Getaway Recap: Utah

I went to Utah for my birthday weekend — back in August.

Obviously this is a long overdue getaway recap, so I’m just going to dive into the good stuff. I’ve divided the recap into two parts based on the two cities my friend Lauren and I spent time in: Salt Lake & Moab. Here we go!

SLC

  • My favorite brunch was at Millcreek Cafe & Eggworks. Fresh off the plane, Lauren and I were starving. We found Millcreek where I had one of the best eggs benedicts meals of my life. No lie.
  • My favorite activity was bouldering at Momentum Climbing — you didn’t think I would go a weekend without climbing, right? Momentum is a great gym with plenty to do. The sets felt hard but were all very fun.
  • My favorite dinner was at Saffron Valley, where I pigged out on butter chicken and naan. I practically rolled back to our Airbnb.
  • My favorite alcoholic drink was at Water Witch, a neat little bar near our Airbnb. I can’t remember exactly what was in the cocktail, but I know wine and tea were involved.
  • My favorite non-alcoholic drink was a hot lavender latte from La Barba. The location we went to at the Gateway was kind of eerily calm, but the coffee itself was super yummy.

Moab

  • My favorite national park was hands-down Arches. Lauren and I opted to do a year-long pass instead of paying daily, as it was a better deal in the long-run. Arches has amazing hikes, views, and arches (duh). My favorite hike was to/from Landscape Arch.
  • My favorite view was at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. The hike is super easy and the view is absolutely gorgeous. The world looks so tiny and delicate from up above.
  • My favorite coffee was at Moab Coffee Roasters. We went there a couple of times. I got my usual iced almond milk latte, and it was great!
  • My favorite meal was my mac & cheese at The Spoke on Center because I am really just an overgrown 5-year-old. But honestly, it was delicious and we also had ice cream for dessert which was just as good.
  • My favorite moment was sitting outside Bike Fiend (a bike and coffeeshop) with our coffee-in-hand, only to watch a sweet pup named Zeke wait in line for a donut at the shop next door. It was the cutest thing in the whole wide world.

Overall we had an amazing trip and it really made turning 27 special. I am so grateful to get to travel and experience new things with wonderful people. Can’t wait to see what next year’s birthday trip holds!

Self-Care Series pt. 2: Exercise Often & Eat Well

Taking care of your body is important.

Often times I focus on the mental aspect of self-care: last week I talked about rest and the importance of setting time to re-energize yourself. But this week, I’m breaking down the more physical side of self-care, which includes exercising often and eating well.

On Exercising

I’m not a natural fitness junkie. I wouldn’t call myself a gym rat — I’m not a lifter or a runner or anything in-between. But several years ago I found a form of exercise I love and stuck with it: rock climbing.

I love rock climbing because it’s a great way to get my heart pumping, but it feels like a less traditional workout. It’s an easy way for me to make new friends and connect with others. It’s strategic and fun and not like any other workout I have ever done.

I have close friends who feel the same way about running — it’s a good way for them to break a sweat and also build relationships. Or some friends feel the same way about group workouts like Camp Gladiator, Crossfit, etc.

In my non-expert opinion, I think as long as your body is moving and you’re frequently active, it doesn’t super matter what kind of workout you’re doing. I notice differences in my energy level and overall psyche on weeks when I don’t climb. I feel more lethargic and less connected to my climbing community.

Exercising often is important for your body (and mind). If you don’t have a favorite workout or workout often, I would encourage you to try to find something you enjoy that simultaneously challenges you. I’d encourage you to find time in your schedule to workout, and stick to it.

On Eating Well

I’m also not a natural health junkie. I don’t count calories or weigh myself often, I’m not into fad diets and cooking is a struggle for me. But when I do eat well — which involves less sugar, less junk food, less eating out, and more fruits & veggies, more healthy snacks, more homecooked meals — I notice a positive impact on my energy level. It also helps me have cleaner skin!

My schedule doesn’t allow me to cook every night, nor do I really have the energy to. But I do like to carve out a few nights a week where I cook a healthy meal. Lately I have been on a salmon kick and throwing salmon and veggies on a sheet has been easy and delicious. I personally haven’t dived into the meal prepping game, but I hear that is a great way to avoid unhealthy or impulsive eating, too

Once again, I have a non-expert opinion, but I do think it’s important to remember you are what you eat. When I eat junk food, I feel like junk. When I eat healthy, I feel healthy. Eating well is important for your body and mind, too. We have to treat our bodies well, and a part of that is caring about what we consume.

Self-Care Series pt. 1: The Importance Of Rest

Rest is important.

Boom, bang, done. If there’s anything I want you to glean from this post, it is the importance of rest and taking the time you need to re-energize and re-fuel yourself.

For someone who is a rest advocate, I will confess I am not great at prioritizing time to rest myself. It is easy for my calendar to fill up quickly, to find myself running from here to there, and to realize I’m drained after it’s too late.

Take it from me — don’t be like me! Carve out time to rest. Whether it’s physically sleeping, or just sitting in silence, your body needs to rest.

Some ways I rest include:

  • Power naps (20 minutes or less, or else I feel groggy)
  • Putting away social media for a dedicated period of time
  • Cuddling with my pup Jack on the couch while listening to music

Maybe some of these resonate with you, maybe some of them don’t. I would encourage you to find what works best for you, find what makes you feel rested and what helps you reset mentally, physically, and emotionally.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the whirlwind of life — to get sucked into obligations and commitments and occasions. But let’s remember that in order to help and serve others, we also have to help and serve ourselves. And part of helping and serving ourselves includes giving our bodies the time they need and crave.

Let’s do it! Let’s do nothing. Let’s rest.

It Takes A Village: On Finding Support & Community

It takes a village.

This is a common theme I believe in and swear by and state often.

I would not be where I am today (feeling healthy and whole and happy) without my village. It’s a village made of home group members, family, baristas, climbers, coworkers, and bloggers. It’s a village of wonderful folks who have cheered me on and invested in my mental health and spoken kind words to me.

Here’s what I believe:

I believe a community of supporters and cheerleaders can empower and enlighten and encourage you. I believe in the importance of lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. I believe comparison is nasty and individualism is beautiful. I believe loving others helps you learn to love yourself.

It took me a while to find my village.

The first few months and even year or so back in Dallas were lonely and isolating. I was struggling with severe depression and I kept to myself. I was insecure and anxious and devastated. I didn’t practice self-care and I didn’t pursue friendships.

It was awful.

A couple years in I found a new church community, invested in climbing gear and a membership, and attended a blogger meetup. All of a sudden I was surrounded by like-minded believer, encouraging athletes, and inspirational creatives. It was a drastic change for the better.

The right village always stands behind your mental health and well-being.

This weekend I had plans of a night out on the town with my girl gang. We planned to dress up and eat fancy food and drink fancy drinks and listen to live music.

But I decided not to go. It was a hard decision and I genuinely wanted to see my friends, but the past few weeks have been stressful and packed and wild, and I just needed time to myself.

So I stayed home, cuddled my dog, and got dumplings delivered to my door. I took a nap and I still went to bed early. I listened to music and watched Kim’s Convenience. It was a restful, easy, peaceful night. It was exactly what I needed.

And instead of shaming me, instead of calling me a flake or talking down to me, my friends encouraged me and offered to pray for me. They affirmed me in taking care of myself and they offered a listening ear and virtual hugs.

My village is amazing. They are kind and encouraging and supportive. They listen well and pray hard. They dream big for me, they hug me, they cry with me. They celebrate and rejoice with me. They mourn and grieve with me.

Do you have a village like that? Because if you don’t, I encourage you to find one. I encourage you to pursue the right people and right relationships. You won’t regret it, I guarantee.

Healing: The Journey, Not The Final Destination

Healing is a process.

If there is anything bipolar has taught me, it is that healing is a process and a journey. There is no specific destination, no specific time and date that we are fully healed–not in my experience, at least.

When I look back five years ago to my diagnosis, I was devastated and confused and hurt. I did not understand what was happening and I faced severe depression and anxiety.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I feel encouraged and excited and whole. These years have been full of bliss and peace, they have been practically depression-free.

But I would not consider myself fully healed.

Even though I have come a long way from 2016, I still experience down days and anxious moments. I still feel over-exhausted and run myself thin. I still have to regularly assess my needs and habits and adjust them as needed.

My gut response is frustration and confusion, “Why don’t I ultimately and forever feel better? When will I be fully healed?” But when I think about my mental health journey, I realize it’s been just that: a journey. And with journeys, although sometimes there are final destinations, many times they are just an ongoing process of learning and discovering.

Honestly, I don’t want it any other way.

This journey mindset reminds me to learn and discover and work toward healing. It gives me hope and joy and pushes me forward. If there was a final destination, I would be wondering why I haven’t arrived by now. I’d be wondering when my emotional and mental fulfillment would finally come.

So if you have been hurting or lost or upset for a while now, if you feel like you’re running thing or scrambling for hope, I would like to offer you this bit of wisdom: healing is a process, a journey. You are doing a great job as you chug along and do your best. I’m proud of you and I’m rooting you on!

The Secret to Self-Care: On Sleep, Mood, & Energy Checks

Self-care is important.

Lately I will admit I haven’t been great at it. I’ve been running nonstop and not checking in with myself. But I’m trying be better at this!

I like to check three things when I’m assessing how I’m doing: sleep, energy, and mood. Let me walk you through how I check in on each one:

How’s my sleep?

Am I getting the amount of sleep I need each night to wake up rested and ready to tackle a new day? Have I experienced any bouts of insomnia? Am I restless during the night?

It may sound extra, but ideally I need at least eight hours of sleep each night to feel fully refreshed for the next day. Sure, I technically can run on less, but it is not good for me or my mental health to do so.

What’s my energy?

Similar but not the same to sleep, I like to assess where my energy is at. Is it high or low? Do I feel like I’m bouncing off the walls? Do I feel like no matter how much rest I get, I can still barely lift my head up? Am I skipping around the gym? Or am I dragging my feet?

Ideally, I want my energy to be a healthy balance in-between high and low. An energy that’s too high might suggest I am feeling hypomanic (which is a less severe form of mania), and an energy that’s too low might suggest I’m having an off or depressed day.

What’s my mood?

How have I been feeling lately? Am I happy, sad, or mad? Do I feel excited or anxious or grumpy? Do I feel a mix of several emotions? Do I feel nothing?

Through lots of time and therapy, I have learned (and am constantly re-learning) there is no ideal emotion. Feelings are just feelings, and we are all created to feel things.

As someone who has battled bipolar disorder, I have not faced the stereotypical mood swings that many do. My moods are often somewhat steady and may dip or increase over days, not within hours or moments. But changing and unstable moods are something I still need to monitor.

Another lesson that has come through time and therapy is the importance of allowing myself to feel my feelings: to just sit and soak in whatever I’m feeling. Usually I like to journal or pray or pause and reflect. It helps me validate my feelings, assess how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.

I hope you take care of yourself.

I hope this little breakdown assists you in monitoring your self-care, too. If you ever have any questions about self-care or self-check-ins, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you!

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!

A Heart Full Of Thanks: My 10 Top Blessings Of 2020

Thanksgiving is here!

My favorite food, my favorite people, my favorite holiday all wrapped up into one day and given to me in a pretty little bow! This Thanksgiving will look drastically different, smaller, and quieter than years’ past, but that doesn’t mean it will be a bad one–just different.

This has been a hard year for everyone, but I know we can still give thanks. We can count our blessings, we can remember the good things, we can share the highs and lows and in-betweens. We can be glad for what we have, sad for what we don’t, and still feel blessed.

I’m full of thanks this year.

Here is my list of my top 10 things I am thankful for:

  1. A well mind– I haven’t struggled with depression in over two years, and I cannot express just how huge of a blessing this is. It is a gift to pursue dreams, be happy, and laugh genuinely.
  2. A healthy body– A body that can stretch and dance and move and bounce and CLIMB.
  3. My climbing community– Truly the most welcome and inspiring community, I am thankful for strangers who turn into friends so quickly. They are kind and inclusive and just plain fun!
  4. My church community– The ones who keep me rooted in Christ and point me to what matters, the ones who love me deeply and fiercely and wonderfully.
  5. My family– My new roommates! They have welcomed me into their home, given me reason to laugh, and supported me every step of the way of my law school journey.
  6. Taylor Swift’s Folklore album– It’s a bop! The end.
  7. My pup Jack– The light of my life, the center of my world: he is small and cute and fluffy and scruffy and scrappy and the best thing that happened to me in 2020.
  8. Coffee– The fuel that gives me life!
  9. My job– I get paid to welcome people into the climbing community! I get paid to love people! I get paid to climb! (Ok, not really, but kind of).
  10. My education– Perhaps the most concrete evidence of God’s faithfulness in 2020, I am so thankful that I was able to return to school this year to pursue a law degree. Virtual learning has not been easy (and neither is law school in general), but it has been such a gift.

I encourage you to consider what you are thankful for this year.

Maybe you can’t come up with ten or even five things, but I bet you could find at least a few: maybe it is your health, your family, maybe it is your community, or favorite hobby.

And come Thanksgiving day, you can share what you are thankful for with whomever you may be celebrating the holiday with. You can sit around the table, eat, drink, and be merry, and remember the good things, remember the blessings.

My Vow To You: On Daily Decisions & True Self-Care

Self-care is important.

I firmly believe that to properly and fully and radically care for others, you have to care for yourself first. You have to assess your needs, wants, heart’s desires, your time, energy, and emotions, and gauge whether or not you have the capacity to give of yourself.

Sometimes I have plenty to give. Sometimes I have little–or even nothing–left.

Self-care looks a little different for everyone–and that’s ok! We are each individuals, made up of feelings and commitments and passions that differ from the other. We are hard-wired differently, we think and process and love and laugh differently. So we can take care of ourselves differently, too!

I saw a really great quote today.

My sweet friend (and just a wonderful person) Kristin shared it to her Instagram stories. It said that true mental self-care is not solely made of spa days and chocolate cake, but it is “making choices each day that create a life you don’t need to escape from.” (Quote from Dr. Caroline Leaf).

That really resonated with me.

Sometimes petting my dog and setting homework aside is self-care. Sometimes long talks with Sweet Denise (aka Mom) or going for a walk are forms of self-care.

But true self-care leads to true change, refinement, and growth.

True self-care is making daily decisions that will positively impact my mind, body, and soul for the long-term. True self-care is establishing and feeding positive relationships with positive people. It’s asking myself what I need and following through with whatever that may be.

It’s saying no to over-exhaustion and over-commitment, to people pleasing and self-neglect. It’s saying yes to kind conversations, to life-giving activities, and to progress over perfection.

I’m not quite sure what it is, but sometimes it is hard to see bad decisions as bad in the moment. It can be easy to say yes to too many obligations, too many folks, too many things. It can be hard to say no to my friends, no to my superiors, no to my low social battery.

So here I am, vowing to take better care of myself, and hoping you will join me!

Here I am, promising to you that I will self-assess and self-protect and self-motivate; promising to you that I will make better and more wholesome decisions. Here I am, asking you to hold me accountable, and volunteering to do the same for you.

We are all in this together. We can all take better care of ourselves, at all times. Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s do this!

The Best Is Yet To Come: On Hard Things & Dreams

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When I was 21, I thought my life was over.

After a  severe manic episode, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder halfway through Year 21. It was obvious something was wrong due to my erratic behavior, but the diagnosis still came as a shock to me.

What? Me? Mentally disordered? No way, no how. Surely the doctor had it wrong.

But he did not.

And in the days, weeks, and months it took to sink in this diagnosis was for real, discouragement from depression and down days sunk in, too. The first year of my disorder, I often had to pry myself out of bed. I wanted to sleep the pain, the apathy, the depression away. I wanted to stay in bed and not shower and not acknowledge or discuss my pain. I wanted hop in a time machine and relive the glory days when I didn’t need medication or therapy.

Now at 26, I realize my life was just beginning.

21 years of age is so young!! (And heck, so is the 26 I am at today). With or without my disorder, my life was just beginning. I just graduated from college, moved to Nashville, started a job at a rad nonprofit. I was making new friends and experiencing a new town and building a life for myself.

When I moved back to Dallas because of my disorder, I thought all of that had to end. But now, in hindsight (which is always 20/20), my move back to Dallas was just as life-altering. I had to make new friends and experience a familiar town in a new light at a new age, and build a life for myself.

In the last five and a half years, I found and cultivated a community for myself, made up of climbers, bloggers, baristas, friends, and family. I worked as a public relations intern, legal assistant, legal specialist, nanny, and assistant manager at a climbing gym. I made new friends and kept the old. I went on dates and began (and ended) a relationship. I found a new, lifelong passion in climbing. And my heart for mental and emotional wellness planted roots and grew.

The best is yet to come!!

Whether you are two, twenty, or two hundred years, I firmly believe the best is yet to come. If my lifetime, especially the past five years, has taught me anything, it is that good things always lie ahead. Surprises await at every corner of life, every milestone. Happy and sappy and wonderful things!

Yes, my diagnosis was technically a surprise. It was not a happy, sappy, or wonderful thing. In fact, it was an extremely hard, actually depressing, completely devastating thing. But this life change only brought about many wonderful opportunities and people and growth that I never would have experienced without it.

The hard things, the bad things, the depressing things will come and go and come again. They will wreck you and change you and transform you. Even if you don’t believe it now, I bet you will one day, that good things lie ahead.

I hope my story is an encouragement to you.

I hope you realize that you will overcome whatever tough situation you may be facing in this moment. I hope you know you are loved by The Creator and loved by me! That you have support, you have dreams and there will be wonderful things that come true. It did for me, and it will for you!

Dear Reader,

Thank you for listening to my soul and my story. Thank you for coming alongside me in this experience of living with a mood disorder and triumphing over the trials that come with it. Thank you for your ears, your eyes, and your heart. I so appreciate your time, your attention, your affection.

If you are facing a tough time now or later, please do not hesitate to reach out. Don’t hesitate to feel your hurt and your pain and acknowledge it is real and hard and disheartening. You are not alone! Never, ever, ever. I am here for you and Jesus Man is too. I love you!