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Starting Over

21 Aug

Starting-OverThe show will go on in DC this coming May, 2014. I’m simply taking some time to figure out where to go from here, as my partnership unfortunately did not work out due to our vastly different work styles.

I have an incredible team surrounding me here in Virginia and I know that with all the hard work and passion that is going into this project, it most certainly will be a success. I may have failed at a partnership, but I will not fail at executing my vision for this show.

I envision this show to become a community of people coming together to embrace mental illness so as not to let it define them, but to propel a movement forward. A movement built on the belief that those of us living with mental illnesses are real people who simply need help. By coming together as a supportive society which fights for mental health services and programs, we will

change and save lives.

Please follow along here, and/or via Instagram and Twitter for updates as they become available. For now, if you’re local to the DC metro area, or you’re interested in coming in from out of town to see the show, mark your calendar for the weekend of May 17 & 18, 2014.

Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you at the show!

Five Minute Friday {15}: Small

16 Aug

Five-Minute-Friday-15-Small

I can’t help but think about how one decision always leads to the next. Some things, which may seem small and insignificant at the time, have the ability to change the trajectory of our entire lives. Choosing a major at the age of 18, going on that blind date that your friends set you up on, deciding there will never be a perfect time to have another baby and so you just go for it even though the house and cars are too small and you don’t know how you’ll ever afford college for them all.

Sometimes you have to stop over-analyzing and just pick a direction, hoping for the best.

I’m glad that I’m able to uncover and pay attention to that soft whisper of my conscious in the back of my mind. A tiny part of me believes it’s Him helping to guide me make the right choices. Yet, I’m constantly doubting myself. I’m constantly doubting my faith.

But He hasn’t let me down.

I’m still trying to comprehend my reason for being here, but I believe the decisions in my life that have made me who I am. All the left turns when they should have been right, and the right turns when I could have gone straight, the year and a half when I would take two steps forward only to fall back and not be able to get up for weeks. These small moments of my life have brought me here.

And I’m loving this place.
Five Minute Friday

Juggling Change

14 Aug

I’m experiencing one of those seasons of my life where everything seems to be going right. I told a friend last night that it all seems a little too good to be true lately and that I’m just waiting for a ball {or a few, but hopefully not all} to drop. I can’t help it, it’s the pessimist in me.

The kids and I are squeezing the last drops out of summer with evenings at the pool, Tuesdays at the farm, and playdates with friends before school starts up again next month. We had a blast at the beach last weekend, the kids brought home sand in every.single.thing, but it was so worth the smiles on their faces I caught on camera while they dug, made pizzas and strawberry pies and rolled in it for hours.

Juggling-Change

I started my part-time job yesterday, and so far, so good. I am confident it is going to work out. But it’ll likely be November before we really know if it’ll be the right fit for the long-term. I hope so.

We have one last trip before we can settle in for the real end of summer and the start of fall. One of my husband’s cousins is getting married, so we’ll be heading out to Wisconsin for the festivities and I’m so excited to get to spend time with the family. Saying prayers to the travel gods for safe, tantrum-free travel with our little people.

These years of our kids being little, this season of our life is right now. I’m trying to teach myself every day to stay present and enjoy this time because I know when I look back I’ll feel it flew by too fast. It already seems like the past five years have buzzed by.

I used to dread change, would feel the anxiety and fearful anticipation crawl under my skin, but I can sense my attitude shifting. I’m beginning to love the transformations of the seasons of my life. I never realized when I was in the throes of a career which I loved and which loved me back, that within a few years I’d want to have a family and things would have to change.

My illness emerged before I’d have a chance to come face-to-face with the issue of opt-in or opt-out. I had to opt-out for a very different reason and I’ll never know how life would have played out in the career arena for me, had I not been dealt the mental illness card.

The thing is, I’m okay with not having a traditional career. I’m content with being able to use all of my skills to their greatest capabilities because I’m dividing my time efficiently and effectively. I’m a wife, a mom, working part-time, writing part-time, and I’m also producing a show over these next nine months. Sure, there are plenty of times when I feel like I’m spread too thin. But ask any mom if she ever feels she has the perfect amount of time for everything and everyone in her life and of course she’s going to say No. No way, Jose.

This life which my husband and I have built is not perfect. But its perfectly ours. And each time a new change arises, I’m the first to lean in for extra hugs because they help. He’s always there, with a smile, to wrap his arms around me and say a simple, “It’s okay.”

He’s right. If a ball drops, it’ll be okay. I’ll just pick it back up and start juggling again.

Juggling-Change2

We All Got Bruises

5 Aug

You know what I love about blogging? I love getting a chance to read a glimpse of a stranger’s life. I love when someone opens their heart and pours everything out, showing you that they are just as human as you are. The incredible thing about living your life out loud, for the world to read, is that people connect with you. You get to know them. You connect with them. Pretty soon you’re no longer strangers, you’re friends. And if you’re lucky, you get to meet them one day.

You might just become friends for life.

We all have bruises, they’re what make us interesting. How boring would life be if it was all roses and sunshine every day? It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in our struggles. Whether it be mental illness, alcoholism, financial troubles, parenting issues, divorce, the death of a child, or countless other curve balls life throws at us. We all have obstacles to overcome in our lives.

Music is healing for me and of all the things it’s done for me, the most important lesson it has taught me is easily, “What will be, will be” and I need to put my trust in fate.

If a song speaks to me, I play it on repeat for weeks. I lose myself in the lyrics and belt the tune out while driving to the farm or the grocery story. I used to be drawn to pop hits produced by music giants whose record labels end up writing the songs for them, pumping beats into the background of the synthesized dance tracks. These days I’m much more into singer/songwriters who tell a life story through their music. The kind of songs which make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, giving you goosebumps as you listen to the words.

You feel yourself nodding, “Me too,” as your soul soaks in the sweet melody. A good song gives me a new perspective on my troubles.

I’ve got Train’s newest album, California 37, on a loop lately.

These bruises make for better conversation
Loses the vibe that separates
It’s good to let you in again
You’re not alone in how you’ve been
Everybody loses, we all got bruises
We all got bruises

I’ve been a little overwhelmed by life lately. Wanting to pursue my dreams, but realizing that writing doesn’t exactly pay the bills {at least, not yet}.

A lump formed in my throat the other day when looking at finances. It was obvious that I need to pick up a part-time job. We live in one of the most expensive areas in the US, and the reality is that it’s really hard to cut it on one income. So I had a rough couple of days last week when Ben was traveling for work, filled with fear and self-pity and hugging my best friend while tears poured from my eyes, the kids looking up at me wondering what was wrong with mommy.

Once I calmed down and started to look at things with a clearer head, I quickly realized that things aren’t nearly as dire as I had thought. I was talking with my brother over the weekend about what was bringing me down and he told me to call one of our oldest friends who was looking for help with his business. It’s the type of work I’ll be able to do around the kids’ schedules, allowing me time to continue with my writing projects, exactly what I need right now.

Part of the reason I was so upset last week was because I was afraid that I’d have to give up writing to go back to work, and my heart was breaking at the thought of having to stop pursuing my passion. Sure, I’d still try to write in the evenings, but I know how hard it is to juggle everything and at the end of the day you’re just exhausted. I’m hopeful that this situation will provide the best of both worlds: the income we need with time to still pursue my dreams.

In the meantime, it’s songs like this that remind me to embrace the ups and downs of life for what they are.

Que sera. {What will be, will be.}
 
We-All-Got-Bruises
 

In-Between is Right Where I Want To Be

30 Jul

Have you ever thought about how you spend your in-between time?

I wrote about it recently, but since picking up a unique read, I felt the need to write on the topic again. 

A writer who I truly admire, for his way with words as much as his generous drive to teach amateur writers how to hone their craft, is releasing a new book this week called The In-Between: embracing the tension between now and the next big thing. Part memoir, part self-help, Jeff Goins takes the reader on a journey through his life’s most important in-betweens. Jeff describes how he has learned to slow down and appreciate the time spent waiting for the next major event, because sometimes those minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even years can be the most fulfilling aspects of our lives.

I agree completely.

{an excerpt}

“We all want to live meaningful lives full of experiences we can be proud of. We all want a great story to tell our grandchildren. But many of us fail to recognize that the best moments are the ones happening right now.

Maybe the “good stuff” isn’t ahead of or behind us. Maybe it’s somewhere in between. Right in the midst of this moment, here and now. Maybe Annie Dillard is right. Maybe what we call “mundane,” what feels boring and ordinary, is really how we spend our lives. And we have an opportunity to make of it what we will – to resent its lack of adventure or rejoice in its beauty. Perhaps, the abundant life we’ve been seeking has little to do with big events and comes in a subtler form: embracing the pauses in between major beats.”

 

I daydream about this concept of “in-between” often. Maybe because I’ve spent most of my life anticipating each subsequent milestone. My parents often joked I was “10 going on 25” because it was as if I could hardly wait to grow up so I could start working to accomplish my dreams. Looking back on my childhood I can totally agree with this playful teasing, since I struggle to recall basic, everyday memories others can drum up so easily. I was too caught up in what was way up ahead that I missed out on the fun happening right in front of me.

The only thing that is certain is the moment we are in right now. {Tweet that.}

I like to believe that I’ve enjoyed the in-betweens in my life thus far, but truth be told there are plenty I could have appreciated more than I did. Jeff’s book is teaching me to value every day of my life as much as the last because the next day is never a guarantee. Time passes so quickly that if we don’t pay attention, it can slip right through our fingertips. I want to live each day full of gratitude for today and for all those dreams I have yet to accomplish.

If you haven’t picked up Jeff’s book yet, go buy it now. I have a feeling you won’t be able to put it down and it will leave a lasting impression, as it did for me.

In-betweenIsRightWhereIWantToBe

#OK2Talk: Join the Mental Health Movement

24 Jul

#OK2Talk-Join-the-Mental-Health-Movement2

Experiencing a psychotic break can be an isolating and debilitating event. If I talk about it, will everyone think I’m “crazy”? Will I lose my friends? Will I lose my job? Will I ever get better?

When mania grabbed a hold of my brain at the age of twenty-six, I thought my life was over. I had been hospitalized for three days and had to be tranquilized in order to force sleep, my mind brought back to reality only through the use of antipsychotics. The details were not pretty. I practically suffocated from the weight of keeping my pain bottled up inside. It seemed like no one in my immediate circle of family and friends understood what I had just gone through. My close friends tried, but the truth was everyone was so scared to talk about it.

I wanted desperately to find someone, anyone other than my psychiatrist and therapist, who knew what I was feeling. Wasn’t there anyone out there, a peer, who was like me?

My emotions pummeled my personality to the ground with their negativity. Thoughts raced through my head and nothing I did could make them stop.

Fear of the future. Guilt over what I had put my husband and family through. Sadness for the career that I had to leave behind. Disbelief in the words the doctors kept repeating. Anger that this was happening to me. Why me? Why?

I remember visiting bookstores with my parents where we’d search the Psychology section for titles that might help us understand what was happening to me. On one trip, my dad bought three thick paperbacks with promises on the cover which gave us hope. We went home and flipped through the pages, eager to find the answers to our questions.

We did find some, but they were clinical in nature. I was searching for different answers. I wanted to read personal stories of recovery and inspiration. I wanted to know that others had walked in my same shoes, had lost touch with reality, came crashing down to the darkest place they’ve ever felt, and made it out okay.

I wanted to know I’d be okay too.

Back then, in 2007, there weren’t many people blogging openly about bipolar disorder. There were women bloggers who were starting to open up about their experiences with postpartum depression, but blogging wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is today. Social media was in its infancy, at least for regular Internet users like myself, so the ease in sharing information wasn’t quite there yet. You had to do the digging yourself, and my efforts at finding stories of hope and inspiration from other mental health consumers weren’t successful.

Back then.

The times, how they’re changing.

Today there are more and more people opening up each day about their journey to recovery from mental illnesses. There are blogs and vlogs, online support groups, Tedx talks, Facebook groups, and community performances which are educating the public on what it’s like to live with a mental illness. I’m proud to have opened up on my blog, sharing my true identity because I can now celebrate being a part of this change.

I can feel the change as its happening. I feel it in every email I get from a friend thanking me for writing about my story because they’ve been through something similar. I feel it in every message I receive on Facebook or Twitter from someone I’ve never met who has read my words and felt inspired to share their own.

This is how a movement starts.

It starts with one person who is brave enough to share,
who inspires others to share,
which in turn inspires the world to change.

 

On Tuesday I attended the launch event on Capitol Hill of #OK2TALK, a national media campaign produced by the National Association of Broadcasters in an effort to spread mental health awareness and teach young adults that sharing our stories of hope and healing can help others who are struggling. The campaign includes PSAs in both English and Spanish featuring teens and young adults talking openly about their experiences with mental illness. At the end of the ads, there is a call to action directing you to create the conversation about mental health online via social media.

NAB President and former Senator Gordon H. Smith described the campaign as “bringing the issue of mental health into the sunshine,” and I couldn’t agree more. I applaud the NAB for its commitment to increasing the awareness and understanding of mental health and I encourage you to contribute to the conversation via the blog, www.ok2talk.org.

Help is available and treatment is effective, and by encouraging society to be supportive of those struggling we will save lives.

 
#OK2Talk-Join-the-Mental-Health-Movement

The Truth About Living Openly with Bipolar Disorder

10 Jul

LivingWithBipolarDisorderMe & my little firecracker on July 4th

I will never regret my decision to write openly about living with bipolar disorder. Never. There is something to be said for reaching a point in your life when you take an important leap. One you can tell your kids about someday. When I realized it hurt too much to keep it bottled up inside was the point when I realized that I wanted people to know I’m not perfect but I still love my life just the way it is, mental illness and all.

I love the moments right before I fall asleep. My mind replays my day’s highlights, as if to ingrain the smile or giggle or kiss in a corner of my brain, so that I won’t ever forget it. Tucked away safe so that I can unwrap it again when I need that memory.

Lying still, listening to the steady rhythm of the one I love beside me, I think about the day that awaits me when the sun rises.  I soak up all the sleep I can because chances are, I was up too late writing the night before. I no longer set an alarm; the sweet voices of my kids will wake me when the sunlight pours into their rooms.

The truth is, even though I will never regret my decision to tell the world about the chemical imbalance in my brain, I still wonder if I chose the right time in my life to open my heart.

Living openly with a mental illness means you’ll always wonder if the world is judging you. You’ll wonder if you will ever be looked over for a job you applied to or a promotion you earned because of the fact the employer knows you have bipolar disorder. You might wonder if you will ever work a regular job again now that you’ve written about the darkest and also the most manic times of your life.

These are the things I’ve been worrying about lately.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that even though I know my husband loves me with his entire heart, someday he might not because my illness might get in the way one time too many. My entire world would come crumbling down around me.

And if my world did come crashing down, if I was left to manage on my own, how would I do that? Again, the future employment picture bubbles to the surface. How would I support myself financially when my loving husband has been the main provider for the last six years? And would my symptoms suddenly break through the surface again, like a volcano that has been dormant but now is ready to explode?

These are the big, scary thoughts that sometimes make me wonder if I did the right thing.

Because the truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that once you’re diagnosed, it’s yours to live with for the rest of your life. It’s yours to manage, to curse, to medicate, to appreciate. There is no erasing a mental health condition. Therein lies both the beauty and the beast.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that it’s shown me how far I’ve come as a person. How I’m no longer afraid of showing my true colors. I love my brain and all the creativity it has allowed me to express. Even though it may break down from time to time, I love this piece of me which has shown me what I’m capable of. And that is overcoming my fears and insecurities.

For this I say, I’m glad I’ve decided to be open about the fact that I have bipolar disorder.

No looking back. There’s only the beautiful mystery of what lies ahead.

Five Minute Friday {13}: In Between

28 Jun

EmersonBeautyQuote_BML

Things have been status quo around here for a while. I feel like I’m at that in between stage of life again. Like something incredible or terrifying could be just around the corner. It’s exciting and unnerving at the same time.

I believe that all we can ever do with our in between seasons in life is try our best. Wake up with anticipation for the gift we’ve been given of another day. Approach the motions of our day with love and try not to get too frustrated with setbacks like the toilet overflowing again or the tenth accident of the day during potty training week. {Those two go hand-in-hand, I guess.} Learn to appreciate the little things we’ve been blessed with, like overall good health and a roof over our head and a week’s worth of groceries in the refrigerator. Life is good.

As scared as I might be about the in between times in my life, I’m beginning to learn to embrace them rather than hide from them. Because as much as it may feel like an in between, no one ever really knows. What I do know is that all we’re ever promised is today.

So I’m going to carry on make the most of it.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker’s

Five Minute Friday

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