Friday, October 23, 2009

Rachel's Story - Balance

Life is so busy – especially when you’re young and your friends want to be socializing many nights and you have work commitments and exercise routines to fit in and family engagements…pretty soon there are so many demands on one’s time that it becomes stressful for anyone, let alone someone living with a mental illness. I know from experience that a big part of staying healthy with my bipolar disorder involves getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night and maintaining a healthy balance in my life (ie: not working too much, not socializing at the expense of my sleep, making sure I get regular exercise, etc.).

In the beginning, it was difficult for some of my friends to understand that occasionally I had to turn them down, choosing instead to stay in and get some rest. My true friends, though, have learned to accept this over time and it helps me to create a balanced lifestyle.

The exercise piece is difficult sometimes. When I’m really depressed, the last thing I feel like doing is dragging myself out for a run or to a yoga class. But when I’m feeling good or only mildly depressed, exercise can keep me from spiraling down. It definitely helps me to de-stress and to sleep better.

In combination with meds and regular visits to my psychiatrist & CBT, these are the elements that seem to be keeping me relatively healthy and balanced these days.


Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog and your courage in sharing your story. It helps so much. I have a couple of friends that struggle with mental illness and I have struggled with depression in the past- your story helps me understand.

I can relate to the importance of balance- when I do too much, don't get enough sleep I can feel my mood slipping. I am so grateful that I have been able to incorperate exercise into my lifestyle in the last year. I really believe it is helping me stay healthy.

Thanks again.


Rachel said...

Hi C,

Thanks for sharing your experience and for your encouragement. I'm glad if I am able to help in some small way!

I think that there are many people who don't understand how important exercise can be in helping to stay healthy. It is only in the past two years or so that i have developed a more regular routine and, i agree with you, the benefits are GREAT.

Thanks again,


Melba11 said...

Hi Rachel and C

Exercise is so important in finding that balance in your life and it is the hardest to do when you don't have the energy or the motivation to stick with. How do you think of exercising when you can't get out of bed for example.

Slowly I have taken a different approach to exercise.. taking a Zumba class with a friend who won't let me quit. As well noting some physical activity even around the house to get myself moving.

Baby steps, right... actually I think I am just learning to walk!

Oh BTW Rachel, I have an appointment at the end of the month with the Anxiety clinic after a six month wait list time. I guess this is my next step.


rachel said...

Yay Melba!! I'm so glad that you've got an appointment booked! You're right - that's the next step! It's definitely in the right anxiety (panic) group is helping me a lot.

That's a good idea to take a zumba class with a friend who won't let you quit...i should try getting out to more yoga classes with friends from work but sometimes I tend to withdraw too's hard, as you said. Something to keep working at, for sure!

Just to let you know I will be speaking about living with Bipolar Disorder at Agudath Israel Synagogue on the morning of Sunday November's open for anyone to come. It's part of a series on mental health.


Patty Anne said...

Hi Rachel-

I am so glad you are doing so well. You are on your way to wellness. Don't you think that this part of the journey is interesting? It is like picking your way through all the clutter and seeing what suits your mind and body and what does not. Don't push too hard. It took a long time to become ill and it will take time to be completely well. I would love to listen to you at the Synagogue however I sleep in so I have to miss it. If you ever do one at night I will be there.

NotGoodEnoughForHelp said...

It's so hard to go out sometimes when you are bi-polar. Last winter I used one tank of gas from the second week of October until Christmas Eve. I just couldn't go out. 2 years ago I missed my appointment at the R.O. because I was in this situation. When I called to rebook, I was told my doctor discharged me and I would have to go through the lengthy referral process again. I promptly did, with my GP. I was living in a residence house for people with mental health issues at the time. Not a fun place. I was there for 3 years. After the referral process, I went for an appointment and was turned away with no explanation. I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld when every doctor reads her chart and refuses to treat her. I collect ODSP and my wife works part time for minimum wage. We cannot afford a psychiatrist. I am taking the same prescription I was prescribed years ago at the RO, which have never been effective, because I have no psychiatrist, and the doctor who prescribed them in the first place never saw me for more than 5 minutes at a time and never listened to a word I said. Now I have a 13 month old son and the stress in my life is unbelievable, but because I am blacklisted by the R.O. and am too poor to afford a psychiatrist, all I can do is take ineffective medication and prey this winter isn't too bad for me, so I can care for my son.
I'm glad you are getting the help you need, but for those of us who slip through the cracks, every day is terrifying. I vomit in the mornings if I know I have to go out and do so much as get groceries. Sometimes I do not sleep for days, sometimes I cannot eat. I am so tired all of the time. Getting rejected in this state is hard, getting rejected by the institution that is supposed to be helping is almost overwhelmingly unbearable.

NotGoodEnoughForHelp said...

I learned of this Blog because I was planning on attending the Brunch and Learn at the synagogue on Nov. 29, but when I learned that one of their speakers was an employee of the RO I realized all I will hear their is someone talking about all the help they do for people when in fact the RO has zero empathy (in my case at least) for people dealing with bi polar disorder and indeed do not recognize that people with a serious condition sometimes cannot even go to work, and certainly will miss some appointments. It is the nature of the disease. As my doctor only ever saw me for 5 minutes at a time, I certainly don't feel I really put him out much by missing an appointment. He couldn't even smoke a whole cigarette in the amount of time he would spend with me. I may not attend the seminar now because I will probably be unable to control my anger as Dr. Irit Sterner goes on and on about how they do so much to help sick people. How about this? Help me.
It's a shame because I was looking forward to attending with my wife, who has to deal with my issues as much as I do. My condition affects her life a great deal. Sorry for the rant but I'm surprisingly quite angry (and disappointed) that one of the speakers works for an organization that says one thing but does another. We help people with BiPolarism. Unless, of course, they are so sick that they cannot help themselves.
I'd be able to pay for my own shrink if I wasn't such a basketcase and haven't been able to hold onto a job once in my entire life without it ending with me breaking down in tears.
Thanks for the opportunity to vent. Another sleepless night and no one to talk to.

Patty Anne said...

This is for "Not Good Enough For Help"

First of all the Psychiatrist is paid by OHIP. You just need a referral to one and specifically one that is experienced in your type of illness.

Rachel is not a paid advertisement for the ROH. She is a patient. But she is willing to step up to the plate a let people know that she is being helped by the ROH.

I know it is hard and I know you are full of despair. I have been there. However, you have to get off your duff and find the answer. You have to take care of your own mental health.

Get a psychiatrist! Or get back to the ROH. You sound like you haven't had help for many years. Well it is time to take your life in your own hands, be positive and for heaven't sake, give everyone you meet a break. Dr's are only human as well and they make mistakes.

Take someone with you who will make sure that you are perceiving things correctly, and that you are getting the right information about why things happen or what is said. When you are ill like you are the memory plays tricks and so does your perception of events.

Pills can help and so can Drs. But in the end it is your determination that will win the day.

Patty Anne said...

Dear Melba 11

I went to a marvelous pychologist when I was at the beginning of this journey. One of the most important things she would say was that even though I wanted to stay in bed, I couldn't. She even threatened to come and drag me out of said bed. She kept telling me that moving your muscles was the beginning of everything. I hated it. It was the exact opposite to what I wanted to do.

Every step is a step towards control of your life. You are making a decision every day to live and grow.

When you are feeling anxious, go a scrub a floor, sew a quilt or anything, listen to inspiring music. I used to sew and listen to Tina Turner. That lady had guts. Exercise, run. If you turn your attention to something else that absorbs your mind, the anxiety disappears.

I used to say that if people have survived concentration camps, or torture during wars, I can survive anxiety.

I am well today and someday you will too.

NotGoodEnoughForHelp said...

I have a therapist, but he cannot prescribe new medications. From what I have been told, psychiatrists are NOT covered by OHIP (psychologists are, but cannot prescribe meds). I actually confirmed this with me therapist today. From what I gather, unless I can get a psychiatrist at the RO, I will have to pay for it out of pocket.

If determination could overcome this affliction, I wouldn't be very sick. I'd be outside doing something fun right now.

Patty Anne said...

This For Not Good Enough!

Sorry, but psychiatrists ARE covered by OHIP. Psychologists are not

Psychologists cannot prescribe medication. They are usually covered by your employer health plan. Maybe under the benefits you have now, the psychologist is covered.

I know all this because I have been to psychiatrists many times and they ARE covered by OHIP.

rachel said...

Hello NotGoodEnoughForHelp (though I'm sure you ARE),

I can relate to your frustration. At certain times in my journey I have felt the same way: disappointed and let down by the system with nowhere to turn. Your anger is understandable.

Go to and click on "Stories of Hope". Under "Videos of our 2009 Inspiration Award Recipients" click on "Claude Lurette". Watch his video. He is the Chair of the Client Empowerment Council at the Royal Ottawa. I urge you to contact him and get the help you need. You can reach him at 613-722-6521, extension 6767.

I would still encourage you to come out to the Brunch and Learn on Sunday the 29th. We will not be speaking about the Royal (unless someone specifically asks about it). We will be speaking about the ups and downs associated with Bipolar disorder. It will also be an opportunity to share ideas amongst members of the community. I will be bringing a list of resources, many of which have little or no cost associated with them. Just to clarify, psychiatrists ARE covered by OHIP - psychologists are NOT but maybe by your private plan.

I hope that helps a bit. Please know that many of us on this journey have been where you are and that things can and WILL get better.