Travelling Polar Bear

Hello Lovelies!

I am going to share with you my greatest secret for maintaining stability in my life. Which is taking a vacation. Whether it be a two night camping trip, 1 week in Cuba or 2 weeks in Europe. Taking a break is my number one weapon against my BiPolar.

I LOVE TO TRAVEL! I enjoy immersing myself in other cultures, learning the history of a new place, dancing with the locals and trying new foods. Being able to take a reprieve from my hectic life and experience news things helps me to reset.

Taking these breaks has become a necessity for my mental stability. It is the equivalent of taking a time out. The over stimulus from my day to day life can be very triggering. The more stress I experience, the more likely I am to have an episode. Knowing that I have a vacation in the not too distant future, makes life feel more manageable.

Here are the 3 main life skills I am developing while traveling:

1) Planning a trip is all part of this life management tactic. Setting goals financially has always been a struggle for me. Planning trips help me learn how to manage money better in a more enjoyable fashion.

2) Travelling solo has given me the opportunity to prove to myself that I am ok being alone. I can be independent!

3) Travelling always reminds me of who I truly want to be as a human being. Getting grounded is a key part of my travelling experience.

Travelling may not work for you. What do you do to reset? How do you make your life more manageable? #startaconversation

The Manic Experience

WARNING: This post may contain triggering content   

Hello Lovelies!

I would like to preface this post by letting you know that 3 months before this Manic episode my family doctor put me on an anti-depressant and I was taken off 1 of my mood stabilizers. This was not an informed decision on my doctors part. When someone has Bipolar Disorder anti-depressants can often trigger a manic episode. A Manic episode is triggered by the uplifting effect of an anti-depressant. In this case the medications lifted me way too high up. Also, I was in a car accident 2 months before the Mania ensued.  Then 1 month before I contracted a blood infection that nearly killed me.  Yet, my doctor didn’t follow up about the medications at all during this period. Without being too crass I will simply say, the medical attention I received was weak!

Episode commences after I nearly died from a blood infection in August 2016.

The Beginning

My downswing into Mania starts off very slow then takes a terrible turn in what felt like the blink of an eye. I woke up one morning feeling great about myself, like I was finally going conquer the world. Decided I was going to start exercising every day, twice a day for 45 minutes. I actually did it, all while running my Ballroom Dancing studio. I was losing weight faster then I ever had before, people were noticing. All the compliments made me gave me high, people were finally noticing me! Every compliment, every guy that checked me out, every sexual encounter – fuelled my fire.

I was making grandiose plans to travel the world, that were not substantiated by my lifestyle. I was making promises to people about helping them with a business, starting a business with them or saying I would go on a trip with them. All the promises that I would make, I honestly felt that I would follow through with them.  I was unstoppable!

Evidence

I was feeling good and looking good, now the partying ensues. It started out that I was only going out  partying  once a week till 5 AM and getting up and going to work with no problem. I felt so damn good when I was, so sexy and on fire. I was getting so much attention from the men and I felt like all the women were jealous of me. Then when I would wake up in the morning my anxiety would be so bad and my thought would be racing around in my head. I needed to make them stop. I would have a couple drinks at lunch to calm my mind and then Rinse & Repeat – Party, Sleep, Anxiety, Drink. I was losing that control that I longed for. I couldn’t control my thoughts or my impulses – I was scared of myself.

One evening I went out Salsa dancing with a group of friends and a man I had met couple nights before. We were having so much “fun” that this new guy and I decided to hit up the after party. After, the after party we rented a hotel. It should have been a fun night until I woke up with him on top of me – he was raping me. I said no explicitly and he wouldn’t get off me. I kicked him to the floor, ran out of the hotel and called a friend to pick me. This was humiliating, scary and I still went out drinking again the next night. Scary right? I was scared too but had lost all control.

The Bottom

I was completely spiralling out of control. When I was trying to think my thoughts are bouncing around my head like a bouncy ball. You can just forget sleeping, period. Working? Barely. I would only remember to eat if someone reminded me. I felt like a robot – no sleep, no food, no emotions and no feelings.

I was cancelling appointments with all my clients so I could drink during the day with my new “Friends” that I made. On top of everything I had experienced now I was dealing with the trauma from a rape. It was too much for one person to handle. Instead of feeling like I can conquer the world, I now felt like there was no coming back from it. At this point I felt like I was never going to feel sane again that my worse nightmares has come true. It had become so bad that I started doing drugs for the first time in my adult life. It was absolutely terrifying.  I honestly don’t have much to say about this period because it was a blur and due to the traumatic state I was in I was unable to retain new memories – might be a blessing.

Resolution 

I told my parents I was doing drugs and they immediately started making calls to doctors. They helped me call clients and explain that I wasn’t well. The minute I admitted how far gone I was was the minute I started healing.  Plus, I met a man that changed my life forever. Stay tuned for the story. #endthestigma

NOTE TO THE READER

I am sharing this part of my story to help people understand what BiPolar Mania can look like. I also want all my Polar Bears out there to know you are not alone. This was an incredibly hard blog to write and very emotional. I shed a lot of tears thinking about all the people that I hurt along the way. I was want to say sorry to anyone who has read this that I hurt while going thru a Manic episode.

I am not sharing my story to glorify sex, drugs or drinking. I want everyone to understand that those are the things that helped make my Mania worse not better.

Help Lines and References:

If you have experienced sexual assault or rape please contact S.A.C.H.A for help : 905-525-4162

KidsHelpPhone :  

Ages 20 Years and Under in Canada:      1-800-668-6868

Crisis Line:   905-522-1477

The Signs of Mania incl but are not limited to:

    • Disconnected and racing thoughts.

    • Grandiose beliefs.

    • Inappropriate elation or euphoria.

    • Inappropriate irritability.

    • Inappropriate social behavior.

    • Increased sexual desire.

    • Increased talking speed or volume.

  • Markedly increased energy.

PLEASE ALWAYS CALL 911 IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES

The Conversation

Hello Lovelies!

I challenge you to be part of the conversation. It is very simple. Please answer one of the following questions with as little or as much detail as you feel comfortable, then copy and past this post to your friends:

1. How are you truly feeling today?

2. Do you have a diagnosis?

3. How does mental illness affect you?

4. Do you find the winter months harder to manage?

5. Give a piece of advice to everyone out there struggling.

6. Do you feel informed about mental illness?

7. If you have a question about mental illness, what is it?

I am hoping we can start a conversation about mental illness throughout our communities. If we can all start by answering a small question, it may lead to bigger discussions.

So I will start:

5. To all of you lovely creatures out there who are struggling, never give up. I understand times can get really tough, be fierce. When you don’t know what to do, ask for help. #sendinglove

With love,

Sarah Bethune

Creators of Tales of a Polar Bear

Fearless

Hello lovelies!

I have a mental illness called bipolar. I am not ashamed to admit that to anyone. It makes me imperfectly perfect, a beautiful disaster. I try to speak out fearlessly so the next lovely creature can feel empowered to do the same.

Have you ever noticed when people start talking about mental illness they instinctively lower their voices? This is because our society has enforced such a negative stigma around mental illness. Next time you start a conversation about this subject, speak up.

We need to start conversations, share our experiences and open minds. Be fearlessly fierce! #startaconversation

Guest Blog: The Polar Bear Express

So, people who know me know that I’m not an online poster or commenter. I guess its part of my “social anxiety” is that I worry about sharing personal information online. Saying that however, I am an avid online information consumer. I am in awe of people who have the ability to clearly articulate and share their experiences online. It opens up whole communities to learn about and empathize with family and friends who are daily challenged by mental illness. Sarah’s blog, has given me clear insight into the daily struggles of people who have mental illness.

Having a mental illness is to a degree like having cancer. There are all different kinds, different symptoms, different treatments. So too with mental illness… there is a whole spectrum of disorders and levels from anxiety, depression to severe schizophrenia. Society embraces cancer patients with empathy and strength. However, that as Sarah aptly points out, being diagnosed with a mental illness is where the similarities end – with the stigma of “the diagnosis”! The difficulties just finding doctors to get a proper diagnosis, the availability of treatments and the access to systemic supports that maybe available are extraordinarily challenging for unaffected people to access let alone those enduring a mental illness. They often suffer from the inability and the lack of a “toolkit” to find these supports or reach out depending upon their illness.

The effects of mental illness are not only challenging for the person but also for the family and friends of the afflicted. Having a close family member or friend who struggles daily, can be emotionally challenging and draining to know how to best support them. Sarah talks about how lucky she is to have such a strong support system. She is!

I know the Polar Express has many ups and downs for the Polar Bear to ride on. But, Sarah, please, keep sharing. Sharing is cathartic but it may also help others and their friends and families too.

Sarah, I’m in awe it is a lot for a bear to bear!

 

Thank you for following the blog, sharing with us and being part of the conversation. This is one of the exact reasons I started writing this blog. I encourage others to submit posts that they would like to have featured on this blog as well. Until next time & with love,

The Polar Bear

Polar Bear vs Depression

Hello Lovelies.

I wanted to share a post with you about a manic episode I experienced but I just couldn’t bring myself to write. This is not because I don’t want to, it is because I am battling depression at this point in time. It is counter intuitive to write about Mania while depressed. I decided instead to share how I am feeling now in hopes to help myself and all those lovely creatures out there who are suffering through a similar situation.

My alarm went off at 9am as it does every other day however, I struggled to wake up. My limbs were heavy,  mind foggy and heart racing.  Struggling to wake up because the world just feels so overwhelming right now. Telling myself to take this day second by second and try not to be judgemental of myself. I worked up the strength to roll out of bed and start my day.

I spent my entire time getting ready worrying about what I was going to screw up next. So many What Ifs…….What if I cant make it to work? What if I get fired? What if I have to cancel plans again? What if I people don’t understand how I am feeling? What if I get let down by someone? WHAT IF THE NEXT BAD THING THAT HAPPENS IS THE THING THAT BREAKS ME? These are the things I will continue to worry about throughout the day. They will rattle around in mind and I just need……QUIET! 

The list of things I am fighting against feels endless. Worry of not being able to handle anything else is not an over exaggeration but a concrete fear. Do you know that feeling? The feeling where your heart is so full sorrow if you take on anything else it may implode. I most definitely do.

I am feeling alone, hopeless, overwhelmed and scared. These feelings persist even though I have a loving family, friends who cares, a job and for the most part my health. I feel like I should be happy but unfortunately that is not how depression works. Once it takes over it feels like you have a rain cloud over your head and you just cant shake it.

Now here is the most confusing about being depressed for me. I know what I need to do to help myself, I could make a list. This doesn’t mean that I will be able to find the energy or mental strength to execute any of these things. Can you relate? Here is a list of all the things I try to do when I am depressed (If you can do just one of the things off this list today you and I both will try to be proud of ourselves, ok?):

  • take a shower
  • go to work
  • meet a friend for coffee
  • do not consume alcohol
  • go for a walk (doesn’t matter how long)
  • share your feelings with someone…..anyone
  • book a doctors appointment
  • get out of bed
  • be kind to yourself
  • self-care

We need to find the strength in ourselves to be kind to us. Try to be gentle with your mind and be sympathetic with yourself. I know this is easier said than done, believe me. I am living it right now in this very moment which is why I am writing this post to open  to you lovely creatures and also help myself.

I am going to leave you with two very tiny tasks. First, please comment on the post with a smiley face if you completed your one task for the day. Second, Please say this sentence out loud three times “I am strong, I am beautiful and I am courageous!” This is what I repeat to myself throughout the day to help keep my fight alive.

Thank you for reading. It has helped me to share and I hope it helps you to know that there are other people fighting the good fight. #depressionisreal

Don’t Fall into Fall, Rise Up!

Good Afternoon Lovelies!

Fall time can be a tough time for all of us creatures and we need to remember to SELF-CARE. We are getting less daylight, less sunlight and colder temperatures. This will affect our sleep, energy levels and moods. These are all things that help us maintain mental stability.

The reason we find it harder to stay motivated and get a restful sleep is because the level of vitamins we have been receiving from the sun decrease. One of these vitamins is called Vitamin D which our body gets from the sun rays through our skin. This vitamin is important to our brain function. Therefore, when we don’t get enough we become unmotivated, fatigued and/or depressed. Self-Care Tips:

  1. Get outside for 20 minutes a day rain, snow or shine
  2. Try my go to method which is a tanning bed (Please consult with your doctor first)

Do you feel more fatigued or sleepy during the Fall/Winter? I do too! This is due to an increase in Melatonin in our brains. Since there is a decrease in light exposure during these seasons our brains automatically create more Melatonin. Self-Care Tips:

  1. Keep the same sleep schedule as before even though you are more tired
  2. Get outside for at least 20 minutes a day because outdoor light is much more effective on the mind then indoor lighting. This will help to promote wakefulness
  3. Dim the lights and avoid screen time for 30 minutes before bed.

Remember that these things are not always easy but so important for your self care.

It is starting to get cold outside and we may feel more fatigued then usual, that doesn’t mean we can give up our physical exercise. Even though some our outdoor exercise routine will be no more, doesn’t mean you have to give up. Self-Care Tips:

  1. Brain storm fun ways to exercise during the Fall/Winter season.
  2. You could also try to find an exercise buddy that will help keep you motivated.
  3. My biggest piece of advice is to find something you really enjoy. I really enjoy hot yoga but that isn’t for everyone so please find your favourite way to exercise during the cold months.

Since we know that it is coming to the time of year when the battle against depression becomes tougher, the fatigue starts to take over and we just feel just blah. It is important to take care of ourselves and maintain our mental stability.  SELF-CARE is one of my favourite coping skills I have picked up throughout my journey. Self-Care is defined as choosing behaviours that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors. It is important to learn what YOU NEED physically or mentally to find balance. This means doing something for yourself and only yourself. You want to do something that makes you feel content in life. It can be as big or as little a task as you see fit. I wish all you lovely creature a HAPPY FALL SEASON! I am sending you all positive vibes that I hope will help you stay motivated and strong for the coming months <3 Here is a list of Self-Care activities you could try this Fall/Winter season:

  1. Drink a cup of hot chocolate mindfully
  2. Do a face mask
  3. Cuddle up on the couch and enjoy your favourite show
  4. Take time to indulge in your favourite food
  5. Book a spa day           https://www.angeliccomplexion.com/
  6. Don’t go to the party if you don’t want to
  7. Meditate                       http://www.delasolyoga.com/pages/HamiltonWorkshops
  8. Try a float tank           https://www.zeefloat.com/
  9. Have dinner with a friend
  10. Go for a fall walk
  11. A bath and a glass of wine
  12. OR ANYTHING YOU FEEL YOUR MIND/BODY NEEDS RIGHT NOW!

Thank you so much to all you lovely creatures for taking the time to read and follow my blog. I am hoping to create a better understanding about life with a mental illness. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please feel free to comment. Start a conversation. #positivevibes

– Sarah Bethune the Polar Bear

Be Kind to Yourself

Hello Lovelies!

      Being kind to yourself is an important part of sustaining mental stability. This does not only apply to the good times in life, it applies to the hard times and/or the times you feel you messed up.

     It can be quite easy to be kind to yourself when you win an award or make it to the gym every day one week. The challenge starts when you feel depressed, low, insecure or feel that you messed up your life progress. This is a time when it is important to focus on the little things in life that you accomplish. Here are a couple examples :

  1. When I am feeling depressed, I cant get out of bed,  maybe miss a couple days of work and even a family function –  I try to focus on the smalls things. If I manage to get my butt out of bed and shower, I pat myself on the back and feel proud that I was able to face that one task. Which often gives me the power to move on and do a couple smaller tasks. By the end of the day I am exhausted and I still feel like hell however I have shown myself some kindness which goes a long way in the end.
  2. Sometimes it is learning to not do things and be kind to yourself when you make that decision. If I know I am starting to feel depressed and a friends asks me to go out drinking  –  I will decline. Even though I do really want to go and I feel bad denying my friend. Telling yourself that it is ok to look after YOU and to do something else that will make YOU feel better is an important skill to cultivate.

Let’s talk about the small things we can do to give us a sense of accomplishment and self validation. Please remember these things do not have to be big tasks. Here are a list of common tasks creatures suffering from mental health issues including myself often ignore or avoid:

  • journaling
  • brushing teeth
  • eating a healthy meal
  • making your bed
  • showering
  • putting your dirty clothes in a basket (not even necessarily doing the laundry)
  • checking the mail box

All the things listed above may seem like very simple tasks which yes they are, for a person who is STABLE. When you can barely find your will to live these things seem unimportant and impossible. BE KIND TO YOURSELF, take time to motivate and remember you are doing these things for YOURSELF. You are being kind to you!

Now let’s talk about what you can choose not to do to improve your mental health and/or stop your from spiralling out of control. These will be things that you are ok to do when you are stable however when you become destabilized may make things worse. Here is a list of a few things that myself and other destabilized creatures may want to avoid:

  • consuming alcohol (this can be a fun activity when you are stable however when you aren’t – this will most likely make things worse)
  • being around large groups of people (although this may be something you normally enjoy when you are struggling it can just simply be too much pressure)
  • dates with friends or loved ones (if you feel too overwhelmed or underwhelmed, you do not have to go. Simply explain you aren’t feeling well and would love to reschedule for another time.)

I am not saying that you should avoid things all together, I am saying do what feels right for you. Obligations like work, therapy and child care ARE A MUST. However, if you feel that seeing friends, social outings or drinking are not right for you then just don’t do it. You do not need to feel guilty in fact you should feel proud that you are taking care of yourself in YOUR TIME OF NEED. Learn to know yourself because you are the only one that can make things better for you. We cant rely on other people for our happiness.

What I would like everyone to take away from this post is that the small things count and it is ok to change your mind and/or say “no” to plans/arrangements. Please take care of yourself and fight for yourself. You can only start your recovery when you admit you need help, whether it be help from yourself, family, friends or a therapist. #loveyourself

 

My Inner Battle

Good Evening Lovelies!

I have been having a rough time lately. I am going to talk about these rough times and how difficult it is to not slip to the dark side with all the stress. Trying to make the stable creatures understand the inner battle of being mentally ill.

3 months ago I left an abusive relationship which ended because the so called love of my life punched me in the face in front of people I care about. I am suffering from PTSD including fear of being alone, terrible night terror, panic attacks and more. Also having a hard time connecting with other creatures and all trust is out the window.  On top of the most recent abuse – the relationship before that one was also abusive. To top it all off a year ago I had to shut down my dance studio because I was in a car accident……oh wait I forgot 2 years ago I nearly died from a blood infection. I feel like it is too much and yet for some whacked out reason here I am still fighting for my best life. Crazy right?

I’m not complaining. I have the most supportive parents, I travel the world, I have passions and I AM A FIGHTER. However, unfortunately I am always thrown a new curve ball just when things are starting to get better. I have been fighting to keep my mental stability. I can feel myself slipping down the dark bottomless pit of depression and I am so scared that if I slip a little too far, this time I may not climb back out. It is very hard to not curl up in a ball and surrender to the darkness.

I KEEP FIGHTING! I have been diagnosed with bipolar for 10 years. I still go to therapy and I am always looking for new ways to grow. My battle is that whenever I feel like I am getting to a stable place the universe throws a wrench in my wheels. Developing my self care and coping skills has been so important. Even though it is so hard to get positive and hustle my ass. I do it because the grass IS greener on the other side. So here I am once again doubling up on all my self care. Here are some of the things I do to keep my fight alive:

  • yoga as much as possible
  • meditation daily
  • no alcohol consumption
  • good sleep hygiene
  • drink loads of water
  • making my friends and family aware that I am suffering
  • telling friends and family that I can’t be the shoulder to lean on right now
  • laugh as much as possible
  • be gentle with myself (positive self talk, diffuse lovely oils etc.)

I want everyone out there struggling to know that they can do it. Please talk to the people you care about and even ask them to join you on your self care adventure. Try to be gentle with your own soul – it is ok to be down in the dumps. Remember you will see the light again and it will be brighter each time! You are wonderful, smart, artistic, fun, weird, beautiful, handsome, different! I hope that me sharing my stories will encourage you to share yours and #startaconversation.

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Shout out to my mother for always having my back and all the shopping therapy over the years. xo