January 12, 2019

Bipolar Decision Making (and My Plan to Get Back to Running)

Before I get into this post, I just have to tell you about the nightmare that happened a few days ago. One of my readers/friends notified me about a pin on Pinterest that was my before and after photo, and it was linked not to my blog, but to another website. I went onto Pinterest to find the post and report it.

I was nothing less than shocked at what I discovered. There is a person who created an EXACT duplicate of my blog. Then, they pinned EVERY SINGLE PHOTO that I've ever posted to my blog--there were well over 4,000 pictures that they pinned. And every single one of those 4,000+ pins led to their website.

I was so irritated! To file a complaint with Pinterest to have it removed, they want you to give them the url to each an every pin that you are complaining about. There was no way that I could do that with 4,000 pins, so I ended up emailing them and they said to give them the url for each board that contained my photos. This person's Pinterest account was made up of SOLELY photos from my blog. Nothing else!

Long story short, after a lot of emails and copying and pasting urls, I finally got Pinterest to remove everything and the website shut down. But it was the biggest waste of my time.

Anyway, I'm trying to take more measures against this happening. You may notice that if you try to right-click something on my blog, you won't be able to. Also, you will not be able to highlight the writing on my blog (that person had copied all of my blog posts). It's not much in the way of preventing this from happening again, but I'm hoping to make it a little more challenging.

Okay, on to the real post...

I haven't written much about mental health/illness lately, and this particular topic wasn't something I gave much thought to--until I learned that it's another trait of a person with bipolar disorder. I'm talking about decision making. (If you're new here, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017--you can read about my coming to terms with it on this post: A Crazy New Chapter)

Sometimes, I have the hardest time making the most basic of decisions, and it's super frustrating for me. A lot of times, it will even bring me to tears. It's not just a hem-hawing process... I get so mad at myself for not being able to just MAKE A CHOICE. ANY CHOICE.

I'm not talking about big decisions such as which house to buy, or when the time is right to have children, or even as small as selecting a mattress. I'm talking about decisions like whether I want cream in my coffee or where to go out to eat, or whether to read, watch TV, or write before I go to bed. And it's not just a thoughtful, "Hmm, which do I want?" My brain literally cannot make a decision--it's like the part of my brain that is responsible for decision-making is paralyzed.

This happens around other people sometimes, too, which is embarrassing. When I was visiting Caitlin in Boston, for example, we went to Mike's Pastry shop (normally my favorite!!) and I simply couldn't decide what to get. It was agonizing, and not in a "fun" way. It was actually upsetting to me. Most people would just pick something, even if they were unsure.

I, however, cannot even verbalize a choice. I try so hard to just make a simple decision, but it becomes too much for me and I end up not making any choice at all. I'll ask someone to choose for me. Thankfully, Jerry understands this; when he can see me struggling, he'll say, "Let's do this!" and just choose.

Jerry took this photo of me staring into the pantry, trying to decide what to eat for a snack. Sounds silly, but I stood there for probably 20 minutes, and I was so frustrated that I couldn't just make a choice. Jerry took the photo because he thought it was "cute" that I was so indecisive. (This was in 2013, years before I was diagnosed with bipolar, so he thought my inability to make decisions was just a quirk.) Clearly, I did not find it "cute".

In Boston, I ended up not buying anything at Mike's. Then, after walking to the corner outside, Caitlin said I should just go get something because I would want it later. I finally just bought something (I don't even remember what, probably carrot cake) but you would have thought I was trying to decide whether to keep $10,000 or flip a coin for double or nothing.

That was just an example off the top of my head, but I run into this pretty frequently, about twice a week. My kids don't understand why I can't decide things, but thankfully, I can use it as a lesson to explain to them that it's one of the traits about bipolar that affects me. My kids have learned SO much about bipolar, depression, anxiety, and even suicide because I want them to be educated about mental illness and I talk about it openly with them.

Anyway, that is one problem when it comes to decision making as far as my bipolar is concerned. There is another one that is a problem as well, especially sharing my life on the internet as a blogger.

When I am hypomanic, or even in a mixed state (having symptoms of depression and hypomania at the same time), I tend to rush into decisions without thinking them through. In other words, I'm very impulsive. This has gotten me into trouble lots of times (hello, $14,000 of debt). Since starting my bipolar meds, though, it's gotten much better. (I was able to stick with a budget for the long term and pay off all of my debt!)

I bring all of this up because I've been so up in the air lately about several decisions. I try not to post about things unless I'm absolutely certain about it because I hate failing at goals or changing my mind about what/how to do things. It's embarrassing to renege on 80% of what I've committed to.

You may be thinking that I'm talking about my decision to stop drinking for all of 2019--but I'm not. I'm still 100% committed to that decision, and I'm doing well with it. One thing that I blog about a lot (or at least I used to) is running; ironically (or not), it's also one thing that I tend to renege on. Haha!

"I'm going to follow this running plan!"
Two weeks later: "I got bored with it, so I'll do this instead!"
A week later: "I just read this book about a running method, so I want to give it a try!"
Three days later: "I don't like the way that made me feel, so I think I'll do this one."
A month later: "I'm just going to run when I feel like it, so I don't feel pressured."
Two weeks later: "Well, I haven't gone for a single run, so I need to follow a schedule. I know! I will make the strictest schedule imaginable, announce it on my blog, and then plan to write all about my training."
A month later: "Still haven't written about it. Or even done it. Maybe I'll try something else."

And so on and so on. This particularly happens when I'm hypomanic, even if it's only mild hypomania. I get all gung-ho about something, and then it loses its luster shortly afterward.

So, I realize it's probably annoying to read about my constant mind-changing; but hopefully by explaining it here, it'll be more understandable. I've been trying to be more careful about making impulsive decisions and I've been able to focus more since I started my bipolar medication.

I can only say THANK GOD that I didn't start my whole home makeover project on a whim and then lose interest halfway through. Can you imagine?!

A lot of times, I have trouble deciding what plans/goals to post here, for fear of it being a rash decision. For example, I had been thinking about giving up alcohol for all of 2019 for months ahead of time. I told Jerry about it and I thought long and hard before I decided that I was going to do it. It was only then that I felt confident enough to post it here. I didn't even feel like just posting it on my blog was good enough, so I also shared it with my friends on Facebook!

When I wrote my goals for 2019, I included exercise--I want to get back to exercising regularly. I'd prefer that to be running, but even if I just walk, that's better than nothing. Three times a week for 30 minutes. Not much to ask!

However, I think that was too vague. I seem to always go to one extreme or another (train for a marathon or not run at all), and it's a hard thought process to break.

At this moment, my thoughts about this are:

I want to do something specific and that's a bit of a challenge.
I want to follow an actual schedule.
I want to push myself to get back into shape, but I also want to be happy and not feel so much pressure--so I need to find a balance.

Like I explained, having bipolar makes me impulsive sometimes, so tomorrow, I could be feeling the exact opposite as right now. However, as human beings, we are free to change our minds any time we like. While I hope to be able to stick to whatever plan I come up with, I recognize that I may need to change things up in order to fit into my life better.

Soooo, you can quote me on this, but that quote may change at a moment's notice. Just a forewarning, haha. Since my exercise plan was pretty vague for 2019, I'd like to make it more specific so that it's as black and white as the drinking/non-drinking. I want a measurable goal.

I'm very, very out of shape right now, because I've only run about 500 miles in the last TWO YEARS combined. Which brings me to a goal that I'd like to set--a goal that I've not tried before.

I know, I know... I said that I didn't want to follow a training plan or be very specific in my exercise goals. But, surprise, surprise, I changed my mind ;)

I want to make a goal to run 700 miles this year.

That's roughly 1.9 miles per day, if I was going to run every single day (I'm not). I feel like this is ambitious, but doable. I will feel very accomplished if I'm able to do it; and if I fall short, even if I "only" hit 300 miles run, it'll still be more than the last two years.

I'll make a tracker and somehow check off each mile that I run. I'd like to do a reward system, too--for each milestone I hit (10 miles, 25 miles, 50, 100, etc.) I will reward myself with something. (I haven't decided on those yet.)

I don't care about my running pace at ALL, so I'm not going to worry about it. I really, really just want to get back to running a few times a week to help with my anxiety (and for several other reasons, but the anxiety is a big one now that I can't use alcohol to make me feel less anxious).

I've chosen to follow my "Base Building for Beginners" running plan. I think this is a great plan not only for beginners, but for people who are getting back to running after a hiatus. It starts with just 30 minutes, three times per week. The plan is 16 weeks long, which will bring me into May. The longest run (in the final weeks) tops out at 60 minutes--definitely doable!

In following the plan, I feel like I will have guidance as to exactly what I'm supposed to do and when. Another key bipolar trait that I have is that I am my best self when I have a set schedule and routine. A change in my routine can throw me off quite a bit; and when I don't have a schedule, I tend to procrastinate. By having a plan telling me what to do and when, it takes any decision making off the table.

And since I have such a hard time with decisions sometimes, I think this will likely help my mood as well. It's a win-win!

My first run, per the schedule, will be on Tuesday morning. A simple 30-minute run at an easy pace. After writing all this out, I'm looking forward to doing it!

Are all of you that made New Year's Resolutions doing well so far? I wrote a Facebook post to discuss not drinking, and it's very interesting and motivating to read others' thoughts on it. Feel free to chime in there, if you'd like!

January 08, 2019

Completing the Epoxy Countertop!

Today starts the second week of January, and I'm still doing good with my goals. Giving up the alcohol is still challenging, but I haven't had any. Yesterday, we went out to dinner for Eli's birthday, and it was hard not to order a beer, especially when other people do. I had a tonic with lime, and focused on conversation.

Eli turned 13 years old yesterday, can you believe it? When I started this blog, he was only five. And when I started losing weight, he was only three! It blows my mind that I have two teenagers now. I really don't feel old enough to have two teens. Who are both taller than I am now.

Jerry and I bought a couple of balloons and made a happy birthday sign, then we went to the school and decorated Eli's locker while he was in class. I remember my mom doing that for me one time in junior high, and I thought it was so cool. When he got home, he was carrying the balloons, and he said that he knew it was from us because he recognized my handwriting.

Jerry was off work yesterday, so we used the day to finally work on finishing the island countertop. I can't believe I hadn't thought of it sooner, but the bathroom off of our bedroom is big enough to fit the countertop in there--so it made an easy way to control the temperature by using a space heater. The air temp MUST be at LEAST 75 degrees for 72 hours to cure the epoxy. This was stressed enormously on the instructions for the epoxy.

So, remember I said we decided not to use the nickels for the countertop, because it would have taken a few hundred dollars worth of nickels to cover it? I came up with the another solution when I was sitting in the living room, and I set my water down on one of the funny coasters that I'd bought when I was in Kansas City:

They always get a laugh when people come over and use them, and I thought, "Those would be so cool to put in epoxy on the countertop!" I searched online, and it would have been crazy expensive as well--the coasters are $5 each. And magnets (2x3 inches) weren't much cheaper. Since we didn't really need them to be coasters or magnets (they were just going to be covered with epoxy anyway), I simply printed out a TON of them onto card stock--well, 86, anyway. It felt like a ton.

After printing, I had to cut each one out carefully. The most tedious part was that I then coated each side of them with Mod Podge to seal them (so that the epoxy wouldn't make the ink bleed). With 86 of them, and hand painting each front and back with the Mod Podge, it took me the length of two and a half Lifetime movies to get them prepared, haha.

The epoxy was the scary part. The instructions were so specific, and had to be followed right to the letter--and we only had one shot, so I didn't want to screw it up. We brought the countertop into our bathroom, and set it on some 2x4's (to protect the trim on the sides).

Finally, I glued each of the cards down to the countertop. We made sure it was level, and then we got our supplies ready.

We turned on the space heater, and the bathroom got very warm very quickly. I don't know the temp in there, but I would guess about 85. As long as it's over 75, then we're good. I stripped down to almost nothing, because I didn't want to have any pet hair get carried in on my clothes and get on the countertop (forever sealed in the epoxy).

First, I had to mix up a small batch of epoxy to use as a "seal" coat--you paint it on with a paint brush to seal the surface and make sure there aren't air bubbles. The epoxy comes in two separate containers (two quarts per container, for a total for one gallon when mixed). One container contains the "hardener" and the other contains the "resin".

To mix it, you pour one part hardener into a plastic measuring container and then add one part resin. Then, I had to mix it really well with a stir stick for exactly four minutes (too little and it won't be mixed enough, too much and it will start to cure in the container). If making a whole gallon batch at once, you have to use a specific stirring bit on a drill.

Each time you mix a batch, it has to be in a brand new measuring container with a brand new stick. Like I said, this is so specific! I was so worried I was going to screw it up. Meanwhile, I was dripping with sweat in the sauna bathroom as I mixed the epoxy. As soon as I started painting on the seal coat, I felt a little panicked. It didn't feel the way I thought it would--it was much stickier--but I did the best I could, and it started looking really cool!

After the seal coat, you pour on a "flood coat", which automatically levels itself to 1/8 of an inch. Our countertop edge goes 1/4 inch over the countertop itself, so we would need to do two separate flood coats, 4-6 hours between them. After pouring on the first flood coat, I was really worried that we wouldn't have enough epoxy to fill the entire area with the second.

The edges of the cards that I'd glued down kept wanting to float to the top, and it was hard to keep pushing them down long enough for the epoxy's weight to hold them in place. Meanwhile, as soon as you finish pouring a flood coat, you have to use a blow torch to sweep across the whole thing--this pops any bubbles that form. It was so satisfying to watch!

Then, we just had to wait 4-6 hours and pour on another flood coat. After four hours, I mixed up the rest of the epoxy, and carefully poured it as evenly as I could over the entire countertop. Just as I suspected, we were short by a very small amount (maybe a quart) to make the top flush with the edges.

I immediately ordered another gallon of epoxy, which will arrive as soon as this one is done curing--which means this will take six days instead of three! But the epoxy is expensive ($80 per gallon) so I didn't want to order too much. Since the paper takes up less space than the nickels would have, we were short by just a touch. To add more epoxy to what we have done, we'll have to lightly sand the top with very fine sandpaper, wipe off the dust, and then pour another flood coat.

BUT... I love love love how it's turning out! Thankfully, I didn't screw up the epoxy process, and I really like how it looks. I can't wait until it's totally finished so that I can put it back on the island.

That is what it looks like now. It needs to sit and cure in the heated bathroom until we get the final gallon of epoxy on Thursday.

Anyway, I like this so much more than the nickels! The epoxy was stressful and definitely a pain to use (especially considering the 72-hour cure time), but I think it's completely worth it. Next, it's time to work on replacing our flooring. I'm pretty sure we'll have the money this month to buy the materials. I'm excited to get working on it :)

January 04, 2019

Starting the New Year with Bronchitis and a Biopsy

Well, 2019 is off to a rocky start for me!

But first, I have been doing really well with my goals (granted, it's only Day 4). The first week is always the hardest when making any changes, and I've managed to get through the first three days with ease. It's so interesting--when I switch from being "motivated" to being "determined", I can actually feel it. I don't even remember the last time I felt like this! Maybe 2016, when I was training for the 10K?

Anyway, to recap my three main goals for this year: 1) No alcohol for the entire year, 2) Get back down to a comfortable weight (about 140 or less), and 3) To get back in the habit of exercising at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes each time.

The alcohol goal is simple to track--it's very black and white. Either I drink alcohol or I don't. And I haven't had any, so I am on track with that. Only 361 more days, hahaha. Yesterday was actually a little tough--I wanted a glass of wine so badly! I had just finished cleaning up the house, and was ready to chill in my pajamas. Our TV died yesterday morning, so I sat down with a book. The idea of getting cozy on my couch, reading my book in my pajamas while sipping a glass of wine sounded romantic.

I realized that romanticizing the thought of drinking situations is the allure; it's not the drink itself, but more of the thought of the scenario. For example, thinking about having a happy hour drink with Jerry while we chat about what we want to do for vacation next year; or getting together with girlfriends for margaritas and Mexican food; or having mimosas on Christmas morning. Those ideas make it seem so inviting!

But the reality is never as good, and then I just wind up puffy and tired with a headache, having eaten more than I wanted because the alcohol makes my stomach a bottomless pit. I never think that far ahead, though. So, with this year of not drinking, I'm going to have to remind myself to think further ahead than happy hour. And that's what I did yesterday; I wanted the wine, and I was questioning why I even made this goal, but then I went over the reasons in my head. And it helped so much.

I happen to love tart cherry juice (I buy this concentrate and mix two tablespoons into about 6-7 ounces of water). When mixed, it looks identical to red wine. So, I mixed some in a wine glass and enjoyed that instead of wine. Once I was reading, the wine was out of my mind anyways.

I've also done really well with calorie counting. I'd tried to get back into it several times last year, but it was almost like I was spiteful about it. The last few days, it's been pretty automatic, which is what happens when my mind makes that switch from motivation to determination. It's like there isn't even a question about whether I'm going to do it or not--I just do.

I had been hoping to put together a grocery shopping list before I started, but I didn't even leave the house the first couple of days of January. I very rarely get sick, and I think the last time I had a cold was a few years ago. When I do get sick, though, it's usually pretty bad. It almost always ends in bronchitis.

And, that's where I am now--bronchitis. Aside from the coughing, I'm still blowing my nose a hundred times a day, and my sinuses are congested, but I think the virus has pretty much run its course. Hopefully in a few days, my symptoms will be nil.

I had been hoping to start the new year with a run in this gorgeous weather we've had (it's been over 40 degrees every day!), but there was just no way I could do it while sick. My friend Audrey's dad died and I couldn't even go to the funeral because it was at the peak of this cold and I was coughing constantly.

Shortly before Christmas, I noticed a spot on my forearm that looked like a patch of scaly skin--it was odd. It was directly over a tiny lump under the skin that had been there for a long time. I never really thought anything of it, but when the skin started looking weird, I consulted Google, and realized that I should probably get it checked out. It actually had the appearance of a non-melanoma skin cancer.

A few inches away from it was another lump, but it didn't have indication on the skin itself like the first one. I always associate skin cancer with moles or dark spots, and didn't realize that it can look like a scar or like a shiny patch of skin (which is what my spot looked like).

Because it was the holiday season, I put off an appointment until Wednesday. I thought for sure the dermatologist would take a glance, tell me that it's nothing to worry about and to try some hydrocortisone cream.

Instead, she said she can't know what it is unless she takes it out for a biopsy. Jerry was with me, and had been much more worried than I was. The doctor said that she would go in to the office early the next morning (yesterday) at 7:30 if I wanted to have it removed then. I made arrangements to get the kids to school, and then I went in yesterday morning.

It was super nice of her to go in early--there wasn't even a receptionist there, because it was before they opened. She injected a local anesthetic around both areas and then made a of tiny incision over each lump.

As soon as she took it out, she said, "Oh, it's a lipoma". I'd read about them, so I knew it was nothing to worry about. A lipoma is a benign tumor made of fatty tissue and they are very common. From the top of my skin, the lump felt like the size of a BB, but when she pulled it out, it was about the size of a pea. Lipomas usually don't cause tenderness or problems on top of the skin, like mine did, but they can. (She still sent them to the lab to verify, but she was certain they were just lipomas.)

She stitched up the incisions with a few absorbable sutures, and that was that. Jerry was relieved, but he's still nervous because he wants the lab results. I'm confident that the doctor knows her stuff ;)

January 01, 2019

My Goals for 2019

I know that a lot of people think that New Year's resolutions are cliché, and like I recently wrote in my post about my weight loss plans for 2019, I happen to love the fresh start of a new year. Setting goals is exciting! Sometimes I get a little too ambitious, but I think it's better to aim high than to just tell myself I probably won't reach my goal anyway, so why bother trying?

I hate to make a "resolution" to lose weight this year, but I really want to get back to a comfortable weight for me. I feel my very best in the low 130's, but anything under 140-ish is comfortable. It's so frustrating to me that I let my weight climb into the 160's in 2018, bringing me to my highest weight since 2010.

I'm not nearly as focused on the numbers as I used to be, but I want to get to a weight where I don't feel self-conscious of the gain. I think that would be about 140. My "goal weight" has been 133 for years, but I don't necessarily want to aim for that particular number anymore. I just want to feel comfortable and fit into my clothes. If I can get down to that weight, I'd be thrilled--but I'm no longer training for races or anything, so it might be too challenging. And I'm okay with that.

Anyway, my first goal for 2019 is to get my weight down to about 140, if not 133. I wrote about my plans for how I'm going to be doing this in a previous post.

My second goal is a big one, and I'm kind of excited about it. I'd like to do a year-long experiment: no alcohol.

There are a lot of reasons why, including keeping a stable mood, reducing anxiety, helping with weight loss, and lots of other things that I am curious about. I've read quite a bit lately about the benefits people feel when abstaining from alcohol, and it inspired me to give it a try. I think that a 30-day challenge or even a 90-day challenge might not be enough time. And since today is the start of a new year, I thought, "Why not aim for 365 days?"

I wasn't going to announce it here, because of all the times I've stated a goal here and then NOT followed through. However, I figure that by making it very public, I'll be more likely to stick with it.

It's going to be super challenging, mostly because of the social aspect of it. In 2017, though, I only drank on a small handful of occasions--I skipped out on alcohol during several social situations, so I know what to expect. I'd like to keep a very simple journal to document any changes I might notice, too--reduced anxiety, for example, or more energy.

My final big goal is to get back in the habit of exercising regularly. I would love for that to include running, but on the days I really just don't want to, I will go for a walk or bike ride, or anything deliberately active.

When I first started exercising in 2010, I said I was going to do 30 minutes three times per week, no matter what. I think that is completely doable, so that will be my plan for this year: walk, run, bike, or whatever for at least 30 minutes, three days per week.

The whole purpose of it, for me, is to get back in the habit of exercise. It's not about burning calories or anything like that. I just really want to get back to the point where exercise wasn't even a question. I just had a running schedule and I followed it, no matter what. After taking so much time off, it's very difficult to make it a habit again.

Those are my three big goals for 2019. I still have little things to work on for my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list, but what I've listed here are the biggest changes I'd like to make for the new year. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

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