Can I be honest? I'm going to be honest...

Hello friends. When I started this blog I promised myself two things.

  1. No expectations, only fun. 
  2. If it gets overwhelming, let it go. 

Well... in classic Lauren Baker style, I have expectations and I'm overwhelmed. 

Here's the thing- I am the kind of person who thinks my self-worth is evident through tangible success. Sometimes it works in my favor (Hello master's degree even though I had two children in the process) and sometimes it doesn't. I have mixed feelings about this aspect of my personality, but I am grateful that I'm in a place where I can recognize it.

I'm also in a place to know when my chemical imbalance is getting unmanageable. And, as much as I wish it wasn't true, I am very close to that place. These phases, these cycles of depression, are something that I have to work through. The main reason I wanted to start this blog is to help teach people how to manage these cycles, and learn from others in the process! If I really expect to be able to teach people how to manage their chemical imbalance, I have to manage my own first. 

I love this blog, and am definitely not giving it up completely. But I'm at this place where I want it to be super perfect and successful, with all the right adds and thousands of followers, and that takes a lot of work. I want it to be perfect, but I don't have the capacity to make it perfect right now. So, I think I need to step back, take a breather, and get myself back into the right frame of mind. 

After 4 severe panic attacks and a few weeks of worse-than-usual depression, - I have had some suicidal ideation. Ugh. I hate typing that. I hate it. But I said I was going to be honest, so there it is. I'm disappointed, angry, sad, worried- this is not where I want to be. But don't worry- I've been honest with my doctor, too. We're changing up my meds and I'm working closely with her to get through it. But medication can only take me so far. 

I need a break. I need a break from the absurd expectations I put on myself. I need a break from social media. I need a break from the news and negativity. I just need some time to get through this phase. I need quiet, yoga, books, and my family. So I'll be signing off for a little while. 

But I really believe I'll be back! I'm not ready to give up on Balancing Imbalance; I just need some time to recoup. If you'd like to keep in touch, I'll still be on instagram at @imbalanced_yogi. Instagram is one social media account that still brings me great joy, especially the yoga community, so you can find me there if you like. 

Thank you for your understanding, love, and support. Talk soon. <3

Namaste,

Lauren  

These are a few of my favorite things.....

Man, oh man. At the end of every semester- EVERY. SINGLE. ONE- I think "Hooray! I'm going to have so much time to do all the things!" And I never have so much time to do all the things. All the things get pushed aside by all the upkeep- cleaning a 2,400 square foot house, keeping two small children and one husband alive, dealing with f*cked up plumbing, doing the budget, grocery shopping, laundry.... the list goes on and on. 

One of the things I've tried to make a priority since my time in the adult behavioral hospital ward (the nice term for the looney bin. It's ok. I can call it that. I've been there!) is self-care. I came to realize that without SOME sort of self-care, there is no way I can keep up with life's demands. You can't pour from an empty cup. You just can't. Sometimes it's hard, but if you make it a priority, there is SOME sort of self-care you can slip into even the busiest days! 

Here are my favorite bite-sized self-care activities- the ones I can keep up with at this super busy time. 

1: Depression makes my hair fall out... But then I found Hair Skin Nails Nourishing Complex by IT Works!

Ok, so a little backstory- one of the physical symptoms of depression that I experience is hair loss. And I'm not talking normal, oh-some-strands-fall-out-in-the-shower hair loss, or even post-partum hair loss. I'm talking clumps. In particularly long depressive cycles, my hair comes out in chunks. I hate it. My hair is already super thin, so it's been a serious source of insecurity for me. I've been terrified of going bald, without having a badass story to go with it. I'm not the biggest fan of MLM companies, but I AM a big fan of my friends so I try to support them whenever possible. One of my long time girlfriends is selling IT works, and she had a special on these supplements. I jumped on it. I've tried essential oils, store bought supplements, diet changes.... nothing had stopped the most recent bout of shedding so I thought "what the hell?"

Oh. My. GOSH. I swear I'm not getting paid to say this, and I'm not selling the product- this is totally personal experience- This. Shit. Works. I don't know what they put in it that is so different from other supplements, but it has helped my hair SO much. In the 30 days I've been taking them, my hair feels stronger and thicker, it's grown at least an inch, and best of all: I am not losing NEARLY as much as I was! I still lose some strands in the shower or while brushing, but it is SO much better. I'm a huge fan. They don't taste super great, but that is my only teeny tiny complaint. I love these supplements. I'm signed on for 3 months, and I can't wait to compare my before and after photos! 

 

2. I can't survive without a journal...

A couple of weeks ago, I used up the Moleskine that was serving as my current journal. I love my Moleskines, but I'm not very good at doing the bullet journal thing- where you number all the pages and have an index at the front that tells you where you can find all the different lists and entries you've made. So I decided to try a traveler's notebook style this time, and I am LOVING it. Journaling is one of my favorite coping tools. It helps me clear my mind and soul, and I never regret sitting down to write. I bought myself this Molly and Rex journal from Michael's and I am really digging having separate notebooks for all my different things. I have one for daily affirmations and journaling, one for journaling and tracking my yoga practice, and one for lists! I LOVE LISTS. Compulsive list making is a classic symptom of ADD, and I write lists for EVERYTHING. I love being able to look through one small notebook, rather than searching through a whole Moleskin. These were super reasonably priced, and I think I'll be sticking with this style for a while! I would like to find a nicer cover, though. As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I don't love that it says it on the cover. My options were limited though, and I love the color! (Click on the right to scroll through!)

 

3. These silly-but-totally-necessary-Maine stickers!

Joey and I are going to Maine next month- OMG I'M SO EXCITED I CAN HARDLY STAND IT- so I got these cute little stickers for my planner! They're from 989Designs on Etsy, and while they're just a small thing, putting them in my planner makes me smile every time. That's totally worth the price of shipping. :D Sometimes the tiniest treats can be the difference between a bad mood and a good one.  

And speaking of Etsy, Balancing Malas is slowly, but surely, coming together! I can't wait to share it with you. 

Until next time!

Namaste.

LB <3

A Dedication to Medication...

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PSA: I am in no way trained to give medical advice, and this post is in no way meant to do so. This is not an advisement for or against medication for mental illness. This is an account of my experience with medication as directed by my psychiatrist and primary physicians.

Ah, medication... The debate that keeps on debating.

Before I get into this, there are some things you should know:

  1.  I love natural remedies and alternatives, and I use them whenever possible.
  2. As much as I love holistic and natural alternatives, they have not given me safe results for managing my mental illness. The risks of prescribed medication are, for me, an acceptable risk when compared to my experience using only natural approaches.
  3. My medications are closely monitored by my psychiatrist and primary physician, on a monthly to quarterly basis. I’ll explain that more in a bit….

So- if you are looking for natural alternatives, keep checking back! I have a few posts planned about how I use natural approaches to compliment my medication.

If you are curious about medication, I hope this post offers some insight!

In order to tell you about my medication and my experience with it, I think the first step is to tell you about my past and current diagnoses.

A bit of history....

My first experience with medication for mental illness was at the age of 15 and, to be honest, I don’t remember much about it. But I can give you the gist. Between the ages of 15 and 26, I was treated on and off for depression and ADD. These diagnoses were never given by a psychiatrist, only physicians, and my treatment was off and on. Sometimes I had insurance, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I was capable of taking my medication responsibly, sometimes I wasn’t. The best experience I had in these nine years was when I asked my physician if I could try Cymbalta. At the time it was new, and I had heard it helped with chronic pain- something I also struggled with, inexplicably. I had (and still have) scoliosis, but not a case significant enough to account for the amount of pain I was in. After tests for everything from Lupus to Muscular Dystrophy, it was decided that my pain was probably a result of depression. For several years, Cymbalta was very effective for me.

Then I lost my insurance.

My physician, who was an absolute saint, gave me samples every month. We were able to get away with this for a year, but then she moved to an ER and could no longer provide me with the samples, and without insurance Cymbalta would have cost me more than $600 a month. So I went without.

During this time, approximately three years, I gained 40 pounds, had erratic mood swings, and went through alcohol dependency. At one point I was drinking every day. The worst was during my bachelor’s work in 2011. I would go to work at a breakfast joint at 7am, get off around noon, and drink mimosas until I could bring myself to go home.

Do I consider myself an alcoholic? No. Because it wasn’t about the drinking- I didn’t want to be drunk. What I wanted was to NOT be depressed. Maybe those are the same thing, but with regular medication my desire to drink is solely recreational. I love margaritas- I don’t NEED them.

During these years, Joey and I were both in college working shit jobs. We were WELL below the poverty line, and medication generally was not an option. I checked into state programs several times, but they don’t really exist in Oklahoma. And the ones that did, wouldn’t offer me help because I was a student. I was unqualified for assistance because, as they put it, “That’s what student loans are for.” It was a difficult time, to say the least.

But in 2012, several wonderful things happened. My husband and I both graduated with bachelor’s degrees, and Joey got his first full-time position is his field. It was like we were rich! And best of all- INSURANCE!

From my diagnosis to present...

As soon as our insurance kicked in, I knew I needed to see a psychiatrist. 2011 was THE WORST year of my life. My mental health almost ended my marriage, and could have ended my life. While I was not suicidal, I drove drunk ALL the time- basically the same thing. I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity, this blessing, I would be doing myself a major disservice. So I made my first of several appointments.

After trying three different doctors, I finally found a good fit. I still see this doctor five years later, and I am so grateful for her! She gave me the following diagnosis:

Major Depressive Disorder with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.

I know- it’s a doozy.

And for the very curious, my meds are the following:

60 mg of Cymbalta daily for MDD.

15 mg of Buspar twice daily for GAD.

20 mg of Adderall extended release once daily for ADD.

I also take multivitamins, iron, and vitamin D supplements.

I see my psychiatrist every month to three months, depending on how I’m doing. If I’ve had several spells of depression, I see her monthly. If I’m good, I see her every three months.

I KNOW, RIGHT!? It’s a lot. But after being completely off-meds for pregnancy twice, and off Adderall for nursing, please believe me when I say that this IS the best course of action, for me.

If you’ve read my story about Antenatal Depression, you know that life without medication is, simply put, dangerous for me. Plain and simple. I tank, I flounder, I barely survive.

And so, I choose medication. Does it eradicate my mental illness? Nope. But what it does do, is let me manage it. It allows me to function and live life as normally as possible. It gives me the best opportunity to have a life fully lived. And so, despite the controversy, I take my medication with a grateful heart. I do not judge those who chose a different course of action, but I do not shame myself or others who chose this route for themselves. I wouldn’t feel guilty or shameful for taking medication for a heart disease, and so I also refuse to be shamed for taking medication for a brain disease.

So what is my general opinion of medication for mental illness? For some it is an absolute necessity, and for others there may be an alternative course.

There are three things that I want to make crystal clear:

  1.  Medication should monitored and chosen by you and a psychiatrist. Physicians are wonderful- but for mental illness, psychiatrists are better. They know more about a diverse range of medication, and are therefore less likely to put you on what is popular or easy. My OBGYN put me on Zoloft while I was pregnant with Lux, and I became suicidal. If I had seen my psychiatrist, we could have avoided the lapse in my Cymbalta, and I may have never gone through what I did. If you think you need medication for mental illness, see a psychiatrist.
  2. Make this decision FOR YOURSELF. If you are not taking anything and you’re struggling- try medication. If you’re taking medication and it’s not working or making you feel worse- ask for another course of action. There are SO many medications out there. If you decide to give them a try, be patient. Try several. You’ll find the right one with your doctor eventually.
  3. Medication is not one-size-fits-all. Just because something works for me, or someone you know, or your mom or your sister, does NOT mean it will work for you. Keep your mind open, and be patient.

Whew!

This is longer than most of my posts, but this is a big topic! If you have any questions, ask away! I will answer to the best of my ability. If you feel like sharing your experience with meds, please do! The more we talk about it, the less power the stigma holds. We’re medicated. We’re mighty.

Oh! And a very Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful Mommas out there!

From my light to yours,

Namaste.

Meditation, jewelry, and a Giveaway! Hooray!

Boom! Two Fridays in a row, guys! For someone with ADD, this is kind of a big deal.

And you know what else is a big deal!? I have teamed up with dear friend and talented designer, Jennifer Dunham, for a giveaway that is seriously dear to my heart! What kind of giveaway? One for mindfulness jewelry. What the heck is mindfulness jewelry? One of my very favorite things.

Last year, when I started taking my yoga seriously, I came across yoga malas. Simply put: yoga malas (japa malas as they are sometimes called) are traditionally strands of 108 beads, that you use to meditate. You hold the mala in your hand and slide down each bead with your fingers, repeating whatever mantra you need at that moment. For centuries yogis and Buddhists have used malas for meditation. They are a tangible sign of your intentions, goals, dedications, and self-care.  

Do you have to be a yogi to use a mala? Of course not! It just happens to be a tradition in yogic practice, and we yogis LOVE malas.

I love them so much, that for the last few months I have been making them for friends as gifts, and as a way to save up some money for yoga teacher training- a distant goal, but one I still hope to achieve in the next year or two. I had enough interest that, when I decided I was going to get more serious about Balancing Imbalance, I decided to register for an etsy shop, too. The shop will be called Balancing Malas, and I can’t WAIT to get it up and running, and to share the benefits of malas with you! I will have more info on Balancing Malas very soon, and there is so much more I want to say about the benefit of a steady meditation practice as a part of managing chemical imbalance. But in the meantime, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce my readers not only to malas- but to mindfulness jewelry in general.

What is mindfulness jewelry? Well, it’s jewelry that encourages mindfulness. Meditation malas are probably the most recognizable pieces of mindfulness jewelry, but there are so many lovely choices these days! From mala necklaces and bracelets, to rings made with intentional stones and soothing materials- there are many ways to wear your self-care.

Jennifer Dunham’s collection Erosion, is one of my very favorite examples. For our giveaway, Jenn has graciously donated this ring, made from natural matte brass and hand cut obsidian. On her website, Jennifer says this about her collection:

Intended to encourage and empower you, this collection is classically pretty with a notably off-beat nature. Fluid and rugged textures are inspired by a pairing of rough elements and changing weather.  The matte metal finish will fade with wear, revealing a natural shine. Unique shapes, dips and curves celebrate eccentricities and embrace both the shadow and light of our experience. 

And in a personal email, she says this of obsidian- the stone in the ring she will be gifting to one of you lovely people!

“Obsidian became important to me when I started making jewelry. It supports transformation and grounding. It helps with feelings of loss and grief, is protective, and removes negativity.”

 

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As you explore the world of mindfulness jewelry, you’ll notice that those of us who make it are pretty obsessed with healing stones. Full disclosure- I’m not a scientist. I don’t know if there are any properties in any stones that do anything in particular. But I do know that when I am wearing amethyst- a stone meant to calm your mind and spirit- I remind myself to find calm when I notice it. When I’m wearing rose quartz- the stone of love and motherhood- I feel and notice the love around me. It’s presence on my wrist reminds me to see it. And Moonstone! Oooooh, how I love rainbow moonstone. Rainbow moonstone is said to help balance women’s hormones- bringing them in line with the lunar cycle. And in the last month that I’ve been wearing it, my period has been at a regular time for the first time in 3 months. So, maybe it’s a placebo. But if it is, I don’t care- because I gain nothing but peace and comfort from wearing and trusting them. (Would I suggest a slice of pink agate for strep throat? No. But I would if you’re needing a boost of self-confidence! Or a reminder of your inherent worth!)

One last example, before I give you the deets on the giveaway, to give you one more idea of the variety of mindfulness jewelry- I’m currently waiting for a ring made from breast milk! I know- that might sound totally weird. But it is a ring in the shape of a lotus and will remind me, as lotus’ do, that in the muddiest of places, beauty can occur. I will wear it as a symbol of the severe depression I suffered with during my pregnancy with my daughter Lux, and of the healing and beautiful life that came after. It will remind me of the strength I have been capable of, and help me tap into that strength when I need it.

Now for the really good stuff! Our giveaway! There are two prizes for two winners- a ring from Jennifer Dunham, and a mala, hand-made by yours truly. One of the first from Balancing Malas!

There are two ways enter:

1.       Comment below, and share this post with your friends!

2.       Follow both @imbalanced_yogi AND @shopjenniferdunham on Instagram, and repost our giveaway flier with the hashtag #BalancingJewelryGiveaway! Please make sure your account is public, so we can see your entries.

That’s it! Easy peasy! We can’t wait to send one of our goodies your way!

Next week I’ll be posting more details on malas and meditation, and how you can use this practice in managing depression, anxiety, or even just the stress of daily life. And, as a bonus post- I’m currently writing down my thoughts on Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why. (Spoiler alert- as someone with mental illness, it was very difficult to watch. That said, I think it may be the most important TV series of the last few years. As life and depression teach us, sometimes the most difficult things are the most important.)

Thanks so much for reading, lovelies! Good luck!

Namaste,

Lauren

Marvelous Mornings

Well hello there! I haven’t posted in a hot minute, and I am so bummed about it! February and March turned out to be complete insanity in this house. Three different rounds of sickness, teaching and grading, Valentine’s parties, birthday parties, books, raises (congrats to my Hubs!), mala making, yoga, fillings and a root canal- it. Has. Been. Nuts.

But I’m back, and more excited about this little corner of the internet than ever before! I am full of fresh ideas and plans, and Balancing Imbalance even got its own Happy Planner. That’s how you know I’m serious- I bought a new planner just for planning out blog posts and tasks for my new Etsy shop! Details on that are coming soon- specifically next Friday- and you don’t want to miss it! It all starts with a giveaway….

I love the spring. It is full of opportunity and fresh beginnings. And for this fresh blogging start, I want to tell you about something that has changed my life in the best way: Five o’clock, AM.

Before I start telling you about 5 AM, I want to make sure something is clear: I am NOT a morning person by nature. I have never been the kind of person who pops out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, ready to go. Honestly, I don’t know anyone diagnosed with ADD who is naturally a morning person. Total speculation here, but I think chemical imbalance makes waking up extra hard. The point I’m trying to make here, is that early mornings are not something I am naturally good at- but I believe anyone can get good at it, with the right frame of mind.

For three years in a row, I started January first with grand ideas of waking up at 5 or 6 am, so I could have extra time- something that is always elusive, but damned near impossible when you have kids.  Every year I told myself “This is the year my house is going to get organized, because I’m going to get up extra early every morning to clean!” And every year, guess what didn’t happen. I didn’t get up early, and my house definitely did not get organized.

But this year, sometime in February, I took a really good look at myself and what my soul needed. I knew I wanted more time- but why? Yes, my house certainly could use some extra hours of cleaning, but what did my soul need? When I sat quietly and allowed myself to answer the question honestly, the answer was clear: creativity. My heart and soul needed more time to be creative. So I started setting my alarm for 5 am again, with only one promise for those extra hours: to do whatever I wanted with them.

Since making myself that promise, I have listened to four books (one of them was Stephen King’s IT, which is a 44 hour book all by itself), finished four coloring projects, made 3 new malas, and had the pleasure of enjoying my own company. It has become one of the best things in my life! Instead of dragging myself out of bed with only 30 minutes to throw on clothes and get to whatever commitment I have that day, I happily make my way out of bed around 5:15am. I have a quiet breakfast and catch up on my emails and social media, then I have 2-3 hours of creative time. The result is a contentment that spreads throughout my day and most aspects of my life. I find my commitments to be less of a drag, because every day, no matter what, I’ve already had time for fun. It has been an absolute gift to my mental well-being!

I know 5AM sounds dreadful, but if you give yourself the gift of down time, you may be surprised at how easy early waking becomes. You may find yourself hopping out of bed excited for the sunrise. You may find yourself feeling more confident, because you have time to choose your outfit carefully and fix your hair instead of throwing into another mom-bun. You might notice some weight loss because you’re eating a real breakfast instead of shoving pop tarts down your throat while you drive like a maniac in 8am traffic. You might actually start crossing some of those books off your to-read list!

Or, maybe it’s not for you, and that’s ok too. But if you’ve been longing for some extra time, for those mystical hours in which people are able to do something for themselves instead of their family, 5 am might be the right time for you!

What are your morning rituals? I love connecting with people and hearing about their lives during those first secret hours of the day! And as always, if you have any questions, I’d love to answer!

Talk soon! Thanks for reading! I’m so happy to be back, exploring this crazy life with all of you.

From my light to yours- Namaste.

PS: See below for some of the projects I've finished during the wee hours of the day!

 

 

Body Image By Numbers

So, if there’s one favor pregnancy and breast feeding did for me, it was give me some serious body confidence. After I had both my girls I looked thin and felt strong. I got really lucky, and I made it out weighing less than when I got pregnant both times. That plus yoga made me feel wholly confident in my body for the first time, maybe ever. I even did a boudoir shoot after Lux was born, just because I could! I asked the photographer not to airbrush me. I just wanted to look like me. At some point during this time, during two pregnancies and two moves, I lost my scale and didn’t care. I didn’t miss it and I didn’t need it. I felt good.

I love this picture, flabby tummy and all.

 

Flash forward to last week. I had two doctor’s appointments, both which took down my weight. The first time I just didn’t look. “Who cares!? Not ME!” I thought happily. I went about my day. (Turns out I have a pretty intense vitamin D deficiency! Get outside, y’all!)

But at the second appointment, I got curious- I looked, then gasped. Literally. Gasped. According to my chart, I have gained 11 lbs in 5 months.

“Eleven pounds.”

“Eleven pounds?”

“Am I fat again?”

“What happened?”

“Do I look fat again?”

“I thought I was doing so good.”

These thoughts completely knocked me off my game. For the first time in three years I felt ashamed of my body. I felt sad. I kept looking at mirrors, trying to find all the places these eleven pounds had settled. I put on a sweater when got home; I felt yucky.

One number. One stupid number almost stole 3 years of body confidence.

I meditated and cried, and went to my Friday night yoga class (the one I cried at a few weeks ago. Lol. I’m a crier, if you haven’t noticed.) Yoga made me feel a little better. I checked myself out in the big mirrors (see below) and tried to let it go, telling myself “Shit, for all I know it’s eleven pounds of muscle!”

My body language even changed, and I was BY MYSELF in there! WTF?

 

Since, I’ve been agonizing over what I’m eating. I haven’t had any wine (one of my favorite things) and feel guilty every time I eat.

IT SUCKS.

And you know what the worst part is? I know it’s bullshit. When I try and explain to people what depression is like, I often tell them that it’s like I have two selves: Sane Lauren, and Insane Lauren.

Sane Lauren knows that some of it is wine and Reese’s, and some of it really is muscle! I’ve been consistently practicing and building strength. Sane Lauren knows that it’s both. I haven’t had the best eating habits, but I have been doing great with exercise.

Insane Lauren doesn’t care. She saw one number- 137 pounds- and she’s obsessing over it. She’s telling herself that she’s going to end up huge. She’s going to have flabby arms. The girls will be embarrassed of her. Her husband isn’t going to keep loving her. SERIOUSLY. My husband and I have been together for TWELVE. YEARS. We have endured more than we thought possible. Sane Lauren knows he loves me unconditionally, without judgement. Insane Lauren still worries.

I don’t have any advice this post; I’m just putting it out there. Body image is such a powerful thing. Is it my culture that has taught me to be distrustful of my body? My body that birthed two babies without medication and fed them for a total of 2 years and 2 months? Or is it depression that’s stealing my confidence? Maybe both?

I’m feeling better. I’m being more conscious of my Reese’s and wine intake, and am still practicing. I’m trying to see the reality in the mirror, not the 137 pounds (which my doctor said “is great,” btw.). I am not my weight. I am not a number. I am a mother, a wife, a woman.

I’m trying to reclaim my confidence by sharing all this with you. I refuse to be obsessed with a number. I REFUSE.

 If you have any advice for overcoming body image issues and self-shaming, please share! And if you have any pictures that make you feel beautiful, share those too.

Side note, this Friday the amazing YouTube partner, Candace Moore, will be posting a bit I wrote for her popular blog, Yoga By Candace. I’m so honored to be a part of her community!

From my light to yours,

Namaste.

L

Talking With Talkspace

In February of last year I started therapy with the service Talkspace, and guys- it’s changed my life. Literally! My life was one way before therapy and completely different after. Talkspace has been the therapy I have needed for years, but only recently been able to manage.  I’ve been putting off this blog for some time because it feels so important, but if I don’t share this with someone soon I think I may burst.

First I want to tell you that this blog has not been solicited or supported in any way by Talkspace. This might read like a bit of an advertisement because I love it so much, but it isn’t. It’s a review of my experience with Talkspace and my therapist Amy, and the incredibly positive experience I’ve had over the last year.

I first heard of Talkspace in November 2015, through a friend of mine who is a licensed therapist. Lux was three months old and I was doing really well, but I was still struggling with the aftermath of my antenatal depression. I also knew that my mental health could nose dive at any moment; I wanted to have support and a plan for that inevitable drop. So I reached out to Jenny, and asked if she had any advice. She pointed me to Talkspace, and suggested Dr. Amy Cirbus, the therapist I still “see.”

Finding a Therapist

When you first sign up for Talkspace, you have a couple of options. You can take a survey that asks you specific questions about your mental health, what you want to focus on, or what your most important need is with therapy. It also connects you with a therapist suited to your individual needs. Jenny knew a bit about me and what I needed from therapy so she pointed straight to A., but this questionnaire could have connected me to someone who would also have met my needs. If you have a specific therapist in mind like I did, great. If you don’t, the company will connect you. This is such a blessing.

When I tried to find therapy in Tulsa my options were limited. The therapist I wanted to see didn’t take my insurance, and the one I found who would was an older man. There is absolutely nothing wrong with male therapists, but the mental health issues I needed the most help with were, and are, intrinsically tied with motherhood and femininity. I wanted a therapist that could relate to me not only as a therapist, but as a woman and mother. Choosing Talkspace over traditional in-person therapy gave me this option. Your therapist is connected to you based on your needs, not your circumstances.

How It Works

Once you’ve chosen your therapist, Talkspace works almost like private social media. You connect with them through the app or website and converse in a few different ways:

·       A private chat room- where you can message your therapist at any time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve messaged Amy in the middle of the night. She doesn’t usually respond to me in the middle of the night, but she does always respond within a few hours. This has been so helpful for me, because I can often describe my feelings and what is happening in my mind much better in the moment than I can at an in-person appointment days or even weeks later. I feel like I am more honest with her than I have been with doctors in person, and that makes my therapy more effective.

·       Voice messages- these go through the private chat room as well, but instead of texts they are recordings. The only complaint I have about this feature is that the recordings max out at 5 minutes, so there are usually 3-4 messages that end with me saying “I’ve run out of time, brb!” This doesn’t stop me from using the feature by any means, it’s just a tiny bit annoying.

·       Pictures- this feature is probably just for fun, but I absolutely love it. I’ve been able to share pictures of my girls, pictures of things I’ve made, old journal entries, etc. It’s a really nice little bonus.

·       Video conferences- I have never actually done one of these, as they are not included in the plan I pay for.

Speaking of payment- how does that work?

Something to note about Talkspace is that they DO NOT TAKE INSURANCE.

However- I find that to be a relief, honestly. Dealing with my insurance company with anything is infuriating. And I get far more use from Talkspace than I would traditional therapy. For $128/month I Can have unlimited conversations with my therapist. Rather than having an appointment once a week, for $60 a pop with my copay, I can message Amy any time I like. We usually talk 2 to 3 times a week. Sometimes only once a week; sometimes not at all. Whatever I have the time for and need is what I get.

Compared to traditional therapy, in which I would have maybe one hour each week, at $60 per appointment, this is a much better deal. 4 x $60 = $240 a month vs $128 a month. For me, this is a no brainer. Receiving therapy or treatment of any kind “without” insurance can sound scary, but in my case it has been the best choice by far.

And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how much more convenient chatting via Talkspace is for me verses a weekly appointment. I’d be dragging the girls along with me to most of them and lets be real- it’s hard enough to think with two toddlers out in public, let alone try to tell someone about the way you think and bring up all kinds of difficult stuff.

I’ve been with Amy for almost a year now, with no plan of ending my therapy. She has been an irreplaceable shoulder for me to lean on, and a non-judgmental ear for me to whine to. She has given me tools that have brought me back from severe anxiety attacks, and been such a comfort. I am learning from her, but I am also learning about myself in ways I couldn’t have without therapy. I am so grateful to have this resource in my pocket.

I’d like to talk more about therapy and how it has helped me this year, but for now I’m going to leave you with this- my glowing review of Talkspace. Are you in therapy? If so, what kind? If you have any questions about Talkspace, please let me know. It’s something I’d be absolutely thrilled to share with you.

Until next time!

Namaste.  

Tonight I Cried at a Yoga Class.

 Tom Hanks once said “there’s no crying in baseball.” That may be true, but there is a lot of crying in yoga. At least there was for me tonight. How did I end up crying on my hot pink yoga mat in the middle of Salt Yoga South here in Tulsa? Well, the story actually begins a few days ago.

On December 27th Carrie Fisher died and it broke my heart. If you know me in “real” life, then you know that Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher have been two very important women in my life. As a little girl, I dreamed of being Leia. She was tough and crass, but also kind and beautiful. She was the kind of princess a weird girl like me might actually be able to be! I loved Leia. I still do. And I love Carrie Fisher! As an adult, she made me feel like my crazy was something sort of normal. Her honest and hilarious stories about her life with Bipolar Disorder made me feel that, while yes I am crazy, at least I am in good company. She was one of the writers who inspired me to start this blog. If Carrie can be honest and funny and great about her mental illness, well then so can I.

Her passing hurts. A lot. 

My BFF got me this autograph at Star Wars Celebration in 2007. It says "Love to Lauren, Carrie Fisher."

My BFF got me this autograph at Star Wars Celebration in 2007. It says "Love to Lauren, Carrie Fisher."

So what does Carrie Fisher have to do with yoga? I’m getting there.

Since Tuesday, I have been mourning in a perfectly manic depressive way. I spent an entire play date sneaking off to the bathroom to cry. I spent my graduation money on a spur-of-the-moment Princess Leia tattoo; a tattoo I love so much I had to sneak away to the bathroom at the tattoo shop to cry again because it’s so perfect. Then I got really mad at my messy house and threw a fit like a child, and then got drunk on wine while watching youtube videos about a green monster named Om Nom with my three year old. That same night I sent my BFF text messages that showed her a whole new side of my crazy, and fought with my mom. You know, totally normal stuff.

My spur of the moment Leia/Carrie tribute.

My spur of the moment Leia/Carrie tribute.

But then today I felt ok again. No crying fits, no anger. In fact I was really excited for most of the day, because that same three year old has decided to start pooping on the toilet! It’s awesome!

Ok, so one more time- how did I end up weeping on my mat in front of a bunch of strangers, instead having one of my signature run-to-the-bathroom-and-hide sob fests?

The magic of yoga.

For the last three days I have been feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my feelings. I’ve felt so silly for being so sad over someone I never even met. I felt MAD that I was crying in front of my daughter and couldn’t really tell her why. I looked into her sweet face and actually said “I’m just crying because I’m crazy.” Well THAT’S just a great little tid bit for her three year old mind, Lauren! Good Job! I felt guilty for being mad, I felt stupid for feeling sad. I felt like the crappyiest, most broken person ever, because I was sad. Carrie Fis

But tonight, moving through asanas and flows, I just let myself feel.

Practicing yoga means learning how to acknowledge your feelings, and then move on.

Both physically and mentally, yoga is feeling discomfort and just letting it be. It is allowing yourself to be who you are- at that moment- without judgement. Knees aren’t straight in that forward fold? Who cares. Your humble warrior is more like a wobbly warrior? Doesn’t matter. You’re sad that one of your idols has become one with the force? That’s ok. You feel like you’re not a very good mom? That’s ok, too.

Yoga forces me to look at myself without the lenses of self-hate, embarrassment, or judgement. Yoga lets me accept that, while I’m on that mat, I am perfect. I am who I need to be, where I need to be, when I need to be. 

When I am on my mat, I am just me. Perfectly imperfect, and loved by every cell in my body.

Yoga allows me to love myself, even if it’s only for a few moments. Tonight loving myself was so relieving that I just cried. I lay in savasana with tears running down my face and I just let them be. The sweet instructor (Chelsea Pirtle) came over and helped me relax my shoulders and that made me feel even more cared for. Tonight I was at peace with myself for a whole hour, and it was magnificent. 

 

Oh yeah! And I graduated this month! I am officially Lauren Baker, MA. I'll tell you more about that soon....

Till next time,

Namaste. 

The Importance of Celebration

Today I want to pop in and offer a little tip:

Allow yourself to celebrate your accomplishments.

One of the most cruel side effects of my mental illness is this pressing idea that I don't deserve to celebrate myself and my wins. It's so ridiculous. And I know I'm not alone. Depression tells you that no matter what you do, you're not good enough. It tells you that no one cares if you did this thing, or that. It tricks you into believing that your accomplishments aren't real. It isn't true, and it isn't fair. 

One of the greatest gifts I've given myself this year is the permission to celebrate myself. I still worry that some people may read it as bragging or vanity, but if they do then I think that may be their issue- not mine. What is the point in busting your ass if you're not going to allow yourself to feel the joy that comes with reaching a goal?

I have a little challenge for you. Take a few minutes to make a list of as many recent accomplishments as you can, and allow yourself to let the joy wash over you. Here's mine:

  • In December I will graduate with my master's degree.
  • In January I start teaching at Tulsa Community College- the dream I've been chasing these last 6 years of school.
  • I finally started my blog!
  • I can do bakasana (crow pose) after 8 months of practicing! And eka pada kundinyasana, too!
  • I have done two guest blog posts; one for MendingMalas.com, and one for MamaMalas.com.
  • I will be doing a guest post for Yoga By Candace in February!
  • I have been forgiving myself for my imperfections. 

Did you make your list? Are you allowing yourself to feel good about them? Leave your list in the comments! I'd love to see and celebrate your achievements with you! 

Namaste,

Lauren B

How I'm handling the election results...

So. Donald Trump is our President-Elect. Despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, Donald Trump won the electoral college. The electoral college is important, even though it is also somewhat infuriating, and Donald "Grab em by the pussy" Trump won it. 

And for a lot of us, that sucks. Really hard. 

I have so many feelings on the outcome of this election- on what it means to be a woman in this country, on what kind of world I have brought two more young women into... But this post is not going to be about that. This post is going to be about how I've been handling the trauma; how I've been treating my depression and the self-care I've been using to cope. While I'm feeling much better on day 11 than I was on day 1, I'd still love to read how others are taking care of themselves during this difficult time. Here's how it's gone for me.

First, I cried. 

Day 1 in "Trump's America" I cried. I cried a lot. I woke up early to confirm the worst, and I sat in my recliner downstairs and cried while the girls slept. It was one of those moments where my heart literally ached, and I let myself feel it. I cried. I made coffee, and cried again. I sat in Joey (my awesome feminist husband)'s lap and cried. I let the tears flow.

Then I went to the zoo! Joey and I packed up the girls and spent 4 hours looking at animals, smelling fresh air, and riding trains and carousels. It was a nice distraction, and we got to see the cutest little penguin! Check out @balancing_imbalance on instagram to see the lil' guy. You wont regret it. 

Next, I broke my facebook rule.

I'm not sure I've mentioned it here before, but in 2016 I had two NY resolutions. 1: read as many Stephen King books as possible (I'm on #11!) 2: Limit my facebook time to Sundays only. And so far, I've stuck to that rule pretty strictly! I popped in on special occasions for announcements and such, but generally I only logged in on Sundays. It did amazing things for my mental health. 

But after the election, I needed support. 

So I allowed myself to break the rule, because I found the facebook group Pantsuit Nation to be extremely beneficial. It was, and is, a huge network of like-minded people that helped me feel less alone. I've since joined Oklahoma Pantsuit Nation and Tulsa-Metro Pantsuit Nation, and seeing the posts and kinship has been so lovely. If you're in need of a community of safe,like-minded friends, I highly recommend looking into the Pantsuit Nation groups for your area. 

Then, I crafted. 

After I saw an article about the safety pins, I made myself one with green and purple seed beads (the colors of the suffragettes). I then offered to make as many as I had materials for, and to send them to friends and members of Pantsuit Nation. I made 37 total, and will be sending them out as soon as I find my stamps! 

 

I made use of my Talkspace

I have an account with Talkspace and boy, did I use it. I reached out to my therapist Amy, and we have had some really good back-and-fourth. I have a whole post planned for telling you about Talkspace and how much I love it, so I'll save most of my spiel for then. But man. It was so nice to be able to reach out to my therapist as soon as I needed her. Which happened to be at 1:30 am on election night. I'm still learning Square Space, but if I knew how to insert that teary-eyed-laughing emoji here, I would. 

I'm writing a letter to my daughters. 

So much of the pain I feel is wrapped up in my girls. My first post on Wednesday morning was:

"I was supposed to be able to look Lyra and Lux in the eye and say "You really can be anything you want to be," and believe it when I said it."

I want them to know that I am on their side. I want them to know how much the sexism that played into this election broke my heart. I want them to have a piece of this historical time. So, I took pen to paper. I plan on giving it to them when they inevitably come across this election in their future history classes. 

 

I am making plans...

The best thing to come from this election, in my opinion, is the fire it seems to have lit under our asses. I know so many people who have set up monthly donations, are planning peaceful protests, have been calling their congressmen, etc. And it. is. inspiring. 

I have also been making plans, and I am more than ready to take on these next years with all the passion and furiosity I can manage.

How are you doing? 

I know not all my readers will be liberal. I know some of them will probably think this is all just dramatic and silly. That's fine.

But to those of you who feel hurt, angry, and just down-right sad... how are you doing? What self-care steps are you taking to lift yourself up during this tumultuous time? How are you? I'd love to hear.

Until next time, namaste.

LB

 

What it's like on election day when you have an anxiety disorder...

So. Big day today, yeah? For those unaware, I am unabashedly liberal. I loved Bernie, but when given our two options, Hillz all the way. Still, today is a BIG day. It's a scary day! It's an exciting day! It's the kind of day that makes people with anxiety lose there ever loving minds.  

Here's a little glimpse into what November 8th, 2016 has been for me.... 

Stage 1: Anxiety about what I should wear.

 

Should I wear blue? Should I do my make up? I'm going to have to take the ceremonious "I voted" selfie. Man I wish I had bought a "Nasty Woman" shirt. Damn! I'M LATE FOR SCHOOL!

 

Stage 2: I VOTED!

 

HELL YEAH! I just got to vote for a woman president! This is awesome! Go Hillary! Go U.S.! Hooray for voting! Thanks. Susan B!

 

Stage 3: Fear Snapping

Today is really happening. Today people are ACTUALLY VOTING. OH MY GAWDUH. 

 

Stage 4: Believing in the best-case scenario.

She's got this. We've got this. It's going to be ok. Girls Rule. Deal with it. 

 

Lol. It's been a roller coaster over in this brain, to say the least! Hope you're all holding up and prepping for the craziness that is MURICA in an election year. Best of luck to this strange but awesome country of ours!

Namaste,

Lauren B

 

 

 

Are My Kids Going to Suffer?: 5 Extra Things Parents with Mental Illness Worry About

Parenting is hard. Really hard. No matter what. Being a mom has been equally beautiful and heartbreaking for me. The simple existence of my daughters causes my heart to feel joy and sorrow all at the same time. It's confusing. It's wonderful. It's scary as hell. 

All parents worry. But here are 5 things that parents with chemical imbalance get to add to the worry menu, that neuro-typical people may have never considered. 

 

 1. ARE MY KIDS GOING TO SUFFER? 

Of course they will. And usually it will be normal suffering- the kind that all kids go through. But will my kids suffer even more? With the genetic nature of chemical imbalance and mental illness, will my kids be doomed to this life? This life that is sometimes so bleak it doesn't feel worth living? Will my children ever feel worthless because I passed this gene on to them? And if they do...

2. WILL THEY HATE ME FOR HAVING THEM?

Will these little people, who I love so much, look at me someday and say "Why? Why did you bring me into this world knowing that I would suffer?" Will they ever understand that they were so wanted that their parents decided it was worth the risk of passing on this disease? And...

3. AM I SELFISH FOR MAKING THEM?

Did my desire for children blind me into ignoring the statistics? The risks? Mental illness is potentially life threatening, but I didn't care.I wanted them. I needed them. Even knowing I was likely passing on to them a life-long struggle. I needed them.

4. WILL THEY THINK I'M CRAZY?

Best-case scenario: they don't develop a chemical imbalance. Thank God. But if they can't understand what it's like, will they think I'm nuts? Will they grow into adults who see me in my lows and think "Gah, my mom is a nutbag." Will they ever understand that sometimes I'm not myself? That sometimes Sane Mom is trapped inside Insane Mom and she can''t get out?

5. WILL THEY STILL LOVE ME?

Will they love me? Will they stay standing through the storms? Will they take the breakdowns, the anger blasts and the manic jaunts in stride and still be able to say "Mom, I love you" ? Or will they flee from me the moment they are able? Will they share stories around drinks that start "You think that's crazy! One time my mom..."

NO MATTER WHAT, THEY. ARE. WORTH. EVERYTHING. 

I worry. I worry a lot. But I suppose that's parenthood, eh? Each of us have a laundry list of fears. I hope throwing some of mine out there helps others feel not so alone.

What are your biggest fears as a parent? Please share in the comments, if you feel so moved. Thanks for forging through this journey with me. 

From my light to yours, Namaste. 

LAUREN B

Meditation and Depression

Hey there, friends and neighbors! (Any Stephen King fans out there? I know. OBSCURE. SORRY.) I'm happy to report that I'm feeling better today. Depression, like the ocean, has its high tides and its low. I've managed to find myself with my head back above the water and meditation is one of the reasons why. So for my first post about a technique that I use to manage my MDD (major depressive disorder), lets talk about meditating. 

 

What is meditation? Well, it's a little different for everyone. Some meditate through prayer, some meditate in silence, some use meditation jewelry, some use apps (God I love technology) and some use art and other physical activities.

Meditation is a way to calm the mind. The goal is to become quiet within yourself; to find peace, energy, and rejuvenation.  

I have found that the meditation that works best for me is one that has a helper. Trying to quiet the mind with un-medicated ADD (attention deficit disorder) is like trying to focus on a really complicated TV show while someone else keeps changing the channel. In other words- nigh impossible. But meditation accessories help! Depending on where I'm at in my day I use either my yoga mala, or the app Meditation Studio to help me get some zen. 

Meditation studio (and apps like it, for you android peeps) offer guided meditations. I find these invaluable. Meditation Studio offers guided meditations in categories like anxiety, stress, motherhood (one of my FAVES), relationships and sleep, from 27 different meditation experts.

Fighting with your spouse/partner? There's a meditation for that.

Getting ready to give a big presentation? There's a meditation for that.

Doing yoga savasana? There's a meditation for that. 

Need a mom's time out?  Yep. There's one for that, too.

I find this app to be 100% worth the price, and I know people who can't live without their Headspace subscription.  

Next, my yoga mala is one of my most precious pieces of jewelry. A mala usually consists of 108 beads, used to help you track how many times you've repeated your current mantra. For a video of how to hold and use a mala physically, check out my instagram @balancing_imbalance. 

Yoga malas are not just token beads though, they are physical manifestations of intentions you have set for yourself. My first two real malas (ones that weren't just cute boho accessories) came from Mama Malas; a beautiful company with beautiful energy. 

" Mala beads are meditation necklaces that are used to recite an affirmation or mantra, and are a tangible reminder of your intentions." -Mama Malas

There are tons of mala makers out there- from etsy shops to big companies to even little ol' me! I have chosen two malas from Mama Malas, and have a subscription to Mending Malas, because the additional intention of mindful motherhood really speaks to me. But malas are definitely not exclusive to mamas, and there are so many beautiful choices out there!

My mala (the playful mama mala for the curious) is so helpful for me, because all I have to do is reach up and touch the stones to remind myself of my affirmations and intentions. These last couple of days my meditation mantra has been "I am enough," and every time I start to feel like I'm not, I hold the guru stone, remember to breathe, and feel immediate comfort. 

Do you have a meditation practice? I would love to hear about it! I'm fairly new to meditation and am still learning, but I think it is a very important tool to keep in your pocket, especially if anxiety has its claws in you. 

I hope you found this post helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions about my personal meditation practice. I'd love to chat. 

From my light to yours, namaste. 

-Lauren B

The ocean of depression...

I am dramatic by nature. I've always had an inner narrator, describing the goings on in my life as if it were a novel or film. It's one of the reasons I'm an English major- I make sense of the world with story; with metaphor. 

Ironically, just as I've started this blog, this attempt to help people out of depression, I've sunk back into it myself. Today as my inner narrator was trying to make sense of this state, all I knew was that I felt tired. So tired. 

To find a way out of depression, I try to visualize it. I try to describe it to myself in a way that helps me realize that the depression isn't the reality. Today I'm making sense of it by imagining the ocean. 

The ocean is vast. It's dark. It's salty. I have been treading the waters of the ocean, keeping my head afloat, staying in a place where I can breathe. Every kick of my feet is a new practice, every swish of my arms is a session of therapy. I'm beating away at the water, trying to stay above it. 

But you can only tread water for so long. You can only fight until your limbs are too tired. The truth is that you will eventually sink. 

Thankfully, this isn't the real ocean and I'm not really drowning. So I'll contact my therapist (An amazing woman I connected with through Talkspace- more on that soon) and I'll do some yoga and meditate. I'll snuggle my girls and eat my favorite chili and hopefully my head will bob back up in a day or two. 

I wanted my second post to be part of my story but if this is going to be a place of honesty, the honest truth is that I'm back under water. But I believe I'll come up for air again soon. 

Namaste, 

Lauren B

Welcome to Balancing Imbalance...

Hi! My name is Lauren. If you've found your way to this blog you either A) already know me and a little of my story, or B) have been googling depression. Either way, I'm so glad you're here. 

I've started Balancing Imbalance because I have spent the last year focusing on just that- balancing life with chemical imbalance. In that year, I've discovered the importance of being open and honest about depression. I've found that there are multitudes of people suffering because we are not culturally willing to discuss what's going on in our brains. We are shameful, scared, embarrassed. We are silent. I believe with my whole heart that a more open dialogue about depression and mental illness will help us all make it through. 

Currently I am diagnosed with major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, and attention deficit disorder. Quite the cocktail, amiright? After living with depression for most of my life and a severe case of antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy), I spent the last year focusing hard on managing my depression. Not just surviving with it, but thriving with it. Over the year I've discovered two things- I love trying new management techniques, and I am not satisfied with the resources out there for managing depression; especially antenatal depression. The resources weren't there when I needed them so I've made it my goal to be that resource for someone else if I can. Not pregnant? No worries. I aim to make this blog accessible for people living with different kinds of depression- in all it's varying forms. 

Balancing Imbalance will be a place for me to share different strategies and techniques for depression management, and a place for me to share my struggles and little slices of life. I intend to be frank and honest, even if it's not particularly flattering. That said, I hope to keep things lighthearted as much as possible! Because we should stop acting like depression is this super serious thing (although it is) that we can't or shouldn't talk about (we should). I truly believe that sharing our stories of depression is one of the most forgiving and therapeutic gifts we can give ourselves. 

If you take a look at the sidebar, you'll see four categories. Here's what you can expect from each!

Mental Illness: Tales of life with depression- in a more serious light. 

Mental Weirdness: Stories about the weirder, and often hilarious, side of chemical imbalance.

Mental Wellness: Where I share different techniques for managing chemical imbalance. I use a wide range of tools- from modern western medicine and therapy, to hippy dippy meditation stones and jewelry.

Yoga: Because yoga has been such a powerful resource for me, and I will likely post about it often. 

 

Thank you for reading! I am so excited to share my journey with you. 

From my light to yours, namaste.

-Lauren B

Ps- Join me next time for more of my story. There's a funny bit at the end. Get ready for it. <3