Thursday, August 28, 2014

Caffeine, anxiety and our mental state

So I would say it is pretty much common knowledge that caffeine isn’t the best thing for us, especially in large doses. I was never a huge consumer of caffeine when I was younger, I would drink soda here and there and coffee and tea occasionally. In the last few years I got to where I would drink a cup of coffee a day as a “treat” full of sugary creamer (ok, yeah, I have a major sweet tooth.)

But when I had my son a year and a half ago, I started drinking mass quantities of coffee every day because I HAD to just to be able to stay awake. I’d go on about 4 hours of broken sleep a night dealing with a new infant, and having to take care of my him, plus my two other kids. It was killer. I needed that “pick me up” just to be able to get through the day and not fall asleep half way through. I would regularly drink 4-5 cups of coffee a DAY. It didn’t really seem to have too many adverse effects at the time, perhaps because I became so acclimated to it that it didn’t hit me anymore and I didn’t notice. Granted I was stressed constantly so maybe I attributed all that to the new baby. I’m sure the coffee made my sleep patterns worse, in retrospect.

Now, I have a better sleep schedule and get more sleep every night (although sometimes still broken since my son sleeps in my bed.) I stopped drinking so much coffee, but find that I still enjoy my morning cup of coffee (flavor wise anyway). However my body is saying NO. I now realize that any time I drink coffee it has a terrible effect on my nervous system. My anxiety level begins to rise as my heart rate gets rapid and I start to feel jittery, my stomach starts clenching up and my nervousness increases. It’s been bad enough that I have had to, a few times, take some Ativan to counteract the physiological effect on my body and get my heart rate to slow and the jitters to stop. That was the case this morning, which is why this is on the top of my brain at the moment.

So, it brings me almost full circle to talk about our moods, and caffeine’s effects on our mental state. Here I am, trying to relax, with my nice warm coffee in the morning and it is doing the absolute opposite to me – getting my body so riled up that it cannot calm itself. YIKES. A crappy, crappy feeling.

There are so many things that we do to ourselves (whether it is physical, such as drinking caffeine, smoking, doing drugs, eating unhealthy food loaded with sugar and chemicals). We don’t even think most of the time about the effect it has on both our body and our mind. Deep down we may KNOW “Caffeine causes anxiety” or “Sugar in large amounts makes me gain weight” or “Too much salt depletes water stores.” Yet we keep on drinking our coffee, eating our candy bars and chips and cookies. A lot of times it is because they are easy, and sadly, cheaper than “real food” like fruit and vegetables.

So one of my goals is to start doing more research into the nutrition element and how it affects our mental health. There is not nearly enough pertinence given to it, and my last counselor mentioned this. She was quite knowledgeable about nutrition (she said that she had ADD and has to manage her food to help manage her mental state.) She noted that it is important for everyone, especially those with a mental condition to monitor what goes into our bodies. I never really gave much credence to that before. I figured “If I’m not overweight, I’m fine.” We don’t stop to think about how intricate the human body is and how delicately it is maintained.

I remember taking an in-depth anatomy and physiology class years back and learning just how involved all these molecular processes are. It’s absolutely amazing how all these things function together. For example, the brain’s primary nutrient is glucose. Without enough glucose, it cannot work to its full capacity and can indeed die. A lot of the glucose we get comes from our food supplies (in various forms). So, if we have a bad diet, let’s say our brain gets too much glucose or not enough. Do you think that will have an effect on how our brain works? Surely. But people don’t think about these things. Today, so much emphasis in the mental health field is placed on medication and managing these things with medication. I’m going to assert that other things are just as important, perhaps even MORE important than medication. But, that is a post for another time J

Just throwing some info out there for you all, to watch how much caffeine you drink, and also to watch the processed food you put into your body. It affects you whether you recognize it or not.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is faith in God important? Can we believe in God?

I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of writing lately, both blog-wise and journaling. The stuff I have posted here is just a fraction of what I have actually written and truthfully, there are about 20 more blogs I have notes on with intention to write that I have not gotten to yet. It seems once I start to explore one thing, another pops up. And since I’m trying to limit my posts to one topic at a time, I end up with a lot of stuff!!!

Two things I know I want to focus on in this blog going forward are discussing mental issues (I really don’t like the term mental illness, but I use it because that is what mental issues, disorders, problems etc. are mainly referred to as now) and God/spirituality. Whenever I start talking about anything psychology, or societally related, it always circles back to God without me even trying. I think because in the end, there is no man made fix. I’m always reaching back back back, looking to the root cause of things and ways it can be fixed. But it really can’t be by any man made means, or it would have been done by now.

So this post is going to focus on faith, and how faith in God is important.

Someone I know is taking a religion class on the New Testament for their degree (required by the school, not the person’s degree program.) This person has never really been a believer in God or Christianity, in fact they don’t know anything about the Bible. So now they have been reading the New Testament for the first time, asking me lots of Bible related questions and so we’ve had some interesting discussions. Last night the topic arose of “How can I believe in God when there is no proof?” And my answer was something I only recently came to understand fully – that a person must have faith in God, in order to see that proof.

What is faith, really? You hear Christians talk about faith all the time, faith in God, faith in Jesus. Faith, faith, faith. The New Testament is absolutely filled with scriptures talking about the importance of having faith. But most people never stop to think about what that really means.

If you were to say you had faith in your friend that they would be able to lose weight, or ace an upcoming job interview, what would you mean by that? You’d mean that you believed in them, that you had complete confidence in what they could do or achieve, even if you had no definitive way of knowing that they WOULD lose weight or get the job. To have faith in God MEANS to believe in him, whether we can see him or not, whether we have any proof or not.

So now I have to address the idea of what constitutes proof. I think it is so hard for scientifically minded or academically minded people to believe in God because they want “proof”. Generally this means some sort of physical, tangible thing. So if it cannot be tasted/touched/seen/smelled/felt then it is concluded that it must not exist. As an academically minded person myself, I find this thinking to be very strange. There are countless things that cannot be measured with physical means and yet we know to exist. When we feel we love someone, can that be measured with scientific or medical means? Is love truly in our “hearts” as the saying goes? We know it exists solely within our minds. The same is true for any ideas we have at all. They exist within our minds, in a place that cannot be measured. Yet nothing of man-made origin would exist without them. Can a doctor cut into our anatomic brain, remove a slice and examine it under a microscope and say, “Ahhhh yes. There is Nicole’s idea about faith. I can see it now.” No. The only way we even know ideas exist are because we see the OUTWARD manifestation of those ideas, which are created with our physical bodies and discerned by our senses, NOT because we see the ideas themselves. Ideas are esoteric, but we know they exist.

By the same token, if we have faith and believe God exists, we can see his hand in what we know, his supremely intelligent design. Years back, I took Human Anatomy & Physiology, not an easy class. I had to study an 1100 page medical book from cover to cover, dissection labs, the works. It was a very in-depth, holistic view, down the complex chemical processes that occur each second in order to sustain life. When you begin to see how everything is connected, you cannot help but be filled with awe. Nothing is superfluous. Everything has a purpose, a function. It all works together. The absolute magnitude of processes that occur simultaneously is truly mind boggling. When the slightest thing becomes out of alignment, it can cause sickness and death almost immediately. I honestly cannot believe that anyone who has ever studied medicine could deny God. We take our bodies and minds for granted every day. But if you stop to think about the process of anything in nature – the formation of planets, the growth of a plant, human life – the answer to me is beyond clear. The Bible even addresses this to skeptics of God:

The heavens are declaring the glory of God; The skies above proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day their speech bubbles forth,
And night after night they reveal knowledge.
(Psalms 19:1, 2)

For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.” (Romans 1:20)

A person doesn’t need higher education to be able to look at a sunset and be in amazement, or to wonder about the magnitude of the universe or marvel at the birth of a child. These are things each one of us is capable of seeing and knowing and believing. The idea that only certain people who are geniuses can understand things, is simply not true. God allows himself to been seen, if a person truly wants to “see” him.

It is interesting to note, that even in Jesus’ time when he WAS giving them physical proof, in the form of miracles such as curing the blind or raising the dead, many STILL did not believe, and they still had no faith at all. So, seeing is not always believing, as the saying goes.

Mankind seems, as a whole these days, obsessed with the idea that their knowledge and wisdom is superior. The apostle Paul had some great words in his letter to the Corinthians about man’s idea of wisdom and God’s idea of wisdom, and reminds us not to be led down a false path.
“And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling;  and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,  so that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. (1st Cor. 2:4, 5)

“Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God, so that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we explain spiritual matters with spiritual words. But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. (1st Corinthians 2:12-14)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Knowledge, and wisdom are important. We should always strive to gain knowledge and wisdom. However, we should never be so arrogant as to assume that WE are the most intelligent things in the universe. We need to remain humble and be willing to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, we do not have all the knowledge and the wisdom. If we try to elevate ourselves to a level that clearly does not belong to us, it simply shows pride and arrogance in our own smarts and abilities.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own cunning.” And again: “Jehovah knows that the reasonings of the wise men are futile.” (1st Cor. 3:19, 20)

“At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25, New International Version)

So, getting back to the idea of faith. I myself have always had an inclination toward the sciences, with an unending curiosity and quest to find answers. I would consider myself to be a very intelligent person and enjoy research and study and learning the intricate processes by which things occur. But I realize not everyone is so inclined. I believe that the proof that God exists is clear to any who are genuinely seeking it, and seeking him in their lives – no matter what that person’s knowledge level may be. The realm of science and medicine and academia (in general) wants people to believe that they are the ones who have all the answers, and that if you believe in God, you are both uneducated and a fool. Yet, scientists constantly revise their own thoughts and theories about how things work, year by year, and it is always changing. Scientists and doctors and professors – the so-called “intellectual” or “wise” ones, according to our society, have not been able to cure the world of disease, get people to live peaceably with each other, or thwart every human’s ultimate foe – death, no matter how hard they try. It’s just a repetitive cycle as one generation dies and another rises up and takes its place. Paul reminds us about having faith in God, and warns us about being overly trusting of man's abilities.

Therefore, just as you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord, go on walking in union with him, being rooted and built up in him and being stabilized in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving. Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:6-8)

It is better to take refuge in Jehovah
Than to trust in humans.”
(Psalms 118:8)

God is timeless and unending and has created all that see and know. He was there at the beginning of it and will be there always. If you have faith, you can be assured that what he promises will undoubtedly come to pass.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, is a God for all eternity. He never tires out or grows weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the tired one
And full might to those lacking strength.  Boys will tire out and grow weary,
And young men will stumble and fall,  But those hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary;
They will walk and not tire out.”
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

And the One seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new.” Also he says: “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  And he said to me: “They have come to pass! I am the Al′pha and the O·me′ga, the beginning and the end. To anyone thirsting I will give from the spring of the water of life free.” (Revelation 21:5, 6)

For all the things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

Interestingly, I saw an omega sign in the sky the other day and thought of God. For those unfamiliar, here are Alpha and Omega (first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, hence the scriptural reference to first and last.)

Here are the photos I took from my backyard. First when I noticed it and second as it started drifting away. Yes, probably made by a plane but interesting how they made the Omega sign. And yes, it reminded me to have faith.

It's time for a change: Bipolar State of Being is now Lit

Hey guys, so I've been needing to change the title of this blog for a couple of months but waffled on what to change it to. I knew I didn't want it solely devoted to bipolar anymore. I used to use it mainly in a journal type fashion, documenting my life and the day to day happenings, moods, what not. I realized that I had so much more to say, and have moved in a direction away from that type of blogging. Now I'm focusing more on well thought out essays rather than quick updates and snippits. I guess you could say, I'm getting SERIOUS about it now! :)

I'm now going to be focusing a lot more on the psychological, sociological, spiritual and societal aspects in life. I plan to spend a lot of time discussing mental health issues, God, my personal experiences and the way all of this stuff collides together. I think so often we get caught up in one aspect of life to the exclusion of everything else. In reality, we aren't compartmentalized like that. It's not like I have all these "slices" that correspond to Nicole:Mom, Nicole:Bipolar, Nicole:Borderline, Nicole:Christian, Nicole:Writer, etc. Those are all parts of me, but I am a whole person, and so is everyone out there reading this blog. I think in order to truly understand ourselves we have to see ourselves in a WHOLE sense...not just pieces here and there. Everything is related to everything else, and it's really interesting for me to explore it all. In fact, if you've noticed I am blogging much more now because that is just how my mind works. It is always going, even when I'm not "having an episode". In fact I am in a completely neutral mood state now. I just always have a lot going on in my mind. I figured I might as well share my insight with others rather than let it ruminate around in my head where it does no good (except to me, hehehe.)

So that's the direction I'm going. I spend so much time journaling, researching, reading and having interesting dialogues with people about these "big" things that I think it's worthwhile to share.

And as for the name change, I simply reverted back to the blog title I originally chose when I signed up with blogger back in 2010. I had chosen Lit, as in, lit up; a fire (that refers mainly to my mental state of course, and not lit, as in literature, although I guess that could be an interesting play on words since this is a blog. Ha.)

I know it's kind of a flip from what my previous followers are used to so I hope you'll all stick around to hear more than just my sad complaints :)

AND!!! Since I changed formats, I can now get comments! (I never could in my old format because some kind of error was going on.) So yeah, comment away if you feel so inclined.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Replacing NEGATIVE messages with POSITIVE ones in BPD/borderline

I want to discuss negative messages and positive messages when it relates to BPD, and how important these two concepts are.

All throughout life, I’ve gotten more negative messages than positive ones. The following are some of the terrible messages I actually heard from various outside sources, mostly people I loved or was close to, (occasionally by acquaintances or strangers). Some of these I heard repeatedly or over long periods of time:

“You’re too sensitive.”
“You’re insecure.”
“You’re not special.”
“So-and-so is better than you.”
“You’re selfish.”
“You look weird.”
“You’re unattractive when you sleep.” (This is verbatim.)
“You’re too needy.”
“You’re anti-social.”
“You have no self-esteem.”
“You’re bossy.”
“You’re boring.”
“You’re a burden.”
“You cry too much.”
“You need plastic surgery.”
“You’re too skinny.”
“You’re a nag.”
“You’re a whore/slut/bitch.”
“You’re easy/sleazy.”
“You’re a horrible person.”
“You’re crazy.”
“You just want attention.”
“You’re doing it to yourself” (this in response to telling the person that I was depressed, while crying).
“What’s WRONG with you???”
“I hate you.”

Yes, those are all real phrases that people said, and I can remember some of the explicit events where the words hurt me so much I never forgot them (hence the ability to make this list). Others happened a lot and became just a conglomeration over time. But, these were comments occurring over the course of my whole life, not just in childhood. Some of these got reinforced so much I came to BELIEVE they were true, even in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary.

Were they true though? Of course not. I know that logically now. The people saying them were just people – people with flaws and problems of their own. I see now that often the things they said were just their own insecurities projected onto me. I didn’t know that then though. I didn’t really understand much about how the mind works or how people think.

I gave these people a measure of authority in my life though, either because they were family members or friends or lovers or teachers or people I cared for. Even when the messages came from strangers, they were painful though. No one likes to be criticized, no one likes to hear negative feedback, especially unsolicited.

Most of my life I was a quiet, conscientious girl, a helpful and caring person. I did well in school and I received many awards. I was affectionate and loving. Certainly not the type of person who would warrant such harsh words and treatment from others, which made it that much more painful to me. “I’m trying so hard…” I would think. Yet, according to people around me, it wasn’t good enough. But I didn’t know any better…I internalized it all. It BECAME true. It BECAME the reality. It BECAME who I was, and who I believed I was. I wanted to believe in the “real” person inside…that loving, sweet, gentle little girl…but how could I? I got told too often how bad I really was.

It’s safe to say, messages such as that from numerous close people are not conducive to building a proper self-model and self-esteem. Their beliefs became my beliefs. I was ugly, a worthless burden, too aggravating to live. How can a person who lives with those internal feelings NOT be depressed? What reason is there to live when those you look up to make you believe that you are nothing? It’s no surprise that those with BPD are among the highest suicide rates of any mental illness. When a highly sensitive person hears/sees/is made to believe these negative messages, it introduces a blackness, a toxin into that person’s soul that grows and grows.

We become conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs (who were trained to salivate at the sound of a bell) or the subjects B.F. Skinner studied that became conditioned to a stimulus and reacted accordingly (look up Skinner or behaviorism if you aren’t familiar with the ideas.) Some of the behaviors associated with BPD are learned responses, not something there from birth, which is really important and worth noting.

A person who does not receive much if any positive feedback will naturally seek it out somewhere, and sometimes by any means they can for self-preservation. It can manifest in different ways. Changing appearance to be more attractive and gain positive attention, sleeping with random people in order to FEEL loved or wanted, “perfecting” our abilities so that others will not be able to hold any flaw against us, withdrawing or avoiding relationships so that others do not see the supposed flaws (those are but a few examples). None of these actions are about the other person, they are about us. But these things hurt us in the end. They don’t get us what we want. In superficial ways they may, for a very short time, but they don’t last. What we want is true understanding and caring and love. Someone to say, “You aren’t ugly, you’re beautiful,” and to sincerely mean it or “I love that you’re sensitive. That is the thing that is most precious to me.” That doesn’t make a person needy or weird to desire those things. It makes them human.

I think I would have continued on forever believing all the bad messages. But finally, I realized they were wrong. It didn’t happen overnight by any means. It took a lot of time and a lot of work and a lot of outside affirmation. I will be honest. It took years to even have some modicum of self-worth. 

I now see the importance of positive messages, positive reinforcement and encouragement. Children respond more to “Great try, let’s make another!” than “That looks terrible, do it again.” They respond more to affirmation than punishment. But even beyond just children, all people need love, they need caring, support, warmth. When it is lacking, it causes severe mental distress and can indeed lead to mental issues later in life.

I am not “cured” of any of my mental illnesses, and I have periods of extreme depression and suicidal ideation still (in fact I have been going through hell the last few days). But after a day or 2 of feeling this way, I realize I have to get up. I remind myself why I cannot just give in, and there are so many reasons why. I can’t leave my children motherless. I can’t leave my pain behind for others. I want to contribute more to the world. I can’t let “the darkness” inside (and outside) win. And I shouldn’t listen to those voices in my head that return, or the disgusted faces I sometimes see or the insensitive incidents. I cannot allow others callous words and actions to ruin my life. I am worth much more than that - to myself, to my children, to God. No I'm not perfect. But nobody is. I am Nicole, and I am finally learning that it's OK to be me.