Five Years Of Bipolar: On More To Come

Five years ago, on March 18, 2016, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This diagnosis came after a very serious manic episode that resulted in a hospitalization. It came after a week of insomnia and scattered thoughts and concerning ramblings.

Every year when March 18 rolls around, I pause and reflect. I stop and think about how my life has changed. Before my diagnosis, I was living in Nashville, a new city that I was growing to call home. Before my diagnosis, I was on the path to work in the nonprofit field. Before my diagnosis, I struggled with pride and ego and thought I had my entire life together.

For the longest time after I was diagnosed, especially during the thick of devastating depression, I could not help but always be aware of my diagnosis. My mood, plans, and friendships changed. My life changed. I could not help but mourn and grieve the life I used to know and fear what was to come.

When I built new friendships, I feared coming out as bipolar and wondering how they would respond. When I started to think about law school, I feared how bipolar would affect my studying. When I considered dating, I feared no one would want to be with someone who struggled so deeply.

But these days, my diagnosis is not at the forefront of my mind.

My mind is much more occupied with other things. When I build new friendships, I want to know how to invest and love that person deeply. When I look back at law school, I am thankful for what it was when it was, and how my mental illness did not affect my studying. When I consider dating someone, I am prayerful about opening up about my illness, and no longer live in fear.

Getting to where I am today–embracing my illness and sharing my journey–did not come easy. It took time and energy and tears and therapy. It took medication and emotional support and prayer. But here I am today, thankful for where I am and how I’m built, thankful for how I got here and eagerly looking forward to where I will be.

My disorder has taught me there is always more to come.

When I was first diagnosed, I feared my life was over: that I would lose all of my friends, that I’d never fall in love, and I would not be able to fully function again.

But that was hardly the case. The first couple of years were tough and excruciating and painful. The first couple of years were filled with devastating depression and hopeless thoughts and extreme anxiety.

But there was more to come. The past couple of years have been lovely and life-giving and liberating. They have been encouraging and beautiful and wonderful.

I never thought I would have a job. I never thought I would be able to handle it. I never thought I would get into law school. I never thought I would mentally be able to manage the workload. I never thought I’d fall in love, make new friends, enjoy living in Dallas.

But I did! And I’m glad!

I’m glad that Jesus Man loves me. I’m glad that he provides a path for me. I’m glad he hasn’t left me despite my changing moods and fickle heart.

I’m glad that law school happened, even though I didn’t finish. I’m glad to work at Summit and cultivate community there. I’m glad to make new friends and keep the old.

Dear Reader & Friend,

Whatever you are going through now, whether you are at the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I hope you know there is always more to come. There is always goodness and hope and joy around the corner.

My mental health journey proves this to be true. If you are well, be glad in it. If you are struggling, know there is hope.

I’m rooting for you!

2020: A Year In Review

It was a weird and hard year to say the least.

Honestly, that is a major understatement: it was a wild, wacky, devastating, life-changing, year. From start to finish, it was a long twelve months.

This was the year of COVID-19 and heightened systemic racism, but it was also the year I started law school and became a dog mom. This year I wrestled with singleness, but also gained wonderful friendships. This year I was out of a job for nearly two months, but I eventually returned to the climbing gym–a job I absolutely love!

This year I was reminded of the intermingling between joy and sorrow, love and loss, mountains and valleys. I was reminded Jesus is good and loyal and loving toward us no matter our struggles, battles, or hardships. I was reminded that giving while we grieve helps even while we hurt.

2020 had its highs:

  • Getting into and starting law school!–the journey to becoming an attorney has been filled with ups and downs, but I am so grateful that I committed to pursuing this dream.
  • Becoming a dog mom!–my sweet pup Jack has changed my life for the better–his unconditional love and never-ending cuddles fill up my heart.
  • Learning how to lead climb– and continuing to practice this special type of climbing. Saying no to fear and yes to bravery and yes to trying new and hard things!
  • Celebrating one year on desk at Summit–a job I enjoy and excel at and love! And landing a promotion over the summer was a wonderful surprise.

2020 had its lows:

  • Getting rejected by plenty of law schools (but ultimately winding up at the one that was best for me was a high).
  • Moving back home–I love my family and am grateful for their generosity, but I miss my alone time and being messy! Hehe.
  • Coping with systemic racism–I live a very privileged and blessed life, but I know that is not the case for every American (or person, for that matter). It’s been a learning and growing and mourning process, it’s been an eye-opener to consider my colored friends and their daily struggles and hardships.
  • Surviving COVID-19–just like everyone else, it’s been a hard and life-changing year: having to adapt to wearing a mask everywhere, to staying at home as much as possible, to taking virtual classes.

Despite this weird year, I feel blessed.

I feel blessed to have made new friends at the gym and welcomed so many new faces into our climbing community. I feel blessed to have built new relationships, but kept the life-giving ones. I feel blessed to have consistency in my life: with Jesus, with my family, with my well mood.

I feel blessed to have learned and grown and refined who I am. I feel blessed to have loved and lost. I feel blessed to have grown in strength and independence during a year of singleness. I feel blessed to have continued writing stories and sharing my life and learning more about content creation.

It’s been an odd and life-changing year, but I am grateful and thankful and happy and whole! I hope that despite the lows and recognizing the highs, you feel grateful and thankful and happy and whole, too!

But if you do not, I hope you know you are not alone in sadness and struggles. You are loved, you are treasured, you are a delight in the Lord’s eyes. Go in peace and love, go in grace and mercy, and may you have a better 2021.

Come Together: On Celebration & Mourning

There is a lot happening right now, lots of emotions swirling around.

Some people are anxious and terrified of coronavirus. Some people are angry and infuriated by systemic racism in our country. Some people are sad, some people are mad, some people are feeling both, some people are feeling neither.

Responding to both the pandemic and heightened racism is a lot for me to process.

I feel anxious and overwhelmed regarding the pandemic. I feel a righteous anger and undeniably upset about white supremacy.

I believe there is a divine mingling between joy and sorrow.

Growing up, I used to think I had to be happy all of the time. I used to think sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. were bad emotions. But through plenty of therapy and many life lessons, I have come to appreciate my feelings–all of them and for all reasons and seasons.

Maybe it is because of my mood disorder, or maybe it’s just because I am a human, but sometimes in the sweetest of moments I cannot neglect a feeling of sadness and melancholy, too.

For example, leaving my adult job and starting a position at the climbing gym was perhaps the most bold and bittersweet decision I have made to date. I was excited to try something new, to pursue a passion, to leave a toxic situation. But at the same time, I was sad to leave familiarity, to close a chapter, to end an era.

These days, I think there almost has to be some bitterness simultaneously mixed in with sweetness. We cannot fully appreciate the highest of highs without experiencing the lowest of lows. We cannot feel pure delight without knowing utter sorrow.

Will you celebrate and mourn with me?

Advent is a season of hope and expectation: hoping and expecting a Savior to be born, hoping and expecting a King. But it is also a time of longing and craving: longing and craving our Savior to return; longing and craving peace on earth as it is in heaven.

The holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, but also a time we miss a loved one’s face at the dinner table or around the Christmas tree.

I hope you feel delight in this season, I hope you feel peace and excitement. But if you do not, or if you do not entirely, I hope you know it’s ok to feel sadness, too. It’s ok to feel anxious and to struggle.

Let’s come together. Let’s build each other up, not break each other down. Let’s mend our hearts, heal our pains, and celebrate and mourn together.

A Thankful & Delighted Heart: On Non-Plans & Law School

I’m going to law school.

Let me say it again and say it louder: I AM GOING TO LAW SCHOOL!!!! Four years ago in Nashville, I decided I wanted to pursue a law degree. For the past three years, I battled debilitating depression and discouraging anxiety. I had mood swings and low dips and dark, dark moments. It was hard for me to dream and plan for my future.

Last year (and really all of 2020), I miraculously felt healed in a lot of ways. My medication finally kicked in and I have only faced a handful of depressed days since. It truly has been the biggest and most surprising blessing.

So I decided to go for it! I took the leap of faith, bought some LSAT study books, took the test (twice), did okay on the test (twice), and applied for schools. And here we are, with my dream and plan unfolding right before my eyes, as I begin classes in just over a month.

Quite literally nothing went according to plan.

In undergrad, I never planned to go to law school. I never planned to veer off from my degree and career path in public relations. I never planned to move back home to Dallas so soon.

Post-graduate degree, I never planned to have bipolar disorder and struggle on and off and on again with it. When I began to dream about law school, I never planned for it to take me three years to take action and four years to finally attend.

And even going to law school now, I didn’t plan to stay in Dallas. I didn’t plan to move back home with the parents (again), and I didn’t plan to attend UNT Dallas.

But here we are!

Even though nothing has gone to plan, I am eager and excited and over the moon at seeing this dream come to fruition. It has been a rewarding and humbling and downright giddy experience. My poor little brain was pushed, pulled, and stretched mentally as I studied for the test, wrote personal statements, and applied for schools.

Lately, I have prayed for a grateful and delighted heart. In all honesty, I am not too thrilled to go back with living with my family. I love them dearly and treasure their relationships, but I know the dynamics of being an adult at home will be difficult. And I am not too thrilled to stay in Dallas. I love this city and it will always be home to me, but I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and fly.

But here we are! I am trying to be thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, for parents who are generous enough to welcome me into their home, for a city that houses a community I cherish.

I am trying to be delighted at the way these non-plans have unfolded, to be delighted in that The Lord has been so gracious to me during this incredible journey of chasing a dream I feared would never happen.

So here I go!

It’s just little ole me with a big-hearted dream and a big-hearted plan to do big things and love in big ways. It’s just little ole me ready and waiting for good things to happen this year, my very first year of law school and my second time around living at home since returning to Dallas.

I am hopeful and expectant and giddy and excited! I am nervous and anxious and scared and intimidated. But it will be a wonderful journey, and I am just grateful and delighted to jump headfirst into it.

Get Up & Follow: On Grace That Moves

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear?

I know I have.

When I first moved back from Nashville and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I faced crippling fear and anxiety. Afraid I would always be depressed. Anxious that I would never be able to feel a sense of normalcy again. Afraid I would always be alone in this fight. Anxious I would be stuck facing intense mood swings and manic episodes for the rest of my life.

And for a long time, my fear and anxiety won. For a long time, I just sat in my room and wept myself to sleep every night, because I just did not see any good coming out of such a devastating life change.

I’m not afraid anymore.

It was not overnight, and it certainly took time and prayer and encouragement, but I’m not afraid anymore–at least not in the same way I used to be. It took months and months. It took prayers upon prayers. It took lots of crying, lots of therapy, lots of setbacks, but I’m not afraid or anxious about my disorder today.

The other day I read my morning devotional, New Morning Mercies, and it really spoke to me. It began by saying this, “We have a grace of empowerment. So get up and follow.” 

And it also said, “You have been granted by the very same grace all that you need to be what God has called you to be and to do the things God has called you to do in the place where he has put you.”

Now those are some words I needed to hear.

When I look back at my past, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. I never would have chosen to suffer from a mood disorder, I never would have chosen to move back to Dallas and live with my parents again for a year.

But God’s grace moves! His grace is kind to us and gives us exactly what we need and when we need it. Even though it is an everyday challenge and obstacle, God chose for me to have bipolar disorder. He chose for me to return to Dallas. He chose for me to share my mental health journey as an encouragement and light to others.

I feel hopeful and expectant of the future.

There are plenty of challenges and obstacles that lie ahead, but as I begin law school (finally!!) and move back home with my parents again, I know good things lie ahead. I know school will be hard and demanding, I know relationships with my family may be tested.

But I also know that God’s grace has been kind to me as I take major steps in becoming an attorney. God’s grace has relieved me of major depression and empowered me to pursue this longtime dream. God’s grace has given me the best support system and the best opportunities to keep pressing on, even when times were hard, even when I felt hopeless of the future.

Dear friends, it is okay if you feel a little afraid and anxious–that just means you’re human, that just means times may be tough right now. But please, please do not forget that God’s grace moves, God’s grace calls us to be where we are and empowers us to pursue big dreams and do big things and love others in big ways.

I know His grace is sufficient for you, because it has been sufficient for me. I know His grace loves you in an unfathomable way, because I myself have been left speechless. So get up and follow! Let’s get up and go! Goodness lies ahead, and God’s grace endures.

Four Years Of Bipolar: On Hope + Expectation

Commissary

I was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago.

Four years!! That is four years of all sorts of mood swings, all sorts of both valley and mountaintop moments. That is four years of on-and-off depression and mostly-off manic moments (phew!).

My mental health journey has certainly been that: a journey.

Years and years ago, a mentor of mine Claire told me that my life is like a tapestry, this wonderful, brilliant, beautiful grandeur of a thing. She said that the hardest moments, the moments of doubt and weakness and trial, will only be a blip, a small stitching within an incredible, grandiose piece of artwork.

And she was right.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over.

I was afraid I would struggle with severe, debilitating depression the rest of my life. I was afraid of losing friendships and loved ones because they would not understand, they would not be able to empathize with my darkest lows.

I was afraid I would have to give up on my dreams, that the reality of bipolar would just keep me in the pits. I was afraid I would never fall in love, because who could love someone who was so unstable?

My fears were unfounded.

Yes, I have struggled with depression on and off and on again, but the past couple years have been surprisingly and wonderfully magnificent, practically depression-free. Most of my friendships have only strengthened as dear ones have stepped into my sadness with me, coming alongside me in the valley.

I have pursued my dreams harder and fiercer than I ever did before: chasing after this law school goal, taking the LSAT, actually following through with applications. I even fell for a guy who in turn fell for me for most of 2019. It was the most delightful surprise, and though we moved on, I am still abundantly thankful for what it was when it was.

I guess one of the biggest takeaways is this: goodness always lies ahead.

I have a lot of hope and expectation for the future. I have a lot of eagerness and readiness for what is to come. I know Jesus Man is good to me even during the darkest times, and I know His Father will surprise me with the best of things time and time again.

I know there are plot twists and turns and trials coming, too. I know the valleys loom ahead even though I don’t want them to — no one wants them to, after all. I know there will be moments of doubt and fear and weakness and mourning.

But there will also be times of joy and gladness and radiance. There will also be times of gratefulness and a heart that is overwhelmed with love and grace and utter peace. There will also be delight in its purest form as I give thanks to God Above as I am wrapped up in His merciful kindness.

So my friends, be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter what trials and tribulations you face, they are but a small blip in the grand tapestry that is your life. It may not feel like it now, but this too shall pass.

Be encouraged that you are not alone in your hardships or suffering, but instead remember you have a village of friends and loved ones who care for you, ones who will gladly come alongside you in the valley.

And lastly, be encouraged that good times and a hopeful future do lie ahead, no matter what your life may look like now: up, down, or in-between.

Hand It Over: On Giving Daily Anxiety To Jesus

We have a lot to be anxious about these days.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected each individual in different ways: people are losing their jobs, losing their health, losing their feeling of security. People are worried and they have good reason, because this is a very serious situation that has taken over our world and disrupted our livelihoods.

When I talk to my friends about the situation, a word that is commonly used to describe how we feel is “anxious.”

We say things like:

  • “I’m anxious about getting coronavirus or unknowingly giving it to someone I love.”
  • “I am anxious about going to the grocery store.”
  • “I am anxious about losing my job.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole situation has left me feeling afraid, nervous, weary, insecure, lost, unsettled. In many ways I have felt shocked, in other ways I have felt numb.

The other day I stumbled upon a sweet reminder.

1 Peter 5:7 says this:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Let’s hand our worries over to Jesus.

Jesus can take them, he can handle them, he loves to love us and he loves to take on our burdens. He cares for us deeply and radically and unconditionally, and he can uphold any anxiety we may struggle with or feel.

It is through his grace and mercy that we can find a radical peace and rest for our anxious, unsettled hearts. It is through his grace and mercy that we can approach him on our knees crying out for a sense of comfort and security during these uncertain times.

These truths calm me.

The truth of God’s love and goodness and ever-kindness calm me. The truth of His loyalty to His children, His pursuit of their hearts, His gentleness to them make me feel less overwhelmed and more at ease.

We can rest on these character traits of The Lord, the promises He makes, the sovereignty of His kingdom. We can rest on His love, His goodness, His faithfulness. It is time to hand our burdens over to Him, for He cares for us.

Hold Onto Hope: On Easter Sunday

Lately I have felt pretty hopeless.

With all of the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, it is easy for me to feel hopeless because I can’t change/control/fix the situation. I can’t come up with a cure. I can’t tell you when social distancing will be over. I can’t heal those who have the virus. I can’t leave my home when I want. I can’t magically start my jobs up again.

I can’t do a lot right now, and it makes me feel overwhelmed and weak and powerless. It makes me feel doubtful and anxious and insecure. I’m sad, I’m down, I’m at a loss.

Ironically, this upcoming Sunday is all about hope.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, is focused on the hope of Jesus Christ, a hope that is radical and unchangeable. When Christ died on the cross, he left the disciples and his family and his followers devastated and confused and empty. He left behind people feeling doubtful and anxious and insecure.

But behold! He rose three days later, Easter Sunday. He rose again and proved he was the Messiah, the Savior, a being that we can put our hope and trust and faith in.

It isn’t every day a man lives and dies and lives again for you. It isn’t every day your Savior rises from the grave and gives physical, tangible, undeniable evidence of his love for you. That is why this Sunday is so special, amazing and unbelievable.

I can’t do much these days, but I can trust in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Even though there is so much I cannot control, so much I question and doubt these days, I can stand firm in my faith. I can seek out those still, quiet and serene moments with my Heavenly Father. I can press into Truths found in scripture, I can lean into His promises.

Hope found in Christ gives us joy and peace. Hoping in Christ means I can find little joys every day, even when quarantine is hard and makes my heart heavy. Hoping in Christ means I can have peace with all that is going on, even if it is a lot to take in.

Sometimes it is hard to hope in Jesus Man. I can’t see him or hear him, sometimes I can’t even feel him near me. But the evidence of his life, death and resurrection show his love for me. They give me reason to hope. And I hope they give you a reason to hope, too.

It Takes A Village: On The Value Of Deeply-Rooted Community

I used to feel awfully alone.

When I first returned to Dallas from Nashville, I felt awfully alone. Not the kind of loneliness that comes and goes with varying moods or circumstances, but the kind of isolation and desertion that leaves you feeling empty and saddened.

Only a handful of my hometown and college friends were also living in Dallas at the time. As I struggled with severe depression and anxiety, the symptoms of shame and false guilt caused me to withdraw even further away from people who loved me.

But these days, I feel awfully loved.

After three+ years of living in Dallas, I feel awfully loved. Not the kind of vague kindness between civil acquaintances, but the kind of radical and reckless and over-the-moon compassion that makes you feel full and thrilled.

Today I am overwhelmingly cherished by a community of family, friends, churchgoers, climbers, baristas, and more. These are people who show me kindness when I am anything but. These are people who sit and weep with me when I am down. These are people who jump and scream with me when I am up.

It takes a village.

They say, “It takes a village.” I don’t know exactly who “they” are, but it’s a common saying I have heard time and time again, and now I know it to be true.

It takes a village to make me feel loved and supported and welcomed and accepted. It takes a village to make others feel needed and cherished and wanted and treasured. It takes a village for each of us to do this thing called life, and to do it well.

Here are some thoughts on the value of a deeply-rooted village:

  1. Community is worth it. It’s worth the trouble, it’s worth the search. Community is important and it may be hard to find, but I promise if you try hard enough and do discover one, your life will be better.
  2. Community is hard. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and transparent, which are two keys to building a deeply-rooted community. It’s not easy to see someone you love hurting or in need, but I promise if you stick with your community, when your hurts eventually heal, you will have a body of cheerleaders to celebrate with you!
  3.  Community is life changing. When you find people who love you, with heart and soul and in every possible way, your world is entirely rocked. You will never be the same — and I mean this is the best way!

Leaving Behind & Looking Ahead

2018 is gone.

I’m not going to miss it much. Yes, there was much excitement — like becoming an aunt, solo-tripping to Prague, getting promoted, going on dates (after a long, long dry spell). But there was also a lot of hurt — saying goodbye to friends who passed, letting go of a big dream, battling depression, coping with anxiety.

2019 is here.

I’m welcoming it with open arms. Yes, there is bound to be hurt and disappointment and down days. But I’m also looking forward to those mountain-top moments and unbelievable highs. I’m expectantly waiting for every good and perfect give from above (see James 1).

2018 left me better.

As I hope to every year, I was moved and shaped and molded into more of who I would like to be. New and old friends came alongside me to push me by instilling hope, building dreams and staying steadfast.

In Philippians 3, Paul writes about how he strives for perfection, but will never be able to obtain it. He says he focuses “‘on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (v. 13).'”

It’s time for me to let go of 2018. I will never forget my friends or the pain of losing them, but I will let those wounds heal so I can move on and look forward to what God has in store in the new year. I will remember to hope and pray and give and receive grace when needed (which is practically always).

Let’s look ahead.

This year, I’m hoping to say more “I love you’s.”

I’m hoping to pause and breathe more, to step aside when the road gets bumpy or when I’m over-excited.

I’m hoping to savor the moments in-between more, not just those mountain-top highs.

I’m hoping to give thanks more often, to my friends and family and baristas and strangers and Jesus Man himself.

And I’m hoping to spread more kindness, because a little kindness can go a long way.

Let’s start this year strong.

This week, I began the Daniel Fast — modeled after Daniel’s diet during Biblical times. Ideally, I’ll be more disciplined about what I eat, and have more desire in seeking time with The Lord.

This month, I am going to unplug a bit — only using my phone from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ideally, I’ll start my days slower and with more intention, and end my days easier and with more peace and reflection.

Even though we’re only a few days in, I hope your year has been good to you. I hope you can leave the past behind and look forward to the future.