Being Bipolar in a Global Crisis

No amount of sugar or substance can make my brain buzz the way a dose of hypomania can. The ideas, the thoughts, and the LIFE that course through my head – all those are amplified in a time of crisis or extreme change. Being thrown off my daily routine or sleep schedule is a risk to my mental health. So throwing me into a global pandemic and giving me access to information 24/7 can really shake things up.

I find myself hopping around from medical research sites to conspiracy theory groups to political commentaries and read over all the comments and opinions. I am an excellent mimic. In order to manage my symptoms early on, I found a way to adapt to acceptable behavior and commentary, so I wouldn’t have to stand out any more than my buzzing brain could allow. I know what I shouldn’t voice in public or on social media, at risk of anyone thinking I am “crazy,” the C word accusation being one of my biggest threats. I fear other people’s opinions of me more than the average person, because deep down inside I know that my brain functions differently from everyone else’s, and that is scary. So I turn inward, and obsess, and research some more, and head down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, at the expense of my sanity.

At first the racing thoughts and buzz are a high, and they fuel me and energize me. At some point though, my brain reaches breaking point and I have to make it stop. I’ve been down these roads long enough to know where they end – in verbal explosions or in heavy medication to shut it all off.

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The carousel ride that is bipolar disorder.

So I fight. I maintain my mind by shutting off my triggers. I stop researching, stop listening and reading to anything that will throw me into a black hole of information. I take naps, and I go to sleep early. I’m fortunate in that I’ve never struggled with sleep. I can always breathe myself to sleep. In for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, out for 8 seconds. I burn off the energy through heavy exercise. I write, I dig into my feelings and name what is going on instead of escaping through obsessive behaviors.

The thing about bipolar disorder, is that it manifests differently in everyone. Everyone struggles in a unique way, and everyone has different triggers.

*To hear more details from others who suffer and how they manage, click to listen to Episode 29 of the podcast on my show page or subscribe on iTunes.

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tools for finding stability during times of major stress or life change. Before I list them, here is the caveat – these tools aren’t always effective in the middle of a full-fledged episode. It is really hard to tell someone who cannot physically get out of bed due to depression, “You should just lace up your shoes and go outside. Why are you just laying there?” Or telling someone who’s manic, “Slow down and go to sleep.” It doesn’t work like that. These are physical illnesses that affect the physical function of our bodies. Our brains aren’t capable of telling our bodies to do what our bodies need to do. This is why we have to be on the offense and employ these tools REGULARLY, during times of stability, so that they are habitual and instinctual. The sooner we can tighten up these strategies at the beginning of the roller coaster climb or at the beginning of the dip downward, the better off we will be. Continue reading “Being Bipolar in a Global Crisis”

A Taste of Grace – Interview with Melissa d’Arabian

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to sit down and talk to Melissa d’Arabian, Food Network host and author of the bestselling Ten Dollar Dinners, about her newest book Tasting Grace.

In her book, Melissa describes 16 invitations that transform the way we view food and our relationship with food.

I don’t know about you, but I have felt burdened by all the food rules lately. Everyone has an opinion on what is “good” or “bad” food. This book was a breath of fresh air in shaping my perspective on food as a gift and a joy.

In my interview with Melissa, she talks about why she chose to write this book, the intentional process she went through in forming it, and she shares some of her views that helped shaped the invitations in this book.

If you are feeling caught up and confused in the “eat this, not that” culture we live in, this book and episode of the podcast offers a fresh and balanced perspective. Food can unite us, and we can utilize what we’ve been given to be filled with more gratitude – and grace.

If you love this interview, I can’t recommend the book enough. It is a love letter to food and the Giver of good things. For more information on Melissa, check out her website here.

Be sure to subscribe to the Sparking Wholeness podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts! To access my show page, click the tree to the right!

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Green Lentil Curry

I’ve been in a pantry cleaning mood lately. I didn’t say organizing. You can ask my husband – organization is NOT my skill set. But I’m trying to make use of ingredients we have hanging out in the back of the pantry. You know those things you need for a recipe, you use a tiny bit of, then you forget about them? Those things.

So when I found green lentils that, for the life of me I can’t remember what we used them for, I decided to go searching for a way to cook them.

I found the original recipe here, and apart from the green curry paste, I had all the ingredients I needed on hand – total win. I added a few different things to the recipe, took away some others, and the result is a flavorful, hearty dish that is thicker than soup but just as warming. Continue reading “Green Lentil Curry”

New Year, Same Me: And That’s Okay

The biggest transformation that happened for me this last year had nothing to do with my body and had EVERYTHING to do with how I see my body.

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January 2019 compared to January 2020 – same me, but transformed perspective!

If you want to lose weight this year, great. If you want to take a different approach to health by balancing things from the inside out, that’s something I will continue to share about in 2020.

Just remember – someone else’s before and after doesn’t tell the full story. What looks like “discipline” may actually be disordered eating. What looks like gaining weight or hitting a plateau may actually be a year of grief and stress. We can’t measure success or failure from a picture.

What’s always missing in these before and after pictures is the DURING.

Continue reading “New Year, Same Me: And That’s Okay”

Re-Focus 2020: See Yourself More Clearly

Is it time for a change?

I’m not talking about weight loss, or a new goal or resolution. I’m not talking about a diet. I’m talking about getting a new view of YOU in the new year.

You probably have heard me say it – I’m a big fan of treating the root. And as much as I love partnering with people to make healthy habits, I also believe that focusing on laying a solid foundation FIRST is key to success.

That’s why I have partnered with Christian author and body image expert Heather Creekmore to bring you a 10 day wellness group to get your mind and heart ready for the new year.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, be more mindful of what you eat, or just feel healthier physically, spiritually and emotionally – this 10 day community can help kick start your goals.

Each day I will offer strategies to personalize your nutrition and become more mindful of your eating habits. I will bring you my favorite tools for learning how to listen to your body and find what’s right for YOU!

Heather will bring strategies to help you lay a solid, spiritual foundation for improving your body image and quitting comparison. She will encourage you with ways to improve your spiritual health so that your physical goals are easier to meet.

The 10 day group will take place through a private Facebook group January 6-16. We will post daily during the 10 days, and we will be available throughout to offer you support and answer all your questions.

In addition to daily tips, challenges, and special video lessons, we’ll be giving away two gifts to thank you for participating. I will provide my “Fast Track Family Recipes” booklet and Heather is gifting you “Mountain Top Experience: A Personal Body Image Retreat.”

The price to participate in this group is only $20! Sign up here or contact me in the contact tab if you are interested!

I hope you have a happy and healthy new year!

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Healthy Holiday Sides with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Carrot souffle and sweet potato bake that are grain free, dairy free, and refined sugar free? Yes, please!

Now, before you head to the recipes, I have to say one quick thing. I know it’s a pain when you are looking for a recipe and the blogger spends all this time with the description and build up and pictures and you’re like, “Just get to the dang ingredients, Karen!”

But after I say this I’ll be done – and you can go on your merry way to try out these recipes.

I get annoyed with the phrase “healthy” in regards to food choices during the holidays. Holidays are celebratory, and if you’re stressing out about whether something is “healthy” or not, and you’re panicked about every ingredient in your meal, you’re less likely to be able to digest the nutrients from that meal.

Stressing about food is the opposite of health, in my opinion.

That being said, it seems to me that every year I get busier with celebrations. We have countless parties, and all of them feature lots of food and lots of alcohol. Because monitoring my mental health is always priority for me, and I will do whatever I can to fight seasonal depression, eating loads of sugar and drinking sugary alcoholic beverages can be taxing on my mental stability.

Consuming lots of sweet treats and drinking alcohol frequently during the month of December will throw off my sleep, make me less well-rested the following day, and then cause my cravings to skyrocket – perpetuating the cycle. So while I don’t want to stress about my food, I do want to be MINDFUL about what I’m choosing and how those choices will make me feel afterward. (For more on eating for mental health and my thoughts on that, check out the Sparking Wholeness podcast episode 10.)

Which leads me to the recipes.

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Continue reading “Healthy Holiday Sides with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes”

Eating for Mental Wealth

Nourishment comes in many forms beyond food.

Being aware of triggers that negatively impact my mental and physical well-being (because they’re connected) is key.

Your relationship with food affects your mental health as well. If you’re stressed about what you’re eating – or what you can’t eat – that sets off a fight or flight response in the body that is not health-promoting.

 

Eating for Mental Wealth

 

There is comfort in food. There is joy found in a good meal with friends, in a special holiday gathering. So the last thing I would say is you have to turn down dessert at every special event because it’s going to cause some mental health relapse. It probably won’t. If you have a leaky gut and food sensitivities, it might cause problems. I don’t know your body and your situation. It will take trial and error and individualized support.

I do want you to be aware of some of the most important things I’ve found that hinder and benefit my mental health, based on my own experience and all the latest research on how food IS mood.

Check out my most recent podcast episode, Eating for Mental Wealth, for more information on how I view nourishment! Click on the tree logo on the right to access the show page or listen on iTunes here.

Put the Weights Down

I love the little reminder above my shoulder that says, “Not for Me.”img_1966

You know what is SO not for me?

Negativity about my body.

Getting value from my jeans size.

Thinking I have to lose weight to be liked.

Picking a lofty resolution that involves weight loss.

Telling myself mean things.

The endless search for body perfection.

So I’m gonna hang those old thought patterns right there on that hook.

Do you struggle with any of the above? Do you struggle with body image issues or constant comparison? Are you already planning those New Year’s Resolutions that you hope will FINALLY work? Are you on a continual quest for your happy weight?

In this week’s show I am joined by my friend Heather Creekmore, speaker and author of the book, Compared to Who. We have a great conversation regarding how we let our body image define our worth and value for way too many years, and we discuss ways we have worked on beating the body image beast – which may include putting down the weights.

Is there a solution to healing from obsessing over body image issues? Listen to the episode to find out! Access the show from my show page (click on the tree) or in iTunes.

And stay tuned – because in January we have an awesome 10 day group launching to help you see yourself more clearly in 2020.

On Guard (Unraveling Grief)

Grief is like an out of season mosquito. You think you’re fine, but out of nowhere it gets you.

I like to think of myself as a very open and warm person. If you met me, you’d probably think I’m nice.

But let me warn you…I have a guard up. We’re all walking wounded – that’s part of life – and we all have ways of handling the twists and turns life has thrown at us.

I was 9 years old when I watched my grandpa die in my front yard. My life was squeaky clean before that, all rainbows and unicorns (literally – hello, My Little Pony). The most traumatic thing I had experienced was allergy testing.

But trauma is relative.

In one instant, I watched the people who were supposed to be in control… lose their control. I watched my grandpa, who was just sitting at my dining room table holding my hand while we prayed the night before, struggle to breathe and fall to the ground. I watched my mom and grandma using an epi pen and performing CPR, to no avail.

I watched his eyes roll back.

When my parents came home from the hospital that night, smiling because Pop-Pop was in heaven… that’s when the walls went up. That’s when I learned an important lesson.

Life as you know it can change in an instant. So don’t get too close. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t love too deeply. Hold everyone at arms’ length. Disconnect.

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I lived like that for a long time. I struggle to be present in emergency situations to this day. The little girl who witnessed her precious grandpa dying likes to pretend she’s in a movie, watching everything from behind a screen.

However, I am learning to flip the script. As a mother, I am learning that there is another way to respond to grief. Continue reading “On Guard (Unraveling Grief)”