Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resoutions: Sticking With It

I have been working on a sermon about how to stick with New Year's resolutions and I realized some of us might be thinking of goals we want to set for the treatment of our illness. Here are a few tips on how to stick with your goals:

1. Create a plan with small steps to get you towards your goal. If your goal is to loose 50 lbs., that may seem too daunting and discouraging. Set a five pound goal first, then ten pounds. Setting too big of a goal overloads you and it seems too big to accomplish. For more about how our brains can get overloaded with too much information and then we make undesirable decisions, check out this article: Blame it on the Brain.

2. Be flexible. Change your goal as life situations arise and realize that the goal you set out with might be different three months from now. For instance, if your goal is to run a marathon and you find you are overtraining and getting injured, switch to a half marathon. Yet at the same time...

3. Be strict. Meaning, while you need to be flexible, don't compromise on what is best for you. Don't let other people or ideas of what is "normal" pressure you into doing what is not good for you. If you need a certain diet to stay sane, don't let peer pressure tell you it's ok to eat what is bad for you "just this once."

4. Be kind to yourself. If you struggle with keeping up with your goal, don't give up. Don't see it as a failure, just decide to start again.

Good luck in the New Year!


Rev. Katie

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fighting, Not Failure

Yet again, I have had trouble keeping up with my treatment plan. It all started with ice cream after dinner one day. It was a busy day and I said to myself that just one small bowl of ice cream is fine, I won't eat too much. Then I figured I could have a bit of dessert another day. Then Christmas came and I thought "It's Christmas, I will only have dessert today and that's it." It ended in many bowls of ice cream and dozens of cookies after a depression set it because I was eating poorly- and it was all down hill from there.

For a while I saw these times of struggling with my plan as failure. Failure to do what I need to be stable, weakness on my part for giving in to eating wrong, or spending too much money, or staying up all night. Now I know it is not failure, it is me fighting to have the life I deserve. No matter how hard it is and how many times I mess up, I will keep fighting to get better, it is the only option I have.

Now what I am coming to terms with is that I can not take a day or hour off of my treatment plan. I can't just eat a bowl of ice cream once, or stay out late because I am with friends, or skip a workout. It may seem strict to some people, but for people like me it is what we need to do to survive.

Due to my illness, I have many limitations on my life. The more I try to be "like everyone else" and have the same lifestyle other people can have, the sicker I get. Sometimes people around me see this as weak to need so many things to take care of myself and weak when I can't always follow the plan. Instead I see it as strong for continually fighting for my life.

I hope you all fight for your life as well, no matter how many setbacks you have.


Rev. Katie

Monday, December 26, 2011

Where is God?

One of my favorite TV shows is United States of Tara about a wife and mother who has dissociative identity disorder (what used to be called split personality or multiple personalities). I love this show because, in my experience, it is a very real portrayal of what families go through when someone has mental illness. It shows how hard it is to remain a couple, how the children are affected by the disorder, and how life is continually up and down.

In the show the husband, Max, is steadfast and seems to be able to handle anything. In the last episode of the series, just as they have their last meal with Tara who will be going for three months to a doctor for help, Max kind of looses it. He basically says (well, yells) what everyone else is thinking. He asks why his wife, who tries so hard to be a good person, has to go through this, why do his children who have never done anything wrong get dragged into this? Why did God put them on Earth? Just to mess with their lives? In the end he says that they deserve some mercy.

So often, these are the same questions I have.

As a minister, I want answers to these questions. Were I doing pastoral counseling with someone else in my situation I could think of a million things to say to them. Such as: God does not do this on purpose. No one deserves this. We are just part of the larger system. There are many lessons we learn from everything that happens in our life. Etc...

But, in reality, I have no idea why this happens and I don't think God is going to make it better. I know that may sound depressing to some people, and sacrilegious to others, but that is just not part of my belief system. I believe God is love and while God will love me and my family through whatever happens, God can't change it because if God could, God would have already. Sometimes, maybe even constantly, bad stuff happens. What I hold on to is the relationships I have. The good times I do get to spend with my husband and son. The amazing people I meet in life. And while sometimes it seems so bad that there is no purpose to all of this, I just have to decide that I will keep going. My faith tells me that no matter what, there will be people who love me who will walk this path with me. My faith also tells me that I need to have faith in myself. As soon as I loose faith in myself, I get worse, I can't function, and I miss all the love other people have for me.

So, where do I think God is? I believe God is crying along with me, outraged with how life can be so unfair, but loving me just the same. Where do I see God? In people like my husband, son, family, and friends and in myself- when I remember to have faith in myself.

I believe that life just sucks sometimes, but I thank God I am not alone.


Rev. Katie

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finding You: Artistic Journaling for Mental Illness

I am very excited to announce a new program of the Carolyn L. Farrell Foundation which starts Jan. 16, 2012! We are starting an artistic journaling program for people with mental illness.

Many of you know that I scrapbook, which is one of the ways I help manage my bipolar disorder. In the times when I am depressed, my scrapbook reminds me of what is good in my life and what I have to look forward to. When I feel manic or I am upset that my illness is particularly bad, my albums remind me of who I am, what I care about, and what I have accomplished.

It is so easy for our illness to take over and we end up with distorted thinking, deep depression, and self doubt. In those times we need something that can remind us of what is real in life, what is good, and something that inspires us to keep with our treatment program.

Finding You will allow you to create a journal that helps you through your hardest times. It will help you remember who you are, what you love, what you achieved, and what your treatment plan is. It is an ongoing program so you can come and go when you are available and it is accessible to people of all artistic levels. If you are interested in participating, please register today!

When: First and third Mondays of the month.
Where: West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd.
Time: 6:30-8:00pm


Rev. Katie

Monday, December 12, 2011

Exercise Works: CrossFit

I sat on the phone for a bit this morning arguing with my husband about going to exercise. Jeff is out of town, which always sets off a bipolar trigger and I do not do well. I was angry and depressed this morning, thinking life will never be better and I am sick of doing all this work to be well only to have my illness flare up constantly. Jeff said I had to go to CrossFit this morning, I argued that exercise doesn't really help and I wouldn't go. However, I really like the people at CrossFit so I went anyway and within ten minutes I was feeling better.

photo from
Yes, exercise works, no matter how often I swear it doesn't. For me it has to be high intensity exercise and so CrossFit is perfect. It is high intensity and challenging so you immediately start to get a mood boost. Running will do the same thing for me, but because I am so slow, I have to run for at least a half hour before I start to feel any better. CrossFit is totally different and I feel better right away. For instance, today's workout was:
Warmup: 15 sec. Sampson Stretch and 15 box jumps: repeat 5 times
Workout (for time): 1,250 meter row
                                   100 Sit ups
                                     75 Squats
                                     50 Push ups
                                     25 Pull ups
                                     10 Burpees
Cooldown: 125 meter row sprint, 3 times

In all the reading I have done about exercise and mood, high intensity is best. Low intensity still helps, but you have to do it for much longer and let's face it, if you feel awful the idea of doing anything for thirty minutes is agonizing. However, you can convince yourself you will do something for ten minutes and if you feel better right away, you will end up sticking with it for a full workout. And, we should exercise at least every other day. I try and exercise every day because if I skip a day, I am a mess, which is probably why I was so bad this morning- I did not exercise over the weekend.

So, if you feel awful right now, go out and exercise, for ten minutes. Run around your block, do box jumps on a low box or step, use the elliptical-whatever-just ten minutes. You will feel better.


Rev. Katie