That First Cup {Just Write}

7 Aug

that-first-cup-just-write

Mornings like this are rare. My alarm began softly buzzing at 7am as it normally does, but the kids hadn’t begun to stir yet. Muted light was apparent from behind the blinds in our room as I started to stretch before finally swinging my legs over the bed to drag myself out of it.

Tip-toeing down the stairs, I watched their images flash on the monitor. Still heavy with sleep, neither seemed to notice that I had risen. Good, I thought. Maybe I could have a cup of coffee in peace this morning.

In the kitchen, I put the monitor down on the center island counter so I could wash out the glass carafe of our Mr. Coffee and make a fresh pot. I would have preferred a cafe latte from the Verismo, but we’re out of pods. I heard the shower turn on upstairs as I dumped out the leftover coffee filter from yesterday into the trash and started sudsing up the sponge with dish soap to scrub out the pot.

My mind wanders as I prep the coffee. Tomorrow we’ll be waking up at the beach. I’m anticipating broken sleep as everyone adjusts to borrowed beds and shared rooms for the kids. Despite the forecast of more than fifty percent chance of rain each day we’re there, I’m still looking forward to it. The shore is the shore, rain or sunshine, we’ll still have fun spending time with our friends making memories.

The coffee pot starts to buzz to life, black liquid dripping into the clear carafe, sputtering and collecting in a puddle at the bottom. I open my email while sitting at the island and simultaneously watching the coffee brew. Light spills into the kitchen from the window over the double sink, but no sun is visible today. Just gauzy clouds covering the sky which makes for a drab start to the day.

I’m only able to enjoy ten minutes of writing and three sips of my coffee before my little miss is calling for her mama. I can see her brother begin to shake off sleep as I stand up to go retrieve my baby girl from her crib. That was all the quiet time I’d get for today.

Advertisements

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

What’s Your Definition of Crazy?

18 Jul

When you think of the word crazy, what comes to mind?

Yesterday, my friend Natalie and I were walking down the streets of DC, on our way to see Mary Leaphart’s show about her life with bipolar disorder. As we made our way to the ticket venue, we passed two men on the street, one shouting violently at the other, yelling something about needing to move. It was obvious they called the city sidewalk home, as we could see their belongings piled up next to the man who was sitting on a wool blanket, and there was a good chance one, or both, suffered from a mental illness. I know because I’ve read the statistics.

It broke my heart.

Later, while walking into a restaurant, we were approached by another homeless man, this time asking for money. He was wearing an old, stained jacket, despite the intense, muggy July heat. A woman, dirty and weary, sat on the street corner begging with her eyes, tattered luggage in a heap beside her.

The despair was written on her face, her slumped shoulders spoke her story. Her melancholy eyes will haunt me forever, my soul crying tears of compassion.

 

This is the harsh reality of mental illness and homelessness in our country.

It’s unfortunate that a well-known US brand chose to market themselves by exploiting these serious issues, turning them into a parody, the leading character who they claim as their Chief Generosity Officer, “a brilliant activist” {their words, not mine} who just happened to be plucked off the streets where he was shouting at people walking by. He’s dressed in ill-fitting clothes and looks as if his hair and beard, both overgrown, haven’t been washed in weeks.

Please, enlighten yourself if you haven’t seen the spot yet: http://youtu.be/AUf53_2hGkM

These brushes with homelessness yesterday were ironic, given the conversation I had just hours earlier with Barbara Goodstein, Vonage’s Chief Marketing Officer, regarding their new “Crazy Generous”-themed ad campaign.

You see, the 30-second spot left such a bad taste in my mouth that I sent an email to Vonage on Monday to voice my disappointment and frustration with the commercial.

I wrote them to express how hurt I was by the campaign, given the fact that I live with a mental illness and I know how scary that can be. I cannot imagine having to sort through the voices in your head without any psychiatric care, while sleeping in a cardboard box, no support from family or friends.

I’ve been blessed with an incredible support network, without which, I could easily have ended up on the streets. When I became sick for the first time, I had to resign from my job. It’s painful to think about what could have happened had I not had my husband, family and friends there to help me navigate my way back to healthy. Not to mention the health insurance I had which helped to cover the cost of getting well.

Homeless people with mental illnesses don’t have such luxuries.

Whenever I walk down the streets of a city, I inevitably pass a homeless person and each and every time have the same gut reaction: uneasy pangs of guilt.

 

Why am I the lucky one with a roof over her head and food in the refrigerator?

 

The advocate in me always wants to do something, anything, to help. To help that person get out of the situation they’re in, and into a better one.

The letter was something I thought I could do to help. Or at least I could voice my opinion and make sure I was heard. Besides, I wasn’t the only person who was offended:

whatsyourdefinitionofcrazy

{click to enlarge}

To my surprise, Vonage did respond. I had the opportunity to speak with Barbara Goodstein, yesterday afternoon and I took her up on the chance to discuss the campaign in more detail.

What she told me did not change my opinion and reaction to the campaign. She simply and politely reiterated everything she had explained in her response to my original email. To me, Vonage appears to be backpedaling to justify their creative concept which was intended to show how generous their company is with their communications services.

Their message was lost on me because I couldn’t get past the fact they were using a homeless person who may or may not be battling a mental illness as a lighthearted attempt to deliver their company tag line.

I told Barbara my story of how stigma affected how I shared my story. How I blogged anonymously for the first year and a half because I was afraid of people calling me “crazy” for having suffered a manic break. Four, actually. And how I finally decided to do my part to end the stigma by coming out as myself. Showing my face and using my real name because I’m not ashamed any more.

 

cra·zy {as defined by Dictionary.com}

 [krey-zee]  Show IPA adjective, cra·zi·er, cra·zi·est, noun, plural cra·zies.

adjective

1. mentally deranged; demented; insane.

 

By using the word crazy in their campaign, Vonage has pointedly decided to ignore the fact that the first definition of crazy is exactly what came across via their Chief Generosity Officer character, whether they choose to admit it or not.

Vonage can try as they may to make it look all funny and cute and they can wrap it up with a happy ending, but that isn’t the reality of living on the streets. This ridiculous ad pokes fun at the serious, chronic issue of homelessness and the struggles homeless people have with mental health in this country. By producing this “Chief Generosity Officer” character, they are only adding to the stigma that surrounds mental illness in the U.S.

You want to know what the truth is?

The truth is that there are over 675,000 homeless people in the United States and approximately 45% of those people report mental health problems. About 25% of the homeless population suffers from a serious mental illness.*

And even if you take the mental health component completely out of the picture, Vonage still created a character out of one of the darkest corners of the society we live in. There is nothing generous about downplaying the issue of homelessness.

The sad truth is that most Americans ignore homeless people on the streets, turning their heads to the sight of someone sleeping on a park bench or in a dark corner. The homeless population is invisible to us, not because we don’t care, but because it’s painful to acknowledge it could be us had our life situations played out differently.

What can Vonage and J. Walter Thompson do to apologize for the insensitivity of the campaign?

For a start, they could stop running the ads immediately, cancel the campaign and apologize.

But I’m realistic. I understand they have millions invested here and I’m only one person voicing her opinion. I’m only asking them to have a little compassion.

So here’s a thought. If they really want to be crazy generous, I’d love to see Vonage make a donation to a charitable organization dedicated to changing the way people think about homelessness, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness (www.naeh.org) so they can further their efforts at ending this social problem across our country.

Vonage should admit their lack of foresight by publicly apologizing for trivializing issues as serious as homelessness and mental illness. Individuals who live on the streets are real people with real feelings, emotions, and stories. They didn’t ask to sleep in a flimsy cardboard box or on a rock hard park bench. They ended up homeless for a variety of reasons, but whatever their reason for ending up on the streets, it doesn’t make them any less human than anyone else.

 

Vonage has an opportunity to turn a wrong into a right. It would be crazy if they were to turn their heads instead.

 

*Facts on homelessness were taken from the National Alliance to End Homelessness (www.endhomelessness.org).

The Best Summer Camp Counselor. Ever.

15 Jul

TheBestCampCounselorEverThe best summer camp counselor. Ever.

“Tomorrow I’m sending my kids to a three-night, four-day all-inclusive summer camp for FREE. It’s called “Sleep-away camp at Grandma and Grandpa’s house” and they are super excited. (The kids, that is. My parents are excited too, but are also just a teeny bit nervous that they’ll survive this little experiment.) I, however, have faith that everyone will have an exceptional time.

Including my husband and I who will be home enjoying the peace and quiet.

Sometimes parents just need to take a break from their offspring.”   ….please click over to WhatToExpect.com’s Word of Mom blog to read the rest of my article which I wrote last week. It was just posted today.

Thanks so much for reading my work!

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.

InstaFriday on Saturday

6 Jul

This is my first time linking up with Jeannett over at her blog, Life Rearranged for InstaFriday. (Late, I know. But better late than never, in my book.)

life rearranged

Here are my favorite Instagram photos from our week. If you want to see them all, follow me: bipolarmomlife and be sure to leave a comment with your username so I can follow you. It’s fun!

On Wednesday I picked the first harvest from our deck garden. Not bad for a first pickin’. I can’t wait until the tomatoes start to really explode so my husband can make some of his amazing salsa. I made ratatouille from these veggies, but forgot to take a picture since by the time it came out of the oven, everyone was starving.

Harvest

We had a fun Fourth of July. It was our third time watching our favorite local parade and the kids had a ball waving at the firefighters, marching band, Corvette drivers, and all the other participants.

FourthCollage

After the parade, we went home for lunch and nap time and then headed over to my best friend’s house for a BBQ, sprinkler fun and fireworks after dinner. I made a fun and easy dessert idea I found on Pinterest. It was a wonderful day spent with family and friends and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

GlenEcho

On Friday, Ben finally caught the cold that the kids and I had last week, so he missed out on the puppet show at Glen Echo park. The carousel was dreamy. The weather was gorgeous, and Grandma had packed a picnic, so we enjoyed lunch after the show before driving home.

WorkoutAfter several days of being sick and then indulging over this holiday weekend, I needed to get back to my workout routine. I picked up this new protein mix at the store and used it as my motivation to press play on Insanity today. It worked. Tasted like a healthy chocolate milkshake. I’ll take it. Now if I can only keep the momentum up for the rest of the summer. :)

Do you love Instagram as much as I do? Let’s connect over there and share cool photos.

%d bloggers like this: