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Monday, February 22, 2016

When life gives you a snowstorm….make a snowman!



The past couple weeks have been a little too stressful for this bipolar girl!    As you will recall, a couple weeks ago someone hacked into our bank account and we were forced to freeze our primary account and reopen another.    Well, the effects of this issue kept snowballing, automatic deposits and payments had to be changed and it seemed at times that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.    To make matters worse, my husband began to doubt my sincerity.   I can’t blame him, years ago as a direct result of my bipolar disorder I had made a mess of our finances.   I had taken out several payday loans, our house was in foreclosure and we knew our bill collectors on a first name basis.       We have worked hard over the past five years to restore financial stability and this issue with the bank triggered enormous doubt in his mind. 


My husband never deals with the finances and doesn’t understand online billing and the inner workings of debit cards and checking accounts.     There have been times, in my frustration where I've handed everything to him and said: "If you think you can do a better job, here it is!"    Needless to say, he gives it right back to me.    I have worked hard to pay our bills on time, spend wisely and keep a small cushion in the bank, but he always seems disappointed when I give him a financial report.    He repeatedly says “I thought we’d have more in the bank.   Where does all our money go?”     The stress of the banking situation caused my thoughts to be jumbled, my speech pressured and made it hard for me to explain what had happened.   He kept repeating “This doesn’t make sense!   Is there something I should know?  Are we okay?”    His fears were legitimate.   I had made a mess in the past, but the more he pressed for answers, the more I felt strangled by my anxiety and it just made me look “guilty” of a wrong doing.       Because his reaction to financial issues is always accusing, I have a tendency to try to handle the problem on my own which often appears to be deceitful.   So I’m in a pickle because he is angry no matter how I approach a financial problem.      Needless to say, I found myself back on the Bipolar Express heading straight to Crazyville!     To make matters worse, my husband was dealing with some issues of his own on a professional level.  Over the last 15 years, I have personally witnessed him pray, struggle and fight to repair the wreckage of his past and rise above what he was to become what God always intended him to be.   Just as things were at their brightest, the rug got tugged out from under us and the life we fought so hard to build was threatened through no fault of our own.           


I would rather experience turmoil or loss myself than watch someone I love endure any pain.    This brilliant, self-confident man, doubted himself and his abilities and it broke my heart.    My first reaction was anger!   Like a child, I cried out to God and asked “Why?   Why are you allowing bad things to happen to us?  We are doing everything right!”    I’m ashamed to admit that  I held onto my anger for a few hours and then the anger turned to confusion and then despair.    Why was this happening?  What lesson was God attempting to teach us?         Believe it or not, its’ good for me to be in the confused and despaired stage….God does his best work in me when I’ve lost all hope.     You see it isn’t until I don’t know where else to turn that I’m ready to give it to God.       When I’m confused, I ask God for direction.  When I feel despair, I lean on our Lord.   Pray, Trust, and Let Go…..Why is this lesson so hard for me to learn?   


I finally surrendered and last Wednesday, before I went to bed,  I gave the problem to God and I asked for some extra help from St. Jude, just for good measure.   The next morning, I awoke to this thought  “This is not a lesson for the one you love but for his adversary.   He is strong and just and able to stand true for what is right.   He is playing a part in their lesson.”     Well, either I’m now hearing voices and need additional medication or this was a message from God.    Because this “message” didn’t disturb me but put my mind at ease, I’ll go with God.   I realized at that moment that when bad things happen in our lives, it may not be about us!   Maybe God is using our situation, struggle or pain to instruct someone else.   Maybe we aren’t always the student, but the teacher’s aide!    


As I’ve said in the past, Bipolar people do not cope well with stress and the past couple weeks were trying.   My sleep patterns were out of wack, I was only sleeping about two to three hours a night.   I was experiencing panic attacks.   I was sad and weepy and then out of the blue a new symptom emerged,  I felt as if there was a tight band wrapped around my head.    It’s an odd and annoying feeling that only added more fuel to my emotional fire!      I found myself searching WebMd for symptoms of a brain tumor because I was positive I was dying!   The rapid heartbeat and feelings of impending doom came next and as the full blown depression hit, I found it hard to get up and move.     I spent seven days in this depressing, stress filled funk and then this past Thursday, I slept for the first time in over a week.   I woke up Friday morning feeling rested and renewed.   I’m not going to get too excited about this change in demeanor because I’m probably just hiking up “Manic Mountain”!   I’ve learned to recognize the signs preceding an episode but just as I’m learning to embrace the “Depression,” I’m learning to embrace the “Mania.”      Sometimes mania just feels good!


On Tuesday Northeast, Ohio got dumped with rain, ice and then snow.   It was a mess!  I shoveled out half the driveway so my husband could get to work but left the other half snow covered.     Feeling energized on Friday,   I went outside to finish what I should have done days ago and shoveled the rest of the drive.    I don’t mind shoveling snow, it's great exercise and this was just the push I needed to shed the funk and embrace the “mania”.    The snow was thick and weighted, but I just kept thinking of the extra calories I was burning.  You see, another thing I do under extreme stress is eat compulsively, so you can imagine the damage I did in just one week!   As I continued to shovel, I got this crazy idea, “Why don’t you build a snowman!”       I laughed to myself, where was this coming from,  I will be fifty years old on March 14th, I haven’t made a snowman in over three decades,     I’m too old to play in the snow!   So I continued with the “grown up” task at hand, removing snow from the driveway.    As I finished up the last strip of snow, the voice in my head screamed:  “Build a damn snowman”!     Okay!   Is this a new mental illness symptom I’m experiencing?   Have I finally cracked?        The sun was shining and the air was warm, about 40 degrees (a heat wave for Ohio) maybe I should succumb to the voices in my head and build a snowman! 


So I leaned my shovel up against the house and traipsed into the front yard and began to roll a big snowball to form the base of my man of snow.    I laughed a little to myself, here I am, a grown woman, alone, in the front yard, playing in the snow!    We have a very nosy old lady who lives next door.   She loves to gossip and makes it her business to know everyone’s business.    I glanced over at her house just in time to catch her spying through her side window.    When she realized I saw her, she quickly snapped the blind shut.     I chuckled…boy will she have something to talk about today!    I made the base of the snowman pretty quickly, the snow was a lot heavier than I remember as a child.    I guess it’s easier to roll a snowball when you have a friend by your side to help you push.    Ha!  Another lesson meant for me to learn.   I had a heck of a time making the second tier, but after some trial and error, I got the second snowball on top of the base.   By now I had my gloves off and I was carefully sculpting the snowman’s head from the cold snow.    I could hear my mother's voice saying "Put your gloves back on!  You're going to catch pneumonia!"  I waved at our mailman AKA “Grumpy Mailman McPhearson” as he passed by our house.   The poor guy probably thought I had lost my mind.   I grabbed some mulch from our snow covered flower bed and made the eyes, nose, and mouth.    I found a couple of branches in the yard for the arms and then grabbed an old blue shirt from our rag bag and fashioned a scarf.   The final touch was a bright red stocking cap.    I caught myself thinking, "You can't use that hat, you'll get in trouble!"   Then I smiled and thought "I bought the darn hat!"   By this time, I had caught the attention of just about every neighbor within eyeshot of our house.   If they didn’t know I was crazy before, they know it now!       I took a couple steps back to look at my handy work and laughed out loud, my voice echoed in our quiet neighborhood …this was the most pitiful looking snowman I have ever seen in my life!   


I snapped a picture of my deformed snowman and texted it to my husband with the caption "I'm channeling my inner child".      He sent me the standard “LOL” but I’m sure he was wondering what bipolar personality he would meet when he got home!  I texted him again and said, "If your lucky, tonight I'll channel my inner teenager!"    At this point, I don’t know whether I’m headed for a full-blown manic episode or if I’m only coming out of my depressive state but I do know that at this moment I feel good and I’m going to roll with it and embrace the “mania.”       I have given my problem and worries to God, I refuse to wallow in despair another minute.   Life gave me a snowstorm….so I built a snowman!       

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