Category Archives: Uncategorized

Death to EGO

IMG_8376We are taught in this culture to strive, to push hard against people and obstacles that stand in the way of our desired outcome. The end game is our only game anymore.

This wrung-ladder goal oriented life promises success manifested in material goods we accumulate. We then spend our time maintaining our accumulated material goods, because when our cars are waxed, our counters are marble, our plastic lawns stay green … we reek of success, our egos are filled.

We hand over our children to others to raise, we gracefully hand over our peace to hours of freeway traffic, we hand over our time of fellowship and worship on Sundays to our children’s sports so they so they can begin their own competitive striving, we spend little to no time around dining room tables talking, we resent our spouse because we don’t have time to nurture our promise. We are hurried through life.

Fulfilling Ego costs us, and instead of stopping to see this, instead of recognizing that our nervous system has had enough, we pop a yellow oval into our mouths and we silently become the Xanax nation. We quiet our truth with pharmaceuticals, and become a nation with the highest pill addiction because we do not want to slow down enough to face our own and others frailty, we do not want to feel pain emotionally or physically. Sadly, truth does not change because we don’t want to see it.

We are a culture that is dying on the inside despite the fact that we look better externally. We glamorize our professional athletes, that are propped up on pain killers and steroids and when we’re done with them and they no longer perform to our artificial expectations, we retire them to their broken bodies and minds. We glamorize our celebrities until they age and then we continue to employ them after they cling to silicone, fillers and surgeries. We’re reconstructing the ego, one anti anxiety med, one procedure at a time and we don’t even see it.

Instead, i profess it is time to die to Ego. It is time for our culture to take inventory of who we are and who we want to be, it is time we listen to our own bodies, our children, our spouses and those around us. It is time to embrace the beauty in the quiet stillness of our lives and the lives of those around us. It is time we acknowledge our pain AND begin to take care of ourselves, others and our earth. It is time for us to stop talking and start listening.

The process of dying to ego can be painful but on the other side I promise you, life will hold meaning in a way you have never known or experienced. When you begin to lose EGO, you will truly begin to live and love.

When I stopped being all that I was not, when I stopped propping myself up and let myself fall my eyes were opened.
I began to truly see others, and to accept people; their beauty, their raw emotion. I began to feel with them their glimpses of joy and grief. I began to feel my mother’s embrace of nature and my father’s sacrificial love for me. And because I was not hurried with Ego I found the time to listen, to see, and feel and I feel in love with life again.

If you are hurried, pained, exhausted let Ego go and nurture yourself, your loved ones. Make peace with your creator and love what he has made, find your place in it as nurturer, lover, admirer, he will show you if you allow him. It is a simpler, quieter way to live and be, to find love and life in the details. TRUTH & GRACE my friends ❤️

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Truth & Grace

Christ died for ME last Easter. Every Easter Christ’s resurrection has meaning but March of 2016, I had the notion through my mental illness fogged thinking that THIS Easter I was going to die and rise along with Christ. In this deep depression and hopeless I somehow thought this symbolism would bring less pain to my children and husband.

March 2016, I lay in bed and helped with the Easter church preparation; my daughter’s dress, hair bows, all in place. As my family prepared to go to church I prepared for my death and what I hoped would be my resurrection. Revolver or glock? I was going to free us all from this misery that was me, I was going to lay next Christ that very day WHOLE finally. I prayed that Christ would provide a beautiful woman to cherish my husband and children in ways that I could not.

I share with you the thoughts of suicide so you can see the lack of clarity and rationale that can be stripped away by an organ that is not functioning as it should, whether it be because of genetic neurological wiring and or life circumstances. Doctors can amputate an appendage that no longer works, organs can be transplanted, skin can be grafted but when the brain is damaged or not functioning we are left with much less remedy.

We are left with pills, therapy, hospitalization (which consists of more pills and therapy) and if you’re brave/desperate enough you can do shock therapy. When you’ve done this pill and therapy process for years to no avail it is difficult to accept that what’s being offered isn’t working or is no longer working.

The true reality of this manifests itself in the fact that many commit suicide by shooting themselves in the head …they are taking out the source of pain, the part of them that betrays their sense of reality and robs them of peace. This was my desperate intent that Easter Day, a new beginning for all of us, free of illness.

That Easter Day WAS a new beginning for me and my family and it did come through death … but not my own. That Easter Day I became keenly aware of the fact that blood had already been shed, I just had to mentally reconcile that it was shed for ME. the blood that ran from Christ’s hands and down his wrists covered those that felt the need to cut, that the blood that ran from his head covered those that felt the need to take their own life … i was spared … I was aware of the pain that day that Christ felt both physically and mentally, the isolation. I committed that day to either end my life or try to live again a new way. I chose the latter and began rebuilding my life.

Since March 2016 I have run/walked 1,200 miles, lost 80 pounds, changed my diet, been sober a year, given up pharmaceuticals for Natural/ alternative meds, began studying MINDFULNESS, meditation and began accepting the fact that my family already had a beautiful woman to cherish them and with Christ filling in the gaps … she’s enough. Each one of these changes required commitment, discipline, TRUTH  and GRACE for myself. It required a complete reset of my mind, it was not easy and remains work, but I’m grateful for the opportunity for recovery .. not complete healing, I will always bare this cross but I don’t bare it alone.

I don’t share this for praise, or to solicit any kind of response, it’s really not about me in the end … Anyone can accomplish any of these goals .. I share it to give hope, to those that quietly suffer, to those that want more than to be numb, for those that feel that their burden is too heavy, to those with a chronic illness to which there is no end date … YOU can do this, there is hope, there is peace, there is love for you. Find it in Christ, find it in nature, find it in your family, and find it within yourself … it’s there I promise ❤️

Cannabis and Mental Illness

When you suffer with an ailment long enough, you look for answers that are outside of the box. Sometimes it’s because you don’t agree with the answers you’ve received, or the answers you’ve been given just aren’t enough so you’re willing to venture out in hopes you can put together enough remedy to have some peace in your life. For me, this is the case with cannabis and my mental health struggles.

I have always taken my meds prescribed by my Psychiatrist and have been in out of Psychologists offices for therapy as needed. I’ve read enough self-help books to take out a forest. I’ve always searched for solutions and answers in hopes of living the best quality of life possible, for myself and my family.

I have followed the system and its parodical and for me there has been huge benefit. There have been bumps along the road, and some incredibly hard years, some of it from medication trial and error, some of it from misdiagnosis … (Finally after twenty years, I’m being treated more accurately for Bipolar Disorder), and some of it from not always choosing the healthiest coping skills.

My meds definitely help stabilize my Bipolar Disorder and I’m grateful for that, I’m in a functioning state with little to no mania and occasional depression. The problem is finding the balancing act with my BD meds and my anxiety meds .. While I take both and get some relief, I’m still very anxious a lot of the time. At times it’s manageable and at times it’s not, and I’m at the end of my rope, as it spills over into my mothering, marriage and all aspects of my life.

I began drinking to medicate, a glass of wine over a couple of years became a couple of bottles of wine, long story short it became an ugly thing in my life and almost cost me my family. So, the drinking to excess went away but the anxiety did not.

I had smoked cannabis when I was younger in college on and off recreationally. I could take it or leave it though, it was not really my thing. Twenty years later, when CA went medical legal I decided to get my card and try it for actual medical purposes, specifically my anxiety and insomnia.

I researched it online and asked a few of my doctors about the benefits and harms of mixing cannabis and pharmaceuticals. I got very mixed professional opinions and people’s experiences seemed to run the gamut from some swearing by it and stopping all their meds to others experiencing paranoia and finding no relief. I decided to give it a try.

For me, cannabis, specifically Indica strains have helped calm my anxiety. I don’t believe it is curing anything but it is treating my symptoms. It has taken trial and error like any medication to figure out dosage and strains. I’m not stopping any of my other meds because for me cannabis alone would not be enough. I’m also careful to balance it in my life. I only use it when I need it and usually at night when I’m done with my mothering duties.

I’m not open with everyone about this choice. To some in my life it is a moral mistake, and I’ve lost a few “friends” because of it. I worry about some of the legality of it because I have children, but I closely follow the state law. My Psychiatrist isn’t an advocate or against it. My extended family isn’t thrilled about it but they accept it and I try my best to be respectful of this. My husband is very supportive of it because he has seen first hand the benefit, the peaceful nights I have now, the sleep I get now, I’m more live able.

I share this on my blog because it has made a positive difference in my life. I’m not preaching or saying you should try it, or stop taking your medication .. Please don’t! Any changes you make please do responsibly with the knowledge of a Dr.

I share this on my blog to tell you, the mental health system is there to guide, but it is ok to look outside of it and see what else exists. It is ok to question and seek answers. It’s ok to trust that you know yourself better than anyone and to realize you have to live with yourself … Strengths, aliments and all.

Lastly, I share this on my blog out of intellectual curiosity. I’m curious about others positive or negative experiences with cannabis and mental illness. Feel free to share if you want, I would love to hear your story. Please be respectful though, if cannabis is not your thing, just leave this page without printing your judgement, life is hard enough already. Thank you.

Robin William’s Legacy ISN’T Dictated By his Final Act

July 21, 2015 Robin Williams would have turned 64, sadly he missed his birthday because he lost his battle with Bipolar Disorder. I am grieved that he suffered, that he gave so much to everyone else, brought joy and laughter to children and adults for over thirty years but couldn’t find place of peace within himself.

I’m sad for him, for myself and others that suffer from this unkind disorder. It can bring such energy and unfiltered enthusiasm, an unattainable idealism that makes it hard to thrive under normal means. It can bring one to such places that normalcy is completely without merit, and then swing you to a place of complete darkness and despair. Neither of which, are healthy places to live mentally for any length of time.

I understand the strain of years of this cycle, of this emotional pull to be on top of the world, and to not want to return to the darkness. I believe Robin thrived and made his living off of his manic phases, he entertained us and made us laugh, we loved him when he was in this place that brought us out of ourselves and brought joy to our lives.

He had a gift definitely, and he was able to find a way to use the attributes of BD in a positive way. Sadly, it must have been exhausting both physically and mentally to try to sustain his life in one realm of this disorder. I know he struggled with substance abuse for years, like so many of us with Bipolar Disorder, where I’m sure he was able to numb some of this struggle.

I think perhaps acting became a burden to him when he was depressed and I’m sure relying on it to provide for himself and his family was overwhelming at times, when he had nothing to give, much less sustain himself with. Despite all this, I think he probably had many years of satisfaction vocationally, contributing to other’s lives, making them laugh … one thing I’m sure he wanted for himself.

I wish Robin could have shared his struggles, his other side, the depressed, grieved part of himself. I would have still loved him, and I would like to think others could have handled his honesty, but as I say that I realize that mental health stereotypes still exist and the public eye can be harsh.

To some his suicide was eye-opening, perhaps now they’re able to see that mental illness can affect anyone, it doesn’t discriminate, by wealth, talent or intellect and it can very easily take all of that from you if you don’t take care of yourself. Which is not to say that he wasn’t taking care of himself, he may have been making his best effort. I also know he had physical health problems and financial struggles which I’m sure contributed to his suffering.

Others, took his suicide as an opportunity to self-righteously judge that which they truly don’t understand because it’s never been in their arm’s length. Which saddens me. Mental illness in my life has caused enough pain that I’m able to have empathy for others when they struggle even when it’s with a battle I’m not familiar with. I’m not judging his final act, instead I’m grateful for the legacy he left, R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Anxiety Ridden

At 17, I was diagnosed and hospitalized with depression, at 40 I was diagnosed more accurately with Bipolar Disorder II, but I swear I came out of the womb with anxiety.

Anxiety seems like such a common word. It’s  thrown around with little appreciation of the true impact it can have on some people’s lives.

As a child I worried incessantly and obsessively, by first grade I was seeing a school counselor. I worried about concepts, everyday happenings, and my own performance even during menial, every day activities. My anxiety would manifest itself in the way of stomach problems, I constantly struggled with knots in my stomach, dreading that I would vomit, which would only make this cycle worse because I had vomiting and illness anxiety as well.

I would lay awake at night facing towards my pink  wall, worrying that someone would break in, that spiders would crawl out the of the jagged crack in my wall. I had to always have the covers on, no matter the temperature, so no one could get to me. I have always slept with some light, the thought of opening my eyes and not being able to see was so overwhelming that I just accepted that fact that night lights would be a permanent fixture in my life.

I feared death by the age of 8 and it haunted me. Anytime I heard ambulance sirens in the background my stomach would drop because I was sure one of my parents was in a tragic accident. Our family vacations while growing up consisted of driving to my grandparents’ homes in another state, a drive that took over eight hours. As we drove at night in our baby blue Scout, I willed myself to stay awake because I was sure we would be killed in a horrid car wreck and I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my parents. I never vocalized this concern to my parents, but it weighed on me as I would watch my younger sister peacefully sleep the whole trip. And camping was a nightmare, as fear and anxiety, always worse at night would haunt the little sleep I was able to get. I could not get out of my mind the idea that a bear would kill us or that there were spiders crawling all over me. My poor Mother would trek with me down to the campground bathroom about six times a night as I struggled with stomach aches and swore I was going to vomit. I could find no comfort in my little red sleeping bag with my ever dimming flashlight.

Living in the Midwest as a child, storms were another area of extreme stress to me. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, too much snow, cracking ice, etc.   I would creep into my parents room and make a bed on the floor and try my best to stop the thoughts of lightening coming through my window and killing me.

I pondered the idea of what an eternity was in relation to death at the age of 10. I became preoccupied with the idea of the concept, and not until I became a Christian did I find some comfort in the grandness of that allotment of time.

As an adult with life experience I have the wisdom now to alleviate many of my childhood fears and anxiety. But adulthood has presented its own set of challenges in regards to the big events in my life and the daily struggles.

The pregnancy and birth of my first son were extremely difficult and the fact that there were some medical issues just impounded that fear. From the moment I saw my beautiful son I worried for him. I cried when he cried, I cried when I couldn’t soothe his tears because I worried that there was something wrong. My son literally slept on my chest for the first year of his life. I wanted to feel and hear his little heart beating because I swore he would die in his sleep and if that happened I needed to be there to stop it or at least know that his death was peaceful. This was an incredibly hard time in my life because I was also experiencing post-partum depression and my son had colic … not a good combination but with God’s help we made it through.

I have spent many hours in prayer, trying to rationalize with God that I love my babies and I NEED him to protect them in a way that I can’t, I want reassurance that they will all out live me. I struggled when my first born started school, and thus began the habit of praying every morning while driving to school for each of my children’s protection, I could leave them at school knowing God was with them watching over them. After ten years I still do our morning prayer on the way to school, for my own well-being.

Anxiety effects my driving, I have a whole bunch of fears that generate in my mind, I especially hate semi-trucks, mountain roads, bridges, and anything that in any way can hinder my control over getting to my destination. I have to block out the images I see in my mind as I drive at certain times or it’s debilitating. Did I mention I hate flying? I developed a two Bloody Mary prescription before I board any plane, it seems to take the edge off and I have a praying ritual, which takes about 10 minutes and is a must before the plane takes off.

I have anxiety about entertaining, which still haunts me. I have an expectation that things need to be a certain way and then I completely loss myself in the anxiety of the details. Just this last weekend I threw my son and his baseball team their end of the season party. I started planning it a couple of weeks ahead of time and of course that’s when the anxiety started as well. The anxiety always grows as the event approaches. I told myself that this time I wouldn’t let the anxiety get to me, I prayed that it wouldn’t, I was able to sleep the night before,  but sure enough it got to me.

By morning, I screamed at my children as they tried to help me with helium filled escaping balloons, and wind-blown streamers. Tears ran down my face as I realized I had bought the wrong shaped table clothes. Nothing seemed like enough, I wasn’t happy with any of the efforts I had previously made for the party. I wanted it to be more, I wished I had more money to put into it, etc. etc. Logically, I realize of course that this is ridiculous, that a bunch of twelve year old boys could give a rat’s ass about tablecloths or steamers, all they want to do is swim, run around and beat the crap out of each other but at that moment there is no logic just panic, tears and anger. And sadly, this is pretty typical of what happens to me anytime I entertain.

This is my struggle with anxiety, even while taking anxiety medication. I have read a lot on anxiety, been in and out of counseling over the years. I have tried escaping it, tried drowning out the constant hum in my mind of all that I can’t control with alcohol which only landed me in AA for a time.

I currently take two medications; a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med and I have a MMJ recommendation so at night or times of extreme anxiety I will medicate with MJ as well. I have three medications circulating through my body and mind at any given point just to get me through the day,  just so I can function like a NORMAL person.

I haven’t given up on the notion of internal peace, and there are moments of every day that I can find some of it. I’m willing to embrace those moments and the fact that despite the anxiety I feel I have been blessed with a good life, a beautiful family, and a faith that keeps me going.

Take Your Meds

I just recently read an article on FB about a 29 year old who lost her battle with mental illness (specifically Bipolar Disorder) and I grieved for the loss, both as a parent and as a person who struggles with BD.

The FB post written by her mother described this beautiful girl who was diagnosed while in college after experiencing a psychotic break. She went on to be diagnosed, hospitalized and then medicated. She did this cycle a few times over a couple of years and then tragically took her own life after deciding she no longer needed medication.

It saddens me that so many with Bipolar Disorder lose their struggle with the illness because of their resistance to medication. I understand the draw to go back, to continue on with the self you know, in the life you recognize, and I have had to do some grieving and soul searching and sacrificing and recreating of myself but I don’t see any other way.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have too much to lose if I don’t take care of myself, and live a more balanced life. I have a husband and children depending upon me, to be the best me I can be and that’s what I’m choosing.

My medication has changed me, it’s undeniable. I’m more flat, in my emotions, and my personality. I’m not as much fun or drama, some of my quick wit, sarcastic humor and loud mouth are gone. I’m more reserved, in my approach to life, to friends, in my openness, and I’m less social.   I’m a little slower mentally, tired a lot more, and sadly gaining weight because I don’t have the energy or desire most of the time to exercise. This doesn’t seem like much, but knowing yourself and attributes and then having them change after forty years is definitely an adjustment.

I stick with my medication regiment because despite the fact that I miss parts of my old self, I just can’t do the scattered chaos anymore. I am much calmer now, I yell less, I cry less. I am a more patient mother and much more loving wife.   The medication helps me relax more, emotionally and mentally, it has slowed down some of my OCD and perfectionism and has left me with more acceptance and less judgement for myself and others.

I wish I could have it all, but I realize with any kind of illness you have to pick and choose what you can and can’t live without. Since being medicated, I haven’t had the extent of mania or depression I used to have, no more days in bed struggling to function, and no more manic frenzy, crazy driving and racing thoughts of running away.

The days are more quiet and calm, I’m more of a homebody now, less inclined to be social at the drop of a hat. It’s a slower pace of life than I’m used to. No more jumping around mentally from vocational, entrepreneurial and college idea to idea. I’m settling in. To myself, to my life. I’m ok with letting go of my old frantic being that was constantly evolving in my mind. No more rush of mania to make me feel inflated, I realize now that the mania isn’t any more real than the depression that haunted me, I have to dwell in the middle ground like others. Actually, I don’t HAVE to but I NEED to for my own sanity and for my family’s semblance.

My point being, my life isn’t perfect with meds, but it’s more of a life. Please take your medicine. Don’t let this monster kill you, because on your good days, the deception is your better and you don’t need the medication. Don’t lie to yourself, be willing to see that this is a life-long illness that ebbs and flows, it will grow old with you, but let it, treat it, so you get the opportunity to have an end that is fitting. Take your illness and recovery seriously.

I know there are some that medication isn’t working or hasn’t worked in the past and my heart and prayers go out to them. I pray that they don’t give up in the meantime, that God gives them enough hope to keep them going and that there will be an end to their pain with some sort of advancement within the science and medical community that helps them.

I pray that prayer for all that suffer under the stronghold of mental illness, I pray for more recovery, more joy, and more sustainable well and long lived lives especially for those that are young and just starting out on this journey. Please take your medicine.

Truth Teller

I came out to my friends on FB about my Bipolar Diagnosis, to mixed reviews as you can imagine. (If you want to see the exact post I put on FB you can check out my post called My Secret Kills).

I’m sure my post made people uncomfortable, it caused a stir. I have a large variety of friends on FB, some who know me well and others not as well. My close friends, some who I’ve known over twenty plus years offered kind words, support and prayers for myself and my family.

My more casual friends that I know through sports, or local social events, commented less, because I’m sure they just didn’t know what to think or say. At first it was hard to make peace with the fact that I just pushed a status button and let people see into the depth of my life. I would see them in the grocery store and on the baseball field and almost immediately I would feel embarrassed or awkward and question the sanity of my choice to reveal. And now some time has gone by, and I’ve made peace with it, the fall out being what it is.

I had many private messages from others with mental health diagnoses, some I knew of and some I did not, because they were quietly suffering as well. Others told me they thought I was brave and that they were proud to be my friend.

A few people out right laughed and mocked my post, of course not to my face but behind my back. I’m even ok with that, because it reveals to me where they’re at in their lives. Some people are not ok with truth, and they hide away from it because honesty can be painful at times, it can make you see things about yourself that aren’t pleasant and need some work. I’m ok with them not wanting to live honestly, but I want no part of it, I’ve worked too hard to deal with reality to live anywhere but.

In all this, I remember why I chose to come out. I was hoping to bring awareness to mental illness, I wanted people to see a face with it, to make it real, to make people realize they know someone who suffers from mental illness. That it just doesn’t look a certain way, this illness can take on anyone, at any economic level, any social status, or religion, any intellectual level, either sex, any race, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

I wanted to create a place where people could be real, and not have to hide behind the illusion of some perfect life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see pictures of my friends and their families, I’m ok with others success and joy, but it also cuts away at my heart when I’m struggling and it appears that other’s lives flow so smoothly. I just wanted a balance, I want to know my friends in truth, their joy and pain.

Being a truth teller has opened a door with my children. My 12 year old has now heard open discussions about Bipolar Disorder and he has seen his mother struggle but also strive to get well. He has a better understanding of real life, and the real work it involves. Though to him it isn’t a total surprise because we’ve always been open about his Asperger’s syndrome and so he knows there is no shame in honesty, in learning about and accepting one’s self. And I’m glad for him, and pray that I’ve saved him some time in embracing himself and his God given strengths and weaknesses.

My friendships feel more authentic now, I feel more authentic now. I don’t have the emotional energy to pretend to be someone I’m not, and I don’t care to. I’m starting to feel ok in my own skin, and I’m ok embracing others that are hurting, struggling with illness, with life. I’m not uncomfortable when people confide in me about their personal life. I don’t feel a need to fix them, or their situation, I just try to sit with them and listen and be present. Isn’t that what most people want in a friend anyway? It’s what I want.

I talk to my real friends, about our real lives and it’s freeing, to not be alone, to know that we all struggle on different levels with different things. I feel like struggling with mental illness has almost given me a window into others souls, not in any spiritual or magical sense, just that I can look at others and sometimes see pain in them despite the smile they put on their face to make others comfortable. It’s a hard earned gift, as is empathy, but it’s real, its truth. These days I almost prefer the honesty of AA to church, because nobody hides behind their sin, their struggle, it’s open and real.

I love truth now, I love the grace that goes with it, and freedom that it allows. I love the real acceptance it can provide for myself and others. My real friends and I accept, truth and grace. I hope that you can find this in your life and embrace it as I have.

Privacy Laws & Disclosure

In response to the tragic German Wings copilot that crashed his plane intentionally into the French Alps.

I have always been a big believer in patient privacy rights, especially when it comes to mental health, due to the stigmas that it can carry. It’s hard enough when you struggle to function with Bipolar Disorder or some other diagnosis, much less live with your spread sheet of mistakes. There are credit reports, resumes, school transcripts and broken relationships that go before you in any new attempt, and the explanations that need to follow. It’s hard to have to start at a deficit and explain your way into credibility.

To make available another level of very personal medical information is almost damning, it’s a hurdle that many would not be able to overcome. An obstacle I would not want to have to add to any already challenging list of self-disclosure. The thought of having to explain to a complete stranger, for example a potential employer about my struggle with mental illness in order to justify an opportunity seems unfathomable and writhed with discrimination.

It is sure damnation, when an employer has two candidates in front of him and one has to disclose a mental health issue, you can be sure a red flag will go up.  To think at that point that it wouldn’t professionally be held against him, is complete naivete. We tell ourselves that an employer in that situation wouldn’t be biased but human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t want to give opportunity for discrimination unless it was out necessity. I want to be judged solely on my professional skills, and aptitudes, on my performance at past jobs not on the medication I take twice a day.

My “mental health” record would start when I was 16 years old, a junior in high school suffering with depression/bipolar disorder while my parents were going through a divorce, oblivious and too self-absorbed to notice. At 17 and still struggling I checked myself into Charter Hospital because I wanted to get better, I wanted help.   If privacy laws dictated that my hospitalization be public record and required that I report it would I have chosen the same route?  Perhaps not. Without privacy, individuals and families will be forced to suffer quietly in their homes and languish away any future potential.

There are just too many stereotypes to over-come with mental illness and not enough information in place to justify changing privacy laws. People hear a diagnosis like Bipolar Disorder and their mind instantly flashes to the latest tragedy they’ve seen where someone suffering from this illness lost their life. Meanwhile in suburban-ville many are living among you with this very illness, unnamed but successfully mothering, wiving, coaching, educating, and working. Some of them make the best teachers, nurses, writers, coaches, etc. and you don’t know or need to know their personal strife to benefit from the services or professionalism they provide.

Even as I claim and justify my point, I am left feeling like there is still a matter left unaddressed, there are still innocent lives that need to be protected. Are there certain vocations where there needs to be an exception?  I would argue perhaps, but it is such a slippery slope.

I would argue that there are two specific situations in which medical disclosure should be considered mandatory. One being, professions that require responsibility  for others lives, such as carrying a weapon, maneuvering large machinery or vehicles, some hospital work, etc. Secondly, I would argue that in these professions documented psychosis be something shared with employers. I never like to take anyone’s freedom and privacy away, especially when it’s an undeserved action and sadly no fault of the patient, but unfortunately innocent life must be protected when certain probabilities are in known existence. Odds are something we can only afford to take into account for ourselves, but not for others.

I argue this point, not just as someone who suffers from mental illness, I argue this as a parent who grieves for the children lost and all of the victims aboard that plane, including the co-pilot who might have also been saved from this tragedy had someone recognized and reported that he needed to retire his wings. Not in punishment or retribution but in care and for the benefit of others and himself. Praying for all of the families involved.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I was 9 years old my Mom bought me a cross stitch sampler, which read, “Bloom where you are planted.” It hung over my bed for years in a little gold etched frame. And now at 41, I finally understand its meaning.

When I was young and things were not going my way, I would change my setting. This faulty theory of mind, encapsulated my twenties.

In my twenties I rented over twenty-five different places, sometimes I had a roommate, sometimes I lived alone. I rented apartments, rooms in homes, and even a trailer once. That’s approximately two moves a year for ten years, but some years were more sporadic than others. Some of these moves consisted of large black trash bags thrown into the back of my little Toyota hatchback.

My little red Toyota Tercel took me and my belongings up and down the coast of California, searching for what I couldn’t find internally. At this time most of my friends were working towards their futures; attending college, getting married, starting a family, growing professionally, but I was still running.

I attended five different community colleges in five different cities. And for all this effort I have about 45 units to my name and a trail of “W’s” when I made the effort to drop, and “F’s” when I didn’t.

My work record was slightly better, some jobs I stayed at for years, but some I dropped so quickly I didn’t even have enough courtesy to let them know, I was a no show. A disappearing act when there was too much pressure because I had convinced myself that it was this job, this school, this relationship, it was never me.

I’ve carried the lie. I liked the idea of new beginnings, a new apartment, new school, and new job, all new with possibility. The problem of course being the one constant, me. Me, not wanting to deal with the increasing responsibilities I committed to, me not wanting to deal with me. Wanting to think that in a different setting there wouldn’t be such struggles, and sometimes this is true …. But they are just replaced with new struggles.

So often when I am unhappy with my setting, with my circumstances … it is really me I’m unhappy with. It’s me that’s struggling internally and after all of these years I have to admit it to myself.

This is true of everything in life. Every relationship, job, school setting, living situation. None of it is easy, none of it is perfect and if I want it to work, I have to invest in it, I have to invest in myself, despite the heartache and challenges that come with it.

Being married and having children forced me to stop this unhealthy pattern of fleeing. I’ve had to learn to be still, to not run. I’d like to say it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t it. It was painful as hell and down-right ugly at times. I spent some of these years drinking to escape mentally what I couldn’t physically. I needed time away from the overwhelming feelings of it all being too much and not feeling like I was enough.

I’ve done some growing up, some investing in myself, through therapy, through medication, through learning new strategies, through failure, through Christ’s grace. I know now, If I want anything meaningful, purposeful with depth in my life, I have to stay and fight and give it my best effort, even when I want to flee, even when I want to start over.

It means looking at myself and being honest with my own brokenness and being willing to work on it in small chunks, it means having the courage to change, and to apologize when need be. It means spending less time avoiding and more time mentally present in my own life, in present day life and not the mirage of some other location, some other person, some other time, etc.

It means doing the best I can in the present. With the husband I have, the children God has given me, in the home I currently live, in the church I attend filled with other sinners like myself. It means facing Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, AA, and other labels and challenges that I’ve been presented with. It means not acting on my feelings but instead admitting they exist. It means trying my best to love what I’ve been given. Embracing what’s mine and drawing close to imperfection.

I’ve taken the old stitchery and its gold frame out of a box in the back of my closet and hung it in my daughter’s room. I’m praying that it doesn’t take her forty years to understand its meaning. I’m praying that her seeing her mother stay and struggle will give her the courage to face life and all of its uncertainties and to not run but to stay firm and planted in what’s beautifully and innately her own.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.