The Key to Avoiding Mommy-Meltdown

 Self-care: The Key to Avoiding the Mommy-Meltdown

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

If your winter has been as rough as ours has been so far this winter, then your kids are likely on their third snow day in a row and you may be in the middle of a mommy-meltdown. (Now it hasn’t been nearly as bad as Boston, thank heavens. That poor city deserves a break!) If you’re like me, you’ve already begun to wave the white flag. We had built forts, baked banana bread, watched movies, the kids went sledding with their Daddy (no way was I going out in the frigid temps!), wrote stories, read books, and played about thirty rounds of Pictionary.

I was frazzled. Cabin fever coupled with whiny kids wreaks havoc on my mood.

Then I realized. It had been days since I took time to myself. I don’t know why I sometimes forget to do this simple thing, but I do. I get caught up in the rush and frenzy of the days, all the while putting the kids needs before mine, and before I know it the clock says 11pm and I’m crawling into bed, exhausted and a little bitter for the absence of downtime.

Self-care is easy when we remember

One of my favorite ways to relax is by taking a nice warm bubble bath while reading a book. Another is to give myself a manicure. Or snuggling up on the couch with my husband and watching something on Netflix. The key for me is to carve out the time to let myself enjoy the luxury of doing something I love.

Lack of me-time = stress

I only realized I was an introvert a few years ago. I do love meeting new people and going to conferences and networking events, but I always need time to unwind by myself after outings like these or I get stressed out. Even a fun family trip can cause me to get agitated at the end because I haven’t had enough time to just be alone. But I’ve learned it’s important that I recognized this need so I can plan to adjust my schedule to include downtime.

Something to look forward to

I love when I’m able to schedule self-care, like lunch with friends or a yoga class or date night with my husband. Because then I have it on my calendar and I know I won’t accidentally forget. It’s something to look forward to, and that makes it even more enjoyable. The third snow day in a row doesn’t seem so unbearable anymore when I have a much-anticipated event on my mind.

Self-care is important for anyone, not only those of us who live with mental illness. But ever since I began making self-care an integral part of my treatment plan, I’ve noticed a positive change in the stability of my moods. These days I make sure to take time for myself each day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – because the solo time allows me to avoid the mommy-meltdown.

Do you remember to make time for self-care?

For the love of crayons

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I was honored to be invited to participate in Rachel Cedar’s series entitled, 28 Days of Play, a collection of essays by parents which revolve around how we play with our children

Initially I was hesitant to write a piece. I thought back to my son’s infant and toddler years, remembering with affection how each day was filled with hours upon hours of down-on-the-floor, nose-to-nose playtime. By the time our daughter was born, things began to change. I was back at work part-time, and then when she arrived, I had to learn how to juggle the needs of an energetic toddler and a newborn.

I’d love for you to click over to You Plus Two Parenting to read my essay and let me know your thoughts. The month is full of talented writers I admire, so I encourage you to check back often and read them all.

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.

 

Being Known as Bipolar Mom

Bipolar MomSummer Beach Trip, August 2014

Back when I started my blog three years ago, I guess I had the right idea when it came to choosing a name. It was me in that moment. I was a mom with bipolar, and I wanted a website where other moms with bipolar and other mental illnesses would land. And regular people, too, for that matter. I wanted my site to show up in search results. I was determined to get my story out there to help others who were going through similar experiences. Determined to make an impact, no matter how small. My heart told me that if I could reach people through my writing, I could help change the way people viewed mental illness in our society.

I knew in the back of my mind that I was so much more than my illness, but I needed a platform. So I built it, giving it the most obvious name. I set out on a quest and had no idea where it would lead me.

My words appeared anonymously at first, I had to test the waters. I wrote just words and only shared photos where faces weren’t recognizable to protect our privacy. But blogging behind a mask felt disingenuous and a bit like I was hiding something. It didn’t take long for me to realize my story was one I needed to tell with my real name. I wasn’t ashamed of the fact I had an illness in my brain. I deserved to have a voice, an authentic one, and I was ready to share my real life through not only my stories, but also through real photos of me and my family.

You see, until we put a face on mental illness, the face of a person who has learned to manage their illness so that the illness doesn’t control them, society will continue to stigmatize those who live with mental health disorders because they don’t understand. They don’t understand what we go through on a daily basis, they don’t understand how hard we fight to educate ourselves on the best medicines and treatments for our conditions, and they don’t understand how to support a person who is struggling with a mental illness. They fear what they don’t know. They don’t know it’s possible for a person with a mental illness to fully recover and live a beautiful, productive, successful life.

We can begin to change this ignorance by simply being open. By sharing our story when we have the opportunity. By letting go of the shame and embarrassment we inherited when we were diagnosed. And by not being afraid of being treated differently because of having a mental illness, but instead looking at it as a chance to educate someone and make a difference.

These days when Mary Lambert’s song Secrets comes on the radio, me and my kids sing it loud and proud. It’s no longer a secret that I live with bipolar disorder. I am sometimes recognized as “Bipolar Mom” when at networking events and I’m okay with this. I am a mom with bipolar disorder and my mental illness allowed me to become an advocate. I’ve rediscovered my love of writing and my blog guided me to create This Is My Brave with my creative partner, Anne Marie Ames, providing a platform and community for others living with mental illness to do what I’ve done.

I couldn’t imagine life any other way.  Happy Mental Illness Awareness Week, friends.

Today is National Depression Screening Day. Do yourself a favor and spend 2 minutes taking an online assessment of your mental health.