Erin thought she had depression in high school. She was finally correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Postpartum Depression, and has since found help and hope.
Erin was born and raised in Arizona, where she played high school volleyball. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Human Development, and was also able to serve a mission for her church in Trujillo, Peru. Today, she has a husband and two daughters. And even though she’s a busy mom, she finds time for her hobbies which include volleyball and painting. She’s part of a mom volleyball league, and they bring their kids to the park to play while they play. In the evenings after her girls have gone to sleep, she takes time to draw and paint. She finds it’s a healthy outlet, and believes moms should find things they like to do apart from their kids as much as possible.She’s also going to talk little bit about what it is like to have bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder, also known as manic depressive illness. It causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day things. Those with bipolar disorder, they cycle between manic states and depressive states. Erin says her manic symptoms manifested as being restless. She couldn’t sleep. Her brain felt like very overstimulated. She became very agitated and irritable easily. She had racing thoughts and lots of anxiety.
What many people who have bipolar disorder experience is depression and actually a lot of people with bipolar disorder ended up being misdiagnosed with depression because a lot of times when you’re going through the manic phase, you have a lot of energy and you’re manic or hypomanic.
People with bipolar disorder are also at higher risk for thyroid problems, migraines, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, other physical illnesses. Many people with bipolar disorder also have anxiety disorders, ADHD, substance abuse problems, trying to self-medicate, eating, eating disorders. They sometimes can have relationship problems, perform poorly at school, at work, they may not be able to hold a job because they’re cycling. Family, friends and people experiencing symptoms may not recognize those problems as signs of a major mental illness such as bipolar disorder.
Erin says her bipolar disorder began while she was in high school, manifesting itself as depression.
She says she’d be staying in on a Friday night, and her mom would ask her why she didn’t want to go out with her friends. She instead would lay by herself in the dark, not talking to anyone and not doing anything. At the time, she thought it was a character flaw in herself. She thought maybe she was just a bad daughter or a bad student. Her parents didn’t understand either. They would encourage her to get out of bed, to go exercise. Luckily, since that time, Erin’s mother has become one of her biggest advocates.
Erin went a lot of years not being diagnosed, and then she was diagnosed with depression. She admits, “In hindsight, I should have gone to a psychiatrist long before I did. Once I got to college, that’s when the manic issues started settling in. I was up at school and I would just have huge panic attacks. And I’d be walking to school and even the thought of being in class surrounded by people, I would just have freak outs and I had no idea what was happening. I just saw it as what’s the matter with me? I must be lazy, not a good student, all those things.”
Erin says she also had a really hard time socializing. She says she knew college was the time she should be having fun with her friends, and she just wasn’t in that state. She ended up dropping out for a while and moving home, where she went to different doctors and tried different things to help.
In 2011, after she was married, she finally went to a psychiatrist. She laid all her feelings out, and the psychiatrist gave her a pamphlet and said “You have bipolar disorder.” She looked at all the symptoms and said “Oh my goodness, that is me.”
Erin says it was such a huge relief to put a name with what she was going through. She understood that she had a brain disorder, and it was not a reflection of her as a person. She says it was very liberating, and while she still had hard times, it was a huge relief for her and her family.
Erin was extremely glad to have figured out how to help treat her mental illness. She had previously been on antidepressants, which can be one of the worst things someone with bipolar disorder can take.
Erin’s mother tells her the story of walking into a room, trying to get her attention, and Erin’s eyes were glazed over, and she was hardly there. Erin’s mother recognized that something was not right and they opted to have her stop taking antidepressants right away.
Erin does think that there’s a stigma attached to mental illness. She says some people think it’s something you can snap out of and get over, and that’s why she wants to be vocal about the reality of mental health. So many people struggle with mental illness, whether it’s bipolar disorder, depression, or postpartum depression.
Erin herself suffered from postpartum depression after her second child was born. She says so many women suffer, and it’s not talked about nearly enough.
She believes part of that stigma comes from just people not understanding it. If you haven’t experienced it yourself it’s hard to understand and it’s not really something physical that you can see or even test. Erin says she beat herself up about her mental state for years. She says the uncertainty of how to proceed in social situations or jobs really takes a toll on your self esteem because you feel like you can’t do what you want to do, and you feel like it affects the people around you.
Erin says this was especially true when she became a mom.”You want to be a certain kind of mom. And if you can’t do everything you want to do, I think that that you can take a hit on your, on your self esteem,” she admits.
Erin also felt shame from her mental health when she wanted to serve a mission for her church. It was something she always planned on doing, and wanted to do so badly. At the time, she didn’t know she was bipolar and she had just dropped out of school, so she wasn’t sure how it would go. She was called to serve in Peru, which meant leaving to a foreign country and learning a foreign language, being away from friends and family for 18 months.
After just a few months of service, Erin wasn’t sleeping. She was having lots of anxiety and depression. So she called the president of her mission and explained in the best Spanish she could. He told her she needed to figure it out, stop thinking about herself and think of others, and she would be fine. Erin in no way blames him for what he said. She says he just didn’t know what she was dealing with. Erin was praying, getting special blessings, everything she could think of to make her feelings go away. She says she felt extreme shame, and like she didn’t have enough faith to be healed.
What Erin didn’t realize was that with mental illness, trying to “push through” isn’t going to work. After six months of her 18 month mission, Erin came home. Erin remembers her mom breaking down and crying after Erin got off the plane. Her mom said that Erin looked half dead. Erin had given everything she could, but she felt she had failed.
After being diagnosed, Erin tried many different medications that never quite got her where she wanted to be. She even went to a mental hospital and didn’t have a positive experience. Her mother found out about a micronutrient supplement, which Erin wasn’t sure would help. But she felt broken, and was ready to try whatever she needed to.
Within a few months she began to see big changes, and has been on those micronutrients for 6 years. She was worried about passing her bipolar disorder genetics to her daughters, and has found that micronutrients work for them as well. They are able to take the micronutrients in “pixie stick” like forms, and that helps them regularly. She is passionate about how these work and have benefited her life. Erin says she’s thankful every day that she found something that worked for her, and that everyone will have a different thing that works for them.
Her recommendation? “Do your best to push through and find anything you can that is gonna help you. And it’s going to be different for everybody. But that’s what I found. I’m so thankful for it every day because it really did bless me to be able to have children. I never thought that that was going to be a possibility for me, but I was able to have two kids then in general, I’m just living a normal, happy life.”
Erin says her life still has ups and downs, and she still feels bipolar, but the ups and downs are manageable. She says bipolar disorder has been one of the greatest blessings of her life, especially because it has helped her to see others in a new way.
For example, she says “When I see someone on the side of the road, begging for food or money, I see them differently. Because honestly I think ‘that could totally be me in a second’ if I hadn’t had the family support, or hadn’t had the resources available to me. I absolutely understand being in that situation.”
Erin says trials are blessings because they allow us to have sympathy and empathy for others. She says the scriptures teach that if we didn’t have hard times, we wouldn’t know joy. And she has seen that in her life.
Erin has learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ isn’t just for her sins. For her it is all about literally laying her burdens at the feet of the Savior so He can help lighten them. He won’t take away burdens. She says she has always been able to feel Christ’s power and knows she can ask for his help.
Erin says it’s vital to understand that we shouldn’t be ashamed to reach out for help or talk about our problems. Society is getting more comfortable with this, and she’s very grateful. Everyone is needed, loved, unique, and has so much to offer the world. Erin says we all have the ability to take hard things and turn them around to help us strengthen others. She hopes that her being open and honest about struggles will help, and even if just one person knows they’re loved and not alone, that’s plenty for her.
Erin says that talking can do more than help others, it can be therapeutic for you as well. She says that with time, talking about your struggles can become natural and normal.
Erin took her supplement throughout her pregnancies, and she credits it with helping her be able to handle pregnancies and motherhood. Erin had her first daughter, and then had her second daughter just 22 months later. She says that was a lot for her brain and for her body. For a year after having her second daughter, Erin struggled.
Erin says she could feel the difference between postpartum depression and bipolar disorder. She says her postpartum depression was deeper and darker than her bipolar disorder had ever felt.
Erin says she was experiencing both bipolar symptoms and postpartum symptoms together. She felt hopeless. Luckily, she had lots of support from family who lived close to her, and helped care for her kids a lot.
She recognized that what she was doing wasn’t working. She credits her husband for always being willing to help her figure out what she needs. They talked constantly about what to do. She says the willingness to be completely open and honest, even when you don’t want to, can make all the difference.
She says having kids made it extremely hard to deal with postpartum depression. There’s a lot of shame behind not being able to care for your children the way you’d like to. So Erin ended up going on medication for postpartum depression. It made all the difference. She felt the darkness lift, and eventually she went off the medication. Again, Erin says she’s grateful for the experience so she can understand and advocate for women going through postpartum depression.
Erin now says she is annoying to her friends who have had babies. She checks in all the time, asking how they’re doing, seeing what they need. She is always wondering what to do and how to help so other women don’t have to suffer. Talk, talk, talk. That’s what will help normalize postpartum depression and help people get the help they need.
Erin says that the thing she feels most is gratitude. She’s grateful to be alive, to be healthy. She’s grateful she can get through the hard days and know there are good days and moments ahead.
Her family is the joy that helps Erin get through it all. Recently she was driving down the street and she glanced back at her three-year-old. She looked at her face, and they smiled at each other. Erin just started crying. She was full of overwhelming gratitude that despite her challenges, she’s able to live.
“So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.” Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart.”
Erin adds, “God has been so good to me in my life and I am so thankful for all of the joys that He has given to me in my life and all of the blessings. And I thank Him all the time for the trials that He has given me, which have allowed me to grow and become more of the person that I want to become. More like Him.”
These are the products Erin uses that help her with her Bipolar Disorder:
*Erin wants me to note that taking EmpowerPlus or Lightening Stiks can interact with psychtrophic medications, so please consult your doctor before changing anything.
Contact Erin on Facebook Messenger: https://www.facebook.com/erin.nimmer