Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back in the saddle...

Way to go, Haley. Abandon the blog for a year, why don't you?

Well, since I haven't been here in a year, I should think a little reintroduction and perhaps a restatement of purpose is necessary. To be honest, I didn't even reread my orginal posts, and although I think I remember my original intent, I can't be sure and it's not what I want to do now anyway. So I think I'll just start over. I might delete my old posts, but most likely not. It's good to be able to look back...which is a huge reason why I'm doing this blog. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me re-introduce myself and then backtrack and explain why I'm blogging, when there are millions of blogs and hundreds - if not thousands - of blogs like the one I want to do.

I'm Haley, I'm thirty...something. I live in a cute little house in a cute little subdivision in a cute litle suburb of a cute little midsized southern city. My cute little house is continually a disaster area. And I'm not using self-depreciating humor here (although I will - a lot.) My house really is a wreck all the time. It has every right to be, though, I have three kids under 7. My kids are...

                                                     Andy, age 7

                                                     Charlie, age 3

                                                    and Katie, 18 months.

When I force the people around me into allowing me a little spare time, I like to cook, read, write occasionally, hang out with the few friends I've been able to make and maintain, and make crafts. I actually really love making crafts, and it turns out I'm fairly good at it. I'm secretary of my son's PTA, I drive a minivan. I've actually also surprised myself by discovering that I really enjoy exercise. This is a completely foreign concept...I've spent the majority of my life sedentary. Now, though, I get up every morning at 5am and go to the gym, jogging (I'm starting week 5 of Couch-to-5k), and then taking a quick shower before I come home and start my day. I really feel better throughout the day, and now I can completely understand why so many people have been all about working out for so long.

I'm married to a wonderful man named Chris, who we'll talk about at length, I'm sure. He is tall, blond, handsome and a saint - despite the fact that he infuriates me beyond all reason sometimes. I was blessed beyond anything I ever deserved when he walked into the room I was in and my best friend introduced us a few years ago. I don't know where I would be without him. As much as I would like to punt him sometimes, he's just right for me.

All of this sounds deceptively normal, right? This just sounds like typical suburbia hausfrau dribble straight out of some dimestore novel, doesn't it? I could be any mom in any carpool line and you'd never be able to tell me apart. But there's one distinct difference between me and most other moms: I have bipolar disorder. I've had it for the vast majority of my life, I'm sure, although I was only diagnosed very shortly after Andy's birth. As a quick crash course for those who either don't know the term or have only heard it used incorrectly, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by instability of moods, particularly of extremely high and extremely low moods that frequently last for extended periods of time (opposing moods, two sides of the spectrum, opposite sides of the pole... bi-polar). Specifically, I have Bipolar II. Here's a link describing my particular illness. I have been hypomanic. I've been hypomanic and not realized it until afterwards. But mostly, I've struggled with awful, paralyzing depression. My periods of normalcy have been far fewer than my times of being unwell one way or another. But this is a brain disorder. It's not a choice. It's not something someone did to me. It's something that's off in my brain's chemistry. By taking my medications (which I do, faithfully), I ensure that I maintain most of my health. There are still times of depression, but I remain functional for the most part. I am still able to take care of my kids - even if I'm not able to be the life of the party. My moods rise and fall in cycles that should be predictible but aren't - at least not to me. My husband says they last about three months each. I only know how I feel at any given moment in time.

Depression and bipolar disorder are theives, liars and a bully. It would take me days to list all of the things that these two diseases have stolen from me and my family. Taking my family out of it, I've lost friendships, I've lost romantic relationships, I've lost jobs, I've lost opportunities, I've lost time with my family, I've lost time with my kids, I've lost possessions, I've lost money....there isn't much I haven't lost because of these two. There isn't much that these two haven't told me, whispering in my ear by way of negative self talk. "You're so ugly...""you're worthless....""everyone hates you....""life would be so much better if you weren't in it..." - these are all things that bipolar and depression cause me to say to myself via negative self-talk. And not just once in a while...all day, every day, for weeks on end. It ain't pretty, folks. It ain't pretty at all. But I want to lay it bare for you, and I want to try to do it with humor. Why? Well, here's why.

Despite my disorder, I live a relatively normal life. Despite the timbre of this particular post, I'm a pretty funny person and I intend to explore the funny side of life and galloping through depression. The reason is this...the stigma attached to mental illness is unbelievable. I'd like for you to take a moment and examine yourself. When you first read the words "bipolar disorder" back there, how did you react inside? What were your first thoughts? It's okay to be honest with yourself, nobody is going to judge you. The truth is, we've been conditioned to believe that mental health issues = crazy = either BAD or Laughable. And I want to try to do my part to change that. I forget the actual number, but I believe it was something like every 7 minutes, someone dies from suicide. Most of those people could be helped if they weren't afraid to reach out. I believe that if people see that someone with a serious mental illness lives a pretty normal life, and even lives it with humor, they might start to change thier minds about the stigma against mental illnesses. And then maybe, just maybe, people won't be so afraid to speak up and say "Hey, I think I might need help."

So this is my little way of helping. I really want to keep it up. It's not all going to be about mental health. As a matter of fact, it's probably going to be very little about that. I'm probably just going to talk about what comes to mind. I have lots of thoughts running around up there. Some of them are kinda smart, and I'd like to share them. And I swear I'll be more funny from here on out. I promise.

Fair warning - I have a tendency to use adult language, although I'll try not to be completely and utterly profane. I have a feeling my mom will read this, and I'd rather not answer to YaYa.


  1. My mother is bi-polar. She won't take her meds on anything like a regular basis. Her imbalance.. well, we don't speak anymore.
    You are awesome.

    1. I don't know how awesome I am. I don't feel awesome most of the time. On bad days, I feel lower than dirt. On good days, I feel average. Today, about this, I feel brave and honest. And afraid. This is a terrible, brutal disease and it's horrible to live with on the inside. I simply cannot fathom what it must be like to live with me. Which is why, for all his faults, my husband is a saint.

      I'm so sorry you and your mother aren't closer. I'd be lost without mine.

  2. This post speaks to me on a variety of levels. I have a very normal life. Except I have a disease that has stolen so much from me. Like you, I've lost jobs, tons of money, friends, time with my oldest daughter, and it almost ended my marriage. But I'm determined to reclaimy life. I stay away from things/people/activities that may...I hate the word trigger! And I medicate as little as I can to keep my family together. It's very hard to control myself without mood stabilizers, and sometimes I fail. But I will keep fighting it. It won't destroy anymore of my life.

    1. I completely forgot that you are bipolar as well. I don't think you realize how much I look up to, admire, am intimidated by and wish I were more like you. To realize and remember that you have this in common with me is - I don't know the word I'm looking for ... warming? I'm so, so glad you commented.

      I've tried to fly without medication, I've tried to go with just a little medication. I ended up having higher highs and lower lows than I could tolerate, and I couldn't stand the losses anymore. It has literally taken years to find a 'cocktail' that works for me where the moods stay relatively stable and the side effects aren't unbearable...and it doesn't always work. It has to be tweaked occasionally. I'm fortunate to have a doctor I've been with for nearly a decade who listens to me when I tell her that something's not working and why. We've come to trust each other over the years, and there are a lot of people who can't say that about their doctors. There are days and moments that I feel like giving up and giving in. But I've got these kids and this marriage, and those things are worth fighting for. I feel like I fail a lot too, I know I fail a lot. I fail to keep my moods in check on both ends of the spectrum sometimes. But all I(we) can do is get back up on the horse and keep going.

      I read a quote one time in the book "Crazy" by Pete Earley that struck a really deep chord in me. He was talking to some men in a mental health halfway house in Miami, and one of them looked over at him and said something like (I'm paraphrasing) "It's okay when your body gets sick on you. You can treat diseases in your body and keep your senses. But as soon as your brain turns on you, you're fucked." I broke down crying when I read that and I've thought about that a thousand times since I read it. It really does feel like that your brain has turned against you. But we fight back. And that's the purpose of this blog. To fight back, to prove how normal people with bipolar can be (although I admit I'm pretty weird for a normal person), and to hopefully, prayerfully change a few minds. The benefit I didn't think about was reaching out to other people in the same boat as I am and finding some solidarity.

  3. I know you've seen it, but since it's been nearly a full year since he began the series, I feel it would be healthy to bring it back up... Not only for you, but others that might have missed it. My friend Chris was brutally honest and insightful about his battle with bi-polar disorder, and I believe it could be therapeutic for your friends, family, and readers. This disease affects nearly everyone with whom the afflicted person interacts, and it is important that everyone understand what is going on. I encourage everyone to read Chris Knight's series, watch the videos, ask questions... here's the link:

  4. My Grandma is Bipolar, so I have seen how it can affect peoples' lives.
    You have my admiration for blogging so openly about it.