May 31, 2017

Hiking in central Oregon

(...continued from previous post)

Okay, despite what happened on my first day there, the rest of the weekend was spent hiking and appreciating a different type of gorgeous scenery that Oregon has to offer. In this post, I'll just share a ton of photos and caption some of them as needed.

Pictures never do scenery justice, particularly when taken from an iPhone, but this was the best I could do.

This was my view of Mt. Hood from the airplane--I couldn't believe
what a perfect view it was! Even my brother, who is a pilot and flies
past it often, said he's never seen it this clearly.

The Portland-green that I love! From the airplane.

I took this picture from the car window as we drove past. I just couldn't
believe how out of place the mountains looked--like someone just picked
them up and placed them in the wrong spot. It was amazing. 

The first stop, which was actually unplanned. We were
driving past, and Thomas said there is never parking available
there. He saw an open spot, so we pulled in, and I'm glad!
I love waterfalls, and this was amazing.

Our second stop was a hike down to this waterfall. When we parked the car,
I felt like we were in the wrong place; you would have NO idea that this
gorgeous waterfall was just waiting for us not too far away. (By the way,
it was about 85 degrees outside!)

This looks like a postcard, doesn't it?

I was so excited when we saw some random cows chilling in the road.
Of course, we waited for them to cross the road before moving on. Despite
seeing lots of cows where I live, I've never seen them in the road before!

This place was actually not even on the map as a "lookout" or anything.
Thomas was just looking on Google Maps for places to go, and he saw
something that looked like a spot to park and see water. So we stopped,
and it was breathtaking. My second-favorite spot that we went.

My favorite picture from the trip! I was actually just showing Thomas how
he could pose for a pic, and he said it was way too "girly", and took my pic
instead. I turned out to be a great picture.

This hike was SO challenging for me. It was nearly 90 degrees outside, and
shade was scarce. We didn't bring water, because it was "only" four miles.
I later learned that four miles of hiking in these temps with full sun
is nothing like four miles of running on flat streets.

I wanted to show how high up we'd hiked, but this picture
really doesn't show it well. We found a spot of shade to catch
our breath about a quarter mile from the top.

The ONLY town for miles and miles. This was Main St.! There was one grocery
store, two restaurants, a school, a gas station, and that's about it.
But it was SO cool! And I was surprised how busy it was. Lots of people
stopping for food and gas.

The only restaurant that was open (the other was closed on Sundays). We each
got a burger, and they were amazingly delicious.

The "Philly" burger and tater tots. I was starving after our hike, and I ate
almost all of this!

This place was called Painted Hills, which is one of the "7 Wonders of Oregon".
The photo doesn't do it justice. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. The hills
were SO smooth and looked like they were painted with stripes of red.

Another photo I took from the car as we drove past. So pretty!

This place had hills that had the most unique texture. They reminded me
of a brownie with a crackled top--which is probably a terrible description,
but I don't know how else to describe it! I should've taken a close-up.

Our final hike, which ended up being our favorite. This was halfway up
Black Butte (pronounced like "beauty" but without the "y"). This hike was
extremely challenging for this out-of-shape Southeast Michigan girl! 

View from the top. It was nearly 1,500 feet of elevation gain in about two miles.
Considering I have no hills or elevation of any sort where I live, I felt like
I would die. But I brought water this time, and I made it!

Another view from the top.

Trying so hard to balance on the rocks for a good photo op. I am the
clumsiest hiker, and nearly fell off a cliff a couple of times in our 2015 hike.
This time, I was determined not to fall!

While I was standing there, I saw an antelope squirrel. I'd seen several the
day before, from the car. I thought they were birds on the road until they
all scattered. I wanted to see another so badly, and I was thrilled when I
saw this one. I held out my (empty) hand, hoping it would come closer. He
came up to me, realized I didn't have food, and ran off. A super nice couple
heard how excited I was, and offered me some nuts from their trail mix.
The squirrel came back and I gave him an almond. I was SO happy. (I was
later told several times on social media that I shouldn't feed wildlife--I had
no idea that giving him an almond was wrong--so I'll never do it again.)

Just a girl and an antelope squirrel, gazing at the beautiful mountains.

I asked Thomas if this was considered a mountain (I wanted to be able to say
that I hiked up a mountain); he said I could consider it a "baby mountain", haha.
But I say if there is snow at the top, it's a mountain, dammit! I actually
took a handful of snow and rubbed it on my neck and arms--it felt amazing.

On the way home, we went through the city of Detroit, Oregon. We needed
to get gas anyway, so I got a quick picture. A far cry from Detroit, Michigan!

On Monday night, we picked up Brandon (Thomas's "little brother" from the
Big Brothers Big Sisters program) and we went to Killer Burger for dinner.
I wish I'd gotten a picture with Brandon (who is now 14)--I couldn't
believe how much he'd grown since I saw him last year! He was about an inch
shorter than me last year (I'm 5'4"). He's now 5'10", just about as tall as Thomas!!

I got the "girly size" (which they started calling "pint size" recently, probably
because that's more politically correct. It's just a half-size burger) Peanut
Butter Pickle Bacon burger. Sounds so odd, but I'd had it a couple of years ago,
and it was fantastic!

Just before heading to the airport, we stopped for celebratory drinks (my
first Long Island Iced Tea, which was delicious). After the difficult hike
that day, it was SO refreshing! I wore a shirt that says "Happy" because
that's how I felt after a few days hiking in Oregon, which I basically
consider my "home away from home" now. 

It was a fantastic weekend! Someday, I'd like Jerry to come with and see why I love Portland so much. If we weren't settled here in Michigan, I would want to move there. Hiking and scenery is definitely more my thing than Jerry's, but I think he would love the actual city of Portland (when he goes on trips, it's usually to a city--breweries and baseball are to him what trees and mountains are to me, haha). I brought him back a couple of local beers from Portland, and he was thrilled ;)

Overall, my favorite hike was Black Butte, because it was so challenging (for me) and I felt proud when I made it to the top. Seeing the antelope squirrel was awesome, and the view was amazing. The people on the trail were super friendly. And I always love getting to hang out with Thomas. It was probably my favorite trip yet!

Since it's Wednesday Weigh-in day, I was actually surprised to see that I was down 0.6 pounds from last week!

Yesterday morning, I was at 136.6, probably from the sodium and water retention from exercise, but it was gone today. I was conscious not to go overboard on the food while I was gone, and I probably burned a ton of calories from hiking (on Black Butte alone!), so I'm happy that I didn't gain weight, like I usually do.

Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend! My next trip is our family vacation to the upper peninsula of Michigan. I haven't been there in a very long time, and my kids have never been!

May 31, 2017

Day one of my trip to Oregon

It's a quarter after ten, and I just woke up. I haven't slept this late since college!

I was in Oregon for the weekend, and I took a redeye flight home on Monday night/Tuesday morning (the flight left at 12:30 AM on Tuesday). I had a three hour layover in Minnesota, and then arrived home at about noon yesterday. I stayed up all day, and then finally went to bed at 11 PM. So, I was awake for about 37 hours before going to sleep last night. Definitely a record for me.

Anyway, the weekend was TOTALLY worth the lack of sleep on the way home!

As you probably know, Thomas, my best friend who I actually "met" via my blog in 2012, lives in Portland. I've gone to visit a few times, because during my first trip out there, I totally fell in love with Portland! Not just the city, but the surrounding areas. I am so amazed at how gorgeous the Pacific Northwest is. The trees are my favorite part--they are SUPER tall and lush green from all the rain they supposedly get (it's only rained once in my four trips out there). We went on a 14-mile hike in 2015, and that was the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

March 2015

I started going out there annually, and I look forward to it all year. Anyway, I wanted to go hiking again on this trip. I wasn't really imagining three DAYS worth of hiking, but most of them were simple and short with gorgeous views, so it wasn't like we were hiking 14-milers each day. Actually, the longest hike was a little over four miles, I think. Neither of us is in the shape we were before! (My weight is lower, but since I haven't been running, I'm not in the shape I was in 2015.)

To change things up a bit, we headed to central Oregon about three hours from Portland, and I couldn't believe the difference of landscape. It was almost desert-like, a far cry from the lush green of Portland. However, there were some really amazing views and lookouts, so it was very cool to see a different side of Oregon.

I wish I knew the names of all of these places we went, but I forgot to have Thomas write them down for me, so I will have to get them later. But we did a ton of driving, and even in the car, I just kept exclaiming, "Ohmygosh! Look at that! It's so pretty!" I'm sure he was so tired of hearing it even before we got to our first stop.

Instead of droning on, I'll just post (way too many) photos of the sights we saw, and caption them as needed. First, however, I have to share something terrible that happened just after I arrived in Portland. I didn't actually know what had happened until the following evening when I saw it on a local newsfeed.

When I arrived at PDX, I waited for my suitcase. Then I went and bought a ticket for the MAX. The MAX is a public transportation system that consists of small train cars that go all over the city. The guy in front of me spent SO long looking at the map and I had to wait until he finally bought his ticket before I got mine. I was planning to take the MAX to meet Thomas near where he worked.

So, I finally bought my ticket, and then hopped on the MAX. I was supposed to ride it for about 40 minutes or so. After several stops, our train was taking an awfully long time to start going again. The conductor announced that "there was an incident on the train in front of us, and we would be delayed". He wasn't sure of the details or how long the delay would be.

I texted Thomas to let him know, and he told me to just get off the MAX and he would come pick me up at that stop. So, I lugged my suitcase up to the street, and waited in a nearby parking lot. Fast forward to the following evening (after we'd been hiking all day), when I was scrolling through Facebook. I saw this headline:

I was absolutely STUNNED. This had happened on the train ahead of mine. I was literally one stop away from where it happened. I started thinking of the "What if...?" scenarios. What if I hadn't checked my bag? What if that man in line for his ticket didn't take so long? I could have been on that train, and that thought was terrifying. I was SO so sad for the men that actually lost their lives over this. One was an Army veteran, and the other had just graduated college last year. Another man was stabbed, but (thankfully) is expected to live. (Here is a news article with the details.)

Portland is a very diverse and accepting city in general, and for some man to be so hateful toward a young Muslim woman is not at all what I would expect there. In fact, I've been trying to convince my parents to go out there, because I know they would love and appreciate how pretty it is. This incident is not at all something that represents the city.

For these three gentlemen to step in and intervene is exactly what I would expect, because that's how people are in Portland! Everyone there is SO nice and friendly (another thing I love about the city). When they stepped in to try and calm the man down, the man quickly pulled out a knife and stabbed them, killing two and injuring the third.

Anyway, that was in the back of my mind for the rest of the weekend. I feel so bad for the men who lost their lives, their families, the girls that were targeted and had to watch as the men died while trying to help them, and all the other people on that train who had to witness it.

Well, despite what had happened, I was able to appreciate Oregon for what it is--a beautiful state with amazing people and scenery. I'm actually going to post my photos from the hikes in a separate post. It just doesn't feel right to post them here. So, I will share them in a post following this one...

May 25, 2017

A "Finish Strong" Half-Marathon Training Plan

This plan is for experienced runners who want to run a half marathon and finish feeling good--not feeling like they want to keel over and die ;)

The key to feeling great throughout the race is building up a very solid base throughout training. This means running a lot of miles at an easy pace.

I implemented this running technique when I trained for the Chicago Marathon. I used the Hansons Marathon Method, which sparked my interest because the longest run was "only" 16 miles (rather than the usual 20 that most plans have). I expected the plan to be easier!

It was anything but easy. I was running a minimum of five miles per day, six days per week--and I had two months were I ran over 200 miles each! It was an insane amount of running (to me). But I never got injured, and I felt great. (Here is a link to my thoughts on the Hansons Marathon Method.)

The reason for running so many miles is to get your legs used to the cumulative fatigue. You run on tired legs frequently, and your body will get used to it. And then on race day, you will be totally prepared!

I have run three full marathons, and training the Hansons way was by far the best training plan for me.

When training for a tough 10K, I read a book called "80/20 Running" by Matt Fitzgerald, and I highly recommend reading it. I've written this plan based on 80/20 Running, while keeping Hansons Marathon Method in mind (a strong base).

If you follow this plan, I can almost guarantee that you will finish feeling good at the end of your half-marathon.

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF of this plan

May 24, 2017

National Weight Control Registry annual survey

This morning when I checked my email, I saw an annual survey for the National Weight Control Registry in my inbox. I registered for the NWCR several years ago when I'd maintained my weight loss for a year or two. It's basically an organization that follows people who have lost a significant amount of weight (at least 30 pounds) and kept it off for at least one year.

They like to keep track of data and habits of these people, which they collect via surveys, and see if the findings give them any input on the habits of successful weight maintenance. Here are just a few snippets of their findings:

You can find more here
Of course, this is all based on the surveys that people fill out, so data may not be entirely accurate. But I have always filled it out honestly, even though it sucks to report a large gain in weight sometimes.

Today's survey came at a good time, because my weight is very close to where it was last year at this time. At the end of the survey, there is a spot where we can type in anything we choose to share that may not have been covered in the survey; so, on this one, I wrote all about my large gain and loss over the last year, my bipolar diagnosis, new medication, change in eating habits (no longer counting calories), change in exercise (no longer running for the last few months). They'll probably just toss that mess of a survey in the trash, hahaha.

You can read their published studies here. I have read several of them, and I have found that I am not the norm on a few. Several studies show that most successful maintainers eat a low fat diet. I tend to eat a very high fat diet. I use heavy cream in my tea, whole milk in my cereal, regular fat cheese, real butter, oil instead of cooking spray, etc. (all questions that are asked on the surveys).

One of the commonalities I have with other maintainers is that I increased my water intake significantly (prior to 2009, I NEVER EVER drank water--my only liquids were coffee, sweet tea, Dr. Pepper, and beer). Now, I drink probably 60-80 ounces of water per day! I also never used to eat breakfast; now, it's my favorite meal, and I never skip it.

Something that I found very surprising/interesting (although true for myself as well) is that the amount of exercise people do doesn't make a difference in terms of weight maintenance. According to the study, people with high levels of physical activity maintained their weight loss just as well as those with low physical activity. As I've shown over the last few months, I have actually lost weight and I totally quit running. I go for walks occasionally with a friend and/or Joey, and I became more active and busy in my daily life, but that's about it.

There was another study that showed that the difference in weight regain was the same in both the participants that lost weight using bariatric surgery as well as the participants that used non-surgical methods. Almost all of them experienced some regain (very common in people that lose a significant amount of weight) but the amount regained was virtually the same in the two groups. Interesting!

Anyway, there are lots of studies published on the site, which you can find here.

Today was my Wednesday Weigh-in, and I almost forgot again! I had already taken a shower and gotten dressed before I remembered to do my weigh-in. But, it was two weeks since my last WWI post, so here goes:

Two weeks ago, I was 137.2, so I've lost 1.6 pounds in the last two weeks. I'm happy with that! It's coming off slower this time, so maybe it'll be easier to maintain. Also, I'm learning to do this without counting calories/points, and just follow my instincts. Also, I feel much more stable on my bipolar medication, so I'm not doing emotional eating or binge eating. It feels nice not to obsess over food and weight!

I need to go for a walk with Joey before it rains, so I'm going to head out to do that. But I've been working on a walking training plan for a half-marathon (several people requested one after I posted about my six-month beginners plan to run a half-marathon). Since I've been doing much more walking than running lately, I thought it would be fun to write a plan for it! Hopefully I'll get that posted sometime in the next several days.

May 21, 2017

Forget Me Not 5K race report

A few months ago, my friend Emma mentioned that she wanted to run a 5K in the spring, and she asked if I'd want to do it with her. There was a local one called the Forget Me Not 5K that popped up on Facebook, and we registered for it right away. We made plans to train together, because we both wanted to get motivated to run.

Well, as you know, the time passed, and neither of us trained! We each procrastinated, and we just never got around to actually doing it. So, on Thursday, I realized that the 5K was on Saturday, and I hadn't run in a long time. I sent Emma a text and asked her what she thought about it. She hadn't trained either, but we agreed to go anyway and try our best to finish! haha.

I honestly wasn't even sure if I could finish it--which sounds silly, considering a three mile run was always an "easy run" for the last 7 years. A no brainer. No huffing and puffing, unless I was trying to run it very fast. Thirty minutes, tops.

Well, since I've not been running, I knew it wasn't going to feel like an "easy" run. Emma assured me that her pace would be around 13-14 minutes per mile, so I just hoped I'd be able to stay with her and not slow her down.

Noah had a fundraiser for church camp yesterday (a car wash and bake sale) and my mom took him to that. Since Jerry was working, I brought Eli to play with Emma's son at her house (Emma's husband was home with the kids) while Emma and I went to the race.

I actually didn't even know where the race was until the morning of! Hahaha, that's how prepared I was. (It's kind of ironic that I forgot about the race, considering it's called the "Forget Me Not 5K".) I saw that it was at an airport, but I knew the airport was right next to a local park, so I guessed the race would actually be at the park. When we got there, though, I saw that I was wrong. The entire race took place at the airport, on the runway! It was actually really cool.

The packet pick-up was at the hangar, and the hangar was open so we could see a bunch of small planes. We'd gotten there about 45 minutes early, and it was SUPER windy in the openness of the airport, so we sat in my car until about five minutes before the start.

It was great to catch up with Emma! Usually, I only see her when there is a big group of us (my friends from high school), so we don't have one-on-one time to talk. She is married to Jake, who I was actually friends with (in high school) before I met Emma. They've been together as long as Jerry and I--18 years!

I was freezing at the starting line, because the wind was so strong. The race was a little late getting started, but finally, we lined up. It was a very small race (about 120 people), but I really liked the cause it was supporting. The 5K was a way to raise funds and awareness of the abused and neglected children of Monroe, Michigan, and to support the volunteers who are advocates for these kids. I like that there weren't any medals or even chip timing at the race, because 100% of our race sign-up fee went to the cause.

After the "Ready... Set... Go!", we started running. I use that word lightly, because we knew we wanted to jog as slowly as possible so that we'd be able to finish the whole thing. We could have walked, as there were several walkers, but we decided to try and jog it.

It went by pretty quickly, because we were chatting the whole time. Surprisingly, I felt okay--at that pace, I was pretty sure I'd make it three miles! ;) I really liked the course--running on the runway felt different from anywhere I'd run before, because it was so out in the open. I was glad it wasn't hot, because without shade, I don't think it would have been nearly as nice.

After an out and back part, I saw my mom's neighbor, Renee, who was walking with a friend, so I waved at her. And then later, I saw her son, who is Eli's age--he'd already finished the race and was cheering people on. If I'd have known that he was going to be there, I would have brought Eli!

The last 10 minutes or so of the race, my knee started hurting really badly. It was even causing me to limp a little. When that happened, it made me grateful that I'm not feeling pressured to run these days.  I still don't have any desire to train or sign up for races or anything like that. I had been putting pressure on myself, because of my blog name--I'm Runs for Cookies--of course I should run, right? But there have been so many changes going on in my life recently that this is just another thing I'm doing for myself.

I used to think that I would want to get back to running one day soon, but now I'm not sure I'll ever have the desire to get back into it. And I'm totally okay with that! I've mentioned that I want to change my blog name so it reflects the changes in my life, and I do hope to do that when I find a lot of time to work on it. But right now, I'm just doing whatever makes me happy. And if that means my exercise comes from riding bikes with my kids and going for walks with friends, then that sounds great to me!

Anyway, my knee hurting almost felt like a sign to me that my decisions are okay. We were close to the finish line, though, so we kept up our jog, and felt great that we made it when we finished! The race wasn't officially timed, but my Garmin read 42:41, which is about a 13:57 pace.

We got a few donut holes and a bottle of water, and we asked someone to take our picture in front of one of the airplanes before we headed home. I was really happy that Emma hadn't cancelled about going to the race (I had kind of hoped she would!) because it was fun to spend time catching up with her while getting some exercise on an airport runway of all places.

I took Emma home, and picked up Eli. After I took a shower and got dressed, Eli and I went out to lunch and then took the car to the car wash that Noah was working at. He's raising money for church camp, so they were holding a car wash for donations. Noah was acting so shy when we got there, and he pretended he didn't notice my bright yellow Jeep that people can spot from a mile away, hahaha.

Eli needed some supplies for a school project, so we stopped at Hobby Lobby, and then went back to pick up Noah before heading home. It had been a long morning and afternoon, so I was ready to get home and relax! I started working on a project that I'm hoping to do for my family as a surprise--it's kind of a lot of work, but I'll write about it more if I can pull it off.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! (I realized I forgot to do my Wednesday Weigh-in this week, so I will just catch up this week).

May 18, 2017

What to Expect at a First Psych Appointment

Well, I haven't written in a few days because I've actually been very productive. I knew that I didn't have any appointments or anything that was necessary to get done from Tuesday through Thursday this week, so I actually "scheduled" some time (pretty much the whole day on each of those days) to finally get all my digital photos and videos organized.

It probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but it literally took me two and a half days from the time I dropped my kids off at school until late each evening. I had 33,000 photos and 3,000 videos in several places on my computer, an external hard drive, and some flash drives. The worst part is that a ton of my photos had duplicates--some with three or four!

I tried using programs in the past to get rid of duplicates, but it never worked very well. And then every time I would transfer photos from one spot to another, the dates would get screwed up in the metadata. The whole point is that my photos were a HUGE JUMBLED MESS. I knew it would take me several days to work on them, which is why I actually scheduled the time to do it.

In the end (this afternoon), I managed to delete 13,000 duplicate photos, and nearly 2,000 duplicate videos! I used a program called shootShifter to change the dates of each photo back to the original EXIF date stamped into the photo. A lot of the dates were STILL incorrect, because I had lots of scanned photos (so a photo from 2002, for example, would read 2011, because I scanned it in 2011). Also, when I had my old camera (not my phone), I would regularly forget to set the date, and a had thousands of photos labeled 1/1/2004 (the default date). So overwhelming!

But, I have to say, I am in a VERY good place mentally right now, and I'm able to focus on tasks like never before. I absolutely cannot believe the change since starting my medications for bipolar. My mood has been great, I'm very patient, I can stay focused on one task for a long time (like these last three days!) and I don't get irritated or anxious.

My house has stayed the cleanest it's ever been, because I actually don't mind doing "chores". I find that I look forward to my routines--the morning when I get the kids ready for school and I make all the beds, and start a load of laundry. Throughout the day, I clean things as needed. Before bed, I have a routine of cleaning the kitchen counters and sink, putting away the laundry, cleaning out the litter box, and then sitting down with the family.

I've been missing out on this "normalcy" for so long! But, I am not going to focus on that. Instead, I'm just enjoying feeling "normal" for the first time in my life.

As I was waiting for uploads and downloads through the last few days, I managed to clear out my inbox, which also gets overwhelming at times. And I've gotten lots of emails recently about my psych appointment and bipolar diagnosis (all very kind emails and comments--thank you all for being so nice!). Several people said they felt compelled to finally make an appointment themselves, which I think is awesome! It was very hard for me to make the initial appointment (actually, Jerry did all the calling for me, because it was usually when I was in a deep depression).

So, I thought I would write a little about what to expect at that first psychiatrist appointment. A psychiatrist is actually a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness. This differs from a therapist, because the psychiatrist doesn't typically do therapy--they diagnose mental illnesses, prescribe medications, and/or refer patients to therapy, or other forms of treatment.

I've been going to therapy for a year and a half now--I didn't care for the first therapist, so I switched to a different one and I absolutely LOVE her. She's amazing, and I've learned so much from her. She suspected I had bipolar, and she mentioned it a few times to me, but I dismissed it so quickly that she stopped trying. But, she did recommend that I see a psychiatrist, because nothing I'd tried was helping me to get better.

As I mentioned here, I tried for MONTHS to get in to see a psychiatrist. My usual health system wasn't taking any new psych patients at all--I didn't even know that they were allowed to turn away people! I tried getting in to another health system, and was put on a nine month waiting list. One day, I was having such a bad day that Jerry started going through doctors online and calling several until he found one that had an appointment about five months out, which was the soonest I could get in anywhere. Ridiculous, right? So, he made the appointment, and I waited, feeling desperate.

Meanwhile, my general practitioner was helping by prescribing antidepressants, in the hopes that we could find one that worked. He also suspected bipolar, and recommended I see a psychiatrist, but I insisted that it was depression. I just hoped that the psychiatrist would know a combination of meds or something that could help. As I was reading about medications online (trying to find things to suggest to my doctor), I started to think that maybe I had inattentive ADHD. I had a lot of the symptoms for it, and I became convinced that I had both that and depression.

In March, about four months after scheduling the psych appointment, I got a phone call from the psychiatrist's office saying that they'd had a cancellation, and they could get me in the next day. I jumped at the chance--I didn't care what I had going on, I would make SURE to go to that appointment.

So, the whole point of this post was supposed to be what to expect at a psychiatry appointment. Here is what my experience was like...

I knew going in that what I wanted was a proper diagnosis (I suspected depression and inattentive ADHD) and treatment (medication that would actually work for me, in addition to my therapy). However, I did not want the doctor to have any preconceived notions about my diagnosis. If I told him that I had previous been diagnosed with depression, or if I just said that I have depression and anxiety and I need help for it, he might not dig further into the problem. So, I specifically didn't offer that information (at first).

After filling out forms, I was surprised that they took my blood pressure and weight. But, considering I was seeing a medical doctor who prescribes medication, I guess it makes sense that they do that. I sat in the waiting room for about 20 minutes filling out papers, and then the doctor came out to get me. I followed him to his office, which looked nothing like a typical doctor's exam room--it didn't have medical supplies or a bed/table with the long strip of paper on it, or anything like that. It just had a desk, a large book shelf, a few chairs, etc. It looked like a home office, basically.

I sat across from the doctor at the desk, and he asked me what I was hoping to get out of the appointment. Instead of saying, "Oh, I have depression and anxiety, and I really need help for that," or something, I simply said that I had been on antidepressants for a long time, but they just weren't working--I was still having uncomfortable symptoms (to put it lightly), and I wanted a proper diagnosis and treatment.

He started asking me a trillion questions. Since he is not a therapist, I gave him the answers he needed for diagnosis, but didn't go on and on about issues in my life--I save that for therapy :) He asked me about my family's medical history, about my own history, about medications I've taken in the past, what symptoms I was having, when they started occurring, the severity of them, and about a thousand other things. The questions were easy enough to answer factually without getting emotional (I only got teary once or twice, and that was when talking about the severity of my depression this past year).

The appointment lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Toward the end, I did mention that 10 years ago, a psychiatrist diagnosed me as bipolar, and "how crazy is that?!" I joked. He smiled and said I probably wouldn't like his diagnosis, then--because his diagnosis was bipolar as well. At first, I thought, "Ugh--here we go again." However, I had already decided, prior to the appointment, that I was going to try whatever the doctor suggested. I was so desperate going in there that I would entertain any idea!

I started asking him questions--basically challenging his diagnosis, because I still didn't understand how I could be bipolar. For the first time in the last 10 years, I finally got a real explanation. He described the two different types of bipolar disorder, and said I likely had type II (I explained a little about that on this post).

Once I heard his explanation, something clicked for me. Everything started making sense. (That post I wrote shared only a tiny portion of the symptoms of bipolar. I had lots of people email me saying that they think they may be bipolar also, based on my post, but that was the last thing I was trying to say! There is much more to it, but for the sake of brevity, I just wrote the gist of some symptoms. Many things are personal, which I chose not to write about.)

Anyway, after he explained about bipolar, and why the antidepressants weren't working for me (in fact, they may have been making me worse), he explained that he would prescribe a mood stabilizer. This would keep me from getting hypomanic and from getting depressed--I would hopefully settle somewhere in the middle, like a "normal" person.

He sent in the prescriptions electronically right while I was sitting there, and I took my first dose that evening. Within about four days, I started noticing a difference in my mood. And the longer I've been on the medication, the better I've been feeling. I'm not euphoric, but I'm not depressed, either. The medication is doing exactly what it's supposed to do, and I couldn't be more thrilled that something is finally working.

(Wow, I always plan to keep my posts brief, but I have a big problem sticking to that!)

So, I wrote this to basically give an idea of what to expect at a first psychiatry appointment. Of course, it may be different for other patients and/or doctors; but thankfully, I really like my doctor and I could tell he knows his stuff. I was happy that I didn't feel rushed, and he spent a good amount of time with me.

When making an appointment, I would ask how long the first appointments typically last. If they say anything less than an hour, I would keep looking. There are a lot of factors to look at when diagnosing mental illness, and I think it would be impossible in a 30-minute appointment.

Also, I would suggest asking for a diagnosis, rather than telling the doctor what you think you have. Once we put an idea in someone's head, they won't be able to dismiss that idea when considering a diagnosis.

And, of course, be as honest as possible when answering questions. I wouldn't try to make the severity of the symptoms sound worse in the hope that the doctor will take you more seriously. Even the smallest details help with the diagnosis. For example, the fact that my depression started at around age 9 or 10 was very significant for a bipolar diagnosis--I had no idea until he explained that to me later.

Many psychiatrists work hand-in-hand with therapists as well, and my doctor has therapists at his office. If I hadn't already gotten established with a therapist that I love, then that would be part of his treatment plan as well. I really enjoy my therapy sessions, and the one that I had just before my psych appointment was when I FINALLY had that "aha!" moment. I always wondered what caused my depression (which I now know is actually bipolar).

That's one of major reasons I even started therapy! I wanted to know the cause of my depression; and therefore, why it caused me to binge eat. I had a pretty good childhood--I wasn't abused in any way, or neglected, and I had a loving family. I kept hoping for some answers, because nothing was clear to me. At that recent therapy session, I finally got the answers I was looking for my entire life, and it felt amazing. (The timing of learning about that issue, as well as starting my new medication shortly after, was perfect.)

I won't get into the details, because it's pretty personal, but the discovery has changed my life significantly. I decided to stop living like I was constantly on edge and worried about doing something "wrong". I stopped feeling guilty all the time for reasons I couldn't explain. There were things that nagged at me for years because I tried to avoid conflict as much as possible--and finally, I am able to take care of issues in the moment, instead of always feeling worried about them.

I've been able to say things that may not be what others want to hear, but I'm truthful. I stopped avoiding certain topics or issues for fear of conflict, and it feels freeing. I've started saying "sorry" only when I've actually done something that is worth apologizing for; before, I apologized for everything just to "keep the peace".

I mentioned on my post a few days ago that I am now saying "yes" to more invitations with friends and family--because I am eager to establish or develop better relationships with them, as well as step out of the comfort zone that I had grown so accustomed to. However, I am also saying "no" to things as well--things that truly don't interest me. I used to do things that I didn't enjoy--again, to avoid conflict.

I feel like I am finally taking care of myself, and it's amazing. I owe this to lots of therapy sessions and the correct diagnosis and medication. Thanks so much for reading about all of my ups and downs over the last six years! haha. Things in my life are changing quite a bit, and I'm feeling good about it. (I am still looking into rebranding my blog--it's very overwhelming, but it is definitely on my "to do" list.) With all of these changes in my personal life, I think the timing is great for a change in my blog as well.

May 15, 2017

18 years

I wasn't going to write a post today, but when I realized the date, I figured I could at least share some pictures. It was exactly 18 years ago that Jerry and I went on our first date!

The day prior, we had been at our mutual friend Mike's house for a get together with friends. I knew I recognized Jerry from somewhere, and I realized that I had interviewed him about six months before when I was working on an article for my school's newspaper. I went to other schools in the county to interview students, and Jerry happened to be one of the students I'd interviewed.

At that time, I remember thinking that he was pretty cute in a funky kind of way.

But mostly, I was very impressed with his handwriting, of all things! Hahaha. He had very neat handwriting, and I thought that was pretty cool. But I was never very assertive, especially with boys, so I assumed I'd never see him again.

And then in May, I ran into him at Mike's party. We realized how we knew each other, and then we exchanged phone numbers. I wasn't sure if he'd call, but the next day, he called me and asked if I would want to go out that night. It was a cheap date--we just went to the Metropark for a long walk. We ended up strolling for a couple of hours, and wound up on a bridge overlooking the lake.

Jerry, being incredibly cheesy, started singing that song from The Little Mermaid, "Kiss the Girl". Clearly, he wanted to kiss me ;) So, we shared our first kiss on the bridge, and at that moment, I felt something deep down in my gut that was different. I knew--really knew--that we would get married someday.

When I went home that evening, I even wrote in journal that I was going to marry him one day. Fast forward four years, and we got married in August of 2003. A year after that, we had Noah. And in 2006, we had Eli, completing our family of four.

Back when we first got together, nobody believed it would be for the long haul. High school sweethearts never last, right? So, even though nobody else believed it, for us, it was almost a given. I never doubted it, and neither did he.

We were pretty much inseparable after that first date at the Metropark. And now, 18 years later, we still love each other just as much (more, probably) than ever before. We certainly had our ups and downs through the years, but I never really had the thought that one day, we wouldn't be together anymore. A cliché piece of advice is to "never go to bed angry"--but Jerry and I have lived by that for all these years. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that we didn't resolve a conflict before going to bed. I think that has been very helpful for our relationship.

So anyway, without that first date 18 years ago, my life would probably be drastically different today! I am so glad that everything worked out the way it did. And it's crazy to me that we've been together for more than half our lives now!

After I created this, I realized I used one of the pictures twice! Oh, well--
I just had to make sure that Jerry's frosted tips were somewhere in here ;)

May 14, 2017

Saying "yes"

I had a great day yesterday.

When I started my new medication (I think it's been six weeks ago now?), and I started feeling better almost immediately, I decided to change several things in my life. Looking back at the last 30 or so years of my life, I'm starting to piece together how my bipolar disorder played a role in several aspects of my life.

Socially, I always felt awkward. I never felt like I fit in anywhere, and going out was always uncomfortable for me. If I was depressed, I never wanted to do anything at all; if I was hypomanic, I was in a great mood, but usually felt overwhelmed. Also, when I was hypomanic, I would make lots of plans with friends, and inevitably, fall back into depression and cancel or not enjoy myself. I still had friends, and would get together occasionally, but I rarely went out of my way to initiate things.

Recently, when I started feeling more stable, I decided that I was going to start saying "yes" more. I was so used to turning down plans and events for mood reasons (not knowing what mood I would be in when that day came around). I also decided to start reaching out to friends more often--even if it was just a quick text a few times a week to say hello.

I started with my friend Sarah. She lives in Arizona now, but we were the best of friends growing up. She was born just three days before I was, and we lived two houses apart for the first 15 years of our lives. We were inseparable, and we were even roommates in college. She was the maid of honor in my wedding, and I was her matron of honor years later, even after she moved to Arizona.

I think this was the first day of kindergarten

Pregnancies--2004 for me, and 2013 for her
We never stopped being friends, but we talked SO infrequently--maybe just three times a year to catch up. About a month ago, I started texting here and there--nothing major, but enough to feel like we were reconnecting. And then last week, we talked on the phone for a long time, and it was great! The nice thing about our friendship is that we always pick up where we left off--it's not awkward in any way. We still feel comfortable telling each other personal things that we wouldn't share with many people, and we know each other's personalities so well.

She was super supportive when I told her I was diagnosed with bipolar. And the diagnosis explained a LOT about my personality in college, when we lived together for two years. Anyway, it's been really nice reconnecting with her.

I've reached out to several other friends to make plans, and I find that I'm really looking forward to it. I used to feel awkward, like I had to try harder to be "normal" than other people did (I realize that sounds very odd).

A few days ago, my friend Jessica sent me a text to ask if I would want to go on a party bus to Greektown Casino in Detroit. I knew she was fully expecting me to say no, and I was probably the last person that she had asked (which I totally understood). Two months ago, I definitely would have said no! But I immediately responded that yes, I would go. She was very surprised, which even came through on her texts, and I found it pretty funny.

I was still nervous to go, but nothing like I would have been in the past. Actually, my biggest concern was spending money! Jerry and I have been trying to cut back on spending, and we created a budget. We give ourselves "allowance" every week to spend on whatever we want. I wasn't sure how much I would need for Detroit, but Jessica said she was on a tight budget, too, and we wouldn't even be spending much time in the casino--we would each play our $20 that comes with the trip's tickets, and then be done.

So, I said yes, and I committed to not backing out, no matter how I felt on Saturday. I've been feeling really good lately, and I was grateful that yesterday was no exception. I was kind of excited to dress up a little (not super dressy, but more so than usual). I picked Jessica up and we went to the meeting spot for the bus, which left at 4:00.

I only planned on having two drinks max for the night, so I didn't drink on the bus. When we got to the casino, we picked up the cards that we were given with our tickets--$20 in "free" play (I put free in quotes, because the tickets were $40 for the trip). I had already decided that I was going to play $20 on roulette--numbers 11 and 33--for just one spin. We went to the roulette tables first, and I found a table that had actually gotten both 11 and 33 in the past 10 spins, so I thought maybe that was a sign I should play at that table.

I had no clue what I was doing, but I laughed, asked questions, and apologized for doing things I wasn't supposed to--like place my chips next to the others on the squares, instead of on top of them--and one man said, "There's no 'sorry' in roulette!" They were all friendly and understanding. (In the past, I would have been embarrassed, overwhelmed, and frustrated). They spun the wheel, and the ball landed on number 31. So, 11 and 33 weren't my lucky numbers in that moment after all, and I learned that there was "sorry" in roulette, because I had just wasted $20! Haha, it was fun to imagine winning, though.

We headed over to the slot machines to use our prepaid cards. I hate slot machines! I don't understand them at all. I found a Wheel of Fortune machine, which looked fun if I got to spin the wheel (I didn't get to) and quickly ran through the $20 on the card (it was a $1 per credit machine, so it didn't take long).

Wheel of (mis)Fortune
Then I was done gambling. Jessica found a penny slot machine to try. I told her that the penny slots are probably a waste, because even if you get a ton of credits, they are only worth a penny each!

She played $3, and then she got some sort of bonus of five free spins. She won $123!!! I was shocked. I convinced her to stop playing while she was ahead, and just keep the money she won. She finished out the rest of the $20 on her card (we weren't able to cash that in, so it had to be used up or we would lose it), and then she cashed out and we left the casino.

Winner winner!
We walked across the street to Astoria, my favorite bakery. I wanted a piece of carrot cake, and it looked delicious.

Jessica got something for later, because she wanted to eat at Wahlbergers, which recently opened in Detroit. We sat outside and I ate my cake while she had a burger. We had several hours to kill until the bus left, so we started walking around downtown. I couldn't believe how much night life the city has on a Saturday night! I'm used to going to Detroit during the day, and it's not busy at all. But there were tons of people out enjoying the nice weather.

There was a band set up in Campus Martius, so we sat at the fountain and chatted for a little bit. Jessica had never played Keno and said she wanted to try it, so we looked around for a little while trying to find a bar that had Keno (you can play for a long time with very little money, so it's really the only gambling I ever do). We didn't have luck finding Keno, but we really enjoyed walking around downtown. People watching is the best!

Campus Martius at the fountain
We went to Pappy's, a bar across from the casino, and each had a vodka tonic. We found a little table by what I thought was a glass window, but it turned out to be a big open rectangle that looked like a window, only without the glass. It was perfect for sitting and chatting, while watching people walk by and enjoying the night air.

At 9:15, we stopped at Astoria again because we thought a piece of baklava would be the perfect ending to the evening in Greektown! We took that with us to the bus and ate it there. It was SO good, but pretty rich, so I just ate half of my piece (considering I'd had cake earlier).

We both talked about how far Detroit has come as a city, and how it would make a great date night or just a fun place to hang out with friends on a Saturday night. My very favorite thing to do in new cities (or when I go on trips to visit people) is to walk around the city and just check things out and people watch. Even though Detroit isn't anywhere "new" to me, seeing it in a different perspective (on a Saturday night) was almost like exploring a new city.

It was also nice to realize that I could out in a situation like that (party bus, casino, bars) and have fun without drinking. I had one vodka tonic, but that was toward the end of the evening. I used to feel more comfortable socially when having a few drinks, because it relieved any social anxiety I was feeling. Yesterday, though, I had a great time.

I'm really glad that Jessica asked me to go, even though she was sure I'd say no. If I had said no, I would have missed out on a very fun evening with a good friend in my favorite city!

This morning, I woke up to my usual routine, and my kids wished me a happy Mother's Day. They gave me a gift they'd been working on for a very long time--some fill-in-the-blank books about us! I had them make similar books for my parents and for Jerry last Father's Day, so I was very excited that they made the books for me.

I sat down with each of them to read through their books and look at the pictures they chose. It was funny, and even interesting, to read about their memories--things I had forgotten or just didn't consider very memorable. There were things we did together that must have made an impression on the kids, because they wrote a lot of memories that surprised me.

Eli's memory of when we went to Cedar Point and
there was a downpour--the whole park flooded in minutes!

Noah's memory of when we went to Cleveland for a night
before heading to Punta Cana in the morning

It was funny to see what they think I do during the day when they are at school (watch TV, eat ice cream, etc. Hahaha!). For the record, the only TV I watch is in the evenings with the family, or with Jerry before bed--honest. It was very cute to read the things they thought I was good at, and the things they think I need to work on.

This made me laugh! Eli's memory of our hotel inHershey, PA,
which was definitely an "experience"
Noah's list of things I always have time for.
I loved that he notices these things! I never knew.

It was basically just like seeing myself through my kids' eyes, which was both funny and enlightening. I loved the books!

In addition to the book, Eli made me rose out of clay in his after-school art club. I was amazed! It is so pretty, and Eli really is such a talented artist.

Jerry had to work today, but he had helped the kids put the finish touches on their books yesterday. Becky is coming over with Lucas any minute, and I can't wait! I haven't seen him in at least a couple of weeks.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there! :)

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