Strengthening Saturday: A New Addition to My Toolbox

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“It was great! No cleaning, no responsibilities and no guilt. Just rest and relaxation.” That’s how I described a recent overnight stay at a health facility following a vocal cord procedure to my friend/counselor/life coach, Nancy.

Recently, we talked about how I could replicate that without having to go to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I’d devised “Strengthening Saturday,” one day each month dedicated to rest, renewal, rejuvenation and refreshment. (If only Saturday started with an R!)

Following are the terms of “Strengthening Saturday:”

  • Designate the fourth Saturday of each month as Strengthening Saturday. (That week is usually a busy one for me each month.)
  • Sleep until I wake up; maybe go back to sleep even then.
  • Have no “to do” list for that day; only do the things I want to do including, but not limited to, watching Netflix; creating something; reading; and/or catching up on my writing.  
  • Unless there is something I WANT to do outside of the house and need to be presentable, stay in my PJs or lounging clothes all day.
  • Eat foods that are low-prep and healthy. Unless I want something sinful, which I’ll totally allow during a Strengthening Saturday.
  • No social media allowed. (Lumosity and Words with Friends, yes; Facebook and Twitter, no.)
  • Tell Mom and Sister not to include me in any plans on a Strengthening Saturday.
  • Maximize my senses. Play music I love or listen to a podcast; have some flowers or other beautiful thing in my room; light a candle; take a long hot bubble bath or freshen my bed clothes; eat wonderful food; cuddle with the cats; etc.
  • Will put the guilt of not “being busy” aside, just for one day.

As I continue to grow, build and yes, even still heal a little, I think Strengthening Saturdays will be a game changer. I can’t wait for the first one!

I’ll Take the Magic Pill Please

By: Azure Stilwell

I received an e-mail today asking about the status of my next blog post. I had no idea it was that time of month again. I cannot remember anything right now…

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I do electro-current therapy (ECT) treatments once a week and it is killing my short-term memory. I couldn’t even remember who my dentist was the other day or where our local Publix is. I go to check the mail and there are bills in the mailbox for companies I don’t remember having services with until my husband reminds me. I can’t wait for the treatments to be over. I want to be able to drive again. I want my life back. I want my memories back.

I spend every day wondering what happened to me. When did I stop laughing, smiling, finding joy in life? When did I become so depressed? I want to wake up and not have the first thing I think of be, “Is today going to be a good day?” I stopped going to church. This Easter was the first time I’ve been back to church in months. I’m trying a new church, one that I hope I will be able to get more involved in. I need something to grab onto and feel good about. This seems like a logical answer.

I am still taking my normal medications but I feel like that needs changing, too. In fact, I feel like everything needs changing. My home, my medications, my daily routine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I want to move back home to Augusta. But when I visit, my problems seem to follow me so I know that isn’t truly the answer that I seek. I just want a magic pill that makes everything go back to the way it was before I got so sad. I hope that my next blog post (if I can remember when that is) will be about something other than mental illness, but this is what I am struggling with today so bear with me.

To Move or Not to Move

By: Azure Stilwell

The last few weeks I have been struggling with my depression. I am still doing the ECT treatments but my energy level has been zapped. Since my oldest left for college I have felt lost here in Columbia. I feel like I want to move back to Augusta. When I lived in Augusta before, I had a great psychologist. My parents also live there so I had family support that I don’t have here in Columbia. The problem is, my husband hasn’t gotten any good job leads and we cannot move without a job in place.

I wonder if my reasons for wanting to move back to Augusta are right for my family. We have a good life here but it just feels incomplete. I am very family oriented and not having anyone here is hard on me. It was easier when my oldest was in high school because we wouldn’t move him away from his friends, but now that he’s gone Columbia feels so lonely. My youngest is still in elementary school so we don’t have the same reasons holding us here that we did with my oldest. I feel like it would be good for all of us to get a new start but I don’t know if that’s selfish thinking. We have a lovely home, my son is in a good school system, and we all have friends here that we would miss. Is it fair to ask them to give these things up so I can be near my parents?

I am not in a good place right now so maybe a move would help me find myself again. Wouldn’t it be better to move and be me again than to stay and be a shell of a person? The struggle is real and I pray every night that God will give us the answer but so far that has not opened a job in Augusta. I just don’t know why I feel so strongly that we are meant to move if we really aren’t? I’m so desperate to feel whole again I would do just about anything at this point if I thought it would help.

A Shocking Experience

By: Azure Stilwell

Sun will come out tomorrow

I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.

Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.

The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.

My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.

Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments. 

January Blues

By: Azure Stilwell

This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.

Sun will come out tomorrow

The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.

I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.

I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?

Weighty Issues

By: Azure Stilwell

One of the issues with Bipolar Disorder and the medications I have to take is that I tend to forget things. I have alarms for everything: to remind me to take my medications, to get my son off of the bus, to wake up, to go to bed, and the list goes on. Yet even with these alarm clockreminders I still manage to miss a thing or two. It is very frustrating. So I always try to keep my posts honest and relevant to my ordinary life, which is why I share things like the following.

I am starting a weight loss journey. I went to see my primary care doctor and she suggested a meal plan and exercise routine, but after 3 weeks I have not been able to keep it going. I need accountability on a regular basis and someone to cheer me on. So I am joining the Livestrong program at my local Y, which gives cancer survivors 24 free classes beginning this month. I am also thinking very hard about re-joining Jenny Craig as I did have success with that program in the past. I became concerned (way overdue) during a recent hospital stay when I actually saw the number on the scale. Let’s just say being breathless all the time makes sense when you are carrying another person around.

I am hoping to find some great recipes that I can share with you. I will keep you posted on my progress. Today: 0 for me and 1 for my food baby. I am now putting an alarm in my phone so I am reminded of my next blog post. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend. 🙂

Three Ways to Relieve the Pressure When You’re Pushing Yourself Too Hard

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

under pressure

A year ago today, I was just waking up and coming back to consciousness from my ruptured aneurysm. It was around my sister’s birthday because I remember my boss offering to buy her a birthday gift from me. I was clueless. I couldn’t figure out where I was or what had happened, much less what to get Sister for her birthday.

A year later, I’m still trying to figure out what to get Sister for her birthday. But everything else is better. I’ve recovered well, with the exception of my immobile vocal cords and soft, raspy voice. I’m back at work full-time, have been since late September.

But there are still a few things I need to work on. First, I am quite unhappy with my fitness limitations. Before the aneurysm, I was doing an hour on the elliptical. I also feel like I’m living by the seat of my pants organizationally; I don’t feel like I’ve had it together since I came back to my house in August. I’ve strayed a bit from my “clean eating”, and I still need to get back in the kitchen on a regular basis.

I was sharing this with a friend today when she reminded me that it had only been a year, that I was being too tough on myself. Too tough on myself? Yes. I always have been. Almost on cue, I found a great article in my Positively Positive daily email about that very thing: Are You Pushing Yourself Too Hard?

You don’t have to be recovering from a ruptured aneurysm like me to push yourself too hard. As women, I think we all do it to some extent. That’s why I wanted to share Positively Positive’s three steps to release the pressure when you’re pushing yourself too hard.

  1. Admit you are pushing yourself too hard – Say it out loud (because you need to hear this from yourself): “I am pushing myself too hard to…”
  2. Re-set your expectations. Close your eyes and take a breath. Ask yourself, “What would ENOUGH look like?”
  3. Give yourself permission to just do enough. No more. No less. Just enough.

The article reminds us when pressure and overwhelm come knocking on your door, remember that you have the choice to let them in. Assess the situation, use the three step process above, and ask yourself what might need to change or adjust in order for you to feel less stress and more joy, rest and harmony through the process.

Fitness limitations? Yeah, I’ve got ‘em. A year ago, I wasn’t even walking. So for now, working out twice a week is enough to help me rebuild my strength. Living by the seat of my pants? Yes, I still have some unpacking and organizing to do. I was away from home for five months, and it’s taking me a while to settle back in. I’m getting it done a little at a time, and that’s okay. Not eating perfectly? I can make improvements in small steps, and it will be okay. As long as I have food to eat and don’t fall back into the fast food trap, I will survive fine.

What works for you when you start feeling pressure and overwhelm?