BP Naturally

My Drug-Free Journey of Managing Bipolar Disorder


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Fireside Chat: Inspiring Spaces

http://goo.gl/K54GWv – Chorus of Blue

I often fantasize about getting away from the city. It’s a longing for quiet inspiration, reconnecting with nature, and a place to reflect that has made me seriously consider moving my family out onto a farm. Granted, we don’t know anything of animal husbandry (that’s a word, right?), and our farming/gardening experience is minimal to say the least… but I love home repairs, refurbishing things, and above all… I love the quiet. And not that artificial soundproofed quiet, but the noisy quiet of nature. With cicadas chirping, birds squawking, the breeze through the trees, frogs croaking, the crunch of dry leaves and bugs buzzing all about me. Its that kind of quiet that I yearn for. The noisy peace of outdoors.

I would love to go a year without any computers, smart phones, or video games… I imagine a whole life without them would be nice. Sure, I couldn’t run my business and design my products without a laptop. I couldnt build my platform or gain readership very quickly… in this digital age it’s sink or swim, but I’d love to give it a try. Id love to not need all this technology that hurts my head and boggles my mind. That disturbs and distracts. That disconnects us from everything that matters.

Sadly, my family, especially my kids, probably wouldn’t be as much on board. (Though,  I imagine they would love it after they stopped harping over what they were missing and started appreciating what they were gaining.) But, alas, that’s not easy move to make. So, instead of dreaming of this idyllic life on a farm, I have to start smaller… with my own mini-space: a writing studio.

Now, as it is, I don’t really have the ability to create my ideal writing studio where we live now. Luckily, we’re renters, so that’s not a permanent problem. While I could probably build a pretty awesome studio in the back yard, finding  some old shed on craiglist, hauling it here, rebuilding and gradually shaping it into a dream space of privacy and peace… one of the most important elements: surrounding/environment would definitely be missing. We live in the city… and not the best part of the city, either, lol.

So, for now, I dream, I build it in my mind: I imagine. I see a space set off from our main house, in a wild wooded area, with water somewhere nearby. It has lots of light from tons of huge windows… French doors that take up an entire wall and open up to a nice porch-patio. There’s a fireplace, a simple, but heavy refurbished desk, an antique daybed with a mishmash of gorgeously soft pillows of warm reds and oranges. There are soft throws everywhere, hardwood floors that creak a bit and layered in rugs, and lots and lots of candles and lanterns to light the space at night.

During the day it seems bright and open, uncluttered but homey, soft and summery. At night it becomes warm and cozy, with natural firelight all around. There are fireflies in the fields around me, dragonflies buzzing about the water… maybe a small pond or creek. The only unnatural noise is maybe a train in the distance. There’d be a small wood burning stove… or a gas stove if I wanted to go up a notch in impatience, lol. Somewhere to brew tea and coffee… and somewhere to store bread and butter; I like to eat.

The air outside would be scented with pine trees, lavender blossoms, gardenia bushes near the porch, a great magnolia tree out back, and climbing jasmine everywhere. And my cat would hang out there… hiding from the children. Keeping me company on late nights. An old record player would be nice… the crackle of it is so lovely. And Id have a small space out back to paint, blank, stretched canvases, metallic tubes of paint, brushes soaking in tin coffee cans… I would paint now and then, for pleasure… but maybe the paintings would supplement my income. Be curated by some local shop that promotes local artists. That would be nice.

In my mind we’d own some big property… and the walk out to my studio would take 10-15 minutes from the main house. It would be far enough away that I couldn’t hear the kids playing and near enough that I could escape at a moments notice. It would be nice if there was a view… maybe of some great forests of pine below, mountains in the distance… anything but the city that I’m so weary of. And it would be mine… all mine. No danger of intrusions, of children breaking this or that, husbands piling clothes on the floor… it would be my very private, very personal writing space.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have this dream studio, but I believe I will… someday, insha’Allah.

Have you ever taken the time to fully imagine your dream studio? What would be the absolute necessities? What could you not live without? Is it in a noisy city, glittering with city lights? A quiet cottage? A rustic cabin in the woods? How about a mobile studio to travel the across the country? Or do you simply need a small room in the corner of your house? A cozy den with the kids playing about? Tell me about your perfect writing studio… and how close you are to realizing that dream. can’t wait to hear from you all. Til then… thanks, as always, for reading, folks. See you by the fireside.

This is a part of the fireside chat series. Casual conversations amongst writers about writing.

I’ve begun a Pinterest Board for my Ideal Writing Studio… perhaps it will serve as inspiration for your own. It’s shared below. :) Enjoy!


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JOURNAL ENTRY #4

IGNORANCE IS BLISS… BUT IT’LL GET YOU HIT BY A BUS

or: The Hesitant Spouse… and if He Really Knew Me  He’d Leave Me


Let me begin with…. FUCK. Oh yeah, blah blah blah, bad Muslim. Whatever. I am not in the mood tonight. We all get pissed, we all say fuck, so fuckety fuck fuck. What a fucking time I’m having. And…. breeeeeaaaathe… There, let’s pretend it’s out of my system.

I want to fall in a hole right now. I want to put my head through a sheet of glass. I want to cry cry cry. Weep, wail, roll on the floor, claw at the walls, cry cry cry.  I want to take back this cup of caffeinated coffee so I can sleep the next two days away. I want to disappear, and if I believed dying would make everything stop, I’d say I want to die. I want the comfort of the dark… I want an endless night. I want no more shrills and cries of children, no more uncertain spouses, no more erratic swaying of my mind. No more wild words, no more fistless fights. FUCK FUCK FUCK. I want to cry.

Tonight, I tried to talk to my husband. I asked him when he’d be picking up that book again (Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder). It’s going on two weeks and he’s only read two chapters. He’s hesitant, but BP rages on with no restraint. He basically said he doesn’t know and ended the conversation. I carried on. It then came down to, “I don’t know if I want to go on (reading the book), I don’t know if I want to question our relationship.” Avoidance. The quintessential head in the sand. I was upset. Where is your commitment to this relationship? This isn’t going away! If you’re going to leave me, then God knows, do it now, not five years from now when we’re in too deep (we’ve been married 3 years). We can’t pretend everything is OK and then when the shit hits the fan, you never saw it coming and you leave me locked up in a hospital, utterly alone. God only knows what would happen to my children.

This is a bad strategy, but fear leaves him immobilized.

He wants to avoid reading the book because he’s scared of really understanding what this illness is. Really, he’s doing it because he loves me and if he reads it and can’t handle it, he’ll be forced into the very real possibility of deciding to leave, of breaking up our family, of starting again. I understand that. He thinks I’m pushing him to read the book because I want him to see the monster and I want him to leave me; that I don’t really want to be with him and want him to be the one to leave. 

I don’t know how much more wrong he could be.

I hate this illness. I can’t win for losing. 

So, I’m left in a state of limbo. The constant fear that one day, I’ll snap, I’ll really snap, and he’ll be ill-prepared (having not read this book) and he’ll leave me when I’m most alone, most in need. I’ll walk in front of a bus or jump off a building, because God knows, if HE can’t love me, who in the hell can? How unlovable we BP people are. How fucking unlovable are we?  So, I find myself here: 

If he reads the book, he’ll see this monstrous illness for all it really is and he’ll leave me. 

versus

If he DOESN’T read this book, he’ll be unable to support me in managing this illness, I’ll go fucking berserk, he’ll be utterly horrified and, once again, he’ll leave me.

Let’s try some hackneyed expressions here… I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t; stuck between a rock and hard place; dealing with a double-edged sword… well, fuck, indeed, what a predicament you’re in, my dear. I hate this illness. It’s killing us. It’s killing me. Limbo is an understatement.

So, I give him an ultimatum. Read the book by the end of the month or we can initiate a divorce. At the time, this made sense to me. I’m deathly afraid of being locked up in a hospital and abandoned. DEATHLY AFRAID. I need to know NOW. I need to know if you’re willing to do this with me. So it all made sense… now I’m locked up in my office, actually considering climbing out the window to get out. To get away from the echo of my own words. God, help me. I don’t want him to leave me. And it’s not even that I don’t want to be alone. I specifically don’t want to be without him. You must understand, it’s not you’re typical BP obsession. It’s been three years and a lot of bumps, fuck bumps, MOUNTAINS, and I still feel safe with him, still love him, still want him. My frustration has grown, my insecurities, my doubts, but never my desire to be with him. I want him to read the book because I want to be better and I want to feel secure. I want to know we’re in this thing together. I don’t want to live in constant fear anymore, I don’t want to live in the ever-lurking shadow of BP… I want to be in control of my life. That’s what this book is about. Finding strategies and working with your spouse to manage your condition. I need him to understand it fully, I need his support. 

So after a bit, I storm out. I’m so flustered, so angry, so disappointed, so afraid. He emails later and ends his email with, ” I do feel i need to look at this more seriously and make the necessary preparations for the future, whatever it may bring. i love you. never forget that no matter what happens.” 

No matter what happens.

And those words echo in my mind, prod at my heart, wring those delicate tendons of my being. It is a pain they bring, a very physical and psychological pain, that’s indescribable. The very real possibility that “what happens” may very well be, I am left alone. And it’s my fault I made him read the book, or my fault I din’t make him read it sooner. And what’s more? I am unlovable. And it’s moments like these that say to me, perhaps you should be locked up and lobotomized. And what of my children? They are better off without me. And now I understand why so many BP sufferers drink. I just want the pain to stop, the flood of emotions to end. I want the fear and anxiety to come to a screeching halt. I don’t want to think, to analyze, to exist. I want to be numb from the inside out. 

I fucking hate this illness. It’s torturing me and dangling death before me like a god damned carrot. I am so tired of being sick. God, help me. Heal me. 

[The STATUS of things: I have been battling depression this past week. I have hardly bathed, eaten, prayed, or slept properly. I have not been following a treatment plan. Been immersing myself in stressful situations again and again and been feeling beaten down, overwhelmed and exhausted. My diet has mostly consisted of hostess cakes, soda, and shit I can’t think of much else. My irritation level has been high, my heart heavy, my mind unfocused, my thoughts confused. I’ve been angry, confrontation, impatient. I’ve buried myself in minor obsessions with projects, I’ve had progress and failures. I’ve done next to nothing to de-stress, relax, or attend to my own needs. I’ve tried to smile through it all. I haven’t journalled or blogged. It has all been bad. I know. So we can see. I know how to pull myself out. I do. And I must. So let’s pray for a better next week.]


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JOURNAL ENTRY #3

Perfectly Calm Storm & the Bipolar Child

First, let me say, if you’re subscribed, don’t worry, I don’t normally post this frequently. Maybe a couple times a week at best. But I felt that this incident deserved a separate post, as it began after I started writing the last entry and so didn’t fit with my thoughts/theme at the time.

I have a lot of children. What is a lot you ask? Seven. I only birthed three of them, mind you, but I am raising seven full time. So I have a lot. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about BPD (I hope) with all of them! But, I have one daughter, who we’ll call “Little Q” and she seems to be my emotional twin. That is to say, she looks more like her father (and managed to be gorgeous in spite of it, haha! I kill me) but personality-wise and emotionally, she’s just like me.  I know. Scary.

I was a very emotional child, cried at the drop of a dime and was also very unique/creative/artistically-inclined. I was also extremely compassionate and empathetic. My daughter, she is the same. She’s a little artist, works hard in school, loves science, animals and the outdoors, can keep herself entertained for hours and has scary emotional outbursts that make you wonder if she’s possessed. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration, kinda). Part of me wonders if it’s all manipulation… that is, she overheard me discussing with my husband on more than one occasion that she’s sensitive/emotional and has a hard time controlling her emotions and we need to be more sympathetic. So now, that’s a license to act like a basket case. It’s entirely possible. On the other hand, these may be early symptoms of BPD. I air on the side of caution, so I’m treating it like it’s all very real and she must learn methods to filter/control her emotions. She’s 8 years old, by the way.

The Bipolar Child… so last night we are about to do “Chore Store” and I check chores and hers aren’t done completely, so she (and my son, we’ll call him dooney) don’t get to shop in the Chore Store. She has a MELT DOWN. She is begging me, crying, screaming from the kitchen as she finishes her chore… but I’m very calm and I refuse. She continues to scream and cry for at least 15-20 minutes, and I ignore her… with ease. This is strangely easy for me, with any one of the other kids I would have snapped and went off, but with her, I have some kind of empathy. I want to help her through these feelings, I want her to manage them, I believe it’s real, whereas with other I have almost no tolerance for whining. None. This is probably something I need to work on.

She returns now and then to the dining room, begging me to bend the rules, I’m cool as a cucumber and refuse, telling her to sit down and breathe deeply. This is a practice we’re still working on to help her control her anger/hysteria. Even I’m surprised at how well I’m handling this.

Part of what makes this journey so important for me is that if my daughter is BP, I want her to learn to cope without drugs. I don’t want a zombified 8-yr old with chemical dependencies. If I can manage this BPD without drugs then I can set an example for her and teach her how to do it too, and further, I can make dietary changes in her life that help her have balance as well, insha’Allah (God-willing).

Perfectly Calm Storm… so, after Chore Store is over I take her upstairs. Her head hurts, she’s crying. She lays in my lap for a while and eventually calms down. Then I send her downstairs to get some dinner and my husband snaps at her. She falls to pieces all over again. Now, mind you, my husband loves my daughter (his step-daughter) very much. They generally have a wonderful relationship, but recently she’s become, well, a mini version of me, and he is struggling to deal with it. I mean, after all, I’m bad enough, and with her he questions whether it’s real and has a very low tolerance for the talking back, angry mood swings, falling out aspect of her behavior. So he says something and she reels right back out of control. 

This was a delicate situation and it took me 10-15 minutes just to calm her down. He dismantled it in a moment. I was angry. I pulled him into the office to talk. So here’s the thing, I felt perfectly calm. Not enraged like usual. Interestingly, he argued very little and I think that may have been what kept me calm. Usually, especially when it’a about the kids, it can become an all out screaming match, but this time, I didn’t feel excited. I felt calm.

The things I said were very resolute. You are not going to do this. This ends today, etc. Awfully pushy, but I did have a right to be upset. He did, at one point, try to go in the kitchen and tell her to chill, but he does this in a “controlling’ fashion rather than a “teach you to control yourself” fashion which is where the “Little Q” arguments usually emerge. He was trying in his own way, though, and I must give credit where credit is due (even if I failed to last night).

So what of it? I left the office, sat down with the kids and watched a movie. He never came out of the office. I knew he was upset, but this time I didn’t feel the urge to beg and plead and make amends. I felt, dare I say, a little bit apathetic. I rarely ever feel apathetic these days, so that was strange. Intellectually, I did feel bad and even guilty in that I was asking him to control himself and be an adult when I, myself, often cannot control myself and be an adult. That’s the hard part about BP, you don’t want to use it as an excuse, but you know its a reality, and a reality for you, not everyone else. So you still have normal expectations of them while demanding they have *adjusted* expectations of you. I hate that guilt. But there it is. 

Why is this worth blogging about? The apathy and lack of depression afterwards. Arguing with my husband is a HUGE trigger for me, it almost always leads to a deep depression immediately after (read journal entry #1). But this time, he didn’t argue much, he stayed mostly quiet, and I remained very calm and feel no residual depression the following morning. Amazing and a bit scary.

What worries me is the apathy. I went through a stage in my life where I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. I didn’t love my mother, I didn’t care about the starving orphan, I didn’t have remorse or shame or anything. I felt dead inside. It lasted for years and afterwards I was on emotional overload and the slightest thing made me cry (I still have this) even happy things, commercials, cartoons, it all brings tears. But that period of apathy was scary. I don’t want that again. However, the sense of calm and control I appreciate. I do plan to apologize because I was a bit harsh in that conversation, and hope I can be a bit more considerate of all that he’s struggling through in dealing with this disorder, both from me and potentially from my daughter. I really pray he is rewarded for his patience and devotion. He is a wonderful man under tremendous pressure and deserves recognition for that. I love him deeply and don’t ever want to feel apathetic toward him. So this is a work in progress. We’ll see what develops.

Do you ever experience a sense of apathy? Is this typical for BPD sufferers?

Mood Tracking:

September 7th, 2012
Neutral –> Annoyed –> Irritated –> Neutral –> Focused –> Calm–> Angry –> Apathetic –> Neutral
(Angry->Apathetic->Neutral were the result of this incident)

Lessons Learned:

  • I am capable of maintaining control in an argument, the level of control I maintain is directly related to the degree to which the other person argues back. I’ll need to work on that.
  • I must maintain compassion and understanding for my husband who is struggling to deal with all of this. I must try to see it from his perspective and be sympathetic.
  • I need to work more with my daughter in helping her control her emotions. (Maybe look into yoga for kids?)
  • There is a fine line between apathy and control, I must be careful not to cross it.
  • I need to give my husband some tools to help him deal with my daughter.


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JOURNAL ENTRY #2

Against My Better Judgment

So, here’s the thing… I’m going to begin actual challenges soon, but I have to decide on what to start with. I don’t want it to be so difficult that I can’t maintain it, right? We need some moderate success so we can all feel encouraged. So, I’m taking suggestions. What natural remedy, coping or management method should I start with? Something dietary? A supplement? Exercise? Spiritual? Organizational? What ideas do you have folks? I do have something in the works, that I’ll blog about shortly… something very promising, I think, but it’ll take a couple weeks to get results and start the treatment, so we need something in the meantime.

A run down… yesterday was utterly unproductive, but not uneventful. Woke up and one of the children decided to argue with me about their school clothes. SMH. Oh, I was mad. Here I was thinking, I’m gonna do good today, no snapping, and first thing in the morning, somebody wants to be a little s$@t and have an attitude, lol. So I snapped, but not too much. Afterwards, I felt bad, and actually apologized to my daughter. I rarely apologize to children when I snap. I think it’s because I feel like they’ll get the upper hand or feel like since my reaction was over the top, theyre actions were ok. Um no. The other part is embarrassment and shame. But this time, I thought it over and apologized and told her, let’s not make ourselves out to be enemies and voila! all was well. LOL. Gotta apologize more often!

In retrospect, I realize that I *should* apologize when I lose my temper, even if the child is wrong. It’s teaching them a lesson in humbleness and they learn more from what we do than what we say. So, I’m going to try to be more apologetic when I do lose control or go overboard… maintaining that their actions were STILL wrong, but that every action deserves and equal or opposite reaction and mine was over the top.

Against my better judgment… and then my day disappeared behind a computer screen and a button machine. Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t feel manic. I didn’t feel driven and wildly obsessive. I just thought to myself (against my better judgment) y’know, I’d like to do *this.* Yeah, I have a grip of other stuff to do and this is unnecessary, but I *feel* like doing this. So what happened? No shower, no breakfast, almost no prayers, no exercise, no journal write. Nothing. I spent the day making Animal Alphabet Stacking Magnets for my daughter.  Mind you, they are awesome and I DO sell them (lemme know if you’re interested), but my day went all to hell and I did next to nothing.  Ok, add Facebook to the mix and that’s a more honest portrayal of my Friday.

So when is it obsession? When is it normal? You don’t always feel *crazy* when you get off track, you don’t always feel *enraged* when you argue or *suicidal* when you’re sad… so what’s BP and what’s just me? I made a conscious decision to waste most of my day away, even though I KNEW it was a bad decision and I was gonna miss deadlines, etc. What happened to my better judgment? Is this a symptom of BP even though I felt perfectly normal and my thought process seemed clear/uninfluenced? Where do we draw the line and who do we blame, ourselves or BP? 

It’s a mystery… a MYSTERY! (OK, sorry Yo Gabba Gabba moment, lol) But seriously, what about you? Where do you draw the line?

Mood Tracking:

September 7th, 2012
Neutral –> Annoyed –> Irritated –> Neutral –> Focused –> Calm–> Angry –> Apathetic –> Neutral
(Angry->Apathetic->Neutral were the result of an event that I’ll detail in the nest post)

Lessons Learned:

  • Being apologetic is a means of taking responsibility for my actions.
  • Choose your battles. Kids are going to try to annoy you, take control of the situation by being more nonchalant and less confrontational.
  • Poor decision making is a hallmark of BPD, but it may also become an ingrained habit/personality trait. I have to manage BPD and make lifestyle changes as well to ensure that I’m making good decisions whether symptomatic or not.
  • I need to make a schedule that is both feasible and flexible and find a means to motivate myself to really follow it… and find a way to get back on track when I fall “off track.” 
  • Other lessons pertain specifically to “the incident” which I’ll detail in the next post.


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JOURNAL ENTRY #1

Recognizing Triggers

Yesterday started out great, I woke up in time to pray fajr (morning prayer before dawn), had a light breakfast, took a shower. Then as I lay on my bed, all dressed and ready to go make myself brunch, I debated between taking a nap or going outdoors for a bit (sunlight is therapeutic). But I felt sleepy, so I laid down for a nap. The nap went too long (1.5-2 hours) then the baby woke up and I had to run down and start her day. I had a headache from the poor quality-too long nap, but it passed and my good mood returned. Note to self: Naps that are TOO LONG or of poor quality (uncomfortable, too much light in the room, etc) cause me to have headaches and feel irritable. Then my husband came home and all was still well. We went to pick up the kids and it was uncomfortably hot outside, so I was a little irritated, but not too much. Then I got into a very small spat with my husband.  I tried to tell him it was silly to argue about, but he felt that convincing me to his side would somehow help me calm down and see why my getting upset in the first place wasn’t necessary. Ah… the road to hell is paved with good intentions, lol. So we argued and immediately after depression set in. Just that quick. Arguing with my husband is a huge trigger for me. No matter how small the argument, it causes my mood to drop almost instantaneously. I hate that I feel so dependent on him in regulating  my moods, but there it is. 

Later, the kids were off task, being loud and wild and this sent my irritation level waaaay up. Which led to me snapping. I mean, really snapping. I had to walk outside to the backyard to gather myself. Making wudu crossed my mind, but I was too angry. (I know, that’s the point) But I went outside into the sunlight, sat down, breathed deeply and calmed down. When I came back in I talked to my husband about it… took him through my day so that he could see how quickly my mood can flip from something so small. It was a good talk, masha’Allah, and he had been cognizant of it and just wasn’t sure how to handle it right. That’s progress for us. His awareness of my potential mood swing is a big deal.

He then teased and joked until he got me to laugh and took me to make wudu and pray. That helped and by the end of the day the depression had lightened a bit. Today is a new day. Im not in the same bright mood as yesterday, I didn’t sleep well, woke up late, and am on this comp instead of in the shower (being off schedule is all bad). But I’m gonna go ahead and start my day, even if it’s late and see if I can recover some balance today, insha’Allah.

Mood Tracking:

September 5th, 2012
Happy –> Sleepy –> Irritable –> Angry –> Depressed –> Irate –> Depressed –> Sad –> Neutral

Lessons Learned:

  • Oversleeping and poor quality sleep cause headaches and irritability.
  • Sleeping in rooms with too much light cause poor quality sleep.
  • Arguments with my husband lead to depression.
  • Temperature discomfort (too hot outside) lead to irritability.
  • Chaos & noise/kids being off task leads to intense irritability.


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SO, HERE WE ARE…

Well, hello there.

I’m not sure how you ended up here, but here you are and I am glad to have the company. The purpose of this blog will be to chronicle my journey of managing bipolar disorder without medication. As time goes on, you will learn more about me, about my diagnosis, my family life, my childhood, my faith, and of course, the method to my madness (or non-madness, so to speak). I’m going to be doing my due diligence with research, and trying out various methods of managing my moods and symptoms.  It will range from dietary changes, supplements, various forms of stress reduction, exercise, coping techniques, matters of faith, and anything else that comes my way and seems to hold some type of potential for effectiveness.

My goal will be to be very specific. I hope to try each method out for 4-6 weeks, record the changes and progress and report back to you weekly. I think this approach will make it easier, not only for me to find the best combination of treatments, but also for you to find some specific treatment ideas with consistent personal experience reports. That sounds pretty clinical, but I swear I’m funny and down to earth, lol, I’d just like to take a very organized approach for both of our benefits. I’ll also post useful resources and information, recommended books or tools,  funny or inspiring quotes and stories, photos, poetry, videos… just about anything that could be of use to us as we travel down this path of being BP Naturally. So, here we are. I hope you enjoy the journey.