3 Easy Steps to Declutter Your House with Depression

3 Easy Steps to Declutter with Depression - Cassandrastout.com.

Decluttering the house when you have depression sounds like a nightmare. After all, decluttering is a huge project, isn’t it? Everyone has junk they need to get rid of in their homes, and some people (like me) have entire rooms filled with useless stuff.

And clutter can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and depression. Let me explain. If there’s a toy on the living room floor, every time you pass that toy, your brain makes a split-second decision as to whether to deal with that toy.

If you decide against dealing with that toy, the toy will remain on the floor, and every time you see it, you have to make a decision: pick up the toy and put it somewhere else, or leave it. Every time.

Say there’s 5 toys on the floor. That’s 5 decisions you have to make. You quickly begin to suffer from decision fatigue.

This is why a cluttered room is so overwhelming and difficult to start cleaning, especially when you have depression. You’re looking at the big picture.

What about Decluttering with Depression?

The trick to decluttering with depression is to break the rooms of your house down into compartmentalized parts. For example, if you were decluttering your kitchen, you’d break the room down like so:

  1. Spice cabinet
  2. Coffee bar counter
  3. Dish cabinet
  4. Cups cabinet
  5. Toaster counter

And so on. Rather than thinking you have to declutter the entire kitchen in a day, you can tackle one cabinet at a time. Break every room down into smaller parts, and you can work at your own pace.

If a cabinet is too much for you at once, then break the room down even further, separating out the top and bottom halves of the cabinet, or right and left halves.

3 Easy Steps to Declutter

But don’t think of decluttering as a big picture project, but a series of simple tasks. There are many ways to purge your stuff, but they all boil down to 3 easy steps:

  1. Sort
  2. Keep/Toss
  3. Reflect.

That’s it. Those 3 easy steps will help you declutter your entire house.

Sort

The first step in decluttering with depression is to sort your stuff.

Take a picture of the space you plan to declutter. This is important for the third step.

Pull everything out of the space. Spread the junk out on a table or bed so that everything is visible.

Next, sort the stuff into piles by category, asking yourself two questions, which you’ll answer honestly:

  1. Have I used this in the past 6 months?
  2. Does it fit my life today?

Then, sort the stuff into yes piles, where you answered yes to both of those questions, or no piles, where you answered no to both of those questions. The maybe pile is for 1 yes, and 1 no.

If you’re on the fence about sorting things into piles, or you think you’re keeping too much, simply ask yourself: Would I take this with me if I had to move today? That question cuts to the heart of the matter.

Once you have all the items sorted into one of three piles, you’re ready for step two.

Keep/Toss

Are you ready for step two? Take a hard look at your piles:

  1. Yes piles: Keep the items gladly, and find places for them in your home.
  2. No piles: Toss or donate the stuff!
  3. Maybe piles: Place these items into a box. Write the date on the box, and set the box aside in your garage or closet. If you haven’t touched the items in the box in 3-6 months, toss the entire box. If you find yourself pulling stuff out, then keep those items and find homes for them.

Reflect

Take another picture, and bask in the glow of a freshly-decluttered space. You did it! Congratulations!

Now think on how you can keep the space clear. Will you adopt a 1-item-in, 1-item-out policy? Don’t let anything into your life that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Final Thoughts

Decluttering with depression isn’t as difficult as you might think. Break rooms down into smaller parts. Sort your items into yes, no, and maybe piles. Make decisions to keep or toss or set aside the stuff. And take before and after pictures for posterity.

Good luck!

How do you declutter your house? Let me know in the comments!

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Last-Minute, Frugal Gift Guide for People Suffering from Depression

Last Minute Frugal Gift Guide for People with Depression - CassandraStout.com

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Christmas shopping. Some people love it. Most people hate it. Whatever your feelings on the subject, picking the perfect gifts for everyone on your list can be stressful. And it’s pretty late in the game to be shopping for gifts.

So, are you looking for last-minute, frugal gift ideas for those loved ones in your life who suffer from depression? Then look no further, because here is The Bipolar Parent’s Last-Minute, Frugal Gift Guide for People Suffering from Depression!

Preface

I’d like to preface this gift guide by saying that whomever you’re giving gifts to, keep in mind whether the recipient will actually be able to use the gift. People who suffer from depression are easily overwhelmed. You want to offer them a present which won’t overwhelm them, and you definitely don’t want to have expectations that they will use the gift.

Presents don’t have to be expensive, but if they’re thoughtful, your loved one will appreciate them. If you can, do some research to figure out what your loved one likes and is into. Look into their social media posts and find out what he or she is posting about. That can give you a clue as to what your friend or loved one enjoys.

If you are a frugal person buying for a frugal person, the best gifts you can give are practical ones. Most frugal people are content with what they have, and don’t want to fill their houses with stuff they won’t use. So the best gifts you can give, aside from time, are consumables, like food, journals, or gift certificates to places they like. 

With that in mind, here is the ultimate last-minute, frugal gift guide for people suffering from depression:

1. Journal

One of the proven ways to help alleviate symptoms of depression is writing a gratitude journal. My son recommended I try keeping one this Sunday, in fact. A beautiful journal to help your loved one record his or her thoughts is a thoughtful and usually welcome gift.

Bonus: If you have the time, before giving the journal, write an affirmation about the person that you believe–and that you hope he or she believes, too–or a positive quote on the bottom of each page. This is the gift that I’m giving my mother-in-law this year.

2. Planner

A planner may be a tricky gift to give, because your loved one might think that you’re making a comment on him or her being unorganized. But if you know the person well and know he or she won’t be offended by your gifting them a planner, then your loved one will enjoy having a place to keep all their appointments together. Most people like calendars to ring in the new year. My brother-in-law gets his mother a pig calendar every year, and a planner is just a step up from that.

My friend, Sophie, at WellandWealthy.org has a planner specifically tailored towards people suffering from depression. There are self-care tips, space for to-do lists, and pages with prompts to reflect on the week. You have to print the Do It With a Smile Planner yourself, but it’s a great resource.

3. Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets are excellent for people who suffer from anxiety or depression. When the world feels overwhelming, slipping under the weighted blanket can help soothe you–or your gift recipient. Occupational therapists have noticed that the deep pressure of a weighted blanket placed on the patients’ bodies calmed them. Give the gift of calmness and peace. To find a highly-recommended weighted blanket on Amazon, click here.

4. Fine Chocolate

If your loved one has a sweet tooth, then a fine chocolate is a highly-recommended gift. Try to pick out a strange chocolate that your recipient may not have tried, like a sweet hot pepper variety.

5. Coffee Mug with a Hot Chocolate Mix

Similar to the fine chocolate suggestion above, a coffee mug with a hot chocolate mix is a gift that will give pleasure to your loved one with a sweet tooth. If you can make your own hot chocolate mix (recipe here), even better.

6. Gift Certificate to a Massage

Often, people with depression don’t tend to take time for themselves for self-care. If you can offer them a gift certificate for a massage–provided they don’t mind being touched by a professional massage therapist–then they will appreciate such a thoughtful gift. Try to go local to your loved one’s area, or give a gift certificate to a national chain like Massage Envy.

7. A USB Stick with Family Photos

This gift might take a little bit of your time, but decently-sized USB memory sticks are fairly cheap nowadays. These are great gifts on their own, but if you can fill them with a curated set of family photos centered on the depressed person, you’ll be able to give a touching gift.

8. A Box of Crayons and an Adult Coloring Book

Adult coloring books can be a wonderful form of stress relief. These aren’t your kid’s coloring books: they’re more complex and feature beautiful pictures to color ranging from animals to flowers to mandalas. They’re fairly inexpensive, too, if you get the right one.

9. A Box of Tea

If you have tea drinkers in your life, they probably have a preference as to how they like their tea. Green, black, herbal–there are many types of tea out there. If you can, try to get one your loved one hasn’t tried. Harvey and Sons is a good brand, and I highly recommend their Hot Spice Cinnamon Tea. It has orange peel and warm spices, and while I’m allergic to oranges, I’ve never had a reaction to the tea.

10. A Book You’ve Read Recently and Loved

If you’re a reader and so is your loved one, buy him or her a copy of a book you’ve read recently and loved. Tell your gift recipient that you will make time to have a lunch date with him or her to discuss the book, but also let him or her know that there’s no pressure, and you’re not expecting that he or she finishes the book right away.

11. Your Time

The best present you can give anyone you love (and who loves you) is your time. Schedule a dinner date with him or her where you bring over dinner, a movie night where you bring the popcorn and the rented movie, or offer to help clean his or her kitchen, if you know he or she will accept your help. Show up intending to spend some time with your loved one, and you’ll be giving an attentive and caring gift.

Final Thoughts

People who suffer from depression need to know that you care. One of the best ways to show them that you love them and are rooting for them is to offer them your presence. Gift giving is about the people involved, not necessarily the present itself.

It also doesn’t matter how much you spend on the gift. What matters is the thought and care you put into your selection. If you can personalize the gift or make it more meaningful by adding a handwritten note wishing them a happy holiday season, then all the better.

It just takes love.

What gifts are you getting for your loved ones this year? Let me know in the comments!

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The Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check In: Sleep Edition

The Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check In: Sleep Edition – How are you? I’d like to get to know you, so please stop by!

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Hello! Welcome to The Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check In: Sleep Edition!

How are you? How have you been sleeping? Well, I hope! How’s your holiday planning going? If you have kids, how are they? How has your week been? Please tell me! I really do want to get to know all of you.

The Bipolar Parent's Saturday Morning Check In: Sleep Edition - How are you? I'd like to get to know you, so please stop by!

My Hellish Week of No Sleep

Well, last week was good, but this one started off on the wrong foot and stayed awful. Last Saturday night, I stayed up late messing around on the internet and inhaling articles about how to grow my blog traffic. Quickly becoming obsessed with making my own website (which I did eventually–it’s coming soon!), I realized I needed to sleep, and shut my laptop at 10:35pm. Then I laid awake in bed until 3am with my mind spinning. I ended up having to take a sleep aid, which I loathe. I wasn’t able to wake up at 7am to hang out with my son, as I’d promised him the night before. He seemed to understand, but I hate disappointing him.

That lack of sleep a set the tone for the rest of the day (and week). I was irritable, still obsessed with my blog, and tired. I couldn’t sleep during the rest of the week, either. By Wednesday, I’d had enough. I took a two-hour nap while my preschooler was making Christmas artwork at school, and felt loads better–during the day, at least. At night, I stayed awake until 2am. Ugh.

On Thursday, I attended both a psychiatry appointment and a therapy session, which always help me re-center myself. My psychiatrist and I decided not to adjust my meds and to meet in three months. My therapist suggested that I take the sleep aid at 10pm for the next few days, so I’ll be asleep by 11pm when it kicks in. On Thursday night, I took the sleep aid at 8pm, fell asleep by 9pm, and slept for 12 hours. Friday morning, I was still tired and groggy, but feeling less manic.

I’m still obsessed with growing my blog, but the frantic, urgent nature of the obsession is blunted. I hope I’ll be able to better manage the work/life/mom balance in the future. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading.

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The Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Mental Health Check-in: Mother-In-Law Edition

The Bipolar Parent's Saturday Morning Mental Health Check In: Mother-in-Law Edition - Cassandrastout.com

Hello!

How are you? How’s your day going? How’s your week? Do you have any holiday plans? If you have kids or a partner, how are they? Let’s chat!

How I’m Doing

My week has been a good one. My mother-in-law was here, and we all adore her. The toddler especially loves her Grandma. We made cookies on Sunday, and hung out the rest of the week. My family’s holiday plan is to fly across the country in mid-December to visit her where she lives. We’re all looking forward to it!

So please let me know how you’re doing. I do genuinely want to get to know you all.

The Bipolar Parent's Saturday Morning Mental Health Check In: Mother-in-Law Edition - Cassandrastout.com

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11 Lessons I Learned from 11 Years of Managing Bipolar Disorder

sky is falling
A black-and-white photo of a man standing in front of a storefront, looking up at the sky. Credit to flickr.com user Neil Moralee. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

I have suffered from bipolar disorder I for decades, but I didn’t know that my condition had a name for a long time. It wasn’t until after a psychotic break following the birth of my son 11 years ago that I was diagnosed, and started managing the illness. Thankfully, my bipolar disorder is not the treatment-resistant type, so I have responded well to medication and therapy.

Here are 11 lessons I learned after 11 years of managing bipolar disorder:

Lesson #1: Take my Medication, Everyday

Like almost everyone who takes medication for a chronic illness, I found myself not wanting to take my pills. Could I manage my disorder without them? Do I have to take my meds everyday? The answers to those questions are: no, I can’t, and yes, I do, respectively.

I learned the hard way that I have to take my medication every day. If I don’t, I end up manic, anxious, or depressed, and sometimes all three at once. Mania and depression presenting at once is called a mixed episode, which I have on occasion. They are the most dangerous of all the episodes if left untreated, because I think awful thoughts and have the energy (and lack of impulse control) to act on them. For me, taking my medication daily is the only way to head off these episodes.

Lesson #2: Take my Medication on Time

Taking my meds on time (morning meds in the morning, night meds at night) is something I still struggle with. My psychiatrist recently told me to take a medication I was taking at night in the morning, which I am not at all used to, so I often forget to take them. But I’ve found that if I take the medication which shares a caffeine pathway in my brain at night, then I’ll be up all night, which can lead to manic episodes. It’s a balance I’ve yet to master.

Lesson #3: This Mental Illness is Lifelong

Until the past several months, I hadn’t suffered a depressive or manic episode in six or seven years. I thought, foolishly, that the mental illness had simply–poof!–disappeared. The fact that I can’t just make mental illness go away has been one that I’ve struggled to accept. I can manage my disorder, but it is always with me.

Lesson #4: Make Peace with my Diagnosis

Like many people diagnosed with a mental illness, I struggled at first with my diagnosis. I couldn’t be bipolar, I thought. I wasn’t crazy, like the people surrounding me in the mental hospital I committed myself to. But I was and am mentally ill. Making peace with my diagnosis only came in time, after I had figured out how to manage my condition. Like lesson #3, I had to realize that this mental illness is lifelong, and I needed to deal with it.

Lesson #5: Take my Bipolar Disorder Seriously

If left untreated, my bipolar disorder will wreck my life. Over the years, I have taken my medication consistently and attended therapy religiously. But when I didn’t, my carefully constructed life fell apart–and how. I have since learned that I must take my mental illness seriously. Like a diabetic, one slip up is enough to send me into a spiral of destruction. I can never stop managing bipolar disorder, ever.

Lesson #6: Honesty is the Best Policy

I’ve found that, when it comes to my moods, honesty is the best policy. When my son asks me how I’m feeling, I will tell him that I am anxious, depressed, fine, or feeling “up.” I don’t ask him to manage my emotions, but he is able to adjust his expectations of me accordingly. He is extraordinarily empathetic and mature for his age, and I have no doubts that’s because of how my mental illness has affected him. In other cases, being honest about my bipolar disorder to people other than my immediate family ends up with the same result. For more information on how to disclose your disorder to friends and family, click here.

Lesson #7: Gather a Support System

For many, many years, I was too depressed to gather a strong support system. I had moved away from all my friends and family for my husband’s job, and felt isolated. Making new friends, especially when I had an infant to care for, seemed impossible. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve reconnected with my family (and been honest with them; see lesson #6), and made new friends who understand mental illness. This support is crucial to my wellbeing. If I had known how much not having  a system in place affected me, I would have pushed myself hard to make friends sooner.

Lesson #8: Manage my Sleep

Staying up all night for a week is what triggered my psychotic break and first real manic episode. I have learned the hard way that sleep is my best friend. When I don’t sleep, I end up firmly in the middle of a manic episode, depressive episode, or mixed episode. Sleep is crucial for anyone with bipolar disorder, but I need more sleep than the average adult (about 9-10 hours a night vs. 7-8). I cannot function without sleep.

Lesson #9: Trust my Mental Health Team

Like many people who suffer from mental illnesses, I have had upwards of seven psychiatrists, and two therapists. They keep moving on me! Building trust in a new treatment team is so difficult, but I have to advocate for myself and learn to trust every time change upsets the apple cart. The lesson that my mental health team is only acting in my best interest has been a difficult one to learn. I now rely on my current psychiatrist and therapist with my life.

Lesson #10: Know my Triggers

Learning common bipolar triggers took time, and effort. I didn’t do a lot of research about bipolar disorder when I was first diagnosed, and what a fool I was. Figuring out that I needed good sleep hygiene (see lesson #8) took a period of trial and error, during which my husband and child suffered as I wasn’t present for them. Learning what triggered my manic or depressive episodes, and how to manage those triggers, was crucial in learning how to manage my disease.

Lesson #11: Therapy is Awesome

Though I was attending therapy for nine months before my diagnosis, learning coping skills in therapy was invaluable. I have attended innumerable sessions with a therapist over the years, and doing so has helped me: be more present as a parent and wife, learn how to manage my bipolar disorder, and figure out how to deal with family situations like a tense Christmas. Therapy is awesome. I highly recommend prioritizing counseling sessions if you can afford them. Many therapists take clients on a sliding scale.

Final Thoughts

Over the years, I have learned several more lessons than just these 11. But these are likely the most important. Many of these lessons are common ones learned by people who suffer from mental illnesses. If you suffer from bipolar disorder and are newly-diagnosed, take heart. Do research on your condition, take your medications, and never stop fighting.

I wish you well in your journey.

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Dear Younger Me: You’re Bipolar, and That’s Okay

Dear Younger Me,
If someone were to tell you that by age 33, you would have a diagnosis of bipolar I, you wouldn’t be surprised. You would be surprised, however, at the fact that you have the wherewithal to treat your mental illness, both emotionally and financially.

You wouldn’t be surprised at the soul-sucking depression you feel now. You would be surprised that you haven’t felt this way in years, and that you are a productive, usually happy, stable woman. You’d be shocked at the fact that the meds have worked so well to control your bipolar disorder up until this point, and that adjusting them isn’t a major problem in your life.

You wouldn’t be surprised that you are a writer. After all, you’ve been writing since you were four and knew how to scribble letters, and wrote your debut “novel,” The Fish. You would be surprised that you are a) married to a wonderful man who would die for you, b) have kids, and c) stay home to take care of your kids. You’d be shocked to know you’re an amazing mother, with healthy, compassionate children.

cassandra stout photo
A closeup photo of author, Cassandra Stout, facing left. Protected under a Creative Commons license.

You wouldn’t be surprised to know that you are still attending the same church you grew up in, the church of Christ. You would be surprised at how much closer to God you’ve become. You’d be shocked to recognize how much He has guided your life, and worked out all things for good.

Younger me, you will be happy someday. You’ll escape the narrow-minded bullies of your small town, and establish yourself in a big city 2000 miles away. You’ll survive college–barely. You’ll suffer a postpartum psychotic breakdown, but that won’t stop you. You’ll just write a book about it.

Younger me, you have so much life ahead of you. A good life. Thank you for not giving up. You will face so many challenges and come out on top. Your grit, determination, and prayers will see you through.

Don’t give up. Don’t give up.

Love,
Cassandra Stout

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What is a Warmline, and How do You Use Them?

phone2
A picture of a red, wired telephone on a orange background. Credit to flickr.com user Ant & Carrie Coleman. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

When you’re struggling with depression or other mental health challenges, sometimes you just need someone to talk to. Someone who’s “been there,” someone who will carefully listen to your troubles or help you celebrate a big accomplishment. Why not call a warmline?

A warmline is a number you can call for free to discuss your current struggles with volunteers who may be in recovery themselves. Warmlines are not for people who are in crisis. They are intended to help people manage their issues before the crisis point hits.

Warmlines support people from all walks of life facing all manner of challenges, from postpartum problems to tuberculosis to gambling addiction to emotional and mental health issues, like bipolar depression. Warmlines are meant to foster a human connection.

Unlike a crisis line, the peer on the other end of the call will not call the police on you if you are in crisis or suicidal. Peers on warmlines are meant to let you vent your troubles and potentially connect you with resources in your county which can help.

How to Use a Warmline

But what can you talk about on a warmline? Well, the list includes but is not limited to:

  • Everyday challenges and activities
  • Grief and loss
  • Accomplishments you want someone to hear
  • Medication issues
  • Addictions
  • Resources
  • Relationships with a spouse, significant other, or friends and family
  • The past, present, or future

On a warmline, you can expect that the volunteer will listen to you carefully and non-judgmentally, keep your information confidential, and be willing to connect you to further resources. If you’re in the US, you can find a comprehensive list of warmlines by state at www.warmline.org.

The Challenge in Finding an Open Warmline

Unfortunately, warmlines are rare and 24-hour warmlines are even rarer. As I’m currently suffering from bipolar depression and struggling to get through the day, I called the warmline in my county, but was unable to get through to a human being. That line is only open from 5-9pm, and I called at about 8:30pm, so it’s possible that I’d have more luck calling earlier in the day.

I then searched for more warmlines on the internet, and found one dedicated to parents of children under six years old based out of Bakersfield, CA. I have a toddler who challenges me on a daily basis, so I called the line (1-888-955-9099, https://e-warmline.org), and was directed to an answering service staffed by a human being. She took my number and said the line operator will call me back the next morning, after the line opens at 8am.

After that, I called a warmline purporting to be a 24-hour nationwide service based in Oregon (1-866-771-9276). A recorded message told me that that number is no longer taking calls. After that, I called a few more warmlines with similar results–they were either not open, were county-specific, or not taking calls at all. Finally, I called a warmline run in my state which is open from 4pm-midnight everyday. I left a message at 9:15pm, but did not hear back from them before midnight.

My Experience With the Parenting Warmline

The parenting warmline did call me back at about 9am the next morning, as promised. The female line operator, who I’ll call Paula, was kind and gentle. She listened carefully to my main, current parenting struggle–letting my toddler watch too much screen time while I am depressed and unable to get out of bed–and was compassionate on me. I told Paula that I have made an appointment with my therapist, to discuss coping skills, and my psychiatrist, to adjust my meds, and Paula said that I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.

While I was on the phone, my toddler repeatedly tried to get my attention, and my conversation with Paula was interspersed with talking to my kid. Paula remarked on that, saying that she appreciated how responsive I am to my child, and that she could tell that I’m an amazing mom. Paula also has a toddler, who spoke up in the background of our call. She is a volunteer who is clearly in the trenches of parenting, and while I didn’t ask her if she’d ever suffered from depression, she seemed in tune with my challenges.

Over all, calling the line was a good idea, as Paula helped me have a good experience. She was an empathetic listener. Paula also offered me some reading materials through the mail, which I am looking forward to receiving.

Final Thoughts

If you need a compassionate person to talk to and are not in crisis, I would highly recommend calling a warmline. Finding an open one may be challenging, but I think being listened to by someone who wants to listen is invaluable.

You might get a lot out of calling a warmline, especially if you don’t have access to a therapist. Pick up the phone today. You may find that you, too, have a good experience.

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Tips and Resources for Online Support Groups

internet
A picture of a sign with yellow font on a blue background that reads “Internet Chat Room” in all caps. Credit to flickr.com user Fuzzy Gerades. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

If you suffer from a mental illness like bipolar disorder, then a peer support group can be a valuable asset to you. Having other people validate your experience might be liberating; being able to offer similar support to those around you may be cathartic. Support groups are not a replacement for therapy but can be a useful tool to help you feel less alone in your struggles.

However, finding a local group can sometimes be difficult, so you may turn to the internet to help facilitate a meeting between you and your peers. Read on to find out some tips to make the most of an online support group, as well as a list of resources for internet-based groups centered on people with bipolar disorder.

1. Be respectful

Do I really need to suggest that people need to be respectful of others in online support groups? Unfortunately, yes. Some people can be overly critical of others and attack them personally. Keep away from those behaviors, and your peers will respond accordingly. Correcting misinformation is okay, but be mindful of other people’s feelings while doing so.

2. Don’t release personal details

When participating in an online setting of any kind, you need to stay somewhat anonymous. Sharing your experiences is okay, as long as you don’t offer any personal details like where you live, your age, your real, full name, or anything else that identifies you. There are already documented cases of insurers denying life-saving coverage to people from based on what they’ve shared online. Employers also look at online history when determining whom to hire. If you post anything to the group that can be tied back to you, you put yourself at risk.

3. Try to remain positive

When I say “try to remain positive,” I don’t mean that you should pretend everything is hunky dory when you’re struggling. I mean that you should recognize what agency you have in the situation, and try to remain hopeful that your pain will pass eventually. One of the reasons to attend a support group is to build up the grit needed to reject despair and move forward.

4. Be mindful about what you read

You may ask for and receive advice that is applicable to your situation, or you may find that people share diverse experiences with you that don’t relate. That’s okay. Take what you need; reject everything else. Don’t expect that every word you read will be applicable or even accurate. There is a lot of misinformation about treatments floating around on the internet. Make sure to do your own research rather than just listening to the first source you hear. Support groups are mainly for the sharing and validating of experiences.

Resources

Here’s a list of resources for online support groups. Don’t give up if the first group you find isn’t a good “fit” for you. You may need an in-person support group (which I will cover in a future post) led by a facilitator instead, but give the online ones a try.

+supportgroups is a website with an easy commenting system. You simply post what you’re feeling and people respond on the site, similar to a forum.

bp Magazine Bipolar Facebook Support Group: The tagline for this Facebook support group run by bp Magazine is “Hope and Harmony for People With Bipolar Disorder.” There are over 8,000 members at the time of this writing.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) runs several 60-minute support groups on specific dates and at specific times on the website Support Groups Central. Join the site as a member for free; you have to fill out a profile, but your attendance in meetings is confidential. You will see a video stream of the facilitator and may choose to allow your own video to stream. This is the most like an in-person support group that I’ve found.

HealthfulChat is a traditional chat room with regulars and new people at all hours of the day. You may need to install the most recent update to Flash in order to log in.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re feeling depressed or manic, there’s a support group for you. Just remember to be respectful, don’t release personal details, try to remain positive, and be mindful of what you read.

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Book Review: Balancing Act: Writing Through a Bipolar Life, by Kitt O’Malley

 

balancing act
A picture of the cover of the book Balancing Act: Writing Through a Bipolar Life, by blogger Kitt O’Malley. The cover contains a stack of black rocks which become smaller the higher the stack. The background is a gray storm cloud.

 

Everyone with mental illness knows that managing their disease is a balancing act. Kitt O’Malley, a mental health advocate with bipolar disorder and blogger at the eponymous kittomalley.com, knows this all too well.

O’Malley collected the best posts of her blog into a book titled, appropriately, Balancing Act: Writing Through a Bipolar Life. I was offered an advanced reader copy in exchange for a review, which I am glad to give.

This book is excellent. As a former Marriage and Family Therapist and fellow bipolar sufferer, O’Malley is uniquely qualified to write about the disorder and how it affects her life, as well of those of her loved ones. In the first and second sections, O’Malley clearly lays out the symptoms of her bipolar disorder (first diagnosed as bipolar II, now recently changed to bipolar I), as well as her mental health journey. The third section, Bipolar Thoughts, is an eloquent, haunting collection of posts detailing her “ramping” up in hypomania, and the debilitating dives into depression. The fourth section, Write With Purpose, describes what writing means to O’Malley and how the art fuels her activism. The fifth section, Caretake, is a description of her managing her son’s struggles with chronic illnesses, as well as helping her aging parents–both who suffer from dementia–navigate multiple care homes.

Let’s look at what does and doesn’t work.

What Does Work

  • The writing is poignant and straightforward, and at times lyrical. O’Malley includes the occasional poem as well. She is quite the wordsmith, coming up with turns of phrase I wish I would have thought of myself. The poetry is especially appreciated.
  • While O’Malley has attended a multi-denominational seminary, the book is not overly religious. This may not be some people’s preference, but for others, the approach will be fine.
  • O’Malley’s candor is refreshing. She describes every slip up she has, including the times when she was unfortunately abusive to her son and husband. Holding nothing back is incredibly hard, and O’Malley’s bravery is commendable.
  • One of Balancing Act’s great strengths is that it is, indeed, a collection of blog posts. We are able to travel along O’Malley’s journey with her in real time, reading first, for example, about her brother-in-law’s lung cancer, and then that he passed. O’Malley often addresses her readers with rhetorical questions, as well as thanking them for their support.

What Doesn’t Work

  • While reading Balancing Act, I had to take breaks every 40 pages. O’Malley’s struggles with managing her bipolar disorder, caring for her son’s migraines and digestive issues, and looking after her aging parents are relentless. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her constant difficulties, but I did feel overwhelmed at times, like she does. However, O’Malley often expresses her gratitude to her readers, her husband, and to her parents’ caretakers. I really appreciated that.
  • This is a small nitpick. Very rarely, O’Malley uses multiple sentences together without subjects, starting with a verb. This is fine; it’s a stylistic thing, and it’s a great demonstration of O’Malley’s anxiety and hypomanic symptoms. But the transitions were occasionally jarring. The writing is still excellent.
  • While the book being a collection of blog posts is one of its greatest strengths, that is also its greatest weakness. O’Malley sometimes includes transcripts of videos, which may have been more effective in video form. The posts can also be a bit repetitive, as some of it is rehashing information we’ve learned before in different words. These are tiny nitpicks, though, and all in all, the blog does translate well to book form, as long as readers keep in mind that the writing was once in blog form.

So that’s a glimpse of Balancing Act: Writing Through a Bipolar Life. The book will be on the market, published by Eliezer Tristan Publishing, starting September 19, 2019. I recommend this book and encourage you to pick up a copy today. Thank you, Kitt.

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Hiatus Announcement for The Bipolar Parent

It’s time for me to take a break.

cassandra stout photo
Blogger Cassandra Stout. Protected under a Creative Commons license.

I’ve been burned out with family responsibilities and dealing with some intense conversations in therapy, and my blog has suffered for it. You may have noticed a dip in quality, for which I apologize for. I’ve only written a single post in the past six weeks. In short, while I have the motivation to blog, as I don’t want to disappoint you guys, my readership, I have lost the inspiration. I don’t want to churn out low-quality posts just to have something up on Fridays, so it is with a heavy heart that I’m announcing a hiatus until the first Friday in September, 2019. I promise to start blogging again then, and to give you the level of detail and quality you expect from The Bipolar Parent.

Thanks so much for being here with me. Until September.

-Cassandra Stout

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