Basic Care

Keep CleanYesterday a crack opened in the bipolar depression that’s been at me for weeks.  Enough to let me remember to return to basics.  Because I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and said to that shocked face, “We’re not going to the hospital this year.  We’re not.”

First a call to the group I worked for this past summer—Integrated Health Services.  Their whole mission is to keep mental health clients out of the hospitals and emergency rooms.  I know I need more support now—I’ve been hearing from my providers all year that I don’t have enough in the best of times.  I’m not sure what IHS can do, but I made an appointment for Monday with Rosario, my care coordinator, and with Allison, my peer, to sit and figure that out.  They are both kind, heart-centered women.  I feel safe going to them.  The fact that I was just able to make the appointment helped.  Doing something, anything, sometimes helps.

Daily PlanToday I will start using my Daily Plan sheet, the one I created after my partial hospitalization last spring.  It will help me focus on small goals and remember to do every day tasks that get waterlogged by the swampy emotions.

I looked at how much money I’ve spent this month and cut back to the essentials.  Today I’ll figure a budget to get me through to May (February is just the beginning.  March and April can sometimes be even worse).  I’ll try to make it something I can live with, not something that will punish me for being sick.

HenryI cleaned out my refrigerator of all the liquefying vegetables and bought a few simple groceries.  I swam at the Y.  I sat with my fading bedspread for a while and sewed a blanket stitch around the frayed edges with gentle music playing and the cats behind my head on the chair.  Henry’s belly makes a gurgling, crackling sound when he’s digesting, and I pressed my ear against his fur to listen while he slept.

My apartment is a sickroom now.  No sudden moves.  No grand expectations.  Everything deliberate and gentle.  I must tend to my sleep, get to the Y every day, maintain my journal, plan quiet visits with friends, try to eat fresh food.  I will try to keep the structure sound while the storm carries on inside.  I will treat myself as someone worthy of care and respect, as someone that I love.

Focus on Gratitude: Day 11

Whole Foods

It’s Monday.  A new week.  A new start.  I’m determined to do my best to get out of sick mode—at least for part of the day.

First things first—stock the larder with greens and good-for-me stuff.  So that meant a trek to Mecca, or more commonly, Whole Foods.  I am so thankful to have a source for so many organic and vegan choices only an hour away from home.  After the mini-snowstorm we had on Sunday, it felt glorious to get out on the road with the sun bouncing off the white.  And then to walk into Nirvana.  Bliss!

Produce, Whole Foods

Good Things Happen

abandoned hotel

On Monday, I head back to Council Bluffs for my week of Advanced Peer Training.  Since I’m finally well enough to get through the day without a nap, that works out just fine.

To keep from checking into another Walking Dead Hotel, I turned to William Shatner and Priceline to find a nice place that wouldn’t cost me a lung.  I’ve got a Comfort Inns and Suites room waiting for me—a $112/day room for the low, low price of $49/day!  I feel like a total Shat-boss, ready to kick old ladies and children out of my way at the complimentary breakfast line.Priceline, William Shatner

My friend, Bea, will act as cat concierge again, making house calls on the boys while I’m away.  I’ll leave them with plenty of food and water, but a week without human fawning would be intolerable.  Bea will offer the proper level of deference and admiration.Henry, cat in a box

I plan to stop at Whole Foods on my way West to load my cooler with kale and collard greens.  Being sick has made me sloppy, doing what’s easy instead of what’s best.  Getting out of town and doing something besides watching old movies and sleeping will help me point my energies in a healthier direction.  I can expend a little more effort in eating my greens, in using the stationary bike at the hotel’s Fitness Center (another win for the Shat!), and in taking walks after class around the funky downtown area.  I’ll be a good girl and keep my food journal, not just to keep from paying the fine at TOPS next week (50 cents!), but because I need the information.  My ponies haven’t galloped too far down range, but there are several I haven’t ridden in a while.  Time to hop on all those horses and ride.

peer supportAnd when I get home, I’ll have something special waiting for me.  Yesterday, I talked with Dan, the social worker who pointed me toward Peer Training when I was in partial hospitalization last spring.  The hospital program I went through offers an after-care support group, but it’s designed to be short-term.  Folks are only allowed to attend for three months.  Part of recovery is finding other means of emotional support through family, friends and other groups.  Many people have asked for an after-after-care group, one that would let them continue with the friends they’ve made in group.  Dan said the hospital finally approved a peer-led after-care group, and he wants me to be part of the peer team.  The week after I get home from training, I’ll meet with Dan to start orientation and training.

The position is unpaid, which bummed me at first glance.  But I quickly realized it’s the perfect way for me to ease into this work and a possible work-life.  I’ll be with people I know, working in a program I believe in at Mercy Franklin (the only place I ever saw myself working).  It’s a baby step, and that’s the only way to proceed here.

It’s so easy to focus on the crappy stuff—being sick, being crazy.  Good Things happen, too.  Especially when I point my energy and thoughts in that direction.  I am infinitely grateful for that reminder today.

Test Your Diet with Pee and Purple Cabbage

Just had to share the latest from my nutrition guru, Dr. Michael Greger.  Watch all the way to the end for a legitimate reason for kids to play with their pee.

A Bad-Ass Opportunity

the-world_s-top-10-best-images-of-animals-with-a-mouthful-51Another week of violent rapid cycling, but as Napoleon Hill said, ” In every crisis lies the seed of opportunity.”  A couple of those seeds sprouted this week.

First, was a presentation at my UU Fellowship by a local teacher on diet and support of locally grown produce.  Part of her talk included this amazing TED Talk by Dr. Terry Wahls.  As a doctor and medical researcher, she found that healthy cellular mitochondria determines brain function to a large extent.  If you don’t have time to watch this 18 minute video, come back to it later.  You won’t be sorry.

I’ve read about supporting my brain with diet from a number of sources (Dr. Daniel Amen for one) but I’ve been half-assed in incorporating what I’ve learned.  The half that eats well and buys organic is sabotaged by the compulsive-eating half uncaged by my illness.  But Dr. Wahls offered some definitive data.  If I want a healthy brain, I need to eat for a healthy brain.  Being a Mostly-Vegan wasn’t going to cut it.

The second seed of opportunity came in an email from our TOPS group.  The club is in a slump, gaining more than loosing for several weeks in a row.  Leanna, our group cheerleader, said we needed to have more fun, get excited, find our motivation and get back to supporting each other on our weight loss journeys.

Eowyn, Lord of the RingsThere are always moments in the upheavals and dives of my life when I recover my Bipolar Bad-Ass—a ferocity and strength that drives me to do what needs to be done.  This warrior stance isn’t one I can maintain.  It’s the positive end of a mixed episode where superhuman courage and creativity mix with a low level of anger.  The Bad-Ass demands change.  She draws her sword and dares anyone to stop her.

I’ve started projects and made changes in this state that fall by the wayside once my moods shifts again.  But the changes I have made in my life—exercising every day, turning off the TV, meditation—also came from The Bad-Ass.  She’s still my best chance of doing things differently.  So when she came back this week, after these two seeds of opportunity presented themselves, I told her to suit up.  That’s it, I told her.  We’re done fucking around.

I went to Whole Foods and bought greens—kale, collard greens, beets with their foliage, spinach, arugula.  I got kelp and balsamic vinegar.  I loaded up on bell peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, and onions.  Every night I make myself a fabulous salad with all this stuff, add a few sunflower seeds or walnuts, maybe chop up a couple of Mejool dates or toss in some berries.  I dug out my Moosewood Cookbook and found this wonderful entry on assembling a salad.

Use a large enough bowl, so you’ll have plenty of room to toss the salad thoroughly.  Make it your special salad bowl—it will acquire more depth and soul with each use, and this will enhance something nameless (I don’t know what) about this experience.

I pulled down one of the few survivors of my many manic purges—an artisan pottery bowl I bought years ago at an art fair.  It’s beautiful, and now it’s my salad bowl.  Today I filled it with slaw that I made up without a recipe—purple cabbage, raw shredded beets, collard greens, onion, carrots, minced garlic with a dressing of vegan mayo, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  It’s sitting in my fridge steeping, letting all those flavors percolate.  But, already it’s delicious.  Tomorrow I’ll share it at Fellowship.

It’s up to me to take care of my brain. There’s a twisted irony behind the idea that a particular diet could help me do that.  And another twist in that a Healthy Brain diet might be the best way to drop weight.  But, that’s okay.  Most Bad-Asses spout irony and sass without even blinking.

Yipee-Kai-Aye.  I’ll be back.

But, those catch phrases don’t quite work.  I can imagine my Bad-Ass, sword in one hand, a fist full of kale in the other.  Her lip curls as she whispers, I dare ya.  Eat your medicine.

Probiotics, Stinky Poop and Mental Health

Dr. Greger does it again!

The Best Way to Boost Serotonin

Collage art, Greeting cardsMore cool information from  Dr. Michael Greger about nutrition and mental health.

Studies show that the secret to naturally boosting serotonin levels in the brain may include eating foods such as pumpkin seeds with a high tryptophan to total protein ratio.  This may help explain why studies show  that those eating plant-based diets have superior mood states.

(Oh please, oh please, oh please!)

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-way-to-boost-serotonin/#.UB__xjFMDu0.email

Vegetarian Gold

Abraham Lincoln, vegetarianI’ve just about completed my first week as a vegetarian, and the Judges are ready with their scores.

Level of Difficulty:  Nonexistent.  I’m amazed at how easy this is.  No meat, fish, dairy or eggs except for cream in my coffee and whatever gets into my bread.  I’ve been trying to eat “clean” for some time, so going for whole and raw foods is already part of my food-consciousness.  And if I don’t mess with sauces and other packaged items, I don’t have to wonder what’s in them.  Suh-weet!

Albert Einstein, vegetarianBalanced Nutrition:  A Perfect Ten.  Here’s another shocker.  Aldi, the discount grocery store in town, carries everything I’ll ever need to maintain a diet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.  Nuts, beans, green leafy vegetables, a rainbow of fruit, brown rice—they’re all there.  So, not only do I get a winning score on nutrition, but also on cost.

Alice Walker, vegetarianWeirdness Factor:  I lose some points here trying to explain my new eating habits to Iowans.  I live in the middle of farm country where beef and pork production are major industries.  The slaughterhouse is the largest employer in town.  I’m thinking if I ran down Main Street naked, I might reach the level of incredulity and shock I’ve encountered.  But, I’ve been to this circus before.  I’ve learned how to take it slow and easy with scary, radical personal information.  If I can help my loved ones understand bipolar disorder a little bit better, I can do it again with a plant-based diet.

Annie Lennox, vegetarianPhysical Adaptation:  The score is still pending in this category.  I find I’m not nearly as hungry as I used to be, and that when I am hungry I can actually feel it in my stomach.  This is a new sensation for me, so I’m a little fascinated by it.  I’ve discovered that eating too many nuts at night will necessitate a mad dash in the wee hours of the morning (with or without cats-as-hurdles).  But it might only be pistachios.  More trials are required.

Tesla, vegetarianMental Health Score:  No consistent changes at this early stage.  I’m still rapid cycling.  It’s tempting to hope for a miracle, but I know better than that.  A little boost in energy or a smidge smoother moods would be glorious.  We shall see.

Weight Loss Marks:  Along with the informative Nutrisystem Lean13 review I read, the books I read at the library said it was more important to get comfortable with the new diet than worry about caloric intake, so I didn’t pay much attention to how much I ate this week.  And I still lost a pound at my TOPS weigh-in.  Can I say it again?  Suh-weet!

Christian Bale, vegetarianAll in all, I feel like I brought home the gold this week.  I plan to check prices of more exotic items at other grocery stores (like pumpkins seeds and black beans) to see if I can afford a few non-Aldi purchases.  And I’ll be on the look-out for restaurants that will be both affordable and vegetarian-friendly—for those times when my illness makes me bolt.  As with any non-typical diet, planning ahead saves on stumbles and belly-flops.

And on a completely different note:

All week, I’ve been hearing a song in my head.  It’s from a Porky Pig cartoon called “An Itch in Time” and featured a flea set out to munch on Porky’s dog. Like the flea, I’m feeling pretty happy about the food around my corner.

Food Around the Corner

Hold Your Horses

This woman did not fly to extremes; she lived there.

—Quentin Crisp

• • •

Enthusiasms are suspect in someone with bipolar disorder.  There’s a thin, fuzzy line between passion and obsession, drive and driven.  So it is with cautious optimism that I pursue my intention of becoming vegetarian.

As I sat in my coffee shop yesterday, journaling, I could feel the buzz of mania—my thoughts leaping and shoving each other out of the way, the Crusade taking me over with its conviction, dedication and magical thinking.  But, after the despair of this past weekend, the energy and purpose felt like a reward for slogging through the Pit.  A Reprieve.  And yet, I knew it would be a mistake to identify with the high I was feeling.  I was still there, behind the excitement and the speed, so the task was to watch and wait.vegetarianism

Starting new projects while manic can definitely get them off the ground with a bang.  The energy acts like a catapult—but the one pulling the trigger isn’t too concerned about aim.  I once ripped out the carpet in the whole basement of my house in an hour.  Did it need to be done?  Maybe.  My cat had been peeing on it for years.  Did it need to be done at 11:00 at night?  Probably not.  The trick with mania is not to do anything that can’t be undone later.

vegetarianism, Alicia SilverstoneHolding that maxim, I spent a couple of hours in the library reading about vegetarianism and retrieving information buried in my defunct memory.  I remembered that I flirted with this years ago, influenced by my friend, Dee, who is a devout vegetarian.  The basics all came back to me and seemed so easy.  Could it be that easy?  To a manic, sure.  We are invincible—gods in our own minds.  We scoff at the feeble attempts of mere mortals!

Yesterday, I was able to set my super powers aside and assume a gentler approach.  Instead of running to Trader Joe’s and dumping money I don’t have into miso and tempeh, I bought a bag of pinto beans and some produce.  I still have my Moosewood Cookbook—one of the few things that has survived my many manic purgings—and found my favorite (and simple) recipe for refried beans.  Last night I made a meal so beautiful, I had to take a picture—corn tortillas with my homemade refried beans, brown rice, green onion, yellow bell pepper, topped with salsa and mango.

The fact that I actually cooked a meal is not lost on me, either.  Cooking can be a major source of anxiety, but the process of soaking and cooking the beans felt very relaxing.  There was a sense memory in running my hands through them, hearing their clatter against the strainer.  Another question arose—could this process help me find the creative cook that vanished when I got sick?  This, too, I’ll hold gently as the adventure unfolds.

Because, I am on an Adventure!

The Next Phase

Coming out of another round of rapid cycling, I received an email from my dear friend, Marshall.  As I may have mentioned before, sometimes a mental sucker punch will shock my brain out of it’s funk.  The video Marshall sent me provided that this time.  After watching it, I knew the next phase of my Food Journey had begun.

This takes about an hour to watch all the way through, but you won’t be disappointed.  Amazingly informative and hilarious at the same time.  Let me know what you think.

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