…

Unfortunately, once we start to beat the Grungy at its game of manipulating and influencing our daily behavior, another little monster sneaks in.  It’s the Guilt Grungy.  That little animal that reminds us of all the crap we did when we were sick.

As I started to heal several years ago from the loss of my marriage, the Guilt Grungy would come back for a visit.  “You’ll never get married again.  Who would marry you? You’re just the type to do this again, look at what you did before.  And you call yourself a woman of God <snicker>.”  The Guilt Grungy loves to remind us of every little sin that took place during our heights and depths of our illness, to remind us how capable we are of falling again. It loves to shame us.  To blame us.  To hurt us and to pile on the isolation so that we start to unify with our sin.

Likewise with my financial losses.  “You’ll never make back all that money you lost.  You’ll be poor for the rest of your life.  Good luck making it on your own. <snicker snicker>.”

After a while, I couldn’t figure out why the Guilt Grungy kept haunting me so. Finally, it hit me at a Celebrate Recovery meeting I was attending that week. See, those moving through the steps of the program are encouraged to openly examine and admit their faults to themselves, to God, and to someone they trusted.  This is based upon Matthew 5:8, “Happy are the pure in heart”.

I was so busy trying to hide all of my faults from my family, my friends, my SELF, that I hadn’t moved through this important step.  I realized that while I was currently living responsibly with my illness, I was carrying around the shame of the past like a scarlet red ‘A’ on my forehead. And boy, did my grungies love that…

And so the acknowledgement of my PAST began.

What was difficult to admit was that I didn’t have very many people in my life that I fully trusted – that I felt I could acknowledge my shortcomings with.  It was a lonely, lonely, time for me, wanting to let out so many experiences, failings, shortcomings, faults, and sins; to clear them from my mind so that I could be cleared and pure in heart, and I didn’t have a soul to bare my soul to.

And I realized how truly isolating mental illness can be.  What a moment of distress when you realize that you have put up an invisible shield so others don’t know the truth about your illness, out of shame or embarrassment?

I remember praying to God one night, tearfully, over all of the pain and hurt I had caused in my illness, feeling like the worst person in the world.  Feeling like I had let so many people down, burnt so many bridges, and lost so much that could never be regained.  I felt like I was the only one to have experienced this much loss; this much pain due to mental illness, and I wanted to be without my illness.  I wanted to be “normal”, to be healthy and free of the illnesses that have plagued me my entire life.

The next week, I walked into my first support group for Bipolar Disorder and my whole world changed.  Before then, I had never known anyone with Bipolar Disorder, I had only read extensively on the topic. But I walked into a room of kindred spirits that day; into a room of people like me.  People who “got” me, people who understood me just by looking into my eyes.

Over the next few months, the Lord would provide those opportunities for me (and countless others in the group) to confess our faults.  Sometimes, the effect was intense, and tears would flow.  Other times, the room would break out into laughter, as we would be topping each other’s stories with our own manic tales from our pasts.  It seemed that each had outspent the other, outdanced another on a bartop in Mexico. One group member recalled once inviting 500 guests to a party that never happened.  Some believed at one time that they were historical figures reborn, even the son of Man (we ranked them in order of historical importance).  And we all looked at each other with understanding and without judgement and knew that finally, we weren’t alone.  Finally, we weren’t the “only ones”, and finally, we had found a home.

In those months, we confessed our sins to each other and prayed for each other – and we were wonderfully and beautifully healed. Over the years, some have relapsed, some have been stable.  But we all laugh and smile at the nights we would spin our tales of our crazy sins that became our most terrible secrets… that we finally released from our hearts in the comfort of each other.  And finally, the sins lost their power, and the earnest prayer of each righteous person in that room had the great power and wonderful results that the Lord promises.

My Grungies often want to come back to rain on my parade.  It’s usually when I’m feeling blue or dealing with a bipolar depression that has lasted a week or so too long.  And that’s usually when I acknowledge that I need my people.  I need my righteous people; my tribe in my support group that give me hope and a laugh, and know where I am even when I don’t, because they have been there and they can speak for me oftentimes when I can’t.

They are the inspiration for BipolarBlessings.com and for my group coaching programs.  They are the inspiration for my work; so that people with mental illness don’t feel alone.  They have been blessings in my bipolar journey. Thank you for the memories we have shared, the tears we have shed, the stories we have traded, and the forgiveness we have experienced by being there for each other.


 

If you have a fault or sin that you ready to confess and let go of, simply leave a comment below, and our righteous community will pray for you! Please note that all comments are moderated and anonymous.

Take My Yoke Upon You…

Take my yoke upon you

and learn from me,

for I am gentle and

humble in heart,

and you will find

rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29, NIV

 

With lightness I write my entry this week, as I step into 2015 with a new song and a new spirit.

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Height nor Depth

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons, 

neither the present nor the future,

nor any powers,

neither height nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

 

Nothing can keep me from the love of God; and nothing can keep me from loving Him with my whole heart – except for me.  The Lord longs for my love, and I long for His.  It is a relationship that transcends all guilt, shame, pain and blame that I cast on myself and others due to the actions I have carried out due to my disease.

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With All My Mind: The Greatest of Your Commandments

“Teacher, which is the

greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God

with all your heart and with all your soul

and with all your mind.

This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Matthew 22:36-38 (NIV)

 

How easy is it to follow the Lord’s commandments?

Years ago, I struggled with my faith, feeling that there were so many restrictions, so many laws, guidelines, and rules that I had to follow to be in the good graces of my God.  The Ten Commandments, obviously reasonable and holy words to live by in order to live a blessed life, were those: COMMANDMENTS.  And they pressed down on my heart like a ten pound weight upon an infant; stifling and scary.

Thou shalt not.  Thou shalt not.  Yet I did.  And I did again.  And I did once more.  I was a failure, in my eyes, to God, especially throughout the heights and depths of my bipolar disorder.

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Hope and A Future

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

 

The first time I heard this verse in Jeremiah, I wanted to cry.  It was at the end of a particularly challenging week, filled with a deep depression that I saw no end to.  How many of those suffering with Bipolar Disorder can relate?

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My Name is Kelley, and I Am a Child of God Who Struggles.

“Constantly be on your guard so that your hearts will not be loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, or that day will take you by surprise, because it will come on everyone who lives on the face of the earth.

So be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to take your stand in the presence of the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36 (ISV)

 

NOTE: This post describes writer Kelley Thorpe Baker’s experience with mental illness (bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, relationship and sex addiction) and dual diagnosis.  The content is intended for mature readers over the age of 18, and caution is recommended for readers who may be triggered by the content.

Tears streamed down my face as soon as I made the call. I would be on my way to the dispensary within minutes, knowing that a force stronger than myself guided me to pick up the pipe every time. It had been over six months since I had used, but the weed was calling to me as if lulling me to a safer place; a familiar place. A place that would stop the constant buzzing and whirling of my thoughts. A place that might bring me some peace and a sense of contentment.

The familiar smell of the dispensary comforted and excited me simultaneously. The smell of over 50 varieties of marijuana created a blend of heaven. Years prior, I had worked for the home-based dispensary and delivery service and had developed my own personal stash of medication for every ailment in my own medicine cabinet.

Trouble sleeping? I had the perfect indica to lull me to a quiet slumber. Aching back during my mid-week yoga session? My 60/40 blend of indica to sativa would allow perfect flexibility while offering cerebral bliss that would surpass the most devout of yogis. Forget the white hat; I was a pharmacist in a green coat. I had an answer to every ailment and a counter to every complaint. I was Kelley Green.

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I’ve Gone Manic. Again.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;

Avoid such men as these.

For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Timothy 3 (NASB)

 

I’ve gone manic. Again.  Call it mania.  Hypomania.  I’m up, the bipolar is in full gear, I’m on my way.

Right now. This very moment, I’m on the upswing. I know this not because my demeanor is “cheerily optimistic” or I’m about to dive off a very tall building. For the last few weeks, it’s been with me. Cheering, jeering, egging me on. Keeping me up at night, driving my emotional ambitions. Its gift to me is a fruitless edge, stirring me in circles, until I become a whirlwind of charm and passion and emotion to counteract the emptiness inside. Indeed, my grungy buddy is clinging on for dear life…

I feel this ravenous energy leaving everyone who has encountered me drained. This is a pattern I’ve had since childhood. I’m a taker in giver’s clothing. I look nice, I do nice things, I’m a great mom. I’m a great citizen. But I’m an emotional wreck who sucks myself dry, and thus, everyone around me to dust. I hold myself small, I keep myself sick, I distance myself from those closest to me, I create messes everywhere I go.

It aims to draw my circle in to me, like a tornado. Destructive; yet soulfully centered at the core…

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Do I Look Poor Enough for You? A Day at Social Services

I love the LORD, because He hears

My voice and my supplications.

Because He has inclined His ear to me,

Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

The cords of death encompassed me

And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;

I found distress and sorrow.

Then I called upon the name of the LORD:

“O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;

Yes, our God is compassionate.

The LORD preserves the simple;

I was brought low, and He saved me.

Return to your rest, O my soul,

For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

Psalms 116:1 (NASB)

 

Mr. Guerrero, my assigned case manager (or “worker”) in the Social Services office, was a kind looking man, obviously in a hurry, though not wanting to show that he was rushing in any way. He eyes darted from object to object, document to document, as he asked his questions in standard form.

He was apologetic for missing our appointment earlier that morning, and had thanked me for coming back that same day, and thanked me for being so understanding.

“Of course,” I had replied, “life happens.” I was once again my friendly self, remembering that the power was sitting on the other side of the table.

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Just Another Day at Social Services

The LORD sends poverty and wealth;

he humbles and he exalts.

1 Samuel 2:7 (NIV)

 

It was a sea of dead faces; expressionless, emotionless and without any recognition for the others in the room. The overhead speaker would announce a name every few minutes, as though announcing a random winner of a brokedown lottery.

“Cecilia Hernandez, Cecilia Hernandez, please report to window C.” And Cecilia Hernandez, accompanied by two chubby toddlers, and trailed by a spouse in a stained tank with black knee socks would shuffle to window C for their next set of instructions.

It was hard for me not to judge myself and everything else in this drab interior. Having had everything I could have ever possibly needed or wanted in my previous life as a successful executive of a fortune 500 company, and as the daughter of an upper middle class family (dare I say an upper class family?), I never imagined that I would be called to window C next.

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