"Have you tried...you know...not having the flu?"

Since I have opened up about my depression, mania, bipolar disorder, feeling worthless from time to time, having a chemical imbalance in my brain… people around me have very slowly started to peek out from behind their own curtains and make eye contact with me.  Some have waved me over and whispered, “I’m depressed, too.”  Some have told me they’re proud of me. 

Others have pretended like I don’t exist anymore, but I realize it’s probably because they are embarrassed or just don’t know what to say to me.  I’m okay with that.  Perhaps a seed has been planted.

Here is what I have learned in the last 3 years about my mental health:

1.  Food is an important component.  It can help or it can hurt any condition, including our moods. 

My magic formula consists of coffee, greens and cruciferous vegetables, lots of good fats, protein, dark chocolate, and water. 

2.  It can scare people when I talk openly about mental health.  It was taboo to discuss things like depression a few decades ago and that stigma lingers. 

When a disease is carried through generations and everyone pretends it isn’t there, ignoring it feeds the idea that people should hide in shame with their imperfections.  The “suffer in silence” mindset doesn’t work for me.  That brings me to #3.

3.  I can put on a happy face and pretend like I am not closely monitoring my medications, diet and environment to strike a healthy balance for myself, but it won’t last. 

If I don't share with others that I use Western medicine, meditation, counseling, literature, writing, walking, and essential oils as therapy, it feels like I’m lying to myself and dishonoring my true nature.  If I'm okay being me, others might wake up to the idea that it's okay to be them.

It maybe a novel idea that some people have to work harder than others to keep their brains healthy, but it's still there.  Ignoring it doesn't make it go away.  Heaping on shame, making them feel like it's their fault, and relegating them to solitude won't help them or the next generation.  

Education and Empathy will help.

For people who don’t understand depression, this neat little graphic has been circulating for a while.  It's funny, but also true:

Seth Adam Smith's work is inspiring.  He "writes fearlessly", shares his process for writing and getting published, and documents his challenge with "the black dog" of depression (as Winston Churchill put it).

Let Me Introduce You...

In the middle of the afternoon, when the last schoolwork box has been checked, my kids run away to pretend and make messes and goof around.  This fills them up and balances them out.

While they're busy getting their needs met, I either clean things because it is quiet and active and makes feel happy, or I read and write.

I used to just read, but I've found that it's more productive if I write while I'm reading.  That way the little sparks of inspiration don't fly away before I have a chance to capture them.  

I don't just read things by people who think like I do.  I read books and blogs and stories by people whom I don't understand.  This is how I balance myself.  

Here are some of the blogs that stretch my thinking:

There is a woman, Heather Madder, who writes about creating the life you want.  She fascinates me.  She is all fire and I am all water, so I enjoy walking in her shoes for a while.  The things she writes are all punctuated with exclamation points and CAPITAL letters!!!  What she says is TRUE for her and I love that.  She inspires me to get a pair!  Not think so much about how different I might be!  Or to even celebrate the fact that I'm different!

Another blog I read from time to time has an intriguing name:  the Tattooed Mormon.  
I love this woman's spirit and spunk.  Period.  (Note: I am not Mormon, nor tattooed.  I had a nose ring for 2 weeks until I sneezed it out.  It was cool while it lasted.)

"Your Child is Actually Raising You" is a sample of a blog I read with every new post.  It is written by a South African Clinical Psychologist named Eilat Avriam with a "turned on its head" view of parenting.  She is funny and honest and I love to learn about myself as a parent through her filter.

The name The Inappropriate Homeschooler kind of says it all.  Sassy, smart, outspoken.  Her blog is one of those that gave me the courage to begin homeschooling.

When I started seeing things all over the media about homemade water purifiers, emergency food storage, and bug-out bags, I started to wonder, "Is there something going on I don't know about?..."  In my research I ran across Damian Brindle's website.  He is a self-proclaimed "survival enthusiast."  He has a family and an incredibly informative website without the fear-mongering.  (Do you know how to open your garage door if the power goes out?... Neither did I!)  Aside from being fun and practical, his articles helped me see that I lacked basic knowledge about how to keep my family safe in the event of an emergency. 

One of the keys to successfully eating a Primal diet long-term is knowing how to treat yourself.  PaleoOMG.com is an excellent resource for amazing, rich and satisfying treats without refined sugar.  On top of the recipes, the author oozes style and enthusiasm for her lifestyle. 

And Anything about Depression or Bipolar Disorder:

I read these things because I always need new ways to help people understand me.  Let's face it, I scare people!   People with mood disorders scare other people.  I don't want my kids to look back in 30 years and say, "Oh my gosh, that's why my mom cried every 5 minutes!" or "Oh my gosh, that's why my mom crocheted 4 blankets, painted the house, baked a wedding cake, and wrote a novel all in 24 hours that one time!"

I want to have words to educate them and anyone who asks.

I also need the validation that this really isn't my fault.  I did not actually cause this mood disorder by eating too many Big Macs in college.

Someone who is reading chapters of my book as I write them commented recently, "The writing you do for your blog is so...life affirming.  This writing is different."  

The phrase "Life affirming" was accompanied by fluttery fingers and a high-pitched voice.  I laughed knowingly.  It totally is.  It is to remind myself why it's good to be alive on the days when my brain is telling me otherwise. It is for balance.