Ivy McQuain

@ivy-mcquain | contributor
Ivy N. McQuain is an author, PR and media strategist and owner of The BLI Group. She has been writing professionally since 1997. Her bipolar I disorder came in 2004 but she refused to treatment until April 2015 because she was afraid of the labels her community would give her. After a life changing incident, McQuain decided to start a campaign to help others get the help they need for their mental illness.
Ivy McQuain

How Making a Career Change Helped My Depression

I know firsthand what it’s like to walk away from your dreams. I recently decided to leave my 21-year life as an entrepreneur to find other opportunities that were more consistent in pay and less stressful. I know, working for someone else is stress in and of itself. But when you have to wake up and hunt for your food versus going to the grocery store and buying it, you might not mind that little bit of stress as much. So when I decided to end my entrepreneurial career I hit rock bottom with my depression. I had no desire to get out of the bed, I laid on the couch all day, and I ate. Normally I am not a huge eater when I get depressed, but I ate this time around because I still had to maintain my medical regimen. The weight added on, my eyes were tired from watching so much television and the projects that I hadn’t completed before I decided to end my career were still waiting for me. But I did not care. I had no will to win because I was going into territory that I hadn’t made my mark in. You know what happens when you give up but still have bills to pay? The bills still need to be paid. Sigh — because even with knowing that, I had no will to sit in front of my computer and make things happen for myself. My entrepreneur spirit had given up its own ghost. I had TKO’d myself. Luckily, the proverbial dog was still in the fight and I had the will to win in my new lane. If anything, I was determined to not allow my depression to win over my life. I wanted more than what I was settling for, and I wanted more than what I allowed myself to have in the past. I was hungry again, even though I was very much depressed. I still didn’t want to be an entrepreneur but something more … a teacher. I wanted to be around young minds who were eager to learn and some who aren’t. I knew this path would help me fight my depression daily because they needed me more than I needed myself. Here’s what I did to change from depression to motivation: 1. Applied for the local school districts for substitute teaching and other classroom related positions.2. Applied for various certifications in teaching to help prepare for a permanent position.3. Brushed up on my skills to apply to my position as a teacher.4. Found joy in each assignment. Teaching for someone fresh out of college can be difficult, but for me, having the years of being an entrepreneur has made it the best experience. The students deter my depression because I am eager to help them. They help me see the joy in the simplest things. I look forward to having my own classroom because I can create memories for students year round. If your depression from your job or lifestyle is weighing you down, then I suggest that you consider making a change. Changing your environment is oftentimes better than good … it’s a spiritual connection.

Ivy McQuain

5 Things I'm Doing This New Year to Maintain My Mental Health

Let’s face it, setting New Year’s resolutions when you have uncontrollable and racing thoughts, not to mention emotions that are often all over the place, can be unrealistic. Yes, we want to be like everyone else and set those yearly goals, but if we are truly honest with ourselves, it can be hard to do. That’s why for 2020, I think it’s time to end the cycle of setting goals for the new year, and set realistic expectations that will enable us to live a more productive and a better quality of life. Here are some things I am doing to ensure my mental health is in check … I hope you join along. 1. Setting to-do lists the night before or as soon as I get up. To-do lists are essentially the same thing as setting New Year’s resolutions, only on a daily basis. When you create to-do lists, you are able to chart your progress better. For instance, establishing a routine for your mental health such as exercising, yoga, talking to your therapist or whatever you do can be placed on your list to accomplish for that day. 2. Committing to at least two therapy sessions a month. Talking to a therapist can really help with identifying what triggers you have and how you can overcome them. If you don’t want to talk to a therapist, then commit to talking to someone such as a life coach who can help you create a tailored plan for your overall well-being. 3. Taking self-love time at least once every other month. I can honestly say I allow my mental health to fluctuate between depression and go-getter, so now for 2020, I promised myself to set a self-love day for myself to go to the nail salon, hair salon or spa. I also enjoy painting. 4. Take an inexpensive trip. I hate spending money, but I love to travel. Kind of an oxymoron, but if you can take an inexpensive trip to a neighboring state or city, it can help you to enjoy a change of atmosphere. I traveled a lot in the past year and I love California. 5. Start a new hobby or learn something new. My brain is always going, but sometimes I don’t have the energy or desire to get things done, especially if I start it. So now I start projects that I force myself to finish. Something simple like coloring a page in a coloring book, writing an article, finishing a non-credit course at the community college or online. Anything that will help me learn a little more and keep me engaged in the game. There are many other things I have promised myself I will do for the new year, but the first thing I will continue to do is put my mental wellness first. I will commit to those things that help me get out of my rut and become determined to live my life as I need to, not as it has been going. When we allow our condition to get the best of us, we are not living our lives on our terms. The best thing about many mental conditions is they can be managed, but we have to be willing to manage them. So let’s get out there and live 2020 like it was made just for us!

Ivy McQuain

How to Manage Bipolar Disorder Stress

Stomach pains. Headaches. Frustration. The list is ongoing as it relates to stress and when you live with bipolar disorder , stress should never be a part of the equation. There was a time when stress was the pinnacle of my existence. Unfortunately, I internalized my stress until I was in the doctor’s office on my last leg. I was often told I needed a stress release but to me, releasing my stress was during one of my bipolar episodes. You know that moment when you allow your mental condition to outweigh your judgment and your understanding? You completely lose control of reality and you allow the other you to walk around terrorizing those you love. All of this is because of stress. What you become is because you have not properly placed a checks and balances system for your life. You would rather (maybe not) harass the people around you who love you and who want to have a pr oductive life than to identify your triggers as it relates to stress. Why is that? Why do you live a life “allowing” your bipolar disorder to react negatively to stress? When are you going to stop allowing stress to trigger your bipolar episodes? Know this: Everyone is different and everyone reacts differently. But here are some things I have done to help curb my life of stress while managing my life. 1. I honestly identified what stressed me. It’s easy to look the other way at the things that really stress you out but there comes a time when you have to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Create a list of those things that make you feel uptight or make you lose control, even those things that make you feel like you just don’t want to deal with them. For me, it was my children, my mother, my career (I was an entrepreneur), some of my friends and my finances. Of course, some of those things I couldn’t change but there were some things I could change and I did. You have to be that honest to make a list because the next steps are key to controlling your stress. Don’t hold back on your list. 2. Categorize your list by the order of importance. Again, there are some areas of your life you cannot change, but you can change how you react to those things and people. When my children and mother stressed me out, I had to find ways to create a shield around myself so I wouldn’t lash out and hurt them. If that meant taking a break from my mother’s phone calls, I did that. If that meant letting my children visit friends for the weekend, then that’s what I did. I created pockets of safety for myself so that I could make sure I wasn’t becoming a stress magnet, thus releasing the demon. 3. I took time for me. I know you have heard of the self-care moniker that is going around these days. Well, it is important to establish a self-care regimen that you must keep at least two times a month. Something as simple as going to lunch and sitting in your car during your lunch break can help you re-energize your mind. If you are always on the go, then it’s most likely that you are not living your best life and stress controls you. I lived that life. Believe me when I tell you this, you are mostly busy rather than productive. 4. Learn to say no . To the point listed above about being more busy than productive in this day and age, we are always competing with people who we don’t know. Everyone wants to be a millionaire but at the cost of the sanity and their overall health. It’s unfortunate because when you live with bipolar disorder, you can’t afford to have consecutive days of stress and chaos from being so busy you can’t say no. If you remove your cape, then you will realize it’s really not that hard to say no. I have been determined to remove stress from my life on a day-to-day basis. If I feel a situation has become too stressful, then I start the process of removing that thing or those people from it. I can no longer be held hostage to unnecessary meltdowns because I refuse to contain my stress. I hated who I was and I hated how I treated other people around me. It sent me to extreme lows and made me feel like I didn’t stand a chance at normalcy. All because I refuse to see life on my terms. You can do the same thing too. If you are tired of stress running your life then you have to establish a plan and stick to it, regardless of where it’s coming from. No one is going to care more for you than you. You have to believe that you are worth saving. Takeaway Create your list of what makes you stressed. Be honest with yourself. If you are in that category then it’s time to start soul-searching to find what is it about you that stresses you out. You can’t beat the stress blues until you find out what makes you tick and what triggers you. Now get to writing that list and let me know how you are doing.

Ivy McQuain

Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Through the Day With Bad Thoughts

Every day my thoughts are a battlefield and the world around me shows remnant of the war. And let’s not talk about the fight to get out of bed — to be productive. I have spent hours lying in my bed trying to decide if getting up was necessary or not. Spoiler alert… it is very necessary. I am an entrepreneur and if I don’t work then I am not earning money. Unfortunately, when I am awake depression kicks in and I submit to meaningless tasks to counter the reality that I might be slipping into depression or worse. But this is my reality. And it’s every day of my life. I can’t tell you how many unfinished projects I have that will generate passive and regular income for myself, but I have no desire to do so because my thoughts are a battlefield. So how do I earn my living in moments when sitting in a dimly lit room is my preferred option for the day? I force myself to do more than what my so-called thoughts and feelings tell me to do. It’s hard, trust me. To motivate myself when it makes sense to let the hours pass by. Fortunately, my past issues with bipolar depression remind me that hunger, homelessness and being broke are no longer an option for me. I refuse to get so low in my thoughts that I can’t function. I do more than just exist by listening to inspirational music, videos that related to my issues, watch movies, talk to my friends often and connect to my spiritual hard drive. I know it seems like a lot and sometimes I do it all in a day. I do this to let myself know that living in depression means that the curse is right around the corner. Look, I am the hardest person on myself because I know that bipolar depression is no joke, and if left unchecked it can ruin your life. I choose to no longer be a victim, but a victor. Have I lost battles? We all do at some point in time but like the old saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts.” Get up every time your bipolar depression looks to knock you down. You win even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Ivy McQuain

Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Through the Day With Bad Thoughts

Every day my thoughts are a battlefield and the world around me shows remnant of the war. And let’s not talk about the fight to get out of bed — to be productive. I have spent hours lying in my bed trying to decide if getting up was necessary or not. Spoiler alert… it is very necessary. I am an entrepreneur and if I don’t work then I am not earning money. Unfortunately, when I am awake depression kicks in and I submit to meaningless tasks to counter the reality that I might be slipping into depression or worse. But this is my reality. And it’s every day of my life. I can’t tell you how many unfinished projects I have that will generate passive and regular income for myself, but I have no desire to do so because my thoughts are a battlefield. So how do I earn my living in moments when sitting in a dimly lit room is my preferred option for the day? I force myself to do more than what my so-called thoughts and feelings tell me to do. It’s hard, trust me. To motivate myself when it makes sense to let the hours pass by. Fortunately, my past issues with bipolar depression remind me that hunger, homelessness and being broke are no longer an option for me. I refuse to get so low in my thoughts that I can’t function. I do more than just exist by listening to inspirational music, videos that related to my issues, watch movies, talk to my friends often and connect to my spiritual hard drive. I know it seems like a lot and sometimes I do it all in a day. I do this to let myself know that living in depression means that the curse is right around the corner. Look, I am the hardest person on myself because I know that bipolar depression is no joke, and if left unchecked it can ruin your life. I choose to no longer be a victim, but a victor. Have I lost battles? We all do at some point in time but like the old saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts.” Get up every time your bipolar depression looks to knock you down. You win even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Ivy McQuain

How to Operate a Business While Living With Bipolar Depression

When you think about your business and how your depression has affected it, what are some things you can do different to maintain your success? As a business owner, I can honestly say that one of the hardest things I’ve had to do was wake up and push through another day. While it’s rewarding, it is very difficult to motivate myself when all I want to do is stay in the bed and live in my depression. Let’s be clear: depression can be a debilitating illness. Scratch that: depression can be a debilitating illness that, from my experience, can feel paralyzing on so many levels, and when you live with bipolar depression, you almost always feel like you are living in two worlds. Now add trying to successfully operate a business to that, and you’re sure to be living outside of yourself most days and nights. Fortunately, there are ways I have identified to help me manage myself and my depression. I want to share those tips with you in this article: 1. I keep a strong handle on what depression looks like for me. This is something that many people living with bipolar depression may struggle with: identifying depression for themselves and not as a generic scenario. For me, depression is watching more television than working or spending hours playing mindless games and spending money on those games. Basically, it’s avoiding the work at hand to numb the feeling of depression. 2. I reach out to my life lines through text or phone calls. During my depression, I often tend to isolate myself and in doing so I try to end relationships with people I know who are going to check on me often. So when I feel depression coming, I make sure to notify my depression team and ask them to check on me. I even allow pop ups to ensure I am doing my part to maintain relationships during depression. 3. I make it a point to work on projects that will generate income when I can’t do my day to day operational tasks. This is the tricky part of being a business owner, but when you are in an episode of bipolar depression, you have to make sure you can generate income when you are not able to function. I suggest writing a book, creating a t-shirt line or writing an income generating blog — something that can be on autopilot when you aren’t in the mood. 4. I take time for myself. I don’t consider watching television or playing video games as time to yourself — that’s avoidance. What I mean by taking time for myself is simply putting everything down and finding my center. For me, it’s prayer and deep thought. If I find myself going down the wrong thought process then I redirect and find a task that will allow me to see the joy in things rather than the pain. 5. I honestly fuss at myself. I am a hard person when I am not depressed. So when I find I am spending too much time mulling about not making money for myself, then I fuss at myself like a mother at her child. I use choice words that work for me because sometimes I know I need a kick in the pants. I also know that being hungry and not having shelter is not fun. We may go through periods of depression, but how long we stay there is a choice, in my opinion. I say that because there are now many resources and so much help to make sure we can live happy and healthy lives. You can’t successfully operate your business or your life if you can’t manage your depression with honesty. You have a talent: now take care of that talent by taking care of your bipolar depression.

Ivy McQuain

Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Through the Day With Bad Thoughts

Every day my thoughts are a battlefield and the world around me shows remnant of the war. And let’s not talk about the fight to get out of bed — to be productive. I have spent hours lying in my bed trying to decide if getting up was necessary or not. Spoiler alert… it is very necessary. I am an entrepreneur and if I don’t work then I am not earning money. Unfortunately, when I am awake depression kicks in and I submit to meaningless tasks to counter the reality that I might be slipping into depression or worse. But this is my reality. And it’s every day of my life. I can’t tell you how many unfinished projects I have that will generate passive and regular income for myself, but I have no desire to do so because my thoughts are a battlefield. So how do I earn my living in moments when sitting in a dimly lit room is my preferred option for the day? I force myself to do more than what my so-called thoughts and feelings tell me to do. It’s hard, trust me. To motivate myself when it makes sense to let the hours pass by. Fortunately, my past issues with bipolar depression remind me that hunger, homelessness and being broke are no longer an option for me. I refuse to get so low in my thoughts that I can’t function. I do more than just exist by listening to inspirational music, videos that related to my issues, watch movies, talk to my friends often and connect to my spiritual hard drive. I know it seems like a lot and sometimes I do it all in a day. I do this to let myself know that living in depression means that the curse is right around the corner. Look, I am the hardest person on myself because I know that bipolar depression is no joke, and if left unchecked it can ruin your life. I choose to no longer be a victim, but a victor. Have I lost battles? We all do at some point in time but like the old saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts.” Get up every time your bipolar depression looks to knock you down. You win even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Ivy McQuain

Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Through the Day With Bad Thoughts

Every day my thoughts are a battlefield and the world around me shows remnant of the war. And let’s not talk about the fight to get out of bed — to be productive. I have spent hours lying in my bed trying to decide if getting up was necessary or not. Spoiler alert… it is very necessary. I am an entrepreneur and if I don’t work then I am not earning money. Unfortunately, when I am awake depression kicks in and I submit to meaningless tasks to counter the reality that I might be slipping into depression or worse. But this is my reality. And it’s every day of my life. I can’t tell you how many unfinished projects I have that will generate passive and regular income for myself, but I have no desire to do so because my thoughts are a battlefield. So how do I earn my living in moments when sitting in a dimly lit room is my preferred option for the day? I force myself to do more than what my so-called thoughts and feelings tell me to do. It’s hard, trust me. To motivate myself when it makes sense to let the hours pass by. Fortunately, my past issues with bipolar depression remind me that hunger, homelessness and being broke are no longer an option for me. I refuse to get so low in my thoughts that I can’t function. I do more than just exist by listening to inspirational music, videos that related to my issues, watch movies, talk to my friends often and connect to my spiritual hard drive. I know it seems like a lot and sometimes I do it all in a day. I do this to let myself know that living in depression means that the curse is right around the corner. Look, I am the hardest person on myself because I know that bipolar depression is no joke, and if left unchecked it can ruin your life. I choose to no longer be a victim, but a victor. Have I lost battles? We all do at some point in time but like the old saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts.” Get up every time your bipolar depression looks to knock you down. You win even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Ivy McQuain

Bipolar Disorder: How to Get Through the Day With Bad Thoughts

Every day my thoughts are a battlefield and the world around me shows remnant of the war. And let’s not talk about the fight to get out of bed — to be productive. I have spent hours lying in my bed trying to decide if getting up was necessary or not. Spoiler alert… it is very necessary. I am an entrepreneur and if I don’t work then I am not earning money. Unfortunately, when I am awake depression kicks in and I submit to meaningless tasks to counter the reality that I might be slipping into depression or worse. But this is my reality. And it’s every day of my life. I can’t tell you how many unfinished projects I have that will generate passive and regular income for myself, but I have no desire to do so because my thoughts are a battlefield. So how do I earn my living in moments when sitting in a dimly lit room is my preferred option for the day? I force myself to do more than what my so-called thoughts and feelings tell me to do. It’s hard, trust me. To motivate myself when it makes sense to let the hours pass by. Fortunately, my past issues with bipolar depression remind me that hunger, homelessness and being broke are no longer an option for me. I refuse to get so low in my thoughts that I can’t function. I do more than just exist by listening to inspirational music, videos that related to my issues, watch movies, talk to my friends often and connect to my spiritual hard drive. I know it seems like a lot and sometimes I do it all in a day. I do this to let myself know that living in depression means that the curse is right around the corner. Look, I am the hardest person on myself because I know that bipolar depression is no joke, and if left unchecked it can ruin your life. I choose to no longer be a victim, but a victor. Have I lost battles? We all do at some point in time but like the old saying goes, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that counts.” Get up every time your bipolar depression looks to knock you down. You win even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Community Voices

Shooting Pain Full of Tears

I still remember the pain I felt when my tooth went rouge on me. I had never had any issues with my teeth and was often told that I had perfect teeth. It was my bragging right and I literally took pictures of my teeth just because I loved the compliments from my dentist. But as jobs changed and affordable insurance coverage became scarce I started to move around and with every new dentist came a new set of issues they mysteriously found.

I agreed to each dental need because I loved going to the dentist. Then the pain came after a filling that wouldn’t go away. I knew that I really didn’t need a cavity filled but I was so in love with going to the dentist that I trusted the wrong person in my mouth. I had a gut feeling that my teeth were fine, especially after years of compliments and a dental routine of flossing, brushing for two minutes, and mouth wash rinsing. Something went wrong and I immediately knew I would pay for my dental vanity.

It was June 2012 when I was referred to see a dental surgeon to get a root canal. At that time I was between jobs and restarting my business for the 100th time so I looked around for an affordable solution. And I found it. I went to a root canal specialist in Las Colinas, TX thinking this guy must be good, he’s in an upscale area. I. WAS. WRONG.

His advice was either too lengthy or not detailed enough. I sat in his chair and asked was he able to stop the pain. He assured me he had done the procedure a lot of times and I was in good hands. I was comfortable but during the root canal procedure I felt a sharp pain the immediately radiated from my nose to my ear on the right side of my face. I asked through numbed lips, “Am I supposed to feel pain?”

He blew me off and gave me another shot and went to check on another patient. When he returned he asked could I feel anything and again I told him that there was pain in my face and my hearing in my right hear was lower than normal. Again, he blew it off and proceeded. It was then that my nose started to bleed and he stopped the procedure.

I was in shock and he said that surely it was me just being an abnormal patient. I thought nothing of it because I have been known to be the typical abnormal patient with random illnesses that have stumped many of my doctors. I went home but the pain did not subside even with the pain medicine and antibiotics. I returned to the dentist almost immediately complaining of the pain in my face and he scheduled second root canal for a month later because he didn’t remove the entire nerve.

I agreed to it because I trusted that it was me and not his professional ability. I was wrong and the damage was done.

From July 2012 to February 2013 I experienced the worse pain of my life. Continual radiating pain on the right side of my face. I was unable to touch my eyelashes, blow my nose, or cry even though the pain was so intense. It was crippling. I was on antibiotic after antibiotic, so much so that I passed out while at church. Luckily no one thought that I was in the spirit and knew I needed help.

My sons had to see their mother live a life of pure misery. I started to miss work and could not perform the duties in my business. Our lives started to suffer greatly. I was lost. I took care of my teeth. I went to the dentist routinely. So why was this happening to me? What happened?

One day I decided to have my tooth completely removed because if it was the problem then I wanted it gone. I went to my dentist to have the tooth removed and he completely bruised the roof of my mouth up. It was then that he said that I should have had dental surgery instead of coming to him. He also stated that the root end of my tooth was intertwined to my sinus nerve and when he started the procedure that he pulled it out forcefully causing damage to the nerve. He quickly mentioned #TrigeminalNeuralgia but dismissed it.

I was so confused. I had no idea that could happen and apparently he didn’t either. Then all of a sudden he started to refuse my appointments and his once lovely nurses turned to monsters when I asked for my dental records. I knew something was up.

But the pain was still there. Growing every day and I started to lose weight because of the stress and inability to have a normal life. I went to the emergency room and the ER doctor, though rude, diagnosed me with Trigeminal Neuralgia. What the hell is that?

In a nutshell, the worst pain anyone has ever experienced. Even medical professionals say it’s the worst condition anyone could have and there is no real cure outside of facial surgery and I have to live with it every day of my life for the rest of my life.

The shooting pain from facial nerve damage is like nothing you want to experience. I sob uncontrollably for the one minutes or longer the pain pulsates through my face. There is nothing I can do. I apply pressure to counter the pain but it doesn’t make it stop immediately. I have to wait for it to run its course. Just recently, I had an upper respiratory infection and blew my nose and was sent into the worse crying fit you could have seen. My mother stood there helplessly and my oldest son just told her to walk out and he walked away before he started to cry.

This #ChronicIllness affects every aspect of my life because I don’t control when the pain comes. I take 1200 mg or more of Tregatol to get through the day but even that doesn’t help if my allergies are acting up or if an infection is coming, and I’m prone to infections. I’ve thought of death many days to end the pain but knows that I’d prefer to stay medicated than to leave my sons without their mother.

The worst part is that everyone has advice on how to handle the pain they have never experienced. Sigh.

Nonetheless, I never got the opportunity to make the dentist pay for his negligence and my smile is no longer perfect. I live day to day on a tight medical routine to ensure I don’t experience pain on any level. I am learning to live with the pain but it’s hard. I use essential herbs topically and also in a humidifier for 30 minutes. I avoid caffeine such as soda, chocolate, and hot coffee. But honestly, the pain will be a lifelong ordeal that I will never get used to.