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!


  1. My resolutions are going well...I bought a budget planner and a menu planner. I'm planning meals out a month at a time and really trying to stick to budgeting. I'm usually good about it until we get our tax refund or my husband's bonus and then I quit. I'm planning to stay focused all year.
    I've been dealing with pain since October which my doctor still hasn't been able to make a decision about... So, I've been pretty down about my workouts (or lack there of). I made my original goal weight in 2018, but set a new one for this year and I'm upset that I'm not able to work towards it as hard as I'd like. Here's hoping the pain gets figured out soon.

  2. Have you ever heard of Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies? Her idea is that everyone is driven by a mix of inner (from yourself) and outer (from other people) expectations. If you know your type, she says you can design things in your life to help you achieve your goals. I don't know how that'd go with your bipolar, but it might be something to look into.

  3. Thanks again Katie for a great post! I have been trying to get in 10,000 steps a day walking but would be thrilled to be back running again! There is a small local 5K in my hometown Memorial Day weekend & have decided to make this my goal with the help of your plan you mentioned in your post!
    Here’s to a great spring ahead! And don’t forget you help more people than you know with your posts!

  4. Sounds like a great plan!

  5. I had no idea this was a trait of bipolar. I frequently have similar experiences. More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve walked around the supermarket for 20 min trying to decide what to buy for dinner and ultimately leave the store without buying anything because I just couldn’t decide. Yesterday I was crying over socks ... I needed to buy new workout socks, but for the life of me, I couldn’t decide on what to buy. So frustrating! Thanks for sharing ... nice to know I’m not the only one that goes through this.

  6. Katie - Thank you for such a wonderful post. I really, really appreciate your knowledge on mental health issues. I learn so much from you. I have a family member who struggles with depression, seasonal depression (lack of light in winter since she was born/raised in FL and now lives in the midwest), inability to decide things, and she seems lately to hate obligations so makes sure never to have any which causes extreme anxiety when she does have any obligations. Whew! I'm not sure how to help best but I always feel like I learn more about mental health issues right here on your blog. You are a brave and mighty warrior, Katie. I appreciate so much your honestly and willingness to share with us.

    Also, you seem to be right where I am with this whole running thing! Bah! I feel SO GOOD when I run but I am so stinking tired sometimes that I don't stick with it! Ugh! I really need to just get back into the habit so that I feel stronger and more hooked on it. I've been there before, but just getting back takes more willpower than I seem to have these days. At best, I've been running once a week. Good weeks maybe two. Ugh!! I LOVE the Beginners Base Building Plan you have here. I'm going for it. Got.TO.DO.IT!!!

    Thanks, Katie!

  7. As always, the honesty in your posts inspires me. I'm working on the last few pounds of a 70 pound loss and thinking through what maintenance means. For me, working out has become a sanity-saver. I've got a great group I work out with about 5 times a week, but I've added something for this year that you might want to consider.
    I love checking off boxes in my bullet journal, so this year I'm going to try to do a 30-day challenge every month. January is an abs/squat challenge--Pinterest/Google has a million options like this--that literally takes me less than 10 minutes a day. The number of reps varies daily, rest days are built in, and there's basically NO excuse for me not to do it. Sometimes I combine it with my other workout, but mostly I just plop on the floor at some point in the afternoon and do it. I have no idea yet if it will make a difference in my body, but in my MIND, I'm loving getting check marks in just a few minutes. I'll probably switch to an arm workout for February, then we'll see.
    As always, hang in there and I can't wait to hear how you progress!

  8. That pinterest thing sounds like a nightmare. Thank you for sharing your experience with bipolar. Depression is different for everyone so the indecisiveness doesn't surprise me. At my worst, I get pretty overwhelmed and that's what it sounds like. Looking forward to hearing more about your experience with not drinking - there are some good resources out there! My new favorite podcast is Editing our drinking and our lives.

  9. FYI I am freaked out by your Pinterest nightmare! Just to test it, I am using an iPad and I was easily able to save your photos on this post. I hope there is a way for you to block that.

  10. Hey, Katie! Just wanted to let you know that when I mouse over the pics in this particular blog post, there is a "P" to pinterest (upper left-hand corner) and it links directly to Pinterest. You might want to look into disabling that, given the theft of your pics and blogs. I'm using google chrome if it would help to know the browser. Best wishes this year on your goals!

  11. Hi there!
    Well you know, pro photogs see their work stolen every day. And they had to face it, once it is in the net, it's gone... Anyway, my goals : Vienna Halfmarathon in April (Austria), Tallin Halfmarathon (Estonia) and Miami Halfmaraton in January 2020 (USA).

    In fact, those events are a celebration, what matters is the fact I move my ass and stay healthy along the way. The workouts matter, not the competition. At least for me.

    Marc, Austria.

  12. Hi Katie,
    The Pinterest incident is so creepy! Why would someone do that? (Not questioning you whether they did it...I just don't understand why!) Also, thanks for being so honest about your bipolar disease. It helps me, as a school nurse, get a better picture of what some of my students might be going through. And finally, do you watch "The Good Place"? There's a character on there, Chidi, who cannot make a decision. It's a really funny show And Chidi is a really good person. You might get a giggle out of watching him (and the show). It's really good! Melissa

  13. not drinking
    I want to lose weight
    I (re)gained last year
    stationary bike at least
    5 miles every day
    I'll probably have
    a drink in Feb.
    very special occasion
    very special person :)


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