Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Housewarming Celebration

It has been holiday central around the Stafford house! From the last blog, you can see that I've been struggling with some things lately. Thankfully, I seemed to have stepped out of the fog just in time for our housewarming party!

With us closing and moving in the first of November, we decided that having a holiday housewarming would be most appropriate. And you know me, I jumped head first into planning. It felt good to feel good again! One of the hallmarks of clinical depression is losing interest in things you use to find enjoyment in. So, I was so thankful to find enjoyment in designing, crafting, and decorating for the party!

I'd found this picture on Better Homes and Gardens and loved the color scheme! So, I decided to let it be my inspiration.

Then I found this fabulousness created by Hyperlink to The Inspired Bride and Hyperlink to Bake it Pretty

So, I decided to try and combine the two and make it work for me. I started with the invitations, where all good party planning should start. ;-) I was so happy with the way the invitations came out! It took me a while to refine the design to where I was happy with it, but it finally got there.

Then it was time to decide what to serve. I figured with the color scheme being black, white, and apple green, white chocolate would be the only answer! At least once a year my mom would drag out her double boiler and dunk some stuff in chocolate. And continuing with tradition, I have come to do the same. Usually making chocolate covered pretzel rods, using my patended spoon and swirl technique, for co-workers or friends. This year I decided I would just go bigger and badder.

Wanting everything to be as fresh as possible, my friend Beth came over the night before the party to help me dunk. We made dunked oreos, pretzel rods, and my childhood tradition of ritz cracker/peanut butter sandwiches, all coated in scrumptious white chocolate (which I got on sale, by the way.)

After Beth left, I whipped up a batch of peppermint bark. Which by the way, is the easiest thing in the entire world, and something I'll probably make every year from now on, even though I'm not a fan of peppermint.

Being the awesome friends that they are... my bestests totally pitched in. My bestest April had offered to help however she could. With four kids I was counting myself lucky that she was going to make it at all, but then I remembered the amazing butter cream frosting that she made for her daughter's bithday party. I knew that one of the other things I wanted to make was cupcakes, and I couldn't think of anything better to top them with then her butter cream frosting!

My bestest Jessica, came up from Fayetteville (where she lived with her active duty army husband) early Saturday morning to help with the set up and final baking. I'd found, what looked like, a to-die-for chocolate cupcake recipe in my Cupcake book by Martha Stewart. Not being fortunate enough to have a KitchenAid mixer, Jess brought her's with her and was awesome enough to make the cupcakes while I was finishing up the cleaning and decorating.

Thanks to all my friends and my wonderful husband, who lets me be crazy controling over my projects and deals with my stressed out moments trying to get finished up, we were done with a couple of hours to spare! This has never happened to me before!! I'm always the one running right up to the minute.

Unfortunately with the blurr of activity and trying to take advantage of time with my friends, I completely forgot to take even one picture! Thankfully, my brother got a couple with his iPhone.

What do you think? I think it came pretty close to my inspiration. Oh and if you were wondering, Martha Stewart did not stear me wrong! The chocolate cupcakes were to-die-for, and totally worth the $10 I spent on the small box of fancy cocoa I bought to make them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I have an illness. I will have this illness for the rest of my life. I will be on medication for this illness for the rest of my life. I will not allow this illness to define my life.

I have been very lucky and healthy most of my life. Other than the occasional strep throat or cold, and what I thought to be a mild case of low seretonin, I never had to see a doctor on a very regular basis. I went on a low dose of anti-depression medication about 6 years ago but only saw a general practicioner once a year to have it refilled. Things were much better than they had been before I went on the anti-depressant, so I figured everything was good to go.

Well, after taking my current job, which drains every ounce of my strength, I started having more problems. I finally sought help from my general practicioner about a year and a half ago. They did a broad spectum blood test, and sent me to a sleep clinic, which after an overnight sleep study and months of different medication, produced nothing helpful other than the knowledge that there was no physical reason for me to be sleeping poorly. The blood test produced absolutely nothing out of the ordinary either.

Continuing to press the point, my general practicioner decided to shake up the meds a litte. He put me on a different anti-depressant. Well, this one was great. It gave me more energy. I had motivation coming out of my ears. In fact it bordered on obsession. Unfortunately, although I felt a little better, it didn't fix the problem, it actually made it worse.

So, a few months later when I come into my general practicioner's office at the end of my rope, insisting that I had walking pnumonia or mono, but with a list of symptoms that described a textbook case of clinical depression, he finally refered me to a psychiatrist. At my first appointment, a few short days before my 30th birthday, the psychiatrist listened to my symptoms, took my medical history, and diagnosed me with Type 2 Bi-Polar disorder. I was devistated! This is the same illness that my dad has. This is the same illness that allegedly caused the behaviors that still haunt me to this day. What if I treated people the same way? Happy 30th Birthday, you're a monster! Let's just say that I did not weather the milestone birthday with the grace I was hoping for.

This diagnosis was followed by a string of unfortunately timed coincidences, some good some bad, but all overwhelming. Just 3 weeks later, my grandmother passed away and the moment the funeral was over my extended family imploded. I anticipate that with the exception of two cousins, I will never see my mom's extended family again.

The day my grandmother passed away, we found our house and within 6 weeks we were closing. That meant a move which is stressful under the best of circumstances. All of this while going on and off different medications.

The first thing my psychiatrist did was put me on a mood stablizing medication. He warned me that I might be more depressed until we got the medication and dosing right, but I was not prepared for the crushing, overwhelming, sufficating, drowning experience that would follow. One of the biggest challenges with an illness like bi-polar is that I've never really experienced "normal", so I you have no ruler, no standard, by which to compare my moods. When I first went on the mood stabilizer I felt like I wasn't at home in my own skin... like I was consistenly trying to crawl out of my skin to be free of the sensation. That subsided thankfully, but it left behind the most sufficating experience of clinical depression that I've ever experienced. If I was not as stubborn as I am, I would not have gotten out of bed as often as I did.

It took my psychiatrist about three months to figure out that I would not call between visits. I didn't want to "bother" him and figured I could suffer through until my next visit. Once he figured this out, he moved me from coming in every four weeks to every two. And after listening to my complaints, he upped the dose of both my meds.

Just a few days later... I stepped out of the fog that had been the last three months of my life.

It's amazing how feeling so bad can make one so appreciative of feeling good. I still feel like I have an unsteady hold on my sanity at the moment. But hopefully as the days turn into week and the weeks turn into months, I'll be able to trust this new feeling of stability.

I have an illness that will effect me for the rest of my life. I will not let this illness define me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

been far too long...

I know it has been a very long time since I blogged. To say the least, life has been a little challenging. After deciding that I wanted to have my own wedding planning business, I dove headlong into making that a reality. Unfortunately, due to my obsessive personality, I did this to the detrement of myself, my marriage, my health, and my sanity. Between networking groups, obsessing over my logo, business cards, website, and coordinating 2 weddings in the same month, I burt out. I got to the point where I couldn't even look at my google reader or blog on the business' site. Just the thought was more than I could handle.

This stress was, of course, on top of the rest of the stress in my life. I had decided not to renew my committment to the domestic violence organization when my year was up, but unfortunately that wasn't until September. I was trying deserately to connect with a kid at the Alexander Youth Network who is hard to reach on a good day. Work got even more stressful than normal. But every time I think it can't possibly get more stressful, it does.

At the beginning of September I turned 30. I'd always hoped that I would handle that with grace and confidence. Well, whatever it was that I handled it with, it was NOT grace or confidence! My grandmother was getting very ill, so we decided to take my birthday weekend and go up to see her. I'd planned on having a big 30th birthday party and refusing to take it lying down (translation: drinking and clubbing like I was in my 20's). Well, that didn't happen since we were up in the mountains. The whole thing kind of hit me like a mack truck! I died my hair with my cousin and that was so much fun, but I spent the evening in tears and it took me weeks to recover.

Around the same time, I was finally able to get into the psychiatrist that my primary care physician had reffered me to. Well, after listening to me talk for a very short time, he diagnosed me with Type 2 Bi-Polar Disorder, which is a milder form of bi-polar. I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. It took me a very long time to feel like I could breath. Why I felt like that is a much longer story then I want to go into right now, but it was tramatic to say the least. And of course, he started playing with my medication. Switching meds is no fun even on a good day, so at this point it just about put me under! Well, let's see, that was September and I just feel like I stepped out of the fog sometime last week.

Two weeks after my birthday, my grandmother died. We all knew it was going to happen, but it doesn't necessarily make it easier. The moment she passed the family imploded on itself! We got through the funeral by the skin of our teeth, but as soon as it was over all hell broke lose. I now no longer talk with 90% of my extended family and expect that I never will.

One of the few bright spots, has been my grandmother's dog. He's a 5 or 6 year old, 16 lb, Shiz Tsu who came home with us instead of being sent to the shelter. He's a buddle of joy, a crazy dog who runs in circles when he's excited, and the light of my life at the moment. Adjusting to having a dog has been a challenge for Jay and myself, though. Neither of us ever having had an indoor pet like Sammy. We are adjusting to the responsibility, as well as the additional costs associated with having a furry child! And trust me, he is my child substitute!

The day my grandmother passed, Jay and I found our new home. Within 8 weeks we were home owners! That scared the ever living daylights out of me. I don't know what it was but committing to a 30 year morgage, but it was scarier than getting married. I guess because the morgage is harder to get out of then the marriage. :-) We also had to deal with moving and breaking our lease, all of which was just tied up last week.

The week before Thanksgiving I was at my breaking point. I was hardly putting one foot in front of the other was was having a hard time doing simple tasks. During a counciling session, my therapist convenced me that it was imperative that I take some time off work. So, I took the entire week of Thanksgiving off. I focused on resting, on healing, on giving myself permission to think only of myself.

I learned one very important thing through it all... sometimes getting out of bed in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other all day long is something to celebrate! Hopefully, I can start putting my life back together. I've lost some friendships through this time as well as learned that I have limits. Now if I can only learn, next time, to find those limits and respect them before it's too late.

There are some fun things going on right now. I have become absolutely, 100% addicted to the Twilight Saga. I'm sure I'll be writing about that soon. And this weekend is our holiday housewarming party! I'm so excited for this, and will be working on preparations all week. I'll be taking lots of pictures and posting them as soon as I can.

To all my family and friends who have stood by me during this difficult time in my life, thank you... thank you from the bottom of my heart!