Self-Care Series pt. 4: On Connecting With Others

When I’m depressed, I tend to isolate.

I feel ashamed of my depressed feelings and apathy, I feel insecure and anxious, and I don’t want anyone to see me in this state. Unfortunately the impact of self-isolating is cyclical: I isolate to avoid others, avoiding others makes me feel isolated, and it repeats and repeats and repeats.

One of the best pieces of advice my therapist Chelsey has ever given me is to connect with others when I’m feeling down, even if my mood begs otherwise. When I am down and isolate, I just feel even more crummy and anxious and devastated. But when I’m down and surround myself with my community, my spirit is lifted (even if only just a little bit) and I feel less alone in this battle with my mood disorder.

It can be tough and hard to balance. I do think there’s a fine line between pursuing community in a healthy manner and forcing myself to be around others in an unhealthy way. But what it comes down to is trusting myself to make decisions that are best for me. It definitely helps to seek wisdom in prayer and advice from mental health professionals, to be aware of my sleep, mood, and energy, and how I am feeling.

It’s important to be self-aware.

When we can identify our thoughts and feelings, when we can identify when we are experiencing a dip or feeling down, we know better what we need and how to meet those needs.

I talk a lot about sleep, mood, and energy checks, because I think they are very effective. I look at my rest and sleep patterns, what my mood has been lately, and the energy I’m giving off.

When I realize I have had a crummy amount of sleep, my mood and energy are low, I recognize I may start wanting to isolate. But then I can say no to my mind and body and seek out the community my mental health needs.

It certainly isn’t easy or natural to seek out community when I’m feeling down and numb and apathetic. But it certainly is good for my soul to do so: I feel more connected, more at ease, and more supported when I do. Sometimes it’s a matter of having a healthy, honest conversation with friends that I’m feeling low. And they usually respond with grace, kindness, and encouragement.

Dear friend,

If you have been feeling down or depressed lately, know that you are not alone. Identify what you need, seek those needs out, and lean on your community. That’s what they’re there for. That’s what I’m here for.

With kindness & love,

Mae

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!

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 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.

It Is Well: Words To My Younger Self

I turned 26 in August.

26 is a big(ish) year for me. I am no longer at a quarter-of-a-century, but over it. My 26th birthday was great: I spent the day before climbing outside with friends, I spent the day of going to law school downtown, I made a friend (Hi, Meredith!), and I ate dinner with my family. I squished my tiny nephews’ faces. And I was gifted my first pair of biker shorts, which have really been a game changer.

This year is so much more than biker shorts though, it is also a big year because I finally started law school! And when I say finally, I mean finally. Four years had passed since graduation, since my life in Nashville, since the revelation of realizing I wanted to pursue law. Lots of unfulfilled promises to myself and lots of prayer passed before I finally, finally, FINALLY began my law school journey.

And now that I am here, at this milestone of life, I am just looking back feeling overwhelmingly grateful for all of the moments that have led me to where I am today.

Here are some words of positivity and truth I’d speak to my younger self:

  • You are stronger than you think. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I felt puny and weak and insecure. But I have since seen the benefits of living with bipolar disorder, and I have overcome so much hardship because of it.
  • You are great a taking care of others, but care for yourself, too. Learning to say no to people and yes to myself has been a great lesson that keeps on giving.
  • Cling to Jesus, and he’ll cling to you. My faith is important to me, and over the years it has become obvious that when I pursue Jesus and value my time with him, I feel his love and faithfulness and kindness even deeper.
  • Dreams are for chasing (and achieving). Finally starting law school has made me realize that chasing & achieving dreams is so utterly rewarding!
  • It takes a village. A lesson that is a continual theme on this blog, I am so thankful for the people who have encouraged and inspired and shaped me into who I am today.

A few less serious truths would be: tacos are for more than just Tuesday’s, dog mom life will rock your world and make you better, and dry shampoo is a girl’s best friend.

Self-reflection is really good for me.

It’s good for my soul to look five years, ten years, fifteen years back and to see how far I’ve come. It’s good to see who has come (and who has gone) and how they have molded me in a positive way. It is good for helping me feel blessed and at peace with where I am today.

I cannot wait for these next few years in law school to teach me even more. I cannot wait for the rest of Year 26 and even 26 years in the future. It is well with my soul today. And it will be well with my soul tomorrow, and the day after, and the weeks, months, and years to come.

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!