Healthy Eating for a Healthy Brain

Healthy Eating Healthy Brain Bipolar Mom Life

This is the second post of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.

My eating habits are not perfect, nor do I believe in the “perfect” diet. But the way I eat today is drastically different than the way I used to eat when I first got sick with bipolar illness and I think a lot of it has to do with diet. What we feed our bodies fuels our existence and if we’re sustaining ourselves on frozen Lean Cuisine meals (my typical lunch when I was working as a recruiter in DC before I got sick) and snacks that come in 100-calorie packs plus a diet soda every day, it’s no wonder our health takes a nosedive.

Finding a Balance

I think moderation is the key. Two years ago I jumped on the juicing bandwagon and then went to a strict vegetarian diet. I felt good, but I wasn’t monitoring my Vitamin D and protein intake and started developing hair loss and fatigue. So I switched to a flexitarian diet and that works for me. I eat vegetarian mainly, but occasionally eat fish or meat. Snacks for me include nuts and fruits like apples, grapes or tangerines. I also love KIND bars when we travel.

I stopped drinking milk because of food documentaries like Food Inc., Forks over Knives, Fresh, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead which reveal the sad truths about America’s dairy industry. (If you haven’t watched them yet, I highly recommend them all, and most are available on Netflix.) Instead I drink Almond milk, although I do eat cheese. When we eat meat, I try to make sure it’s organic, grass fed and local if possible.

Since this summer, we’ve been transitioning to a mainly gluten-free diet. It started out as a way to help our son with his digestion issues, but I’ve begun to feel the benefits of it and believe it does contribute to a more healthful approach to eating.

I’m not saying a diet like mine is the only answer to staying mentally healthy, but I do believe that diet plays a big part in the overall puzzle of how we manage our mental health.

Curbing my Sugar Addiction

Like most Americans, I have a feisty sweet tooth. I used to crave candy and cookies, but have found that since eliminating as much processed foods and wheat as I can from my diet, the cravings have died down. When I grocery shop, I use the “shop the perimeter” tip of avoiding the aisles in the center of the store since that’s where most of the processed foods are located. Instead of packaged cookies like Oreos or Chips Ahoy, I bake Paleo chocolate chip cookies occasionally with my kids who don’t even notice the difference. We also mix up a batch of energy balls once a week – Pinterest has a gazillion recipes and is my favorite place to find a recipe based on the ingredients I have in my pantry.

I’ve also found that books like Brain Grain by David Perlmutter, MD, open my eyes to what food does to our brains and how easy it is to make adjustments to the food choices we make in order to regain wellness. It’s time we educate ourselves on the power of whole foods instead of processed foods and water instead of soft drinks or juice.

Cutting Back on Caffeine

I am a 2-cup-in-the-morning gal when it comes to coffee. I occasionally enjoy an afternoon cuppa but not after 2pm, so it doesn’t interfere with sleep. If I have more than 2-3 cups of coffee a day it tends to make me feel jittery and I end up regretting it.

Instead, I switch to caffeine-free tea, which I’ve been loving in these winter months. And ever since I started using doTERRA, my water is no longer boring. I add a drop of Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit or Slim & Sassy and I have a refreshing, natural hydrating beverage which I feel good about drinking.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a soda or a beer or a glass of wine occasionally, because I do. It’s knowing that I feel better when I pay attention to the hydration my body needs which makes the difference.


Do you feel like changes in your diet have an impact on your mental health? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


My story matters. And so does yours.

OC87Logo Your Story Matters Bipolar Mom Life on OC87RecoveryDiaries





I used to remain silent about my mental illness. I let fear control whether I shared my story even as my heart urged me to speak up, to free myself of the heavy secret.

I know how hard it is to open up. But the more we show our true selves to the world, the sooner the world will begin to understand our struggles. The same way we understand how a diabetic has to inject insulin, and how a cancer patient undergoes radiation and chemo. We know this because they aren’t ashamed of their stories.

We shouldn’t be either.

Last year I found an incredible documentary on Netflix called OC87. It’s a film about Bud Clayman, whose story is similar to mine in ways. He was a stellar student and went to college to pursue a career in filmmaking. It was during his college years when he had a breakdown, had to return home and entered a long-term residential treatment facility.

Thirty years later, in 2010, Bud released the movie that changed his life. It’s an inspiring story that provides a glimpse into the mind of someone trying desperately to find a way to regain control over his mental illness. Through video diaries, Bud reveals eye-opening glimpses of his inner world, including OC87, an altered state of mind named by Bud and his therapist.

Bud fought intrusive thoughts daily, and over the years was diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. But it’s his determined personality which allows him to use his creativity to learn to manage his illness and educate the general public to end stigma.

I recently was invited to write for Bud’s online community and would love for you to visit OC87 Recovery Diaries to read my essay.


Dark Side Of The Full Moon Review

Dark Side of the Moon Film Review Bipolar Mom Life

A life-saving film has been created. Dark Side of the Full Moon is a documentary about when motherhood meets mental health.

Earlier this week, the production team sent me an early viewing code. I watched it tonight. And let me just say that this film got me fired up.

At the end, Writer/Director Maureen Fura says, “This story could have been about how a group of women, who had never had a mental illness, suddenly at pregnancy and postpartum, found themselves in the midst of a mental health crisis. But the real story is how the most common complication of childbirth could be the best kept secret of motherhood.”

I urge you to watch this film. If you are able to make time tomorrow or Saturday, the Producer has provided a special discount viewing code: JAN2015.

But even if you don’t have a chance to watch it by Saturday, I encourage you to pay the full price because we NEED to spread the word so that the secret can be demystified.

1 in 7 women in the United States will experience a postpartum mood disorder.

Stop and think about your circle of friends and your extended family. Count the last seven to have had a baby. Chances are one (or even two because not all cases are accounted for because many do not seek treatment) have PPD.

Or, like me, maybe one of them experienced postpartum psychosis. I was the 1 out of 1,000. I had been previously been diagnosed with Type 1 bipolar disorder. And yet, discussions on postpartum mood disorders never took place.

This needs to change. We need to have these conversations.

One of the big take-aways from the film is that there is a huge disconnect between OB-GYNs and Psychiatrists/Therapists. It’s almost as if neither wants to take responsibility for a mom struggling with a perinatal mood disorder. Part of the reality is that they have very little training in maternal psychiatric disorders. Why not when so many women (1.3 million women annually – more women get postpartum depression than breast cancer ever year) are affected?

The stories you hear will shock you. They will have you in tears. They will rock you to the core.

But they NEED to be heard.

This fantasy of motherhood being the most wonderful, endearing, perfect time of our lives is not reality. Having a baby is the most terrifying, nerve-wracking, anxiety-provoking event in a woman’s life. Everything changes in an instant. Let’s be real here.

And since the professionals don’t understand how to help us, it’s time we take matters into our own hands.

We can speak out and share our stories so that other women and their families can begin to understand the signs and symptoms. So that they won’t be afraid to reach out for help before a tragedy occurs. The more of us who can stand up and say, “I was sick, but I got treatment and I survived. And I tell my story to help others realize they are not alone,” the more lives we will save.

Maternal mental illness is complicated. But until we start talking about it openly, like any other illness in our body – cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, a broken leg, asthma, etc, etc, etc. – things will remain the same.

And we cannot let that happen. We cannot let mothers and babies slip through the cracks.

Please watch this film. Tell your friends and family about it. Share it because you may save a life by sharing it. Start these conversations.

If you’re currently in need of help for a possible perinatal mood disorder, here are some great resources to start with:

Postpartum Progress - the most widely-read website on postpartum mood disorders, also a non-profit organization focused on increasing awareness and providing peer support

Postpartum Support Interntional - if you need someone to talk to immediately, call the PSI Warmline at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)

and if you’re in the Washington, DC metro area, the DMV-PMH Resource Guide is a directory of specialized mental health providers for pregnancy and postpartum compiled by an incredible Labor & Delivery nurse and her team

The only way we’ll change the fact that postpartum mood disorders are motherhood’s biggest secret is by raising our voices collectively. Together we can force this change. These are secrets we no longer need to keep.

Using essential oils to manage my bipolar trigger


doTERRA to manage bipolar trigger sleepThis is the first of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.


I became obsessed with doTERRA essential oils during the fall of 2013. Today I’m not sure how I ever lived without them.

(This is not a post encouraging you to buy essential oils from me, but if you are so inclined, I do sell them and you can purchase via this link and I will earn a small commission.)

I want to share with you the difference doTERRA essential oils have made in my life. After ordering the intro kit (Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint) from an old high school friend of mine who was a Wellness Advocate under (surprise!) another high school friend of ours, I became hooked. (doTERRA is a network marketing company, for those of you who aren’t aware.)

I use the Peppermint on my temples whenever I get a headache and it dissolves the pounding within minutes. Peppermint boosts mood, so whenever I feel sluggish during the day, a deep inhale of Peppermint wakes me up. It’s also a great breath freshener. A drop of peppermint does wonders for a fuzzy, post-lunch mouth.

The Lemon oil is my favorite way to flavor my drinking water during the day. Water can be so boring, but we all know how important it is for us to drink. A drop of lemon oil makes water tasty. I also love cooking with Lemon oil. And for cleaning, in a spray bottle with water, it was great to cut grease on countertops and mildew on shower walls.

These two oils are wonderful, and they have plenty of other uses. The versatility of essential oils is what makes them amazing. But Lavender was an absolute game-changer.

Sleep is a trigger, therefore it is essential to treat it

Lavender has an incredibly relaxing scent, and when I apply it to the bottom of my feet before bed and a drop to my chest so my body heat diffuses it for me, I’m usually asleep within fifteen minutes. But that’s not even the best thing about it. After having birthed two babies – both C-sections – my body was never the same. Ever since my first pregnancy, sleeping through the night without getting up to pee at least once was a dream, not reality. Broken sleep was my norm, and my health was suffering.

Enter doTERRA. Lavender oil puts me into a heavy, deep sleep. There are nights when my son will come into our room, crawl into our bed, and I won’t even know until I wake up to his sweet face sharing my pillow. I don’t wake up at 2am to empty my bladder anymore. My nights are filled with restful, perfect sleep and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Since I’ve been a doTERRA Wellness Advocate for over a year now, I’ve had a chance to try many of the fabulous products. But the oils I love the most are the ones that enhance sleep. My favorites are kept on my nightstand. I now alternate between Lavender, Marjoram, Serenity, Bergamot, and Cedarwood for sleep. They all work equally well. It’s been over a year since I’ve had to reach for an Ambien, and I am so thankful to have said goodbye to the groggy side effects of that sleep med in favor of natural supplements which have none.

doTERRA Quality

I have only ever used doTERRA brand oils, but I did do a little research last time I was at the grocery store. There is a large display of essential oils at my local Wegman’s in the Wellness aisle. I was curious, so I spent a few minutes opening the sample bottles and sniffing the various oils and blends.

What a dramatic difference. The oils in the store smelled like a chemical version of doTERRA’s, barely even close to the aroma of the oils I had come to love. I don’t know why I was surprised. doTERRA touts their oils as being Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade, meaning they are 100% pure, free of fillers or artificial contaminants such as pesticides or other chemical residues. Plain and simple, I trust doTERRA.

An investment in my health

doTERRA oils aren’t cheap, but for the many ways I benefit from using them, they are completely worth the money. By joining the company, I’ve made an investment in my health, and I am so glad I was introduced to the many benefits of using essential oils.

Have you tried essential oils? If not, what are you waiting for?