Posts tagged ‘Psychotherapy’

January 16, 2012

Class starts tomorrow!

So, as of tomorrow I will be one busy chicka!  I will be driving an hour one way to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I also have class on Monday nights about 45 minutes away!  I also work full-time!  So needless to say I will not be blogging as much.  Hopefully, over the last several weeks, I have given anyone who wants to work on finding balance and possibly becoming bipolar no more enough information so they can at least get started.

There are some other areas I want to cover.  For instance, when you feel as if you have no choice and learning that you always have a choice.  I also want to address when you feel like you are going backwards or taking a step back, how that is actually a positive sign that you are moving in the right direction.

Today, I just want to take a moment to cover reducing anxiety by telling you about my journey… college.

Tomorrow I will start school at a different college than I have been going to.  For the last two years or so I have been going to a local community college, but tomorrow I will be going to a University.  I have been having some anxiety about it, mainly because the campus is so large and I was afraid I would not be able to find my way around!  So I made a choice, in order to reduce the stress and anxiety I drove up to the school yesterday and drew a map.  First – where to park, second – where the book store and restaurants are, and lastly – where my classes are.  I walked to each building while the campus was closed.  When I left I felt an enormous sense of relief!  My anxiety level dropped considerably!

Taking steps to reduce anxiety is imperative to bipolar no more!

I hope everyone is fabulous!

PS:  There is a blog I read, James Claims (, his last blog shows the importance of recognizing “choice”.  I have been reading his blog for a while and I, personally, can see the difference in the way he is writing.  Describing the choices he is making is a true sign of healing!  And choices are like chips!  Once you start it is hard to stop!

Remember “I CHOOSE”!

January 14, 2012

Choice and consequence journal

When you write in your journal, use the words “I chose” or “I am making a choice” or “I am going to choose” and follow it with the consequences. Then follow up and see what the consequences actually were.

The key to this exercise is not just writing about the big choices but small one as well.

For one week keep track of at least ten choices a day that you make. Start with the simple stuff like I choose to brushed my teeth – the consequence of that choice is fresh breath and no cavities! Include big choices like I chose to go 65 mph in a 45 mph zone – the consequence of that choice was that I made it to work on time which relieved stress – (or) – the consequence of that choice was a speeding ticket which will cost money and create stress. Follow that up with I choice to handle this by paying the ticket right away and I choose to let it go and move on.

Take a break after your first full week. But don’t stop making the connections and conscious choices to decrease stress. Making those choices will create control over your own life!

After a break of about a week, pick your journal back up but stick to the choices that create stress using the choices – consequences journal!

I realize for someone who is not bipolar this (choices = consequences) seems like common sense, a person with bipolar disorder does not necessarily lack common sense but some people (all that I have ever met) with bipolar disorder do lack the thinking process of choice = consequences.

PS This (in my opinion) is a good exercise for anyone who does not feel control over their own life!

January 11, 2012

Don’t pull the trigger!

So what are your triggers? This was a very hard question for me to answer. I had no idea! All I knew was my life was like a boat floating in an ocean going up and down with every wave, sinking when a storm was overhead, reaching toward the surface of the water when any sign of hope appeared, but never in control what direction to go to get to true safety – the shore!

So is every wave a trigger? Are just the storms triggers? Or is the glimpse of hope a trigger? Or are all three or none of them triggers?

The best answer I could come up with, and what I found to be true, is the trigger is lack of control. Not lack of control of my environment, because like the ocean it cannot be controlled, but lack of control of my life, the boat. For whatever reason, nature or nurture or perhaps both, I never acquired the knowledge or skill to captain my own ship – my own life!

This all goes back to choices and consequences and not seeing the connection. If I steer the boat to the left, and the storm is to my right, I will miss the storm. But if I do not see the connection between the direction of my life and the storms in my life I will never steer clear of them, sadly – most people with bipolar disorder place themselves in the middle of them!

If I have not stressed the fact that the choice and consequence disconnect has been in my observation, not only in myself, but many people with bipolar disorder the trigger, then I have failed! I truly believe and, as for myself know for certain, that learning the connection between the choices we make and the consequences of those choices is the key to bipolar no more!

Life happens, life is not the trigger, it is the choices we make along the way.

I think now is the time to take a look at doing a choices and consequences journal! Next blog, connecting the dots – the line between choices and consequences.

January 6, 2012

Work damn-it!

When I was in the throws of ups and downs, holding down a job was not the easiest task. When I was depressed I called in often, was on the verge of tears when I was as work, and my work suffered tremendously. When I was manic, I would be finished with all of my work and would be helping others finish their work. I am sure it kind of freaked people out. Fortunately, back then, I was more often manic than depressed. Throw in changing meds and I was a disaster!

If this sounds a lot like you, well, you are not alone. I have spoken to many people that go through the same experience all the time. They often change jobs expecting something different, only to find it is the same or even worse! In addition, people who just suffer from depression have a very difficult time holding down a job.

But work is the deal unless you want to live under a bridge (which some people do choose) or unless you get lucky to marry someone who is willing to support you and put up with you (that person, btw, does not exist!).

So what can you do?

Becoming balanced is the answer to that work question.

But what do you do until…

First, find something you really want to do! Even if it means driving a cheaper car or living in a cheaper apartment or whatever! There is an old saying, “Follow your heart and the money will come.” Well, that is crap! But if you follow your heart and do what you enjoy, then eventually, if you work on all areas of your life, balance will come.

Second, set boundaries even at work. Not with just the people you work with but with yourself. I have worked with so many people who were “over sharers”. Keep your personal business out of the office. It is not anyone’s business at work that you take medications or what meds you take or that you have a psych appointment!

Third, just like the human inventory you did for everyone in your life, do one for the people you work with. Identify the healthy people, those are the people you want to be around, work close to, and/or go to lunch with (remember mirroring)! And the toxic people… avoid them like the plague! Not only will they make you miserable, but you will mirror them as well!

All of these steps will be of great value to you on your journey to bipolar no more!

January 3, 2012

An answer to an important question!

Yesterday I received an email with the question, “How long did it take before you knew you could be ok without medicine? And how long did the whole process take?”

Well, from the day I decided I did not want to be dependent on medication to be balanced until I had taken the necessary steps in my life to acquire balance – I would say about a year. During that year I slowly decreased my medication while working my butt off. It was a lot of give and take. When I found that I had made progress, such as handling a trigger without becoming manic or depressed, I would decrease my medication. When I made a big step, such as volunteering with a dog rescue and kept a commitment – showing up every Saturday for a whole month, I would decrease my medication. And so on! It was a process, it still is actually! I may no longer be on meds but I work every day at staying balanced. Remember, everyones journey is different, however, that it is the best part! It is YOUR journey!

Even now I am working on a huge source of stress, being a Mom – yet letting go of my adult child. I love my son so much, he is my only child, but he is a grown-up and it is time for me to let him be one. I have a choice, I can argue with him about the choices he is making, stress over every bad choice he makes, try and control his action (which never works BTW) or I can enjoy my son’s life, embrace his mistakes as his and hope that he learns from them. But if he doesn’t, accept that there is nothing I can do but love him for who he is. I have a choice, I always have a choice, and I choose to let go and love him for the man he has become. I choose to trust myself, the way I raised him, and that whatever choices he makes are his and have nothing to do with me.

So the answer to the question, “How long does the whole process take?” – is FOREVER! But it is an incredible journey!

January 3, 2012

Taking inventory step 3 – unhealthy people

We all have had, and some still have, toxic people in our lives. So now that you have made a list of the unhealthy people in your life, if you wish to truly be healthy, you must decide what to do about those people. As I have written in the past, if a person is incredibly toxic and I find myself not being able to maintain healthy boundaries, I remove that person from my life. It may seem harsh, but my sanity, my balance are what is most important to me.

For those people who are not toxic, but display unhealthy behaviors I set boundaries. I am very clear with the people in my life. I am very straight forward about my mental health and why it is important to set boundaries with people.

An example: I have a friend who really likes to party. Not all the time but she likes to party pretty hard. I have went out with her on a couple of occasions and realized how unhealthy her behavior was. Close to toxic! However, as long as I do not go out on the town with her we can be really good friends. So I have told her that, although I enjoy her friendship, I cannot go out partying with her. It took a couple of times of her asking and me saying no, but she finally gets it and no longer asks.

Again, (and I will say this over and over again) talk to your therapist about how to approach people and how to set boundaries with them.

Your choices will get better and better every time you set a boundary with a person. You will begin to see how strong you really are. You will also begin to feel healthier with every boundary you set and keep.

I hope you are doing well in this journey! And again if you have any questions or any comments please feel free to contact me! You can leave a comment here or you can contact me via email @

Now that your human inventory is complete, and in the next several blogs, I would like to address the issue of having a job and dealing with the people you work with. I will then address triggers, how to identify them and what to do about them! And soon we will work on building a support system, building self-esteem, and making a choices – consequences journal!

Love, Veronica

December 31, 2011

Taking inventory step 2

Now that you have made a list of the people in your life and thought about whether you believed they are healthy or unhealthy people in your life it is time to dig deeper.

Look at the side of your list that says healthy people.  Think about what it is about them that you believe makes them healthy.  Make a list of those behaviors.  This is an important task.  Being able to identify healthy behavior in other people can also help you identify healthy behavior in yourself and behavior you can mirror.  But wait!  Before you carve that list in stone take the time to discuss these behaviors with your therapist.

It is important to get feedback  from an outside person because what you may think is healthy may not be.

For instance, let’s say you wrote Jill is always there when I need her.  Is that healthy, or do you just like that behavior?  Perhaps you need to expand on why you think that is healthy.  Is Jill at your every beckon call?  Is she the go to person for everyone?  Or is she just a great person to talk to because she never judges or give advice – she just listens?

Discussing these behaviors with a therapist can help you identify what is really healthy and what is not.  Your judgement may be skewed, colored by bipolar disorder!

Eventually you will be able to trust your own judgement!  It will come and with that trust you will heal enormously! Trusting yourself is a very important step in bipolar no more!  We will cover how to work on trust soon!  Promise.  But for now… lets work on that list!


December 26, 2011

Make a list

Understanding your medications and how they affect you is an important first step.  Often, I have found talking with other people who are bipolar and on medication for bipolar disorder, people take the medications their doctor prescribe them without questioning why they are taking them.  I admit, I was just as guilty.  We just want to be fixed!

In order to reduce medications, to eventually eliminate or perhaps just to maintain better control, first you must understand why you are taking medication.  I know, to be better!  But that is not all. Are you taking med X to stabilize your mood or for anxiety.  Once you know why you are taking med X find out what the side effects are.  Then if you plan on reducing or eliminating med X find out the proper way to stop taking it.  NEVER COLD TURKEY!  Cold turkeying a med can lead to severe consequences!  Including extreme mania, hallucination, extreme depression, seizures, etc.  So before deciding to take a big step, step into your doctor’s office and talk to him or her first.  But go in prepared!  You will more than likely not be taken seriously if you walk in ill-prepared.

So make a list!   Make a list of the meds you are currently on and every thing you know about them.  Explain why you want to reduce or eliminate the drug and if you are med reducing period state that you are not looking to replace it.

Secondly, talk to your therapist about what you are about to do.  Ask him or her if they are willing to support your decision.  Explain that you have a plan and discuss your plan with them, also discuss your med list with them! (If you do not have a therapist, I do not suggest on embarking on elimination of medication.  You will need a therapist – so go and find one!)

So the list, what to include:

Take for instance Topamax — Topamax is prescribed as a mood stabilizer to individuals who suffer from bipolar depression, but is actually an anti-seizure medication, so what does that mean?  Topamax blocks certain chemicals and promotes production of GABA, which regulates neuronal excitability throughout the entire nervous system.  Basically it smooths out the nervous system.  The side effects are: Sleepiness, pins and needle effect usually in the arms or legs, carbonated drinks no longer taste very good, weight loss, memory loss (sometimes severe cognitive impairment).

Find out what the half-life is and how long it takes to get out of your system, as well as how you should stop taking the medication.

Again, lets take Topamax.  The half life for Topamax is approximatiely 24 hours.  So every 24 hours half of the Topamax is gone from your system.  It is recommended the you reduce Topamax by 25 – 50 mg per week until you reduce down to nothing.

Knowing this information shows that you are taking responsibility for your own welfare, that you are not being haste, and that you understand this is not an overnight process.



December 20, 2011

Us vs them, choices and consequences

I know I said my next blog would be how to approach your doctor, however, I came across a comment on another blog and I felt compelled to address it here – on my blog.  When I was in the full throws of bipolar depression I viewed the world and me (my mental illness) vs the world (the normal people) but I realized after reading this I never had the thought of “them” being able to choose and “myself” not being able to choose. This reinforces the need for a good therapist that is willing to help make the connection between the choices that are made and the consequences of those choices!  It can be done, however it will be some work.  Just like training a child with autism to mirror behavior or a person who suffers an injury, either at childbirth or as an adult, to learn to walk again, a person with bipolar disorder has to learn the connection between choices and consequences and learn how to make the choices that will lead to the consequences they desire.  Including the mood they desire.  I choose to be stable and have learned how to make choices that will lead to a stable life.

This is a comment on another blog I read. It is incredible insight into the disconnect between choices and consequences that people with bipolar disorder have.  (I have permission from the author ( of this comment, thanks so much for letting me use it!)

“I think the key difference between “us” and “them” is choice. A norm can choose to drink, shoot up, smoke a joint, run a marathon or whatever to change their mood, but we don’t get that choice – our mood changes of its own accord, often in response to triggers which a norm can choose to ignore. When we’re triggered by a shift in cycle or by a mood altering event, we don’t get a choice as to whether our emotions are affected – they inevitably are. We don’t get to choose not to let it get to us, or snap out of it, or put on a happy face. Sure we can try to deal with the sudden change in emotions, we can remove ourselves to prevent snowballing reactions, or we can pop a pill to calm us down, or we can use some techniques like CBT or ACT to deal with the emotions that are suddenly coursing through us. But we don’t get to choose whether we experience the reaction or not. My psychiatrist explains this using an analogy of a nerve which responds to certain triggers (which can encompass all sorts of things from multiple stimuli like musak as well as someone talking, trying to do more than two things at once, several different objects moving simultaneously in one’s visual field) and that the “normal” nerve responds a little, but in our case the response is blown out of proportion as a result of our biological predisposition. In other words we “can’t stop feeling that way when something happens” – all we can do is try to avoid a situation in which we’re triggered, deal with the feelings once they’ve occurred as best we can, and/or take something to steady us when our mood destabilises.”

Making choices and understanding the consequences can lead to a stable life.  Perhaps we “can’t stop feeling that way when something happens” , but if we can predict the outcome with some certainty by identifying the choices we made that triggers the high or low or anxiety we can modify and/or change that behavior.

Choices and consequences – learn them, understand them, identify them… the author of the comment is right – this is the difference between “us and them”!  But where he is incorrect is we can choose – we just have to learn how!

December 17, 2011

The very first step to bipolar no more

Regardless of the why – you can take control of your own life.  No matter the reason why people are bipolar the one thing I have found, talking to many people who suffer from bipolar disorder, there is a disconnect between making  choices and the consequences of those choices.

First, find a good therapist and if you already have one, ensure they are willing to go with you on the journey.  Ask them if they are willing to hold you accountable for the choices you make. In other words, when you make a statement like, “I did whatever” they will help you change your thought process by saying, “You chose to do whatever.”  After awhile every time you make a statement you will say “Today I chose to go to the store, eat pizza, whatever!”  Once you begin to understand that every action, thought, or process you do in the moments of a day are your choices, you can then begin to understand the link between your choices and the consequences in your life.  When you write in your journal, use the words “I chose” or “I am making a choice” or “I am going to choose”  and follow it with the consequences or what you believe they will be.  Then follow up and see what the consequences actually were.

Something else you might want to ask your therapist to do is to help you come up with a mood chart.  You can do this on your own as well but it was helpful for me to go over with my therapist.  Basically, every day for a couple of months you will need to track whether you are anxious, up, down, or flat.  And correlate that with events in your life and, most importantly, with the choices you make.

For instance: Today, I made a choice to talk to a police officer that was working with my neighbor as they were making an arrest, who is also a police officer. I just happened to be walking by with my dogs.  One of my dogs recognized my neighbor and I was fighting my dog to not run over to my neighbor.  The other officer was tickled by Riley, my dog, and I said, “He wants to run to him, he is my neighbor.”  My neighbor was visibly not happy with my choice.  So if I was keeping a mood chart I would write this event down and say I felt anxious.  Then I would write what, if anything, I will choose to do about it.  And the answer is, I will apologize when I get the opportunity.  Let it go, and move on.

You would be surprised at the choices you make and the consequences of those action and how they affect your mood.  Something as simple as going for a walk and making a unremarkable statement created anxiety.

Acknowledging your choices and the consequences they have can start a lifetime of balance.  But the most important part of the whole choice and consequences journey is acknowledging when you made a good choice and patting yourself on the back.

Always, always, always give yourself credit.  With every good choice you make, the next will come easier and so on!

And when you make a bad choice, acknowledge it as well, decide what you could have done differently, make a choice to do corrective action, if any,  that makes you OK with your choice, AND MOVE ON!  Remember, balance.

Next, I will go over how to talk to you doctor about reducing or removing medication and the steps to take before you even walk in his or her door!

%d bloggers like this: