September 28, 2017

Wednesday Weigh-in and Thrifty Thursday catch-up

I have no idea how I used to blog every single day and have it posted by 9:00. The days just go by so fast!

I'm only using this photo because I don't want the thumbnail
photo for this post to be my weigh-in on the scale! haha

I do like the new themed days that I've started, though. It helps me to think of ideas to write about, and to focus on topics other than weight loss for once ;)

But, speaking of weight, I did do my Wednesday Weigh-in yesterday, because I was planning on writing a post until the time got away from me.

I think that was about the same as last week. I can't remember! Since I've been staying between 131 and 134 for a few months, I don't really pay much attention to it unless it gets over that range (like when I was taking the anxiety med).

It's funny, though--the longer I stay within this range, the more anxious I get about it. At first, I really didn't care at all about my weight. I was thrilled to be back in the 140's, and I wasn't expecting to lose much more (if any). But considering my history, and how unstable my weight has always been, it's almost like I'm expecting a big change soon.

Typically, what happens is that I start getting depressed (after a long period of feeling great--i.e. hypomania). And subsequently (or perhaps even simultaneously), my weight starts to climb (or it just skyrockets, haha). I'm hoping that now that I am on the bipolar meds, this pattern will stop. But for right now, I am feeling anxious about it. Like I'm just waiting for the scale to go up.

Usually, I am depressed during the summer and then hit hypomanic in the fall, but this year has thrown me for a loop. So, we'll see what happens. I'm not sure how long it would take at maintenance weight for me to stop watching and waiting for the scale to climb. But I really don't want to worry about it! So I'm trying not to.

I missed last week's "Thrifty Thursday" post, and I don't have anything profound to write today. But I do have something exciting to share:

We paid off one of the credit cards this month! Now, we just have a balance on one more card, and after that, we will be credit debt-free. The balance on that one is $7500, so it'll take a little longer to pay off. Tomorrow, though, Jerry and I both get paid to close out October--so we'll put all of our extra money this month toward that card.

I still cannot believe how well this zero-sum budgeting is working for us! I have never felt so relieved about finances. I used to worry all the time about having enough money to pay the bills, but it was because we were spending it as we were earning it. With the zero-sum budgeting, we are earning money for the following month while spending last month's money on the bills for this month. (I wrote more specifically about it on this post.)

Next month, we probably won't be earning much extra, because we are going to be on vacation for six days. But this month was very good (Jerry chose to work a LOT of overtime), so it will even out. I really want him to chill in October--he needs to take a break. I think going to Portland next week is going to be exactly the break this guy deserves!

I can't really think of anything "thrifty" to mention regarding this past week. I spent more of my allowance than I would have liked (I saved it up for so long, and I had a lot!). I have enough saved for spending money in Portland, though. I am not going to put anything on the credit card while we're there!

I checked my grocery receipt after my big grocery shopping day (Friday), which is something I never used to do. I found a couple more errors on the receipt, so I was able to get a refund. It makes me wonder how many times there have been errors that I never even noticed! I had a coupon for a free bottle of conditioner, which was priced at $5.79. When I got home, I noticed that the cashier rang up two of them (I only had one), but the coupon obviously only took one of them off. So I would have missed out on the $5.79 if I hadn't checked the receipt.

We definitely went over budget on medical bills, though. I budget for our normal co-pays for doctor's appointments and medications, but with Jerry's emergency room visit, my starting physical therapy (I'll write about that tomorrow), the back clinic I started going to (again, tomorrow), and my UTI/antibiotic issue, we certainly were over our budget. But thankfully, we had the money to pay for these things--because we budget! In the past, we would have been hit with bills and just added to our debt.

One thing that we will have to add into our budget next month is Eli's braces. We went to a couple more consults, but all of them said the same thing and the price quote was very close. I hate that braces are so expensive! I can remember my mom telling me, when I had braces for five goddamn years, that one day I was going to thank her for spending so much money on my teeth. And of course I am grateful for it now! But it definitely hurts to be a parent and see the cost of straight teeth. (Eli's issues aren't simply cosmetic, though--I'm convinced it's necessary.) And I'm sure one day Eli will thank me for spending so much money on his teeth ;)

(Eli actually had braces when he was three years old. It wasn't to correct his smile or anything; it was because he had a cross bite that prevented his molars from coming together. He choked on his food often, to the point where I had to give him the Heimlich maneuver more times than I can count. So, he wore braces--or "bracelets", as he called them--for three months. They worked very well! No more choking.)

Anyway, I will write some more tomorrow. I think I'm taking the kids to the high school's homecoming football game--none of us have ever been to one. Eli and I are walking in the parade with the cross country team beforehand. We have another busy weekend ahead, too!

September 26, 2017

RECIPE: Cream Cheese Rigatoni

This pasta dish is not very saucy, but has a good taco flavor with a some creaminess from the cream cheese and a top layer of cheddar. Jerry and my kids are obsessed with this dish! They request it all the time.


16 oz dry rigatoni (or penne or other pasta)
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 cup water
4 oz cream cheese
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese


Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Cook pasta according to package directions. Brown the ground turkey with onion in olive oil, then drain the fat. Add 1 cup of water and taco seasoning to the turkey, and stir well. Simmer 5 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until melted.

Remove from heat. Put pasta in a casserole dish, and gently toss together one cup of the cheese, the cooked pasta, and the turkey mixture. Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is just melted. Serve.


This tastes best, and has the best texture, when you put it in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese. You don't want the cheese to form a crust or get brown at all. It should still be very melty.

I've tripled this recipe to make for a crowd, and it worked really well. It's an easy, cheap recipe, and people love it!

September 25, 2017

The Most Important Tool I've Learned in Psychotherapy

The Most Important Tool I've Learned In Psychotherapy

When I started seeing my current therapist a little over a year ago, my expectations were very low. I had seen therapists before (maybe three or four?) and I had just ended the relationship with one--we didn't click at all, and I was getting nowhere. A friend recommended "C", my current therapist, to me, and I am so so so grateful that she did.

While my previous therapist loved to use the "awkward silence" trick (not saying a word until the awkwardness was overwhelming and one of us would finally talk--and it was always me), C talks as much as I do in our sessions. It's not awkward at all. When I'm talking, she listens very attentively, and then I love to hear her thoughts and advice--I've learned so much from her.

The most important tool that I've learned from her actually came about from our very first session. I honestly can't even remember what I talked about that day, but I certainly haven't forgotten what she taught me: validation will get you everywhere in life.

Before you roll your eyes (like I did on the inside when I first heard that word), there is so much more to "validating someone's feelings" than I ever thought. That little phrase is so cliché that it loses its meaning. Once C explained it to me, it was like a lightbulb went on in my head. It was so enlightening! I started practicing it every day, and now I feel that I am a better mom, wife, friend, family member... even writer.

validation cartoon

Whenever I'd heard "validating someone's feelings" before, I thought of what we were taught in middle school: repeat part of what the person says and then state your opinion. "So you're saying that you don't want to hang out with Jenny because..." and following it with "...but Jenny is really nice and there is no reason not to give her a chance." (Or something like that--maybe that was a dumb example.)

The way C explained validation to me was much clearer: People want to be heard. When they state an opinion, they want to know that people actually HEAR it and take note of it, rather than just nodding along until they can give their own opinions.


Here is an example that I just used on Saturday, when my cross country kids had a race. One of the girls said, "I'm SO nervous!". A likely response would have been, "Oh, don't worry--you have no reason to be nervous! It's just a race. You're going to do great!" Or something like that. A more validating response (what I told her) would be: "I know the feeling--I get nervous before every race! It's totally understandable that you'd be nervous, with all these people around, but I bet that as soon as you start running, you'll forget your nerves and have a great race."

The first response was a kind response, trying to reassure her; but it doesn't validate that she's nervous. To her, the race is definitely something to be nervous about, and she wanted someone to hear that. By telling her that there is nothing to worry about, we aren't validating her feelings about it, and it may make her feel insignificant. Does that make sense?


Here's another example: My friend told me that her mom kept making her feel really guilty for spending time with her new boyfriend. Her mom was used to seeing her much more frequently, and once she started dating someone, her mom was hurt, and started saying things to make her feel guilty.

A reasonable response to her mom would be, "I know I'm not around as much, but it doesn't mean I don't love you. I'm just really excited about dating (so-and-so) and it's harder to make time for everyone. But I'll try to be around more." Not bad. However, a much more validating way to explain it to her mom would be this: "Mom, I know how much it means to you that we spend time together, and I'm so sorry that my time has been split between you and (so-and-so) lately. I miss you, too, so why don't we make a standing lunch date every week? Then we can both look forward to it."

By saying "I know how much it means to you that we spend time together", she is validating her mom's feelings about how important that time is together.

Validation works wonders to calm down an angry person, too. When people are angry, they simply want everyone to know that they are mad, and WHY they are mad. And that they have a reason to be mad about it! A great example of this is actually from when Noah had the largest splinter imaginable in his foot, and we were terribly mistreated at two emergency rooms (in the same health system). Here is the whole story.

After we were dismissed from the first emergency room, I was really pissed off that nobody took us seriously. They talked to me like I was an ignorant mom who had no clue what I was talking about. A little better at the second ER, but still dismissed without the care we needed. After those two visits, I was VERY angry at that health care system. I wrote a letter, explaining what had happened, and I got a call from the director of the emergency department at both hospitals.

I have to say, this woman was VERY good at her job, because as angry as I was, she had me speaking calmly and rationally by the middle of our conversation. She could have said, "Our doctors are trained well, and they know what they're doing. They didn't want his foot to get infected, so they did what they were taught to do: nothing. Let it come out on its own. I'm sorry you're mad, but that's our policy."

However, she validated my feelings by saying things like, "I am so sorry for what happened to your son. I am a mom, and I would have been livid if I was dismissed like that when I knew something was very wrong with him. You must have been so frustrated trying to get care for him, and I'm so sorry that you didn't get the care you needed from us. That was our mistake, and I'm going to talk to the staff about it to make sure nothing like that happens again."

That's all that I wanted--I wanted someone to admit that they could have done a better job and that I have every reason to be angry. Once I knew that she really heard what I was saying, I felt so much better. Calm. Glad that someone got it. Even though I KNEW she was validating my feelings, it worked perfectly.


I could go on and on and on about this topic, but I'll just list one more example. When it comes to parenting, validation has been the most valuable tool I wish I had known years ago! If my kids ask me for something and I say no, all I have to do is validate their feelings and it stops the arguing/whining. Example:

Let's say that Noah wants to spend the entire evening playing video games (a common theme in our house).  Before learning about validation, I probably would have said, "No--it's time to turn off the video games. You need to do something else. Go outside! Play catch with Eli! Throw Joey's ball for him!" and there would have been a lot of back-and-forth arguing.

With validation, I would now say, "I know that you have fun playing the games with your friends online. I get that! There are a lot of times that I'd rather watch TV than do the things I need to do around the house; but I have to do things I don't want to sometimes, just like you. So right now, it's time to turn off the games. I know it sucks, but you'll be okay. And the game will be here later."

Saying it this way lets him know that I know it's not fun to quit playing games with his friends. But we all have to do things we don't want to before we can do the fun things we do want. He just wanted me to know that he didn't just want to "sit on his butt all day and play video games", but rather than he was having fun with his friends. When I told him that I understood that, it satisfied his need for validation.

This is turning into the longest post ever, but I have loved using this validation technique in all sorts of ways ever since I learned it, and I can't even count the number of times it's helped me save an argument.

This works wonders in a marriage, too--C actually had Jerry come in for one of my therapy sessions, and she explained validation to him. She told him that when I am feeling anxious or depressed, and I tell Jerry about it, I just want him to validate the way I'm feeling--not try to convince me to feel otherwise. "I know you're feeling anxious, and I'm so sorry that you're feeling that way. Is there anything I can do?" Rather than trying to solve things. This helped so much! Sometimes, I just wanted him to really hear me when I told him how bad I was feeling.

The whole idea of validation boils down to this: People have feelings that they can't control, and whether we agree with their feelings or not, they just want to be heard. They want us to validate that their feelings are real. Whether we agree or disagree with them, we should just accept that they feel the way they do.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this "tool" that I learned and that has worked wonders in my own life. Hopefully it'll help someone else to prevent some conflicts as well!

September 23, 2017

Jerry's big birthday surprise!

On Thursday, as I sat down to write my Thrifty Thursday post, I ended up having to go to the E.R. because Jerry was sent there from work. We were there until about midnight, so I didn't end up writing the post. (Everything was okay, and Jerry is fine.)

Yesterday, Jerry and I went to a wedding. One of his co-workers got married, and I actually didn't know a single soul at the wedding. I was a little nervous about going and not knowing anybody, but I ended up having so much fun! I even danced, which I never do. Jerry loves wedding dancing, and he thinks people should hire him to go to weddings and get people fired up to get on the dance floor, hahaha.

Anyway, I sat a table with his friends, and I actually felt really comfortable. I was talkative (maybe too talkative) and I danced. And ate a delicious piece of cake! (Well, a piece and a half if we're keeping track.) We tried getting a nice photo:

Oh, well--I always like the candid photos better anyway ;)

I gave Jerry his birthday present on Monday, and he was THRILLED. Remember I mentioned that I'd gotten him something that I was super crazy excited to give him? Here's the story: When we were dating in high school, he used to wear band shirts all the time. He loved music and concerts and he had dozens of band t-shirts. His very favorite was this Korn shirt (the one he is wearing, not me):

korn shirt
Those frosted tips, tho! ;)

My parents are pretty conservative and didn't really approve of Jerry's "alternative" look or choice of music. (I imagine they were thrilled when they saw me wearing his band shirts as well, haha.) Anyway, Jerry and I were serious about each other from the beginning. The day I went out with him for the first time, I went home and wrote in my journal that I knew I would marry him one day. He was the most genuinely nice guy I'd ever met.

Jerry really wanted my parents' approval, so he decided one day to get rid of all of his band shirts. (Knowing what I know now, I never would have let that happen!). He regretted it shortly after, of course, but life went on. Several times over the years we've been together, he's mentioned that he wishes he still had those band shirts. There were two in particular--his favorite, which was the Korn shirt, and in close second, a Rage Against the Machine shirt.

Months ago, when I started my new meds and I was feeling much better, I started looking online for those shirts. I wanted to do something really special for him for putting up with all my "issues" over the years. I just couldn't find them! I wanted the Korn one most of all, and I searched a few times a week to see if I could locate one. No luck.

The day before his birthday, I was looking again, and I actually found one on Ebay. It happened to be a large, which is his size, and it had never been worn. It was the exact same shirt, by the same company, that he'd had in 1997! It was crazy expensive for a t-shirt ($135!!) but I just had to get it. I used my allowance that I'd been holding onto, and it was worth every penny. When the shirt arrived on Monday, I was giddy with nostalgia.

I carefully wrapped it, and then I was dying for him to wake up and open it. He knew I was excited to give him something, but he had no clue what it was. He was thrilled when he opened it, and put it on right away. He loved it!! I think he wore it for three days straight ;)

korn t-shirt

On Monday night, Becky asked me if I could want to watch Luke for a few hours so she and Brian could go somewhere to watch the Lions game. I didn't even have to think about it--of course! It was so fun having him over. We made popcorn in the popcorn maker that my kids loved when they were little, and I took a cute "then and now" photo.

Then we spent an hour being ridiculously silly, in order to make Luke laugh. We played with blocks, and then he fell asleep curled up on my chest. Baby snuggles are the best!

Today, we had a cross country meet, and it was NINETY TWO degrees!! I felt so bad for the kids. Yesterday was supposedly the first day of fall, and it was the hottest day we've had, probably all summer. Tomorrow, Noah and Eli have a baseball game--it's supposed to be even hotter. Where is fall?!

September 20, 2017

The Downside of Weight Loss

Throughout the last seven years of blogging, I felt like I've written all there is to say about weight loss. I've been asked all the questions over the years, several times over, and I was just tired of writing about it. However, in coming up with some fresh ideas, I'm kind of excited to write about it again.

In brainstorming ideas to write for WebMD (like I mentioned on Friday), I came up with a long list of topics regarding weight loss that I've never really written about in-depth before. So, I think I may start writing about some of these things.

One thing I've never really touched on is the not-so-exciting part of weight loss.

At 253 pounds, I just knew that if I lost 120 pounds or so that I would be the person I'd always hoped to be: pretty, outgoing, extroverted, talkative, funny, social, and not-at-all awkward. Each time I tried to lose weight, it all started with that bit of hope that I would become "my real self" as the weight came off.

Anyway, I'm sure you can see where this is going. Imagine my surprise (and disappointment) when I stood on the scale at 130-ish pounds, and I was still the same person I was before, just in a smaller size. I was getting much more attention, but I wasn't sure what to do with it. I was still incredibly socially awkward (I am to this day, after seven years!). I'm also an introvert. Shy.

If this photo isn't the definition of awkward, I don't know what is.

I had to push myself out of my comfort zone in a big way to start gaining some confidence (this is a topic I will go into depth with another time). Still, though, even with the confidence boost, I wasn't the person I dreamed I'd be. I wasn't the person that I thought I was going to be.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to losing a large amount of weight is the constant fear of gaining it back. From the day I stepped on the scale at my goal weight, the odds were against my keeping it off. There was a 95% chance I would be back to 250+ pounds in two years. From that moment, every decision I made regarding food was thought out, good or bad.

Once you learn or hear something, you can't just unlearn it. During my weight loss, I learned how many calories were in just about any food you can imagine. I learned how many miles I would have to run to negate the extra calories I wanted to eat. I learned that every binge has consequences.

I learned that there was no going back... at least without the embarrassment of everyone seeing me gain it all back. There were moments that I actually wished I was fat again, because in some ways, life was so much simpler then. It sounds odd, that I would worry about "there's no going back now"--because I had always wanted to lose the weight, and I finally did!

It was scary, though. I remember when I went to the hospital to give birth to Noah, and as I was in labor, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought of, "There's no going back. We can't change our minds now. Our lives are 100% changed forever." And it scared me. I had no idea how to be a mom, or even if I would enjoy being a mom. But once you are, you can't undo it.

That's how I felt about the weight loss. If I had lost 10 or 20 pounds, it wouldn't have felt like a big deal. Lots of people lose 20 pounds and gain it back! But I had lost 125 pounds, which is pretty damn noticeable. After losing that much weight, and my friends and family had seen it, there was no going back.

Losing all of that weight and changing my life forever (whether I keep it off or not) was a decision that I didn't even realize I'd made. When I started losing weight, I assumed it would be just like every other time. Even when I lost 50 pounds, I knew it wouldn't last. Then 60. Then 70. 100. 125. I'm not sure at which number I started to feel that sense of, "Oh, shit, what am I doing? What am I getting myself into?"

By the time I realized this, I had already jumped into it with both feet. I certainly embraced the good parts of the weight loss: wearing clothes I never thought I'd fit into; getting compliments that I wasn't used to; hearing catcalls from guys instead of them calling me a cow from their cars while I was out exercising. Not to mention that I was so much healthier and able to be more active with my family. Setting a good example for my kids.

Because it's been so long since I lost the weight, I think that sometimes people forget that I was obese. And maybe they think it's easy for me to keep it off--effortless. The truth is, it's almost always on my mind. The fear of gaining it all back. I struggle a lot more than I probably appear to.

Interestingly, I felt just as awkward in this photo (at 123 pounds) as I did in the first photo! Jessica and Renee are pretty, funny, talkative, outgoing. I felt like, "Do they really want me in this photo? Or are they asking me out of obligation?" My insecurity is ridiculous in these moments.

When I go to a party with friends, and they load up plates of food, they probably don't realize that I am being very careful about how much I am putting on my plate, and planning out what I want to have the most, so I don't "waste" calories on things I won't enjoy as much. When I go grocery shopping, I consciously choose not to put a dozen of my old binge foods in my cart--but that's a hard decision for me!

Over the last several months, I've been able to relax quite a bit--I am not nearly as worried about the number on the scale, as long as it stays within reason; I have actually learned to eat in an intuitive way, which is something I've always wanted; and I've stopped putting so much pressure on myself to be "the success story".

I do still have to make conscious decisions every single day to do what I can not to gain the weight back, though. Do I wish I could eat a large flurry every day in the summer? Yes. Do I wish that I could order pizza and breadsticks and eat until I'm stuffed, just like I used to? Of course. I've just found a way to balance what I want most (the pizza and ice cream) with what I'm willing to live with. To be happy with.

Binge eating only makes me feel happy for a very short time--15 minutes, tops. The beating myself up for it lasts days. I am finally at a place where I can think about and make that decision not to binge because I don't want those consequences. In some ways, it's easier not to binge, because then I won't have to waste the effort of being so hard on myself.

I don't want it to sound like I'm complaining. I am thrilled that I lost the weight and I'm going to continue to do my best to keep it off! But it's not easy. It wasn't easy when I started (hell, it was the hardest thing I've ever done); it wasn't easy when I reached goal; and it certainly wasn't easy for the last seven years.

So, with the good parts of weight loss come some drawbacks--but the good is so much better. I would do it again in a heartbeat, although I'm not sure that I'd be able to. It was hard enough the first time! But I feel a million times better about myself now, and that's what I choose to focus on. I'll always have to be conscious of my decisions if I really want to keep the weight off, but the good parts are worth the struggle.

My Wednesday Weigh-in this morning suggests that I was right about the anxiety medication...

I was at 134.4 last week. I suspected that a new medication I started for anxiety was causing my weight to climb, because I hadn't changed my diet at all. I didn't like the way the medication made me feel--I felt too careless, lazy, and very tired. Also, it didn't really help my anxiety. So, I stopped taking that and my weight went down significantly this week. I even ate Chinese food last night, which is a sodium nightmare!

September 19, 2017

RECIPE: (Mom's) Beef Stew

This is my mom's recipe for beef stew. While typically, beef stew has potatoes and a heartier gravy, we've always eaten this over egg noodles (without potatoes), and a thinner, tomato-based sauce. I actually prefer this much more! It has a nice texture with the noodles, and the sauce has more flavor than gravy does.

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF version.

Mom's Beef Stew

2 tsp. oil
12-16 oz. round steak, cubed (I buy round steak because it's cheap; but use what you like)
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (this is a liquid seasoning, found with things like Worcestershire sauce)
1 cup of beef broth
1 (15 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
3 carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
Egg noodles for serving

Heat the oil in a skillet, and add the beef and onion together. Cook until the beef is just browned. Add the Kitchen Bouquet, beef broth, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low heat for about an hour. Add the carrots, and continue cooking for about 45 minutes (until carrots are soft and beef is tender). Add the peas and heat through (about 5 minutes more). Serve over egg noodles.


When I've been in a hurry, I've cooked this in 30 minutes--but the beef won't be as tender as it would if you cook it low and slow.

You can also adjust the amount of carrots and peas in it, too. I happen to love peas, so sometimes I add 2 cups.

The sauce is meant to be thinner than typical beef stew recipes. It's really flavorful, though, and the noodles are delicious when they take on the flavor of the sauce.

Jerry, the kids, and I all love this recipe! Great comfort food :)

September 18, 2017

How My Bipolar Diagnosis Affected My Marriage

How My Bipolar Diagnosis Affected My Marriage

This is something that I've been debating writing about, mainly because I feel ashamed. None of this really came to light until after I was diagnosed with bipolar, on the correct meds, and feeling 100% better than I did just two months prior. When Jerry and I had a heart-to-heart about this, I felt terrible. Ashamed.

I want to start by saying that I really hit the jackpot when I met Jerry.

He is nothing short of a saint for going through all that he has with me, and still loving me more than ever. I am so grateful that I had him through all these years of the ups and downs with my emotions. I can't even count the number of times that I told him to leave me, because he deserved someone so much better than me. Without him, I certainly would not have gotten better; in that way, I'm glad he stayed. But I wouldn't have blamed him one bit if he couldn't take it anymore.

(To be clear, I was cutting his hair, not stabbing him in the head with a knife, haha)

One big symptom of bipolar is overreacting to very small things. I can remember times where I flew off the handle from something as minute as Jerry buying the wrong brand of whatever at the grocery store. I knew at the time that I was being irrational, but I couldn't help myself. He always stayed so patient with me, and this was before I was ever diagnosed!

One of the first people I told about the diagnosis was my friend Adam, who has no problem being blunt and to the point. He told me that it makes sense, because for a long time in my 20's, I was "buggin'" (his way of saying that I was just being nagging and irrational in my relationship with Jerry). He said I got mad about stupid things. I knew this was true; and thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad for these last several years.

bipolar meme

Jerry and I have been married for 14 years and together for 18 years, so he has certainly spent a lot of time dealing with my hypomanic and depressive episodes (each have their own drawbacks). It wasn't until after my diagnosis of bipolar this year that we finally realized it wasn't simply a bad personality trait, but that it was a mental illness--and that it could actually be helped.

The relief we each felt from that realization was almost palpable. We actually had hope that I wasn't going to be dealing with these ups and downs to the extreme for my entire life. Most of all, I felt so much better that it wasn't entirely my fault.

Over the next couple of months, I noticed that as I was getting better and better, Jerry just didn't seem himself. He almost seemed upset sometimes (in a sad way, not in an angry way). I couldn't imagine why my being better would make him react that way. So, we had a candid talk, and it made so much sense. But still, I felt shame in a way that hurts me to even think about right now.

Jerry said that for years, he was always very worried about me--not just at home, but he worried all day long at work. After work, he made sure to rush right home to see if I needed help with anything or if there was anything he could do to make my life easier. I didn't know this, but he turned down invitations to go out for drinks with the guys after work, do something fun on the weekends, etc.

When I learned these things, I felt so bad that he felt he needed to take care of me in that way. I'm not sure what would have happened if things had been different, but I sure wish that I had known and I like to think that I would have encouraged him to go out with friends. He missed out on a lot of fun opportunities because he wanted to take care of me.

After my diagnosis, and taking the correct medication, I became MUCH more easy-going. I didn't snap at stupid things; I was able to stay calm when I normally would have been irritated; I became very independent by doing ALL of the things that needed to be done around the house; and in general, I was just a much easier person to live with. I felt like a great wife!

So why wouldn't Jerry be thrilled? When we talked about it, he said that he wasn't sure what to do with himself now. He felt like I just didn't need him anymore, so he was a little lost. Meanwhile, I felt like I was unburdening him and being the wife that I always wanted to be.

I talked to my therapist about this, and she suggested that we each find separate hobbies and do things on our own. And then, when we do spend time together, we make it special. Not just a sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-TV togetherness, but that we actually play a game, go on a date, go for a bike ride around town, etc.

It was so funny when I came home and told Jerry about my session, and what my therapist suggested. We hesitantly asked each other what our thoughts were about it, and again--we both felt a huge sense of relief. We had each wanted to do our own separate things lots of times, but we felt guilty. Jerry works a lot, and when he's home, I've always felt that I should spend all of my time with him. And he feels like he should spend all of his free time with the kids and me.

Once this was out in the open, we talked about how sometimes he wants to do yard work or something, but feels bad; and I said that sometimes I have things I need to get done, but I feel bad. And we loved my therapist's idea of doing our own separate things much of the time, and then when we do spend time together, it will be because we really want to and it will be quality time. We'll have things to talk about and we won't be worried about what else we have to get done.

Previously, when Jerry would have 2-3 days off in a row, the house would look terrible by the time he went back to work--because I neglected all housework to spend time with him (even though we weren't doing anything special). Now, I do the housework I need to get done, even on his days off; I write blog posts when I plan to, whether he's home or not; and I make plans with friends without worrying about taking time away from him.

Likewise, Jerry can relax when he gets home from work, or make plans with friends, or work on something in the yard or garage. We still see each other, but we aren't sitting around twiddling our thumbs and thinking about what we could do or what we could talk about.

Since all of this has happened, we are both feeling so much better! Jerry no longer worries about me all the time, and I feel like I'm very stable and independent. Jerry doesn't feel like I don't need him anymore, and I am happy that I'm not a burden anymore (he says I never was a burden, but I know that I clearly was). I never meant to be so difficult, and he knows that.

I think I'll always feel a nagging guilt about Jerry having spent so many years worrying about me and putting up with my bipolar cycles (including 10 months of depression last year!). But this whole experience has made us much closer as a couple, and I think we are happier now than we ever have been. Even with my being on the "crazy" spectrum, I am much happier now than before my diagnosis.

I asked Jerry if he would be interested in writing a guest post or doing a Q&A about what it's like to be married to someone with mental illness (depression, bipolar, anxiety...) and/or tips for helping a spouse who is going through it. He said sure, so if any of you have questions for him, feel free to comment or you can send them in an email: Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.

September 15, 2017

Fun Surprises

Between school being back in session, cross country, baseball, and Jerry working every single day, we have been super busy the last few weeks! Coaching cross country has been a lot of fun this season--Renee and I have a great group of kids.

The girls on the team are especially motivated, and I love seeing them excited about running. When they run their distance laps (not speed work) the girls stay together in a pack and chat the whole time, which is exactly what I want them to do! Most of the boys still try to race each other, then get worn out and walk, and then try to climb trees or things like that.

The past couple of seasons, I was fairly passive as a coach; this year, I am not putting up with excuses. "This is cross country--not a walking club!" has been my motto, haha. The boys tend to get to a spot on the course (the path is 0.37 miles around) where Renee and I can't see them for a short distance because a hill is blocking our view, and they stop to walk or play around. Yesterday, I stood on top of the hill while they did their laps to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to (running).

Cross country and baseball practices are on the same nights--cross country is 5:30-6:30 and baseball is 6:00-8:00, so there is an overlap. Noah isn't doing cross country, so he can just walk to the baseball diamond from the track when we practice at the track; otherwise, when we practice at the park, I have to drive him (and Eli) there after cross country is over.

Our cross country meets are on Saturdays (and a couple are during the week) and the baseball games are on Sundays. It was quite the shock going from no plans in August to a full schedule! But it feels nice to stay busy.

In other news, I was offered a very cool opportunity from WebMD. I had a phone call this morning with a woman who is the content manager of a new series of blog posts called "My Experience". They are posts written by ordinary people who have experienced something unique or life changing in some way, and they share the experience from a first person view--not the usual WebMD fashion of research and facts from doctors, but real life people who have had these experiences.

Anyway, I spoke with the content manager this morning, because she asked if I would be interested in writing for the My Experience blog. After looking through the posts, I was very excited about the idea! I love reading real-life experiences from people; there was even one post about a man who was diagnosed with bipolar and it came as total shock to him. I could certainly relate to that.

She gave me some suggestions for topics, and I loved that they weren't the usual, "How I lost the weight" or other things that I am asked so frequently. It will be fun to write about something fresh! They are looking for more personal, emotional sorts of posts rather than "tips" or "how-to's". So, I'll be working on that and when it is up on their blog, I will share the link.

Jerry's birthday was yesterday, and I got him a VERY cool birthday present! I had been looking for one for months, and I tried one final time on Wednesday--and I found it. It should arrive next week, so I will tell you what it is then. He doesn't typically read my blog; but just in case, I don't want to ruin the surprise.

Meanwhile, I gave him something that he's been wanting for a while--new Rubbermaid storage containers! Hahaha. I'm not even kidding. Apparently, a guy that he works with has some storage containers that he brings his lunch in to work, and Jerry thinks they're awesome. They are pretty expensive, though, and since they aren't really a necessity right now (we have lots of containers), I didn't want to spend the money. But, considering it was his birthday, I forked over some of my allowance money to buy him three of the containers. So funny! (And so worth it, considering how excited he was.)

Look at that face--so happy!

Excitedly explaining to me why they are so great.

If you're curious, these are the ones he wanted: Rubbermaid Brilliance storage containers. (Now I wish I had checked Amazon first! They're cheaper. I don't know why I didn't think to do that.) I saw them on sale at Kroger (you had to buy each piece separately), so I picked up three of the 3.2-cup containers for (I think) $8 a piece.

He was pretty excited when he opened them, though--he said that they work really good because they don't leak at all. He likes to just throw his lunch into his bag and not have to be super careful to keep it from leaking.

"Even my soup won't leak!" he says. Hahaha

Giving him the containers reminds me of the story of the cereal storage containers he wanted for about 12 years. I could have SWORN I wrote about that on my blog, but I just searched and searched, and I guess I didn't...

Last year, for our 13-year wedding anniversary, I bought Jerry 13 gifts for 13 years. Three of them were Rubbermaid cereal storage containers, which ended up being his favorite gift. He said he always wanted those when he was a kid, but his mom never bought them. And then it became a joke between us for about a decade--whenever he'd see them somewhere, he would mention that we are deprived of  them, and I would always talk about how they're useless, because cereal can be stored in the box it comes in.

Anyway, this went on for most of our marriage, and then I finally surprised him by giving him the storage containers as one of our anniversary gifts. I felt bad I didn't do it 11 years before! It doesn't take much to make him happy (clearly) ;)

I'm excited for his real birthday gift to arrive next week--it's the best one yet!

September 14, 2017

Salvation Army Finds!

I've been saving up my weekly "allowance" for a few months now, and I have hardly spent any of it. Each time I got dressed, I was wishing I had some more t-shirts, so I decided to spend some of my allowance at Salvation Army on "new" clothes. I really wanted some graphic/novelty tees, but they are getting hard to find! I also wanted some jeans. I had a full punchcard for 35% off my total order, so I was feeling shop-happy.

Anyway, I found some good stuff! Not many novelty tees (actually, I think only one), but I got some other comfy tees and a few nice pairs of jeans. I got two pairs of 7 for all mankind brand jeans (marked at $179 on their website!)--I paid $6.99 for one and $8.99 for the other.

I wish I had written down how much I paid for everything, but I cut the tags and threw everything in the washer when I got home, so I don't remember. I bought some other stuff (not for me) along with it, so the total bill was more than the clothes. I think I spent somewhere around $75 for everything I got. The prices at Salvation Army have gone up a LOT in the last couple of years! But still much, much cheaper than buying things brand new. I even got a pair of designer jeans with the tags still on them!

One thing that I got was for Eli, and I am still so surprised that I found it. When I was a kid, I had a pillow that looked like a Dalmatian. I loved it, and my mom ended up putting it in the attic in case I had kids one day. She took it down for Eli when he was just a toddler, and it's probably his favorite possession (other than his fishing lures). He loves it! As you can imagine, it's gotten a lot of wear over the last 30 years!

I was super shocked, then, when I saw a brand new one on top of a pile of stuffed animals. I just HAD to buy it! It was $5.

He doesn't want to replace his, but I couldn't help myself. I've not seen another of those in 30 years!

As for my clothes... (sorry these are bad mirror selfies, but I didn't have anyone here to take pics). These jeans weren't new, but I love this shirt I bought! It was regularly $2.99, and marked half off. Then, I got 35% more off!

I love shirts with open shoulders, because my shoulders are my favorite part of my body (so odd, I know). I'm self-conscious of my upper arms, but I love these shirts with open shoulders because I can show my shoulders without showing my upper arms. Anyway, now that I see the picture, I'm not sure I'm crazy about the shirt. Haha! The jeans are Maurices, and I like how they fit!

Silver brand jeans! I was so excited to find these in my size and the particular cut that I like (Tuesday). Silver jeans are my favorite, because I don't have much of a butt or a waist to hold up my pants, and the Tuesday-fit Silver jeans actually fit me well. These were my most expensive purchase--they were regularly $28(!) but I got 35% off of that. And I think this top is really cute. Again, $2.99, then half off, and then 35% off.

These are black stretchy skinny jeans, and I was totally unsure if I could pull them off (like, wear them in public; not literally pull them off of my legs, although that was a little troublesome too! haha). And the shirt is the only novelty tee I bought--it says Happy Camper and has a very cute camper with a smile on the front.

These are a SUPER comfy pair of 7 For All Mankind brand jeans. They have a mid-rise, which I love. These actually still had the new tags still on them! I got them for $6.99. On the store's website, they are $179. I love this long-sleeved knit tee, too, but once I got it home I noticed a couple of small tears in it. So, I spent some time sewing them up. It was worth it, because I really like the shirt and it's very soft and comfy.

These are the other pair of 7 for all mankind jeans I bought. The waist is lower, but I couldn't help but buy them at $8.99. (I don't know why they were marked higher than the other pair that was brand new!). The tee is nothing special, just something I picked up and liked.

This striped tee is my favorite out of all of them! I think the color looks good on me. And it was brand new with the tags still on it. It was marked at $2.99, and I got 35% off. The jeans are American Eagle--I really was hoping to find a lighter colored pair of jeans (all the ones I have are dark), so I was happy to find these. They are super comfy, too.

This is hard to see well, but it's a very nice (and heavy) sweater. The second picture shows the design better. This was $9.99, but it was 25% off and I got 35% off of that, so it was a pretty good deal. I am always freezing in the winter, and I like to have a sweater to wrap up in at home, so this one is perfect for that.

I saved the best for last... I can't even tell you how excited I was to find this!!

A retro Surf Style jacket, just like all the cool kids wore back in the early 90's! I think my sister had this same color, actually, and I used to borrow it all the time. My older brother had a green one. I wore this to cross country practice today, and it was perfect for the weather.

So, I'm pretty happy to have some new stuff in my wardrobe (and I pulled several things out today to make room for the new stuff). I love thrift shopping!

In other news, I got another response from Kroger about "the incident". Someone from the Michigan customer service team in Novi contacted me, and wrote a very kind, apologetic email. She said it was handled wrongly and that she wanted to make it up to me by inviting my family to a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new store that is opening on Tuesday; she also wanted to send me a gift card in the mail!

I thought that was super generous--I never wrote about it to get anything out of it; I was really just venting about the service manager. But I think it's nice that Kroger is doing something about it. I really wish I could go to the grand opening event, but I have our first cross country meet that day. I think it would have been fun to tour the new store!

I'm really happy that Kroger followed up on this. And I'm curious to see how the service manager reacts if I should ever have to encounter her again!

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