Don’t Fight the Calm!

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
Albert Camus

At sixty-three I lead a happy, but somewhat limited life. My bipolar is in remission according to my psychiatrist. My symptoms are not particularly active, but I do not stress myself much. I have an underlying anxiety problem and active insomnia. I stay at home a lot. I very rarely drive. My companion dog, Riley helps with my anxiety and is my constant companion. I paint. I read on my phone. I participate in social media, do household chores ~ dish washing and laundry. I talk on the phone to my sister, my husband, my two best friends, my daughter and my Dad. I watch upbeat television shows and some news.

I do bible study on my phone. I make dinner. When my husband, Mike gets home things get lively for Riley and I. We watch football and hockey along with my upbeat shows and news! Mike and I talk a lot! We eat on TV trays. Take the dog for a walk, weather permitting. Riley entertains us more. She’s livelier with the bigger audience! We discuss the finances, which I pay. Lots of excitement at the Sweiger household!

I do not push myself. I don’t work outside the home. I have one social media client on retainer and my art. I have a steady routine. I wish I could do more, but if I try to anxiety overwhelms me and I am overcome. These are the constraints of my illness. I know that without it I could accomplish a great deal more. I would not be housebound. I would drive Mike to work downtown and take the car. I would work more. We would have more resources. More opportunities. But I cannot let myself think that way. I cannot live with the “If Only” Syndrome. I have to live life where I am. I have to tackle the challenges life handles me. I had high blood pressure, very HIGH. I went to a Cardiologist and changed all my medicines. I joined Weight Watchers and lost 25 pounds. It’s normal now. I don’t drink caffeine. I don’t eat salt.

It is the same with bipolar disorder. I don’t push my limits. I live a low stress life. Not too low. I’m not in a coma. Yes, I rest and I watch easy viewing television. It calms me. The stories are predictable. I don’t need a high drama factor every minute of my existence. I need to quiet myself. So I do. I read. I paint. I talk to friends. I relax with my dog. Do housework. Maintain. My nature would demand a more exciting life. My nature would push the edges and encourage mania. I do not let my nature rule. My drive no longer calls the shots. My discipline, in eating and in play calls the shots. I’m in remission and I want to stay that way. I like calm. I have decided to grow accustomed to it. Stay tuned and I’ll talk about the drug that made this all possible!

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Hello!

Hello and happy December to All! I haven’t written in this blog for a while for a bit dear friends. Not that bipolar has not been a struggle for me, for it is  daily challenge…but because I have found other parts of my life a bit more challenging perhaps. Physical challenges one by one have hit me in small and big waves. Nothing life threatening I thanks the Savior, but trying nonetheless.

And as I come up for air from some of them ~ I am thankful to the Lord who sustains me, friends and family who are so faithful in prayer and comfort. The Lord and the Holy Spirit who comforts, brings health and strength and the Lord God who made me who is also my healer!!

What would any of us do without the Lord Jesus who brings us Life Anew each day and the healing blood of His sacrifice on the cross? Without the Father who created us or the Holy Spirit who makes all things new?

As we celebrate his birth in the coming days while some argue about calendar days ~ I like to take the time to reflect and be thankful  for the  grand plan than brought him to us. That transforms and changed this dark world and brought hope, as it does still … and the comfort there is in the remembering!

HAVE A BLESSED SEASON!!!

LOVE YOU ALL!!!

 

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The Amazing Riley: Companion Dog

Riley Love

Riley Love

I have a confession to make if you haven’t already noticed it. I am not the best mental health blogger. I like to publish my paper daily “Living Above the Madness” at livingabovethemadness.org and I feel it does a lot to inform and help. But, personally, when I’m having a rough time, I don’t like to write about it every day. I really don’t like to write about it at all. I force myself to write about it. I like to write about things that uplift the soul.

When was I was down and anxious from August until November I didn’t write in this blog much. Some people thought I was in mourning for my mother. I mentioned in one post that it began that way, but when you’re bipolar what can be a trigger, albeit a serious one, like a death, can quickly spin into a serious depression. And that’s what I had. With anxiety. And I couldn’t climb out of it. I had good moments, but not good days. The best days were spent at my friend Heather’s studio painting. But, it wasn’t enough to pull me out.

What was I wondered? My medications, even adjusted weren’t. I began to research the subject. Therapy was helping, but not enough. I kept bumping into the same thing in my research: Service dogs and companion dogs for depression and anxiety. So many psychiatrists and psychologists and the American Disabilities Association were recognizing their power to help and pull people out of depression and anxiety and help keep them out!

I talked to my psychiatrist. At first I thought a service dog. Just researching the idea made me feel better. My doctor thought a companion dog would do as well. I plan to train Riley to be a recognized companion dog who can go with me more places. She is a smart dog with a good temperament. It will not be difficult.

I searched and searched for the dog for me through Petfinder.com. They all had their unique stories. I found Riley through PAWS of Western Wisconsin. Her story was heartbreaking, triumphant too ~ and in many ways made her the perfect companion dog for me. We have both suffered. We both love people and we both have big hearts. Riley was rescued by PAWS from a kill shelter in Tennessee. Because she had been marked to die, she didn’t receive her distemper/parvo vaccine. After PAWS rescued her she contracted parvo which is often fatal. The vet clinic in Baldwin, Wisconsin where her foster mom Carrie worked along with Carrie nursed her back to health. The renamed her Riley got her 6 months old, trained her and taught her to love humans not fear them.

Then I came into her life. This affectionate, loving, miracle dog is my companion dog in training. She walks great on a leash, is housebroken, can sit, stay and is a lovey! I am blessed to have her and to say I am no longer depressed is an understatement. I am laughing a deep, from the soul laugh. My anxiety is gone. I am mellow. I am thankful to God for His way of working things out. Having a dog to care for when I love to care for people and pets has helped me. The puppy love has helped me, and the devotion provided by this sweet pup all have helped.

It’s a mystery, but I’ll not question success. There’s papers written on this phenomenon. Some say, you don’t need a dog. A companion animal can be a cat or any type of animal you are drawn to. For me it’s strictly a must love dogs type of bond! 🙂 Thanks God! Thanks for a dear husband helping me train her and thanks for a miracle named Riley!

The Science of Mental Health

A dear friend of mine on Social Media, Dean Clevett, kindly put this on my Facebook timeline this morning and I wanted to share it with all of you:

The livestream of RiAus’s Behind the Headlines special report on mental health is starting NOW! The event will bring together mental health experts, psychiatrists and neuroscientists to explain the science of mental health and how it’s portrayed in the media.

Join the live stream, it will be repeating all night for all time zones: http://bit.ly/od2nYT

As more develops from this Special Report, I will post the information here. Thank you dear friends for all you do to support the efforts of keeping us all aware of the issues facing those of us with Mental Health issues and the lives we impact!

Clark To The Rescue: Mental Health Service Dog

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I have several blogs and this one in particular called Living Above The Madness, as well as online paper of the same name in which I discuss the idea of LIVING SUCCESSFULLY with BIPOLAR DISORDER. Yet am I? Well yes in the main sense of the word. I am alive. Anyone surviving serious mental illness is a success. Yet I am functioning way below the level I wish to. I strive to become better than I am as the quote says, because I love life. I love people. I love God and there is much I wish to do!

So what is my life like right now. I am drowsy all day because of the meds I take. Some days I accomplish very little. Sitting in my chair, two tired even to go online. I get behind on the housework, my online accounts, living in general. My clients in my business dwindle to one and I cannot get a job outside the home due to severe anxiety.

Some days I break away and drive to paint with my best friend Heather. Those are great days. But they are too few and far between to be consider my regular functioning.

So what am I going to do about this? I have been researching and researching the best options for me. Someone who wants an active rich life and a career who has severed depression, hypo mania at times and bad anxiety.

I’m getting a Service Dog trained to help the Psychologically Disabled from Dog Wish, Inc. with all of your help I will. I have to raise money. While people with physical disabilities are still many times getting their dogs paid for that is not the case with those who are mentally disabled. We need to raise part of the money ourselves. I’m not going to throw a pity party about it. I’ve looked at every organization out there, found the best one and also the least expensive and I’m going to fund-raise.

Because this dog will change my life. I’ve read the statistics, the methods, the testimonies. It works. It’s the answer. These dogs will change the lives of many and once I have mine. Clark, named for Clark Kent/Superman…I will help others get theirs!

Dog Wish, Inc.’s Blog

The Pest of Bipolar Disorder: Disabling Anxiety

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“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” ― William Arthur Ward

Don’t we all need friends like that some days! Friends like my dear Heather Siebens. She was over the other evening and we were discussing one of my least favorite topics ANXIETY. I have bipolar it’s true. And it is finally coming under control again after the fall I took this winter, suffered a brain bleed and a resulting time of headaches and dizziness that eventually stressed me enough to throw me into hypomania, depression, hypomania and now just as things are settling what I like to call the PEST of bipolar disorder: Anxiety. It’s like the mosquito of the disease. Sometimes just a few to cause an annoyance — sometimes a swarm to disable you and knock you down. Since I have been found occasionally on the floor unable to get up and drive to an appointment, I may have hit a swarm!

What bugs me beyond the uncomfortable nature of the anxiety itself and the extra meds which tire me is that it affects my ability to accomplish meaningful work. That is what I crave the most in life. Meaningingful work. I was loving my job so much. Now I’m having to put myself on hold again. Slow down a bit. Rest and recuperate. Get stronger. Again.

I get so incredibly frustrated. It’s hard on the finances two of course. Always is. That is the ticklesh part. But nothing is more important than your health people will say. And of course they are right. But getting well is hard when you worry about medical bills and other things.

So you must stop in really and focus on getting well. One must get a ride to the doctor and get ones pills tweeked again. Hold out hope for the anxiety to dwindle. I know I probably just over did in my excitement for the new project. It was so much fun!

It is sad to say and harder to remember, especially with my disposition, but someone with bipolar disorder must avoid having too much fun and excitement and I did celebrate my birthday congruently for nearly three weeks!

Moderation is not my strong suit. I really must learn some to avoid these other negative and inconvenient emotions. They are also unpleasant and take their toll on my body and my mind!

The Angst of Writing

This post is republished from the Amused Now Blog:

posted on June 13, 2013 in eBooks

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The writing process is the most personal thing I go through in my life. I bare my soul much more than I want to. Then I ask myself, who wants to read something if it is not from the heart?

The most personal piece of writing I ever tackled was a screenplay I wrote in college about my first experience with bipolar disorder. The wound was so raw, I had to fictionalize it. I told the true story, but not in the first person. It was too painful to admit that it had happened to me, because there was a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness at the time.

Because I didn’t admit the screenplay was a true story about my life, it seemed so bizarre to others. People didn’t believe it. They found the story implausible. “That could never happen!” was the criticism I received from my classmates.

I rewrote the story on a blog, and it has been accepted by one publisher. All I have left is some final editing and to make an initial investment in marketing, and I will have completed the book. Yet, I hesitate. What holds me back? I am open online about my disorder. I publish a daily paper on mental health and mental illness. What is keeping me from moving forward? ~ The angst of writing. I am not ready to relive those early experiences.

That is the dilemma of being a writer. I know that I cannot back away from the pain in my story, and you cannot let yourself or your characters off the hook either. Face the emotional pain and triumph. You must face the pain and write it down. Write down your feelings. Be honest and true to your story. Anything else cheats your readers of the depth of your story and your experience as you lived it.

I’ll never forget the advice my screenwriting teacher gave me many years ago, “Do not back away from the drama.” Why? If you do, your story loses all its power. You won’t connect as genuinely with your readers, because you cheated them of the depth of anguish, pain, or fear that the protagonist is going through. In a good story, that character suffers through, finds courage and plunges ahead.

Just as I must do to finish story about a young woman who loses everything: her husband, her career, her mind, her only child and must work hard on her health to come back to life. The story has a triumphant ending and will be available in book form as “A Mother’s Ring.” I appreciate readers sending positive thoughts my way as I attempt to finish the tale.

Don’t be afraid to suffer for your craft. The rewards are great. You do it for the audience and to share your story which may change the day, or even the life of someone who reads it.

Libby Baker Sweiger
@libbytalks
LBS Consult